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Harvard-Radcliffe Television (HRTV)

HRTV was founded in 1992 by Emily Brodsky, now a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

HRTV is a loose collection of small production groups with their own shows, some series that ran for several seasons, such as Ivory Tower (a serial soap opera created by Sara Alexandra Bibel and Andrea N. Moore), Crimson Edition (a news show), Great Performances (showcasing theater, dance, and music events at Harvard), The Common Room (a situation comedy show), Survey Says! (a game show created by Peter Pinch, now Director of Technology at WGBH), and Yard Tails (an animated cartoon show created by Justin Massengale).

HRTV Honorary Board of Advisers included many individuals prominent in the entertainment industry , including Jack Lemmon, John Lithgow, Conan_O'Brien, Elizabeth Shue and Mira Sorvino.

In the early years (1994-1996), many shows were edited in a special HRTV edit facility in the basement of Bob Doyle's Desktop Video Group.

Back in 1975-76, a predecessor to HRTV, the Harvard Radcliffe Film Workshop, offered a house filmmaking course in the basement of Holmes Hall when Bob Doyle was Research Fellow in Harvard's Department of Visual and Environmental Studies at the Carpenter Center.

In 1996, Doyle revamped the old Harvard Radcliffe Film Workshop to become the new HRTV studios. With the help of Kathleen Kouril, a Boston-area filmmaker and Non-resident Tutor at Pforzheimer House and with financial support from Pforzheimer House masters Woody and Hanna Hastings, a lighting grid and cycloramic blue screen were installed in the former Morse Music Library. As the screening room for Harvard Radcliffe Film Workshop, it was equipped with a large pull-down screen. This became the main HRTV studio.

All the walls of the old music library were sand-filled cinder block construction to provide maximum sound isolation. The walls were placed at odd angles to prevent resonances, and one room included a set of double-paned wide glass windows with a view into the screening room. This became the studio control room.

Adjacent to the control room were the edit suites. which offered four computer-based non-linear editing systems - two Avids, one Media 100, and a Fast Video Machine, supported by a combination of hard drives and removable media Jaz drives. A rack held a monitor and dubbing decks for making videotape copies. Three large equipment closets stored the tripods, portable lighting kits, camcorders, and archived tapes of HRTV productions.

Hi-8 camcorders, lavalier microphones. tripods, intercoms, editing decks, a Panasonic MX-10 switcher, and digital video title generator were the key production components. A Panasonic LCD projector was mounted on the screening room ceiling.

The switcher, title generator, four video monitors, and the intercom master were installed on a large roll-about cart - a "studio on wheels" - that could be taken around the Harvard campus for multi-camera recording of university events. The Great Performances series, which documented university events, produced a modest income for HRTV.

HRTV videotaped and transmitted a live multi-camera stream of the Ig Nobel Prize award presentations in Sanders Theater to universities around the country using the experimental IP Multicast backbone (MBone) network, with the help of MIT computer researcher, now Professor, Robert Tappan Morris.

In 1994, the old Radcliffe Radio Station broadcasting booth was converted to an audio recording facility for Quad Sound Studios, with multiple shielded microphone cables running up through the walls to the Holmes Living Room for recordings of music recitals. In 1996, QSS students began collaborating with HRTV producers who needed more sophisticated audio support for their productions.

Distribution of shows was difficult in the early years. Videotapes were shown on a big screen television weekday evenings in the Harvard House Common Rooms or Dining Rooms. Today HRTV shows are streamed as web video on the Internet.

As the cost of PC-based editing came down, and some students came to Harvard owning their own MiniDV camcorders, the HRTV studios in Pforzheimer House were used less and less. Students could shoot on location and edit the show on desktop or laptop computers in their own dorm rooms.

HRTV Programming
Ivory Tower
"Ivory Tower ," created in 1992 by Sara Alexandra Bibel and Andrea N. Moore, is HRTV's longest running and most popular program. It takes an irreverent, but meaningful, look at Harvard life and the problems and issues confronting students on campus. It showcases the talents of some of the University's best actors, screenwriters, technicians, producers, and musicians.

"Ivory Tower" is based on the daytime serial format and thus takes great pride in being a character based program rather than a plotline driven one. It stays true to the history of the program in order to maintain the same continuity that daytime serials achieve, albeit in a much smaller and more intense span of time. Daytime serials continue to be the keystone of daytime network programming and much of their popularity stems from their use of character and not plotlines to achieve their differences and their reflection of everyday life with all the drama, suspense and passion one would wish everyday life would actually have. The longest running "soap opera" on television now has been on for over fifty years (it was on the radio before it came to television) and its longevity is testimony to the popularity and quality of this genre globally. This is not to say that interesting plotlines are not a vital part of a daytime serials success, but rather that plotlines are a means of creating complex characters which one grows attached to through viewership, and this is also the reason why different shows can use the same or similar plots to achieve totally different effects.

