Viewpoint

Build Your Own HD Broadcast and Production Trailer (with Students)

Staying at the forefront of technology doesn't always have to come with a high price tag. Sometimes, innovation--and hard work--can take a dream and bring it to life. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, a handful of our students and staff built a cutting-edge high-definition production and broadcast trailer in only four months--much less than the industry standard--and at a third of the cost.



The HD broadcast trailer is a full-production studio and the only one of its kind in upstate NY. What makes this project special isn't just the state-of-the-art technology that the team at RIT put together in a few short months in 2008. It's that students were largely responsible for planning and building the trailer--and for running the show during live broadcasts--all of which gives them invaluable industry experience that they just couldn't get anywhere else.



The original motivation to build the trailer was to expand on an existing program. RIT, in partnership with Time Warner Cable and ESPN, has aired a TV show called "SportsZone"--a weekly half-hour show that showcases the university's athletic programs--since 2003. But Time Warner had been asking for RIT to provide more content for their sports cable network. To do so, RIT needed a production studio. The choice, then, was whether to create such a studio in standard definition or high definition. James Watters, RIT's senior vice president of finance and administration, chose to fund building a trailer with high-definition capabilities. The trailer is currently deployed at RIT to broadcast "SportsZone Live," a cable sports TV show covering RIT's home games. This not only expanded program coverage but also gave students an unparalleled educational experience.

State-of-the-Art Technological Education

It's not just the students who built the trailer that benefit. Student workers on "SportsZone Live" are also getting a meaningful education. "'SportsZone' has been so successful in teaching our students about broadcasting. Some students have gone on to work at ESPN," says Mark Fragale, Digital Media Producer/Editor and "SportsZone Live" Director. "I hear reports back that our students are well prepared from their work on 'SportsZone.' However, we hadn't been able to give them live broadcast TV experience--'SportsZone Live' now fills that void."



To get the show up and running, several industry freelancers have been filling in, manning the controls in the trailer. But currently, 15 RIT students also work on the show, serving an audience of close to 1 million. Students are involved on-camera as well as behind-the-scenes.

James Bober, lead engineer at RIT's Educational Technology Center Engineering Services, has commented on the trailer's educational impact. "The knowledge from the work that our students have received from this is changing and molding their whole careers. What students learn in a classroom can only take them so far. What we provide is a down-to-earth application that gives them the edge."

"SportsZone Live" may be expanded to cover away games next year, and RIT is considering renting the trailer to other universities. Stay tuned.

[Photos courtesy Rochester Institute of Technology. For more information about RIT's HD broadcast and production trailer, contact Steve Wunrow, shwetc@rit.edu.]
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