Boulder becoming ‘digital’ capital of the Rockies

| Aug 26, 2009


(Note: This is the first column by a pillar of Boulder journalism, Jerry Lewis, repurposed with his collaboration from his Boulder Report blog. Read all of that blog here.)

Over at a corner table at the Ozo coffee shop, someone was doing a video interview. As colorful dancers of the N. Arapaho tribe performed downtown, I counted at least three videographers, with numerous digital photographers shooting the event. There were Flips, iPhones and Nikons recording the Arapaho “Coming Home” gathering.

Boulder has long been one of the more “plugged-in”  and early tech adopting cities in Colorado. Now I think we could start promoting our fair city as the “digital media” capital of the Rockies.

A thirst for digital education, meetups, tweetups and film festivals has brought in a new downtown digital media incubator as well as an ambitious digital media program at the University of Colorado that’s hoping to connect to some of the best in the business.

Bruce Borowsky, a producer at Boulder’s People Productions, was one to catch the wave early on as co-founder of the successful Boulder Digital Arts. Demand by area businesses, he says, keeps growing to stay on top of whatever new digital technologies emerge.

Now in its fifth year, BDA averages about 15 classes a month and is designed as an affordable way (average costs is $50) for companies to cross-train their employees in everything from Photoshop to video editing to Web design.  “Our audience is the working professional,” Borowsky says.

BDA, online at, operates from about 800 square feet at 47th and Pearl.  Lately he’s getting requests for classes on iPhone applications and video podcasts, two fast-growing areas in the evolving social media world. BDA also maintains a free online directory for local digital experts, and user groups are growing for specific interests such as Final Cut Studio editing and photography.

One of the people I saw with a camcorder for the Arapaho tribe was Alan O’Hashi, who started Boulder Community Media in January 2008. It’s now expanded to 11 incubator-style offices with shared meeting and studio space at 13th and Walnut.

As space filled up, his landlord worked with his nonprofit to expand, with prices ranging from a desk cubicle at about $200 a month to larger spaces running from $350 to $600.  “It’s an opportunity for networking, business sharing or just a resource for people to become involved” in digital media business ideas, he says.  O’Hashi says he’s taken the “hard knocks track” to learning filmmaking, and he’d like to help others tackle the digital learning curve.

The Boulder  Creative “Media-Plex” will have an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday,  Sept. 2 and, of course, invites are going out to Facebook “friends.” How else does one get to a party these days? The mixer runs at the same time as the monthly “schmoozer” of BIFF, Boulder International Film Festival and Colorado Film Society, also at 1906 13th St.  Info at

O’Hashi just jetted off to Uganda for a film project on foreign aid reform, and he’s also working on a Boulder Arts Commission grant exploring Georgia O’Keefe’s time when she lived in Ward.

More details are being announced about the new Boulder Digital Works program, an “industry driven” effort headed by David Slayden, an advertising professor in CU’s Journalism School. Its goal: Create new digital leaders and entrepreneurs. The program is a joint effort including both the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

A 60-week digital media certificate program that starts in October, with partnerships including MDC Partners, parent firm of ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky as well as professionals from Hyper Island  in Sweden (, is expected to be limited to about 21 students, with a cost of $25,000. The program also is working with SoDA, the Society of Digital Agencies.

Slayden says the graduate certificate program has to be flexible and innovative because by the time curricula is typically approved in graduate programs, “the technology has changed.”

Slayden sees a much broader program shaping up with executive workshops designed for business professionals who want to upgrade their “digital game.”  The first one, scheduled for Oct. 7-9, is priced at $3,000, but course designers are looking how to create more workshops that will be “price competitive.” Information is online at

“We’re already hearing from people as far away as Singapore,” Slayden says.

In an opportunity to put all this digital creative to work, Boulder will host its sixth annual 24-hour Shoot Out Film Making Festival on Sept.  25-27 (, with invites to filmmakers, including beginners, to take the challenge.

“Wise words” on the Shootout’s Web page: “For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.” – Alfred Hitchcock.