By Adam Goldberg, Chief Engineer, Broadcast and Media Operations, College of the Arts, Montclair State
The School of Communication and Media Building (SCM) on the campus of Montclair State University opened in September of 2017. Designed to be a professional production space for the school’s TV, Film, Radio, and communications programs, the building hosts a variety of productions spaces.
All of these spaces are interconnected to each other via a central video/audio/data Evertz Router. All use one RTS Adams Intercom system.
The facility is also connected to the LTN network. This allows us to send signals and receive live videos from around the world. As a result we’ve hosted uplinks for NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, PIX, NPR, BBC, and private events.
The building’s second floor is primarily dedicated to audio production. The state of the art facilities center on a 24-channel ProTools audio recording studio and a 16 channel ProTools Foley studio with multi-surface substrate floor, gravel/dirt pit and splash pool. The audio area also features 4 small ProTools post-production rooms for editing.
Just adjacent to the audio area of the building is the campus radio station WMSC, consisting of an On-Air live 24/7 room, prerecord productions room, and overflow talk room. The station can be heard locally on 90.3 FM, and internationally via wmscradio.com. WMSC is also streaming live on the iHeart Radio App as one of a few select college radio stations to be allowed onto the platform.
There is also a 35 seat private movie theater with a 4K DCP projection system and 16-speaker 7.1 surround sound system available for film screenings.
To support these facilities and the roughly 200 classes per semester offered by the School of Communications there are 5 computer labs ranging from 16 to 31 seats per room. All the labs are preloaded with Avid Media Composer, Avid ProTools, Adobe Creative Suite, Davinci Resolve, AutoCad and Vectorworks, just to name a few. The school offers class in Audio/Sound Design, Communication and Media Arts, Communication Studies, Documentary, Journalism, Filmmaking, Public Relations, Sports Media and Journalism, Television Production, Fundamentals of Speech, and a MA program in Public and Organizational Relations. More information on classes and degree programs can be found at: montclair.edu/school-of-communication-and-media/
There are also three additional mediated classrooms in the building used mostly for lecture courses for the Communication Studies and Public Relations programs. The building is also connected to other buildings on campus via dark fiber. Directly adjacent to the building is Morehead Hall where the academic offices are for the School of Communications and Media. The connection to this building allows us to send and receive multiple video signals between the two buildings, creating an interlink between the offices, conference rooms and two mediated classrooms with the production spaces in SCM.
The production spaces are also connected to two theaters on campus. Kasser Theater is a 500-seat professional theater. Seven PTZ cameras permanently mounted in the theater connect back to the production facilities in SCM. Additionally, there are video, audio, and intercom connections between the two facilities allowing the spaces to be fully interconnected for production. We are currently about to go into our third season of recording and producing shows in conjunction with MSU Peak Performances. (peakperfs.org)
Memorial Auditorium, the second theater on campus, seats 1000. Currently, the fiber run between our two facilities allows us to bring in studio cameras and additional support equipment in order to cultivate the theater into a production space.
We have also run fiber connections to the campus football field where other events are captured and/or streamed live, including Montclair’s annual graduation ceremonies. This past June, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we streamed 19 ceremonies over a one week span with 4 studio cameras, jib, 3 PTZ cameras and one wireless roaming camera all switched and streamed live.
In addition to supporting the classes and other university initiatives, the building is also available for third party rentals. Our clientele list includes ABC, NBC, CBS, Google and Telemundo. We also do several recurring talk shows for local politicians in the area. We provide clients with a variety of rental packages ranging from a full technical crew provided by MSU, a mix of MSU and client crew, and space-only rentals. This is a great opportunity for our students to work side-by-side with industry professionals. In all three scenarios MSU provides engineering support to ensure the equipment and spaces are operating correctly.
In the past we’ve also rented facilities to Netflix and independent film makers, and hosted gubernatorial debates, film screenings, town hall meetings and private events. We were even honored to host a lecture by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg soon after the building was open.
