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Building Broadcast Communities: From Public Access to Educational Institutions in New York State with Blackmagic Design

Upstate New York is home to one of the first television studios in the United States. One of the first TV broadcasts in history was produced out of the capital region area, and decades later, the region is still well known for the contributions it has made and continues to make to the video industry. This was motivation enough for Joe Piazzo, who had a passion for video production since high school, to leave his home in Springfield, Massachusetts and head to New York.

Piazzo pursued a degree in film from The School of Visual Arts in NYC, and has worked steadily in the film and video industry for more than 30 years. From Instructional Technology Coordinator at a small New England college to Post Production Manager for American Montage in Manhattan, Mr. Piazzo has never shied away from a challenge to expand his experience and knowledge of technology and production methods.


The history and reputation of America's broadcast hub may have lured Piazzo to New York, but it is the continued opportunity to do what he loves that is keeping him there. His independent sprit and very early introduction to television production through community media has driven his involvement in public access television. Wishing to focus his professional efforts in the areas of broadcast engineering and system integration, Piazzo formed CineDV Productions nearly ten years ago. CineDV specializes in community media centers and cable access television, and he has become known as a regional expert in those particular areas. In his "spare time", Piazzo also teaches at The New School Center for Media in Albany New York, doubling as the institution's broadcast engineer. Regardless of whether his projects involve bringing community television to the city of Albany or educating the future broadcast professionals of New York State, almost all of Piazzo's work involves Blackmagic Design products.

Bringing Public Access to the Capital
One such project was the creation of an HD studio for Albany Public Access, which was recently completed by CineDV Productions. Albany Community Television "brings transparency to the Capital District" by streaming programming, which includes weekly live broadcasts of City Hall meetings, on cable and online, with the help of a Blackmagic Design ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher. The ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher was a high quality solution that provided Albany Public Access with a wide range of inputs, outputs and effects. It gave them a switching network that rivaled larger broadcasters, for less than $3,000.

Piazzo explained, "Price was of course something we had to be mindful of, but it was the scalability of the ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher that really appealed to me. It had all the basic features we would ever need in a switcher, and the included software control panel and networking capabilities meant it could grow with the client, and be modified to meet their needs."

The ATEM works in conjunction with a Blackmagic Design DeckLink HD Extreme 3D capture and playback card, three HD cameras and a computer running Sony Vegas for editing and Photoshop for graphics. The cameras and computer plug directly into the ATEM 1 M/E, and for less than $10,000, Piazzo was able to build a multi camera studio Albany Public Access could use to produce and broadcast high quality content.

Though this was the fourth public access studio Piazzo built, it was a first for Albany. The city, which had previously never had its own community station, quickly grew to be three channels large. The ATEM 1 M/E has not only accommodated this rapid expansion; it helped to make it possible from the very beginning.

Piazzo explained why the ATEM 1 M/E was the right fit for Albany Public Access: "We were able to use the ATEM SDK to write customized user interfaces, which meant we could configure the ATEM to be as easy or complex as the client needed it to be. For a public access operation, having a user friendly system flexible enough to meet the needs of different skill levels is just as important as its capacity to handle multiple inputs and outputs."

He continued: "Having four SDI inputs, four HDMI inputs, an analog input, and SDI, HDMI and analog outputs gave us the freedom to experiment. Being able to integrate multiple computers and cameras into a broadcast is critical to generating additional content, and is incredibly useful as public access moves toward dynamic content creation, merging Internet and television."

Bringing Blackmagic to School
Impressed with the functionality and affordability of the ATEM 1 M/E, Piazzo recently picked up two Blackmagic Design HyperDeck Studio rack mounted SSD based decks for the television broadcast production course he teaches at The New School. The school's intensive programs in broadcast television production, broadcast journalism, music video production, digital film production, multimedia and digital audio recording for music, film and video offer hands on professional training for students serious about pursuing long term careers in radio and TV. Instructors, most of whom are industry professionals themselves, therefore use professional equipment in their lessons.

As the school's post production facility adopted a completely file based workflow, it became necessary to upgrade the other production areas to the same standards. HyperDeck Studios have replaced DVCAM tape decks for both live broadcast playback and program production recording. The decks were installed in the existing control room interfacing flawlessly with the existing SD and HD switchers and other equipment.

In teaching students about multi camera broadcasting, Piazzo has to be focused on the process and methods, and attempt to keep the equipment he uses as consistent as possible. HyperDeck Studios were an ideal substitute for tape based broadcast decks, and their push button interface offers students a smooth transition in terms of user interface, but gives them the luxury of going non linear off tape and maintaining the workflow they're used to.

Piazzo offered, "Whether I'm instructing a class of potential broadcasters or creating a studio for a public access station, Blackmagic Design's solutions are user friendly, budget friendly, and offer quality and flexibility that can't be beat."

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Related Keywords:Blackmagic Design, ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher, HyperDeck Studio, Albany Public Access, Joe Piazzo

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