Thursday, October 01, 2015

[140] MTSU students create, customize video wall for Murphy Center homecoming concert

MURFREESBORO — MTSU electronic media communication students are providing extensive technical support — and eye-catching entertainment for fans — at the first large music concert inside Murphy Center since 2013.

A dozen students from instructor Mike Forbes’ Video Technology class added to their professional expertise as they set up a massive 30-foot-wide LED video wall in Hale Arena all day Wednesday, Sept. 30. It’ll be used for the free Homecoming 2015 concert tonight, Oct. 1, featuring the Swedish duo Icona Pop and their opening acts Magic Man and Out of State.

By the time the curtain rises at 8 tonight, the student crew will have put in a second full day of prep and rehearsals for the “I Love It" singers’ show.

MTSU students will handle all the content and video elements for each of the bands, then load up and store the equipment after the concert.

“When this project idea was first proposed, I went to the students and asked them whether they could dedicate the time toward this project,” Forbes said, “and almost unanimously, we decided as a class to take on this project from concept to the final design.

“I gave the students the freedom to design the wall based on what they wanted to do, and they really ran with it.” 

Billy Pittard, chair of MTSU’s Department of Electronic Media Communication, said the equipment is on loan to the university through next May from VER Nashville, a leading national provider of video wall installations for the concert industry.

“This is the second year VER has loaned us large video wall components, but this year the loan is substantially larger than last,” Pittard added. “Their purpose is to train a greater workforce pool for them to hire; indeed, they are hiring our alumni and students.”

Forbes, who is one of those MTSU alumni, managed video installations for major concerts before returning to the university to become assistant director of technologies for its College of Media and Entertainment and teach EMC courses.

“In today's world of technical achievements in live event entertainment, video elements have pretty much become the standard for today's touring world,” he explained. “Nearly every live show that is on TV has video elements built into the set.

“The College of Media and Entertainment has embraced this idea, and I think that's what makes our college so unique — the fact that students can come into our college and leave with experience in live sound, video and lighting, all under the same roof.”

The Video Technology EMC class usually prepares two or three shows each semester with the LED video walls in different campus venues. Another project is in the works for this fall, Forbes said, and three are already planned for next spring.

“We've been extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful relationship with companies and vendors in the Nashville area, such as VER, that have helped make this possible,” Forbes said.

“These same companies that are donating this equipment to us are actively looking for people to hire directly out of our program. This has led to some students being hired by these companies full time before they even graduate!”

When Murphy Center opened in 1973, the 10,000-plus-seat facility became one of the area’s leading concert venues, hosting The Who, Elvis Presley, U2, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, Whitney Houston, Garth Brooks, Kanye West and more over its 40-year history.

Its usage for major concerts dropped off a bit after the now-closed Starwood Amphitheatre opened in nearby Antioch, Tennessee, in 1985, and dwindled even more when the larger Nashville Arena, now carrying Bridgestone’s name, opened in 1996. The last large Murphy Center musical event was a 2013 concert by Australian rockers The Church.

Murphy Center now is most often used for MTSU Blue Raider athletic games, university graduation and convocation ceremonies, and special student-focused performances like this homecoming concert, as well as local high school graduations and large business events.

MTSU students voted in 2014 to gradually increase activity fees to help bring big names to Murphy Center again, creating more opportunities for student entertainment and for student work experience.

“Projects like this are important because we are already well-established as a leading resource for talent for Nashville's live event production industry,” said Pittard, “and we are poised to achieve national and international recognition as the leading source for such talent.”

For more information about the Department of Electronic Media Communication in MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment, visit