PEG Station Broadcasts with Broadcast Pix, Part 1
Sep 5, 2013 11:08 AM, With Bennett Liles
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They’re called PEG stations; public access, education, and government television at the local level and connecting the community through cable TV and the Internet. At Belmont Media Center in Massachusetts, they’re doing it with Broadcast Pix production gear and Executive Director Jeff Hansell is here to give us the story coming right up on the SVC Podcast.
SVC: Jeff, welcome to the SVC Podcast from the Belmont Media Center, a PEG station in Belmont, Mass. I always like to promote PEG stations because of the great work they do, that is, public, education and government TV stations that go ultra-local and tune the community into a lot of different things. So tell me about the Belmont Media Center. What’s been going on there and what type of programming do you get into?
Jeff Hansell: Thank you very much for having me on your podcast. I appreciate it. Belmont Media Center is a fairly small community media center, but very active and somewhat new. We’ve just built out a new studio in a corner of town and we are solely in transition into a high-definition facility, and are actually, this summer, making the final steps to making it all HD production and then transmission as well. But we’ve been doing that very carefully and very slowly so that it’s done in a way we can sort of manage, you know? But we do lots of different programs—a lot of government access programming, a lot of coverage of community events and meetings. There’s a large group of folks here who like to keep track of what’s going on around town. Since we started actually documenting more meetings a few years ago, I mean it’s funny. The first meeting that we documented and put online, the very next day when somebody called they said, “Oh that’s great. I didn’t know you guys were doing that.” I said, “Yeah, well we just started it.” He said, “When’s the meeting from last night going to be up?” I said, “Well we just did start it, so give us a few minutes.” But it’s amazing how much people use online video paired with cable television to keep track of what’s going on and how often they watch our station, so I’m always amazed at that. It’s a somewhat tight community in that regard, but we also do a lot of work with the schools as well. We’re producing a lot of educational programs in conjunction with the schools, with teachers, with specific classes, and then of course there’s a growing number of just individuals and organizations that are producing programs here. We do a great science show that is called Public Science or Science for the Public where the aim of the show really is to raise science literacy in the adult population. So what she does is presents scientists from around the area to explain concepts and discoveries, developments, in a way that lay people can understand. So it’s a fascinating program. That’s a sample of what we’re doing. [Timestamp: 3:26]
And that, in some cases, is programming that you can’t get anywhere else, especially the more locally oriented it gets.
That’s right, and we’re always focused on making it as professional as we can, but keeping in mind that a lot of people are here because they want to produce programs their way. You have to honor that, but at the same time try to encourage them and teach them to use the tools of media to tell a better story. What’s empowering about it is, especially for example the science program, is they’re actually taking mass media and saying, “We’re going to tell you the story that you’re not hearing about.” So that’s pretty powerful. [Timestamp: 4:04]
Now what have you got in your present control room? What are you using there? I read that you have a Broadcast Pix Slate 1000 system.
Yeah. When we built out the studio we started out with Broadcast Pix and built everything around that, and then recently we had a remote, called a remote portable studio, built around a Broadcast Pix Mica unit that we take out in the field quite a bit for sports and increasingly for lots of different events. [Timestamp: 4:30]
And if your station is like a lot of other PEG stations, the local sports coverage really gets a lot of viewers and sort of puts your station on the map.
I think you have a picture on your website showing the Mica system all packed up and ready to go.
That’s right, yeah. I mean Broadcast Pix has been great in terms of backing up the engineering, and then the vendor that we work with—the camera company—they’ve also done some great engineering work and have given us systems that, especially our sports package, where the remote package that they built out for us was really a turnkey project and we just turned it on and started using it, so that’s always great especially when most of the people who are using it are not that tech savvy and are learning how to use equipment like that. [Timestamp: 5:14]
Well, I would think that they probably learn on it pretty fast and after a month or so they’re old hands and teaching others. People tend to move up through the ranks pretty fast in PEG stations and small market commercial TV stations. Is it mainly sports that you do out on remotes?
That was the intention of this unit, that we would have multi-camera and do it all in high definition because sports looks obviously a lot better as high-definition video. So that’s mainly what it does, but as we’ve used it now we’ve found that there’s a lot more uses for it than we would have guessed, and so we’re documenting school concerts with it, community events—a good deal of community events—and pretty much anything where we have to go out in the field. Because it’s fairly easy to set up, we’re finding more uses for it, let’s put it that way. [Timestamp: 6:02]
Yeah, and in sports coverage things move pretty fast and the coverage has to move at the speed of the event. Now what kinds of features does the Broadcast Pix Mica 500 have that work well for your sports coverage?
Well, you have the rapid CG where we can update scores and onscreen graphics in realtime, so that’s a great one. I think obviously some of the macros that you can build for sports have been useful, and really just the way you can build graphics in the Inscriber and set them up for whatever sport you’re doing. We do also a regular sports program in the studio and use a lot of those features for that program as well. But the rapid CG is great. We find that to be really useful. [Timestamp: 6:47]
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