A PEG TV Setup, Part 1

They’re PEG stations—public access, education, and government programming that’s all local all the time. 1/02/2014 5:58 AM Eastern

A PEG TV Setup, Part 1

Jan 2, 2014 10:58 AM, With Bennett Liles

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They’re PEG stations—public access, education, and government programming that’s all local all the time. Bea Coulter and Jason Tait are with us today to talk about local programming, their new LED lighting upgrade, and training their staff on the new TV production gear. That’s coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Bea Coulter and Jason Tait from Portland Community Media it’s great of you to join us for the SVC Podcast. And it’s always nice to talk to people at PEG TV stations with public access, education, and government programming because in this era of conglomerate media and one company owning hundreds of broadcast stations and centrally controlled programming, you guys kind of go retro to that trend and take it super local. But fill us in on the specifics, Bea. What do you do at Portland Community Media?

Bea: Well, we’re a nonprofit, community media center, as you said. We cover local government meetings, we have fee-for-service production, we program six channels on the Comcast cable system in Portland. We teach technology, we manage public access, and we work with youth and nonprofits and individuals to make the most of the exceptional access that we have in our service area. We’ve got really exceptional funding and access to community media. Our activities include the gamut of production topics from long, boring meetings to music festivals, and we do lots of live programming from our studios. We use paid production staff and volunteers. [Timestamp: 1:55]

And that’s an interesting mix of paid staff and volunteers that you’re recruiting to sort of fill the holes in the production spots?

Bea: Yeah. So actually, Jason Tait is our multimedia services director and he manages all of our paid staff – production staff.

Jason: The use of volunteers with paid staff, it really generally depends on the scope of the project. If we have a client that can’t afford a full, paid staff, then we supplement volunteers as much as we can. We’re able to teach the volunteers more skills than they would not normally get through some of the basic classes that we offer, and it also cultivates the next series of paid staff. So we’ve got quite a few folks that are actually paid staff now that started off as a volunteer. [Timestamp: 2:41]

That’s the way it typically goes and that’s a great opportunity for them to get a start in TV production. I know that you’ve had a steady migration toward HD as some of the other PEG stations have as resources are available. How long has the migration to HD been going on there?

Bea: We started with our field camera and editing equipment in 2009, but we really started full force in 2011 with our production truck upgrade, which was kind of our learning experience project. And then since then we’ve upgraded our City Hall production facility to HD. We’ve upgraded both of our studios. We’ve built an additional level system, and we’ve upgraded our studio lighting to LED. And this year we finished the upgrade process with a rebuild of our master control. [Timestamp: 3:29]

I know the lighting system was a huge upgrade. No small task on that part of it. What was the situation on the lighting system you had before, which I guess you had to tear out completely?

Bea: Yeah. We had incandescent lighting in our studios, and so we just decided to make the leap all the way to LED. We actually had 2K’s in our studio from the NBC Burbank facility, so these are lighting instruments that were probably 50 years old hanging on our light grids. [Timestamp: 3:56]

A PEG TV Setup, Part 1

Jan 2, 2014 10:58 AM, With Bennett Liles

That was originally some very expensive gear and tough to have to take it all out but there was obviously some serious energy savings in going with the LED lighting. Was that the main reason you went with LED or was it just modernizing and making it easier to work with?

Bea: It was both of those things. Energy savings was a large part of the project. We knew we had to transition, but we really focused on the energy savings during this – as part of this project. We are now, we’re saving on the cost of energy to run the fixtures, on our air conditioning, and we also receive an incentive from the Energy Trust of Oregon, which helped to offset the project costs. [Timestamp: 4:35]

And I believe you called in Advanced Broadcast Solutions for the installation?

Bea: That’s right.

And why did you decide to go with ABS? Had they worked with you before?

Bea: They had worked with us on our City Hall upgrade project and we were happy with them. We were very happy with ABS, and so I connected with Shawn Sennett there and we talked about it. I mentioned to him the project through the Energy Trust and he was very interested in that, and so he worked with me to make that happen. [Timestamp: 5:03]

Jason, how long did the whole lighting system upgrade take? I know it was a pretty involved process to wedge into your schedule.

Jason: The actual time that we were out was maybe a week and a half, two weeks. We had two weeks blocked out, but it was probably done in a week and a half. We actually had training scheduled into that project as well.

Okay, give us a rundown on the lighting gear that came in. What lighting controller did you get and how is the whole system connected?

Jason: It’s a DMX system, and we’re using a SmartFade control panel. We have two studios. One is larger than the other, and we actually had originally spec’d out a smaller control panel for Studio B. We found that once we got it in here the larger model, which is a 2496 model, actually was a better one to have. Flexibility – in case anything goes wrong we can swap those things out, but it’s all a DMX system. We’re running various lights and light fixtures, De Sisti, Elation and Selecon. Forgive my accent; that’s how I read it. That’s how I pronounce those brands. But the De Sistis were the Fresnel replacements, the Elations were kind of the scoop replacement. They’re more of a one by one flat panel, but it has the ability to do daylight and tungsten. It’s just got a bunch more bulbs – half of them are daylight and half are tungsten – so folks can pick their color. The Selecon stuff is just for the backgrounds. We have quite a few elements there just shining light onto the background that folks are actually using for green screen. [Timestamp: 6:37]

You had a new lighting system and probably some new people coming in all the time so what was it like to get volunteer production people and the new system to work together?

Jason: Well, we had two sets of trainings from the installer – the Integrated Lighting Systems guy. He’s the one that actually designed the light sets. We need to have a certain amount of lights that folks cannot move, so we went about with the lighting design, three or four scenarios that get most often, and we labeled those lights “Do not touch/do not move,” because they were key lights, fill lights, background lights that were all set specifically for a type of set. This helps big time in set up, as in folks can just come in and turn up a preset light setting and they’re off and running. Now if they want to add lights and be a little bit more high maintenance, then we have more lights for them to move and adjust. But the initial training wasn’t so bad, I think mainly because they were presets. We just, ‘Here is your set. It’s on Slider 1. That’s all you need to worry about. You don’t have to spend three hours moving lights around.’ So it led to more consistent use of the studio. [Timestamp: 7:48]

Was there a special reason or sort of a feature set involved with the selection of the De Sisti LED Fresnels or was that just part of a package?

Jason: They sold us on it. We actually looked at a few other brand names, but for the type of light and the type of light it was replacing, for folks who are used to the old Fresnels, the look of the Fresnel was no different.

Bea: It was very familiar for our community producers. They’re not professional video people, and so they don’t have a lot of experience with the technology and rolling with the changes. So having something that was familiar to them was helpful. And the other part of it was that when we demoed that light and it was a beautiful light.

Jason: In the eventuality that the thing wears out – because we hope we’re gonna have it until it wears out – the replacement or to fix it was minimal. I mean essentially there’s a Fresnel with converted guts inside it. [Timestamp: 8:39]

And with the LED light fixtures, the mechanics are probably going to wear out before the lamps go bad so you’re probably pretty well fixed on those for a good while now.

Bea: That’s right. It’s another one of those cost savings.

Alright, it’s nice of you both to give us the details on the lighting upgrade and what’s going on at Portland Community Media. Bea Coulter and Jason Tait, thanks for being with us for part one, and in part two we’ll talk about your remote setups, the camera upgrades and how the Energy Trust of Oregon helped with all of this. We’ll see you then.

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