Lights, Camera, Action News!
When we started this blog, we said we were going to use it for three things - Reflection, Education, and Celebration. Today is a day of Celebration! I have 13 reasons to be happy. I have three incredible teachers and 10 fantastic 5th-grade students that have been hard at work putting on our live morning newscast. That's right, a LIVE morning newcast - the KCUB News!
We started the project several years ago and it's morphed and improved every year. This year, it is better than ever. We now use two cameras and green screen technology. We’ve added a weather forecast and have daily adult guests. The results are fantastic!
Let me start by telling you how the kids get involved. Our news crew is made up of ten 5th grade students. In the spring semester of each year, 4th-grade students are invited to apply to become part of the crew. If they're interested in serving, they have to get teacher recommendations and write a letter about why they would like to be a part of the team. Ten lucky students are selected by our three KCUB News sponsor teachers. The 4th graders serve the last month of the spring semester shadowing the current news crew. In the fall, after they become 5th graders, they take over the broadcast. And this group has taken over with gusto!
Now, a little bit about our setup. We run two cameras set on tripods. They are older video cameras that we weren't using for anything else but they are decent Sony cameras with HDMI outputs. One camera faces a backdrop with a printed cityscape that our anchors stand in from of. Camera number two faces a green screen for our weatherman and guests. We have HDMI outputs from each camera that go into a Roland VR-4HD video-audio mixer. Also going into the mixer is output from a Chromebook that is running a Google Presentation. The presentation serves as our graphics for the newscast. To simplify the setup, we pull audio from the two cameras.
The Roland mixer allows our student team to cut from camera to full-screen graphics, or to insert a picture-in-picture overlay on top of the camera view (like you see on the Nightly News), or use the built-in chroma key feature to pull in graphics behind our green screen. The signal from the Roland VR mixer is then sent to an Epiphan Webcaster X2 Social Media Encoder. This is a new piece of equipment we bought this year. Prior to this year, we were using the free OBS Studio Encoder on a Windows machine. But, every now and then we would run into configuration issues. The new Webcaster has served us very well. It was a very simple setup and now with the press of a single button, the students are broadcasting live on Facebook.
Our team of students takes turns in various roles weekly. They serve as anchors, the weatherman, camera operator, switchboard operator, graphics, script supervisor, director, and assistant director. They get to school a little early and at 7:45 they are ready to go live!
The Facebook page we use is a page under our district Facebook account. We have two pages for the district - our main FSHISD district Facebook page and the KCUB News Page. Using Facebook has been a great benefit to us because while our teachers watch it live, our parents are able to see it on their Facebook feed later in the day. We may have only 30 to 40 watching the live feed, but by the end of the day, we're hitting in the hundreds. The students know they are truly making a difference.
We invite you to like our page at www.facebook.com/KCUBnews!