MTSU media crew braves elements to wrap another successful Bonnaroo “classroom”

Hot dust turned to soggy mud Sunday in Coffee County, but that didn’t stop students from Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment from getting their work done at the 2018 Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

MTSU’s crew of about 35 students was among those who were asked to leave the festival’s main grounds when a thunderstorm swept through the region that morning. The rain cleared and all returned by noon, but the weather took away valuable prep time for the students and faculty covering Bonnaroo.

“One of the fun things about doing a concert festival is that you have to work with the elements,” said Robert Gordon, an assistant professor in the Department of Media Arts, overseeing MTSU’s $1.7 million Mobile Production Lab at Bonnaroo. “Today, it started to pour and it was just raining like crazy, which really kind of delayed our start up. So, we had to work real fast to get everything together for us to start.

“It’s hard enough when it’s dry, but when it’s raining on you it can be a challenge, but that’s good for the students.”

Still, despite the downpour, it was difficult to dampen the enthusiasm about the work put forward by MTSU’s students and faculty at this year’s music festival.

Students from all three of the college’s departments were represented at Bonnaroo. Video and film production and photography majors from the Department of Media Arts and audio production majors from the Department of Recording Industry captured performances of emerging artists on Bonnaroo’s Who Stage, while multimedia majors from the School of Journalism and Strategic Media covered acts for area media outlets.

“Our hope is that many of our students at Bonnaroo walk off the festival grounds saying, ‘That was four days of challenging work under hot, dusty and wet conditions — and this is exactly what I want to do as a career,’” said Media and Entertainment Dean Ken Paulson. “That kind of realization is invaluable.”

At the production truck alone, 14 students, including six undergraduate video majors, five undergraduate audio majors and three graduate audio majors, and four faculty and staff from the College of Media and Entertainment worked on the truck for five days, including setup.

They used six cameras and eight microphones and 32 audio feeds to record 17 acts, producing 13 hours of programming consisting of over 2 TB of HD video (overall) and 98 channels of multitrack audio (per set), totaling roughly 600 GB of high-quality digital audio.

“MTSU’s Media Arts Department has one of the best live TV production programs in the world,” said Media Arts Chair Billy Pittard. “Covering the Who Stage at Bonnaroo is one of the many special things the program does. You can find our big blue truck at dozens of other events and locations like MTSU football and basketball games, the Nashville Symphony, the Bluebird Cafe and Bluegrass Underground.

“And just like the stars on the stage and the athletes on the field, our production students have to practice, practice, practice to be able to perform flawlessly.”

Recording Industry Chair Beverly Keel thanked Bonnaroo for allowing MTSU for the fifth consecutive year to use the event as a learning opportunity for students.

“The Bonnaroo officials have been so generous with the access and responsibilities they have given our students,” Keel said. “Quite simply, only at MTSU can students get this unique and exciting real-world experience.

“But what makes this so rewarding for students is that we don’t just provide them with the hands-on experience and wish them luck. We have professors to be by their side, educating and guiding them every step of the way. Bonnaroo is the classroom.”

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