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Television Production Systems, Part 2

At Brookline Access TV, public-access television has moved into the 21st century with macro driven switching, modern lighting systems, and digital mixers

Television Production Systems, Part 2

Aug 24, 2010 12:00 PM

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Part 1


Part 2

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.

At Brookline Access TV, public-access television has moved into the 21st century with macro driven switching, modern lighting systems, and digital mixers. Executive Director Peter Zawadzki takes us through the new BA TV facility including its Broadcast Pix Slate 5000 productions systems.

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OK Peter, in part one we were talking about the production studio and the Slate 5000 switchers that you’re using at BA TV, and we didn’t get into the graphics, how do you all the graphics. You’re obviously going to be graphics heavy on some things, like maybe election returns and so forth. How do you do all that?
Peter Zawadzki:
Oh goodness, graphics are the one part where we do a little bit of everything. It all depends on what level producers are coming in at or the level of the show. I mean, we have people that come in off the street that want to do a show, really don’t want to be involved that much in the production. They just want to be able to sit in front of the camera, say what they have to say, and that’s the extent of their involvement. Most access centers would turn somebody away like that; we cater to everybody. So when somebody comes in off the street and wants to do a simple program, one of our staff takes over, creates some simple graphics, and we actually use the built-in Inscriber with the Broadcast Pix to just design some simple graphics, which works out really well. If somebody comes in and they want to be really involved and they want to have cleaner, crisper graphics, what they end up doing is they go into [Adobe] Photoshop or Illustrator, create a very clean and unique lower-third and any other show branding. Then what we do is we always tell them, “Create the templates, do all that in Photoshop or Illustrator and then bring it over into Inscriber to actually type in your titles and everything else … and that way you can edit it on the fly.” So if there’s a name change or you have a new guest, you don’t have to keep on going back and editing your Photoshop files; you can just go into Inscriber, change the title, change the person’s name, and you’re good to go. At the same time, we also use digital lower-thirds, and we bring them in as animations. But at the same time, we try to avoid creating animated lower-thirds with titles on them because of the problem of if something does happen—if there’s a spelling mistake or last-minute, I guess, changes—we can, instead of having to go back and go into [Apple] Final Cut and edit it and change it and export it out, we do everything in two layers. Layer one is going to be our animated lower-third, and then layer two is our CG layer done in Inscriber that sits over the animated lower-third. [Timestamp: 3:11]

OK and your graphics, obviously, that’s one place where you can either save or lose a lot of time by just the way you set it up ahead of time, having all your dominos lined up in the right direction.
Correct. What we end up doing is we try to use Inscriber as much as we can for simple graphics and/or working with premade templates that we’ve done, but always try to use it as our actual text layer so titles and everything else go and are created in Inscriber. If you want to go above and beyond that, then we bring in the animated lower-thirds or Photoshop files to work as the background key behind it. [Timestamp: 3:45]

And you’ve got macros on the Slate 5000. you do of lot of stuff with those?
We do. It depends on, again, it depends on the show. We’ve designed macros to work with some of our chroma key so we can actually automatically—if we have a chroma key show that has multiple backgrounds before each different camera, what we end up doing is saving those into macros and we launch the macro, which will then automatically bring over the proper camera with the proper background. We’ve also designed some macros to automatically initiate the beginnings of shows. So it’s cleaned things up, especially for the beginner-level type of programming, so if somebody wants to come in and do a show and they’re not that familiar with the Broadcast Pix system, we have a couple pre-done macros in memories to help them along the way. If they’re going to be doing a show which is all chroma key, there’s a memory for chroma key, they hit that memory, and it configures everything so chroma key is active on all three of the cameras. It’s automatically predefining backgrounds as they want so they don’t have to go in and waste the time in configuring every single input, turning on all the chroma key and everything else—which is fairly easy, but this just eliminates that out of the fold for a new user. [Timestamp: 5:07]

And tell me a little bit about your lighting. That’s one area, obviously, where you can really make a difference between looking old-style public access and looking like a real pro operation.
Yeah, we actually went with all-new fixtures. We are using fluorescent fixtures by Kino Flo lighting and it’s worked out well; we have a DMX on every single fixture so we try to spend a lot of time configuring our lighting. We’re also using some lighting from Color Kinetics to do washes on our sites and on our walls to give it a little bit of depth and color. So we’re working a lot with our lighting. We actually have couple lighting specialists been coming in and doing some workshops for not only our staff but also for our membership, and it’s definitely improved the quality of our lighting. [Timestamp: 5:55]

