As the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) nominees were announced for Outstanding Interstitial, I was struck by the fact that Ethan’s Music Room, unlike the other entries, integrally involved students in all aspects, from pre-production, production and post-production.
Ethan’s Music Room – created “By Kids, For Kids, With Kids,” is a series of music education programs produced during summer break in the CPBN Learning Lab – satellite campus for Hartford’s Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School.
Every aspect of the show was student-centered, from the set layout and design, to the logo animation and teacher instructional aids, to the actual production, with four student videographers responsible for getting the shots, which then turned into a multi-cam edit, first completed by students.
But if you don’t have the benefit of a school integrated inside a public media company, how can you guide student achievement to attain professional quality?
Here are some steps to take:
First, make sure you gain the technical expertise needed for any equipment the students will need or skills they will need to be taught. Be brave and don’t fall into the easy rationalization that the technology or software is beyond the student’s ability to learn, when it is really only beyond your ability to teach. I have often found the first condition used as a cover for the latter.
Next, in order to ensure your school is making the right purchases, follow the adage, “train students for tomorrow, not yesterday.” Make sure administrators and program managers understand that technology hardware and software are wise investments and will help students build skills that are useful and current. New and up-to-date equipment use ensures acquisition and reinforcement of industry standard skills. We have taught students as young as ten years old to shoot stills and video using DSLR-like cameras with interchangeable lenses and edit projects using Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro.
Finally, understand while the process will take time, the first steps are yours as their teacher or instructor. Assess the available gear already in your school. Is there a camera in a classroom that is just used to capture stills that could also be used to capture video? Are there computers capable of running Adobe Creative Cloud (CC is our choice for professional design, layout and video editing software) or other editing and design software? Additional equipment including cameras, lenses, tripods, microphones, and lights can be strategically added over the course of successive buying cycles.
If you need direction on how high to set your goals for the content you and your students create, we’re here to help! Feel free to contact me for technical or programmatic advice by using the form below.
Although we didn’t win the Emmy this year, Ethan’s Music Room programs are playing on-air for young people in Connecticut on CPTV and nationwide on PBS member stations.