Some of "Ivory Tower's" most classic moments seem to have come straight out of the nighttime serials of the 1980s, such as the cat fights between "Laurel" and "Dominque," "Slater's" embezzlement and most recently the rape of our ingenue "Gabrielle." Future episodes are likely to include the same as well as other storylines based on current campus events, topics, and controversies. Because the average member of the Ivory Tower staff is only here for four years, the character turnover is more rapid than on network television, but are nonetheless key to the show's success and have created a loyal following. Ivory Tower is fun, exciting, and requires the teamwork of over two dozen actors, technicians and production staffers. Hopefully Ivory Tower will have the same longevity as its network predecessors and continue to maintain the loyalty of the Harvard community which makes Ivory Tower possible.

Crimson Edition

"Crimson Edition," HRTV's news magazine show debuted in 1995 and improved by leaps and bounds in 1996. Modeling itself as a hybrid of "20/20" and "Hard Copy," "Crimson Edition" attempts to be both a light-hearted commentator on Harvard life as well as a recorder of campus events. This is not to say, however, that "Crimson Edition" is a lightweight news show. Quite the contrary, "Crimson Edition" reporters revealed --- in a Spring '96 investigative piece --- serious deficiencies in Harvard's acclaimed athletic facilities.

"Crimson Edition" reporters might find themselves anywhere from a Boston jazz club to the famed underground tunnels of the Quad on a given story. Scoping out the unusual is both expected and appreciated on "Crimson Edition." Stories are meant to document Harvard happenings and to make the student audience laugh at itself. Past episodes have included mini-series stories such as "Question of the Week" and "Profiles of Campus Stars" -- stories sharing one format and featuring different content. Reporters are encouraged to introduce their own stories and provide background information throughout the piece. In addition, "Crimson Edition" episodes are anchored by three members of the CE team in order to lend a studio-like atmosphere to the show -- each story begins and ends with commentary from the main anchors in the studio environment.

"Crimson Edition" allows its reporters great freedom in choosing stories and in editing their work.. But, as freedom brings responsibility, "Crimson Edition" reporters are required to edit their own pieces. The general direction of a story should be agreed upon by the entire CE team and final edits will be under the jurisdiction of the Executive Producer. While "Crimson Edition" prides itself upon its flexible format and willingness to incorporate the odd-ball piece, it is exclusively a hands-on community where team members learn by working and pitch in at every level. It is an ambitious show which necessitates that its members commit themselves to seeing a project through to completion. The rewards of working, however, cannot be beat.

HRTV Great Performances

"HRTV Great Performances" showcases theater, dance. and music performances at Harvard. Performances at Pforzheimer House, HRT s headquarters, are given first priority in the taping schedule. This program gives HRTV crews the o Minty to learn how to do multi-camera shoots in a situation where audience, lighting, and other lighting factors are out of HRTV' s control. Taped versions of the productions enable a larger audience to experience them, add to the quantity and quality of HRTV output, and are deposited with the Harvard University Pusey Library Theatre Collection to provide an historical record of on-campus performances. Pforzheimer House arts spaces, particularly Holmes Living room and the dining hall, are the primary taping locations for this series, along with Memorial Hall, Lowell Hall, and Agassiz Theatre. "HRTV Great Great Performances" is also a revenue-generating production, and one which provides a unique service to performers and fans of Harvard's theatrical and musical communities. Dubs of the show are offered for sale at a reasonable price soon after the performance, and the proceeds help to defray some of HRTV's considerable production costs. This program is perfect for those HRTV members who love the arts, are fascinated by the challenges of live switching in a multi-camera set-up, and have some entrepreneurial flair.

The Common Room

"The Common Room" is the comedy talk show of HRTV. It is one of the newest shows and has been around officially for only one semester. During that time the concept of the show was created and an experimental pilot episode was filmed. The show is, in general, based on popular late night television shows. It features a host who serves as stand-up comedian and interviewer, as well as several sidekicks who interact with the host and take part in comedic skits. One or several guests are invited to each show. In looking for guests we look for people who are easy to talk to, have some interesting talents and/or accomplishments, and whose names are known on campus. Guests for the show will come mostly from the Harvard community, but attempts will be made to get celebrities from outside of campus to come in. Although the guest interview is an important part of the show, "The Common Room" is at heart a comedy show. The setting for the show, as the name suggests, is reminiscent of a typical common room at Harvard. The comedy skits and host/co-host interactions, however, will sometimes be nothing like you'd expect a Harvard common room to be. Actually, the writing team plans to get most of its material from real life, so it shouldn't be too far-fetched.

