Cover Story: DIY TV

Media Bridges offers the training and equipment, they just need you

 
Jymi Bolden


Brandon Showers (right), a part-time Media Bridges facilitator, helps Bill Anderson of Saylor Park learn to work the equipment and communicate.



Summer is for reruns, and who cares anyway: Dr. Greene is dead, Rachel had her baby and Ozzy's over.

If only there were some way to make your own television program, couch potatoes lament. You know, for free. No experience necessary. And find a channel to air it.

Well, there is, so get off your butts.

Media Bridges is media for the people — a tech geek and geek wannabe equipment library, training and networking center and media outlet all at no charge. What better way to spend your summer?

"We allow people to gain a voice, a variety of voices on all different topics," says Tracey Warm, education coordinator.

The Media Bridges name is recognizable as the non-profit group managing the city of Cincinnati's cable access programming.

It has four channels on the cable dial — one each for religion, education and community access, plus a fourth shared channel.

It's been on the scene for 10 plus years — earlier as Cincinnati Community Video — but has spent most of that time tucked tightly into a crevice of Mount Auburn.

"A lot of those years were spent trying to find a great facility, and we've found it," Warm says, referring to the new Media Bridges space opened on the corner of Race Street and Central Parkway downtown.

The new space is recognizable by its corner studio with large windows. Inside, it's an impressive hi-tech environment of imacs, G4s, TVs and steel accents.

Now that Media Bridges is finally settled in its new building, the organization has the time and space necessary to really push the education part of its agenda. And it's easier than you'd think to go there, produce your own show and see it air on one of their channels.

Beginning is easy — just get orientated and certified. Orientation is every Monday night and the first Saturday of each month. Certification requires taking their free classes or certification tests if you already have the know-how.

Certified individuals can then check out digital video cameras and light and sound equipment or reserve time in editing suites and studios. Two studios are available — the larger one requires a full crew and the self-service one requires a crew of two or three. Like the public library, Media Bridges requires a picture I.D. and two forms of address verification.

Warm sees a variety of participants in her classes, from suburban mothers to the unemployed looking to expand their skillset to high school students. Classes adapt to the education levels of anyone from a third-year digital media student to a senior still in awe of their black-and-white picture box.

"Project Bridges" is a pretty good place to start for beginners. Groups of roughly 10 meet to produce their own group mini-movie or documentary.

"Everybody's ideas are infused in the project," Warm says.

Participants are exposed to everything from storyboarding to shooting footage to the computer editing process. One group currently underway is doing an MTV Cribs-style documentary on Media Bridges' new facility.

Specialized classes are also available. Portable production classes cover the equipment from cameras to lights. Digital and analog editing classes are available as well as master classes, which are one-class sessions on various short topics.

As for networking, the next "Media Salon" is in July in conjunction with the Cincinnati Film Society. People working on film or video projects meet, show a little of their footage and get feedback and ideas. Last month's covered a variety of content and knowledge levels from a middle-aged white man's documentary on a biking event to a young black man's music video-style videogram to his children in California and his animations in progress.

And, really, anything goes.

"We're a full First Amendment rights facility," Warm says, adding that restrictions on content are defined only by the law and community standards.

The new, larger space has also allowed Media Bridges to branch out to the airwaves. Starting in late June, the organization will launch a 24-hour streaming Internet radio station. The aptly named Radio Room is equipped with tape deck, CD player, record player, telephone and multiple microphones just waiting for DJs and on-air personalities to start their shows. Four hours of technical training is all you need to get started.

Warm envisions a variety of programs from talk shows to advice to specialized music hours featuring personal vinyl collections that have been collecting dust. She might even get in on the fun.

"I'm thinking girl bands," she says. "You know, good girl bands that you don't hear on the radio."

Media Bridges offers free training, free equipment rental and free broadcast possibilities. Ideas aren't included. There's no excuse not to get out there and make your own TV.

Visit Media Bridges at 1100 Race St., Downtown; call 513-651-4171; or see their class calendar online at www.mediabridges.org.

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