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Ashland group launches video site

Launching themselves as DenizenTV and seated at huge iMac computer screens above the Ashland Plaza, four tech-savvy Gen-Xers are merging the omnipresent technologies of video and the Internet in an effort to create a new kind of community information stream.

"It's an online TV station for Ashland that's video-based," explains Austin VanCampen, Denizen's chief executive officer. "It ramps up the YouTube world to where it's quality sound and picture and gives people — townies and tourists — a really good idea of what's happening in Ashland."

The commercial video production company allows video and written postings by anyone who joins the site, but its distinguishing feature is its own work — videos that describe what's going on in the Ashland arts and entertainment scene in a snappy, fun way shot with high-quality equipment such as a new $2,700 Canon 5D camera that takes old Leica lenses.

"We're trying to go to the next level," VanCampen says. "We're compelled by what's really happening here. It's the future. It's high-quality video on a Web site and we design it like a quality film production."

The top video of the week, "The Aloha Friday Show," gets shot in Denizen's offices and on the street and sums up what's going on in the coming weekend. Denizen shoots scenes in a local tavern or club, promoting the spot in brief, integrated ways, and gets paid for it. Music videos can also be sold to iTunes, says VanCampen.

Visitors to denizentv.com will see videos of Earth Day happenings at ScienceWorks, producer Peter Alzado on his latest Oregon Stage Works play, servers scooping up gelato and espressos at The Mix, John Cole on the play "Hot L Baltimore" at Rogue Community College and Mark Arinsberg on upcoming music acts. They can also watch an interview with the group Monk by Denizen arts reporter Michelle Bellamy at the Coffee Shop Above Bloomsbury Books, which gets product placement and pays for it.

On the home page is a video featuring "All That Remains" by Gypsy Soul and Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors Christine Albright and Kevin Kenerly. It's followed by viewer comments and a Google map of where it was filmed.

It's arts news and music TV and a revenue-generating commercial all at the same time, says VanCampen. Commercial references are fleeting and it lets you in on the inside of "what it's really like to live here and who is creating here," he adds.

Denizen executives believe it's time for a medium that's fresh, spontaneous, interactive and keeps people up to date in a hip, fun way. They're also not afraid to dig in, up front and personal, with such thorny issues as homelessness.

The Gen-X'ers, who grew up in a digital world, bemoan the slow formulaic approaches of traditional media and say people want their news, information and everything else from the Internet.

J.R. Storment, Web creative director, says all shows are archived and a lot of streaming takes place through the webcam aimed at the Plaza (with more webcams planned).

"It makes people feel as if they're here and now, part of the life beat of the community," says Storment. "We have on-demand video. Businesses call us every day and want to be part of that level of interaction and have a happy hour with us on Friday."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

From left, Austin VanCampen, Lacey D'Aquino, Dayvin Turchiano and J.R. Storment of DenizenTV.com, an Ashland video website. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Jim Craven