Here’s an update on what the TV/broadcasting studio/classroom at Ronald E. McNair High School in Stockton (CA) looks like.
First…below is a rough diagram of what the layout looks like so you can relate to the photos.
And now for the tour. We’ll begin in the control room. The room can easily hold up to five students working and has a window looking out to the floor. It is NOT soundproofed…but since the control room crew works quietly, that is not an issue.
The studio has some real professional aspects and some parts of the design are frankly amateurish.
The pro aspects include the greenscreen and grey curtains that cover completely the south and west walls. Nice. The light grid…we only have two 1Ks up there, but can add probably another twenty of varying sizes…all controlled in the control room by a progamable light panel.
With the hole/pass through between the floor and the control room, students can set up in minutes. The anchor desk was a find – a display from a bankrupt store. Very heavy, holds two comfortably, and on wheels so we can move it around.
I’m still working on work stations in the control room – but here’s the basic layout. Enter the room and the light control is right inside the door. The rest of the workstations are in this order:
Preview screen for switcher
Playbacks (DVD, mini-DV)
Sony DVCam record deck to record the show
Next is the on-air monitor for showing the Daily Bulletin as we playback for the campus – I currently have our Pansonic mini-DV deck hooked up for playback, although it really belongs over in the playback area.
We can also hook up the mini-DV deck to the small TV set for viewing tapes. Finally, a DVD duplicator.
There’s also a table in the room to hold the crew headsets and to work on scripts, etc.
I’m waiting for at least three (I hope) more computers…two to go just outside the control room for Internet access – none of my computers are currently hooked up.
Plus one computer (please let it have a DVD burner) for any add-ons to the show. Right now students are only switching between cameras and we have to edit in bars/countdown/show open and credits. As they get better, I’ll add in more components (live playback while shooting of bars/countdown and show open and credits).
Procedure to shoot the show.
Director and anchors get script (I type it due to time constraints) and read and mark their individual lines and which camera(s) will be up for each part of the script.
Floor Director is in charge of pulling mike lines and placement of microphones for the anchors. S/he also has to hook up their headset to their com line. Also is in charge of anything that happens on the floor, from working w/cameramen to communicating with anchors (plus telling students not working on the show to shush).
Cameramen pull cables (S-VHS and com line) to tripods and place tripods. They then get cameras/batteries and place cameras on tripods and hook up video to camera and their headset to com line.
Director is the boss and runs the show. All of the following must be stated over the com system so that all crew knows the Director is running through the checklist.
First s/he checks that all crew are in position and tells cameras what their first shot is.
Call for Floor Director to get “Quiet on the set!”
Directs switcher to roll tape and gets confirmation.
States that tape is rolling and to “stand by.”
Tells Floor Director to begin the countdown in “ten…nine…eight…”
We are keeping the switcher’s job pretty simple right now…all they have to do is read the script and switch between the initial two shot and then between anchors as they read their lines, ending on a two shot.
I also keep the camera/anchor ID simple. Anchor One and Camera One are on the right, from the viewpoint of the Director in the Control Room. Anchor Two and Camera Two are on the left. Anchor One’s camera is Camera One – and Anchor Two looks to Camera Two.
Remember…we’ve only been doing this for two weeks and I felt it was best to keep it simple initially.
My final bugaboo: choosing anchors, rotating anchors, philosophy of student participation. This is a developing philosophy..and I’m gonna wander off a little here with some personal opinions.
When I worked in TV news, one of the things that really bugged me was when administrators marched out the same top-of-the-line kids every time media came on campus. We never saw real kids…just perfect kids.
My principal I know does the same…and I understand why. He wants to make the school look good. Good PR.
But by only allowing a select few opportunities, you create a culture of segregation. Those who have and get it and the great unwashed. Those who get to look and live in envy and crushed hopes.
Call me a daft – a fool – but I am in a way jettisoning decades of training that says that only the best and brightest deserve the spotlight. I want my slow kids and my gangbangers and my quiet bright kids to have the same opportunities as those with who live life with a silver spoon.
So the initial anchors for the Daily Bulletin were a semi-toughie (advanced student) who has always been a bit of a classroom clown and problem and who proved that my faith in him was warranted by anchoring like a pro (with only a few errors). His co-anchor a quiet B-Boy (yeah I love my breakers). After a week I rotated my clown into the Control Room as Director and pulled in a shaggy haired quiet advanced student. Every week I pull in a new anchor to work with someone from the previous week. And I’ll be going outside my classroom because I’ve appealed to staff to give me their readers – students who would like to try to anchor two a two week period.
Another important part of my plan is to keep the show interesting. When the Bulletin was read over loudspeakers to the classrooms, kids just didn’t pay attention. It was boring.
With the addition of the video Bulletin, we can keep the audience interested by changing visuals daily. The anchors appear daily in the show open. The credits (:30-1:00)change daily from animations shot by my students to highlights of the football game to campus events. The plan is to include as many students at all levels as possible so that at least once a week or more a student can say, “I was on the Bulletin or I saw someone I know on the Bulletin.”
This past week I sent out a notice to all staff that if they had events or meetings or games and could either provide video/stills or give me enough notice so that I could send a student to shoot the event, we would include them in the Bulletin credits. I sent the email on Friday morning and before the day was out I had every spot for next week filled with more coming in.
Our school librarian was even more on top of the situation. She has some of my students in her after-school Eagle Readers Club – and is having them produce a commercial about what a great club it is.
Final note: this is NOT a news show, so I am treating it as a community service program. We will, on occasion, insert a story, but building this into a real news show will take time. I need to build some depth in my crew…get students who want to return again and again so that their strengths and background will allow me to do more and more.
As always…please leave comments; let me know what you’re up to; criticize…thank you.