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Real-World Experience in School’s State-of-the-Art Control Room

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By Josh Hatcher

If you’re watching a basketball game or attending a concert at the new Ellicottville School Gymnasium / Auditorium, it may be easy to miss what is happening behind the scenes. Here’s a hint – it involves lots of wires, buttons and knobs.

Perched high atop the back of the bleachers is the Control Room – a part of the recent capital project renovation at the school. Some of the components are already in working order, and though the Control Room is still under construction, Technology Teacher Chris Edwards beamed with excitement about the state-of-the-art facility.

“From where we were before – with most of the components in one box and duct tape labeled ‘don’t use this switch’ – to this is really unbelievable!” said Edwards as he gave an Ellicottville Times reporter a private tour of the control room.

The digital Alan and Heath audio board has both a simple mode – which basically just activates a microphone – and a full production mode which is used for concerts, musicals and other events. A full lighting control board is connected to a bevy of stage lights – some tucked into protective cages on the gym ceiling and others behind the curtain above the stage itself.

Edwards said that he is involved mostly with the video production board. Three robotic cameras placed throughout the gym are controlled by a joystick on a Tricaster video switcher, and two additional Sony XDM cameras, affectionately dubbed “Jake and Wally,” can be jacked directly into the system at other points in the gym as well.

The video switcher allows for live video editing, live distribution of the video over classroom televisions, live streaming on the internet and recording.

Edwards is just one of many who are involved in teaching students how to use the equipment. Jon Wilder, whose wife directs the band at the school, has been involved with the process too. Wilder, who previously worked with the Theater in Salamanca, he heads up the use of the audio and lighting control boards.

“The goal is to get a group of kids to learn the equipment, and start training the younger kids how to use it,” said Edwards. The hope is to give students, including those who may not be interested in sports or other activities a niche, a place to belong and learn.

As Edwards gave the tour, two students were running the equipment, recording footage from a basketball game happening below them on the floor.  Edwards says that currently, students are recording any event they can, including select games, concerts and pep rallies, and they hope to get involved with other events as well.

“We’re still putting it together, pulling wire and getting our entire setup built,” said Edwards, “and we’re recruiting more students to help learn how to use the audio and lighting boards.”

Edwards, obviously excited about the chance to teach students how to use the state-of-the-art control room remarked, “Mr. Ward [school superintendent] made sure that this was a first rate project. It really is a first class facility.”

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