COM Studios Get Major Upgrades
Students, faculty excited by a half a million dollar investment in Studio West, podcast studios, and more
When COM students return to campus this fall, they’ll find transformed studio spaces and modern amenities that rival professional television stations. Mariette DiChristina (’86), dean of COM, earmarked half a million dollars this year to renovate studio and podcast studios and post-production facilities.
“We’ve always maintained the space, but it was time,” says Jake Kassen, COM manager of technical operations, who oversaw the project and says the last major revamp happened about 25 years ago.
The most dramatic changes can be seen in Studio West, used most frequently by BUTV but also by broadcast classes. Kassen (CGS’01, COM’03) stands in the studio’s overhauled control room during a tour of the new space this summer, showing off the newly installed audio mix board. “This is the same equipment that they use at all the major networks,” he says. “This new studio gets students comfortable with these types of systems and operating in this kind of environment, so when they go into the professional environment, they know what they’re doing.”
Studio West—the scene of news reports, interviews, weather reports, and more—now features movable sets, natural wood accents, monitors, and colored lighting to give students multiple angles and options to create customizable views. LED lights replaced the old fluorescent ones.
On one wall is a large screen that resembles a paned window. It can be set to show a live look at the car and foot traffic on Comm Ave, or switched to display graphics and data. Across the room is a big chroma key (also known as a green screen) where reporters will present weather reports or other graphics “It’s a difficult skill to learn,” Kassen says.
COM partnered with Creative Dimensions—a major industry vendor which has built sets for ESPN, CourtTV, and professional sports teams—for help designing the space. The new anchor desk is sleeker and can seat one more reporter than the old version. Across the room, three fabric armchairs are set up for interviews. Behind the seats are an accent wall and bookshelves, with the idea that each show can be customized with props during its taping.
Tech moves really quickly, the news industry moves quickly, so I’m glad I’ll get to try out the equipment that I’ll be using in the real world.Alex Dowd (’24)
“There are just a ton of different looks that we have in the studio,” Kassen says. One of the important considerations was giving shows the ability to look unique, in terms of lighting colors, camera angles, props, and more.
Kassen and the team started the renovation in December 2022 and first tackled the control room. He says he is “geeking out” about the new intercom and audio systems. Made by Wheatstone, the audio system is now IP-based. “We will have every audio studio on the floor networked together,” he says. “So we could be doing a broadcast in one of our podcast studios and then have the audio come in [to Studio West]. We can tie in with WTBU… We handle Zoom the same way that every network does, so the quality is very good.”
COM is in the process of hiring a staff station manager for WTBU and BUTV. The groups have always had a faculty member who also assisted with the studio, but now they are so large that COM wants the renovated spaces to have a dedicated staff member who can provide more assistance and oversight. “It’s an investment in BUTV and WTBU, and an acknowledgment of how important they are to the student experience,” Kassen says.
“These studio upgrades put our students in a state-of-the-art broadcast environment,” says Tina McDuffie, a COM associate professor of the practice of journalism, co-advisor for BUTV, and the host of the Local, USA series, a weekly, national half-hour news documentary program airing on the WORLD Channel based at GBH. “We are setting them up for newsrooms and broadcast studios when they graduate. The more fluid they are with technology, the more prepared they are to step right into internships and jobs.”
Alex Dowd has worked for BUTV10 since arriving at COM and will coproduce and anchor Good Morning BU 2023–24. Dowd (’24) says while COM already had “fantastic” studios and facilities, the new spaces are much needed and anticipated. “Tech moves really quickly, the news industry moves quickly, so I’m glad I’ll get to try out the equipment that I’ll be using in the real world once I graduate,” she says. “In broadcast journalism, the tech you have [at school] and know how to work is a huge part of being able to do your job. My friends and I know we’ll have a smooth transition to the professional world.”
“This is a step up in terms of quality, in terms of flexibility,” Kassen says. “The old set was very static, there were only a couple of looks you had. We can now do anything.”