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When many people think of libraries, they think of rows upon rows of books meticulously categorized and alphabetized. Perhaps there are tables with lamps emitting a soft glow and students bent over their studies or readers lost deep in the worlds of their favorite novels.
This is a common scene at the Orange County Library System in Orlando, FL. But go to the second floor of the Orlando Public Library, and you will find something quite unique: the Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation & Creativity. The Orange County Library System understands that libraries are centers for learning, but it doesn't stop with just books, though they are vital assets. The library also provides services for community members to gain the understanding required to be contributors to, developers for and consumers of today's emerging technologies.
Located in 26,000 square feet of space in the Orlando Public Library, the Melrose Center expands the role of the library by offering access to hardware, software, support and programming to inspire and invigorate creativity. And according to Anthony Torres, video production instructor at the Melrose Center, it's free of charge for library cardholders.
"Library cardholders have free access to all the Melrose Center has to offer, which includes a video production studio with a 29'x14' green screen wall, an audio studio with a 24 channel mixing board, a photography studio, a simulation lab and a fabrication lab," he said. "With an emphasis on emerging technologies, all the equipment is state of the art, and it was essential for the Melrose Center to invest in cutting edge technology, such as Blackmagic Design hardware and software."
The Staying Power of Video Production
At the heart of the video production studio's control room sits a Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio live production switcher. The ATEM is connected to an iMac, which runs the ATEM Software Control and DaVinci Resolve Lite color corrector. Post production is additionally covered by a Mac Pro in the control room, a Mac edit bay, six Mac Pros in the open area and two Mac Pros in the development classrooms, all running DaVinci Resolve Lite. Fusion 7 will soon be installed in the PC edit bay and on six PCs in the open area.
"The Melrose Center has the same beliefs as Blackmagic Design around access to technology," said Anthony. "Blackmagic Design products are so affordable, but have amazing features, and that's powerful. I still can't get over the fact that DaVinci Resolve Lite and Fusion 7 are free, and they are such powerful post production tools."
The studio features a 29'x14' green screen wall with three cameras fed via SDI into the ATEM. The Mac Pro located in the control room is fed via HDMI into the ATEM for video playback or animations, as well as direct screen capture, which often come in handy for those creating web tutorials. There are three open HDMI ports for users to connect an additional laptop or camera if needed. The ATEM's outputs include two monitors via HDMI. The ATEM's H.264 encoder feeds into the iMac via USB with the SDI out running into a Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder, which feeds the signal via Thunderbolt into the iMac.
"The iMac runs the ATEM Software Control, but is also connected via the ATEM's output, so we are using it to switch and to record the switch. It's pretty cool that we are running and recording off the same machine, instead of having to use multiple devices, taking up space and adding costs," said Anthony.
With editing and color correction classes on DaVinci Resolve slated for 2015, in the meantime Anthony teaches live production classes on the ATEM Television Studio, which he finds very valuable for independent productions and generating web content.
"We train people how to work the equipment for free, and they can come back and reserve the space for three sessions per week and create whatever projects they want," explained Anthony. "Many times training becomes a 'learn and leave' situation where people without equipment don't get to put their knowledge to use, but not at the Melrose Center because people come back and use the equipment.
"When it comes to generating content for YouTube, for example, traditionally you shoot it with a single camera and cut it together, spending a lot of time in post," he continued. "But with the ATEM, you can generate more content in a single session because you can have multiple cameras and live switch between them, creating a whole new dynamic. The more content you create and produce and the faster you release it, the better off you are for something like YouTube or a blog because you are holding your audience's interest and attention."
Anthony added: "Viral videos are great to get you noticed, but YouTube is really pushing creators to be more like a TV channel with loyal viewers. From a marketing standpoint, this is very valuable for a business, entertainer, artist or anyone trying to establish themselves."
Creating New Workflows
In addition to video production courses, the Melrose Center also hosts live events, which serve to show off the center's capabilities and get the public excited about coming to the studio and interacting with the technology.
"For those who aren't familiar with the video production space, they really need that real time visual feedback and to see the technology in action. They have to stand in front of the green screen and see themselves in the monitors transported to space, for example," said Anthony. "It was a big bonus when we had the opening ceremony for the center to have the ATEM record the attendees performing and goofing off in front of the green screen and to see them react to environments that the ATEM live chroma keyed. Thanks to the ATEM's hardware H.264 encoder, we could quickly hand the recordings off to the attendees on flash drives, and they were amazed."
Anthony noted that once people see what the setup is capable of, it's hard to keep them away. "Some patrons come up with their own ideas and develop these amazing workflows. Once people understand the principles and have some practice, the sky is the limit," he said. "One patron proposed a way to run the ATEM Software Control installed on the iMac by remotely connecting an iPad via TeamViewer to control the iMac. This means the switcher operator can sit in front of the camera and live switch, load graphics and look at notes from an iPad."
Show What You Make, Share What You Learn
Not only is the public finding creative uses for the ATEM Television Studio and video production equipment at Melrose Center, but the center itself is expanding its workflows to include offsite events. At the recent Maker Faire Orlando, the Melrose Center had its own booth with a 10' portable green screen, cameras, ATEM Television Studio, iMac and laptop.
A two day community organized festival, Maker Faire Orlando featured local do it yourself science, art, technology and music where people show what they are making and share what they are learning. The Melrose Center invited Orlando based theatrical rock band Killer Robots to help them demo the live switching workflow. By rendering out a loop of a background from the Killer Robot's "Crash and Burn" movie, people could stand in front of the green screen and see themselves alongside the band, dressed up as giant robots, in the film on the monitors.
"People were blown away with the ATEM's real time chroma keying. With a downstream keyer, we put a watermark of the Killer Robots logo on the footage to reinforce their identity. We recorded their interactions with the ATEM, and the Killer Robots were able to save their experience," said Anthony. "I also love how thin the ATEM Television Studio is. If you are outside the control room, you don't even have to bring a rack if you don't want to. It's amazing how such a compact and portable device can do so much."
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