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Digital Outreach


PHILADELPHIA—WHYY, the leading PBS station serving Greater Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey, and Delaware, opened the Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons (PMC) in summer of 2010 as an innovative digital media learning, meeting and production environment serving the regional public.

The PMC ’s primary focus is to teach the public—including students, teachers, and station members—how to use digital media to tell their unique stories and craft creative multimedia presentations. The PMC's primary focus is to teach the public—including students, teachers, and station members—how to use digital media to tell their unique stories and craft creative multimedia presentations. The facility is also available to corporations, nonprofit organizations, community groups, and families that wish to conduct media-centric meetings and events, as well as live webcasts.

"With our Public Media Commons, WHYY has broadened its role to encompass a more dynamic, interactive, digital content-creation production and distribution platform with a strong community presence," said William J. Weber, vice president for Content Distribution and CTO for WHYY Inc.

A GENEROUS GIFT

At the one-year anniversary, Weber called the PMC a valuable public resource as well as a revenue enhancer for this PBS/NPR affiliate station. The Public Media Commons was made possible by a generous gift from Dorrance H. Hamilton, a Philadelphia-area philanthropist. The gift funded the PMC's design, construction, and media resources, which make it possible to teach the public how to harness the power of digital media.

In its first 12 months, Weber said more than 20,000 people have attended their various media events, including hundreds of students in the classrooms. Sixty percent of the events in the first year were internal, while 40 percent were for outside groups such as corporations who booked the facility for media-intensive sales and marketing meetings, according to Revah Anzaldua, manager of corporate affairs for WHYY. Anzaldua said they were booked well into 2012.

Located in an 8,000-square-foot annex to WHYY's 60,000 square-foot television, radio, and Web facility, the PMC includes two community classrooms equipped with a wide range of digital content creation tools, including consumer-grade digital camcorders, Final Cut Pro nonlinear editors, and the ability to utilize the Internet and Skype communications within media presentations.

The PMC also consists of the Lincoln Financial Digital Education Studio and its adjacent control room. (Philadelphia-based Lincoln Financial also made a significant contribution.)

Since the studio, control room and classrooms reside on WHYY's enterprise-wide HD-SDI infrastructure, they can move media throughout the WHYY Technology Center and utilize other content production centers in the building if desired. Also, while the studio has three Sony HD robotic cameras mounted on the ceiling grid, if events or productions require studio cameras, WHYY can press higher-end cameras into service, such as three Sony PDW700 XD cameras in full studio configuration and outfitted with Telecast Copperhead G2 syatems and Autoscript teleprompters and Vinten pedestals.

Union broadcast technicians and other WHYY personnel can also be shared by the PMC.

"As a result of extensive negotiations with IBEW Local 98, we reached an agreement that gives WHYY the latitude to use union broadcast technicians for any appropriate job within either the television, radio, or public media operations," said Weber. "Having the latitude to assign crews wherever they're needed was crucial to moving in this new direction cost-effectively."

As a result, broadcast technicians are now called "media technicians." In return, the station guaranteed to maintain a certain number of union positions.

VERSATILE STUDIO

Considered the centerpiece of the PMC, the Lincoln Financial Digital Education Studio is a multifunctional, 4,000-square-foot studio designed to accommodate the unique needs of every meeting, program or event that uses the space. RJC Designs Inc. designed the studio's audio and technology systems and Vistacom Inc., of Allentown, Pa., performed systems integration.

The studio features a 16-foot by 9-foot Draper Cineglass rear projection screen, and adjacent projection booth with a Digital Projection DV30-1080PXL HD projector. The acoustically isolated studio also offers 5.1-channel surround sound and an arsenal of Community iBOX loudspeakers and floor monitors configured in zones for customizable audio quality.

AMX MVP-8400 control panels, located on the podium and adjacent control room, allow for remote control of lighting, audio, other studio elements, and uniquely, a video router. Since the room is configured for webcasts, with the ability to use computer and social media technology, it's known as a content production center rather than a production control room. And instead of a production switcher, it is based upon a Broadcast Pix Granite HD live production system, with DVEs, clip store, multiviewer, camera control unit and Fluent file-based workflow, among its integrated features.

According to Revah Anzaldua, manager of corporate affairs for WHYY, "This studio can be used for everything from catered corporate meetings and awards ceremonies to graduations and bar mitzvahs. The set-up makes it easy for groups to use digital video, social media, and webcasting to enhance their meetings and participate fully with their communities."

Anzalua added that by generating meeting revenues, the PMC is not only self-sustained, but fast becoming a new revenue center benefiting WHYY.

With the convergence of new content distribution platforms with traditional broadcasting, Weber said, "Public television has a tremendous opportunity to reinvent itself. At WHYY, we don't think of ourselves as broadcasters. We're digital media content creators. Broadcast television was just the incubator for what we're doing now."