Public access PhillyCAM readies new operation

    Philadelphia’s public access TV station is moving into its new home.

    PhillyCAM will soon begin training people to make their own TV programs in a large building near Independence Mall.

    Inside a building on Seventh Street between Chestnut and Market, workers are plastering over the joints in the drywall. There is no video equipment installed yet, and the whole place reeks of paint fumes and new carpet.

    But as soon as pedestrians were able to peer into the space through large windows along the sidewalk, they were interested.

    “That’s what’s amazing,” said director Gretjen Clausing. “We took the paper off the windows on Friday night, and, in 10 minutes, somebody walked in and wanted information.”

    Until now, PhillyCAM had been cramped in the Painted Bride Art Center in Old City, on Vine Street between Second and Third. This new space, a former photography studio, is four times larger.

    PhillyCAM divided the building’s interior into many small rooms so that several productions, classes, and meetings can happen simultaneously.

    “We did an enormous amount of acoustical treatment,” said Clausing. “For photography, acoustics are not a problem. But for video acoustics are really important.”

    The $1.1 million renovations were financed by Comcast, part of a larger grant the company made as part of its agreement to do business in Philadelphia. Eventually another video provider—Verizon—will also begin funding public-access television. Verizon’s payments are not scheduled to kick in for several years.

    The interior has been designed to maximize meeting space. Scattered everywhere are rooms for impromptu gatherings. Clausing said that is the future of public access television.

    “We’re not just a channel,” she explained. “We’re about creating a space where folks can come together through the production of media. It’s a collaborative process. Getting it on the channel is just the end result. What’s more interesting is the process of getting there.”

    Media classes are expected to begin in a few weeks. Full video production won’t happen until early next year.

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