DTV is the all-encompassing name of the class and the TV network that originates from Davison High School.
• DTV is a brand, a logo, and identity – much like ESPN or MTV.
• It is a broadcast from a full-power television station with digital equipment that has the potential to reach thousands of viewers in the Davison area!
• And it can be just about the coolest thing around depending on how much time you are willing to spend.
• DTV is a project oriented class.
• There are no tests, quizzes or written papers.
• The majority of class time is spent shooting video, editing, and working on the daily newscast.
• We also dedicate a lot of class time working on after school shows and events.
We had a chance to talk to Sandy Coots and Randy Scott about their program:
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
(Sandy) I was a TV News producer working the overnight shift producing the AM News in Flint. I was very tired (literally) and decided to try freelance producing. I started working part-time at another TV station. THEN, one of the people I worked with at my first TV station was on the Davison school board and knew they wanted to do something with the PEG channel in their community. They hired me to run/program it. I taught the class one semester then we revamped the program. I became the ‘station manager’ and we hired a person to teach the class. We wanted to run it like a ‘real’ newsroom. The first person hired was a TV News Reporter, he left his station in Flint and we then hired a photographer (Randy) and understood that concept.
(Randy) I am a television news photographer. I have worked for WXYZ in Detroit, and WJRT and WEYI in Flint. I was offered a job to begin teaching at Davison part time in 2003. I’m now a full time teacher, and I freelance for news occasionally.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
The school district had a vision so they listened when we said we needed money to upgrade the facilities. Bond fund money was initially used to upgrade the systems and facility. Now, we work getting program sponsorships and do fundraisers.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
We currently have 4 ENG cameras… we use Sony DVCAM as our tape format. We chose Sony DVCAM because it offered 3 hour tapes. We broadcast live and replay our football and other sporting events so the 3 hour tape time was crucial. We have 2 linear editors. We have 5 non-linear editors that use Adobe Premiere. We use a Chyron Duet to generate titling and graphics. We also have 4 mini-DV cameras. We use Scala InfoChannel Designer currently to create our community calendar information. We send a signal to the cable company and it is sent out on the PEG channel.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
We have 3 hours of DTV (our video journalism class) There are a total of 25 kids over the 3 hours. We try to have our more experienced students in 4th (or the earlier hours) so they can type scripts and get video edited for the daily newscast. Students must be sophomores to apply. DTV is an application class. They complete the application and every May we have interviews. The most qualified students get leadership roles (ie: executive producer, sports director, operations manager). In addition to class time, they are also required to put in 5 hours out of class time each week. Students can take the class every semester, if they desire. Beginning students learn the basics of TV. How to shoot, terms (pan, tilt, etc.), what filter to shoot in what light, how to edit (both linear and non-linear), how to run an audio board, the Chyron and how to anchor.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
The class is a typical high school length – 55 minutes (give or take). Students get assignments – sometimes at other buildings in the district depending on what is happening. They can come up with their own story ideas and do those as well.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
It takes all the kids to do the morning newscast. They use the typical 'morning announcements' then add other stories of interest to students and what's happening in our school, the district and community. We also air LIVE sporting events and concerts. In addition, we do a monthly show called, The District. It's a wrap of what's happening in our district ... sort of a news magazine show. It's hosted by one of our school board members. We tape delay broadcast of our Homecoming Parade and we do a red-carpet show each year for Prom. We figure with sporting events and concerts and the specials we do there are about 75 other LIVE events throughout the school year. We are often asked to create videos for district wide programs – we completed one last summer on the “Cardinal Code”, the district’s ‘citizenship’ component. It was shown to all students in all grades in the district.
SVN: What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
The kids are required to learn and do all the jobs. Initially, we start them with the wide shot camera for football games and rotate them into other positions to shadow and learn all the jobs. There is a rotating schedule posted every week that details who is doing what.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
No auditions for on-air positions… we rotate people through all positions. We do give special consideration to our ‘seniors’ and those in the program the longest for some of our special hosting duties (ie: prom or play-by-play)
SVN: Do they write the content?
They do write (or re-write) most of the content. The morning announcements are written by the guidance office. Our students are taught that TV News is for the ear, so they need to re-write some stuff to make it ‘conversational’. They do write their own stories. I try to have several ‘writing’ seminars throughout the year to help them build those TV writing skills. Writing for TV is unlike any other kind of high school or college writing they will do. We try to have script run-throughs before they start to trak – to make sure what they say makes sense, is easily understood and works.
SVN: How long does the show run?
We follow Channel One – our newscast is slotted for 10 minutes. That includes the announcements, any special stories/features we may have done and sports.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
I’m not familiar with StudicaSkills or SchoolTube (until now)… We have entered many contests with MAB, MIPA, NSPA (National Scholastic Press Association), Student Television Network and even the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (the EMMY people). We have won probably close to 100 awards.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
Our content is on the local PEG channel. We are working with our technical department to get a site on the web so we can showcase the work our students have done. In addition the LIVE broadcast of our concerts and sporting events are on the local cable PEG channel. We have heard from many viewers through a ‘feedback’ email we set up. Many enjoy the coverage.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
We can, but our set-up was initially pricey. We had the benefit of working with several technical advisors from our days at the TV station. We used good quality equipment that you’d likely find in any TV station. We have a Mackie audio board, Sony DSR 1800 Videotape recorders, Sony DSR 1600 Videotape players, Sony DSR 25 videotape recorders (small decks that can be moved easily from non-linear to non-linear station). We use Sony DSR370 ENG cameras. We use a Leightronix system to remotely start, stop and rewind programs we want to air.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
It’s important to have a plan and to educate the educators. Often people think TV happens through the click of a remote – it’s NOT that simple or easy. Making TV (or videos) takes time – sometimes lots of time. Be patient. We also think it’s important to know what you want to do with the program. Some schools prefer to do music videos and film shorts – others prefer a more ‘news’ approach. It’s important to meet and work with your school district and local municipalities and figure out what kind of station you want before spending a dollar. Look at what others are doing and create your own plan. Having a clear vision will help you get where you need to be. Broadcasting can be confusing – ESPECIALLY to people who don’t have a background in the field.