Keeping Community Connected

Author: John McDermott

Father Jenkins message to campus

Shelter-in-place. Stay-at-home. Social Distancing. Self-isolate.

Many of these terms were rarely heard before the outbreak of COVID-19 yet now they are part of our everyday lexicon in a world where people are increasingly isolated from each other.

During this time, Notre Dame Studios’ (NDS) media production team has taken on the task of using the resources of the Martin Media Center (MMC) to assist the Notre Dame community in staying connected throughout the duration of this pandemic. 

NDS staff have worked with various campus groups to assist them in their video communication needs throughout this crisis. Some of the different items produced using the MMC during this time include:

  • Online academic courses
  • Online training sessions on MMC production equipment led by members of Fighting Irish Media for student workers and staff members
  • Live shots for external news organizations with Notre Dame faculty and administrators
  • University Relations town halls
  • Official video communications from Fr. Jenkins
  • Basilica Mass streamed to the web and broadcast to Catholic TV 

The most important responsibility of a university is its educational mission. With students absent from campus, there has been a tremendous amount of work done to switch teaching methods and enable professors to continue their courses in a remote capacity. One way that ND Studios contributed to this mission was by enabling professors to use studio space in the MMC to record lectures for their students. 

According to Scott Rinehart, Director of Broadcast Technology for NDS, “the biggest shift in thinking was switching from previously scheduled studio broadcasts to a teaching use case utilized previously to support the Summer Online program. We knew what to do, pulled together all the pieces and parts, and turned our studios into an online teaching facility again.”

Rinehart emphasized that the work and knowledge of the NDS staff is what made this all work. “The technology is just a method, it’s the how. But the people have made it work. Engineer Mike Sill knew enough in one area and Streaming Engineer Eric Nisly knew enough in another to get everything done.  It was a team effort.  Everyone took their specialized knowledge and made it work together.”

One professor who took advantage of this opportunity was Professor Rachel Novick of the Department of Biological Sciences, for her BIOS 10112 - The Marine Environment course. She spoke highly of her experience:

“Recording at ND Studios was a fantastic experience. All the staff were incredibly professional and helpful. This was my first time recording lectures so it was a big learning experience for me, and they gave me a lot of great tips on best practices.”

In addition to academics, NDS has helped to maintain a connection with its students through training sessions on MMC production equipment conducted over Zoom and led by staff members from Fighting Irish Media. To date, three live Zoom sessions have been conducted for student workers and staff members to gain introductory knowledge on the Ross Acuity switcher, the Ross XPression graphics software, and the Evertz Dreamcatcher instant replay system.

NDS has also been crucial in providing the necessary technical support for external University communications, particularly revolving around the Office of the President. NDS staff members have returned to campus, following appropriate social distancing practices, to support the production and filming Fr. Jenkins’ video messages surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic as well as live shots with external news organizations.

Finally, the distribution of masses from the Basilica has continued to be supported by NDS and is being watched by more people than ever as has been written about in NDWorks previously: Basilica Mass.

While its physical presence on campus has been minimized by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of NDS continues to be widely felt across the Notre Dame community. As the future remains uncertain, the staff at NDS remains ready to continue to help keep the Notre Dame community connected. 

“Will we have to be in this blended environment for a while? A time where we regularly do teaching/learning and broadcasting? I don’t know, but we can do it. We’re proud to be a part of this huge effort and we will be here for the long haul.” - Rinehart