Post Modern Production

To understand the post-modern world of video production, a future professional in this field should understand that 1) convergent technology is driving the cost of entry into the field down meaning more people will be able to work at the lowest end of the employment spectrum, 2) automation is driving lesser skilled members of the industry out of business or into unsupportable positions where their pay is barely better than the food services industry, and 3) outsourcing means some aspects of production can be mass produced off shore in sweat factories.

This has forced the video production student to A) become more skilled, B) become more broadly skilled, C) look away from the traditional media for employment, and D) develop an entrepreneurial edge to their work that makes them always looking for business opportunities. This means that a successful video production person can no longer expect to spend years in local television climbing an established ladder from one TV station to the next. Local television is not dead, but its employment structure is crippled and automated and only parts of the ladder remain. Instead they must find a home either in the burgeoning entertainment industry where skill levels are very high and there is a premium placed on the finding of a niche, or they must develop a skill set that allows them to envision a product that can earn money, then the willpower and work ethic to see that product to its final completed form.

At the same time the wider audiences have provided opportunities for the talented producer to create products that can pay a living wage through creative use of the Internet and new media. A new graduate can earn a living producing documentary videos for sale on iTunes, can produce small/intense audience web series whose funding is through Kickstarter, or can develop advertising revenue through commentary-based media in highly targeted audiences. Most media producers will maintain several revenue sources, moving into and out of the mainstream media as opportunities present themselves.

Allan Leight was a six and ten news shooter, but also maintains a business known as Leighthouse Productions on the side. As the news photography began to fade he was able to parlay his business into a full-time employment.

Adam Scott was a digital media producer for Gamestop who diversified his portfolio and added Sharepoint to his portfolio, allowing him to not only make media, but to create the interactive tools that delivered the media to his company.

Vanessa James (pseudonym) became a general media producer for a midwestern hospital, adding public relations and corporate media skills, then finally took over advertising for her hospital. On any one day she can be shooting a commercial, hiring an ad agency, writing a press release, taking archival photographs, or even publishing a digital magazine.

Traci Smith (pseudonym) took her digital media skills and started off producing videos of video game play, then added social media to the mix and became the customer communication guru for a major game company.

Scott Stoops took his digital media shooting and editing skills and became a talent representative in Hollywood.

I have observed and aided my students develop their own directions in the media, few of which are universal. The main issue is to acquire the skills and the personal chutzpah to succeed at your first jobs, then be ready to ride opportunities when they arise. In my experience the main division between people who succeed and those that fail now is the division between people who have put their names onto published works, and those that have not. The ability to conceive of a media project then see it through to the end is a key feature of the successful post-modern media person.

INT 346 Video Production

This course is a basic primer in how to communicate using modern digital media tools. Students will learn the art, science, and social science of communication, and will show that knowledge by producing three works of digital media, culminating in a video that uses all of the techniques shown in the class. For the purposes of this course, students will be working with actuality media including journalism and documentary production.

Fundamentals is the "exploration" class designed to service a wide audience. In some cases this will be the only creative media that a student (such as one in public relations) may take. The primary focus of the course thus should be on acquisition, editing, and distribution of digital media content via the DSLR or DSLM hybrid camera and the digital audio recorder, followed by the editing of this material using a tool such as AVID Media Composer or Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, and finally the posting of this media to the Internet for public viewing. A sample syllabus is found here. All classes listed here will rely heavily on professor produced text materials. This class uses four small texts, two of which are the camera manual and the audio manual. This class also introduces students to the department production website with manuals, diagrams, sample videos, and a chat group.

Each student will demonstrate their mastery of this class by passing three tests, and by the creation of three projects - an audio package, a video package, and a photographic presentation series for Power Point. This material will be retained on file by the department for assessment purposes.

A student who completes this class with a C or higher will be able to: 1) use a removable lens digital camera to obtain high quality still images and manipulate those images for use in video, presentations, or the web. 2) Use a digital audio recorder or the audio of a video canera to collect natural sound and interview sound using a range of microphones, then edit that sound into a complete "NPR" style audio package that can serve as an audio blog or audio package for radio. 3) Record video that includes establishing shots, detail shots, b-roll, stand-up, and both sync and non-sync sound.

A sample video from INT 346. Note that the expectation is clean video and clear storytelling, not a perfect piece of narrative.

A much rougher video produced by students outside of the video track. The goal of the class is to provide an experience that aids both production track students, and students from other areas.

INT 446 Studio Production

An introduction to the operation of a television production studio.

