I was recently contacted by a middle school video production class teacher named Adam.
He had been given a budget to upgrade his entire three camera live production studio. Great news! He had some ideas about equipment, but needed some guidance on putting the whole system together. Technology moves pretty fast and making sure all the pieces work together is important.
I met up with Adam at the school to take a look at their current setup, and I was stunned by what I saw. They were making do with a hodgepodge of donated news gear––I mean the stuff was vintage! There was a morass of composite video cables going every which way and I don't know if I've ever seen so many CRT monitors in one place.
They did have a few pieces of more modern equipment there, but still all standard definition composite. Ewww.
I can't tell you what joy it brings me to upgrade a facility from analog SD to digital HD! It's like taking someone with cataracts and giving them laser surgery so they can finally see clearly 8)
When I come into a situation like this, it's my job to go through what they've got, and based on their objectives, figure out what equipment needs to be tossed into the rubbish bin and what we can re-use. Because, you know, there's always this thing called a "budget" that demands obeisance.
I snapped photos of everything as I went through, so I could reference them back at the office when writing up the upgrade proposal. Check out this old Commodore CRT!
And doesn't this composite router just make you pine for days of yore?
Did I mention there were a few CRT's sitting around?
Yeah, I'd say it's definitely time for some new cameras. What's with the foam?!
I'm pretty sure we can improve upon these makeshift teleprompter stands.
The tripods are sturdy enough, but maybe we can squeeze a head upgrade into this overhaul.
After studying out the needs of the school, reviewing the budgetary constraints and aligning my chakras, I decided that the core of the system would be a custom PC running vMix HD software.
One of the strengths of vMix is its relative ease to figure out how to use. I knew that this system was going into a middle school, so I didn't want to put in a switcher with a steep learning curve. And unlike some of the standalone hardware switchers, with vMix it's easy to integrate graphics, titles and prerecorded video clips. I also appreciate the scalability of a PC based system. Later on if you want more features, you can upgrade the software, or the capture card, and so on.
Next came the camera decision. I ended up spec'ing out three JVC GY-HM200's, because they hit the price/performance sweet spot with their SDI output and LanC lens control.
Then came audio. Adam wanted four channels of wireless. After pricing out the usual Sennheiser rack mount units, I had to face the bitter truth: I couldn't fit them into the budget! Enter the RODElink Filmmaker Kits. I just had to figure out how to power and rack-mount the receivers... more on that here.
OK, I've wearied you enough with my teasings. It's time for some AFTER pictures!
Oh, and you can see the full equipment schematic here.
Here are the sleek new JVC cams, complete with com headsets and LanC zoom controllers.
A close up of the teleprompter rigging.
The heart of the command center: The custom DVE Box PC on the bottom; the DataVideo com unit in the middle and the rack mounted RODE Filmmaker wireless kits on the top shelf.
A wide shot of the "new" control room desk. (We sourced it on craigslist in order to maximize the budget!)
It was a lot of fun to see this one come together, and the reaction from the video production teacher did my heart good.
"Jason at the DVEstore went above and beyond my expectations, working within my budget––while still giving my school a top-of-the-line HD video production studio.
DVEstore helped set up all of the equipment and made sure everything was working perfectly. They are even available through email any time I have a question. I will most definitely be coming back to them if/when I need to upgrade again."
–Adam Edinger; Totem Middle School
If you have any questions about upgrading your video production classroom, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!