Robert Lefcovich is a man on a mission. He wants to help unemployed veterans find work in the television industry by providing them with free professional training. And thanks to a significant contribution from Ray Kalo and his company Plura, it looks like Lefcovich’s dream will soon become a reality.
In his over 50 years in the television and film industry, Lefcovich has worn many hats, including stints as a cameraman (ABC Wide World of Sports, The Julie Andrews Show, Let’s Make a Deal), editor (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, Hallmark Hall Of Fame, Insight), and special effects editor (Sidney Lumet’s Power, Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo). In 2019, Lefcovich founded Veterans-TV in Grass Valley, CA. (Not to be confused with VET Tv, the dark comedy military-themed network.)
The mission statement of Veterans-TV (or VETV) can be found on its website on the “Training Program” page: “Our program offers the most professional, real-time, hands-on TV Production and Post-production technical training available. VETV serves Veterans of the United States Armed and Uniformed Services and their family members. VETV’s mission is to help fill the gap in career training for those returning from service, and ultimately to improve the lives of Veterans and their families… VETV is not a politically motivated organization. We offer our training program at no cost to participants. All Veterans, as well as the spouses and dependents of Veterans and active service members over 18 years of age are welcome to apply. VETV does not discriminate based on race, sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or housing status.”
“I got the idea for VETV after upgrading the Overcomers With Hope Studios in Oakland,” Lefcovich told me. “I met a vet in a ‘tent camp’ under a freeway. He was stuck in a ‘Catch 22’ situation…had no money, couldn’t afford shelter, couldn’t find meaningful work, couldn’t afford clothing for interviews, etc. Had manageable PTSD, but people didn’t understand his needs. Said what he needed was for someone to treat him like a human being and allow him the necessary time to adapt.” (The complete story can be heard here.)
“My intent was to put together a small 15-20-foot truck with a few cameras and go to these ‘tent camps’ and offer training to veterans,” Lefcovich continued. “I send some e-mails to folks in the business, and it soon exploded in my face. Everyone wanted to be a part of this project. First NEP Group offered us this magnificent ‘Denali Gold’ remote truck. Then local companies like Grass Valley, Belden, AJA Video, Ensemble Designs, Telestream, and Renegade Labs offered us their latest and greatest equipment as donations. At NAB, I visited about 20 companies, and every manufacturer agreed to donate gear. Blackmagic donated a lot of gear, including ten 19-inch rackmount monitors. That’s when I realized I had overlooked the most important area of the truck, the Production Monitor Wall. I contacted four companies that manufacture monitors with the quality needed for the truck. Ray Kalo at Plura was one of the first to respond with ‘just tell us what you need.’”
Kalo takes up the story from here. “I met Bob Lefcovichr from Veterans-TV at NAB 2019. We discussed the opportunity on how mutually Plura and VETV can benefit with utilizing Plura Monitoring Solutions—specifically Plura monitors—with their new project. Plura decided to offer Veterans-TV multiple monitors to support this unique project.”
“Plura Monitoring Solutions comprise wide range of high-performance multi-function monitors¾up to 86-inch, including 4K-inch,” Kalo explained. “Equally, the Timing/Synchronization solutions are engineered for digital broadcast and professional video production. Plura products offer an incomparable feature set, superior picture quality, and extraordinary value and reliability. Plura is known for truly affordable, high-end features built upon core technology. The company’s solutions include studio and portable video monitors, studio production timer, time-code displays and time-code PCIe cards, test and measurement equipment and software, and digital media systems.”
“We asked for six 55-inch monitors, which they agreed to immediately,” Lefcovich continued. “Coincidently, on the same day, another company also agreed to send us six 55-inch monitors. We also needed eight monitors about 17-inches for dedicated camera monitors for the wall. We asked Ray if we could change our request to the smaller monitors, and he agreed without hesitation.”
Kalo detailed exactly what equipment Plura donated to Veterans-TV. “Plura provided 8 x 19-inch LCM-119-3G broadcast monitors for the monitor wall in the Production area. These monitors will be fed by multi-viewers. A monitor display can change over time and thus render the same image differently. Recalibration returns your display to a reference standard for brightness and color consistency. Wide gamut displays may be over-saturated and without calibration even wide-gamut displays may be inaccurate. Therefore all Plura provided monitors were calibrated with the Plura ICAC [Intelligent Connection for Alignment & Calibration] tool and recommended color probe. All monitors were issued with calibration report.”
I asked Lefcovich to tell me about who would be conducting Veterans-TV’s classes. “Our instructors are and will be volunteers that are active or retired specialists in their respective fields. They include Bob Ennis, director of Wheel of Fortune; Peter Mason, the CTO and EIC of Veterans-TV; and Jim Boston, EIC of many trucks and the author of the definitive book on mobile television TV on Wheels. Kevin Windrem and Glen Stillwell will be teaching audio. John Field, Bob Ennis, and Mike Minkoff will be instructing on the art of technical director. I will be training on eClips and Adobe Premiere editors, and Joe Lewis will be teaching our Avid and ProTools classes. Many more have offered their services but are waiting for our class schedule to commit their time.
“We have not yet started classes, as we will not have power to the truck until later this month. Our power company PG&E has filed for bankruptcy protection, and we are still raising the required $18,000 for the new connection. We see VETV going from one 10 student class, to three simultaneous classes with 8-10 students each. We are actively looking for a RV/Toy Hauler in which to build a 4-camera mobile unit for the students to use as ‘real life’ training doing jobs around Northern California and getting paid for it. If we can find a forward-thinking CEO for the org, we can see other trucks one day in San Diego, Jacksonville FL, and New York.”
I concluded my interview by asking Kalo if he envisioned Plura working with Veterans-TV in the future. “Absolutely,” he said. “We at Plura appreciate our vets’ service, and the brave and selfless sacrifices they have made for our country. Plura appreciates unconditionally their service rendered throughout the world, and being part of this program is nothing but mark of respect.”