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Criss Library a one-stop shop for multimedia production

Contributor

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 18:02

library

Photo by Joe Shearer/The Gateway

Although most college libraries are famous for their rows and rows of books, students at UNO have access to an extensive media studio right inside the Criss Library. The studio offers recording equipment, software and a location to help with class projects, or just for fun.

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Photo by Joe Shearer/The Gateway

Eric Anderson (pictured above), a student worker in the library’s media studio, works on a pop-up lighting rig during a shift last week. The studio offers production computers, a green screen, a sound booth and more resources for student use.


Libraries are known for their books. UNO’s Criss Library, with its seemingly endless aisles of literature, is no different. However, there is something that makes the Criss Library stand out from the rest. Not only can students rent media recording devices, they can also produce and edit audio-visual content at the little-known media studio.

The media studio has the hardware, software and production equipment to handle most beginner multimedia projects. Opened part-way through the fall 2012 semester, the studio is still a new addition to the library. Spring 2013 is the first full semester that the studio is open and ready for use, and will be a true test for the fledgling facility.

“We honestly don’t know where it’s going from there,” said Karl Johnson, circulation supervisor at the library. “It’s kind of a wait-and-see what people ask for, and see where we want to take it. This isn’t something necessarily every library has, so this is a venture that is still in development.”

The studio was created in partnership with the UNO School of Communication, to ensure that students, faculty and staff could have access to professional-grade media production technology. Coupled with the rental availability of recording devices upstairs, the capacity for multimedia composure is great.  

Access to resources like that is desired because, as agents of the Digital Age, it is becoming ever more important to have some experience with media production. Johnson said that is becoming apparent that professors want their students, even those not involved in multimedia type majors, to be able to construct a multimedia project.

“It’s not enough anymore to just be able to get up in front of the class and talk with a PowerPoint presentation,” Johnson said. “Now, you’re expected almost to have a basic understanding of multimedia principles.”

From Idea to Reality

The first thing someone needs, when producing a multimedia package, is a recording device. With a MavCard, there’s no need to go buy an expensive camera. There are quite a few available for rental at the library’s main desk. For example, there are 12 Canon T3 DSLR cameras, which are popular for the quality of their still-shots, but can also record video. The sound quality of the microphone is a bit lacking, Johnson said, so it wouldn’t be the best for extended video relying heavily on sound.

In those cases, it is best to rent one of the six HD camcorders, which have a port to attach an external microphone. No need to travel far to get one of those, the library has 12 handheld Sennheiser microphones. Also, since the camcorders are a bit bulky, and it’s best not to overwork the arms, the library can offer one of six heavy-duty tripods for support. With these devices on hand, it is time to shoot some video.

Before that happens, the videographer needs a location. For a project that doesn’t require the video to be shot at a certain locale, such as a public service announcement, a studio is the perfect option. And the library has one.

Lights, Camera, Action

The media studio is almost a hybrid between computer lab and television studio. The most noticeable aspect is the brand new green screen, used to customize the backdrop of video filmed in front of it during Chroma key endeavors.  This can be taken down if the particular project doesn’t call for Chroma key.

In one corner, there is a cluster of lighting equipment to cast a better light on the subjects, and in the other is a large black box. That’s the WhisperRoom, an enclosure that can house two people and is designed to record high-quality sound. The chamber is echo-proof, sealed, and has a fluorescent light fixture that doesn’t buzz.

In addition, two tables sit in the middle of the room and can be used in production or set to the side. Likewise, there are many chairs that are free to use if the project requires them. With all of these resources, a high-quality production is entirely possible, even for a novice.

Cut

The trick to effective audio-visual composition is taking the raw, uncut content and reassembling it into a condensed and cohesive multimedia package. This can be done using basic freeware on your laptop, but it’ll be a sacrifice to quality. All of UNO’s computers have professional editing programs like Adobe Photoshop, but not all the computers around campus are equipped to handle large video files smoothly. The ones within the media studio are.

The centerpiece of the studio is the high-end Mac desktop computer, of which there are several. Johnson said the library staff wanted to make sure videos and other large files wouldn’t bog down the machines. Hooked up to 27-inch monitors, the computers make for optimal viewing.

There are three editing bays, Johnson said, installed with Final Cut X, Adobe Premier Pro, and basics like iMovie. Next to every computer is a set of earmuff style headphones, for crisp, clean sound. There is an HD Tape Deck to be used with cameras that record in HD, like the HD camcorder. There is also an HD Scanner, Blu-Ray player and DVD player to transfer data to and from a disk.

Assistance

An indispensable resource at the studio is its student staff, like Nivedita Kamat and Eric Meyer. Kamat, pursuing her master’s in management information systems, said the staff is one of the main differences between the media studio and any other media lab.

Although their main role is to just monitor the lab, they do offer some assistance as how to operate the editing programs or utilize some of the video recording equipment, said Meyer, a graduate student.

“We are there around the clock, all the time, to help them out,” Kamat said.

The Future of the Media Studio

There aren’t any signs in the library for the studio, and Kamat said that leaves most students unaware that it even exists. This is mostly due to the fact that there is talk about trying to shift the location from the lower floor to the first floor where it is more convenient for students to come and see, Kamat said.

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