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Double the viewing pleasure

Television production expands at Brooksby

Created date

September 25th, 2012

In the early days of Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass., community members relied upon one camera and apartments that served as temporary studios. Twelve years later, the community s television and audiovisual capabilities include multiple cameras and two fully equipped control rooms where robust programming is produced for two in-house television channels. Much of that evolution happened in the last year or so, during which new equipment, programming, and professionalism have come together under the direction of Brooksby s new AV/TV manager, Chris DeThomas, his experienced staff, and a team of more than 150 skilled volunteers who live in the community. Backed by ten years of experience in local television stations, DeThomas saw significant potential for growth at Brooksby. I started out working with the staff here, and the residents and I wanted to make [community] TV at Brooksby the very best, he says. Television volunteers, who live at Brooksby, work every angle of production, from dreaming up concepts to working the cameras in the studio and in the field to editing video and creating the final product. Programming has increased from about 30 shows a month to 50 between TV919, Brooksby s main station, and TV918, its chapel station, which airs chapel services and other programming. It s amazing; it really is, says Marie Wakefield, who lives at Brooksby and has contributed to its television production for more than a decade. I think we have all become so much more professional with the help of the staff of TV919, and everybody who s been there, I think, has helped us along that road.

Safety in new equipment

With support from Brooksby s leadership and people who live in the community, DeThomas has revamped the studio equipment. Instead of playing video back on DVDs, which limited the station to showing about five shows a day, TV919 now uses a digital server, allowing producers to show as many as 25 shows in a day. DeThomas can access the new server from his home and work with Brooksby security to broadcast emergency messages, which has proven useful during stormy weather. He also championed the switch to cameras that use memory cards rather than traditional tape, saving time and effort in the process of transferring footage to the server for editing. The editing process is easier, too, with the addition of a more consumer-friendly system. DeThomas lauds his crew, TV Lead Coordinator Wes Beattie and TV Coordinator Alyssa Tucker, for effortlessly teaching volunteers how to use the equipment. I have a great team, DeThomas says.

New station

While most Erickson Living communities have a TV studio producing programs for one main channel, Brooksby now has two fully operating stations with the dramatic improvement of its chapel station. TV918 previously broadcast some chapel services, but mostly photos and music. The chapel s control room was a bit of a mess, likened to a small house that had seen too many additions. DeThomas and his team gutted the control room and added top-notch audiovisual equipment and a second camera, allowing camera technicians to capture various angles of the services. [TV] 918 really turned around 180 degrees from what it used to be pictures and music 90% of the time, DeThomas says. Now it s really a wealth of religious information. Adds Dorothy MacDonald, who lives at Brooksby and serves on the committee to develop programming and increase viewership for TV918, We have just grown leaps and bounds in that area. In addition to services of the community s various religious groups, TV918 broadcasts lecture series and interviews with ecumenical staff. Responding to feedback that people who had trouble sleeping would often turn to TV918 for its soothing music and photos, television staff created meditative programming that runs through the night.

Evolving ideas

Programming has also been a focus of TV919, which is always evolving. While production continues on favorite interview-based shows, a small handheld camera enables community members to capture special outside events. It accompanies journeys of Brooksby s active trips department, and that footage becomes part ofDay Trippin, a regular feature highlighting recent trips for both those who want to relive the adventure and others who couldn t attend. Other new programming includesWrite Stuff, a show that features poetry written by people living in the community. Authors talk about their work and present it on screen. We re going to continue to find the best content and the best shows, DeThomas says. It s about what the residents want. We re constantly asking for more input all we need are ideas.