Washington State University Upgrades TV Studio for Next-Gen Education

In a thoughtful $1 million redesign, the KWSU-TV studio at Washington State University has undergone a transformative renovation, enhancing the learning experience for Journalism and Media Production students in the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. For more than 50 years, KWSU-TV has served as a training facility, bringing students together to test their skills in a real-world environment, culminating in the production of the nightly news program, Murrow News 8.

“Our studio equipment was becoming outdated, leading to minor failures during broadcasts. Fortunately, funding through the CARES Act enabled us to upgrade the facility. This presented a new challenge, as no one on our staff had prior experience building a TV studio,” commented WSU Director of Engineering, Jeff Snell.

As part of a $1 million project, KWSU-TV partnered with systems integrator Key Code Media to design and build a new TV studio, two control rooms, multiple recording spaces, and a soundproof dedicated rack area. The scope included turnkey design, engineering, and integration services, covering cabling, configuration, programming, and commissioning. Onsite and online training influenced new curriculum and optimized the staff’s proficiency with the new equipment. Working alongside Key Code Media, Washington State University conducted an extensive consult and design phase, evaluating and integrating products from Ross Video, CueScript, Panasonic, Hitachi, Cartoni, Behringer, and RTS.

Washington State University CueScript Camera by Key Code Media
Washington State University CueScript Camera by Key Code Media

The Big Picture Plan for a Lasting Media Education Production Facility Rebuild

When KWSU received the budget, core goals were identified: the system needed to be 4K-ready to extend its lifespan, and it had to satisfy the curriculum and future plans of launching a PBS station for Northwest Public Broadcasting.

The main TV studio on the bottom floor, equipped with broadcast-ready camera systems, pedestals, teleprompting, and lighting control, was designed to simulate real equipment using a freshly wired 12G-SDI baseband infrastructure found in modern broadcast news television stations.

The upstairs ‘Multimedia Creation Space’ studio focuses on modern journalism, featuring four “mini” breakout interview rooms, a freshly wired Cat6 ethernet infrastructure, and NDI and Dante-ready Panasonic PTZ cameras and microphones, flexible for podcast and pre-recorded news interviews.

Washington State University New Lighting And Cameras By Key Code Media
Washington State University New Lighting And Cameras By Key Code Media

Studio A: New Camera Systems & Lighting

One key objective was to capture better image quality, resolutions, and angles for Murrow News 8. The studio opted for four new 4K-ready Hitachi SK-UHD4000 cameras, fitted with Fujinon UA23X7.6BERD-S10 4K Premier Tele Lenses, attached to a significantly lighter and easier-to-use Cartoni camera pedestal. The setup provides a wide angle, two anchor punch-in shots, and a separate camera for the green screen used primarily for weather.

Each camera includes a 17” CueScript teleprompter, networked for the first time over IP to a local computer. With the IP-based prompter, it can be routed to anyone in the building, which has proven to be a very useful feature in a classroom setting. The new Chamsys QuickQ Lighting Control is also networked via DMX, allowing students to control lighting from any phone or tablet.

Ross Video 4K-Ready Video Production Control Room By Key Code Media
Ross Video 4K-Ready Video Production Control Room By Key Code Media

Ross Video 4K-Ready Video Production Control Room

At the heart of the main control room and rack spaces is a complete suite of Ross Video products, including Ross Video Acuity for the main video switchers, Ross Inception for news management, and Ross XPression for graphics.

The backbone of the new system is a Ross Ultrix 12G router, reducing 10 previous racks into a single 5RU 16×16 router, making the rack space more affordable to cool. All ‘noisy’ servers are tucked away in the rack space, leaving the control room quiet. Using Black Box KVM, all Ross Video systems can be accessed at any workstation within the control room.

“The Ross Video, RTS and Key Code provided hours of 1-on-1 training on the new systems. I was able to take what I learned to write the new curriculum,” commented Jeff Collier, Multimedia Engineer and Instructor at WSU.

A side audio control room includes a Behringer X32 mixer and Sennheiser receivers. The Behringer X32 comes with built-in Dante integration, allowing the audio control room to manage all baseband audio in the main TV studio and all audio-over-IP in the second-floor Multimedia Creation Space podcast and interview studios.

Washington State University Intercom and IFB by Key Code Media
Washington State University Intercom and IFB by Key Code Media

Improvements to Intercom and IFB

Upgrading legacy hardware to a new RTS Odin system and ROAMEO Beltpacks substantially improved intercom, IFB, and party line configuration. The onboard training support from RTS and Key Code Media configured dedicated party lines for talent, camera, and control room, each just a quick digital touchscreen press away, providing a more direct line of communication.

Each control room position is outfitted with gooseneck microphones, headphones, and key panels for control. In the studio, wireless ROAMEO Beltpacks provide crew mobility, while IFB keeps talent directly connected to the control room.

The 32-port RTS Odin, with an additional 16 software licenses, gives the staff flexibility to expand in the future without hardware limitations. Anyone with a cell phone can download the RTS VLink app and use a license to connect directly into the crew comms discussion.

The KWSU team mentioned other improvements, including enhancements to wireless audio quality and the ability to use the digital intercom system easily for both the downstairs TV Studio and upstairs multimedia center environments.


Studio B & Online Video Control Room

While Studio A is built to provide students with a professional broadcast news environment, the Multimedia Center Space was designed to use the production tools found in more common live streaming and online video studio environments. The space breaks out into four video and audio recording rooms supported by a nearby control room using IP-based NDI and Dante to provide flexibility and control.

Each of the rooms has two mounted Panasonic AW-UE80WPJ PTZ cameras, allowing the control room staff to punch in on the talent while keeping a wide shot for any recorded or live-streamed interview.

Back in the control room, a vMix software-based video switcher keeps it simple for staff that want to quickly record or live stream interviews happening in any of the four rooms. The Control Room DDR is also accessible by the downstairs Studio A control room- so clips can be accessed and played out for the main Murrow News 8 production.

Washington State University Control Room by Key Code Media
Washington State University Control Room by Key Code Media

“The install took a seamless six weeks and was completed prior to our Fall Students arriving. Our staff is not experienced installing and commissioning equipment; having Key Code team help us design, order, deliver, pull cable, install and train us was an amazing process. A special shout out to Tom Arenz and Andrew Cox for leading the charge,” Jeff Snell, Director of Engineering and Technology at WSU