When SVN was visiting Syracuse University for the upcoming SVN Video Camp, we were told about East Syracuse Minoa Central High School and their excellent Video Production Program.
Here we talk with Michael Ferris, who is in charge of the program.
SVN: Michael, tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
MF: My background is in Elementary Education. Two things directed me to TV production. The first was that I started teaching an Education Technology class at SUNY Cortland. This was at the onset of computer video editing with the Apple line. The second influence is meeting my father in law who taught at Cortland High School and ran one of the most succesful TV programs in the state, if not country.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
MF: I transferred jobs in my district to become the Communication’s teacher. The program was already funded partially. Piece meal here and there. We had an upgrade in 2004 using left over funds from the district budget. We are in the process of converting to a full HD studio. Our Director of Technology, Kieran O’Connor has designed the “TV” budget to work over a 5 year plan, so that it is always budgeted for.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
MF: Yes, there was some equipment. 2 studio camera, an analog mixer and switcher, 2 digital camcorders and 2 computers.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
MF: In an average year I have about a 100 students in the video program. It used to be offered to only senior on a pass/fail basis. I transitioned into a grade 9-12 course. One of the courses for junior/seniors is offered for SUNY College credit.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
MF: Our morning announcements tape daily for a 10 minute show that includes sports and weather. We have 34 students in the class. The class actually starts 55 minutes before school, so it is impressive we have that many parents will to transport their children to school. We do special event tapings, such as musical events and dance recitals.
SVN: Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
MF: We do cover some sports and we are looking to do more of that in the future. We do record plays and musicals.
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?
MF: The Morning Show is a student run production. The co-teachers decide on a producer. From there teachers are there for some guidance, but the student producers make decisions about show style, content, and formats. The producers create the job lists and so on. They truly take ownership of their work. Students usually “bid” for jobs, with seniority on the show getting to pick first. However, the show is run like a varsity team, the starters really need to be great at their jobs. We train all students on all aspects during training sessions and during a Television Production class.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
MF: Over the summer we run a summer camp for the Morning Show. During these days, the students audition at the various anchor positions.
SVN: Do they write the content?
MF: We rewrite announcements as often as we can. Our news features are student written.
SVN: How long does the show run?
MF: The show runs for 10 minutes every day, all school yer long.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
MF: Sometimes we do.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
MF: The show is broadcast over closed circuit tv system and through an intranet system in school. We do also archive them on the web. These are available day of as well.
SVN: Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
MF: Syracuse.com and spartanmedia.org host our videos.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
MF: Currently we have a GrassValley Switcher, Chryon Duet, JVC 550U studio cameras, WinCue Teleprompter and a Mackie Switcher. We are currently bidding a new HD studio.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
MF: The fastest way to start is to partner with an area school that has an established program. Equipment-wise you can get plenty of used equipment. This should get you started. Then start a feeder program. We have been working on creating a studio in the elementary shool.