Now open for classes, new film and media production studio’s “building” of opportunities just getting started

By Joel Hoover

During a tour of the new film and media production studio in the basement of Hostetter Chapel, Dr. Nance McCown cannot help but turn around and give some instruction before entering the new control room.

“Try not to drool,” she says with a laugh.

Given the capabilities of the new studio, it might be hard not to.

After the initial stages of moving equipment into the facility and an afternoon of tours yesterday, students will enter the production studio in a classroom setting for the first time today. It is the culmination of several months’ work preparing this renovated space to become a top-level production facility.

“It’s basically what you would find elsewhere on a larger scale—in some cases, on a smaller scale—depending on the studio,” said Dr. McCown, the co-chair of the communication department and associate professor of communication.

The new studio space itself has two definitive sides to it. The one side utilizes an endless floor green screen that wraps around the room’s walls along the corner and onto the floor itself. At the other end will be where a news desk—currently under construction—will be placed for television newscasts.

The studio also has three JVC cameras with teleprompter capabilities, several large monitors, and “theatrical” lighting above that can be moved on tracks to where it needs positioned.

Back in the control room are several rows of boards for sound, video, and other components of producing telecasts, television monitors on the wall at the front of the boards, and a full IBF communication system to talk to talent on the floor.

“We’re looking at a fully functional studio,” said Dr. Ed Arke, professor of communication. “Everything that you’re looking at is professional-grade…nothing in the studio is consumer-grade.”

The space around the studio is also serving several other important purposes. A small soundproof Foley sound studio has also been built for recording of sounds for film projects.

“A foley studio is a really unique thing to include in a college campus film program,” said Krista Imbesi, senior lecturer of film and digital arts. “It is a room specifically for designing and recording sound effects and soundtracks.” A Sound course will be taught in the Spring semester and utilize the room for the first time.

A storage room has also been created outside of the studio for shelving and charging film and broadcast equipment. Storage will also include a check-in station for maintaining the flow of equipment in and out of the area.

Creation of storage space has become especially necessary with an influx of new film equipment, including lights, tripods, recorders, and cameras. Among the new camera equipment is a RED Epic camera, which was the same style of camera used to film The Hobbit.

Outside of the studio, a “green room” area has also been built with a small preparation room and a bathroom included.

Much of the early stages of the studio’s use will be determining what it can do: a process the professors connected to the studio are aware of.

“It will probably be a little while before we fully tap all of (the studio’s) capabilities,” Dr. Arke said. “The system is that robust.”

Dr. McCown took an analogous approach to the process of breaking the studio in.

“It’s kind of like when you get a new car and you’re figuring out, ‘Okay, so that’s where I turn on the lights…and that’s how I change the clock,’” she said. “We have training on lots of aspects of the system, and our professors know how to use the equipment.

“But it’s pretty sophisticated. Any time you have a new system in place, there will be bugs that come up.”

The changes also mean that renovations will be coming for the old, smaller production space in the basement of Murray Library. Next to the current editing lab, several individual editing suites will be created in the next few months. A new animation studio will also be set aside.

For now, the focus is on delivering the content and curriculum to the students here. But the vision for the future is beginning to take shape, including hopes of growing the television presence on campus, becoming self-sustaining, and even collaborating with local media.

“We want to look to the future as soon as we are able,” said Dr. McCown, while adding that it will take time to establish the new facility. “Giving students that opportunity would be great preparation for life and be great for the campus.”

The preparation gained for beyond college for the film and media arts, digital media, media and cultural technology, and journalism majors through the new facility continues to be the major benefit of the new studio—and one that the department hopes will draw new students and entities to Messiah.

“It certainly provides students with the ability to work hands-on with equipment that is being utilized in the field (and) in the profession,” said Dr. Arke.

“Because we’re a smaller institution, students will have a much better chance of having that hands-on experience than in a larger setting where the ratio is different.”

“Moving everything to our campus will help keep students collaborate on their upper level projects and give consistency to the program,” added Imbesi, as many film students have had to work on large film projects away from campus because of the prior lack of such a production facility.

The opportunities for the newly opened production studio are vast and endless as the first students enter the area to learn today.

In reality, the “building” of the facility—and what can be done with it—is just getting started.

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