Dec. 9 2009 12:00 AM

Station manager, crew work hard to get Lansing watching

Television is a tough business. LCC TV station manager Nicole Sclafani can certainly attest to that.

From Sunday’s early morning hours until midnight, Lansing Community College’s Dart Auditorium and Technology Learning Center were abuzz. Musicians, staff and volunteers scrambled to make last-second preparations for the Cram Jam benefit concert later that night. “It’s chaos, but it’s organized chaos,” Sclafani said. “I love it. Well, not all the time.”

In LCC TV’s state-of-the-art recording studio, Sclafani and her team had the task of recording three video tracks for three bands. It may sound simple, but the process is deceptively complex.

Grand Rapids jam band Ultraviolet Hippopotamus shuffled all of its equipment into the studio, recorded three tracks twice, in case of any video or audio hiccups, and then disassembled its equipment and moved out. The Ragbirds and Griff & John’s Afterhours Experience then did the same. By the end of the recording sessions, the room temperature was around 90 degrees from the numerous stage lights, and the crew had run out of water bottles, making breaks between songs a frequent occurrence.

The recording sessions finished with only an hour to spare, and the bands ran across the street to Dart Auditorium to set up for the concert. The phrase “I need a drink,” was overheard more than once by several members of the production staff.

Cram Jam went off without any major hitches. The only disappointment was the attendance, which drew about 50 in an auditorium that can seat up to 480. Despite the small numbers, the bands brought their best and struck an energetic chord with the few who did attend.

Griff & John’s Afterhours Experience tag teamed with Donald Kinsey, a former guitarist for Bob Marley & the Wailers, and set the tone with a mix of rock, blues and reggae. Kinsey joined the crowd in singing their cover of Marley’s “Stir it up.”

The act was followed by Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, the textbook definition of a jam band. Each song lasted nearly 10 minutes and left the audience clueless as to what crazy concoction would come next from its mix of electric guitars, percussion instruments and synthesizers. The energetic act set a high bar for the Ragbirds and Macpodz to follow.

Although attendance might have been lower than expected, the night could be deemed a success for the young TV station. This was the first project LCC TV has ever had on this scale. Rarely does a first-time production like this bring in a quality musical lineup as it did Sunday or manage to keep things relatively well organized throughout the show as it did. It certainly reflects the efforts of the Sclafani and her team to evolve LCC TV from a classroom resource to a studentrun alternative entertainment and news network.

“We’ve certainly had some hit and misses with some of our projects,” Sclafani said. “But it’s finally turned into a watchable TV program.”

Student-produced entertainment, such as “Ignite Lansing” and “Bite Size Cinema,” are growing LCC TV’s viewership. The stations programming can be seen on Comcast cable channel 15 in Lansing, Dewitt, Eaton Rapids, Grand Ledge and Holt, channel 31 in East Lansing and Okemos. Sclafani, a former employee of Channel 4 Detroit, said she hopes to introduce a student-run news show in the near future.

Interns and student employees are a crucial ingredient to the LCC TV recipe. Sam Zeller, a second-year student, has been an intern for more than two months and has helped out on a number of filming and editing projects. “I’m hoping to be studying film at NYU next year, so working here is helping me get the experience I need for a big career step,” Zeller said.

Joey Vernon, an employee at the station, worked the soundboard during Sunday’s recording sessions. In addition to his interest in video and audio technology, he is applying what he learns to his recordings for his own band.

“This is awesome. It’s cool that I get to come in and work with musicians and lay down good tracks like we are today,” Vernon said.

Sclafani came to LCC TV six months ago, and she said the station has been a “work in progress” since then.

The good news is there appears to have been more successful experiments than not. Although Cram Jam did not draw the attendance it hoped to, there is still promise that it could become an annual event.

“For now, we just want to create something that LCC students want to watch and hopefully gather together some independent financial supporters in the process,” Sclafani said.