When Montclair State University unveils its new building for its School of Communication and Media, it will include four major studios, a nearly 200-seat theater, a newsroom and a talk show set.
It’ll also be fitted with Sony laser projectors, studio cameras, production switchers and monitors.
Merrill Brown, director of the School of Communication and Media, said no other institution has a facility at the proposed scale of Montclair State’s new building.
The university recently announced a partnership with Sony Electronics to provide state-of-the-art film production and audio equipment for a new $61 million, 105,000-square-foot facility the university hopes to have completed for spring 2017.
“The quality and breadth of the technology is notable: Everything from top-tier, cinematic audio-editing rooms to the Sony equipment,” Brown said. “Nobody that we know of has this complete set of state-of-the-art, 4K television production equipment including control rooms that can manage it.”
While specifics are still developing, the university has allotted a technology budget of $7.5 million for the project, though not every piece of equipment will be purchased through Sony.
The 4K equipment has twice the resolution of high-definition cameras and displays, and will be accessible to the 768 students enrolled in Montclair’s School of Communication and Media.
The university said the program, which offers degrees in journalism, television production, filmmaking and public relations ,among others, is expected to grow to an enrollment of 1,100 in the next five years.
For the students, getting to learn on such cutting-edge technologies is integral for their development. But it also gives them another opportunity: to draw in the best private partnerships and give students the opportunity to work in conjunction with these projects.
“They’re totally involved in the stuff we do as a university,” he said. “To the extent that we have private industry partnerships, we always strive to make opportunities to them.
“For instance, NJTV was here for a number of years and are now down in their own facility in Newark,” he said. “There were lots of opportunities for our students in that process, so whether it’s private industry, through our Center for Cooperative Media or student productions, we try to create opportunities.”
Brown said the new facility will help them expand those possibilities.
“We already do this today on somewhat of a limited scale because we don’t yet have facilities of this magnitude,” he said. “We do freelance video production work for any number of people, ranging from legislative offices, food banks and large health systems.
“What changes here is the breadth of the technology and the scale of the production opportunities.”
Aside from freelance opportunities, Brown said the university is looking for ongoing partnerships with companies looking to produce shows on a regular basis.
“Those could be national or regional cable networks, standalone shows and Web shows,” he said. “We also want to have news partners who will come work with us in the service of the citizens of New Jersey.”
But, even if there’s just one person in need of multimedia services, the university wants to work with him or her. Take business leaders and leading thinkers from the state who are frequently traveling to New York to appear on cable news shows.
“We now have the capability today, and we’re going to do more of this, of feeding directly into broadcast and cable networks through a feed service we activated just in the past few months,” he said. “We want to use that, not just for our people, but people in the region.”
Sony will also be hosting professional seminars for members of the growing film industry on the East Coast, according to Alec Shapiro, president of Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions of America group.
These classes, which will mirror those already provided to the industry by Sony on the West Coast, will be the first instance of the company offering this sort of training on this technology in the Northeast region.
“We have a program we run in California on the Sony Pictures lot called the Digital Motion Picture Center,” Shapiro said. “It’s a soundstage, and we bring in professionals from Hollywood productions and we provide training, which we’ve been doing for the last four years at no charge.”
By holding these programs at the university, Sony positions Montclair to be a destination for industry professionals looking to get an introduction into Sony’s newest technology.
“We will be able to do that type of training over at Montclair State,” he said. “So, production professionals from the New York City area that don’t have experience with 4K will be able to come and take classes there.”
For that industry, the new facility at Montclair State will be the first studio of its kind to help bring that burgeoning industry to the Garden State.
The relationship with Sony also offers students in the programs the opportunity to attend the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference. It will also create internship, mentoring and training opportunities for them as well.
“Our students intern on productions of all kinds in New York, and we’re pretty tied into that world and are very interested in bringing as much of it to New Jersey as possible,” Brown said. “We have, obviously, economic advantages over the city with a different overhead structure, but it’s hard to market something until you can give people hard hat tours of your facility and show them what you are doing.
“We certainly are planning on bringing production here that would be commercial in its application, but always having students’ participation in mind.”
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