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Access Station Fosters Community Foot Traffic

Brookline Access Television is making the best of its new facility

Founded in 1984, Brookline Access Television is one of the oldest independent nonprofit public access stations in Massachusetts. In 2003, Comcast had forced BATV from its long-term lease in Armory Square. After almost seven years of operating out of a 2,000-square-foot “temporary” facility, the three-channel BATV finally settled into its new $1.9 million, 10,000-square-foot production facility on the top floor of Brookline High School’s unified arts building.

Photo by Erica Casale by Nancy Caronia

The new facility, built without tax dollars but with a $600,000 settlement from Comcast and cable contract funds with RCN and Comcast, is, according to BATV’s executive director Peter Zawadzki, cuttingedge and “one of the most technologically advanced community multimedia centers in the country” and will foster an “outside-the-box” mentality regarding public access TV.

Negotiations with Brookline High School were extensive since BATV wanted a large space that could accommodate both the public access station and the high school multimedia program. Once the details were ironed out and an agreement was reached, construction, which included demolition and building the education wing, began last summer. Work on the office space, including the lounge area, the bathrooms, and the theater, was completed this March.

The BATV facility includes two HD production studios that can hold up to 66 audience members, a 25-seat theater, and two classrooms and a conference room for smaller group meetings and classroom instruction. During the school day, the high school uses one of the production studios to teach digital photography, animation, 3D animation, digital video, studio production, and graphic design. A business class is even taught in one of the computer labs since each has 16 terminals. In the evenings, BATV uses both of its new production studios and teaches workshops for adults and young people, including production, Mac Basic, animation and website design.

“We are a hybrid facility,” said Zawadski. “We are an access local station and a community multimedia training facility. We cover the standard community events, including local plays, government meetings, but we also do a lot of original programming in our studios. At the same time, any events that are held in the facility become a program. We have live MTV unplugged-type music shows where we’ll have 40 people in the audience.”

The production studios’ control rooms each have a Broadcast Pix Slate 5000 live production system that includes Fluent workflow tools such as Harris’s Inscriber CG and virtual backgrounds are accessed through the Slate 5000’s built-in chromakey. TBC Consoles created custom consoles for the production studios.

Photo by Erica Casale There are Yamaha 01V96 digital audio mixers and a 52-inch Sony LCD monitor in each control room and Sony PMW-EX3 cameras, including a robotic camera, and Kino Flo lighting instruments in the studios. Everything is controlled through the Slate 5000s, including robotic cameras placed in the high school auditorium, which holds government meetings.

There are 45 Apple Final Cut Pro edit stations, including 16 in each of the two computer learning labs. These edit stations are connected to EditShare’s 40 TB shared storage server system. The Slate 5000’s Fluent Watch-Folders allows content to be sent over a TCP/IP network from edit stations to the Slate for immediate access.

With seven full-time staff members, “every one has his or her own role, but every single person is responsible for taking over someone else’s job once a month,” stated Zawadzki. Zawadzki and his staff handled the broadcast equipment integration in-house and HB Communications did the AV integration in the classrooms and other areas within the building.

There are no membership fees to become a BATV member and the station relies on volunteers to produce its community driven and member produced programming. Zawadzki said volunteering should not involve a lot of red tape.

“Our motto is, ‘foot traffic, foot traffic, foot traffic.’ Brookline is a unique community that has a lot of passion,” he said. “We encourage people to come in and see what we’re doing here. The high school sports team uses the theater to watch their game footage. Once they’ve seen the space, they become interested. When we do music programs or community events, the more people come in to see the space, the more volunteers we’ll have.”

BATV produces all of its programming in HD even though Comcast and RCN broadcast in SD. Many viewers watch BATV’s programming online and BATV will launch HD video on the Web later this year, according to Zawadzki. “We update our members and community feed via Twitter and every single one of our programs are archived and available for streaming for up to two years.”