Niagara Falls City Schools

"Here's an opportunity for kids to use professional grade software. To me that's why LEIGHTRONIX is so valuable... Most of the kids in my program can leave here and go work for a television station, they're that qualified."

–Rich Meranto (Teacher and Technology Assistant)

Niagara Falls, NY—In every industry, especially video and broadcast, companies must constantly prepare themselves for the evolution of their business and the future of their industry. Utilizing the UltraNEXUS™ video server and system controller, and PEG Central® video-on-demand (VOD) streaming service, Niagara Falls City Schools' (NFCS) students are being taught and prepared to become leaders in the broadcast world.

Niagara Falls City SchoolsRich Meranto, a teacher and technology assistant at NFCS, teaches classes in broadcasting and his students run Our School's Channel-21 (OSC-21), a complete television station. This station's content is not just viewed within the school district but is an actual PEG station with viewers in 85,000 homes throughout the county.

"You're not learning how television runs in a vacuum," Meranto said. "There are 85,000 households that are going to see what you do."

Producing 17 original shows and five student-run shows, OSC-21 broadcasts live 24/7. Additionally, OSC-21 will run band concerts, school events, and outside programming from community agencies. The students have a hand in every aspect of the production, including being in front of and behind the cameras, creating resources, organizing assets, creating the program schedule, and generating slides.

Real World Experience

To give Meranto's students the necessary capabilities to run such a large production, Meranto relies on the UltraNEXUS video server. The UltraNEXUS gives his students the opportunity to work with a professional grade video server and provides them real world experience while still in high school. He added that many of his students walk out of his class with enough experience to apply for jobs typically reserved for those much older than them.

"Here's an opportunity for kids to use professional grade software. To me that's why LEIGHTRONIX is so valuable," Meranto said. "They're using the same software they would be if they worked for a cable access channel. Most of the kids in my program could leave here and go work for a television station, they're that qualified."

Catherine Danielewicz echoed her teacher's thoughts. Danielewicz is a senior student of Meranto's who has her own show on OSC-21 and works in production as well.

"We're pretty much set up like a real studio here, we have all the equipment they have, we use the same programs they use, so were set to go into a real work environment and work with other people on the same level," Danielewicz said.

Getting his kids to that level of qualification has been easy for Meranto as the UltraNEXUS is intuitive, user friendly, and easy to learn.

"Most of the students I can train and have up and running in three days at the most and have them proficient in LEIGHTRONIX software," Meranto said. "It's very easy for me to train a new student on the UltraNEXUS and WinLGX and have them run that program grid for me and have it be pretty flawless for the community. That's incredibly valuable."

Another one of Meranto's students, senior, Anthony Franjoine, added his perspective to the system's ease of use. Franjoine said the system was unintimidating and those with very little or no technical experience could learn how to use LEIGHTRONIX products fairly quickly.

"I think it's extremely easy to use and learn. Even if you've never worked with anything like it before, I think if you pick it up you can learn everything you need to. Everything is very easy and simple and it's not too complex," Franjoine said.

High-Quality Broadcasts

However, Meranto does not sacrifice quality for ease of use; for him the UltraNEXUS has been exceptional in both. Being both easy to use and providing high quality broadcasts are both very important to Meranto and OSC-21.

"We run educational programming but we're a real television station so we have real deadlines and real expectations of quality. These students are filling a real job that's filled by a real person in a real world, and the UltraNEXUS is a key part of doing that," Meranto said.

Anthony and Rick

"Everything LEIGHTRONIX does for their customers and the support they provide, it's very rare. From other products that I have, whether it's Apple for editing or Grass Valley, our video mixer, I never get that kind of service." –Rich Meranto

Internet Presence

Like most stations today, OSC-21 has realized that they need to make their content available online as well as through cable. For this, the station uses PEG Central, the web hosting and VOD service from LEIGHTRONIX. Since OSC-21 already utilizes the UltraNEXUS to automate their cable broadcast, there isn't much of an addition to their workflow to add their internet presence. The UltraNEXUS is set up to automatically record and transfer content to their PEG Central site, making it easy to populate their VOD landing page.

Each OSC-21 show has its own folder on the station's PEG Central website. Once a show is broadcast and sent to PEG Central, Meranto puts the file in the appropriate folder. As a result, each show has its own archive folder that viewers can go back and look at on the station's PEG Central website.

The workflow worked out so well that Meranto also uses PEG Central's folder feature to create online student portfolios. As work comes up that Meranto feels highlights a student's ability, he encourages them to add it to their personal folder.

"I encourage the students to put some of their better work online so that they can create hyperlinks or use the embed feature to share their work or add it to external websites," Meranto said.

Superior Support

While the ease of use, professional quality, and ability to have an online and broadcast presence all appealed to and impressed Meranto, he was perhaps most impressed with the service and support that LEIGHTRONIX has provided.

"Everything LEIGHTRONIX does for their customers and the support they provide, it's very rare. From other products that I have, whether it's Apple for editing or Grass Valley, our video mixer, I never get that kind of service. Because we're a live station, if I don't get the box running there's nothing on the channel," Meranto said. "LEIGHTRONIX support has been amazing and they are very patient whenever we have a problem."

The Problem

Rich Meranto runs a broadcast class at Niagara Falls City Schools, where his students run a channel that is viewed by 85,000 homes. To do so he needed a professional system that his students could learn to operate.

The Solution

How It Works

The UltraNEXUS is used for automated playback while the class also maintains an online presence with the PEGstream-SD™ and the PEG Stream™ and PEG Central streaming services.

In Their Words

"You're not learning how television runs in a vacuum. There are 85,000 households that are going to see what you do."

–Rich Meranto
Teacher and Technology Assistant

End Result

"It's very easy for me to train a new student on the UltraNEXUS and WinLGX and have them run that program grid for me and have it be pretty flawless for the community. That's incredibly valuable."

–Rich Meranto
Teacher and Technology Assistant

At a Glance

  • Name: Niagara Falls City Schools
  • Location: Niagara Falls, New York
  • Student Run: high school students at NFCS run OSC-21, an actual PEG Channel that is broadcast to over 85,000 homes
  • Same Name: Niagara Falls, NY lies across the Niagara River from a Canadian city with the same name, Niagara Falls, Ontario
  • Famous Residents:
    • James Starks– professional football player for Green Bay Packers
    • Rashad Evans– former UFC Light Heavyweight champion
    • Stefano Magaddino– American mafia boss
    • Tommy Tedesco– most recorded guitarist in history
    • Franchot Tone– film and tv actor, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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