A digital leap: BCTV upgrades cables and equipment

Wednesday November 14, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- There is one quiet corner left in the Brattleboro Community Television studios.

Over in the space where interviews are held or musicians typically perform there is a single chair and table positioned in the space where the BCTV hopes to build out its modern studio.

BCTV staff members are in the final steps toward deciding how they want their studio to look and in the coming weeks they hope to finalize their plans to renovate and design the space and add new lighting.

Once the new lighting and stage set is installed BCTV will have completely updated and modernized its studios at the Brattleboro Municipal Center.

Over the past year, BCTV staff members and volunteers undertook one of the most widespread renovations in the studio's space since moving to the municipal building in 1986.

An outdated cable system was ripped out of the walls throughout the municipal center and the station invested about $20,000 in new cables and solder work to make the system more compatible to today's high-definition equipment.

Throughout the studios, new computers and high-definition equipment were installed, giving producers more options when putting together their shows.

And with membership up 16 percent, and the number of trained producers increasing by almost 50 percent over the past year, BCTV Executive Director Cor Trowbridge said the station is poised to meet an increased demand for locally produced television programs.

During this time, the number of hours of locally produced shows has jumped by 15 percent, and about 25 hours of locally produced shows air over BCTV every week.

"As more and more of our in-house stuff was moving to high definition we were noticing more quality issues," Trowbridge said. "We were waiting for the equipment to switch over, and it seems like it has, so we decided it was time to upgrade the cables."

The cable work that was primarily done by volunteers will allow BCTV to send out a clearer signal and also will allow the station to grow as more high definition technology comes into play in the coming years.

The volunteers crawled into and out of every corner at the Municipal Center and took out the outdated cables.

BCTV hired a specialist to solder the connections, ensuring that the station's signal was robust, and would hold up to the expected increase in high definition use.

After the cable work was done, the volunteers took on the rest of the studios. They painted the walls, including a green screen to improve digital background images, and purchased a news desk for the stations popular show, "5:45 Live."

Equipment that dated back to the 1970s was taken out and the whole studio now has a cleaner and more modern feel to it.

"We are trying to stay as far ahead of the technology as we can," said Trowbridge. "We are trying to make decisions now so we are ready to make changes when they become available."

At the same time there is a brand new computer interface that allows producers to move between cameras and splice in pre-recorded videos and sound clips.

The technology is still advancing, but BCTV Production Manager Roland Boyden says the day is coming when someone will be able to film something on a smart phone and then stream it live back to the studio, where producers can transmit through cable, over the station's web page, or even directly to YouTube and other active social media sites.

Internally as well, Trowbridge said, BCTV saw big changes in 2012.

The station broadened its reach into the towns served by Southern VT Cable and the station now films selectboard meetings in Putney, Dummerston, Newfane, Townshend, Jamaica, Guilford and Vernon.

And the station also extended its membership benefits to organizations and more nonprofits and state agencies are using the equipment and studios to produce programs.

One of the last big decisions left to make is what to do with the studio.

Trowbridge says that while it is not as expensive or technically important as the cable and equipment purchases made over the past year, the staff is moving deliberately as it decides what viewers will look at when they are watching studio-produced shows in the future.

In the coming months the station hopes to make changes to its website as more and more viewers are using the Internet to get their content.

"As an organization we are making a commitment to being on top of all of this," Trowbridge said. "Every year more people are getting involved and so far we are getting good comments on the changes we are making. We are using the technology to amplify the voices of our community. Whatever we do, we want to do it right. We feel like we're in a good position now to meet whatever changes might come along."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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