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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 9, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 21
From CD Duplication to Original Documentaries, They Do It All

John O'Brien, section supervisor of Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services, located at APL.

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series about in-house services available to university faculty and staff.

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

It's a lecture hall. It's a lounge. It's an operating room. Shades of a black box theater, the studio of Johns Hopkins Medical Video and Multimedia regularly mimics all these spaces, and more.

Equipped with high-end lighting and cameras, the studio serves as a set for professional-quality video and DVD productions for the purposes of classroom instruction, research and fund raising, among others. Since the 1960s, JH Medical Video has been an everything-video service for the university, primarily the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. In addition to video productions, the outfit offers studio and on-location videotaping, video editing, videoconferencing, tape duplication and a host of other video services.

JH Medical Video is just one of several state-of-the-art, award-winning video production offices located directly on a Johns Hopkins campus. Whether a professor wants a lecture videotaped, a development office wants a presentation of an academic program or researchers need to videoconference with colleagues abroad, there is currently a host of cost-effective and convenient service options available to JHU personnel.

Digital Video Services is located at Homewood, and Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services at APL, but both have clients on other campuses, as does JH Medical Video. The Multimedia Department at the Bloomberg School of Public Health provides services to its own faculty and staff.

An outgrowth of JHM's still photography department, JH Medical Video and Multimedia, located on the East Baltimore campus, until 1999 functioned as a unit of the School of Medicine. Since May 2003, it has been operated by Accelera, a learning solutions provider and licensee of the university.

The three-person group specializes in medical video production. Typically, a faculty member will request a videotaping of an operation that can be shown in class, or a researcher will want a video illustration to accompany an academic paper. For example, Hopkins scientists participating in stem cell research used the studio to videotape paralyzed mice, and then weeks later videotaped the same mice that had been injected with stem cells and were literally scampering off a table.

Dale Levitz, director of Johns Hopkins Medical Video and Multimedia, located on the East Baltimore campus.

Dale Levitz, director of JH Medical Video and Multimedia and its senior project manager/producer, says that what sets her office apart from outside production companies is its intimate knowledge of both the Johns Hopkins community and the medical profession.

"Any professional can simply walk into a surgery with a camera, but our staff actually know how and are trusted to come in and not contaminate the operating room, and they also know where to look, without even the doctor having to point," Levitz says.

Levitz says that her group can do anything from merely videotaping a lecture to producing an on-location documentary that mixes live photography and 3-D animation. JH Medical Video can write entire scripts and hire actors, who might be called upon to play the role of a patient, nurse or person on the street. Last year the studio doubled as a clinical office to teach pharmaceutical sales reps how to speak intelligently with physicians.

In addition, the outfit can host two-way real-time videoconferences anywhere in the world.

Its walls lined with plaques and trophies, JH Medical Video regularly wins top honors at the annual Telly Awards and Communicator Awards. Although it's physically located in the School of Medicine, JH Medical Video has worked with the Applied Physics Laboratory, departments on the Homewood campus and the schools of Nursing and Public Health.

"We're for everyone. We certainly have a growing list of Hopkins clients," Levitz says.

Also available to all JHU personnel is Digital Video Services, formerly part of the Instructional Television facility. Located on the Homewood campus, the 20-year-old unit provides on-location videotaping, video editing, digital video compression, tape duplication, Internet-based teleconferencing and 3-D modeling and animation services.

For significantly less cost than using an outside vendor, JHU Digital Video Services customers can have a lecture or conference videotaped, a research video produced or have the two-person staff write, direct and edit an entire production. Digital Video Services specializes in all aspects of video production — shooting, editing, digitizing and duplication — of high-resolution, broadcast-quality programs as well as Web-compatible video. The finished products can be put into all formats, including VHS, DVD, Beta and QuickTime movies that can be posted on the Web.

Digital Video Services can handle any task from burning a CD to producing an entire series of videos. A regular winner of awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the department has produced videos for academic departments, affiliated centers and administrative offices. A sample of works includes a video presentation of the Homewood campus master plan, videotaping of the Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium and 3-D modeling of cells for a biology course.

Deirdre Hammer, media producer for Digital Video Services, formerly part of the Instructional Television facility at Homewood.

Deirdre Hammer, who has served as the unit's media producer since its inception, says that it can handle nearly any size project and, if extra resources are needed, knows what local talent to tap into.

"But don't ask us to produce something like Ken Burns' The Civil War for $2,000; we do have some limits," quips Hammer, who earned her film degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Honestly, we can do what looks polished, and what looks professional. We adhere to all the requirements of broadcast productions in terms of resolution and audio quality."

Located at the Applied Physics Laboratory is Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services. The Lab's section is regularly called upon to provide video teleconferencing, video recordings of meetings, media duplication and Web video distribution. A full-service production center, the unit can create education and training videos and video press releases using a complement of cutting-edge digital production tools and an extensive media footage library. It offers on-site and remote videotaping, script writing, voice-over narration, sound-music design, digital video editing, television graphics creation, 3-D modeling and animation, and the distribution of end products on videotape, CD-ROM, DVD or through Web video.

Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services recently produced a one-hour documentary about the invention of satellite navigation and a diversity training video that involved a series of vignettes performed by professional actors. Another recent production was an introduction to the work of Johns Hopkins' Office of Critical Event Preparedness, which can be viewed at

In addition, its animations for the NEAR and TIMED space missions have appeared on network nightly news.

The department also holds film and video archives — nearly 12,000 films and videotapes — that date back to the Lab's creation in 1943.

John O'Brien, section supervisor of Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services, says that the costs of his in-house services are nearly a third of that of production companies in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area.

Opened in 2003, the Multimedia Department at the Bloomberg School of Public Health provides video recording, audio recording and videoconferencing services for school personnel only. Primarily, it accommodates the needs of classes and special events held on School of Public Health property.

Hammer of Digital Video Services says that while JHU's various video production offices might have a healthy list of regular clients, she ventures that they are all still somewhat of a well-kept secret universitywide.

"I don't think enough people realize how pervasive and powerful video can be for educational and research purposes. Having an in-house unit, such as DVS, is convenient, allows for a quick turnaround, and is less expensive than outsourcing," Hammer says. "I think video is definitely an underutilized teaching and marketing tool here. The written word can only say so much, whereas a video can truly capture the essence of a project, research or an idea."


University Audio/Visual Production Offices

Digital Video Services (formerly part of ITV)
Location: Homewood campus, 211 Maryland Hall
Customers: University system
Services: Video recording, video editing, digital video compression, tape duplication, videoconferencing and 3-D animation
Contact: Deirdre Hammer, 410-516-5322,

Television, Audio/Visual and Photographic Services
Location: Applied Physics Laboratory, 1W311 Building 1
Customers: University system
Services: Video recording, videoconferencing, media duplication, Web video distribution, 3-D modeling and animation, and comprehensive production of press releases and training videos
Contact: John O'Brien, Washington: 240-228-6795, Baltimore: 443-778-6795,

Johns Hopkins Medical Video and Multimedia
Location: East Baltimore campus, 65 Turner Building
Customers: University system
Services: Video recording, digital video compression, tape duplication, videoconferencing, 3-D animation and eLearning design
Contact: Dale Levitz, 410-955-3562,

Multimedia Department
Location: School of Public Health, East Baltimore campus, W2508 Wolfe Street Building
Customers: School of Public Health only
Services: Video recording, audio recording and videoconferencing
Contact: Mark Grutkowski, 410-502-0409,


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