Media Communication students returning to IWU in fall 2014 were greeted by a welcome sight in the Elder Hall parking lot – the new WIWU-TV mobile video production truck.
Before classes even started, the students joined TV station staff and faculty on Labor Day weekend at the Marion Fly-In/Cruise-In, learning production on-the-go with a self-contained, TV studio on wheels.
WIWU-TV staff members have dreamed and prayed about a production truck since the station went on the air nearly two decades ago.
For all of those years, every mobile production was handled by transporting or literally pushing equipment racks across campus to set up makeshift control rooms in venues such as Luckey Arena, the Phillippe Performing Arts Center and the Chapel-Auditorium.
“Some years I tried counting how many times we had to move the gear but usually once I hit 200 times then I even lost interest in counting,” said Paul Crisp, current station manager who was a student in those early years.
“Through snow, heat, broken truck lifts and broken elevators, we still managed to do the work…but it was never a real joy in that moving process,” Crisp said.
The truck dream finally got rolling in fall 2012 when then President Dr. Henry Smith authorized IWU facilities to purchase a used vehicle which could be adapted for television production. The vehicle was delivered later that year to Shook Mobile Technology in Texas to build a new TV control room “box” on top of the chassis, customized for WIWU-TV needs.
The process was delayed several months later when the station accepted an offer to rent the truck to another Shook client in exchange for infrastructure upgrades that improved the vehicle at no additional cost. Once delivered to campus in spring 2014, the TV staff spent the summer months engineering the many cables, switches and routing systems that make it operational.
Though it took two years from project inception, the upgrades, improved wiring, and new control room equipment significantly enhanced the end product. When students and visitors look inside, they see the result – a first-rate mobile facility, equipped for a variety of TV productions and a professional learning laboratory for students in media production.
“Every time I get behind the wheel of our mobile production truck it puts a smile in my face,” said Garrett Matney, WIWU-TV Promotions Manager who worked on much of the internal engineering.
“I know when I turn that key and put it in gear, the day ahead is going to be full of excitement…from seeing our students and staff put on a top level production, from serving the wonderful community we live in, and from watching our students learn real world practices,” Matney said.
Now that going mobile is not just a dream, WIWU-TV has the added benefit of producing television programs off-campus throughout the Grant County community. The truck debuted at the Fly-In/Cruise-In with segments for the newsmagazine Crossroads.
In September the station added its first ever local high school football games and it’s now planning community concerts, events and selected IWU basketball away games.
“WIWU-TV is always focused on two things, serving our community audience and increasing educational opportunities for our communication students, so this is a win on both counts,” said Dr. Randall E. King, Professor and Director of Broadcast Media.
“Besides, if you love TV control rooms like most of us do, you geek out just a little looking at everything we were able to pack into this space and you have to admit, this is really cool. Just think what it’s going to mean for our students who get to learn here, ” King said.
That “new car smell” and cool factor may linger just a little while longer for the TV staff and faculty, but as they use the truck for years to come, the long-term benefits will go on.
Communication students now have a new way to extend their media skills, giving voice to stories, from a new set of wheels.
(Visit the WIWU-TV Facilities page for more information and photos)