Changes Get Council Chamber Ready for its Close-Up

The new look at City Hall is part of a made-for-HD TV makeover.


Rockville residents walking into the City Council chambers at  on Monday for the Council’s first meeting in more than a month might have thought they were in the wrong place.

The same goes for those turning on Rockville 11, who would have seen the Council seated before a deep blue backdrop instead of the usual wood paneling.

A chambers makeover during the Council's summer recess is part of preparing Rockville 11, the city’s cable television station, to step into the 21st century with high-definition broadcasting capabilities. 

“Rockville 11 does not have an HD channel, but we have the infrastructure in place to go HD,” said city spokeswoman Marylou Berg.

While there are no immediate plans for a switch, each of the public, education and government channels carried by county cable systems are preparing for HD, Berg said. “Right now we are internally HD and then we down-convert our signal to standard definition before the signal leaves the building.”

of the chambers’ changing look over the years.

New HD cameras will allow Rockville 11 to shoot field productions in HD. The technology is not yet in place to shoot live remote meetings or events in HD—but it soon will be.

“Our news packages will be shot in HD and then down-converted before the signal leaves Rockville 11,” Berg said.

The upgrades cost $350,000 and were paid from the Cable TV Equipment Special Activities Fund, a part of the city budget used only for cable television broadcasts, studio construction and audio-visual equipment. The camera and audio-visual presentation system upgrades are by Human Circuit Inc. of Gaithersburg.

The upgrades include:

  • A new Council dais, staff table and podium, with a microphone that can be turned to face the Council or the audience.
  • Presentation monitors (one at each seat on the dais and two at the staff table) that can display computer or video presentations and the live feed from Rockville 11 broadcasts.
  • Two 80-inch presentation monitors in view of audience members that provide high-resolution display of both computer and HD video.
  • One 60-inch monitor showing the Rockville 11 broadcast.
  • Four HD cameras that provide improved color correction and lighting.
  • 11 push-to-talk microphones.
  • A new speaker system for improved audio in the chambers and better on-air broadcast quality sound.
  • A new lighting system for an improved look on television.

The upgrades aim to improve the audio and visual experience for attendees at meetings in the chambers and for TV viewers, Berg said.

The overall better broadcast quality also “means a better replay of the meeting for archival purposes,” she said.

So what became of the wood-paneled backdrop and furniture that for decades gave the chambers the feeling of a 1970s-era rec room?

“We sent the furniture that could be salvaged to the city's stockroom to be put up for auction,” Berg said. “Any time we get rid of furniture or equipment, we fill out a surplus form and then it is sent to the stockroom where it can be auctioned off or donated to another government or educational entity. The staff table was in good condition, but the dais was not in good shape because the counter had to be torn off to disconnect everything.” 

Click here for more information on the chamber upgrades.

Steve O September 12, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Is the dais considerably higher or are we electing shorter council members? It seems like the new design will make them all look like disembodied talking heads a la Futurama.
Sean R. Sedam September 12, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Nice Matt Groenig reference, Steve O. I do believe that the new dais is taller by about the length of the top panel. Take a look at the last two photos for a "before" and "after" to see what I mean. No word yet on what the mayor or council thought of Monday's first meeting in the new digs. (They were there until after midnight, so the new digs might feel like home by now.) Elected officials, what say you? Rockville residents: Do you like the new look?
Tom Moore September 13, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Ha! The dais is indeed higher, and the new, taller, chairs have not yet arrived, so we were looking a little short on Monday night, yes. And for the record, I thought the chambers looked great and the technology performed beautifully. It's a clean look that should do the City well for a very long time. There are a few tech wrinkles to be ironed out, but for a first outing, it was darn near perfect. Kudos to Marylou Berg, Bridget Broullire, and their staff for getting this project done well and quickly.
joe September 13, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Seems a bit stark and cold. The long shots referred to by Matt don't give much definition to anyone seated at the dais. The audio needs to be improved. The TRC11 team did a great job in modernizing the chambers and in their broadcast of the first Council and Planning Commission meetings. I think there are just a few things they can do to make things a little better. Thanks to Bridget Broullire, Aaron Dawkins and the rest of their staff.
Tom September 13, 2012 at 10:57 AM
I would suggest that the city adopt whatever technology Gaithersburg uses. It results in more effective and efficient meetings.


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