Montclair State University officially opened its $55.8 million School of Communication and Media building with a ribbon cutting ceremony where it was hailed as the most advanced in the country.
“We believe this building is the most technologically advanced broadcast facility of any university in North America,” Montclair State University President Susan Cole said. “It is in fact more advanced than the majority of professional production facilities.”
The building was completed after two years of construction assisted by a strategic partnership with Sony.
The facility’s technological advantage was intended to allow students to attain an education on higher-end equipment before the technology becomes mainstream in the media world. For example, 4k technology, which refers to a higher definition resolution for television screens (in layman’s terms: it looks better), is the centerpiece for all of the facility’s technology.
Students in the communications program will have readily available access to 4k cameras, 4k control rooms and multiple television studios, including one that utilizes props from The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
It’s easy to be the most advanced facility in the world for a day, but Montclair faculty said the technology in the new building is far enough ahead of the curve that students will be learning equipment just as it becomes popular in the mainstream market.
“None of the networks have any intention of going into 4k anytime soon,” Montclair State University Director of Broadcast and Media Operations Nicholas Tzanis said. “The only way that you can keep up with something constantly evolving is to stay ahead of the technology.”
The high-tech equipment is thanks to a strategic partnership with Sony. The university’s investment in 4k is specifically in Sony-branded cameras and other technology.
As a relatively new advancement, 4k technology standards are still being developed. Sony, along with competitors such as Canon or Panasonic, are vying for their brand to become the standardized equipment for the technology as it gains popularity. Ensuring a generation of students have a preference for Sony equipment is an added incentive for the partnership with Montclair.
“Our communities in New York are looking for the talent that comes out of schools and is trained on the latest and greatest products,” Vice President of Sony Sales and Solution Services Theresa Alesso said. “If you’re learning with Sony, you’re more inclined when you leave [school] to use a Sony product.”
Many of the classrooms in the communications building seat students directly in front of their own equipment. “Students come into this program [and have] hands-on within a week of the first class,” Tzanis said. This allows experimentation and active learning as opposed to memorizing technical jargon before applying it in the field. This philosophy is central to the view of Montclair’s communication program.
“The days of the college professor standing at the head of a classroom speaking at students are dwindling,” Montclair State University’s Dean of College of the Arts Daniel Gurskis said.
Even with the hands-on approach, students are exposed to more advanced concepts slowly over the course of their academic year. Each facility is designed based on the year of schooling, with first-year students starting on more rudimentary systems before eventually ending up in a 4k control room.
High definition cameras are typically associated with moviemaking and Hollywood, but Montclair made the decision to focus on television production. Tzanis said many of the skills learned in television production can be easily transferred to filmmaking, but even geographically the television focus made more sense for Montclair.
“When you look outside of your windows you see a magnificent view of New York City,” Tzanis said. “Manhattan is all about television.”