Over this last winter break, Keene State updated their JMPR Studio.
Student journalists and their peers found themselves welcomed back to campus with a treat this semester: a brand-new TV studio complete with top-of-the-line equipment and software.
To fully grasp the scale of this upgrade, we have to rewind to 2006, the year the college transformed the Media Arts Center into the MAC, as it is known today. Upon its conversion, the studio had the most sophisticated equipment that the mid-2000s could offer. However, the release of newer tech, such as high-definition cameras, came very shortly after. As a result, the facility was already obsolete.
According to Dr. Chad Nye, the Department Chair of Multimedia and Journalism and associate professor Dr. Mark Timney, the typical service life for production equipment is only ten years. Fast-forward to 2020: the studio was using the same cameras, computers and software for nearly 15 years. Yet, with the efforts of its staff, the facility remained operational despite its shortcomings.
As reported by Timney and Dr. Kirsti Sandy, the Dean of Arts and Humanities, discussions between the college administration and the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) about funding such a project date back at least three years. Following several malfunctions of worn-out equipment, the faculty and students who used it were pushed over the edge. According to Dr. Sandy, the team had made their appeal to the USNH for years before it finally bore fruit: a grant of around $72,000 was approved, every penny going into improving the studio.
Including the grant money and other expenses the cost of the overhaul rounded off at about $125,000 in total.
Timney and Nye showcased the new equipment in the control room. According to the two professors, in the past, a computer would be needed for each aspect of production, cameras, pop-up pictures, teleprompting, et cetera.
Now, a central computer runs the entire show, as it can handle virtually everything simultaneously. At the same time, it reduces the number of hands needed to operate the studio. Back then, effectively producing a full-length, live news broadcast could have required a dozen people. Today, it will take a team of three, maybe less. Nye said “In theory, one person could run an entire show by themselves.”
When asked whether they liked the changes, staff and students seemed to have positive reactions. Each individual had their own reasons to like the changes. Nye laid it out rather simply: “It lets us teach better multimedia journalism.”
Tyler deRosa, a Keene State senior and an anchor for Inside Owl Athletics, said, “It’ll look good on my resume,” regarding his experience with the updated technology. Yet, despite all the upgrades, their responses turned out notably similar. They all said, “We needed this, badly.” Sandy stressed this point, emphasizing that the project was “years in the making,” and was only a matter of time.
Now that the studio has received its ‘facelift’, Timney, Nye and Sandy all said there’s a distinct air of excitement to see it in action. For viewers who tune in, there will be two noticeable changes from the get-go.
The first change is that the camera footage will be in clean high-definition– the pixel resolution will be way higher than before, and the movement as smooth as glass. Or, as they would say in my house, “it’s wicked sharp!”
According to Nye and Timney, the dimensions of the newsreel will also be projected in 16:9. This is the same length-height ratio as most modern televisions, as well as your average laptop screen, to be more compatible with today’s technology. It will also fit smoothly with virtually all smartphones.
All of the objects in the virtual set are photo realistic; a side-by-side picture next to the real thing would look identical– everything from the light reflections to the paint on the wall. Nevertheless, the display onlookers see isn’t even real. Everything in the set can be created, modified or deleted by a computer. Taking objects out, putting objects in or creating an entirely different room; all of it can be done. Yet, on the surface, the real set is merely an empty room. That’s all there is to it.
With all of these new pieces of equipment, the JMPR studio is now in a unique spotlight. For a small school, Keene State is now one of the very few– if any– universities with a studio that offers such advanced capabilities.
Sandy said all of this would not be possible without the combined efforts of Dr. Sandy, Nye, Timney, Julio del Sesto, Abe Osheyack, Steve Armstrong, and others. Your four years of work have finally paid off.
According to Nye, If you want to tune in and see the new studio in action, expanded programs are likely to be showcased twice weekly. The first broadcast is going to be Inside Owl Athletics on Thursday, February 25.
Jackson Kulacz can be contacted at