Passaic Valley High School

PVTV started out in 1988 as a bulletin board station with information serving the three towns of Little Falls, Totowa, and Woodland Park.

It has expanded to a three-room operation including a studio for shooting morning announcements and original shows, final cut pro editing lab, and control room where all productions are broadcast through the cable access station. News, sports events with commentary, plays, concerts, honor inductions, and graduations are some of the events filmed and edited for broadcast by students.  Perhaps its most notable production of the year, Girls’ Show, is televised live. The students involved with PVTV have created a half hour preshow including packages and perform live interviews.  The crew is comprised of four hosts, six camera operators, a director, technical switcher, audio technicians, vtr operator, and production assistants. The dedicated student staff continues to seek newPVHS01 challenges in order to improve and expand PVTV.

SVN: We asked Stephanie Weber and her partner Cali Macchia to tell us about their backgrounds and how they decided to start teaching TV/Video production?

Stephanie Weber: During my last year of college I applied for an internship at CNBC. I began work in the Primetime Programming department but then was chosen to help with the launch of “Business Center.” After I graduated, I was offered a production assistant position in Business news. While I really enjoyed the industry, I had always wanted to teach. I became an English teacher at Elizabeth High School for two years. I was thrilled when I saw Passaic Valley High School was looking for someone to teach English as well as Broadcast Journalism. I sent in my resume and I’ve been teaching in the district now for ten years. Six years ago, I became full time in the Technology Department teaching Broadcast Journalism, the morning announcements class which airs live throughout the building daily, and the co-advisor to the TV Productions and A/V clubs.

Cali Macchia: I have a BA in Media Arts with a concentration in filmmaking and cinematography. When I graduated from college I worked part time in the college equipment rental department while also working freelance as a 2nd and 1st camera assistant on short films and music videos. At the same time I also began getting a lot of freelance production assistant and audio work on corporate industrial videos. I was then hired full time by the college and I worked there for 5 years. I then got a job at an advertising agency because they were looking for someone to take care of their A/V needs but also someone that could light and shoot video in house. I left the agency after two years to work on a couple of feature films but I still continued to freelance for them and other clients as a camera/lighting/tape operator. A few years later a producer I knew called me and told me that the school system in his town was getting their own TV station and they needed someone to run it and produce programming for air. We put the station together and produced content for about a year and half as staff, not as teachers. We were laid off when there were budget contract issues with the teachers. I went back to freelancing for a year when the school called us back and asked us to go to alternate route to obtain a teaching certificate and start a video program at the school. I was in a team teaching situation for 8 years until again the school had a budget short fall and I was laid off. I worked as an assistant video engineer at NYCTV for 8 months until I interviewed here at Passaic Valley High School and was hired here 4 years ago.

PVHS02SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?

SW: I was extemely fortunate to be hired to work for a district that had an established program which is supported by the Board of Education and community. We raise money by selling dvd copies of sporting events, Girls’ Show, concerts, plays, award ceremonies, and graduation ceremonies.

SVN: Did you have equipment available?

SW: When I began, there were 3 Casablanca editing suites, 5 mini tape camcorders and 2 ENG tape cameras for the classes.

SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?

SW: Currently there are eighty-nine students enrolled in the classes. It is a multiyear program. The first course is Media 1PVHS03 which teaches students final cut pro, camera, audio, and different genres of video production. The next two years, students may enroll in Broadcast Journalism I/II and/or the morning announcements class with instructor invitation. These are like honors course where students take the skills they have learned in Media to create more sophisticated projects.

SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions:  How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?

SW: Classes are 45 minutes long and meet on a daily basis. Two sections of Media classes are comprised of 19 students and one section of eleven students. One section of Broadcast Journalism has twelve students, the second section has eight students, and the last has six students.

Projects range from news segments which are edited together as a news show with anchors, mini movies, PSA’s, commercials, and music videos.

PVHS04SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast?  Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?

SW: There are fourteen students enrolled in the Morning Announcements class. It is aired live daily throughout the school via channel 1.

SVN: Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?

SW: Two clubs, television productions and audio visual, capture school events. A group of students set up a field shoot for every home football game. In addition, students film soccer, field hockey, volleyball, wrestling, basketball, fencing, ice hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

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?PVHS05

SW: Students are rotated through each job on a weekly basis. I want every student to be proficient in each. Additionally, it allows students to experience a role they may not have thought they would have held any interest. Jobs include: Director, Technical Switcher, 3 camera operators, 2 Anchors, 1 Sports Anchor, Graphics, Audio Technician, and Teleprompter Operator.

SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?

SW: No, but the public speaking class is a prerequisite to Media.

SVN: Do they write the content? 

SW: All content is submitted via email by club advisors or coaches for the morning announcements. All content in the Media and Broadcast Journalism classes are student written.

SVN: How long does the show run? 

SW: The morning announcements show runs about 5 minutes each day.

PVHS06SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contests such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?

SW: We submit student work to as many contests as possible. Some contests include the Passaic County Film Festival, various contests posted on SchoolTube, Rutgers Public Service Hero, and MSG Varsity.

SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?

SW: Morning announcements is broadcast school wide. All other productions are aired on our public access station which can be viewed by the communities we serve.

SVN: Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?

SW: We post programming to MSG Varsity. We just opened a Youtube account and have a SchoolTube account as well.

SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?PVHS07

Canon Vixia HV 40
Sony HVR-HD1000U Video Camera
Canon XL2 Video Camera
Audio Technica lavaliere microphones
Sony UWP-V6 wireless on camera reciever with lav and plug transmitter
Shure wireless lavs
Audio Technica 2000 series lavs
Mackie ONYX 24-4 Audio Board
Mackie 16 mic channel mixer
Mackie 6 mic channel mixer
Final Cut Pro Studio 2 editing software
Photoshop
2-Mac Pro Desktop, one with a AJA Kona capture card.
9-21 in iMac’s
3-27in iMac’s
DiscPublisher 4100
K-Tek Avalon KE-69CC Boom poles
Multiple external storage drives (G-Drives (1 TB), Western Digital)
LaCie DVD Duplicator
Qpro teleprompters and software
Hitachi Studio Cameras and CCU’s
Panasonic AG MX70 Studio Switcher
Scala 5

SVN: Have any quick start tips!

CM: Start with news stories as they are easier to write and most of the content comes from interview material. They can add some B-Roll and lower third titles and they have a completed video piece.