More information about the building and rental areas can be found at: montclair.edu/bmo
By Dustin Dumas
As we slowly return to in-person studio shoots, there will still be many who may not be able to return to the studio and some who will prefer the flexibility of filming outside of the studio. That’s great but what elements are important in virtual video production. In this column I will discuss network connectivity, camera phones, clothing, B-roll and images.
Network – Keeping It Connected
Producing a show outside of the studio has its own unique set of challenges but when taping a show via a web conferencing tool, there are additional challenges, especially when striving to create a product comparable to one taped in the studio. One way to get the highest quality product is ensuring your network is operating at maximum capacity. While having Wi-Fi is nice and very convenient, when shooting a show virtually, the stability of your Internet is extremely important to the overall production quality. It is best to be connected “straight into the wall” as opposed to using Wi-Fi. Some of the issues with Wi-Fi are that during taping, the frame may freeze, the video and audio may become unsynchronized or the connection may drop altogether. These are not things you want to have happen during your taping, especially if this can be prevented by connecting your cable directly into the wall to your device. You may still have issues with direct connectivity, but your chances are significantly reduced compared to relying solely on Wi-Fi. There are so many other things to worry about when taping virtually, your connectivity should not be one of them.
On the other hand, if you have to use Wi-Fi because you are unable to connect a cable to your device, disable all other unnecessary devices connected to your Wi-Fi while taping. If you are familiar with your router and it has an app, many will allow you to prioritize devices. This is useful when disconnecting other devices is unavailable to you. By prioritizing the device (Computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.) you will be using to tape, this will allow that device to have the strongest connectivity. However, ideally, disconnecting other devices that will be competing for the same bandwidth is ideal.
Regardless of whether you are using Wi-Fi or are plugged into the wall, do a test run before your actual taping to ensure everything is set up as you want. Things may still not go as planned but with a little preliminary work, you can, at the very least, prevent a major mishap.
Camera Phones – Use What You Have
Independent producers continue to have to use resources outside of the studio and many times that means using the camera that they have. And in many cases that means their phones. If you had told me five years ago that producers would be relying on the device that they had in their pockets as a means of producing a show, I would have wrinkled my brow and thought that it did not seem feasible. My thinking would have been that phone camera videos are a novelty where you can shoot a low-resolution clip of an event and send it to on to a friend but would have nowhere near the quality of an in-studio production. Well, here we are in 2021 and not only have circumstances prevented us from using the perfectly good equipment in the studio for the last year but the camera phones available today are excellent! My phone has 4K capabilities and there is already a next generation phone after it! If you will be using your phone for taping, there are a few things to consider. Storage is one. 4K videos are huge and if you do not have enough storage on your phone, it does not matter if you use 4k if you can only store 5 minutes on your phone. Determine if the highest resolution available is the best solution for you, otherwise, use a resolution that is compatible with the storage capacity of your phone and the requirements of airing on television, such as high definition (HD).
The other consideration is the orientation of your phone. Unless you are going for an artsy look and want to have black bars on either side of your footage when it airs on television, turn your camera so that it is in landscape mode, not portrait. That simple 180 degree rotation turns your footage from one a concertgoer may have taken to footage that may be indistinguishable from something shot in a television studio. Shooting in landscape mode increases the overall production quality of your end product and makes it look more professional. I have used footage from my phone in HD and 4K on television and no one knew it was shot on the phone due to the quality of the footage. However, there are other things to consider, such as audio and lighting, which I have covered in a previous column. The bottom line is you can shoot great footage with the camera you have as long as it meets the specifications for where it will air.
Clothing –What Not To Wear
Virtual taping is new to many of us and one thing we may not be used to is the head and shoulder shot that is inherent in taping with virtual web conferencing tools. As a consequence, be aware of clothing that may have unintended consequences. In a taping that I did early on, after we had decided to tape shows virtually, I wore a blouse with thin shoulder straps. The unintended effect of having my hair over the straps was that it looked as though I was topless. Seeing the obvious faux pas early in the taping, I was able to correct it, but it reminded me that even clothing choices had to be thought out carefully to ensure that the production quality stayed the same. My choice of clothing would not have been a problem with our traditional studio shot but because our shots were all head and shoulder shots, my clothing choices had to be approached differently.
