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    Some Free Advice On Televising School Board Meetings

    (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Superintendent Steinhauser's staff recently presented an overview of options for televising School Board meetings. We humbly offer a few suggestions of our own here.

    The Board is already spending money for remote telecasts of sports games, with announcers, video effects and other post production. A Board meeting is basically a remote telecast without the announcers, slow motion effects and other post production. It is easier, less difficult and less costly to do. Here's how to start:

    • Request a pilot project involving minimal money, staff and equipment. In starting any new project, there's an understandable desire by staff to seek more than needed. Urge staff to resist this. Media people are inherently resourceful (or should be). Encourage LBUSD's techs to use their expertise and creativity...and adjust as they go.

    • Use LBUSD's existing cable channels (24 in LB/SH; 35 in Lakewood; 77 in Avalon); they're fine.

    • Use existing LBUSD TV resources. Direct supervisors to use flexing and adjust schedules as needed during the pilot period; staff may complain but don't budget major additional sums

    • Use two cameras (adequate), not three (luxury for now).

    • Don't pursue the optimal (expensive) robotic three camera system now. Less is more at this point. What you want now are visibility and flexibility.

    • LBUSD's TV production van (basically a sophisticated remote site control room) will easily handle the task BUT it may be more than you need. We offer another option (at least for the pilot series): two cameras with video and audio fed into the area behind the Board podium for switching/taping onto portable equipment (which we presume LBUSD-TV has). No, the Board won't have to pause to change tapes if (as we suspect) LBUSD-TV has at least two portable tape machines. And using portable equipment wouldn't tie up the van (although we think Board meetings should trump everything else). Yes, it would require set up for each meeting...but that's really only a few added steps beyond what news crews do in covering news conferences daily.

    • Position the two cameras to the sides, near the front of the room. (Suggestion: under or near the front two room audio speakers would probably cover the Board, staff and podium speakers.) No, the shooting angles aren't optimal but they'll probably be adequate for a pilot series...and the cameras will be mainly out of the way.

    • Use the existing clean audio feed going into the current audio tape machine; excellent quality.

    • Don't over-budget for tape stock; video tapes can be re-used multiple times; if you want to archive video, do it digitally.

    • Don't worry about broadcasting the meetings live on cable or the web now. Just get them on tape and air them a day or so later. Once the meeting is recorded (in analog form), it can easily be converted into digital form.

    • The Board's audio tapes could be webcast on demand right now; did this a few years ago (made a clean dub of part of the Board's audio tape and posted "on-demand" audio of a newsworthy agenda item; video files involve more bandwidth but the principle is the same. Ultimately the "on-demand" feature, not the live telecast, will be one of the most powerful parts of the system.

    Don't do more than you have to now. Gauge the reaction, then adjust. Walk before you run. Date before you marry.

    And smile.

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