The basic studio production class places students working in teams to learn how to operate the basic studio control room, and extend this experience so audio and audio assistant skills are applicable to radio production as well. Each student will 1) learn to operate cameras in a studio setting, 2) learn grip and lighting work by service on the floor as a floor assistant, 3) learn how to manage a studio floor as a floor director, 4) master the production switcher's basic elements and be able to punch a simple show, 5) develop a strong mastery of the various types of audio boards, be able to bring sound from the microphone to the studio recorder, and be able to transfer these stills to a radio station. 5) Learn how to engineer a show including operating camera CCUs, reading wave forms monitors, learning how to record and playback program materials, and how to convert show files to intermediate and online formats. 6) Learn how to lead in a studio control room by taking the positions of director, producer, or production assist (teleprompter) to write scripts and rundowns, manage crews professional development, communicate with guests and talent, and complete a television show. A sample syllabus is found here.

All students in this class will record a complete show in a position of leadership, and will work crew for at least six other shows serving as floor director, technical director, camera operator, audio operator, floor assistant, and engineering positions. They will also volunteer for and serve no less than two radio shifts as assistants to a trained DJ. All students will have a leadership credit on a complete video program offered to the public. For extra credit they may produce a thirty-minute audio talk show using studio resources to be offered to the radio station.

Martha Semegura's piece is a standard for passing this class. She produced a clean, exactly timed, interesting video that does not grow stale (has no reference to current events) and was clean despite some mistakes. The second segment of her program featured interviews with the players and was used by a different student as a final project for the class.

INT 633 Advanced Video Productio

Practice in the basic elements of video production. Performing arts, lighting and camera work, audio and editing are covered. Lecture and laboratory.

The Advanced Video Production class builds on INT 346 by starting at video editing and using this to introduce the concepts of scripts, storyboards, and project visualization. This then leads to the building of skill sets such as using rigs, lighting (passive and active), state law, OSHA, and other subjects about how to get a production done. The students then complete their own production that must 1) tell a story, 2) be properly documented, and 3) show a consideration for using available technology.

A student who completes this class should, working as a team, be able to produce a video, including working with scripts, developing story ideas, and moving from script to screen with the project with minimal supervision.

A music video producer for video production class. The only music that may be used in this class is paid needle drops, or music with copyright clearance performed by the students.

A video by a student who was not in video production (Sherry is a public relations students). Despite some significant editing errors, the project shows that the video student must tell a story, and that technical sophistication does not make up for poor writing, interview technique, or the like.

INT 638 Intensive Video Production

This course is an intermediate study of video production techniques with an emphasis on electronic field production techniques and editing. Students will learn to plan, shoot, edit, and release a video of significant quality while under a strict time-limit to move the project from script to screen. This class is very challenging because unlike previous classes, the student has considerable freedom to explore their own avenue to success.

This production class involves a student developing a significant production or historical or practical value, or participating in a large multi-part production as a team. By now students are working as "independent artists" with a majority of classtime spent workshopping special skills. Student video is expected to be high quality, and the projects they complete should be worthy of inclusion on resume reels. A sample syllabus is found here

Intensive Video Production students may also work in positions of leadership on department wide web series or a series of studio or field shows. The major goal of this class is to provide a flexible experience lacking in lower-level classes.

Teams of students in this class can each take a single job, or a segment of the same video to produce a high quality collaborative experience.

Students like Al Leight use this class experience to develop extended videos - this one became a 20-minute video sold at New York State parks. The size of the video required that Al link the work in this class to practicum work to enable him to spend an extended amount of time on his project.

Workshop in Cinematography

An summer workshop in cinematography. Camera functions, lenses, advanced lighting techniques, contrast principles, advanced picture composition, camera movement and cinematography techniques and philosophies are covered.

Cinematography is a workshop class where a considerable amount of flexibility and freedom can result in great student products. One way the class has been taught by me is that students who are slated to take it meet the semester before and develop the property they will be making during the next semester. I will usually present them with a few scripts I have already available, and often I can find donations from alumni to support the class. Examples of a script prepared for this type of project is Never Tales. The students will then develop a storyboard, complete production planning, and be ready the next semester at the start of the class to actually shot and edit the project. The goal of this process is to make students dynamic partners in the class, and give them significant buy-in into the product. Like Directing class, grading is done through authentic assessment..

During one class the students took three short stories published by me and produced them as movies. In the first episode the students took all rolls in the production except director, adapting the script, storyboarding, clearing music, shoot locations, and the like, and rotating all roles between themselves. An additional two movies were produced with students replacing me in the role of director.


As students progress in my classes learn to be professionals, they are rewarded by a changed grading scheme that I use in advanced classes called authentic assessment. This grading scheme is based on the supervisory models pioneered by successful Sillicon Valley companies in creating an environment where a person can take a risk and fail, as long as they self-assess and correct the events that lead to that failure for eventual success. College grading is usually summative: this means that a student who gets a poor grade on a test has no method to correct this by relearning the information they missed. They instead move on to the next set of information. In advanced production classes where the goal is to complete a major work of media, failures in process do count, but if the student learns from the failures and through self-assessment improves, those grade problems can be erased as if they never happened.

Creative projects are usually graded based on the standard grading rubric. The rubric remains the same across all classes, and is not only used to assess for grading but for self-assessment. It can be found here..