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A New Era of Creativity

By: Olivia Ryckman | Published: May 07, 2024 | Categories: Crossroads
A New Era of Creativity

Down the first floor of Webster under an “ON AIR” sign is the KGCS-TV studio. Inside on the left is a room full of monitors playing an old ‘70s show, a computer that holds all the stations tracks rolling the episode. But it’s not the show nor the computer itself that has everyone’s attention—it’s the two brand new studios just past the main room.

On the back wall is a nearly 20-foot-tall LED monitor, each panel connected to generate an image of standing on a beach, the cliffs and water painted with the hue of a red fading sun, as grass sways in a silent breeze. The light from the scene fills the large studio, showing off new cameras and motion tracking sensors on the ceiling.

To the left through another set of doors is the second studio. A large, curved green screen set up as though in front of a live studio audience—couch, table, and all. Surrounding the mini living room is a row of cameras, empty of their handlers.

Remodeling for the studios began in the 2023 Spring semester after MSSU received a $1.5 million MOExcels Grant with the goal of creating a cooperative learning environment for students from different departments.

“The world of video production and commercial film production is changing rapidly,” said Lisa Green, general manager at KGCS. “Our new studios will help students prepare to work in digital marketing environments, TV or film studios, and GFX studios, while also creating a space for those who like hosting and being in front of the camera as well.”

With these new studios, students will be able to produce more creative projects, allowing them to work together and imagine new worlds while utilizing the same equipment as major production companies.

“They’re designed to provide students with immersive learning experiences in producing film, commercial and broadcast productions,” said Brian Mehrens, master instructor of communications. “For these studios to work, it requires a great mix of technical and creative skills, providing some really exciting collaboration opportunities for students in Art, Computer Information Systems, and Communication."

The LED wall uses the Unreal Engine software, which has traditionally been used to create computer
games and is equipped with a MoSys camera motion tracking system, as well as new high-tech cameras: an Arri Alexa Mini LT, a Red Komodo, and a Sony FX6.

The greenscreen studio upgraded to fiberoptic camera connections, Ultimatte 4K keying hardware,
wireless microphones, new teleprompters, three 4K Blackmagic Broadcast cameras, and uses the same Unreal Engine as the LED studio for creating the graphics. The studio is also set up with HTC Vive’s new Mars tracking system, which uses the same technology in their virtual reality systems but focuses on tracking cameras in real-time video productions.

“Unreal Engine is the same systems people use to build communities for Minecraft,” said Green. “Our
new equipment will enable us to create and work in 3D virtual environments and produce videos just like Disney does to create the shows like ‘The Mandalorian.’”

For students like Ethan Hoover, a KGCS Student Producer, the new studios open the door for a lot
more opportunities.

“Working in film is my dream, and the new tech gives us the ability to use the studio for more nuanced
productions without having to build an expensive set or find an external location,” said Hoover. “Virtual production technology is quickly becoming the standard in film and knowing how to use it will give us a huge edge in finding work in the field.” Allowing students to produce short and long films and other creative projects isn’t the only hope for the new spaces.

“I would like to see MSSU become a hub for education on emerging technologies in the area of media production,” said Mehrens. “It would be incredible if we could partner with some of our local media production companies and have our students assist in productions within the new studios, providing experience in professional experience."

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