The equipment used for Studio 55

Before I even get started with this post, I have to mention that when I initially compiled this list, I got tons of invaluable help from Nick Hollensbe, who is the video-editing and motion-graphics guru at the Naples Daily News.

Ever since I started this blog series, I’ve been wondering how to post this list of equipment, because there’s a ton of it.

As I was putting it together, I thought about trying to provide product links, etc…, (and I may go back and add them) — but to be honest, just pulling this thing together definitely wore out this nerd from Kansas.

And I’ve tried to proofread this stuff, but I’m kind of posting this late at night after a very long day, so I’m sure there are probably some typos and other goofs that I’ll try to fix later.

Please kindly overlook and forgive them.

Lastly, let me say that I am in no way saying that every newspaper should go out and buy all of this stuff, and then try to launch a TV-quality vodcast. The circumstances in Naples were very specific, and we tried to come up with a unique solution for the opportunity we had.

With all of that out of the way, here goes …


  • When I was at the Naples Daily News we had a Panasonic DVX-100 camera for each of our three main video producers who shot daily, and one lower cost Canon GL-2 to shoot B-roll when needed.
  • In addition, we had three very inexpensive Panasonic 3CCD cameras for breaking news, on-location multi-camera shoots and big news events. When I say inexpensive, I mean probably less than $500.

    We also had three other Panasonic DVX-100 cameras as the full-time cameras in our studio. So, if you’re scoring at home, that’s six total Panasonic DVX-100s, one GL-2, and three cheapies.

    I understand that’s a lot of video cameras for a newspaper of this size.

    Heck, it might be a lot for a newspaper of any size.

    As I’ve tried to explain in earlier posts, the biggest reason we did it at that level in Naples was because we really were trying to created a credible, broadcast-quality program that we knew would be showing up on people’s big-screen televisions via Comcast.

    I can tell you that the quality we were aiming for was the key to getting some of the bigger advertisers on board.

    Now, back to the list …

  • We had two Focus Enhancements Firestore drives which encode video straight onto a hard drive without requiring any video tape. We used these drives for breaking news events and shoots that we needed to turn around quickly.
  • EZ-News was the software we used to manage the script from the show. It was just basic script writing/timing software, that also powered our in-studio teleprompters.
  • We had two mirror-image Teleprompters in the studio. They were 15-inch teleprompters.
  • We used a VT[4] computer switcher with an RX-8 to do all the live switching and editing of the show. All of the packages on Studio 55 were rendered from our visual journalists’ edit workstations into digital files which were copied via a gigabit network onto the VT[4] for use on the show.
  • The VT[4] switched between the three in-studio cameras (those Panasonic DVX-100s I mentioned earlier) via s-video cables.

  • We had a 10-foot Glidecam Jib with a PT-20 remote head for the cool crane moves you see throughout the vodcast each day.
  • To handle audio, we had a separate 20-input hardware Mackie mixer. We also had a 75-foot “snake” (like live bands use — and we even bought it at a local music store) that ran from the mixer in the control room into the studio to connect the mics, etc…
  • For all of our wireless mics, both studio and in the field, we used the Sennheiser Evolution G2 100 Series of products. This family of products includes various transmitters, receivers, and mics. For our wireless audio we used a Sennheiser ME2 omni-directional lavalier mic (this is part of the Sennheiser Evolution G2 100 Series).
  • For our wired lavalier mics, we used Sennheiser MKE-2-PC Omni-Directional lavalier mic.

  • Archiving was handled by keeping the latest month’s worth of shows on a 1 TB hard drive, which also was used to store important B-roll and graphics. I was told by Nick that this was done because it is extremely fast and easy to search and access media on this drive. Every show was archived onto a data DVD and a miniDV tape.
  • There wasn’t a tour of Studio55 that we gave where we weren’t asked how we did the fancy graphics and animations. It was a combination of three things, depending on the project — Adobe After Effects, 3D Studio Max, and a total badass behind the keyboard.
  • In fact, we had two of these badasses behind the keyboard.

    I forgot to mention that other killer graphics guy we had on staff was Chris Cost. When Nick and Chris weren’t creating graphics for Studio 55, they were building commercials for clients.

  • Here is a look at what we used for studio lighting:
  • + Four Image 80 and two Image 20 KinoFlo florescent lights
    + Four Arri 650 watt lights
    + 2 Arri 300 watt lights
    + Light board dimmer
    + Lowel Rifa-88 softbox

    In the control room of the studio, we had a Strand Lighting Series 100 12/24 Channel board. It cost a little over $400 and supported 24 channels.

    Nick told me that the way it worked for us is that we daisy-chained all the lights together into the board and programmed each light to have an address. That address corresponded to a sliding knob that allowed you to dim each light separately or each group of lights separately. So it technically only had one 4-pin XLR connection for DMX lighting and all the lights were daisy-chained to that one connection.

  • Here is a look at the edit workstations in the studio/control room (these are the machines that were used by our three main video producers.):
  • + High-powered Dell XPS desktop computer with Adobe Production Bundle.
    + High-powered Dell XPS laptop computer with Adobe Production Bundle
    + High-powered Mac G5 with Final Cut Pro Studio.
    + Standard Dell desktop computer with Adobe After Effects.

  • Here are what the workstations looked like for our video reporters/anchors:
  • Our on-air folks (some of which also worked full-time as production on our website, as well) had high-powered Dell XPS laptops equipped with the standard Microsoft Office suite and the Adobe Production Bundle so they could update graphics from their stories and edit packages. They also had the EZ News software on their machines for writing scripts.

  • Here’s a look at what’s behind the video wall in the studio:
  • Four 50-inch Plasma televisions were looped together and powered by the Standard Dell desktop computer that I mentioned above. The way we powered our video board was disgustingly easy. Everything we edited for use on the video board was broken into either halves or quarters during the editing process. The plasma TVs were sent one signal, not four separate signals. The four TVs literally just acted like one big monitor.

    Nick and Chris would do a few other little tricks related to the video board during the recording of the newscast. But I’m getting tired, so just give me a call if you want more info on what we did to pull off the effect of having a real video wall, when it wasn’t.

  • We also used a pretty huge Mac desktop for encoding videos into multiple formats on deadline. This machine was a monster, and is probably the most expensive computer I’ve ever had at a place I’ve worked. It was a desktop machine with four 2.5 GHz processers, 8 GB RAM, and a 1 MB cache. It also had two Raid-ed drives to help out. We used ffmpeg to encode the .mpeg and .mp4 versions, and Flash to encode the Flash version (I think).
  • It’s probably obvious what we used to encode the Windows Media version.


    As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, one of the most important parts of Studio 55 was the killer crew. I’ll try to talk about their job responsibilities and daily workflow in the third part of this blog series, which I hope to post sometime next week, unless I get really motivated over the weekend.

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    Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.