NSCC Preps Students With Ross OverDrive

By Carolyn Braff

For the past year and a half, students at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) have had the benefit of learning hands-on television production in a brand-new facility, outfitted with two complete studios. However, at the time the program moved into the facility, there was enough funding to outfit only one control room with new equipment, leaving the second full of analog gear. When funding became available for an upgrade, rather than mirror the traditional layout of the existing control room, the instructors decided to implement an automated production system.

“In our market here in Nova Scotia, there are three nightly newscasts,” explains Stephen Melanson, television production instructor at NSCC. “One has moved to an automated control system, one is still using a traditional full crew, and the other is working on virtual technology, with the studio in Nova Scotia and the control room in Calgary, AB. Because our students are going to get the traditional training in our first studio, we wanted to invest in automation to give our students that training as well.”

Automation is becoming standardized in professional production-control rooms, so Melanson wanted to make sure that his students have the opportunity to train on that equipment, to give them an advantage in the ever competitive job hunt.

Once the decision was made to go with an automated system, choosing the OverDrive Automated Production Control System from Canada-based Ross Video was relatively painless.

“Our first-floor studio also has a Ross Synergy switcher,” Melanson points out, “so the transition from one to the other for the students is seamless.”

Melanson also appreciated the fact that OverDrive requires all the traditional pieces of equipment to be present for automation to work. The OverDrive computer interfaces between the video switcher, audio mixer, graphics computer, and video-server playback, using preloaded automation instructions.

“But because it’s a computer, should automation fail at any point, all I have to do is put an operator behind each one of those pieces of equipment, and I’m still on-air,” Melanson explains. “With the competing system, the base system comes with an automation that doesn’t give you all of those components; you can add them at an additional cost.”

The fact that Ross is a Canadian company was also a selling point for NSCC, which offers more than 100 programs and serves the province of Nova Scotia through a network of 13 campuses.

In addition to the Ross OverDrive system, NSCC’s control rooms are outfitted with Sony cameras, a Yamaha digital audio mixer, a 360 Systems video server, Harris Inscriber character generators, and QNews rundown software. The students use the automation system to produce a weekly half-hour newsmagazine that is fed to a local community channel reaching 60,000 homes in the Halifax market.

“As part of their regular ongoing training, our students work with the local cable company and do a lot of junior hockey games and university athletics, so there is a significant amount of sports production being done in this marketplace,” Melanson explains, noting that every mobile crew in the local market has three students assigned to work on it, so the students get hands-on sports experience every weekend.

“Coincidentally,” he adds, “the mobile trucks are all using Ross switchers as well, so the transition for our students moving from our studio into the mobile truck is seamless.”

NSCC is the first college to utilize the Ross OverDrive system, but, with the production and training success these students are having, it is unlikely to be the last.

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