Working With An All Student Production Crew | Print |
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Written by Albert Dupont, Jr   

“Everybody, standby … we go live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … show open is rolling … standby camera one … cue talent!” 

Does that get your heart racing?  In my opinion, there is nothing like live video production--whether it is sports, talk shows or a graduation ceremony.  What a great opportunity it is for a high school student to experience the orchestrated chaos of live TV!

While it is true that live TV is always a bit of “behind the scenes” chaos, the viewer should only see the smooth finished product.  Although creating a smooth finished product can be a challenge with a student crew, I believe it is an invaluable experience in preparing students for the real world of video production.  How do you give them that experience?  By actually producing live video productions, including live-to-tape productions, the students will actually get the opportunity to feel that pressure.

For this article we’ll be taking a look at a 3-5 camera shoot that is switched live.  We use a Tricaster for our remote productions with a technical director, director, camera operators, audio operator and graphics operator.  With this type of production, you must practice with your students.  Most video “train wrecks” come from not doing the proper pre-production.  It is essential that you practice with your crew and that everyone clearly understands their role in the production. With a properly prepared crew, most problems that arise are due to equipment failure. The student video producers need to know the proper protocol for crew call, setup, production and teardown.

Once a student commits to a production, the most important thing they need to understand is that we are relying on them.  If a student is a no-show without a really good reason, chances are that they will not be invited back.  Also, there is a crew call time for each production, typically two hours before the event.  The only flexibility I usually give on this is if they are involved in another school activity and we have enough other crew members to cover for them until they arrive. They should also arrive dressed properly for the event.  We provide them black “film crew” shirts and they are usually told to wear black pants for more formal events and blue jeans for sporting events.

I arrive with the equipment about two and a half hours before the event to check out camera positions, cable runs, power outlets, etc.  By the time that is taken care of, the crew begins arriving and setup begins.  I typically oversee the wiring of the equipment and put the students in charge of setting up the cameras and running the cables.

Hopefully, all of the equipment will be ready to go an hour to 45 minutes before the event.  This gives time to work out any issues with cables or equipment.  We check all cameras, audio and intercom.  This is also where we go over proper protocol for the intercom. Absolutely no “chit-chatting” is allowed on the intercom during the event.  The only person that should have an open mike is the director.  Also, put away your cell phone, no texting during the event!  Whatever it is can wait until after the event is over.  For most events there is a short “cool-down” while you wait for the fans or attendees to leave.

Then last, but not least, is the strike as in strike the set.  Nobody leaves until ALL of the equipment is back in my truck.  That means everyone helps pick up, yes, even the talent.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a student crew focused and on track.  They tend to wander off right before a game, show up late, or try to leave early.  It’s the nature of teenagers I suppose.  I try to remind them that what they are doing is good resume material, also a possible “real” job recommendation from me, and high school memories for the participants we are filming.

We are fortunate to have an arrangement with our School District’s Public Information Department that pays the students for working events outside of regular school hours.  The typical rate is $25 per event.  There is some good and bad that goes along with this. The biggest problem being the students that come along may not be committed to the production.  Fortunately, most of the students who are only motivated by the money usually only last an event or two, because video production is hard work.   Another annoying problem is that every time the students are asked to videotape anything the first question they ask is “are we getting paid?”  Sometimes yes, sometimes no, I tell them!

The advantage to paying students is that you can reward the students that do work hard by paying them for their time outside of school hours.  They may not otherwise be able to come to the event, because they need a paying job.  The district also benefits, because they require less personnel to provide video coverage and publicity to the various events that occur throughout the school-system.  The biggest winner is the student.  They are able to build a video production resume while in High School, and again, isn’t that what we are here for?  Preparing them for a future career in the exciting world of live video production.

Albert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.

If you have any questions or comments he can be reached at:

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