Montclair TV34 had to adapt to the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Rick Gearhart, Montclair
Like many other entities, Montclair TV34 had to adapt to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The last official meeting that was in person was on March 9, 2020 – A Planning Board Meeting. Once the state of emergency took effect, the township immediately found a solution to host our meetings virtually. The Township uses Webex, a virtual meeting platform. To get these on TV, I use the program OBS – this allows me to capture the Webex window and stream it directly to my broadcast server (and Youtube for online viewers). The online meeting program works well with not only the Council Meetings. With the pandemic, I realized the importance of live video. All official meetings are streamed live, and will be streamed live even after the pandemic is over. We also implemented a call-in feature allowing the public to participate. I hope to get back to in person meetings sometime this year, as the Township purchased a new TriCaster model and 3 PTZ cameras, which gives us the ability to stream live in HD to both our cable channel and Youtube. With Youtube Live, the meetings are available right away after they finish – there is no wait time for anyone that missed the meeting. The TriCaster was installed the same month that the pandemic hit.
In the very beginning of the pandemic, TV34 immediately partnered with our local senior center to broadcast all of their virtual events. Most of these events were exercise programs or educational lectures that were held in person prior to the pandemic. The older population was not used to virtual meeting programs such as Zoom at the time, so this was a way that seniors could still view programs that they were interested in. Now two years later, the demand for this has decreased, as some in-person events have resumed, and the senior population is more comfortable with virtual platforms.
TV34 has a traditional PEG access TV programming model – a mix of local events/programming, official meetings, and a bulletin board which advertises important announcements & events in town. The TV34 Bulletin Board uses Infovue software and is a mix of still images and short videos. Any non-profit in Montclair is welcome to submit a slide to be featured on the TV34 Bulletin Board. For the past 2 years, the bulletin board has been used for COVID-19 information.
TV34 does not have permanent interview facilities that many other stations have. Interviews are produced in the council chambers, with a green screen as the background. Almost all of the content that is produced by TV34 is done at the event location. I have two JVC cameras that I use to cover events. TV34 covers all township-sponsored events, such as parades, holiday ceremonies, dedications to residents who have volunteered in the community, civic forums, and ribbon cuttings. TV34 also maintains relationships many local non-profits in town. Sometimes I cover their events, and other times they produce their own programming which gets sent to TV34 to air. In 2020, in an effort to keep programming fresh on TV34, almost all of the yearly events, were replaced by video presentations, which involved me taking past photographs and putting them together in a sequence that mimicked a live video. In 2021 a lot of the in person events resumed and I hope to do more live streaming of township events going forward, for those that cannot make it out.