Behind the scenes of Wolfstock Live

[ssba]

Thanks to a unique combination of technology and an abundance of student enthusiasm, the School of Journalism produced its first ever live show during Stony Brook University’s Homecoming event on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013.

Several students, particularly those on the broadcast track, approached professors in the department about the possibility of creating a live show. After some consideration and a lot of planning, it was decided to test out the waters during a large-scale campus event, Homecoming.

“The realities and logistics behind the show were very difficult,” Director of Broadcast and Digital Journalism Steven Reiner said. “We wanted to have reporters out in the field where homecoming stuff was happening, which presented an enormous number of technical challenges, because we don’t have a lot of expensive, sophisticated equipment for live remotes.”

In the end, the half-hour show featured interviews with Director of Athletics Jim Fiore, Dean of Students Jerrold Stein and the first Stony Brook varsity football coach Sam Kornhauser, a story on the financial aspects of Homecoming and profiles on the students running for Homecoming King and Queen.

The show was aired on sbujdrive.com and brought 332 visitors to the site over the weekend, who stayed an average of about five minutes.

The final result was a success and a worthwhile learning process, though it required the efforts of about 20 people and many hours of preliminary work.

Typically, professional live broadcasts are made possible by satellite trucks that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The School of Journalism devised an alternative method, which Reiner described as “an ingenious stitching together of mobile technology.”

20131005-Wolfstock_Live05

A look at the camera feeds coming in to the School of Journalism television studio during the live coverage of Stony Brook University’s 2013 Homecoming on Oct. 5, 2013. Photo by Kareema Charles.

“We tried to simulate something that’s extremely expensive to do,” Technical Manager for the School of Journalism Philip Altiere said. “We were doing it with the upgraded version of tin cans and a string.”

The school purchased Padcasters, which are metal and rubber housing devices for iPads. The Padcaster enables an iPad to act like a steady camera, because it can be attached to a tripod and have microphones mounted to it.

Using Skype, the live reporting was transmitted from the field to the School of Journalism television studio across campus.

But because there was no network connection near the football field, where the Homecoming activities took place, Verizon 4G LTE mobile hotspots needed to be purchased to provide the necessary Internet connection for transmission.

The feed was then streamed on to the Internet in real time using Ustream.

Three of these remote locations were set up among the Homecoming activities.

“The iPad technology is all fun, but without the students wanting to do it, devoting their own free time for no class credit or extra credit, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Altiere said. “They did it because they wanted to try something new and that was really exciting and an honor to be a part of.”

After the show, students raved about the experience and thanked their professors for their support.

“It was a challenge, and it was something none of us had ever done before, but I don’t think there was ever a point where I thought we couldn’t do it,” senior Michael Ruiz said. “It was hard work, but it was fun. I’d do it every week if I could.”

“I am so grateful to have such supportive faculty and staff,” junior Jaclyn Lattanza said. “Through this experience, I have learned that live TV is all about depending on others and working as a team. I feel so much closer to all of the students who were involved. I also learned that it is important not to dwell on your mistakes during the show; you must always look forward.”

But it wasn’t just the students who learned something. The professors did, too.

“I would say that all of the professors involved, like Jonathan Sanders and Rick Ricioppo and myself, were reminded that this is the best way to teach– by actually doing,” Reiner said.


Gallery