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University students produce sitcom episodes in HD

Radio-TV-Film students at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton, TX, have used four of the department’s six Hitachi Z-HD5000 HDTV studio production cameras to produce three half-hour episodes of an original sitcom, “Peppuccinos.”

The sitcom — created and produced by Noah Sargent while an undergraduate senior in the spring of 2012 — takes place in a shop that offers coffee on one side and pizza on the other, hence the name “Peppuccinos.”

Sargent and fellow radio-TV-film students volunteered their time to tackle every aspect of the demanding multi-camera production, including scriptwriting, manning cameras, technical directing, lighting design, audio recording and music composition. They also had help from UNT theater students who lent their acting talents to bring the project to life while cameras rolled before a small studio audience.

“This was one of the most ambitious projects we’ve attempted, and the results were impressive. Were it not for the quality of these Hitachi cameras, we probably wouldn’t have attempted this,” said James Martin, a senior lecturer at the University of North Texas and technical supervisor of the sitcom.

“The Hitachi cameras produced excellent HD image quality, and the students were able to ‘dial in’ the exact look they wanted because the camera shading controls were so easy to use.”

All six Hitachi cameras are outfitted with Hitachi CU-HD500 camera control units (CCUs) and RU-1000VR remote control panels.

“Producing these sitcom episodes put our students in a real-world, multi-camera television environment where they could really apply and refine the skills they learned in class,” said Martin. Prior to the “Peppuccinos” project, UNT students primarily produced newscasts, such as “The NTTV Nightly News,” a daily, half-hour news report featuring field reports via Skype; elections coverage for broadcast by local cable systems; as well as a Spanish language program. UNT has won several “Lone Star Emmy Awards for Excellence in Student Broadcasting” and other awards.

This student-driven sitcom production maximized UNT’s video facility resources, especially Studio A where the “Peppuccinos” set and risers for up to 35 audience members were constructed. The larger of two UNT studios, Studio A, has an adjacent control room that houses a Ross Vision-M 1.5-M/E multi-format switcher, Compix Synergy 2 dual-channel HD graphics system, Blackmagic Design Videohub router and a 360 Systems HD Max server.

The three “Peppuccinos” episodes were staged and recorded in one weekend, and that video is being edited by students using Apple Final Cut Pro. When finished, the shows will air on North Texas Television, a local origination channel devoted to UNT programming that is offered by the local Charter cable system, as well as on UNT’s website.