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SOC Film and Media Arts News


SOC Offers Students the Latest in Digital Technology

By Michael Wargo

SOC MPC HD studio camera

American University students have access to HD studio recording and editing capabilities using the latest digital technologies. "The Media Production Center at SOC is one of the most sophisticated, high-tech HD studio facilities at any college or university in the region," says Frank Fitzmaurice, Director of Technology Services at the School of Communication. The student staff is trained on some of the industry's most advanced digital HD equipment, including a Sony switcher and cameras that were used at the 2010 winter Olympics. 

In & Out of Class, Students Using Top Technology  

Students in Professor Sarah Menke-Fish’s Television Studio Production class use three HD studio cameras to shoot segments of the production for NBC. Opening and closing segments are frequently shot in front of the green screen and the class uses the HD switcher, audio board, teleprompter, graphics generator as well as the lighting and sound equipment in the studio. 

“Each student rotates with each production, so each student will be in a different position, including director, technical director, audio engineer, producer, floor manager, and master control operator,” said Menke-Fish.  

The MPC also houses the production of The Greatest Scene Ever, which Professor Greg Smith, who oversees the production of the show, says they love working there. “We used old "flats" (scenery) to custom build a set for our show,” he said. “We're still experimenting with all the facility has to offer, and have already incorporated several sets within the body of the half hour show format.”  

John Esparza, SOC/BA ’12, was able to use the MPC to shoot his film S.E.R.E., a dramatization of survival training for soldiers has been selected for showing at the sixth annual GI Film Festival in Washington, D.C. “The Media Production Center is an invaluable tool for the students to work on Film projects. In my experience [Media Services Manager] Jeffrey Madison provided my team with unlimited access to the studio and equipment. His dedication and service to the students is unmatched.”  

Professional Equipment & Staff 

Fitzmaurice says the heart of the MPC facility is the Sony digital HD switcher, a state-of-the-art production switcher which makes it possible for us to produce multi-camera studio productions in full high definition.

“The studio includes a 16-foot high lighting grid and three Sony HD pedestal cameras and an 8-foot jib. Our master control area includes three Sony HD video recorders for a completely tapeless HD workflow,” he said. 

Fitzmaurice knows the value of top-notch equipment. He has been in Washington since 1976, working in TV and radio as a reporter, producer, and more recently as a manager of studio and production facilities. His career background includes NPR’s “Morning Edition”, CBC, Tribune Broadcasting, WETA, and PBS. Before coming to AU in 2010, Fitzmaurice spent 18 months as a consultant at The Teaching Company, helping them build a new HD studio and editing facilities.

The MPC also houses 13 video editing rooms, all of which run multiple editing platforms including Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Pro Tools. In addition, there are three audio recording/editing suites include Adobe Audition software and Pro Tools. 

“Many SOC staff and faculty members come here with broadcasting backgrounds, and their many years of radio and TV experience make the Media Production Center one of the best production training facilities on the East Coast," said Fitzmaurice.  

All-HD Studio Sets AU Apart 

Media Services Manager Jeffrey Madison says there’s one great difference that MPC offers from other facilities he’s worked. “MPC is a tapeless, High Definition studio with fully digital, non-linear editing capability. In other words, it's state of the art.” That makes MPC appealing to outside organizations. 

A former television news director, Madison, said students, after being properly trained by himself and his staff, are able to use all of the high tech, MPC gear, including the state-of-the-art, High Definition cameras, multiple mix-effect switchers, and tapeless playback devices in a tapeless, virtual server environment.  

On a partnership professional organization level, Professor Caty Borum-Chattoo spoke about her work with “LinkAsia” in MPC. “The weekly "LinkAsia" half-hour news magazine program is taped each week from the Media Production Center. I serve as studio producer and director,” said Borum-Chattoo. “It’s a great faculty, staff, student collaboration.”