Wilbraham Public Access in midst of digital conversion
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM Thanks to a national television, radio and print campaign, Americans know about the digital conversion of broadcast signals taking place in February.
And, thanks to the hard work of Caroline Cunningham, executive director of Wilbraham Public Access (WPA), viewers in town will soon be seeing clearer images as well.
WPA is currently in the midst of a digital changeover, according to Cunningham. The three public access channels are using a digital playback system now, and have been using this system for about a year. However, events and meetings are still being recorded on SVHS tapes, which are no longer being produced, and which require a very timely conversion process.
"It's real time playback," Cunningham told Reminder Publications. "Editing can take one hour for one minute of finished product." Once a film is done being edited, it must then be burned to a DVD and uploaded to the server before being broadcast. New digital equipment will streamline this process, making it much quicker.
"The digital upgrade is an ongoing process," Cunningham said. "Equipment changes so rapidly, and it takes time for training [the volunteers with the new equipment]." She expects the upgrade to be completed in the next year or two.
To help the director with the upgrade and the training of volunteers, the Board of Selectmen re-approved the WPA's request to hire a part-time production coordinator. The selectmen approved the position earlier this year before instituting a hiring freeze. When Cunningham told them the position could be funded by cable licensing fees and cable access funds instead of the town's general fund, they allowed the hiring process to go forward.
"We really need this position to help us move forward," Cunningham said. She explained that it is mostly a technical position, working in the office, inputting information on the servers and training volunteers. The original cut-off date for applications was in early November, and WPA and the Cable TV Advisory Committee are looking to hire someone by late January, according to Cunningham.
WPA is also always looking for new volunteers. "The purpose of public access is to let the community produce their own programs," Cunningham said. "It's all about putting on what you want to see. If it's a parent taping a sports game, a new art exhibit in town or a meeting we don't cover [we'll work with it]. It doesn't require tons and tons of time."
For more information on WPA, call Cunningham at 599-0940 or visit the town's Web site at www.wilbraham-ma.gov