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Television Production Systems, Part 1

Aug 10, 2010 12:00 PM

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Editor's note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes Timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the Timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Public Access Television has been around for a good while—getting by on low budgets and sometimes shaky gear—but at Brookline Access TV, they're doing it like the big guys. Executive Director Peter Zawadzki is here to tell us how he's using virtual sets, HD cameras, and Broadcast Pix Slate 5000 production systems to put his community on the air waves.

Peter, thanks for being with me here on the SVC podcast. It's great to have you here from Brookline Access Television. Now, I know public access television has gotten a little bit of a bad rap—you some times have situations where you have shaky gear and maybe people who may not have a lot of production experience in the business, but that doesn't appear to be the case at Brookline Access Television. Tell me a little bit about that operation and what's your program line-up like?
Peter Zawadzki:
Well, public access really has gotten a bad rap over the years and unfortunately its part of access; there's access centers that are top-notch production facilities that put out quality programming that can compete with any major network affiliate or PBS station. There's also other access centers that do produce regular old access programming where Joe Schmo comes off the street and does productions. We're on the higher end of that; we just built another brand new facility. And we actually went about it in a different way. We looked at public access not where, "Where have we been?" or "What we are," but "Where can we be and what can we do?" And our space is really designed with that in thought. We have a total of 50 edit stations so we do workshops and trainings in a variety of software—not only video-related but also basic computer training on graphic design, website design. We have two full HD studios. When we're broadcasting HD, we want to have that available to our higher-end producers. And we do a variety of different things. We have a viewing room, a 25-person seat theater, so we really look at ourselves as more of a technology and community center more than just as an access center. Access is our bread and butter—it's what we do—but we also look at it as a small portion, more of a department of us than anything else. [Timestamp: 2:44]

When did you get into that facility that you're in now? And what does it have equipment-wise? It looks pretty fancy to me.
Well, we actually started construction last of June—June 2009, we wrapped up. We had to do construction in two phases because we are in a school building. We took over one entire top floor—10,000 square feet—so we had to do it in phases. The first phase was done over the summer, and we wrapped up in the beginning of September. Phase one has two large computer labs. Each lab has 17 workstations; each work station has [Adobe] CS4, now CS5, [Apple] Final Cut Studio, Blender, Audacity, and a wide variety of different software applications that we use in our own day-to-day operations as well as applications that people request and want to be trained on. Just recently, we installed [Google] SketchUp. We have a group of teenagers coming in and learning how to use SketchUp to help them design a community teen center, so that's really nice. And then in the education wing we also have an educational studio which has a Broadcast Pix 5000 switcher, we are using Sony [PMW-]EX3 cameras, and we have XDCAM EX record decks, a Yamaha audio board that's integrated with a Broadcast Pix switcher—which is really nice. It allows one technical director to actually handle the audio if need be, because in a lot of access productions you don't have a full crew, and when we do have a full crew we can eliminate those macros and run it as just a regular control room, which is nice. And then we have our studio and a set storage. The second phase was completed towards the end of November, and that's the rest of our space: an individual edit switch with all our Mac Final Cut Pro workstations, a second studio and a second control room, which are carbon copies of each other—which is nice, so when somebody gets trained on one they don't have to get re-trained on the other. We have our viewing room, conference rooms, We also have a large audio/video system throughout our whole space; we have a total of 14 or 15 LCD displays which are all tied into one central Extron control system, so pretty high-end for an access center. [Timestamp: 4:59]

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Why did you go with the Broadcast Pix Slate 5000 switchers?
The Broadcast Pix made the most sense to us. Number one, from a price point, in public access—even though we did have a large amount of funds available to us for the build-out—in public access, we are nonprofit, and we have to spend wisely. We have to look at what works well within our budget and what will our users be able to use the most, and the 5000 worked out well. In the price point, it was perfect. It's expandable if we ever needed to add more inputs down the road, but at the same time it has the CG built into it. It has the clipstore built into it so instead of having to go out and buy a switcher and then add-on all these components, all the components were built-in. It was a great price point, it was an easy installation and configuration, and is very user friendly for—especially the kids coming in who grew up with computers and everything else; it's just another application for them to use and they pick it up very easily. [Timestamp: 6:02]

Yeah, I made a point about how this was a step up. What was your former facility like?
Oh, goodness. Unfortunately, Brookline Access had gone through several years of downtime. What ended up happening is we were located in a building that was owned by Comcast, and they were moved into a municipal building as a temporary space. That temporary space became almost four years. They were operating out of three old classrooms—no real dedicated spaces, just makeshift cubicles, a makeshift studio—and unfortunately it hurt the organization. And we then had the opportunity to relocate somewhere where we were more central to the town, we were able to involve the youth more, being in the high school. And also with the money that we had, we were able to really build an access center that we hope will become a model across the nation for what access really can become, and that's a community information and technology training facility. [Timestamp: 7:02]

It sounds like you're well on your way to that. Now, you've got two big HD studios, fairly large. How big are those?
Each studio is—I think it's about 20'x40', if not a little bit larger. I don't have the dimensions in front of me, but they're fairly large. And what's also nice about them is we have separate set storage and we're not occupying room in our studios for that. We have a standard 4x4 grid up with power distribution, and all of our light fixtures are DMX-controllable. We have a DMX control panel in the studio and also wall-mounted in the studio. [Timestamp: 7:36]

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