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Producers Creating Content at Home

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  • Gabe Castro
  • |
  • May 06, 2020
  • Gabe is the Programming and Production Coordinator and has been at PhillyCAM since 2015. 

No one could have predicted that we would all be stuck in our homes for not weeks - but months! During this time, we are seeing a shift to the internet - it's where we get our news, our entertainment and now, where we stay in touch with those we love. We’re also seeing a change in the quality of production everywhere from news organizations to our entertainment shows like Saturday Night Live. Everyone is home and learning how to create media at home, finding that the content itself is the most important part of the production and that all the bells and whistles we had grown used to over time can easily fall away and leave the bare necessities.

We at PhillyCAM were certainly not expecting such a world where our members would no longer be able to come to our space and use our facilities. However, we are incredibly moved and inspired by our ever-hardworking producers who have found ways to create their amazing content from the safety of their homes! We want to highlight some of these producers and get some words of advice on how they’re creating content efficiently and in new and exciting ways! We have quite a lot of PCAM members creating content and here are just a few of them to hopefully jumpstart your own ideas and motivate you to take that leap to create the media that you know is important and much needed in this time!

Producer Name: Ray Naylor
Program: Philly Folk Scene
Program Type: Radio

Previous Production Set-Up: I used CDs (as opposed to digital). I receive a lot of albums from folk radio promoters as well as artists themselves. I consider live music the heart of my show. Since I've done the show there have only been 4 or 5 times where I didn't have guests. So, I guess you have to say that live music is a resource, so to speak. And I use social media to promote the show.

Current Production: I use "Virtual DJ" to produce the show. I use a condenser mic which goes into an audio interface and then into the computer. Unless I have digital copies of the music I have to rip songs off CDs. I use previously recorded interviews in the show.

Obstacles: Mostly it was figuring out how to use Virtual DJ. So after a number of carefully chosen obscenities, I figured it out.

Words of Advice: If I can help anybody figure things out let me know.

Producer Name: Tee Tunnell Harris
Program: House of Secrets - a drama series about the lives of family and friends that have issues that try to destroy their homes and peace of mind. "In every house, there is a secret."
Program Type: TV

Previous Production Set-Up: I used the LED lights, Sony XDCAM, microphones and green screen

Current Production: My actors used their iPhone cameras as well as using previous clips from past episodes.

Obstacles: The major obstacle that I had to overcome is the distance from working directly with my crew and actors. I miss them.

Words of Advice: Stay focused and don't give up on your projects. Keep working even if you have to use your phones to film. You can do this!!

Producer Name: Andrew Hoffman
Program: Creating Fashion with Laurel. Laurel is my mother. She has taught fashion design for local colleges and is currently teaching at the Abington Art Center. Watching the show is like sitting in on her class. We'd talked about making a show previously, but oddly, the pandemic jump-started it. Our first episode is about mass-producing fabric masks at home.
Program Type: TV

Previous Production Set-Up: Before the pandemic, I was focused on individual projects: short animations and a documentary on landscape painters. For the most part, I've used my own equipment, mainly my DSLR.

In 2017, I took the PhillyCAM audio course to help with my animation projects. That class got me hooked on PhillyCAM classes and I've taken several since. I discovered a love of editing video and now run around with my camera accumulating video just to have something to edit. When the pandemic put my documentary on hold, I shifted gears and now I'm working on my first show. Thank goodness I took Field Production. Knowing where to put lights is suddenly essential knowledge.

Current Production: The show takes place in my mother's studio. I have my DSLR on a tripod for the main wide shot. Laurel talks to that as though it's her students, while I walk around with a smaller camera getting close-ups of her hands and whatever she's sewing together. In the editing, I cut between the two cameras. We have three lights, two LEDs, and a box light, that I reposition whenever Laurel moves to another area of the studio.

Obstacles: My mother's studio is the ideal setting for this show, but it's a real challenge for lighting and audio. It's in a basement. I had to do a lot of color adjustment on episode one, due to the low lighting. For episode two, Laurel and I chipped in and bought more powerful lights. That made a big difference. I'm sill working on getting rid of the reverb. YouTube has been a big help. For any problem that comes up, someone has made a video on how to fix it.

The mental obstacle is that my other projects are on hold, but they haven't gone away. They'll be back. I just need to rethink them.

