Lights, camera, action!: One Button Studio offers video production with ease

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A new type of software at Penn State is enabling students and faculty to create professional-quality videos by simply pressing a button. The system, known as One Button Studio, bundles all the attractions of a professional production studio -- green screen, lighting, audio and cutting-edge camera equipment -- into a single set up that can be used to produce instant quality video.

According to One Button Studio project manager Justin Miller, for less than the cost of a high-end video camera, Penn State is now able to provide students with a full studio package that works by simply plugging in a thumb drive and pressing a button. And that simple formula is stimulating interest. Thousands of University Park students already have used the studio to create videos for class projects and other interests during the 2012-13 academic year. Faculty and staff have also begun using One Button Studio (OBS) -- generating an array of video-based lectures, modules and mini presentations for work, teaching needs and professional development.

"Video is becoming an increasingly common medium for student assignments in all disciplines,” said Miller. “While mobile devices allow for simple video creation, instructional activities such as student presentations are greatly enriched with the use of a physical studio. That's why Penn State decided to streamline this experience and develop a solution that reduces the workflow to its most basic elements ... record and publish."

"Our aim is to share the One Button Studio setup with the national higher education community as widely as possible. Based on discussions with other institutions, this concept is really what everyone has been dreaming of for their campus.” 

— Justin Miller, One Button Studio project manager,
Penn State Information Technology Services

With the demand for OBS technology increasing, Penn State has begun deploying the studio throughout its campuses. Originally available in two locations at Pattee Library in University Park, One Button has already been launched at three additional campus locations across the state. In addition, Penn State has begun partnering with several other universities, including Abilene Christian University and Auburn University, to offer the technology more broadly to interested higher education institutions.

"Our aim is to share the One Button Studio setup with the national higher education community as widely as possible,” added Miller. “Based on discussions with other institutions, this concept is really what everyone has been dreaming of for their campus.”

To help drive the expansion, Penn State Information Technology Services (ITS) recently built a fully operational studio at Abilene Christian University in Texas where they continue to work closely with Abilene on improvements and upgrades to the system. The studio was set up as a smaller version of Penn State's One Button system, complete with automated lights, audio and camera operation specifically designed for presentation practice.

According to Melissa Marshall, senior lecturer in communication arts and sciences, the innovative technology can be used anywhere because of the ease of use and high-quality results.

“The amount of time spent on operating equipment is less than 20 seconds,” she explains. “This simplified workflow ensures that my students can focus on the true objective of their exercise.”

In contrast to a traditional studio -- which requires users to setup and operate a camera, position lighting and microphones, record content, then compress and save the file -- workflow for OBS operation is condensed into two simple steps. Participants need only plug in the thumb drive to initiate the camera, microphone and pre-set lighting. The press of a single button starts the recording. When the video is complete, it’s saved on the thumb drive in a small and easy-to-use format as the system resets for the next user.

“It’s kind of a hidden gem,” said Kim Harrison, a recent Penn State mechanical engineering graduate, who used the studio to record practice sessions before speaking events. "This is really powerful technology that greatly simplified my production time when doing projects.”

Given the success of OBS in its first year, efforts are already taking place to upgrade the overall system. The new version of the software will enable a full range of high-definition video cameras to be used, while reducing costs, improving video quality and enhancing the overall user experience.

"We want to push the envelope and see where this technology can go in the next few years," said Miller, who hopes to eventually see a variety of institutions, including public libraries, developing and incorporating OBS into their spaces.

"Imagine if someone was taking a World Campus course or a MOOC (massive open online course) class and was assigned a video project," he stated, "he or she could just go to the local library to shoot it in an easy-to-use environment."

“What we’ve done is make video extremely accessible to students," added Chris Millet, interim director of Education Technology Services at Penn State. "Given this system was used by several thousand students in only its first semester of operation, I’m confident we created a solution to a significant instructional issue. It’s truly transforming the learning happening in these classes.”

One Button Studio is a project of the ITS Teaching and Learning with Technology unit at Penn State. To learn more about OBS, visit http://onebutton.psu.edu. For more IT stories at Penn State, go to http://current.it.psu.edu/.

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Last Updated August 01, 2013