The BWTV Morning Crew at William Tennent High School in Warminster, PA is anything but ordinary.
BWTV, which stands for Black and White Television, to represent the school’s colors, has been brightening every school day with its morning show since 2008. Featuring a brand new studio in 2012, the Digital Production students, under the direction of teacher Mrs. Dina McCaffery, have been building the program by exploring the exciting world of communications while highlighting the hard work that the students and faculty do each day in our school.
Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
I spent 20 years in the communications industry in a variety of roles, ranging from TV, newspapers, and Public Relations. It was during my tenure as the director of Public Relations for a public school district that I was intrigued by the classroom. The superintendent had asked me to take a shoestring budget and help convert a faculty lunchroom into a TV studio. I was excited for the challenge! We did it, and it was a hit with the students. The program at that school continues to grow. I wanted to take the skills I honed over the course of my career and bring them to the classroom. I have the best of both worlds now!
How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
I was so fortunate to walk into a studio that had been fully-equipped by the generous funding of our school board, who strongly believes in offering students real-world career opportunities. The class is funded by an annual budget, and we have the opportunity to apply for grants.
Did you have equipment available?
Equipment was available when I arrived at William Tennent High School. Our school board and administration supports the program and provides a budget for our equipment needs each year.
How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
There are about 90 students in the classes which are broken down into 5 classes of 18 students in each class. This school year we had three sections of level 1 classes and two sections of level 2 classes. It is a full-credit, full-year class offered each school year. Students must take the first level course before moving onto the second level course.
Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
Digital Production classes are 57 minutes and run daily. Typically, there are 18 students in each class. The demand for the classes is much higher but due to physical space limitations, we cap the classes at 18 students. Our curriculum covers all areas of communications from news packages, copyrights, video editing, advertising, documentaries, PSAs to the silent film era and Music Videos.
How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
Our morning news crew consists of 6 crew members and 3 anchors. We produce a live morning show, which is 5 minutes Monday through Thursday and 10 minutes on Fridays. We also film special events throughout the school year.
Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
Digital Production students film all school events, including Homecoming, Powderpuff, concerts, special events, and assemblies. Additionally, we have a special crew hired by our school district to film and live stream our public school board meetings twice a month.
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?
Students are required to learn all jobs in the studio/control room. However, they do find their niche and are “hired” for their specific positions. We have a Director, Technical Director, Audio Technician, Lighting Director, Three Camera Operators, Two News Anchors, One Sports Anchor, Teleprompter operator, and a Floor Manager.
Do students audition for on-air positions?
There are a few ways that students are selected for on-air positions. Students in the Digital Production classes are given top priority for auditions. Auditions are held at the beginning and the end of the school year, and are students are graded using a rubric. Additionally, throughout the school year, other students (those who may not be in the Digital Production classes) are identified for on-air positions if they visit the students to film commercials, etc. for other events. If they have a good on-air presence they may be invited to guest anchor or for a permanent anchor position.
Do they write the content?
Students write the content based on the daily bulletin and other information supplied by staff and coaches, etc. Ideas for segments are developed by students but must be approved by the Digital Production teacher.
How long does the show run?
Typically on Mondays through Thursdays, our show runs 5 minutes. On Fridays, we run 10 minutes. And on special occasions (i.e. before a holiday or a break) we can run 15-20 minutes with prior permission.
Do you submit programming to independent contest?
We have not yet submitted programming to StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV, however we have submitted several videos for local film festivals and other contests.
Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
Currently, our daily live broadcast can only be viewed internally districtwide using a live stream. We do, sometimes, upload some segments onto our district website. But at the current time we do not broadcast onto our local cable channel.
Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SVN-TV?
Currently we post on YouTube and Vimeo, but we are exploring other venues as well.
Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
Our studio and control room are equipped with a Tricaster 850, Strand 200 Plus, PreSonus StudioLive Digital Performance and Recording Mixer, JVC ProHD, and Panasonic HD Handheld Camcorder with HDMI, wireless lavalier microphones.
Have any quick start tips!
No matter what type of budget you have, you can pull together some type of studio. All it takes is a group of dedicated students, a camera, green paint (if you can’t afford a green screen), a set, and a camera (a DSLR works great, too). For a “field” experience, even an iPad works for recording, you can film and edit in one place. There are even apps for a teleprompter.