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Television Production Systems, Part 2

Aug 24, 2010 12:00 PM

I read some things about the Fluent Watch-folders feature on the switchers. How are you using that?
We’re using that for a lot of our live programming that we do during the day so if—we teach a couple of high school classes, and the high school kids do a show, and what ends up happening, they don’t always finish their projects when they’re due or the show has started. And then they’re doing tweaks and finishing up the little packages, and what they end up doing is, over the network, they just drop the file into the watch folder, and then it’s ready by a certain amount of time. It also teaches the kids the workflow of, “OK, this is an A package, a B package, a C package. This needs to be done in this order, it needs to be dropped by this time.” Also it gives them a little bit of learning, a little bit of workflow. [Timestamp: 6:44]

And I noticed in a picture I saw there, I don’t know if that was you in the shot, but it showed your control room, or one of them, and I was curious as to who made your production consoles.
Actually, TBC Consoles; it’s a great console. It’s a very easy to use and the design actually was chosen by us—we designed it for our space, it fits perfectly where we want it to go. And again, it’s designed in the way of one person can sit there as the technical director and handle all aspects of the control room—handle the record side, handle the playback side, handle the audio, the CCUs, everything else. But at the same time, it’s large enough where you can have multiple people sitting at the desk and then start breaking roles out to other people. [Timestamp: 7:31]

Yeah, that’s one of the areas where it’s probably the biggest payoff when you have the actual production person like yourself doing the installation.
Yeah. Now it’s definitely helped out. And it’s a lot of trial and error. Brookline is actually my third access center that I’ve built out, and you learn a lot of things along the way. [Timestamp: 7:50]

What are your future plans for video on the website up there?
Well, we currently—we’re one of the very few access centers that broadcast all of our programming online, and one of the very unique things we do is we archive all of our programming for two years on our website. We are planning on upgrading our online, on-demand content to HD by the end of this year. It all comes down to a bandwidth issue and being able to transcode all the video. The disadvantage of public access is what we broadcast out at. A lot of people say, “Oh well, its poor quality,” they don’t watch their public access. The shame is it’s not really poor quality when it’s produced and recorded in the studio or out in the field, the quality issue comes down to how the signal is delivered from the access center to the cable provider, and then by the cable provider out to people’s television. [Timestamp: 8:48]

So what we’re trying to do is really showcase our programming and the quality of our programming out on our website. And we’ve actually had a lot of positive feedback for people being able to view all of our programming online. [Timestamp: 9:00]

I guess it’s a challenge. You probably do most of the training of the volunteer crew people too.
Correct. We have a variety of workshops; we actually have some type of a workshop every single day of the week. [Timestamp: 9:11]

Where do you think public access is going? I mean, there are all kinds of opinions on that. Where do you think its heading?
I think it’s going to go the way of a community multimedia technology center. I think it’s the only way public access can really survive is adapting with the future. Public access had its heyday a while ago—back in the ’80s and early ’90s, when people were able to go to an access center, be able to use equipment that they didn’t have access to at home. When technology was very expensive. For example, people couldn’t afford VHS cameras at several thousand dollars at home, so they had the ability to go to their access center and be able to use that equipment, learn that equipment. And I think what ended up happening somewhere along the line is public access centers weren’t upgrading their equipment, and then the consumer market became better than what you could get at your public access center. So why would you go to your public access center and use an old 3/4in. deck when you have a VHS or a 8mm at home? So the problem is you really have to provide a service to the community and that service that we’re providing is state-of-the-art equipment, training—a place for people to go. We’re not only a public access center. Like I said earlier, we are a community multimedia technology center; we’re a venue. We do live music concerts out of our studios; we have documentary film screenings in our theaters; we have a gallery stage for local artists to display all of their gallery work; we’re a remote gallery for another museum. So we really try to encourage foot traffic in bringing any type of event into our space that is going to take use and make use of the space because if you’re not using the space, it’s not worth it. It’s going to become what a lot of people consider public access, which is this hole in the wall that nobody’s involved with, nobody really goes to. And it’s the job of every single access center to change that opinion and really become proactive in the community and change that idea of what public access is. [Timestamp: 11:33]

Yeah, if you provide meaningful content that they can’t find anywhere else, they’ll find you.

All right, Peter Zawadzki of Brookline Access Television in Brookline, Mass. It’s been great talking to you Peter. Good luck with the web video, and I hope everything works out for you there.
All right. Thank you.

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