High school TV studio gets summer makeover

Wilton High School’s TV studio, home of the student-run Morning Warrior talk show, was updated, renovated and expanded over the summer, thanks to a grant from the Wilton Education Foundation (WEF) and with the help of dedicated and hardworking students like senior Quentin Burns.
Quentin, this year’s Morning Warrior senior producer, not only helped pick equipment for the new studio, he said, but also assisted in its construction and made sure the system architecture worked.
One of the biggest changes to the studio was its expansion to accommodate a new control room — the former AV director office.
“When the AV director position was cut, the room became open and we kind of just started to take over and expand it,” said Quentin.

A window was installed into a cinderblock wall separating the control room and filming area, and state-of-the-art technology was brought into the new control room, including six studio cameras, a production switcher, an audio mixer, rack mount displays and a talk-back converter.
Quentin said a talk-back system that would allow students in the control room to directly communicate with theanchors and camera operators is “still on order.”
“At the time of the main equipment purchase, it was still back-ordered; however, it should ship within the next few weeks,” he said. “Once we get it, installation should be easy since we already ran the associated cables.”

Before the old AV director’s office was converted into a control room, Quentin said “our control room was actually in the same area as the stage.”
“It was ridiculous because you couldn’t actually talk because it’s a live room,” he said, “so you had to nudge someone to do something. Communication was impossible.”
The high school’s TV studio has existed since the school was originally built back in 1971, said Quentin, “and you still see remnants of that.”
“Our lighting board is original — we don’t have the resources to update it, but it really doesn’t need to be updated,” said Quentin, “which shows the quality of 70s equipment.”

Quentin said the addition of the control room not only makes the studio “a lot neater” and “a lot more efficient,” but it’s also “a much better utilization of space.”
“The stage area got a lot more open because the control room’s in here now, and we were able to expand the stage and expand the green screen and just have more room,” he said.
Quentin also reorganized the TV studio’s shelving areas over the summer. Before, he said, the racks of equipment were “a huge wreck.”
Video production teacher Kenneth Boehm, who uses the studio for his video production classes, oversees the technical side of the studio, said Quentin.
“We’re so large at this point that having one adviser do everything is just kind of infeasible, and one side ultimately lacks,” said Quentin.
“We want a strong program, so we’re working to bring on an English teacher named Mr. [Eric] Mendelson to oversee the content side.”

Future plans

In addition to Boehm’s video production classes and the Morning Warrior, Quentin said, the new studio will also be used to film class lectures as part of the district’s Internet-based learning initiative.
“One thing the administration and central office want to do is expand into Internet-based learning,” said Quentin, “so the studio’s going to be used to film teachers teaching during off hours, snow days — that type of thing — so students can actually watch lectures from home.”
Quentin said some other types of TV shows are also in the works at the high school.

“We’re actually doing what we call Late Night Wilton, which is a take-off of The Tonight Show format, and we’re going to try to do something like The Colbert Report,” said Quentin, “so it’s not just the Morning Warrior news show — it’s multi-faceted.”
Quentin said the school did Late Night Wilton last year “as a theater thing,” but this year, it will be done for broadcast.
“We’re going to run it as a monthly event, so this is kind of an out-of-studio setup, which we have the equipment for now,” he said, “and that’s going to be broadcast on YouTube, public access, Internet streaming — pretty much everywhere.”
Quentin said the high school is looking to incorporate 3D animation into the studio’s use.
“That’s definitely something we’re going to be getting into with this space just because we have the capability of doing so,” he said.
“Ultimately, this studio is completely adaptable — that’s kind of how it was designed. Anything could kind of interface into here in the future.”

Other schools

Over the summer, Quentin also helped design TV studios for Wilton’s other three public schools.
Middlebrook’s studio is still under construction due to shipping delays, said Quentin, but will be “a scaled-down version” of the high school’s.
“It’s primarily using the exact same equipment, just smaller,” he said. “The one in Cider Mill uses the same kind of technology, but less complicated versions.”
Miller-Driscoll’s TV studio will be used to create “pre-recorded videos with basic equipment and basic software,” said Quentin.
“It’s going to be very easy to use,” he said, “and that will be up and running as soon as the building is done.”

Audio recording

With a newly renovated and updated TV studio, Quentin said, he has started setting plans in motion to build an audio recording studio in another unused room at the high school.”
“The tiered lab on the other side of the school used to be a lecture hall that was disused and they turned it into a computer lab, which was also disused, so now it’s kind of empty,” he said. “T hat’s kind of like the sister project to this. We have TV, now we need audio to match that.”
Quentin said another room is needed for audio recording because the TV studio system “isn’t designed for very high-quality audio.”
“We couldn’t record a band in here, so if we wanted to record the orchestra or one of those larger groups, not only do we need a bigger space, but we need the equipment to handle it,” he said.
“Our main audio board here [in the TV studio] is only 16 channels, whereas the one in the sound studio would be 72.”
Quentin said school administration and Superintendent Kevin Smith have been “very supportive” of the project.
“Right now, we’re working with the Wilton Education Foundation to push funding through for that,” he said, “and it’s making progress.”