Words of Advice: Being trapped indoors is great for creativity. The mind starts to wander and interesting things happen. I hope years from now, the bored kids out there cite this pandemic as when they first started drawing or making puppets, or whatever it might be.

Producer Name: Daryl Lloyd
Program: Turning Life Corners Radio Show
Program Type: Radio

Previous Production Set-up: I would use the radio studio to broadcast my show and have guests come in for interviews. I would also use the facility to record my show which made it possible, at that time, to transfer my show to my podcast site.

Current Production: At present I am using my home equipment such as a Tascam recorder, computer, microphone, and various pieces of software for editing to reach the same outcome. As for obstacles, technically there aren't really any, but mentally I don't get that adrenaline rush from being live. Also, more thought has to be put in because of the content and timing of the show is specific with no adlib. There is also the situation of not being able to contact and get guests to do online interviews. Why I don't know, but for some reason, people are less receptive to do interviews online, especially political people.

Words of Advice: Continue doing your show because in the end, it will give them a great feeling of accomplishment and it will have them use and get resources they never had and it will make them better professionals. 

Producer Name: Krissy Mahan
Program: Dykeumentary TV highlights social justice short films of interest to the Philly metro area and beyond. Each episode is a collection of short films, most usually including content about healthcare in Pennsylvania (lack of it) and actions in support of the MOVE families and the campaign to release Mumia Abu Jamal.
Program Type: TV

Previous Production: I used the media lab to compile the shorts into the broadcast file. My laptop gets grumpy even rendering a 3-minute iMovies, and I don't have Adobe Premiere.  I also use the media lab to caption videos. Lately, I was trying to make a video with several layers that fade in and out, with both Sri Lankan Tamil and English subtitles on the screen.

Current Production: To create the broadcast file. I subscribed to the Adobe creative cloud, making the monthly payment until I can get back into PhillyCAMs media lab. For creating content for the show, I am using short films I have permission to broadcast, and I am making new short movies, too.  This month I also included the video file I made for a virtual Q & A for a film festival that had to be canceled. 

Obstacles: The tech problems I mentioned above - I have an old computer that is maxed out trying to make simple video files. But more importantly, the content of my show has been about exposing and eliminating racism, sexism, and classism, and uplifting the fight for healthcare for all. Soooo... during this COVID-19 time, all the issues I've been trying to talk about have exponentially shown themselves to be murderously real to everyone.  Thousands of more people will die because of the inhumane conditions in the world that enable the virus to spread/kill.  So it has been horrific to watch this happen, even if I knew how vulnerable people are because of the inequalities of global capitalism.  I feel so discouraged, and also feel like my show and my years of activism haven't done any good at all.  I wonder if my cultural work has any effect to positively change things, or if it was just a vanity project. I wonder if humor is trivializing these issues, although I used to think humor was a smart political strategy. So my work as a cultural producer has been deeply shaken, and I wonder how my work or any artists' work will continue. This has made the show more complicated and difficult to produce.

Words of Advice: I am feeling defeated now, not least because my mother is locked in a nursing home where hospitals discharge patients who still might be contagious. But I do not want to give up on community media as a fun way for political education and hopefully to inspire moral outrage at the current state of the USA. I believe in television as an appealing way for working-class and poor people to get information. I am thrilled that I have a TV show, since to some extent my absurdist and DIY aesthetic grew out of my own watching public access television as a young person. I know that feeling hopeless and the resulting inability to creatively respond to oppression can only make things worse. So I hope that if all of us producers at PhillyCAM keep trying to make shows, there will be enough at any one time to keep PhillyCAM programming vital and dangerous to the status quo. So I am glad to be on such a big, diverse, and powerful team with other producers. I feel really grateful.

Producer Name: Khadijah Renee 
Program: The Women in Jazz Series/Philadelphia. My show is a expose/narrative bio-based series that spotlights the hidden talented women who pioneered in the burgeoning genre of jazz from its early days to the present. 
Program Type: TV/Radio

Previous Production: We used the Express Studio to record.

Current Production: My team and I watched the instructional video provided by the PhillyCAM staff on the remote recording application Streamyard. Then we tried it with each other to make sure we understood the mechanics of how it worked. Afterward, we did a demo recording with a guest before we recorded an actual episode. Now, we're using the Streamyard application to make our episodes. 

