MISSOULA - Three decades ago it was all about video tape and very heavy cameras. Today, Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) can help you take better clips with your phone for TikTok.
But there's also a new emphasis on preserving those early videos.
When we last checked in with MCAT, they were celebrating their silver anniversary, albeit with little room for cake in the cramped little basement space off a downtown alley.
"Our very first year started in the old Missoulian building at 500 North Higgins. And we've been in that cellar for 30 years," recalls longtime MCAT General Manager Joel Baird. "And along came the pandemic and then we shut everything down in anticipation of moving into this beautiful library."
A year after moving into the corner at the new Missoula Public Library, there's little physical resemblance to the "old" MCAT — beyond the same spirit of helping the community express themselves with media, now in all of its formats.
"We're really enjoying this opportunity to bring more people into what we do and we're styling ourselves a little bit away from being just a TV station into being a Media Center," Baird explained.
"So we're offering classes in how to use a field camera, how to use a podcasting machine that we bought, how to use this amazing studio with multiple cameras and special effects. Every Saturday, kids can be in this studio in our podcast room making their own animation from 1 to 3 p.m., and all of this is absolutely free."
While MCAT was seeing changes when I visited their old studio seven years ago, today's tech was still evolving. While the tools change, Baird says the need for training doesn't.
"You shoot something on your camera phone, it looks great. What about refining it? What about editing it? What about adding tags so people kind of could read what was going on? And what about the world of distribution? If you want people to get your message, maybe you need help figuring out where to put that message, and we're here to do that."
"We've kept some of our old equipment, so if people have VHS, Super VHS, High 8, regular 8, and we saw some old machines earlier, a Betacam machine is here and a 3/4 inch tape," Baird said. "So we've kind of made a commitment to people if they want to come to us and get assistance in preserving that old media."
And like 32 years ago, still helping Missoula navigate the media landscape.
"We're looking down the road where we might give a TikTok class or how to maximize your viewership on YouTube. But our traditional offer still stands to people if they would like to make a talk show, if they'd like to make a show in which they spend the whole time airing their opinions about whatever it is — if they would like to bring a music band into this space and record them. We're here for them to do that," Baird concluded.
Learn more about what MCAT has to offer at https://mcat.org/.