Forming a production team for the show was one of the most difficult and most exciting tasks of last semester. The hard work paid off when the team proved its high quality with the success of the experimental pilot episode. The team is headed by an executive producer who chairs an executive board made up of the directors of various departments. On the board are the host, who also serves as Creative and Concept director, the Head writer, the Talent Coordinator, and the heads of such essential departments as Public Relations, Finances, Equipment and Crew Management, and Publicity. Each member of the board is given a great deal of responsibility and freedom in accomplishing the goals of his/her department. Some, like the Head Writer, choose to put together a team of their own to help them with their responsibilities. Efficiency and frugality are the main strengths of the production team; all members constantly strive to produce the best possible show while also attending to their schoolwork, other extracurricular activities, and a social life. Time commitment to the show varies with the position on the production team, but is never more than several hours a week.

Because of the nature of this show, much of the work is done outside of formal meetings. Department and board meetings, however, are essential parts of the production process and allow members to come together, share ideas, and solve problems which they come across. There is one executive board meeting per week, and the plan is to have a weekly rehearsal for actors, two weekly meetings for writers, and one meeting a week where actors and writers can come together and try out some comedic material. This last meeting would be taped with one or two cameras in order to get the actors as much time in front of a camera as possible. Meetings for other departments will be held as they are deemed necessary by each department director. Aside from formal meetings, each member of the production team is asked to attend the show taping, which is the culmination point of the efforts of everyone on the team. There will be three tapings each semester, each one on the first Saturday of each month, October through December in the fall semester and February through April in the spring semester. The hope is to produce at least three episodes per semester for a total of at least six per year.

The show is always looking for new members and ideas. New actors, writers, and especially tech people are always needed. To facilitate this, the first ten minutes of each regular Executive Board meeting, Sundays from 9-10pm, is open to everyone. These meetings have been held in one of the meeting rooms of Loker Commons and the plan is to continue to use this location.

Survey Says!

Name a place Harvard students go on their first date. Most Harvard students would be hard-pressed for an answer to this question. But on "Survey Says!," that's half the fun, as Harvard's dorms and houses compete to guess the most popular responses to questions that can challenge even the most astute intellectuals. Envisioned as a "Family Feud"-type game show set at Harvard, "Survey Says!" began its run during the 1995-96 school year under the leadership of advisor Peter Pinch '94. Three episodes were taped in front of live audiences at Currier and Winthrop Houses; prizes were provided by Harvard Dining Services.

"Survey Says!" is one of the younger HRTV shows, and there is still a lot that can be done with it. Here are some possibilities for the show:

  1. Have a special guest (like a professor) read a question
  2. Have a celebrity tournament
  3. Have Elizabeth Shue '88 or another member of the honorary board make an appearance on the show
  4. Get other prizes to give away in addition to the Dining Services stuff
  5. Get enough sponsorship so that the show pays for itself

Yard Tails

"Yard Tails" is HRTV's animated series, using computer animation software to simulate the look of traditional drawn-cell animation. The pilot episode, produced over the course of the 1995-96 academic year and screened in the spring of 1996, was 15 minutes long and included an original score. For coming seasons, the plan is to put out two episodes per year, one in the fall and one in the spring.

The show is a satire of first year life at Harvard. Its premise is that within the walls and floors of the dorms and buildings, there are miniature versions of all of Harvard's institutions, inhabited and frequented by mice, birds, bugs, and other animals of that size. These creatures make up the students, staff, and administration of this miniature Harvard and face all the issues and adventures of actual life. The principal characters of the show are two 4-creature rooming groups, one male and female, who live across the hall from each other in "Spayer Hall." This is a mini-version of Thayer found inside the wall of that dorm, and accessible through the floorboards of an actual student's room (see the pilot episode), and possibly other ways as well. Other typical student haunts such as the Coop have their own miniature versions inside their respective buildings.

The main character is Jason Fields, a field mouse from Iowa, who arrives at Harvard inexperienced and impressionable, and through whose eyes we see the fears, pitfalls, and misadventures of the average first year. He has three roommates: Eddie, a preppy, snotty. old-money finch; Tank, a Valley jock frog; and Mordechai, an antisocial computer-nerd grasshopper. Their neighbors consist of Coreen, a brilliant but good-natured pre-med lab mouse; Summer, an artsy chameleon; Nicky, an over-energetic and over- committed hummingbird; and Zel, a down-to-earth spider, who is the most sane one of the bunch. Zel helps Jason maintain perspective amid the comical extremes of the other stereotypical characters. Other assorted characters in the first episode are Tank's sports buddies, an otter, lizard, duck, and what appears to be maybe a ferret (we're not sure). The format makes possible humorous caricatures of other stereotypes as appropriate animals, such as administrators as snails or turtles, or finals clubs' members (e.g. the "Fly").

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