MTSU’s XR Stage Plays Starring Role in Country Star Brantley Gilbert’s Latest Music Video

Jul 10, 2024 at 03:42 pm by WGNS News

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Country star Brantley Gilbert recently tapped into the cutting edge audiovisual technology at Middle Tennessee State University by shooting his latest music video on the College of Media and Entertainment’s extended reality, or XR, stage on campus.
Promoting his latest song, “Over When We’re Sober, ”and featuring rising singer-songwriter Ashley Cooke, Gilbert took advantage of the XR stage’s state-of-the-art AV capabilities that is primarily used by MTSU faculty and staff to train the next generation of AV professionals and creatives.
College of Media and Entertainment Dean Beverly Keel, who has previously worked closely with Big Machine Record Label, the label Gilbert is signed to, called the experience an “unforgettable day” and credited “the vision and generosity” of MTSU President Sidney McPhee and his administration in support of her college that now “boasts unparalleled technology that prepares students for multifaceted careers.”
“We are so honored that Big Machine chose MTSU as the location for Brantley Gilbert’s video with Ashley Cooke,” Keel said. “The College of Media and Entertainment is dedicated to educating our students on the latest technology, whether it is recording studios, video cameras, mobile television/streaming production equipment, digital animation or our $1 million XR stage.”
XR technology allows creators to produce work that looks like it was shot anywhere — real or imagined — through a series of LED screens and lighting technology that allows an actor or artist to be dropped into a variety of virtual worlds that can be changed at the push of a button. MTSU’s stage features 403 square feet of high resolution LED panels.
Gilbert’s music video with Cooke features a kaleidoscope of dynamic backgrounds throughout but uses lighting and shadows to focus primarily on the artists as they move around the XR stage. Released on June 21, the video is available below.
Mike Forbes, director of technical systems for the Department of Media Arts who has taught at MTSU for 13 years, played a huge role in getting an XR stage on campus as a student training laboratory as well as a potential draw to industry partners and collaborators like Big Machine. Forbes said the recent music video shoot came together in just a matter of days. 
“We started kicking around ideas about what was possible, what wasn’t possible and what would work. They (Gilbert’s team) came by and looked at the XR stage and were impressed with our facilities,” Forbes said. “Pretty much from there, everything moved very quickly. From the day we said, ‘Yes, we want to do this,’ to the moment they began shooting, it was only three or four days. This was not a monthlong planning thing.”
The shoot began around 8 a.m. on May 24 and wrapped around 7 p.m. that same day.
“We collaborated on backgrounds and resolution and camera types and lenses,” said Forbes. “We had around 20 to 25 people in the studio — from the artists, label management, Brantley’s security team, the director of photography, PA grips, and a Steadicam operator. It was a really great event. Inside and out, we were able to provide them everything.”
Forbes said it’s a “full circle moment” seeing the XR stage in use by campus and the community.
“We proposed the XR stage back in 2021, did the installation in 2022 and now in 2024, word gets around quickly in Nashville, and people are like, ‘Hey, can we come to you and do things like this?’ I love the full circle thing of it’s working like we designed it to do, and it’s not just something we’re doing on campus, but something we’re exposing to the world,” Forbes said.
“I love the fact that Nashville recognizes the technology we have available here at MTSU and that it’s a benefit to the community as a whole and the music industry, and I love that the music industry recognizes that and wants to work with us in those areas,” said Forbes, who can incorporate his experiences from such collaborations with artists and industry professionals into his student instruction.
After seeing the video for the first time, Forbes said, “I love the way they used the different color schemes depending on the mood of who was singing.”
About XR - XR, or extended reality, is a type of film and video production stage that uses high-resolution video screens as virtual backgrounds behind the actors and other foreground elements. The visual effect is further enhanced using Unreal Engine software, which causes the background to change appropriately as the camera moves, like in a video game.
MTSU’s Media Arts Department launched its XR Stage, one of the most advanced virtual production facilities at any university, in the fall of 2022. The state-of-the-art technology offers students a unique hands-on experience as they learn the latest techniques.
The XR stage is just one of the lab spaces and facilities available to Media Arts students. Learn more at
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