In addition to making sure your clothing choices do not make you look nude, if you choose to use a green screen, be aware that your clothing choices will make parts of you disappear depending on if there is green in your outfit. This has always been the case but because you don’t need an actual green screen on some of these web conference tools, people have forgotten that they cannot wear green. Choosing your clothing for a virtual taping has to be intentional due to the restricted frame space and color limitations if you choose to use a green screen. One thing that people have been taking advantage of is that you do not have to wear the accompanying skirt or pants when wearing a suit jacket so that is even more of an incentive to make sure that everything in the camera frame looks great since you do not have to worry about the bottom.
B-Roll and Images
Unlike being in a studio where you can have performers and multi-camera shots to create movement and visual energy to a show, taping shows virtually usually becomes talking heads talking straight on in square boxes. Unless the people are famous, charismatic or have a huge fan base, you are going to have to keep the attention of the audience. The number one way is to tell a great story and have a compelling discussion; however, there are a few ways to enhance the story that only take a few more minutes of preparation.
The first way is inserting images. For example, let’s say the show is about a new electric car that is coming to the market. The people discussing the car may talk about the specifications of the car such as the time it takes to get from 0-60, the horsepower, the green footprint of the car and more. These are all nice things to verbally describe the car but when an image is inserted at the very instance when the car is being described, the audience not only hears about the car but they are now able to see the car. This impact on the viewers takes the car from a theoretical concept to an actual physical car. They now have an image that allows them to see the size of the car, the shape and even the color of the car. Now your audience is more accurately able to understand this specific car and, thus, become more engaged in the story that you are telling.
Now let’s take it one step further and talk about B-Roll. B-Roll is additional footage that complements the current discussion. Using the example above where there is a new electric car coming to market and it is being described beautifully, now, instead of inserting an image, you insert a video clip of the same electric vehicle in motion. Now, as the car is being described, you audience gets to see the size of the car, the color and the shape. However, they also get to see just how fast the car is, as it speeds away, along with the screeching of the tires with smoking rising, if audio is included. The viewers are treated to being able to see the movement of the car and the sounds of the car. The B-Roll footage provides additional information to the audience that complements the discussion and makes for a fuller, more engaging story to keep your viewers engaged, interested and excited. This is what you want as a storyteller!
Inserting images and B-Roll can be as simple as inserting an author’s book image when she is saying the title of her book or inserting a few seconds of B-Roll from the author’s book signing. The reason to insert B-Roll and images is to keep your viewers engaged, connected and enhance the story you are telling.
As independent producers, understanding how network connectivity, camera phones, clothing, B-Roll and images can produce a high-quality product that will keep your audience engaged is important. All of these pieces working in concert, can assist in telling a wonderful and powerful story.
Dustin Dumas is the host and producer of Dustin’s Kaleidoscope and What’s Up Around Town. She is the station manager of South Orange Maplewood Television (SOMAtv) and serves as Vice Chair on the Jersey Access Group, External Relations Committee. She has been part of community television stations in Illinois, California and New Jersey and enjoys helping people tell their stories.
by Bob Duthaler
In any year, pulling off a successful conference is no easy feat, but
during so during a pandemic while doing something that we never did before is just outstanding! I am so happy to announce to our membership what a great event we were able to pull off virtually for three days, but I think they already know that since they attended. So let me break this down with a quick recap and some thank you mentions along the way.
No conference would be successful without the support of our partners and sponsors. I am so proud to say that many of our organizational members stepped up and made this event possible. I would like to thank our Conference Partners who did some heaving lifting not only financially, but they were “All In” on this event. Both TelVue Corporation and Cablecast took on that role and pledged their support. They understood it was not only the conference they were supporting… but JAG. For that our membership is greatly appreciative. In addition, TelVue Corporation sponsored the JAG Awards (more on that later).
