When Wiltshire College were looking to update its analogue TV studio, we provided them with NewTek’s TriCaster Pro – a portable production system that would let students create live webcasts. We also supplied them with hardware controllers that would help make broadcasting engaging and accessible for students.
Upgrading the studio
Comprising four campuses, Wiltshire College are part of Skillset Media Academy and have a Centre of Vocational Excellence Award for Digital and Broadcast Media. Wiltshire’s Interactive Media Centre, on their Chippenham campus, is a two-storey, self-contained broadcast studio with a production gallery. The studio already had three cameras, a range of lighting and a Panasonic MX 75 Production Switcher for vision mixing, but Paul Bryant, the assistant programme area manager for the digital media courses, wanted to upgrade.
“What we were looking to do was to be able to webcast our output from the studio. There was nothing wrong with the MX70, it was just a bit awkward to use,” Paul said. “At the time, we were involved in a project with a number of local schools and were exploring the possibility of some of their students producing live TV while others could watch the programme back in classes.”
Portable production solutions
Jigsaw24 had been one of the College’s suppliers of Apple computers for a number of years, and when they realised they wanted a live broadcast solution, Paul got in touch with our broadcast team. The College had already researched NewTek’s TriCaster so, during the consultation process, we looked at exactly what they needed to achieve – particularly the ability to broadcast straight to the internet – to make sure that TriCaster could meet all of their requirements.
The portable live production system seemed like the perfect choice for the College’s workflow, and would act as a suitable replacement for the Panasonic mixer they were using. “TriCaster is a remarkable piece of equipment,” said Paul. “And when you compare the price to similar items, it really is quite good value!”
To get the most out of TriCaster, we suggested a couple of external hardware controllers that would give students improved access to certain TriCaster features. NewTek’s LiveControl surface gives precise control over fast-paced live webcasts at students’ fingertips, letting them switch and mix inputs from different cameras, as well as integrate professional titling such as captions and subtitles. And the TimeWarp controller is ideal for giving broadcasts a polished feel, with simplified cueing of instant replays.
Putting it into practice
TriCaster is currently helping students get to grips with the principles of TV studio production on a range of courses, including the BTEC Level 2 Media course and BA (Hons) Creative Digital Media. “The great thing about the TriCaster setup is that if we need to, then the whole thing can be operated by just one person, but when we are dealing with larger groups, we can quite easily cope with a group of five students – all of whom feel like they are making a contribution,” said Paul. “It was quite easy to get it going and the students seem to pick up all the principles very easily. I’m especially impressed by the realtime reflections of presenters in virtual desks.”
Thanks to TriCaster’s portability, the College have also been able to take the system to careers fairs to help get people interested in the College’s courses, and give potential students a taste of creating broadcasts on the fly. Using TriCaster with one of their studio cameras, an autocue and a green screen, people get the effect of reporting from a TV news studio.
Looking to the future, Paul has already seen the potential to get more from their new setup: “We have not yet done any work on creating our own backgrounds, but this is something we plan to rectify in the future.”
In the long term, the College would ideally like a complete update of the studio, switching from 4×3 SD to 16×9 HD recording formats. Top of the wishlist is the new TriCaster XD850, which could replace their current model, and give them the HD broadcasting capabilities they are looking for as well as high quality 720p webcasting.