Lights, camera, action — one button away

UND’s Chester Fritz Library installs new video studio giving students and faculty capability for on-the-spot productions

One-button studio

New “One Button Studio” technology arrived recently on the second floor of the Chester Fritz Library. The head of University libraries says its just one piece of a grand plan to renovate North Dakota’s largest athenaeum for students, faculty and the community. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

University of North Dakota’s Chester Fritz Library now boasts a novel feature that puts it among the more elite of schools around the country. It is a One Button Studio.

Savvy set-ups for video capture, One Button Studios are also in situ in the libraries of Penn State, Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh and University of Miami, among others.

Stephanie Walker

Stephanie Walker

The technology arrived recently on the second floor of the Chester Fritz Library as one piece of a grand plan to renovate North Dakota’s largest athenaeum.

“You may be thinking of a library from when you went to school,” said Stephanie Walker, dean of libraries and information resources at UND. “That’s not solely what they are anymore. We still have books, but there are all kinds of additional things in modern libraries.”

A simple hardware-and-software configuration, the One Button Studio first emerged at Penn State to provide an expedient and convenient method to record professional clips. The highly automated design allows faculty and students to create sleek content – an exigency in today’s digital world – with a single flash drive and a lone button.

Easy to use, the concept proved so innovative, it earned Penn State a Library Innovation Award by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

The One Button Studio also became so popular that Penn State released it as an open source on GitHub, a repository of computer codes.

Five, four, three … record

Nearly five years later, as the Fall 2018 term kicked off, Walker stepped inside the brand-new One Button Studio at UND.

She fetched a small thumb drive from her purse and looked at a computer screen, flickering with visual instructions. Three white bubbles on a blue background depicted simple actions.

“Literally, insert drive into dock,” Walker read out loud. “Push button.”

She pressed a large silver knob and began counting down, “five, four, three…”  The numbers flashed on the screen below a window that streamed images from a Canon camera, suspended from the ceiling and attached to a Rhode microphone.

Once the recording began, Walker shifted to the center of the room, large enough to accommodate half a dozen people in front of the lens. She stood right under the beam of three round lights and the ray of a projector, connected to a second computer for presentations.

“There I am, see,” she said. “And it starts, and you can see how it goes. That is it.”

Then, she pressed the button again. The video stopped and saved to her memory stick.

Stephanie Walker

Stephanie Walker, dean of libraries and information technology at UND. tries out the One Button Studio setup at the Chester Fritz Library. The technology gives students and professors easy access to on-the-spot video production capabilities that they can save on a thumb drive for use later. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

 Early interest

Soon, students and professors will do what took Walker mere seconds. Some have already inquired about the One Button Studio, even though the marketing campaign Walker is devising for it has not yet started in earnest.

“I have had faculty interested from communication, psychology, engineering and art already,” said Walker. “I think that is a nice, broad sweep and you can see it fits the STEM stuff, it fits the arts and humanities.”

Nicole Derenne, art and design instructor, is among the technology’s early enthusiasts at UND. She is eager to incorporate the One Button Studio into her art history class, where students compose audio analyses as an exercise for exhibit curation.

“In past semesters, students would borrow equipment or use various software, with mixed results,” said Derenne.

“Having a room that is already set up with lighting, sound and recording equipment will reduce technological or logistical barriers that students may have experienced when completing coursework.”

This type of special assignment is only one example in what seems to be an endless array of potential uses that Walker sees as supplements to traditional educational approaches.

Business majors can rehearse their group presentations at the One Button Studio and look for pesky habits like “saying ‘um’ or ‘ah,’ or scratching their nose,” Walker quipped. Theatre actors and public speaking students can do the same. Aspiring lawyers can practice for moot court. Others can take video interviews or enhance their research. Professors can produce tapes for courses.

“Pretty much anything you might want to record yourself for,” you can do it at the One Button Studio, said Walker. “And we will find what students want to do with it.”

Goal worthy

Just like the ease with which it can be used, the studio was straightforward to assemble. After sectioning off a corner amid study kiosks, the electrical connections, the wall paint and the installation of the equipment added up to a week of work. UND Facilities and the Teaching Transformation & Development Academy contributed.

Walker has championed the idea for years – since 2015, to be precise, when she arrived at UND. She even talked about it during her hiring process.

The One Button Studio became feasible when Walker renegotiated the University’s contract with the Online Dakota Information Network, a library technology support system, which freed up some $60,000.

Most of that money went into the studio, which Walker described as the “Cadillac” version, with gear like a second computer, projector, green screen and remote controls. The One Button Studio at the Chester Fritz Library is a facility that not only builds on Penn State’s invention, it showcases the values embedded in UND’s strategic objectives.

“Learning, discovery and engagement, I think it fits nicely in all three of those,” said Walker, enumerating the University’s goals. “It adds to learning and offers more opportunities. It is a little bit of everything. I think it is an important tool.”