At North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, N.C., the mission of the Department of Mass Communication’s NCCU TV Studio is to train students in the professional world of visual broadcast production through engaging instruction and critical hands-on experience. Renovating the studio with new state-of-the-art equipment, the university purchased three SK-UHD4000 Ultra HD cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to provide high-quality, future-proof video acquisition.
For more than 100 years, NCCU has embodied a strong tradition of teaching, research, and service while preparing students to become global leaders and practitioners who transform communities. At the NCCU TV Studio, students learn experientially while producing, scripting, directing and editing productions that reflect the NCCU community. Looking to step up from legacy standard-definition equipment as part of the overhaul, the TV Studio took a forward-looking approach to selecting new cameras.
“We want to give our students hands-on experience on professional equipment like studios and TV stations in the area use, so they already know how to use it when they go out into the working world,” said Felecia Casey-Hicks, NCCU TV Studio Manager. “Our leadership wanted to get the best possible cameras when we had Title III funding available, so we wouldn’t need to upgrade again a few years later. While we’re working in 1080p HD today, we chose 4K cameras so we’re ready to roll into Ultra HD when the time comes.”
Systems integrator Digital Video Group recommended Hitachi cameras to Casey-Hicks, and she agreed they would be a good fit. “The SK-UHD4000s seemed like they would give us very good bang for our buck, and Hitachi cameras are also a wise choice as far as their quality and reputation are concerned,” she explained. “Our Hitachi Kokusai representative was very knowledgeable and took the time to show me advanced capabilities I didn’t even know today’s cameras had.”
Students began working with the new Hitachi cameras in February 2019, and the renovated NCCU TV Studio officially opened with a formal ceremony in April. Deployed in the studio on Vinten Osprey Light pedestals, the SK-UHD4000s are used on productions including soap operas, newscasts, public affairs shows and special programming such as recent Black History spots. Other university departments also make use of the studio, with broadcast curriculum students running the equipment for them.
Casey-Hicks appreciates the visual quality enabled by the cameras, while noting that it has forced them to pay more attention to surrounding details. “The quality is amazing, and the cameras can show everything – even things I might prefer not be seen,” she laughed. “We have a large-screen monitor in the TV Studio lobby that we route our signal to, and the results look very professional. People are impressed, and it draws them into our studio to see what’s going on, which is great for our program.”
The Hitachi cameras’ short learning curve has also proven beneficial educationally, allowing students to master operation while still concentrating on the creative side of production. “We’re more concerned about the students being able to frame a shot, do a smooth zoom, do a trucking shot, and so forth than spending a lot of time to teach them camera buttons,” explained Casey-Hicks. “The ease of use of the SK-HD4000s is very good, so once they are focused and white balanced, the students don’t need to worry about anything but learning their craft.”
From a feature perspective, Casey-Hicks notes the cameras’ flexible focus assist functions as particular favorites. “The SK-UHD4000 has multiple ways of telling when you’re in focus, from a color that highlights the in-focus area to an enlarged focus assist box,” she said. “I can have students use a different method on each of the three cameras for instructional purposes.”
Overall, the SK-UHD4000 cameras are not only helping the school enhance student learning, but are also attracting more students to the program. “Just the fact we have these state-of-the-art cameras, people want to come in here and learn,” said Casey-Hicks. “The students are very excited, and some of our first group of students that used the cameras last year came back this past semester to help train the next students behind them. If they’re learning well enough to subsequently teach somebody else, then we’re doing our jobs right – and the Hitachi cameras are a big part of that.”