MTSU Media Arts Leads LED Technology Education, Real World Practice

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Billy Pittard, MTSU alumnus, chair of the department of media arts, and Mike Forbes, assistant director of technical systems, use their years of experience in media and entertainment to equip students with the relevant and sought-after skills of the industry.

The media technology course taught by Forbes trains students in LED video display technology, a developing and growing area of ​​the industry, Pittard said. Not only does Forbes teach students how to use the technology, it also makes them use it with real customers in the field, from the initial design phase to operations in the field.

“As far as we know, we are the only university in the world to do this,” Pittard said. “MTSU has become an important player in the development of the workforce for the tourism industry. ”

MTSU is in a unique position to provide this level of training, Forbes explained. It’s not just that the school has access to specialized equipment; it has the space to host large events, which provides students with the possibility of hands-on experience.

“One thing we found,” Forbes said, “is that every university lacks an area that we are good at. For example, a university may have a great multi-camera program, but it lacks on the technical side. Or they (other universities) may have great technology, but they may lack the space for shows to happen.

The technology is much more prevalent than people realize, Pittard said. “It’s a giant video screen,” he developed, and it’s used to visually enhance everything from live performances like Super Bowl halftimes, to reality TV shows, to Broadway plays. , to distant galaxies depicted in science fiction programs like “The Mandalorian.”

How it started

The idea for the course developed around 2012, Pittard said.

PRG Gear, formerly VER, is an equipment rental company with a large office in Nashville. Forbes and other MTSU professors have worked with the company during their careers in the industry.

Once Forbes arrived at MTSU, he pioneered the idea of ​​training students on industrial equipment such as LED video display technology.

“They (PRG Gear) loaned us products,” Pittard explained. “They gave it to us (and said) ‘You can all use it and teach the students how to use it and then we’ll hire them or the people who hire from us hire them.'”

“Partners like PRG Gear in Nashville have generously donated the equipment we have so that we can train students in how the technology works,” Forbes said.

Pittard has won a successful career as an industry pioneer in graphic design and brand development. He and the College of Media and Entertainment now aim to provide students with the same opportunity to become industry pioneers by exposing them to today’s promising career paths and aligning their skills with market demand, a declared Pittard.

“We want to educate students and constantly get them to think…“ Look for new areas. Look for areas that develop. Where is it going? ‘ “, did he declare. “What does the market want? What are the opportunities ?’

“I’m trying to meet the needs and opportunities that are out there (in Nashville),” Pittard continued. “The market is asking us to help them develop their workforce in this area… They are hiring.

Since the start of the course, the department and the students have flourished.

“We have some of the best tech gear you can use,” Forbes said. “We teach our students the technology that is used in industry.

“These companies… hire our students directly into our program to go and work for them in the industry,” Forbes explained. “We have had alumni for major artists such as Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Twenty One Pilots, Keith Urban and many more.”

“It doesn’t get better than that”

Brea Robbins, a video and film production major who graduated in May, praised Forbes’ expertise and her media technology course.

“He’s such an asset to this program,” said Robbins, a Chattanooga native. “His course delves into the technical aspect of production which is often not covered in other courses. We learn how to configure, wire, map and design content for LED displays, but we also get to know lenses, sensors, codecs, networking, processing, shading and much more.

Robbins also highlighted the hands-on experience provided by MTSU. Students of the course participate in four events per semester.

“In the production team we were able to meet and work alongside some of the best in the business,” she said. “It’s one thing to have an MTSU graduate who’s been very successful coming to speak to the class, which is always great, but it’s an even more amazing experience when you work alongside them, pose questions. questions and learn from them. In the field.

“I’ve been able to work on countless ESPN shows, several awards shows, concerts, studio shows and live TV news. What better way to learn than to go out and do it? It doesn’t get better than that. .

“Students will be at the forefront of working with the major artists who come to campus,” Forbes said. “Our past interactions with artists include Ludacris, Icona Pop and Young the Giant. ”

Forbes revealed that demand for the course is so high that they’ve expanded the class into two, and both will launch in fall 2021.

“We’re also talking to people in the industry about creating additional technology courses to help meet their changing needs,” Pittard said.

“We give them (the students) the tools to make creative decisions, and we walk them through the process,” Forbes said. “It’s one of the reasons I love working here – seeing students who come from a small town and have never traveled outside of the state of Tennessee can travel the world with the artist, group and direction. ”

For students like Robbins, MTSU was a logical choice.

“I knew with all my heart that this (career path) was something I wanted to pursue, so I looked for the best program I could,” said Robbins. “MTSU was the ideal fit because of its remarkable reputation in the media industry … There are other schools that offer this major, but none have such an established reputation in the Nashville market, where I would like to build my career. “

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