Starting your first podcast or becoming a live streamer got a whole lot easier at the University of Guelph-Humber with the new podcast lab. The podcast lab, opened in 2021, provides students with all the tools they need to start a podcast or stream.
The lab has been in the works for three years and has finally opened its doors to students. Michael Samartzis, a media technologist specialist and one-third of the media technology team at GH. “Having come from the media industry we have been involved with bleeding-edge technology in our whole careers,” says Samartzis, the spearhead of the podcasting room project. “When we see things happen in the real world and the way people consume media is changing we want to make sure students are able to leave school understanding these technologies and processes.”
Samartzis isn’t the only one on the team who has students’ best interests in mind. Aaranan Sooriyamoorty, another third of the tech team, has been listening to students and thought it was important for students to have a space for podcasting.
“A lot of what we do at the school is course-dependent, and[…], when we were talking about the desire to have this, it was because students were requesting a lot of spaces that help them podcast, do voiceovers, or edit,” says Sooriyamoorthy.
In the last five years, podcasting and live streaming have become a multi-million dollar industry with high viewership. Chapo Trap House, a Patreon-funded podcast makes over $200,000 a month through 37,000 of their listeners. Critical Role, a live-streamed Dungeons and Dragons podcast on Twitch, has an average viewership of 20,000 to 30,000 per episode. With the new podcast lab, students can now start their podcasting or live-streaming journey to reach those numbers, without having to worry about breaking the bank on expensive equipment.
The lab contains four rooms, three are podcasting rooms and the fourth is an editing suite. The rooms for podcasting also double for streaming. The suites have isolated controlled airflow and wheelchair access. Each podcasting room has four Rhode Procaster microphones that are connected to an audio console where an audio operator can control and adjust the audio live. The rooms also contain a television screen that students can connect to their laptop, gaming console, IPad, or phone and stream.
“We’re providing more of a hardware base where the [student] can decide on what software they’d like to use,”said Sooriyamoorthy
The lab is available to any media student and booking is done through the media cage.
“Infrastructure wise all the rooms have been soundproof, there’s als sound refractive material on the insides of the rooms as well,” said Samartiz. To top it all off the ceiling tiles are also designed for sound dampening. “The room was one big echo chamber, and now four individually sound-controlled suites.”
The new podcast lab in room 317 has taken the place of the old printing room in an effort to make the best use of all the spaces in the building.“We’ve maximized the space to be way more effective[…]it’s not like we converted [the podcast lab] from a print room and now we don’t have a print room, we just moved things around,” says Marc Tavares, the final third of the media tech team.
The difference between GH’s podcast lab and other schools’ radio suites, is that the podcast lab is a flexible space and made to be so. GH provides students with a laid-back yet professional-quality recording studio that was made for podcasting.
“I did a lot of research and work with Humber College, going into their broadcast facilities and seeing how they are currently doing podcasts,” said Samartzis. “A lot of their podcasts suites were tied to their broadcast program, so they were not configured as podcasting suites, but mainly as radio broadcast facilitates that people were podcasting from.”
Sooriyamoorthy said that at GH there are students doing podcasts in their own time with the equipment from the media cage. The need for a designated podcast room was there for current and future students.
Another feature of the podcast lab is a dedicated post-production space. The post-production suite has a Mac Pro and two self-calibrating SW271 Benq Screens, which are the industry standard, said Samartzis. These computers and monitors allow students to edit 4k and 8k footage, which “require quite a bit of computer processing power,” said Tavares.
“We now have a course that specializes in virtual reality and augmented reality and students will be shooting 360 video for that quest in up to 8K resolution. So, we wanted to create a room for them to be able to edit those 360 VR productions,”said Tavares
The podcast room and the courses being added are going to shake things up in the media studies program. New and current students have a lot to look forward to during their tenure at Guelph-Humber. While fourth-year students look back at what could have been.