Cameron Douglas Craig, graduate director at Indiana State University Climate Laboratory (ISUCL), in Terre Haute, Indiana, oversees student weather broadcast projects created with Adobe® Visual Communicator® software. Over the last eight months, Craig's student team has produced over 250 broadcasts. Each semester, the ISUCL employs seven undergraduate students with majors in geography, geology, speech pathology, and history. This student team then sets out to broadcast the weather twice a day for West Central Indiana and the ISU campus. "Visual Communicator is an affordable software package that gives a daily educational opportunity for students to learn first-hand what goes on in a weather broadcast/presentation. The benefits are overwhelming," says Craig.
Craig's student broadcast team has two favorite features of Visual Communicator. They are the??ease of inserting graphics and backgrounds and the ability to publish broadcasts in??Internet-friendly formats quickly. "Visual Communicator is extremely user friendly and takes very little time to learn and produce a broadcast. There is not a plethora of procedures to follow in Visual Communicator to get done what you want," explains Craig.
Craig's team uses Visual Communicator in both team and individual environments. When asked to elaborate on how the ISUCL weather broadcast team uses Visual Communicator once the show is created, Craig explains: "There was no formal setup required. However, a few modifications were necessary for broadcasting the weather. We used??a green screen and hung it from a PVC pipe from the ceiling. Although we had adequate fluorescent lights, we used a simple spot that was directed up into the ceiling. We have??two monitors. One??faces the person running the computer and another??is??hooked??into a splitter, which is located just off the green screen so that our broadcasters can see where they are pointing to on the maps. We have one student do the broadcast on-camera and another as the off-camera 'clicker.' The clicker listens to the broadcaster and clicks through the maps."
That was Craig's initial team workflow. His team has since modified its workflow to allow a single student to be on-camera and control the maps, thus freeing up other team members to work on alternative projects, including severe weather events. "The use of a wireless optical mini-mouse with tape covering the optics proved to be successful in giving map control to the on-camera student. With a normal mouse, we place the pointer over Next Effect with Pause engaged, and then the broadcaster can do their own clicking with the wireless mouse." Craig and his team have clearly benefited from Visual Communicator's flexibility.
Craig has already explored alternative uses for Visual Communicator relating to his work at the ISU campus. For instance, Craig and his team set up a weather broadcasting booth at the 2004 Indiana State Fair. "The public was extremely excited to see how a weather broadcast was made, so we even offered people the opportunity to try a brief weather broadcast," says Craig. In addition, Craig's team used Visual Communicator to create a 30-minute DVD documentary feature on Indiana's winter. Craig, himself, uses Visual Communicator for online video lectures in meteorology. He has also integrated the software into a broadcast meteorology practicum he taught. He explains, "Students used Visual Communicator to do daily broadcasts and learn how to become more professional. It was a rewarding experience for the students to receive hands-on training."