Spotlight: Middletown Township Builds TV Studio in New Town Hall

by Tara Berson and Raven Rentas, Township of Middletown

Home to 68,000 residents, Middletown Township is one of the largest municipalities in New Jersey. Due to the size of our community and diverse age ranges, interests, and neighborhoods, it is important for the Township to offer various ways for residents to access information. One of those communications tools has been our municipal TV channel which has changed over the years, particularly with the addition of our brand new TV studio this year. We had the opportunity to work with experts in the industry who helped guide the project from beginning to end.

How It Started

In November 2021, my colleague Tara Berson and I traveled to Atlantic City for the annual New Jersey League of Municipalities conference and attended the Jersey Access Group’s (JAG) seminar about cable television consumption post-pandemic. Feeling inspired after the session ended, we introduced ourselves to some of the presenters: JAG President Bob Duthaler and External Relations Chair Geoff Belinfante. We exchanged contact information, expressed our interest in becoming JAG members, and discussed our plans for a TV studio in Middletown’s new Town Hall that was being built.

In May 2022, we moved into our new Town Hall. With the new building came new opportunities so we used this transition to emphasize the importance of having an in-house TV studio to help promote key Township initiatives and programming, as well as provide a potential revenue stream through shared service agreements with other communities. We already had our mayor and administrator’s approval and funds secured through a Comcast grant, so we were given a space to help fulfill our aspirations of airing interesting and informative content.

Bringing the TV Studio to Life

We knew that creating a TV studio from scratch was a large task for us to take on in addition to our regular responsibilities. With that in mind, we reached out to Bob Duthaler to see if he (DNS Media) would be interested in supporting our Communications and IT Departments by joining our team as a consultant. Thankfully Bob was up for the challenge, so we hired him. Bob took the reins and introduced us to vendors, received quotes, and figured out next steps. With his help, we were able to determine the equipment specs for when this project went out to bid. By the end of 2022, we were feeling more organized and had finally become JAG members!

In February 2023, we joined our Purchasing Department at a pre-bid for our TV studio project, which was divided into two categories: lighting and control room equipment. We briefly met vendors and showed them the studio space and the office that was going to be utilized as a control room, as well as answered their questions. A month later, our Purchasing Director advised us that RDM Rigging would be handling lighting and G&G Technologies would be the equipment vendor. Both companies also offered training, which was much needed since we are not experts in TV production.

Our equipment arrived in April. Due to the studio’s small size, we needed to use an empty office near the Communications Department for the control room. Our IT and Public Works & Engineering Departments ran cables and installed electrical outlets wherever needed to ensure that our TV studio and control room could work together efficiently since they are not in the same vicinity.

In May, Rich DiMinno of RDM Rigging and his crew installed the pipe grid in the studio over the course of several days. While our lighting infrastructure was being taken care of, Marvin Charyn of G&G Technologies assigned John Micewicz to set up the control room (see photo). John trekked to Middletown from Westchester County, New York over the course of a few months to help set up our control room, work with our IT Department to connect our new TriCaster system to TelVue, and trained us on how to properly use the equipment.

In July, the lights for our TV studio arrived and Rich DiMinno and RGM Rigging were back to install them, along with the help of Paul Distefano of DeSisti Lighting. In August, they returned to Town Hall to teach us how to use the lighting console, which is situated in our TV studio but can also be used from our control room. In between that time, we ordered a small table and two comfy chairs, making our TV studio finally complete in August 2023 (see photo).

Lights, Camera, Action!

After almost 18 months full of vendors, doubts, training, and dedication, our TV studio was born!  Building our TV studio wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our colleagues, the expertise and knowledge of our amazing vendors, and advice from our JAG family. We are truly appreciative of everyone’s part in making our TV studio become a reality. Now that it’s a new year, we’re excited to focus on our TV studio and begin producing content. We’ll check back in within a few months to keep you all posted on our progress!