With a mission of helping to advance the frontiers of research and innovation, EdgeDiscovery continues to look for new ways to provide access to leading-edge technology, advanced computing resources, and training for the research community. “One of the most important pillars of EdgeDiscovery is education and empowering the next generation of innovators who will propel science and technology into the future,” explains Dr. Forough Ghahramani, Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation, and Sponsored Programs, Edge.
To aid in this mission, Edge is pleased to be part of the Verizon New Jersey Public, Educational or Government (PEG) Training and Equipment Program which provides resources and education for developing creative media literacy in the community. Dr. Ghahramaini explains futher, “Through this program, video production and editing equipment and training are available for the development of local programming content that can be shown on local PEG access channels.” As the program implementation coordinator, Edge helps to manage the program and act as an interface for participating County and Community colleges.
Through the PEG Program, any municipal-authorized representative or resident can take a free Basic Video Production training course at a participating County or Community College and then be eligible to borrow a complete location video production system to record a community event or program. Once the video shoot is complete, the authorized representative or resident can edit the footage at the participating County or Community College in order to produce a complete video program, ready for broadcast on the local PEG channels. An Advanced Video Production training course is also available, once the Basic Training has been successfully completed.
“BTV is unique as a PEG access station because we create our own content.”
– Lauren Concar
Meeting the Community’s Changing Needs
In addition to program management, the Verizon PEG Program provides equipment, technical support, application development, training resources, and maintenance. Edge has developed software for tracking course enrollment information, inventory, and equipment loans, as well as an inventory management program to track usage of the PEG equipment and its necessary maintenance. The inventory management service provides a secure web program interface with locally segregated data entry so institutions can provide periodic information on the website including dates when PEG equipment is borrowed and returned, a description of the PEG equipment that is borrowed, and the attendance of students in PEG training courses. The number of people who participate in PEG training and use the program to develop local programming content can be easily tracked through the use of a registration application.
Participating institutions also have access to customized editing software and licensing of off-the-shelf programming pieces to be used to enhance local programming and its content by individuals and municipalities. To bring the various colleges together and create a forum for information sharing and collaboration, Edge is leveraging the EdgeXchange platform’s to create a “Creative Media” community where institutions can share their experiences and best practices.
While the pandemic stalled many programs in the last year, schools involved in the PEG Program were able to leverage Verizon resources to quickly adapt to changing needs and social distancing requirements. One such school is Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT), a four-year vocational-technical public high school in Gloucester County, New Jersey. “GCIT is a traditional vocational school, with students coming here to pursue disciplines like, allied health, finance, and engineering,” says John Mondelli, Educational Network Operations Manager, Gloucester County Educational Campus. “The Gloucester County Educational Network, based out of GCIT, went on the air in 1998. We work with all county school districts, in addition to providing students with an opportunity to produce and strengthen their technical skills. We create videos to promote what is going on at GCIT, as well as activities at the County College and other schools in the community. Our team creates promotional videos for three special service schools—one dedicated to autistic children and two institutions that are dedicated to helping elementary and high school students with special needs.”
Over the past year, events shifted from in person to virtual audiences, requiring videos to be created and livestreamed to surrounding areas. “We have several small towns in our area and have a countywide channel,” explains Mondelli. “The pandemic caused a huge change, where fans couldn’t attend sporting events and audiences were not allowed at other in-person activities. We have been helping to livestream sporting events, virtual graduations, theater performances, and press conferences; as well as creating short videos to promote small businesses, economic development, school information, and student athletes on social media. Plus, if an organization needs camera equipment to record town hall or school board meetings, for example, we are able to supply this equipment, thanks to the Verizon PEG Program.”
“The pandemic caused a huge change, where fans couldn’t attend sporting events and audiences were not allowed at other in-person activities. We have been helping to livestream sporting events, virtual graduations, theater performances, and press conferences; as well as creating short videos to promote small businesses, economic development, school information, and student athletes on social media. Plus, if an organization needs camera equipment to record town hall or school board meetings, for example, we are able to supply this equipment, thanks to the Verizon PEG Program.”
– John Mondelli
Cultivating Real-Life Experiences
Brookdale Community College has been involved in the PEG Program for several years and has seen the initiative evolve from its early beta stages into the program it is today. “Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that since the camera equipment we have is not the best quality, more and more community members are purchasing their own cameras and want to utilize the computer for editing purposes,” shares Lauren Concar, Video Production Specialist, Brookdale Television (BTV), located at Brookdale Community College. “One of our recent projects included Monika Henreid, the daughter of Paul Henreid from the film, Casablanca. She was working on a documentary about her father and had returned from Morocco with years and years of footage she needed to edit. One of our students worked with her and our producer; gaining invaluable ground level experience. This endeavor was a perfect match for Brookdale and the Verizon PEG Program and we were able to help her create an amazing historic documentary about a Hollywood legend.”
BTV is a non-profit Educational Access Channel that can be viewed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. “BTV is unique as a PEG access station because we create our own content,” explains Concar. “Even in the year 2000, we were light years ahead of any other PEG access cable channel. Everything was in high definition (HD), and we created content like documentaries and talk shows. Several non-profit external clients hire our production company to produce high quality content, including web videos, press conferences, and commercials. We also host different workshops on lighting and camera skills, where the Verizon PEG Program has been a great fit and has helped enhance those educational opportunities.”
BTV offers both internships and mentorships for high school and college students in the area to expose them to real-world experiences in television production. “We go into classrooms to showcase BTV and look for students interested in the industry,” says Concar. “At BTV, we take students under our wing and help them to gain knowledge and experience in pre-production, production, and post-production. Students are exposed to all different roles and while we’re run by a professional staff, we give students hands-on opportunities, like directing a live basketball game. Students also work with producers throughout the entire creative process and learn to understand how to bring someone’s vision to life.”
During the pandemic, students were not able to attend onsite classes and BTV stepped in to help create labs for students to watch from home. “We produced a large variety of individual labs for different academic departments, including radiology, culinary arts, chemistry, and health sciences, where teachers were able to explain lessons and demonstrate experiments. Luckily we have been mobile for years and have access to high-quality equipment, so we adapted quickly and avoided being thrown off course when COVID threw us a curveball.”
Concar is also the Executive Director of the Garden State Film Festival (GSFF) which celebrates New Jersey’s independent film genre and provides a forum where local and other independent filmmakers can showcase their work. “I became involved in the Festival through my affiliation with Brookdale Television 19 years ago. This event typically has over 30,000 attendees, with 300 films from over 25 countries. GSFF is certainly a labor of love and provides Brookdale students with real-world experience in the industry. Normally people travel to New Jersey from all over the world, but COVID forced this year’s event to quickly shift from in person to virtual. We only had eleven days to pivot and create our own livestream platform. Despite this challenge, this year’s GSFF was a huge success, not only because we were the first and only festival to present in 2020 without postponing or cancelling, but the event marked the first time we had a global reach and could show a larger group of people the incredible talent and creativity that is thriving here in New Jersey.”
Municipalities are encouraged to take advantage of this free program in order to increase the amount of locally produced programs on the PEG channels. For additional information, please contact PEG@NJEdge.net or a participating County or Community College.