WCU's World-Class Digital TV and Recording Studio

A Star Is Built

Bruce Frazier, Don Connelly and Pat Acheson design a one-of-a-kind digital TV and recording studio that's set to send sound waves through the industry.

Don Connelly with some of the 45-plus miles of cable in the TV and recording studio.

Left: Don Connelly with some of the 45-plus miles of cable in the TV and recording studio.

Inside Western's new Center for Applied Technology is a network-quality production/post production facility. "To match what's in this building," says Don Connelly, director of electronic media, "you'll have to go to New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Nashville."

Dr. Bruce Frazier, Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music at Western, has been involved with the facility since its inception in 1998; it was he who recruited Connelly to collaborate on the design.

Pat Acheson joined the pair in 2002 in the early stages of construction and build-out as the director of studio operations. Pat's background includes 28 years of network television operations experience at ABC, CBS and NBC in New York.

"The very best learning experience"

For the industry veterans, the facility was all about the students. To provide, in Frazier's words, "the very best learning experience," they chose to combine the studios, thus tripling the facility's functionality.

If the recording studio needs more space, the crew can simply go across the hall to the TV studio and vice versa. Projects are mixed throughout the facility via shared computer servers and digital routing switches.

As a result, Western will now "have students that are broader, [with] the capability to enter the industry at a higher level than students typically do," says Connelly. According to Acheson, "Our students are working with some of the most advanced equipment that matches what the big four in New York are working with."

Further adding to students' industry value, the electronics department has created an electronics minor so that communication and music students will not only know how to operate the equipment but also how to diagnose and make field repairs.

Beyond the state of the art

Bruce Frazier at the Solid State Logic C200 digital console.

Right: Bruce Frazier at the Solid State Logic C200 digital console.

In addition to plasma screens, digital video recorders, and advanced digital video editing, the facility features the first Solid State Logic C200 state-of-the-art digital recording console in the United States.

Equally impressive is the facility's TV switcher, the device that allows a producer to choose which signal--camera, satellite feed, or commercial--the viewer sees. It is currently the only one of its kind in a university setting. It is the same model NBC uses for the Olympics, it's also used by many of the major remote truck services that do sports broadcasts.

Additionally, the TV facility includes three field cameras, remote lights, and location sound recording equipment.

A "one-stop shop"

"Now, you can come to Western, shoot a project on video, post that project, score it, and walk out the door with CDs or DVDs," says Connelly. This "one-stop shop" concept will serve to attract projects to Western North Carolina, support the university's mission to boost the region's economy, and ensure that students become involved in professional projects.

An inclusive design

Frazier and Connelly designed the facility to be inclusive. Theatre Arts students now have an ideal venue in which to hold Acting for the Camera classes, and the School of Art and Design will be able to transmit animation and artwork to the studios from the new Fine and Performing Arts Center via fiber optic cables.

Outside the television studio are two boxes for remote and satellite trucks to plug into and interconnect with the studios. Events can now be entirely produced at Western and transmitted to the rest of the world.

To boldly go...

Frazier's vision for the recording arts studio is for a full set of programs to benefit students and industry leaders, an internship site, and a student-run music production company. Connelly's dream is for Western to go to "the step beyond film: high definition video." (24P high definition [HD] video is shot at film's 24-frames-per-second speed.)

Into the future

Western is the first university in North Carolina, and one of only seven in the country, to have the SONY CineAlta 24 frame high-definition video camera. This is the same technology used by George Lucas and others to produce cutting-edge digital motion pictures. Western will become one of the first universities in the country to offer a degree program in the 24p high-definition medium.

Meanwhile, faculty and staff have already worked with their first national client. Stay tuned.

 

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