April 09

Studio Spotlight

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Steve Colwell Retires as Studio Programming Director

This past January the Wyandotte Cable Studio suffered its most significant departure in many years when Studio Programming Director Steve Colwell officially retired. Colwell, 60, was hired for the position in October 2001. His 17-plus years as Studio Programming Director make him the longest serving in that role since the cable studio opened in 1984.

When asked to comment for this piece, Colwell reflected, “It’s amazing to look back and see how much the cable studio changed during the years I was there. When I started at Wyandotte Cable, we were mostly doing old-school, tape to tape video editing. We did have one early, stand-alone, non-liner editing system called the Casablanca, but all studio programs were edited using two ¾ inch video decks and an edit controller. The Casablanca was mostly used to edit footage from the camcorders and that system seems so rudimentary compared to the editing systems and software being used in the studio now.”

During his tenure, Colwell oversaw the relocation of the cable studio from 63 Elm to the 3rd floor of Wyandotte City Hall, a move spearheaded by long-time cable volunteers Richard Miller and Larry Tavernier, and one that helped raise the profile of the production facility. Colwell and his staff were also responsible for the changeover from analog to digital-based equipment and the eventual implementation of a fully high definition studio.

“When I started, we had a single Canon digital camera. All the other portable cameras were Super VHS units. And even that Canon digital camera used video tape; the Mini DV format. Eventually, we eliminated the SVHS cameras and added to our collection of Canon Mini DV camcorders. We even had an early HD model, although that one still used video tape. Of course, in more recent years, all of those cameras were replaced by full HD camcorders that have excellent image quality and record to SD cards. So, it was a huge step when we moved to full HD studio-configured cameras, an HD switcher and HD record system several years ago.”

Although freshly retired, Colwell intends to stay active at the Wyandotte Cable Studio, adding “In the coming years, I’m looking forward to seeing the studio continue to evolve as a video production facility, even though I’m not employed there anymore. Part of my retirement plan is to continue to work on Wyandotte Cable shoots as a volunteer. This is in part because of the good people who work in the studio and also because working on shoots can be so much fun.”

In addition to working behind-the-scenes, Colwell has also maintained an on-screen presence as Uncle Dead Guy, the wise-cracking host of The Chop Shop, an ode to the classic horror host genre. When not portraying an avuncular TV ghoul, Colwell teaches writing courses through Southgate Asher’s Adult Education Program and is also a member of the Wyandotte Jaycees 2019 Haunted House Committee.

uncle dead guy and gerkins
Colwell (right) as Uncle Dead Guy flanked by Joel Adkins as Gerkins during a 2014 production of The Chop Shop

Colwell first signaled his intention to retire last fall when he informed Superintendent Steve Timcoe and General Manager Paul LaManes of his decision. The early notice allowed the management team ample time to plan for the impending transition. That process was expedited by the ability to promote from within, which ensured that the department would maintain continuity and retain invaluable institutional knowledge. Amy Cannatella, a 1986 graduate of Roosevelt High School,  started as a Wyandotte Cable Volunteer in 1988 was hired by former Studio Programming Director, Keith Damron to fill a new position in the cable studio as part time Playback Operator in 1995 and in July 1997 was promoted to the Studio Programmer position  by former Supt. of Cable,  Bill Booker, she succeeded Colwell as Studio as Studio Programming Director in January 2019.

Her former role as Studio Programmer was subsequently filled by Joel Adkins, a 2006 graduate of Eastern Michigan University, who had served in a part-time capacity as Playback Operator for five years and had been a studio volunteer as far back at 2010. The final piece of the programming puzzle came in the form of Roosevelt High School senior Calvin Johns, a member of the Downriver Detroit Student Film Consortium, who recently assumed responsibility as the new Playback Operator.

CATV Superintendent Steve Timcoe offered a positive summary of the department’s offerings, stating, “Wyandotte Municipal Services is extremely proud of the expansive local programming operations that provide a host of informative, educational and entertaining programming content.  In an age when most communities’ citizens have lost the ability to see their City Council and other governmental and educational board meetings, WMS has enhanced and expanded your ability to tune in for these events and others, such as the annual Wyandotte Street Art Fair, various parades and our children participating in school sports, music and theater activities. Many of these events can be accessed online and we now do it all in High Definition!”

Studio staff members assist volunteers with in-house productions, record city meetings and update the trove of information listed on the public access, government and local advertising channels of Wyandotte Cable.

Timcoe continued, “I truly believe this to be an important part of the Wyandotte Cable services that we provide to our customers and the community and I commend the job of the staff and all the volunteers that participate to make it all possible.”

Residents of Wyandotte are encouraged to become part of the local programming team. The studio offers an array of volunteer opportunities in which individuals can immerse themselves in a production environment, acquire practical skills and network with other, active citizens.

For more information, interested parties can call 734.324.7136, email or click the Community Programming and Cable TV Studio link beneath the Cable TV tab located at the top of this page.
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