Obstacles: It was challenging because we had to wait for our guest to purchase a Webcam which set our production schedule back. Afterward, the production seemed to be a bit pixelated, unfortunately, but the majority of the production came out usable. Roland provided some tips as to how to improve our Streamyard productions moving forward. I had to be creative with setting up a homemade backdrop, and I see now that a headset microphone will increase the audio capacity for my next taping.

Words of Advice: I'm not discouraged by the current pandemic from creating content. I have two more episodes to tape from home. Where there's a will, we can create a way!

Producer Name: Nick Cassaway 
Program: DJ YardSale presents...I play "90 years of recorded music" in a radio smorgasbord format.
Program Type: Radio

Previous Production: WPPM Studio.

Current Production: I've set up a home recording studio with a mini mixer, turntables, mic, and digital inputs.

Obstacles: Soundproofing is definitely an issue. I've had to cobble together my set-up and have had to purchase some gear (not that that's a bad thing).

Words of Advice: Working from home has definitely challenged me but it has opened up new collaborative possibilities that I will most likely carry forward from now on, such as having guests drop in via Zoom.

Producer Name: Dr. Joe Lex
Program: Dr. Joe's Groove - the first hour features news stories and jazz from exactly 60 years ago this week; the second hour is more free-form, like FM radio 50 years ago.  Last week was cover songs from the musical "The King and I," this week is covers of Bill Withers song; later this month - an hour of early mambo by its originators, and 15 versions of the blues classic "House of the Rising Sun." Sometimes it's an interview with a local musician or actor. 
Program Type: Radio

Previous Production: I did my show live.  I would show up with a script, which took anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to prepare, and all my music as mp3s on a thumb drive.

Current Production: The research stays the same.  Now I use an Olympus DM 620 voice recorder, my laptop, and Audacity to put it together - usually, about 3 hours to record and edit the two-hour show.

Obstacles: The biggest obstacle is using my pre-existing, cheap recorder; but I have no desire to build a soundproof studio and invest in expensive equipment.

Words of Advice: I am in my 70s, obese with high blood pressure and bad lungs from prior pulmonary emboli, which puts me at high risk for a bad outcome should I catch COVID-19.  Even when the lockdown starts to lift, I must consider whether I want to take a bus to Center City and then use a microphone that has been used by innumerable people before me.  While I miss the camaraderie of the station, I might decide to keep "mailing it in" as long as Vanessa will let me do so.

Producer Name: Dennis Link
Program: Hall Monitor - A news show about local government. My co-host is Larry McGlynn. We cover legislative issues in City Council, the workings of City government, and politics and elections.  It broadcasts live on Wednesdays.  The program has been on the air since 2017.
Program Type: Radio

Previous Production: I broadcast live from the radio studio and operated the board.  I often had interview guests visit.  A couple times guests called the studio. I also ran many pre-recorded segments where I gathered sound and recorded voice track with a Zoom recorder.  I edited the pieces using Audacity software. On one occasion, Larry and I broadcast live from a remote location for election night coverage (November 2019). Radio manager Vanessa Graber provided technical support for it, using the remote radio equipment.

Current Production: After a short hiatus due to the shutdown, Hall Monitor began broadcasting again, using StreamYard as a tool.  Again, Vanessa or Allison Durham provides technical support.  We are recorded on that platform, plus simulcast live on radio airwaves. The recorded StreamYard show is made available for streaming on the WPPM News website.

Obstacles: Neither Larry nor myself can operate StreamYard. We are dependent on technical support and coordinate with Vanessa/Allison.  Fortunately, they have been extremely helpful and flexible with their time. We must remember our show is both video and audio now.  When sharing images on the screen, we need to be descriptive for the radio listeners. We need to do a better job in periodically identifying the program ("You're listening to Hall Monitor on WPPM") during the live cast.  In producing a recorded show for StreamYard, it is easy to forget that. My ability to gather recorded sound is limited during the lockdown.  This hurts for covering demonstrations or man-on-the-street interviews. On the other hand, it has been easier for many of our guests to join us because they can hop on StreamYard from home instead of coming to the studio, as before.

Words of Advice: Do not feel bad if you are not able to produce content, are uncomfortable doing so, or have more important life issues to attend.  Our personal health and obligations come first.  Just enjoy any benefits of the unintended pause, if you can. Without engaged WPPM support, I would not be broadcasting.  Also, a news show can be more easily produced right now than a features-oriented or creative show. The best option right now is to keep in touch with your crew, even if you can not get into the studio.  Work hard making contacts for future segments, guests, and story subjects.  When the shutdown eases, you will be ready to go with a lot of prepared material. Use the PhillyCAM Watercooler to stay connected. I admit I should be doing that myself.

