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Portland Community Media Provides SmartAccess for Youth

Administers six cable channels and provides free airtime for community member programs

Oregon-based Portland Community Media (PCM) has been a forerunner in community cable access for almost 30 years.

PCM crew member Russell Hill Today, the non-profit produces more than 700 hours of original programming and averages over 7,000 new video programs and 8,000 hours of producer services each year. It administers six cable channels that reach almost 1.5 million citizens in the greater Portland metro area, and provides free airtime for community member programs on its channels and streams programming on

by Nancy Caronia

Recently, PCM established the SmartAccess Multimedia and Training Center (SAMTC), which focuses on the multimedia needs of underserved and under-supported communities, and where PCM’s Portland Youth Media introduces 10-to-18-year-olds to the multi-layered aspects of multimedia.

To get cameras in those hands, PCM purchased 30 JVC GY-HM100 camcorders, which will serve in a variety of applications.

“A lot of our on-call folks and volunteers come from our training programs,” said Jason Tait, PCM multimedia services manager. “We teach them on the equipment we use.”

The PCM-owned facilities have two fully equipped production studios. The 40-by-50-foot Studio A has five JVC GYHD250s and the 22-by-26-foot Studio B has three. Each studio has Echolab switchers, Vinten tripods and Autoscript Teleprompters. Studio A also has a 12-foot Jimmy Jib arm.

There are Sony monitors for program and preview in the control rooms as well as a Mackie 32-channel mixer in Studio A and a Mackie 24-channel mixer in Studio B. There are Panasonic camera monitors and Marshall Electronics monitors for decks, special roll-ins, and alternative source video in each studio as well as access to green and blue screens.

“We want our equipment to be cost competitive, but also effective,” said Chief Engineer Ray Larson. “Image quality and durability have to be there. We’re a non-profit. We have to make things last. JVC and Ecolab especially have been stellar.”

A JVC GY-HD250 in action Each studio has its own control room. In addition to producing original shows, these studios are used for classroom training.

Studio B’s control room does not face the studiothe result of a conscious decision to help train people to work in a truck. “If an individual can’t look at the room where the taping is going on, it orients him or her to trust monitors and give instructions without the crutch of being able to simply look into the room where the taping is going on,” said Larson.

Studio B is also “designed to get people in and out,” he said. “We can do back-to-back tapings where groups do cooperative staging. Breaks are taken between each program and we’re able, in a two-hour window, to shoot two 30-minute programs. Once, in three hours, we recorded two hours of programming. It’s a very darn productive use of the studio.”

CG creations are composed with Compix Media, which gave a separate license agreement for each one of PCM’s computers so users can do offline CG creations. There are 30 Final Cut Pro portable machines that are used for SAMTC, and the production department uses both Final Cut Pro and Avid Adrenalin to edit.

The 60-foot Fred Gerling truck has a similar in configuration to Studio B. There are five JVC widescreen format cameras as well as Sony DVCams and JVC D9 cameras on the truck. There are also Sony pre-monitors, a Samson 24-channel mixer, and an Echolab Switcher. The truck is also outfitted with Camplex fiber optics systems.

“Most CCU cameras are limited to about 600 feet,” said Larson. “And if you are doing baseball or football games you might have to go out 1,200 feet. The Camplex system lets us go longer distances.”

The meetings at Portland City Hall are shot with Panasonic cameras and Fujinon robotics, which for 13 years have had spectacular reliability. Robotics for full studio cameras are just too expensive, Larson said.

PCM’S MULTIPLE OUTLETS In addition to Channels 22 and 23 on the Independent Television Network (ITN), which broadcast programs by Portland-area independent producers, channels include Pulse of Portland (POP) 29, a community interest channel supported by PCM’s Programming and Multimedia Services Departments including PCM’s Portland Youth Media (PYM); CityNet 30, a government access channel; and Community Access Network (CAN) 11 and Metro East 21, also by PCM Multimedia Services. PCM also streams programming on PCM also has a small van and a large van with a lift gate that allows for a mobile unit to travel with the production crew. Each equipment list is tailored to the specific shoot and, according to Larson, there is tremendous flexibility built into the choice of gear. While PCM does on average seven to 10 productions a week, there have been times when the schedule becomes demanding. In November, PCM did 32 productions in 17 days.

Microsoft Outlook handles all of the scheduling.

“We’ve downloaded it onto our PDAs. It’s a way to keep track of the client details, date, who is going out on the shoot, and what equipment is needed,” said Tait. “We track resources by color-coding everything so we know how many different production scenarios are going on during any day. We try to logistically figure out how the equipment is going from point A to point B or to schedule people one to two weeks out. I’d love to know if there is another scheduling system out there that can help us. We keep getting busier, but I don’t want to say no to anyone.”