Concordia's CUTV offers public access to equipment, software, training and peer support
Ask Sasha Lipskaia, director of communications at Concordia University Television (CUTV), about the studio’s latest shipment of equipment and her exuberant response may surprise you.
“We got a gimbal and a dead cat!” she exclaims.
No, Lipskaia does not wish any ill will toward our feline friends. Despite its morbid name, a “dead cat” is a microphone windshield that makes it possible to capture useable sound even on the windiest of days. A gimbal is a nifty stabilizer that allows videographers to film seamless footage while walking.
These pieces are just the latest CUTV has added to its growing library of professional quality audio and visual equipment. All of the studio’s tools are free for undergraduates to sign out for up to a week. Other Montrealers can also borrow CUTV’s equipment, provided they pay a $20 annual fee.
“I think people often confuse what we do because we’re called CUTV," says Lipskaia.
"But the TV bit is a leftover from when we were founded back in 1969 and had a running channel. Today, we’re a multimedia creation hub. We don’t create our own content, rather we support others in generating work through our equipment depot, facilities, workshops and network.”
A tour of the facilities
Located on the top floor of a four-storey building on Mackay Street, CUTV has a video editing suite where a collection of small figurines stands sentinel over nine Apple computers. Each machine is equipped with the latest version of Adobe Creative Cloud, and members are also able to store their projects on the workspace’s server.
The audio recording room is a small soundproof space that holds professional recording equipment, a controller and a computer. Members can mix their recordings by using one of three digital audio software programs: Pro Tools, Cubase and Reaper.
“Sometimes musicians hang out in there for a few hours at a time and come out with amazing stuff,” says Lipskaia. “People use it for unplugged sessions, postproduction, monologues, podcasts, you name it!”
Lastly, there’s the green-screen studio, which also houses a black screen and a white seamless background for photoshoots. The spot is often populated by aspiring actors working on their sample reels or headshots.
All of CUTV’s facilities can be accessed at any hour of the day, weekends included. While the audio suite and green-screen studio need to be booked in advance, the editing lab operates on a drop-in basis. There’s also a bathroom and kitchenette where free coffee, tea and conversation are served.
“If you want to edit your video at two in the morning, or book the studio overnight, you can,” says Lipskaia.
“As a member, this is really your space. You can use us, meet people, and feel that you’re a part of the city, part of a community. There are a lot of artists and creatives looking for a way to start their work in Montreal — this is it.”
A place to learn & connect
Lipskaia notes that CUTV is also a learning space where staff like Lara Sofia, the resident audiovisual technician, are around to help.
“If you’ve got questions about how to use the equipment or software, Lara is here to provide one-on-one training,” she says. “She’s also a great consultant in terms of what equipment is best for what purpose.”
Then there’s the weekly media workshops that are open to everyone, regardless of membership. These sessions run the gamut from scriptwriting to video editing.
“Beyond gaining new multimedia skills, it’s also a networking opportunity,” remarks Lipskaia. “Our teachers are all working professionals, so bring your own project along, ask questions and make industry contacts.”
CUTV also serves as a bridge to connect media-makers looking to expand their portfolios with relevant projects and funding. For example, if a non-for profit wants coverage but doesn’t have a budget for a videographer, the studio has an honorarium program through which it can pay one of its members to produce the content on the organization’s behalf.
“We’ve done this for Frigo Vert and a bunch of other independent organizations across Montreal,” explains Lipskaia.
“While it’s not industry wages, it's still something, and you get to expand your portfolio in a meaningful way,” says Lipskaia. “A lot of people start at CUTV and move into the industry, either thanks to the contacts they made or the work they created while they were here.”
On the horizon: industry workshops & YouTube archives
This summer, CUTV aims to launch a series of industry workshops that focus on grant writing, government proposals, ownership and taxes.
“Our community is composed of a lot of freelancers and recent graduates, and there’s a fair amount of confusion over how to do necessary things like taxes and invoices. Our hope is to bring people in who can clarify these murkier aspects of content creation,” says Lipskaia.
“We’re also working towards new collaborations with organizations that promote job search and integration.”
Another forthcoming item on the docket is a digital archive of CUTV’s lost footage. A couple decades’ worth of old tapes were hanging about the office, so a team of interns recently digitized the files, which will soon be uploaded onto YouTube.
“We’ve got footage of Tina Turner running away from a CUTV reporter and a couple of takes of a young Mutsumi Takahashi,” teases Lipskaia. “Stay tuned.”
Find out more about how to become an active member of CUTV.