Producer Name: Stewart Brodian
Program: Brodian's Basement: I show independent short films and music videos. I also have interviews and walkarounds at interesting events. 
Program Type: TV

Previous Production: The resources used were people who knew what they're doing with a camera. These were home people who had their own computers. I myself have no computer, no major knowledge on how to operate them and no interest to learn how to. 

Current Production: Creating the show now is about the same as always. The only major difference is due to social distancing I'll record myself on my phone  - a Samsung J-337 - and send the introductions via dropbox to my current video editor. As far as interviews and walkarounds,  I still have a backlog of unused material so, in that instance. I should be ok for the next few months.

Obstacles: The technical obstacle, of course, was finding someone with the technical know-how. The mental was deciding what videos to use to give the show a nice flow. I've seen other shows of this nature over the years and I sort of had an idea of what to do. The real obstacle was figuring out how to mold it for the present-day audience and the cable TV mentality/atmosphere. 

Words of Advice: From what I've seen in other programs, I don't have to say much. Just like me, everybody seems to put a little of themselves into what they do. They're not doing the corporate cookie-cutter mentality that predominates most other programming on major networks (and yes, that does include networks such as PBS and NPR). Just keep doing what you're doing and never be able to be yourself!

Producer Name: Scott Newman
Program: Global Troop Resource show is any topic related to Scout Leaders. I currently cannot invite guests to my home studio, so I have switched over to recording my Zoom merit badge sessions and am editing them for release.
Program Type: TV

Previous Production: I have all my own equipment.  If required, I could do everything with a $200 camera and a $100 video editing package.  I don't, but I could.

Current Production: Same as above.

Obstacles: I've always created my show at home.  The only difference, now, is that I am twice as busy at work - 12-15 hour shifts.  So, I am scrambling.

Words of Advice: Do not sit back and let the world go by.  Make every moment count!  Don't think you need the best equipment to make great stuff.  Maximize what you have or can get your hands on.  Find a way to create your videos!

Producer Name: LeVay Nite
Program: What Was HeThinking, a show giving women insight and answers to common questions regarding the thoughts and actions of modern men. "Purpose In Christ Ministries" is another show I direct, edit, and co-produce. This show is a spiritual self-help program that demonstrates how productive one's life can become when Christ is at its center.
Program Type: TV

Previous Production: I used the Express Studio and the Green Screen Studio to record my shows. Then I edit them on a MacBook Pro using Adobe. Premiere.

Current Production:  Currently, I'm not actually creating (shooting) any shows. Fortunately, I had a backlog shows that needed to be edited and submitted. That was due to recording 2 - 3 shows a month before the pandemic in an effort to stay ahead of the game.

Obstacles: One technical issue I may face (as I've been asked to direct/edit some content recorded on Zoom) is getting good audio. I haven't researched the best way to record a zoom meeting yet. Also, it's a little harder to get "alone" time to edit since EVERYONE is ALWAYS home. I try to do the simpler rough cuts while I'm in the midst of the family and focus on the details and harder edits for about 2-3 hours after the family has turned in.

Words of Advice: For members struggling to find motivation, it may sound funny but where there's a will there's a way. The playing field has just about been leveled. Even the professionals are confined to produce content in their homes on their phones or laptops. AND...... Everyone is watching more tv and online programming. People are actually looking for something new and different which is a perfect opportunity to get your stuff out there. If you can't use Zoom or some other video chat but still want to do interviews, just record the audio of the conversation, and ask for pictures from those being interviewed. They can be placed over the audio and edited in Youtube in the very least. The point I'm trying to make is - There's always a way. It may not be the way you WANT but it is a way that will allow you to reach your goal.

Producer Name: Delmer Gill
Program: Chef Trek Adventures
Program Type: TV

Previous Production: My early shows were shot from my home kitchen. I also used the PCAM Main Studio for certain episodes.

Current Production: Over the years I have done some upgrades and just recently started to go Facebook Live.

Obstacles: still working it this is new for me

Words of Advice: Miss you all will be back whenever that happens.

In the meantime say hello to my newest Feathered Friend Phoenix the Cockatiel. He wants to follow me all around the house.

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