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Broadcast Solution for Public Access TV, Part 2

Jun 28, 2011 12:14 PM, with Bennett Liles

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Yeah the graphics gear is fairly easy to demo so you know what you're getting and the people who pay for it can pretty much see what they're paying for but with PEG stations and commercial outfits one of the things that seems to be the hardest sales for higher ups is the lighting gear. So what are you doing with the lighting there?
Well lighting, we're still mostly on stuff that we've had for years and years and years and years. We've got Strand Instruments in Studio A…Nomally 45x55 and there's a support pole in one corner of the studio that limits it's use a little but…78 lighting instruments in that facility—34 of them are Fernell's, so it's a 2:3 ratio for 1,000 and 500 watters. We've got a number of psych lights around the outer edge those are in pretty bad shape and really should be replaced they're just…parts aren't available for them anymore and if you're doing something like a cyclorama light LED lighting would just be almost perfect in this day and age for just being able to put out those really brilliant colors and almost infinite mixes and low maintenance and then some Weiko's and soft boxes. We're kind of on a theater lighting system so it might be a little different than other studio lights and in Studio B is the run and gun studio. You go in, you hit one button, the lights come up to a certain level and you just go with that—there's really no lighting to be done in there per say unless a bulb needs to be changed. [Timestamp: 9:3]

Yeah I guess with most of the studio stuff that you do you really don't have to get real fancy with the lighting changes as long as you have the good basic setup that makes fairly static formats look professional.
Yeah and there are occasionally people that come in and want to do lighting effects and do more specialized stuff but a lot of people that come in are just…they're happy to have a decent image and happy to have a decent light on so we don't attempt to do anything fancy. It's mostly standard—3.0 light and then take a look at your image and see if you need to adjust. [Timestamp: 10:01]

So now that you've got those new JVC cameras have you had any surprises in training people? But actually you don't have to train people a whole lot in using those do you?
Well we did…we had a lot of training course because it was a big deal for people to go up but the primary thing is really just how to handle the camera and the ways it's different from previous cameras and I have to tell you what the big surprise really is…has been for me. The cameras came in…starting coming in, in different components in March of 2010 and then we started running certification classes for people that were already members and already certified during the summer. The cameras were…packages were all put together and finally released to people in October and in January they really switched the training classes over so if you come here you signed up, you take a training class. You no longer use the mini DV cameras, the DV 500's from JVC. You using…now using the HM 700's and we're required to write a quarterly report and I report on studio usage and hours and kind of off the cuff I wanted to see how the…how the cameras were doing because I don't really report on field gear and I was just blown away. I mean the other types that we have in house have almost dropped to nothing and almost all usage is really going to the JVC's. That's a big turnaround in a couple of months for really how people are using them. We had a schedule that we were going to follow about taking the mini DV cameras, rolling them out over a period of time because everybody was all freaked about not being able to get to them. Why I think they had, over the first twelve weeks of the year, they had maybe 12-15 uses among the five still remaining cameras and we were over 100 for the JVC's. It was just really an amazing occurrence to me. [Timestamp: 11:46]

Yeah how you going to keep them down on the farm once they've seen the new ProHD outfits?
Yeah I guess so and you know, some people have complained about the price of the cards because they are more expensive than just standard DVC pro tape or…and especially for mini DV tape but one of the facilitators told me the other day, he said, "I've had people come in and they're starting to recognize that the cards are reusable." So you buy whatever you need. You get maybe a spare to take with you out in the field. If you're really cautious you get a second in case there's problem and then you're good to go. The JVC system from that aspect has really been dynamite for us. [Timestamp: 12:23]

So what do you think you're going to be doing as far as upgrading next? What's the next big thing you're planning to go to the county for?
The next thing would be Studio B. County does give us money, they pretty much own a lot of the equipment on site, to purchase equipment and we've gone to them and said, "We want to do Studio B up to HD," and they're good with that so that's the next step—how much money we get. How much we can provide from internally. We'll see. The big worry for me moving forward with HD has really been how to record it in the studio because for us there really hasn't been a good way to record tapeless content which is what you're going to do when you move to HD. And in terms of access station, we're a little different than most other organizations would be. Most other organizations simply put in a file server and that works great for them but for us because of the amount of people we deal with the physical media is really always the best way for us to go. So a producer comes in, they stick their tapes or whatever they have in some type of recording medium, they do their show, they take their stuff out, they leave, we lock the door and turn off the light behind them and we're done. We don't have to manage their content. We don't have to deal with doing maintenance on a server. We don't have to do the electricity on it. We just…when you leave, you take your stuff with you and go and that's really been the primary worry for me. A couple of weeks ago I found out that Black Magic has now produced a deck that's supposed to be released in the next few weeks that will meet that need. It runs on SSD hard drives, solid steady drives, which are still fairly expensive but the deck looks pretty good as a primary replacement for the kind of VTR's that we use now. We also go the ISO boxes which would kind of fit that bill but aren't probably as user friendly for us as we would want to see and once I saw the Black Magic a lot of pressure went off of me because I know now people are actually coming out with systems that will fill the bill for us. So…we were thinking before, "OK we can do the ausces or we can put Macks in and set them up with Final Cut Pro and then Ascia box and then do the recording that way," but that's way over kill from my prospective so other than that it's really just money. I mean everything is out there that we would need to purchase at this point and at decent price points. We use Hitachi D-series cameras in the studio. The HD versions are almost down to the price point that we paid several years ago for just SD cameras. We've got the switcher in place, we need to upgrade our routing system and we're going to have to deal with monitoring one way or another. Right now monitor wall, particularly for us, probably is the best way to go but you can always just go back to individual monitors if necessary. Somebody walked in the door and said, "Here's a couple of million dollars, go to town," we could flip the studios probably within a year both to HD and just be an entire HD platform. [Timestamp: 15:25]

Well that's always the big trick. It's figuring out not only what you need now but how well it's going to hold up until the next time you have to go the county and say, "This is what we need the most right now," and I wish you good luck with that. I love PEG stations and what you do and what you do and it's always a challenge keeping it up and running—loved having you here. Pat Thorpe with Montgomery Community Media and you guys keep up the good work.

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