Boston University uses Blackmagic's ATEM Switcher

BU00From the Classroom to the Small Screen with ATEM at Boston University

It is not everyday that a prestigious university decides to overhaul their production studio in order to incorporate a brand new product into their set up. It is also fairly uncommon for a school to be sure that, in this day and age, they remain firmly positioned at the forefront of the cutting edge of technology. Boston University, however, isn’t your everyday, common insitution.

Boston University’s College of Communication (COM) specializes in Film and Television, Journalism, Mass Communication, Advertising and Public Relations. With more than 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, COM integrates a strong liberal arts core with a heavy focus on preparing students for careers as communication professionals.  COM’s faculty is a blend of traditional academicians and widely experienced professionals.

COM’s studios are extensively used by hundreds of students and faculty in both course and extracurricular applications, specifically butv10 and butv10.com, theBU05 University’s student produced televison channel and website. Most recently, students enrolled in this summer’s Academy of Media Production (AMP), a nationally recognized program for high school students, have been busy at work in COM’s Production studios.

The reputation COM and its students have gained around the world is certainly impressive. But this is all business as usual for Boston University, whose 17 colleges and schools are internationally recognized alongside their numerous multi disciplinary centers and institutes. What really has COM, and butv10 in particular, excited these days is Blackmagic Design’s ATEM Production Switcher.

The ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel were implemented in Studio East, COM’s primary HD production studio, and has impressed faculty and students from the outset. Assistant Professor Christophor Cavalieri, who also serves as butv10’s faculty advisor, says, “In classroom environments and with butv10’s production workload, the ATEM Production Switcher is a remarkable teaching and training tool.” The free software control panel included with the switcher is especially beneficial. “The ability to have unlimited software based switcher interfaces used in tandem with the physical control panel is a huge asset, particularly in an educational environment,” says Cavalieri.

BU’s COM students and faculty have taken such a liking to the ATEM gear that, come fall semester, butv10 will be moving much of its production to Studio East. Shows such as the 2011 Telly Award winning “On That Point” and “Terrier Nation”, which covers the whole spectrum of BU sports, will benefit from the new and improved workflow and expanded capabilities offered by the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher. ATEM will allow students to create new looks for these programs, which is not only stimulating for the viewer, but more importantly, stimulates the creativity of COM’s student producers and directors.

“The ATEM Broadcast Panel, in conjunction with the software control panel, will also enable COM students to foster the power of collaboration,” says COM Senior Engineer and Post Production Specialist Jake Kassen. “One operator can be mapping a key or upcoming transition while a second operator can be uploading graphics. All the while, the show is being cut live on the physical panel. Using these multiple interfaces divides the responsibilities of the technical director, and allows everyone to work in sync.”

When it comes to educating and training students, having access to multiple control panels also aids in making the learning environment all the more active. An experienced technical director can be operating the hardware panel, while students who are learning the system can follow along simply by paying attention to one of several software panels. This enhances the learning process, freeing students from having to learn from “over the shoulder” viewing. Working with the ATEM software is also far less intimidating for students accustomed to learning from graphical interfaces.

Kassen cites an example: “Configuring a Chroma Key or DSK using hardware controls is easy for professionals, but often overwhelming for students. Students have a far less difficult time setting the chroma hue correctly and tweaking the effects when using the software control panel. Because the interface is so similar to what students encounter when applying a Chroma Key effect in Avid or FCP, it has helped us link our studio production classes with our NLE classes and butv10 productions.”

Remote switching is yet another benefit provided by the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher and Broadcast Panel. COM has two full production studios, and thanks to ATEM, students have the freedom of being able to learn in one studio, and use the same exact interface in a second studio, or even in the field. With the software control panel in the mix, students need only familiarize themselves with one type of workflow, and the learning process is thus completely streamlined. This is of course key to making students proficient in all production situations that involve the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, and is made all the more significant due to butv10’s plans to take studio productions such as the “Pop Showdown” game show and athletic oriented programs “Terrier Nation” and “Offsides” to remote campus locations.

Last but not least, ATEM has simplified the process of integrating graphics and effects. What used to require three to four steps is now as easy as importing material from Photoshop. Cavalieri attests to the improvements ATEM offers the facilities’ workflow: “The fact that ATEM has influenced our decision to retool numerous butv10 productions speaks for itself. The ATEM 1 M/E Switcher, Broadcast Panel and software control panels have given us greater dexterity and improved quality.”

Kassen continued, “The ATEM Switcher maintains COM’s top of the line facilities for preparing the next generation of content creators.”