Media center powers up

A few blocks from campus at 135 College St., a complex system of broadcast technology is whirring to life.

Technicians are putting the finishing touches on the new Yale Broadcast and Media Center, a central studio for an organization that was once spread across campus — from the medical school to Science Hill. The 8,000-square-foot center, which houses state-of-the-art broadcast technology, will provide a space to record interviews of Yale experts on television or radio interviews. The center’s staff is also responsible for recording all lectures for the Open Yale Courses program.

The new center will broaden Yale’s ability to interact with a public beyond New Haven and even the United States, said Helaine Klasky, the University’s director of public affairs.

“We’ve really been able to increase our profile domestically and internationally,” Klasky said. “And now the possibilities are so much greater.”

Although the center officially opened last summer, on a tour of the center Tuesday, technicians could still be found adjusting lights in the television studios and working on the intimidating array of recording equipment in the video storage room.

“So we’re still moving in,” said Paul Lawrence, the center’s director and executive producer, as he walked through the lobby of the center. Six prominently displayed flat screens flickered on the wall to his right, each showing a different major news network. Accompanied by Associate Director John Schilke, Lawrence walked down bright hallways that led to room after room of cameras, screens and soundboards.

“When I got into broadcast, I never thought I’d end up building a new radio station,” said Lawrence, stepping into one of the rooms, a sleek recording studio.

The center took about three and a half years to build, including two and a half months just on wiring. When Lawrence and Schilke first viewed the space — which once housed the first television station in New Haven but had stood vacant for 25 years — they could still find remnants of news sets from the 1950s and ’60s, complete with shag carpeting.

Lawrence pointed out brand-new editing equipment and high-definition cameras, adding that the center now has the most complex wiring of any studio in New Haven, utilizing tens of thousands of cables.

“This is the same technology you’d see if you walked into ESPN or NBC,” he said.

The money for the center came from a Yale technology refresh fund that had been saving for the project for about 10 years. Lawrence declined to cite a total cost figure for the project.

But frequent users of the space say the money, however much, was well-spent.

School of Management Senior Associate Dean Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who is often interviewed on national news networks while at Yale, called the center a “tremendous asset” and a “brilliant investment.”

“It’s really spectacular, and it’s something so much needed,” Sonnenfeld said. “It will pay itself back so quickly, and increase the reputational reach of Yale.”

The Broadcast and Media Center is equipped to operate 24/7, with 11 full-time staffers. While Lawrence said the center is “not a green building by any means,” he said he takes pride in the fact that all lights are low-energy fluorescents. He said he suspected the center is using at least a third less energy than before.

Lawrence added that in some ways, the center — true to the space’s former purpose — can be seen as one big recycling project.

“It’s a community story,” he said. “We’ve had old-timers coming down who worked here in the ’50s and ’60s, with tears in their eyes.” Lawrence paused for a moment. “Yale investing in this is terrific.”

Comments