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ITaP upgrades production studio to HD video, reduces studio fee for one-year pilot to encourage use

When a camera-equipped weather balloon launched by a team of Purdue students — and assumed destroyed by an outbreak of tornados in November 2013 — crash-landed in an Ohio field a week later, The Weather Channel wanted to interview one of the students about the ordeal.

Instead of commuting to Weather Channel headquarters in Atlanta, the student headed to the basement of Stewart Center, where ITaP’s full-service video production facility and Purdue’s only broadcast-television studio is located.

zip trips host
The host of Zip Trips, 45-minute digital field trips filmed in the ITaP Studio,  interacts virtually with students during filming.

Although it’s not unusual for the ITaP Video and Multimedia Production Services (VMPS) team to accommodate such media requests, Ed Dunn hopes the studio’s recent upgrade to high-definition video and radically reduced studio charge during a one-year pilot program will encourage more staff and faculty to use its services.

“The studio in the past has not been used a lot, so we asked individuals who have used the studio to help us understand how we could encourage additional use, and most people reported cost as the primary concern,” says Dunn, manager of the VMPS unit. “The discussion turned into a strategic initiative, which resulted in funding to subsidize the hourly cost for studio use. Instead of paying the former fee of $238 per hour, individuals will now pay only $57 per hour to use the studio.”

The reduced studio fee was well-received by Steven Doyle, a video producer for Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Communication. Since 2008, Doyle has overseen the production of Zip Trips, 45-minute electronic field trips that promote science education and help generate greater interest in science among middle school students. Filmed like a live TV show, Zip Trips feature Purdue professors who discuss and demonstrate real day-to-day experiments so that students can visit the University without leaving their classroom.

“People are always kind of shocked at the price and development required to get the show on air, so bringing the studio cost down will make it more accessible to everybody who wants to use it,” Doyle says. “We have everything we need right here — the scientists, the studio, the technical and creative talent, and the expertise all are in-house, and it’s a one-stop shop. If we had to go somewhere else to do this, just the sheer logistical inconvenience of it would be a real hurdle to get over.”

Doyle also says there’s truth in the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that it’s worth a lot more when the picture is moving and talking.

zip trips producers
Zip Trips producers work in the ITaP Studio control room.

“It’s a big deal for kids to be sitting in their classroom in Port Jervis, New York, talking to a real scientist from Purdue University who’s answering that kid’s question in real-time,” Doyle says. “They can see each other, they’re interacting, and science looks like fun. Many times the researcher is able to break down some of the negative stereotypes kids have about being a scientist.”

Doyle encourages others to consult representatives at the studio to learn more about the services available, which include digital editing, 3-D animation and compositing, classroom- and conference-event recording, remote-location video recording, broadcast studio presentations and materials for distance-learning courses.

Faculty who would like to record lectures for an online course, for example, are able to walk in and record a 50-minute session in one sitting. Studio staff also can help record interviews, webinars and panel discussions.

“It’s a real resource, and it’s good to see that it’s been refurbished and that there’s a commitment to encourage more use,” Doyle says. “Projects like Zip Trips couldn’t happen without it.”

Individuals who would like to learn more about VMPS may contact Dunn.

Writer: Andrea Thomas, ITaP technology writer, 765-496-8204, thomas78@purdue.edu

Sources: Steve Doyle, 765-494-8414, doyles@purdue.edu

Ed Dunn, 765-494-1043, dunn@purdue.edu

Last updated: Jan. 23, 2014