Pro Talk: School Video Production with Stu Stein
At SlingStudio, we love hearing about the inspiring productions our users make with SlingStudio. Today, we’re speaking with Stu Stein of Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting from Bellmore, NY. The Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting program teaches students the ins and outs of video production all while covering the most important events of Mepham High School.
In this sitdown interview, we talk with Stu about how SlingStudio has allowed his students to work more independently than ever, how SlingStudio can be the perfect emergency plan for large-scale productions gone wrong, and much more. Our interview with him is below:
In your own words, can you give us a brief overview of Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting?
Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting is a four-year program at Mepham High School in Bellmore, NY. Our students take one broadcasting class a year and commit to spending 100 hours out of class working on our productions. We produce a pair of weekly news broadcasts as well as three monthly student-produced shows. Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting also covers sports and cultural events at the school.
What roles do the students play within each production?
Our students do everything for our productions. A sports production usually begins two weeks prior to the date, with our kids doing pre-production (building graphics, researching the teams etc.). On shoot night, we generally run a four-camera shoot with two sportscasters, a sideline reporter, audio engineer, technical director, director—like I said, everything.
How long has Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting been operating?
This is Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting’s fourth year. We began in the fall of 2016 with 24 freshmen and five upperclassmen. We now have 75 students spread across all four grades.
How did you learn about SlingStudio?
Rich Betan at Broadfield had been telling us about SlingStudio for a while, but we didn’t really see the need for it because we had a Newtek Tricaster. This year at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show, Broadfield was demoing SlingStudio. We realized that SlingStudio’s portability and ease of use would expand our capabilities and enable us to give opportunities to kids that normally would not get them.
What led you to purchase from Broadfield?
We saw SlingStudio at Broadfield’s booth at NAB and Rich Bettan put us in touch with Tony at Adwar, a local dealer who was able to quote and deliver a full system.
What initially attracted you to SlingStudio?
With our program’s growth we have more students than we can accommodate on our weekly fully supervised shoots. SlingStudio allows us to empower one of our seniors to act as the producer and then give underclassmen more opportunities on our shoots.
What are some challenges in your productions SlingStudio has helped you overcome?
The biggest problem we’ve been having is with our school network. We’ve been using NDI to send signals to the Tricaster, but since late that school year, the district has been making regular firewall updates. This will often impede the signal being sent from the shoot location back to the control room.
SlingStudio has done two things for us. First, on nights when the network is not cooperating, we’re able to set up SlingStudio side by side with the Tricaster in minutes and have a second unit record and switch the event. Secondly, SlingStudio is giving so many of our students valuable experience they would not have gotten if they had to wait until space opened up on one of our traditional shoots. SlingStudio is so easy to use, it’s getting so many kids experience that they would’ve needed months to acquire.
What types of events have you been able to broadcast with SlingStudio you were unable to do in the past?
Because we use NDI to connect to our Tricaster, we’re always able to connect to the control room. What SlingStudio will do for us is when we go out of district, we’ll be able to live switch. One of the highlights of our broadcast year is an annual baseball game played at a local college. In the past, we’ve packed up our entire studio. This year we’ll just pack up our SlingStudio kit and an audio backpack and we’ll be good to go.
Have you been using SlingStudio more for recorded or live-streamed content?
Exclusively for recorded, due to network issues we do not go live often. We also have a pretty talented graphics team so we like to do a bit of post on SlingStudio recordings.
What is your typical SlingStudio setup? What other equipment do you use?
We use four cameras (Canon VIXIAs for student-produced shoots, Panasonic AVCCAMS for faculty-produced shoots), a Behringer audio mixer, and Sennheiser Sportscaster headsets and that’s about it.
How has SlingStudio helped your students work more independently?
Our seniors have now taken on the role of producer and they organize SlingStudio shoots independently of faculty advisors. The ability to scale down the shoots without sacrificing quality has allowed the kids to plan and execute complex shoots on their own.
How long did it take for your students to learn how to use SlingStudio?
How has SlingStudio helped improve your student led productions?
We’re still new to SlingStudio but we have already seen students taking on new roles on shoots because of the opportunities provided by us using SlingStudio.
How has SlingStudio helped your team’s set-up?
SlingStudio lets kids in our program take on new roles and learn new skills. We view them as “upshoots” where every member of the team takes a step “up” into a new position. Our kids spend a lot of time in classrooms, but we’re firm believers in experience being the best teacher. SlingStudio lets us configure our team multiple ways to give kids experience in multiple positions and to give them sufficient time in those positions to feel comfortable in them.
Which SlingStudio features have benefited your team the most?
Without a doubt, ease of portability and setup are two of the top features of SlingStudio for us
Why would you recommend SlingStudio to other schools and organizations?
SlingStudio is a must-have tool for any high school broadcasting program, whether your program is already using another switcher or if you’re just starting out. For programs just getting started, SlingStudio is a fantastic way to start creating content with little training and with almost no initial investment. The students will gain experience in all aspects of production immediately. For larger, more established programs, SlingStudio will complement your existing equipment and can be an insurance policy on nights where you have technical issues with your main system that needs little setup time. SlingStudio will also allow you to cover significantly more events with less faculty supervision and in locations where electricity or internet access issues make larger productions challenging or downright impossible.
We would like to thank Stu Stein for taking the time to speak with us on how SlingStudio has allowed the students of Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting to work more independently and efficiently. If you are interested in learning more about Bellmore Merrick Broadcasting, you can visit their YouTube channel or their website.