Portland, Ore., Builds High-Def Community Access


Portland Community Media TV has acquired 30 new JVC GY-HM100
ProHD camcorders as part of a long-term move towards high-definition production.

The nonprofit organization works with volunteers to produce
government and local public-affairs programs each year on seven Comcast
channels reaching about 500,000 homes in metropolitan Portland,
Ore. It currently produces all channels in
standard definition; no timetable was set for an HD launch.

"We are not going to be going HD anytime soon, but we are
hoping [in future] franchise negotiations that we are going to be able to
garner bandwidth allocations, which should give us HD [capacity]," said PCM-TV
chief engineer Ray Larson.

In the meantime, Larson stressed that improving the visual
quality of the programmer's content is a high priority.

"One of the things that has been a problem in community
television has been minimal technical capacity and minimal technical quality," said
Larson. "Comcast recently brought in a digital transport stream and we are
going to be moving to an MPEG stream, so we wanted to be able to supply higher-quality
source material.

"In order for public-access TV to be a vital influence in
the community, it has to offer better quality, which now means HDTV,"
said Larson.

Despite the importance of offering high-quality video in a
television landscape where more than half of all homes now have a HDTV,
cash-strapped community access and media programs have been some of the last players
in the television industry to make the HDTV transition.

"We're producing approximately 7,000 hours of original
programming per year on a budget of about $700,000 dollars," Larson noted.
"Moving to HD production has been a daunting task for us, even though we are
fortunate enough to have a reasonable capital budget.

"It is not something that an organization can undertake in
one year. We're not like a broadcaster who can spend $7 million to $12 million
over a three-year period to make the final push to HD."

To make the HD transition, PCM-TV has been upgrading its
facilities since 2000, generally adding HD equipment as existing gear needed to
be replaced.

When renovating its studios in 2000, the organization installed
new "digital HD-qualified wire and connectors so that all of the plant
infrastructure can support HD," said Larson.

Since then, PCM-TV has acquired eight JVC GY-HD250 ProHD
camcorders for two studios. It uses three GY-HD250 camcorders for production
work for federal, state and county agencies.

PCM-TV is also in the process of upgrading its mobile truck for
HD productions, work that Larson expects will be complete in the fall.

PCM-TV chose the GY-HD100s because of the camcorders provided
excellent HD images with a low price tag of around $3,500, said Larson.

He also praised JVC for helping PCM-TV develop a tapeless workflow
for its cameras and for overcoming some problems with the programmer's Apple
Final Cut Pro editing system. The GY-HM100 camcorders allow PCM-TV to use
relatively inexpensive SDHC solid-state media.

The new GY-HM100 camcorders are used by both PCM-TV's
in-house production department and outside producers. The nonprofit also uses
its cameras in a wide variety of community training programs for access
producers, PCM-TV volunteers and outside programs like Portland Youth Media,
which provides production training for middle-school and high-school students.

While the new camcorders are relatively easy to use, Larson stressed
the importance of training producers and volunteers in HD production.

"We rely heavily on volunteers," he said. "If you do a four
camera shoot at the City Council, you need seven or eight people to do that.

"And training becomes vastly more important when you
go to HD because what was acceptable in standard definition is unbearable in