Know your Equipment and Resources

Video Production teachers are unique because we come with so many different backgrounds and expertise.

Part Two - Your strengths are either highly technical or you are freaking out wondering what you got yourself into. My personal experience in television was with production - not the technical jobs. I had tech crews to deal with all that and yet, I made the transition, I have learned a lot and I have  survived.  Eventually, you’ll get to be a pro on all your equipment, by then technology will have advanced and you’ll be forced into a tail spin, having to learn all over again. Look at the bright side, this keeps us on our toes and from getting bored.

I don’t intend to teach you how to operate all of your  equipment - that would be impossible, rather list the most important skills to learn when working with your equipment. First of all, not all manuals are great, you will have to spend extra time thumbing through them but don’t forget that Youtube often has video tutorials that can be helpful, too.  Also, your county may have a Video Services Department who can offer you support. I highly advise getting in good with them!

Let’s start with basic camera operation. There are some standard skill sets that carry over from one brand to the next, know how to charge your camera, load a tape or SD card and switch the mode from CAMERA to PLAYBACK, where to plug in headphones and a microphone. Then, what I think is the most important is how to put everything in AUTO. Until you are ready to manually adjust your settings, go with AUTO. But don’t over estimate the knowledge of your students. I once spent 2 weeks on a camera unit, diving into manual focus and white balance only to get out to location and find out that they didn’t know how to start recording. I had assumed that evryone knew how to press the red button! Boy was I wrong. After telling them how to start recording, they next asked me how to stop...wow! Since then, I spend a day in the class with hands on practice before anyone is aloud to take a camera out to shoot.

Have them  follow steps to set up the camera, put in the tape or SD card, attach it to the tripod, get some practice shots, and strike it down. Get them used to using head phones to monitor their audio. Many problems can be avoided if they are listening to know they are getting good sound. Tripods are a must but don’t ever force your tripod to move or tighten it too tight. When something doesn’t move easily enough, there is always something to loosen it.

And place your talent in the best possible light. If you don’t have portable lights, shop lights will work fine. Outside, you could use reflectors to rid shadows on peoples faces.  By practising in a controlled environment, you’ll have a better shot at ensuring your students will handle the equipment properly on location or who not to trust with it at all. 

When it comes to your computers and software, understand how to store project files, capture them from the camera devise and how to import them into a project. Keep your students organized with project folders, and naming files in a way they make sense. Not “alskdfj” - you would not believe how many files I see students name like that. Then work on basic editing, including how to add transitions and titles. What kind of graphics can you make? You’ll either have title making abilities in the editing software or you’ll have other programs like Photoshop or Live Type.  Either way, titles and computer graphics are important in digital story telling and how professional the finished project looks.

How about the audio or music? If you have a program like Garage Band, encourage your students to make their own soundtracks. Without getting into copyright law, just don’t allow them to bring in their own music or download from any site they find. Your county might already have a music licence. Stick to the music that is paid for by your school district or look for royalty free tracks. If you are letting your students use their own music, just know they can’t duplicate, sell, broadcast or upload to the Internet. No student video is worth risking your teaching license.

Finally, do you have a studio for broadcasting to the school? How in the world do you take on learning a whole studio, let alone teaching it? The answer is, one piece at a time. Take the time to learn each piece yourself. Then take snapshots and put together a PowerPoint to review the equipment with your students before they lay their hands on it. This will also help you get more familiar with it. I like to point out the buttons they MUST NOT touch verses the buttons they DO touch. Then spend a couple weeks with hands on practice. You will quickly discover who is strongest on each piece. Make those students  the official trainers for the other students while you oversee the whole production.

Be patient, it takes time to get the crew flowing smoothly. Repetition is your friend. Finally, expect nothing less than professionalism and quality...enforce the importance of taking pride in their work with a constant reminder that the whole school sees what they are doing!


Misty_CUMisty Gentle started with long format television programs for Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Florida. She worked her way up from a Production Assistant to Producer. Along the way, she worked in a variety of positions from pre-production through post. After that, she worked on shows for the Fox Health Network, Animal Planet, ABC, Disney, The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel and More. Misty has been a writer / director / producer for on-air promotions and corporate productions as well as 2nd assistant stage manager, Script Supervisor, Segment Producer, Associate Producer, and Post Production Producer. In the summer of 2008, she was Associate Producer for Nickelodeon's "My Family's Got GUTS". These positions have given her a broad understanding of production from show concept and development through post and delivery.

She began teaching in 2004 with a full television production program at the middle school level. After 5 years, Ms. Gentle moved up to high school where she currently teaches digital video production to 9th through 12th graders.

She holds a BA degree in Communications - Television and Radio Production and is certified as 'Technical Vocational Education - Television Production'.