Skip to content

Visit To MITx and HarvardX

By: Stephen Toback

harvard banner

Jack D’Ardenne and I visited the production offices and studios of MITx and HarvardX this week. Both schools produce excellent quality videos and use a wide range of resources. This will briefly look at their internal production studio facilities.



MITx’s production studio is located within their production offices.

The space is ideal for one to two faculty. They are able to achieve exceptional quality green screen production utilizing a portable green screen and lights. Their teleprompter system uses an iPad with special mount and reflective glass. They are a full service facility for both filming and post production for the faculty. They also utilize on location and in studio facilities from MIT’s video production services group and will assist faculty with completing projects that have been started using various methods.

Harvard’s Hauser Studio

Originally conceived as a self-service studio, the facility has evolved into a full service production center with studio and control room space. The studio is located within the main library at Harvard and is jointly managed by HarvardX and Harvard’s Arts & Sciences media technology group whose staff primarily operates the studio.

The heart of the studio are Canon C500 cameras shooting in 24p (Rec 709 AND ProRes). This was a conscious decision to capture the highest quality so that different looks can be delivered from the single source files. They strongly believe that 10 bit 4:2:2 color depth is critical, especially if you are doing chroma key (green screen). These cameras support excellent lenses and offer the flexibility of shooting at full 2k resolution if required.

They have professional teleprompters and mentioned success with the Interrotron teleprompter which allows the faculty to see someone in the prompter and speak to them to help put the faculty member more at ease and help with eye contact.

The cameras record to multiple AJA Ki Pro hard disk recorders via HD-SDI with removable SSD disk cartridges (they are also available as spinning disk, but SSD is a smarter choice). This gives them the flexibility to quickly move between different productions. Files are delivered to their clients either through direct hard drive transfer (clients are asked to bring their own hard drives) or via the Harvard network. They used a Drobo as interim storage for approximately one month when the data is moved to tape based deep storage before the drives are recycled. Metadata is store in paper logs and can be restored from tape within a few days if needed.


The studio is switched by a NewTek Tricaster. The Tricaster was selected primarily due to its ease of use for live streaming which is used by some productions in the space. They overall have been happy with the Tricaster and it’s integrated multiviewer.


All lights in the studio are LED which reduces heat and energy costs and are controlled by a central lighting control unit. Special color changing lights were also purchased to achieve different set looks, but are seldom used.

Audio is captured via wireless lav or boom and is mixed by a Yamaha broadcast audio console. They do perform some post production but it is mostly a production facility. There is no green room for pre-shoot preparation.

HarvardX’s Studio

While HarvardX continues to use the Hauser Studio, they built a studio space within their office for additional capacity and flexibility. They are using a similar Canon camera to those the Hauser studio (the Canon C100), shooting in 24p (ProRes only) to help with consistency and staff training. They do not utilize a switcher like Hauser, rather is set up to capture raw footage directly to the Atomos Ninja Blade on camera storage (with confidence monitor) via HDMI for post production editing. They are able to achieve various background using white or black as well as a chalk board and an LED projector. The coolness of the LED lamp allows them to laser print virtually any design for projection on the wall behind the speaker.

The room was a conference room so it received additional sound proofing and wall treatments for acoustics and a strut system was installed on top of the drop ceiling to allow for lighting flexibility.

Due to limitations with the physical infrastructure of the space, they utilize centralized NAS storage, physically carrying ATTO Thunderlink 10GB Ethernet/Thunderbolt drives to the editor’s MacPro. The internal SSD drive is used for the cache and library and the media drives are connected via a separate Thunderbolt connection so there is excellent performance. They’ve captured about 3000 hours of content and are investigating some products such as Axle to help manage the media.

The showed us a rough cut of the different looks their studio can produce. This was not only a great marketing tool for their studio but will help faculty determine which style video they would prefer for their course. I will link to that video as soon as it is released.

Categories: Video Production

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *