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Washington Voices

Access channel provides assistance with video skills

Community-Minded Television programmer Dashawn Bedford, left, and production coordinator Daniel Reyes test production equipment for CMTV’s new virtual TV studio. (Colin Mulvany)
Community-Minded Television programmer Dashawn Bedford, left, and production coordinator Daniel Reyes test production equipment for CMTV’s new virtual TV studio. (Colin Mulvany)

Everyone has a story to tell, but the skills to convey it through video aren’t quite so common, says Robert Foote, the general manager of Spokane’s Community-Minded Television.

“Not everybody has the time to learn how to necessarily operate a camera and learn editing software,” Foote said. “They need help from the technical side.”

Foote and his associates at the community access channel have been tapping into the growing demand for video skills. Since 2007 they have taught classes on editing, production and online video sharing. They also allow people to use their studio and equipment to record and air their own programs or public service announcements on Comcast channel 14; the fee to submit programs is from $10 to $15 apiece.

But without more operational funding support from Spokane and Spokane Valley, the channel faced the threat of having to cut back or eliminate some of these services this spring.

Work hours would have been the first thing to go for the few paid employees in the studio, Foote said.

“If we don’t have those, then we don’t have salaries and we don’t have anybody working here,” he said. “I would have probably cut my own hours back.”

Instead of discontinuing services or cutting hours, the channel has launched a new membership program.

“This is in an effort to make it a little more affordable for nonprofit and small businesses and small organizations to be able to still utilize the facility as well as not bust the budget if they wanted to do something a little bit bigger,” Foote said.

The program features three tiers of membership with fees ranging from $300 to $450 a year. Each rate comes with a number of perks, including three free equipment rentals per month, discounted classes and production services and a deal for at least two free program submissions each month.

Registration forms from interested organizations and individuals have already started to trickle in, Foote said.

“We have a lot of people who have the paperwork and they’re just getting their checks together,” he said. “Everybody seems to think it’s pretty reasonable and it’s moving along.”

In addition to the memberships, the staff revamped the studio with a collection of upgraded equipment.

The new gear includes an awning for their green screen, several computers and four 1,000-watt LED lights.

“They utilize one-tenth of the power that a traditional light does and they give off no heat,” Foote said. “If I threw 4,000 watts of light on in traditional lights, this room would be 90 degrees in a matter of 15 or 20 minutes.”

Perhaps the most sophisticated new tool is the channel’s TriCaster, a mobile video production system with a variety of digital capabilities. The system enables the crew to use multiple cameras at once and edit the product while recording so they can produce a finished video almost immediately after filming.

Having the TriCaster has significantly cut down production time, Foote said.

“It was usually a couple weeks turnaround, depending on the size of the project,” he said. “This is almost real time.”

Production coordinator Daniel Reyes, who spent a decade working at KHQ, said the equipment has given him an exciting new studio to work with. The CMTV equipment produces work of professional quality at a fraction of the cost, Reyes said.“It’s a testament to how the technology’s just changed so much over the years.”

Altogether, the new equipment cost more than $60,000, Foote said.

Money for the purchase came from a monthly fee local Comcast subscribers pay for public, educational and governmental capital funding. Community-Minded Television can only funnel funds from the fee toward equipment, software and anything used to enhance the studio, Foote said.

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