Two years ago, what is now the Harvard Cable Television studio looked a lot different.
The small embankment behind the Bromfield School was just a basement area where the school stored rubbish and sorted recycling, said Community Cable Access Committee Chair Bill Johnson.
"It was a grossly underutilized space and in horrible condition," he said, sitting in the new studio that's raring to go.
Now, HCTV's new home features a filming area, control room and teaching area, where a big window allows others to view live shots. In the studio, green screens line the sides of the walls, painted entirely black to minimize glare.
The committee worked to build a lot with a little. The studio cost $128,000, but its state-of-the-art cameras came as donations from Fitchburg Cable TV. Instead of an expensive TelePrompTer, the studio uses an iPad to load a script that can be controlled with an iPhone.
"We're very good at doing high-quality things at low cost," Johnson said. "That's sort of been our motto all along."
The bulk of the investment, he said, was hundreds of thousands of dollars in volunteer labor.
Students from Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School worked on construction, electrical work and plumbing, while members of the Harvard Lions Club also helped out.
And student response has been booming since the studio came to fruition.
"It was incredible, and there's a buzz about it in the class and in the school here," Johnson said. "If that continues we expect that there will be a whole lot of demand to move this from an extracurricular activity towards a true, credited curriculum course."
While Johnson said HCTV has been nudging students toward the idea of a morning show, it will be up to the students to determine what they want to do.
"Maybe there's one group that wants the thrill of a live broadcast and another group that wants to do far more playful, deliberative feature segments, and maybe they're mixed together," he said. "A lot of it depends on what the students want to do."
The studio grew out of a need to get out of the space at the old library and a desire to offer more opportunities for students.
"We were all blown away by how many people responded to this training," Johnson said.
The training breaks up pre-production, filming and post-production skills. The first training focused on scripting, while the other two focused on filming and editing.
On a Tuesday evening, chatter about audio mixers, the surface control board and the practice of zooming in fills the rooms.
"Don't worry about the green hair," Johnson shouts to the others as the students set up for a practice shot.
Production interests range across the students, from junior Emily Erdos, who served as the talent for the promotional video and enjoys being on set, to junior Nick Norcross, who favors editing.
Norcross said he heard about the initiative for a while when his father served as chairman of the cable committee.
"I like to contribute and in turn make my own video with professional quality," he said.
Sophomore Kadin deRuijter said it would be "pretty cool" for Bromfield to have its own TV show.
"I don't know if I'd rather be the person filming and planning it or if I'd actually be the person standing there reporting all the news," he said.
The studio is not only open to students, but to the whole community. Johnson said HCTV has been working to stimulate interest with local seniors.
"Our goal here is to facilitate everybody in town who has an interest in producing something for local broadcast," he said.
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