Manhattan's Public Access Television Station

MNN Everywhere: “The Other Side of the Rainbow”

Community Media, News and ViewsBy Lee Walker Helland

It’s now been 12 weeks since MNN began a complete overhaul of its equipment and technology at 59th Street, a renovation that’s poised to usher the public access station’s producers and programming into the 21st Century. Our last rebuild update revealed exciting progress in Master Control, and an Open and Closed Studio upgrade that was already 90 percent finished. What’s been going on since then?

Last week, the hardworking team of contractors got started on important building renovations that will modernize MNN’s 59th Street facility and allow it to look every bit as cutting edge as the HD upgrade makes it.

The first and second floors are getting new floors and ceilings along with a fresh coat of paint, and all four studios will sport new fabric on its soundproofed walls. The building’s lobby will have a new reception area where producers and guests can relax in comfortable chairs and watch all four MNN channels at once on new flat-screen TVs. The tape library and equipment windows are being reconfigured and renewed to streamline the checking-out and turning-in process and to give the entrance to MNN an open, fresh and inviting look.

That about does it for the building renovations. So what’s the most significant piece of equipment that arrived on site recently?

“One of the developments I’m most excited about is the new air conditioning unit that was recently installed,” says Hector Pena, Manager of Broadcast Operations at MNN. “Thanks to this rebuild, there’s a lot more equipment being housed in Master Control, so it’s crucial to have a firm handle on the building’s temperature to keep all these investments safe.”

Control Rooms One and Two (seen above) are complete, having been reconfigured and fully stocked with the latest in HD broadcast technology. The second-floor Express Studios and editing suites are almost ready to receive their new gear, having been totally refurbished and restructured. Studio Four has doubled in size, meaning it’s now large enough for a small band! Same goes for the Dub Room, which will connect to the big new router in Master Control, allowing producers to feed video into a broadcast and to record a show that’s airing from a studio downstairs, explains Pena, who is managing the rebuild.

“It’s definitely a transition here at 59th Street, especially for staff members, who are working in the building during this major renovation process,” says MNN programming director Jeannette Santiago. “But it’s worth it. This is a huge, once-every-10-years kind of project, and an exciting new era for the network.”

Indeed, the overhaul hasn’t been without its inconveniences—for staffers and producers alike. But in typical fashion, everyone has handled the sometimes tough process with indefatigable spirit.

“We’re thrilled to have been able to provide the same services that we always do, thanks to MNN’s uptown facility, the El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center in Harlem,” says Cory Brice, MNN’s Manager of Training and Facilitation, referring to the transfer of existing shoots from West 59th Street to East Harlem. “MNN Firehouse users are getting a taste of the new professional-grade technology currently being installed at 59th Street—the same equipment currently in use at major broadcasters. MNN is now second to none.”

MNN’s 59th Street control rooms will have the ability to incorporate social media elements into live broadcasts—a significant development that will elevate the way producers and hosts can engage with their cherished viewers. “I’m really excited about all the new tools,” says Denise Goins, producer of "Let's Talk Film". “It makes it all worth it to know that there is something fantastic on the other side of the rainbow.”

The rebuild is set to change the way programming gets created at MNN—and how the programs are received. “It’s all going to look better, and I think our users are going to be particularly excited to see how their shows will look online,” says Stefanie Alleyne, MNN’s education coordinator. “With MNN’s programming capabilities now reaching major network quality, our producers will feel more confident in themselves and their shows’ content, and viewers are going to love what they can get from us. This opens doors.”

And rest assured: We can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the next week, 59th Street’s downstairs studios will enter beta testing, which marks the start of the final exciting stage of this process. And our team is already shaping the studios’ new graphics package—state-of-the-art effects that MNN producers will now have at their fingertips. MNN will be reaching out to studio users in the next few days to get your feedback on graphics capabilities.

It’s been a marathon effort, but we’re almost there. MNN’s goal is to get the 59th Street studios up and running by the end of March. In the meantime, the shows must go on!