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St. Cloud State University UTVS Puts Real World Broadcasting Into Student Experience with Autoscript E.P.I.C. Prompting

University Television Station (UTVS), the student-run TV station on the campus of St. Cloud State University, is using three Autoscript E.P.I.C. prompters for their busy production slate. UTVS delivers a variety of programming to the campus and the larger St. Cloud, Minnesota, community.

UTVS serves locally produced programming to 33,000 households on Charter Channel 21, also streamed live 24/7 on utvs.com. Founded in 1978, the station is staffed by the SCSU Mass Communications students: TV production majors work behind the scenes, and broadcasting majors appear in front of the camera and work as producers.

About 100 students actively produce news for UTVS. This semester features two half-hour evening newscasts, a weekly half-hour Spanish-language newscast, and a half-hour week-in-review news program on Friday.

As part of a full lineup of programming, UTVS produces sports and entertainment shows. “Back to the Movies” is a weekly movie review series; “Monday Night Live” is a weekly one-hour music show simulcast on campus radio station KVSC 88.1FM; and “Trivia Weekend” is a popular annual 50-hour trivia marathon staged in conjunction with KVSC. The upper level TV production class produces the new “Husky Faceoff” weekly sports show; and the weekly sports round up, “Husky Magazine,” has been on the air since the 1980s. The St. Cloud State Sports Network will begin broadcasting round the clock in the fall with live coverage of a wide array of college sports, a new slate of sports shows, and replays of classic games.

Since UTVS is training the broadcasters of tomorrow, the university is keen to ensure that students’ experience on-air and in production replicate real-world working environments. “We give our students a taste of what it’s like in the professional world,” says Derrick Silvestri, TV studio manager at UTVS. “Our main objective is to have them use the equipment they’ll encounter in the newsroom, so when they graduate they will be more than prepared to work in a professional environment.”

Twelve edit suites, which feature Apple Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer and, starting in the fall, Adobe Premiere, are dedicated to UTVS; media control takes care of media management and sports replays while the master control center handles commercial insertions and broadcast playback. Production equipment includes nine Grass Valley LDX studio cameras, Chyron Mosaics, Wheatstone and Grass Valley production switchers and RTS intercoms.

In the summer of 2013, UTVS acquired a trio of Autoscript E.P.I.C. 17-inch prompters, which they operate with three LDX cameras mounted on Vinten pedestals and heads.

“We were one of the first to have the E.P.I.C. systems,” says Silvestri, who purchased the units from systems integrator Alpha Video in Edina, Minnesota. “Before, we used a wide variety of systems, including the EZNews all-in-one script writing and prompting system. But our slate demanded a more professional-style system with automated workflows and MOS control. We got AP’s ENPS for scripting, but it didn’t offer prompting. That’s where Autoscript stepped in. Their products are a top choice in the professional world, and with E.P.I.C. we could use ENPS for writing and Autoscript’s WinPlus Ultra software for prompting. E.P.I.C. gives us a seamless workflow that works perfectly every day.”

In that workflow news writers prepare scripts with ENPS, E.P.I.C. ingests the text and a MOS-activated rundown is sent to +WinPlus Ultra for prompting.

Students have various control options for E.P.I.C. prompting. “We have two hand controllers in two control rooms. This way producers can keep pace – two wireless hand controllers for two studios for producers or reporter stand ups, and two foot pedals, one for talent on the sports set and one for talent on the news set,” Silvestri explains.

“About five years ago, with the advent of one-person journalism, we had alumni tell us that talent needed to be able to prompt themselves,” he notes. “So we transitioned from having a crew position prompter to having the news and sports anchors prompt themselves. That’s most likely what they will encounter when they graduate and move to a small-market station equipped with hand-and-foot controllers.

“E.P.I.C.’s foot pedals are particularly awesome. We’ve had a lot, and these are by far the best.”

Silvestri also gives kudos to E.P.I.C.’s 20-percent savings in power consumption and its class-leading High Bright LED prompting screens. “The talent loves the fact that we can do colors now for different slugs and cues,” he adds. The Clock Plus E feature for time of day and Tally Plus feature for live cameras also come in handy, he reports.

An additional attraction of E.P.I.C. is its streamlined good looks with no extra mounting bracket required. “It’s a very clean unit,” says Silvestri. “It works well and it looks really good. We do studio tours and want to impress the people we show around. This unit is designed to impress.”

Although he reports that the E.P.I.C. systems “worked perfectly out of the box,” Silvestri gives kudos to Autoscript’s customer support. “When I’ve called with general questions they call me back instantly,” he says. “Autoscript really stands behind this product.”

Three E.P.I.C.s are meeting the current needs of UTVS but Silvestri envisions expansion possibilities. “Right now we roll the cameras between the two studios, but if we invest in separate cameras for the news and sports studios, I can see us adding two more E.P.I.C.s.”

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