The generous support did not stop there. Our tried-and-true organizational member Varto Technologies was once again there to support our organization and cause. Helping behind the scenes, financially and with workshop sessions they showed JAG members that they are here for us.
We were also lucky to have the financial and online support of other organizational members of JAG such as Rushworks, Municipal Captioning and DeSisti. They participated in panel discussions, demonstrations and much more. Finally, we were thankful to have additional support from Planet Networks who sponsored our Day Three Keynote Lunch and Broadband Session; Didja TV who introduced us to alternate methods of getting our content out; and DNS Media Group for production and website support and hosting. All of the above is what allowed us to give EVE 2021 participants a great three day event.
These six presentations have been posted to the
members-only section of JAG’s website.
The heart of our conference was our master control room in Piscataway. This was the hub for our Zoom oversight. With Doug Seidel at the helm as our technical producer, he monitored all the zoom feeds, started and ended sessions, helped bring panelists and moderators into the sessions and kept it all running smoothly on the web via our website. This truly was the heart of our operation for the three days (and even more with prep) during our conference. Doug was logged in to every laptop and computer he could get his hands on to monitor feeds and zoom accounts.
I was operating out of the WBMA-TV studios to do the live virtual stage,
interview guests, panelists and vendors. Stephen Kwiecien, who cut the show in Bloomfield and took in the live zoom feeds, was ready to go live every day at 8:30 am. We spent the next eight hours each day doing a live show with interviews, video roll-ins and more. The heart of the conference never stopped beating even when sessions were over. The master control room became the main production center for the live JAG Awards Show. This was a combination of live in-studio and remote zoom feeds. George Fairfield, the mastermind behind the show, paid homage to the JAG Awards shows of the past that included entertainment, comedy,
presenters and more. This year’s show included a Red Carpet Event hosted
by Simon Mandal which featured comedy and magic! Simon continued to
entertain the audience and nominees of the JAG Awards throughout the
whole evening. The combination of Simon’s magic and interactive
experience with the audience, the tremendous entries for this year’s JAG
Awards, along with the comedic stylings of George Fairfield and Samantha
Urash as the studio hosts, made for a fun evening. The creative juices were
running, both while preparing for such a big event and during it as well. The staff and crew at Piscataway TV who undertook this with George and Doug are recognized for their hard work and dedication. You can watch the JAG Awards on our YouTube Page or website VOD Player.
Simon Mandal did a yeoman’s job not only hosting the JAG Awards Red
Carpet and the JAG Awards, but earlier that day as our Keynote Speaker
during the EVE 2021 Keynote Lunch. It was there that Simon gave us a
unique perspective of his career journey that included being an inventor,
playwright, song writer, magician and more. Along the way he taught us
magic tricks and provided tips to get our own creative juices flowing and
ways in which to step up our game a notch or two. The combination of
storytelling, interactive magic and life lessons made for an extraordinary
Keynote address….one which left us with tips and tricks for our productions
and everyday life. If you missed this or just want to see it again, it is available on the Members Only section of the JAG website.
Finally, I want to thank the Conference Committee for all their hard work. I have a great co-chair in Geoffrey Belinfante and Vice-Chair George Fairfield. We were blessed to have a great committee working together to put on such a great event. The committee included Linda Besink, our Treasurer, along with committee members Stephanie Gibbons, Dave Garb, Dave Ambrosy, Anthony Pagliuco, Lee Beckerman, Jeff Arban and J. Robertson. We were lucky enough to have the guidance, wisdom and support of our Managing Director Rich Desimone who kept us on course during this whole project. And I want to especially thank the person I made a phone call to months before all this started and asked if he would work with me to pull this off and could we do this…. thankfully he said yes, but we both had no idea of what we were getting in to. Again, Doug Seidel was the heart of the conference between updating the website and technically producing 53 zoom events spread out across 3 days. A big THANK YOU TO ALL
by Mary Granahan, Station Manager OBTV
Old Bridge Township has over 65,000 residents and our municipal access station, OBTV, is working to keep them informed and engaged through our programming and social media content. While our local channels OBTV15 (Optimum) and FIOS 22 are only available in Old Bridge, our content is
accessible to everyone on the township’s YouTube channel. Over the years, OBTV’s staff has expanded from a small group of volunteers to a full-time station manager, and through my efforts, a part-time media production tech and a successful internship program. I am eager to continue our growth through reinstating our JAG membership and becoming more involved with the organization.
