Face to Face: Imagine, believe, achieve—the making of a broadcast studio

by Alison Freeland
Spring/Summer 2020


Unusual times can inspire unusual solutions. Joseph Azar, manager of AUB’s audio, video, and multimedia production, is especially skilled at devising them. In the spring, when the university was closed, experts from AUBMC had information about COVID-19 to help the public, and the daily newspaper An-Nahar was ready to get the information out in Arabic. All they needed was a way to do it. That’s when Azar created a broadcast studio out of nowhere on a budget of nothing. Fortunately, he had worked on the details in his mind for years, just waiting for the right time.

“They said we needed a camera, a way to livestream, and a place to interview one or two people who could stay socially distanced,” Azar explains. “I thought, why not three cameras? I knew we had them on campus; why not put them to work? We didn’t have lighting, so we looked for a room with good ceiling lights. We had two mics and borrowed a third. We had a livestreaming machine and created a way to record using something that wasn’t really a recorder. We used an existing TV, dismantled the Communications Conference Room, and launched our COVID-19 Studio within a few days.”

The makeshift environment was not exactly perfect, as summarized by Azar in one post-production message: “Microphone failure three minutes before we started, power failure at the beginning, recorder failure, replaced failed microphone, laptop failure, got sanitizer in my eyes and could not see properly, but that was one nice episode.”

The AUB campus has been home for as long as Azar can remember. His grandmother worked in the laundry department, his mother worked in radiotherapy for four decades, and his sister still works in IT. “During the war, I slept in the hospital basement with my mom. I studied on campus and worked here even when I was a student. It’s been a family to me,” he says.

Since 1997 Azar has worked in IT, starting at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Over time he developed a core belief that the A/V team needed to provide solutions that anyone can operate, but that can also be adjusted for those who want to go deeper. And he’s still dreaming: “Audio and video are the image and sound of AUB. Why not have internet radio and internet TV, video ads on demand, ways to support online learning, podcasts, and more?” He even quotes a mission for the permanent studio that doesn’t yet exist: “AUB Broadcast Studio is a full production unit to create high quality audio, video, and animations for education, social media, YouTube, and TV.” We know that things happen when preparation meets opportunity. Azar has worked it out in his mind so that when the time comes, he’ll be ready.