Snell Switcher Gives Students ‘Real World’ Experience

Lance McVay

SAN LORENZO, CALIF.—The Bay Area Digital Arts Academy is a pioneering media arts-focused high school located in San Lorenzo, across the East Bay from San Francisco. Its mission is to open up opportunities to young people who may otherwise never have access to television and digital media education opportunities.

We’ve been producing a weekly news show, “Rebelvision,” for some 15 years. However, early on, we relied on some incredibly crude tools such as cardboard “control surfaces” on desks to simulate a switcher or mixer. Our live practice took place with borrowed equipment at a nearby community college.

That’s changed with funding finally being made available to allow us to build an actual television production and broadcast studio.

At the heart of this studio is a Snell Kahuna Flare 2 M/E production switcher which provides our students with an excellent tool for producing live television programming. The Kahuna Flare provides a really comprehensive set of production tools, but at the same time isn’t so large that it overwhelms the students. It also met our budget without compromising quality or functionality.

Our studio is part of an expansion, funded through a state Career Technical Education Facilities grant, with additional resources provided by a bond measure. This funding has also allowed us to add a central asset store constructed around a Harmonic MediaGrid server with 36 Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere edit seats networked to it.

The studio, which has a green screen area, is big enough to accommodate motor vehicles, and our studio cameras are fitted with prompters for the full news experience.

It was also important for to us to have a professional setup in order to encourage local production companies to use the studio facility too. While this brings in some income, it mainly allows students to get experience assisting with genuine, professional television production projects.

Our students’ familiarity with the studio allows them to make a real contribution to the on-going productions. They also gain a huge amount of experience from being around a professional crew and seeing how a video production unfolds in the real world.

Our studio is big, as we want it to feel like an authentic working environment for our students. By equipping it with today’s technology such as the Kahuna Flare, we can do so much more with and for the students. Kids today have grown up with video, so we can extend that familiarity to the subtleties of storytelling and creating real television programs.

BADA helps keep kids engaged and learning. They also gain more experience in practical video, so they are better prepared when they graduate. Our students could be dropped onto any set in America, in any seat, and instantly recognize the technology. That’s true empowerment, and we feel that this is what these kids deserve.

Lance McVay is director of the Bay Area Digital Arts Academy. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Snell at 818-556-2616 or