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Remote Production Keeps Ryerson University Content Flowing During Shutdown of Collegiate Athletics

18/02/2021

Remote Production Keeps Ryerson University Content Flowing During Shutdown of Collegiate Athletics The educational curriculum is still serving students local and international By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 12:39 pm

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Canada is still dealing with a nationwide shutdown in response to the global pandemic, and Ryerson University, in downtown Toronto, has transitioned to a full remote-production model to continue the generation of content and the education of its students around the world.

The unique thing is that we're not doing anything virtually, says Joe Scrozzo, media systems team lead and broadcast engineer, Ryerson University. We're physically controlling the hardware in our control room.

Away From Home: New Infrastructure for RTA School of Media After the start of the pandemic last March, Scrozzo's team, including Broadcast IT Technician Grace Hu, met with Production and Programming Lead Brian Withers and the staff at RTA School of Media, the university's notable radio and television program, to devise a plan to continue the education of students off-campus. In the past, the community school has always provided in-person instruction and the ability to learn the art of television production with actual equipment at students' disposal. With students and faculty sequestered in their respective homes, the two entities developed a system that would link everyone together.

Students are using Unity intercom and Zoom to communicate with each other.

We started in June and worked through a bunch of different tests to see what software worked the best, says Scrozzo. We didn't know what was going to happen in September 2020, so Brian came up with a few ideas. At one point, we came together to mesh our two ideas.

The two ideas turned into an infrastructure that can be accessed from all corners of the globe. Control-room technology features Ross Video's Acuity production switcher, XPression graphics, and NK Series routing system, which students are able to use via the web-based platform.

The different pieces of equipment all have software panels that allow the students to control them, so they still get all of the benefits of a 3M/E switcher, a 32-channel audio mixer, and the full capabilities of a playback record server, Scrozzo adds. We're taking the output of our switcher, streaming it, and embedding different audio channels so that the audio operator can hear what they need to hear.

From an outsider's perspective, this seems a total no-brainer to fulfill the course curriculum without any interruptions. From a technological standpoint, it's a lot trickier when you're connecting local students, others elsewhere in Canada, and students in Russia, Malaysia, and different parts of the U.S.

Initially, says Scrozzo, I was concerned with latency and how we get the student who's an hour outside of Toronto to sync with someone who's in Dubai or Asia. We made adjustments in our setup to reduce it as much as possible, but we were also aware that some latency was inevitable when dealing with remote sources and operators.

Educational Tool: Students Adapt to Remote Learning At Ryerson, education in television production starts at its foundation. Normally, first-year students would learn the basics in a traditional setting, but now, their first foray into the medium is in a virtualized setting. Returning students, for their part, have learned the traditional techniques and methods in previous semesters. Withers, then, is tasked with the delicate balancing of guiding the first-year students while easing returning students' transition into this new frame of thinking.

A 10-box multiviewer brings all sources into one location.

Upper-class students can lean on their pre-pandemic experience because these are the remote versions of the tools [they've learned with], he explains. When we do get back to campus, I think it'll be cool to see the first-year students, who have never touched any of this [physical] equipment, seamlessly transition into an in-person environment.

Getting accustomed to the technology was one thing, but bringing everyone online into unison was something entirely different. Ryerson's global reach provided obstacles in terms of video and audio delays, but coursework based on Eastern Time was hard for those operating in a different time zone.

I really feel for the students who are in Dubai and Malaysia, because that's a 12- to 13-hour time difference, Withers adds. Courses run from noon to 6:00 p.m. ET, so they're working from midnight until 6:00 in the morning, but they want to learn and be a part of the team.

Despite the time-sensitive and tech-based struggles, this model is a true game-changer. Around the world, remote learning may be integrated into the curriculum when things get back to normal. This style of teaching may attract more students to the university. In 2021, it can be used as a tool for those studying for upcoming exams or needing extra reps outside of the classroom.

When we get out of the pandemic, says Scrozzo, the remote system will open up a bunch of teaching opportunities. If a student is doing a workshop on a switcher and needs extra time to learn it for their test two weeks down the road, they don't have to learn it in person. It can be done remotely.

Back on Campus: Onsite Technician Troubleshoots Three Control Rooms Since the end of 2020, the production workflow has been turned into a science at Ryerson. The system was once confined to a single control room but now has spread to two others, for a total of three separate control rooms online. With the additional spaces, students will be able to experience every position.

We needed to mimic the in-person classroo
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2021/02/18/remote-production-keeps-ryerson...
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