Peels, Paint Rollers and Water Ripples!
By Kurt Schmucker,
Data Coordinator for University Housing
to believe these were mere words a few months ago
. hardly ever used
by us in the same sentence. That has all changed now as we have embarked
upon the new and exciting possibilities of character generated television!
paint rollers and water ripples are just a few of the descriptors associated
with transitioning from one color flyer or photograph to the next as seen
by our students on three different campus sites on Channel 36, Whats
Up at Temple. We have learned how to create crawls (the
writing that moves along the bottom of the television screen) and continue
our efforts to perfect the fine art of adding music to each page!
negotiated its agreement with cable providers it requested a number of
channels, which could be used by the University. With the encouragement
and support of supervisors the possibilities were explored. We learned
that with the use of somewhat inexpensive technology, we could download
and/or create flyers and photographs and move them from a desktop computer
to a character generator located at the head-end of our cable system.
The information is then modulated and sent to the cable provider where
it is re-modulated and subsequently sent to every student unit and lounge
in each of our residence halls. While that sounds a bit cumbersome, the
entire process of transmitting information to actual viewing of information
by students takes less than 15 seconds.
is similar to what one might find in a hotel or more and more inside a
schools classroom providing closed circuit TV announcements.
mostly word of mouth so far, we have solicited plenty of interested users
already. Beyond posting housing related information such as room change
period, opening and closing information, what to do in an emergency and
stressing the importance of their Guide to Residential Life, there has
been interest on the part of student leaders to get the word out on programming
opportunities. Our Maintenance staff has offered maintenance contact numbers
and winter heating tips to students. Athletics as well as
Recreation Services has sent numerous events and activities sponsored
by their areas. Some of our faculty members have begun to post classes
with seats still available and the Career Development Center has listed
their Career Fairs with us. The Student Activities and Student Assistance
Center have contributed many programming opportunities including everything
from Homecoming activities to community service opportunities.
we have had a little trouble along the way. We had our share of experiences
with getting bumped off the system, which required us to reboot on a fair
number of occasions, for a while. Since our head-end is in another building
located on a different part of the campus we certainly did get our exercise!
We utilized the tech support that came with our system and finally came
to the realization that maybe we had received a bad hard drive. We traded
it in for a new one and havent been bumped off yet! But through
all this we learned more and more about how to operate the system.
a Technical Note
with the Video Gizmo (that is the name of the character generator Temple
University Housing purchased) doesnt need to be a difficult task.
Looking at this little black box might be a bit confusing if youve
never worked with something like this before, but if you stick to some
of the following basics it becomes less daunting.
is the key:
1 - Setting up the box (Video Gizmo / character generator)
1: The Video Gizmo (VG) doesnt look like your standard PC. It
is designed to sit in a server rack and you need to hook up your own monitor,
keyboard and mouse. When you initially start up the machine, the demo
mode comes up, showing you examples of the different transitions between
flyers/pages as well as the multiple available colors to create with.
The majority of the manual is dedicated to the development of the material
you want to broadcast. In a nutshell, how to create different artistic
pages, put them in a folder and place the folder in a schedule. Accessing
network settings is done during the demo mode by holding down the q
key until the standard Windows 95 desktop comes up. From here, it
is the standard network TCP/IP properties with a specified IP address
Step 2: The wiring is pretty simple once you get familiar with each port. The main wires are the Ethernet/Cat 5 cable from the wall jack to the network card, the standard RCA stereo plug (not supplied) for the audio input/output ports and the BNC cable upload to the modulator/re-modulator (TV connection). It is stated that you only need a security key on the parallel port at boot up. Technically speaking this is true, but since we installed the new hard-drive we havent removed the second security key off the back of the VG. It might just be a coincidence that there havent been any problems since (knock on wood!).
2. keyboard 3. USB ports 4. parallel port (license) 5. female serial port
6. male serial port
3: The creation station / software installation is quite simple as
its a straightforward CD-ROM install. Just remember you need to
have the license software security key attached to the parallel port on
the back of the PC that you have designated as the creation station or
you will only be able to open/start the application in demonstration mode.
Demonstration mode does not allow you to update the schedule.
purchased by Temple comes with two software security keys which are devices
that attached to the parallel port on the back of the Video Gizmo as well
as the PC designated as the creation station. Should you purchase such
a system and are consistently having problems getting the demo schedule
to start on the VG or the creation station opens only in demonstration
mode, then you most likely have a bad security key. If you find yourself
continually rebooting the VG on a regular basis, you could have a bad
hard drive as we experienced. Importing ones own music is still troublesome
for us. Theoretically, if you use the 8bit stereo format it should work.
Prior to purchasing a system, we recommend that you inquire about the
level of support you can expect in order to troubleshoot technical issues
as they arise.
discussed some neat plans we would like to explore with this technology.
In addition to continuing and expanding the flyers and crawls we have
thought about exploring the idea of partnering with our Tyler School of
Art to see if they would like to offer an Annual Art Show on the channel.
In addition, we have begun to speak with Music Majors to see if they would
like to contribute some of their work once we master the sound capabilities
of the system. We envision the ability to showcase students work
in a variety of ways and give them credit through the use of crawls. We
also envision the potential of utilizing the system to generate revenue
for the department through paid advertising ventures.
we have had a positive experience and see a great deal of potential in
reaching out to students in this new way. We believe other colleges and
universities not currently operating such a system may want to consider
this technology for their campus. We would be happy to provide our insight
About the Authors:
Schmucker is new to the university housing profession, but comes from
a family owned and run bed & breakfast. Currently his is serving as
the Data Coordinator for the Temple University Housing Dept. He transitioned
from 8 years of experience working for a private investment firm; 4 of
which secondary duties consisted of IT support. He received his bachelors
degree from Trenton State College.
Rick LaRosa is Associate Director for Residential Life at Temple University. He has served in the field of housing and residence life for 23 years.