OEL showcases new cutting-edge video production studio

The Office of Extended Learning announces a new video production studio designed to help faculty enhance their presence in the virtual classroom.  The sound-proofed studio, located in 1103 Northbank Center, features lightboard technology and stage on one end, and a traditional video production stage on the other. 

Lightboard concept

The highlight of the studio is the lightboard, which will enable faculty to write a lesson on a transparent board while facing the camera (i.e. students) instead of having their backs to the camera.

The lightboard was built by OEL video specialist Jason Skelton with assistance from instructional designers Brandon Blinkenberg and Carson Waites, and supervised by OEL’s technology guru and manager Nick Gaspar.  The lightboard will help faculty demonstrate complex lessons and increase their presence in the online environment without the need for complicated computer-generated graphics.  The 4’ x 8’ board features tempered glass in an LED-lighted plastic frame created by UM-Flint’s Engineering Department on its 3-D printer.  Created from open-source blueprints, the project was based on plans shared by Duke University and used by Ann Arbor’s College of Engineering.

While some older versions shoot video through an actual physical mirror, this version uses an electronic flipper to process a reversed image so text and illustrations do not appear backward to the viewer.  “This eliminates complication and geometry from the design as well as increasing the light input to the camera,” says the Duke University wiki. 

The lighting within and around the unit is especially key.  The 3D-printed frame holds two sets of LED strips—one to illuminate the face of the faculty and a second to illuminate the interior of the glass. “When an instructor writes on the glass with fluorescent markers, their words and images appear to glow brightly in front of them,” explains Brandon Blinkenberg.  “Behind them, students only see a black background so the information really pops. In addition to the light coming from the light board, studio lighting is carefully positioned to softly illuminate the instructor, without causing unwanted reflections on the glass."

And at the other end of the room…

Many faculty over the years have enjoyed the creativity provided through use of OEL’s green screens, which enable a stock background or video to be inserted.  The new video studio accommodates a permanent green screen, a bigger and easier-to-read teleprompter, and advanced, 4K high-resolution cameras, soundproofing panels and precision microphones.

Renovations began in winter 2017 semester in what was originally a locker room.  “This really was a campus-wide project,” says Nick Gaspar.  “Jason Gooding, Mike Daniels, and Harrison Bacon in ITS were instrumental in advising on network and file storage requirements, John O’Brien in the Engineering Department master-minded the 3-D printed frame, and Michael Malik in the Facilities Department handled all of the renovations.  We can’t thank them enough!”

Reserve the studio

To reserve a video production appointment, faculty should schedule through the OEL help desk at 237-6691 or olhelp@umflint.edu.