I was hired as station manager in January 2016, after almost 10 years of working in the industry on a freelance basis. My vision for the station was to improve the quality and overall look of the channel. Although we broadcast in SD, I upgraded our recordings to HD and created new motion graphics packages and intros for each series. I secured capital funding to build new, versatile studio sets and upgraded the lighting to LED. We now have three stand-alone sets with multiple options that enables us to change the look for each show.
As a municipal access station, we have a responsibility to keep the public informed. Part of that includes covering the township’s three most important board meetings: Township Council, Township Planning Board and Township Zoning Board. While our buildings remain closed to the public, we’ve made adjustments by holding virtual and hybrid meetings with call-in sessions for public comment. All of our meetings air live on OBTV and YouTube. We also have a large social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which is a great tool to instantly reach residents for emergency and non-emergency updates and information.
Other programs we produce include Old Bridge Outlook, You and Your Health, and our very popular Pet of the Month series where we feature an adoptable pet from the Old Bridge Animal Shelter. We’ve worked with the animal shelter and township council to eliminate adoption fees for featured pets as an extra incentive for adopting – especially senior and long-term shelter pets. This program has been so successful, that we often need to feature more than one animal because they’re adopted so quickly!
While some of our regular programming has halted during the pandemic, we have created new, dynamic content to keep our residents informed and entertained. Old Bridge Update is a weekly PSA-style program where our Mayor delivers a brief address on COVID-19 and its impact on the community. Department Update is a 10-15 minute interview program that brings focus to the projects, programs and services offered to residents and the adjustments made during the pandemic.
For our younger residents, we’ve worked with our Parks & Recreation Department to record Story Time! and Virtual Recreation.
And, for our older residents, we’ve collaborated with Silver Linings at Old Bridge, our senior center here in Old Bridge, to produce Silver Strength: Mind & Body. This is a 35-45 minute wellness program featuring classes originally taught live at the center, now virtually. Each week will feature Chair Yoga, Gentle Strength Training or Move 2 the Groove – a more advanced exercise dance class. The feedback on the new programming has been very positive and we’re planning to continue production on these programs post-pandemic. Looking ahead to the future, our goals are to continue to expand programming, to create a stable revenue stream, and to procure funding for projects to upgrade and sustain the growth of our station. This summer, the Old Bridge Township courtroom/council chamber will undergo a complete renovation from a new dais and public seating to improved lighting and an upgraded sound system. I’m working with a vendor to incorporate technology that will give the board president the option to control all microphones, presentations and lighting.
We are going to be installing telephone conferencing technology, which will make it easier for consultants and residents to participate in public meetings during the pandemic. Another current project is the upgrade to our broadcast and community bulletin board server. The new server will have enhanced bulletin board features and increase our audience reach through closed captioning and live streaming for non-cable customers who use Apple TV or similar devices. My plan is to create a steady revenue stream through local sponsorships of our community bulletin board. We have a thriving business community here in Old Bridge who has generously contributed to past township events. This anticipated revenue will not only offset current operation costs, it will help fund future upgrades, projects and equipment.
Old Bridge Television has undergone many upgrades over the past five years and I’m excited to continue the station’s expansion and bring new programming to our residents.
Are You Sharing the Wealth?
by Bob Duthaler
Each month I am tasked with writing an article for the newsletter
identifying a specific topic of JAG that should be brought to the attention of our members. This month was no different, other than the fact I was having trouble on what to talk about. Then as I was talking with our board and executive director it hit me. I was not going to talk about one particular item, rather I was going to talk to you about the wealth of knowledge that JAG is.
