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Written by Misty Gentle   

10 Things You Should Know When Starting a Video Production Class

 "Number One - What to Teach (the Curriculum)”

I find it interesting that a person has to be certified in math to teach math but that teachers with zero production experience often fill a highly technical class like video production. I won’t lie; those of us who hold a degree or professional experience in this business are definitely offended. But, I also understand how the decision is made on whom to place in that position is complicated. Hopefully, most of the teachers who find themselves teaching this subject for the first time want to be there. Wanting to do this is half the battle. In fact, I’d rather help an ambitious new-be than a burned out, negative veteran from the movie biz.

Unfortunately, textbooks for this subject don’t match the make-up of every video production program because the differences in equipment and software are so great. Even if it did, technology keeps changing so fast, it would be hard to keep a textbook current. So, relax, there is not one way to teach this, nor is there a right way. You first have to look at your needs for the class and the needs of the school. You may have a morning news class and or a video production class. Each is very different in the immediate expectations of the class and you must take that into consideration.

Let’s first look at the morning news class. I would start with your expectations in professionalism; dress and copyright then jump right into crew positions, titles and job responsibilities. Define each role as needed for your news show. You can create as many jobs as needed to keep your students busy and to produce the show you desire. Let students gravitate to the job they feel most interested to start off and you will get better results. Then you need to start with the basics of the equipment. Insist that they do the very basics needed to do to get by. You can add advanced skills with transitions and Chroma Key later. Basic vocabulary to help your crew communicate would need to include: camera shot types, moves and angles. Stage direction, hand signals and basic audio production will help with your production value. Make sure they are properly using their microphones and the audio engineer is keeping all levels at zero on the mixing board. Then have your students study the news so they can better imitate the look of a newscast. Using whatever computer graphics you have available, make attractive looking lower 3rds, informational slides and or station ID bugs for the corner. Start the show with a short show open complete with music and good looking images; end your show with music, credits and a fade to black and ‘WHAM’ your show is looking more professional already!

When it comes to the video production class, I prefer starting with a ‘Basic Format’ vocabulary. It gives me something important to jump right into without hindering the success of my students while the guidance counselors are still juggling schedules around. Here’s what I mean, all video is not the same. Think about it, a commercial is entirely different than News Broadcasting. A game show is not produced anything like a Drama or a Sitcom. Public Service Announcements and Network Promos have a different purpose. From the target audiences, purpose of the broadcasts, and the way they are produced all of these productions are different. It helps open the students’ creative mind when their eyes see these differences. Video tape format, now more commonly known as blank media is also important to understand. What is the difference between 8mm and mini DV? What about SD cards? How do you know what you need? What is NTSC and why is it important? These are important but when your class schedules settle, it won’t kill you to have some new kids who missed the lesson.

What I do next changes every year. It really has more to do with my equipment than anything else. So, you can scramble this up but here is what I have done most. I have broken my projects into themes, starting with Short Film, Advertising, News Broadcasting, Public Service Announcement and Music Video. The final project being DVD Authoring, where they put all their projects on one DVD. I’ll go into these projects and others, more in a future article.
Each project builds on the last with skills and tasks they must master. Starting with basic camera operation and composition. Hands on practice with the camera, getting shots, setting it up and putting it away. Then letting them know that every project has a similar production process. Pre-Production, Production and Post Production. Teach the steps of each as you go, slowly for the first project, they will get faster as the year passes.

Pre-Production includes, brain storming, script writing, storyboarding, scheduling, prop/wardrobe preparation, location scouting. The Internet is a wonderful tool; you can find many worksheets and helpful tips on line these days.

Production includes the tech rehearsal and any video taping or producing of elements needed for the project. This can include the production of an original sound track or computer graphics.

Finally Post Production: know how students can screen their footage; import their video to their editors and basic editing. You aren’t done until you know how to export your video to a file format that can be viewed somewhere else. All this really depends on your equipment.

Rinse & Repeat.

That’s right, after plowing through one project, do it again with another, each time, adding on more skills in the process. Slowly they can add better shots, video effects, more computer graphics, etc. You can learn with them as you go but you should find that as you improve, they too will improve. Good Luck!

Misty Gentle started with long format television programs for Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. She worked her way up from a Production Assistant to Producer. Along the way, she worked in a variety of positions from pre-production through post. After that, she worked on shows for the Fox Health Network, Animal Planet, ABC, Disney, The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel and More. Misty has been a writer / director / producer for on-air promotions and corporate productions as well as 2nd assistant stage manager, Script Supervisor, Segment Producer, Associate Producer, and Post Production Producer. In the summer of 2008, she was Associate Producer for Nickelodeon's "My Family's Got GUTS". These positions have given her a broad understanding of production from show concept and development through post and delivery.

She began teaching in 2004 with a full television production program at the middle school level. After 5 years, Ms. Gentle moved up to high school where she currently teaches digital video production to 9th through 12th graders.

She holds a BA degree in Communications - Television and Radio Production and is certified as 'Technical Vocational Education - Television Production'.


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