Have you ever wanted to become a filmmaker, cinematographer, or work in broadcasting? Well, there are various paths that people can take to get to that goal. Some start early while others may sometimes find themselves inadvertently becoming filmmakers. Those that know that they want to do something with video at an early age might enroll in an AV Production class in high school. There are even high schools with programs dedicated to molding the lives and careers of those interested in getting into broadcast and film. Andrea Nguyen, a teacher of AV Production at the Dr. Kirk Lewis Career & Technical High School or CTHS, discussed the different courses in AV Production that the school offers and the video equipment they use. So what video equipment would you typically see in an AV Production class and what do students learn each year?
Note: The classes will vary depending on the program and school you are enrolled in. The following classes are based on the curriculum taught at the Dr. Kirk Lewis Career & Technical High School, which follows standards mandated by the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
Principles of AV Production – Freshman Year
In the Principles of AV Production class, freshmen learn the basics. They learn about communication theory and process, types of presentations, and all the careers that are available in the creative technology pathway such as graphic design, AV production, video game design, commercial photography, and fashion design. In addition, students learn about basic cameras, lights, and audio equipment that are used for production. They also learn about the history of media, the impact of Arts on society, the first amendment, copyright, ethics, Internet safety, media propaganda, time management, conducting presentations, working in groups, and leadership. Students will get to practice skills that they will need in their future careers such as how to work with clients, how to pitch ideas, how to increase their employability, and how to analyze and critique videos. Equipment that ninth graders get to work with include the Canon EOS M Mirrorless cameras. Students also learn how to edit using iMovie.
AV Production – Sophomore Year
In a student’s sophomore year, those who are interested in audio and video continue on the AV Production pathway. In this class, students learn more basic skills such as the different types of microphones (lavalier, boom mic, shotgun mics, and condensers), cameras, basic lighting, and about the broadcast industry. They will go in depth about sound theory, acoustics, and conduct experiments to see how sound changes, is absorbed, reflected, or bounced. They also learn about the audio pick up pattern for each mic and how to determine which camera is best for which type of production. Students also learn about camera movements and angles, composition techniques as well as the 180 degree rule. In addition, they learn about the pre-production, production, and post-production process as well as how to write scripts, create storyboards, set up studio lights, and utilize green screens for Chroma Keying. Tenth graders edit on Final Cut Pro. In addition to using the teleprompter and Tricaster for a multi-camera production, students also learn how to operate the Canon XF105 and XA20 cameras. Video projects that they produce include stop motion animation, PSAs, newscasts, movie trailers, commercials, music videos, and a short movie.
Advanced AV Production – Junior Year
By the time the students are juniors, they will be doing a lot more with the skills they have learned. Students in the Advanced AV Production class create multiple video projects and are taught using the project-based learning method. In this class, students have projects that involve broadcasting, corporate videos, filmmaking, documentaries, commercials, and creating music videos. In addition, experts and guest speakers visit the class to show how they use these AV skills in everyday work. Students also get to go on field trips to local TV stations to see actual broadcasts as well as visit companies such as Ikan to learn about the latest video production equipment. At the school, students can take advantage of great facilities they have such as a control room, sound booths, and a production studio. They also have access to the latest editing software such as Premiere and Final Cut Pro. Cameras that students learn to use include the Canon EOS Rebel series, Canon EOS 7D, and the GoPro HERO3+ and HERO4. A newer technology that they also learn how to use is the DJI Phantom quadcopter. Of course, students also use camera lighting equipment to accurately light sets and scenes when needed. The junior AV class is mainly responsible for producing the campus newscasts. In the spring, junior AV students compete in SkillsUSA AV-related contests and near the end of the year, they learn to create their own online portfolio.
Practicum in AV Production – Senior Year
Senior year is when students take the Practicum in AV Production class, which is specifically designed to mimic the workplace. These students get to apply for internships, job shadow an AV professional, or participate in a co-op program where they learn and work at the same time. In this class, students volunteer to shoot city hall meetings for the local municipal channel as well as corporate training videos or commercials for local businesses. Students may spend after school and weekend hours shooting wedding and quinceañera videos as well as community events such as Taste of the Town, The McDonald’s Texas Invitational, or Houston Fashion Week. Seniors continue participating in SkillsUSA competitions as well as in local and statewide film festivals such as South by Southwest. In this class, students also get to test out advanced technology such as the DJI Inspire I drone that can shoot 4K video. Other cameras that students can use specifically for filmmaking or video include the Canon EOS C100 and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Students also experiment with different types of lenses. They also use professional equipment such as jibs, sliders, teleprompters, LED lights, E-Image tripods, Manfrotto monopods, and a glidecam. A selected few get to showcase their online portfolios to industry experts and potential employers.
Once students complete all the courses they need, they can graduate high school. Students get certified in Adobe Premiere and get an online portfolio with all the video samples of their work, which really helps launch their careers. Teachers at CTHS understand that whatever they teach students needs to be relevant to the real world and students can use their talents to improve lives and help others.
“I really enjoy teaching AV Production. These kids are passionate about AV and it’s really rewarding to know that my courses will help them pursue their passion and make it a lifelong career. It’s awesome seeing the product that they produced. Whether it be a music video to entertain, training videos to teach, or a simple PSA to inspire people, all their videos have a purpose to help their community and the world around them.” – Andrea Nguyen, AV Production Teacher at CTHS
With a high demand for video and visuals, students and others pursuing a career in video and media have many options. Whether you’re just starting to learn basic audio and video skills or you’re just trying to hone your craft, learning how to use video equipment and doing real projects will really help you out.
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