It starts with our mission statement. “JAG advises, advocates, and educates in the areas of technology, legislation, and regulation impacting multiple media platforms.” The way we go about this takes on numerous forms. This is the “Wealth of Knowledge” that JAG is. The key is to share this knowledge. By doing so, you are not only allowing others linked to your organization to understand all the JAG brings, but all that you are involved with, the complexity and the importance of the work you are doing in your job. The little things aren’t always so little, especially when they all come together.
That can be said about the many facets of JAG and what we make available to our membership. It is the whole of these items that make up the sum of the “Wealth of Knowledge” of JAG. My goal here is not to spend time going into great depth about each facet but explain to you why you should not be greedy. Yes, I said greedy!
This is where I might lose some of you, as I just called you greedy. But I ask you to bear with me, as I realized myself, that I was being greedy as well. So how is that the case? I have been doing everything I can to participate with JAG and take advantageous of all that JAG has to offer. Isn’t that the purpose of JAG? How is that being greedy? Well it is, sort of.
JAG’s newsletter, JAG Connect shared server, JAG email list serve, JAG awards, JAG on social media, JAG website and Eastern Video Expo website are already familiar to you with all they have to offer. How do I know? You are reading this article now which is found in this newsletter, you have emailed questions or answered them on the list serve, you regularly download programs from our shared server and you check out the website for members only information. But who else in your organization is reading this? Who else do you know that entered the JAG awards? Who have you told about the upcoming Eastern Video Expo and Conference? Have you made others aware of these? Who are these people?
So let me get down and dirty and explain what I am talking about and what you and I both can do to end this greed. Let’s explore the many items that make up the wealth of JAG and let me explain what you can do to share them. The good news is it is not hard. More importantly, it is easy to do and those who you share with are in control of what they want to participate in.
So who are these people? How do you identify them? The simple answer is almost anyone you come in contact with during your course of operations. Do you have a cable advisory board? They already have an interest in what you are doing, so why not get them on the email list to receive the JAG newsletter, let them know about the upcoming conference and share meeting invites with them. The same can be said with your mayor, council members and administrator too. A lot of what we talk about from legislative updates to protecting rights of way, all have an impact on what your council and administration do. These can be found in our newsletter. Simply allowing them to receive this monthly newsletter could help them understand potential actions on both a state or national level and their impact on the local side. How about the technical people on your staff or board? Are they on the list serve? The knowledge they have may benefit our members or any questions they have could be answered by our members. It is this two-way street that is invaluable.
Are you working with or have interaction with a school district? Have you alerted the students or staff about the JAG awards? They work hard on their creations, so why not have them recognized? Those same staff members should be alerted to the conference, receive our newsletter and should be on the email list serve. Any volunteers? Are they creating content for you? Perhaps they should be on the JAG Connect server. It is not only to share content, but to allow those who create content for you to see what others are doing. Perhaps this gives them some ideas and allows them to up their game as well.
I think you get the idea of what I’m saying. It was never intentional on any of our parts to keep all the great wealth of knowledge of JAG and what the organization has to share to ourselves. Sometimes it just takes a little nudging to realize this. The great part is people you share this with have the ability to control what they want to receive and interact when they see fit.
You have two options. You can ask them if they would like to be included and if they agree you can send their name, email address and affiliation to me. The other is to make this easy for both you and them. JAG has created a special link that you can share with them to get them signed up. Just send them this link.
Start now, Share the Wealth!
In the past, JAG’s Monthly Newsletter was only open to its members that were part of the JAG listserv. This changed in March when we launched it on a new more public platform making it possible to broaden its distribution and support JAG’s marketing efforts. This included updates to our website to include all the content found in the newsletters.
All of the items discussed in the above article are being produced by the members of JAG’s eight committees.
You will find their work defined in more detail in each month’s newsletter.