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Companies reduce barriers to school video production

For just under $5,000, Roland's VR-5 portable AV mixer and recorder is an “all-in-one” system that simplifies the production, recording, and streaming of any live event, Roland says.

Many schools are building high-quality video production studios to give their students valuable experience in recording, mixing, and producing video broadcasts—from live coverage of concerts and athletic events to student-run news programs.

Using professional-grade video equipment in these efforts can be costly, but at InfoComm 2011 in Orlando, several companies exhibited products designed to make live video production easier for schools.

For instance, Panasonic introduced a product called HDTV Producer, a full turnkey video production studio for under $20,000. Panasonic sells the HDTV Producer as an out-of-the-box system that any English or journalism teacher can set up, with no professional video production experience necessary.

The system includes two cameras with tripods, a mixer, a recorder, a 42-inch LCD monitor, a microphone and boom stand, and all necessary cabling and accessories. The idea is to enable students to learn video production whatever their school’s budget might be, Panasonic said.

“Purchasing and setting up professional video equipment to produce high-quality, [high-definition] content can be challenging and time-consuming,” said product manager John Rhodes in a press release. “With HDTV Producer, we are … making it painless for organizations to deploy a full-featured video production system with a solid-state workflow.”

For schools that already have cameras and are looking for an affordable yet professional-grade live production switcher, Blackmagic Design of Milpitas, Calif., has a solution. Blackmagic’s ATEM line of switchers starts with a basic model that runs on a software interface and includes six video inputs for about $1,000. (An eight-input model sells for $2,500, and a 16-input model sells for about $5,000.)

If a software-based control panel doesn’t meet your needs, the company also sells full broadcast panels that start at $5,000.

Boston University’s College of Communication is using Blackmagic’s ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher and ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel in its Production and Journalism studios. “The ATEM products allow us greater dexterity in our production capability,” said Assistant Professor Christophor Cavalieri, faculty advisor for the school’s student-produced news channel, in a press release. “They are great tools to train the next generation of multi-camera production professionals.”

For $5,000, schools also can purchase the VR-5 portable AV mixer and recorder from Roland Systems Group—an “all-in-one” system that simplifies the production, recording, and streaming of any live event, Roland says.

The VR-5 incorporates a video switcher, audio mixer, video playback, recorder, preview monitors, and output for web streaming—all in a single unit. It includes three audio or video inputs, an SD card slot for saving or playing back video or images, and a USB port for connecting to a computer.

Higher-end products

Also at InfoComm 2011, Broadcast Pix of Billerica, Mass., demonstrated two mobile apps for controlling its Slate line of video production systems from an iPad or iPhone device.

One of the apps, iPixPanel, recreates a classic switcher layout and is able to control every aspect of a video production, including switching cameras, adding graphics and clips, controlling robotic cameras, and creating special effects (such as an interview with dual picture-in-picture).

The other app, iPixPad, replicates the company’s PixPad feature on an iPhone or iPod touch. PixPad is a clear display of all available on-screen options that lets users select any clip, camera angle, or graphic in an instant. This allows for quick transitions and avoids the necessity of scrolling through various options, Broadcast Pix says.

The Slate 100, the company’s entry-level video production system, is priced at nearly $11,000 for a complete system. While that’s much more expensive than Blackmagic’s or Roland’s video switchers and mixers, it also includes storage of up to 120 hours of video clips, as well as an array of graphics and special effects.

As schools move toward high-definition video production, the Hitachi Z-HD5000 HDTV camera has become a mainstay in state-of-the-art school and college studios, with its 14-bit analog-to-digital conversion and advanced digital signal processing that has proven to be energy-efficient, the company says.

The HDTV camera can be used for both studio and field use, and it reproduces dark and unexposed areas with specialized luminance settings, the company says.

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