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.