New Bay High video studio lets students build production skills, showcase creativity
The countdown begins, “10, 9, 8 ...” A globe spins behind a launching rocket (a Bay Rocket, of course). The new Bay High School news and announcement video program, “Ground Control,” begins with impeccably dressed student co-anchors delivering school news, even lunch menus, in a way that is entertaining, interesting and fun.
The program is the result of a new video production studio at the school, funded by the Bay Village Education Foundation (BVEF). Creation of the studio also drove the adoption of a new course offering, “Video Production.”
“The days we tape the news are by far my favorite days of school, even if I’m not the anchor that day," said senior Jake Waffen. "I might be the switcher, or the camera operator, or the lighting person. We have boom mikes, we have the lavalier mikes, we have all kinds of different sound lines. Everything we put on is in full HD [high definition]. It’s really a great production.”
This was something that had been missing at Bay High, and it was a perfectly-timed project for the BVEF when it looked for a significant funding proposal to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015. The cost of video production technology has dropped in recent years, and the generous BVEF gift of $35,000 was more than enough to put a professional video production studio together. In addition, broadcast over the internet is becoming as common as cable and satellite transmission. The Bay High studio streams its programs online so students and members of the public can view them on their TVs, computers, tablets and smartphones.
“There were a lot of unknowns when we began this new program,” said Luke Kieffer, instructor for the Video Production class. “There are a lot of different program models and lots of ideas – but how do you actually execute those with kids? I developed our own procedures and rules as we went along.”
Kieffer was pleasantly surprised that he met most of his goals for the new class. “I wasn’t sure we would get the two-camera taping pulled off, but the students learned to handle it. They learned to handle the live switching. And I’m really happy with the way the studio turned out. It looks professional.”
The studio occupies a space that was a stage before the school's auditorium was built decades ago. Now it is transformed into a modern video production studio complete with tripod-mounted cameras, studio lighting, an anchor desk and a green screen. Black ceiling and walls absorb ambient light, and carpeting on the floor absorbs ambient sound. A control booth in the back allows video editing "on the fly," inserting graphics and B-roll while taping the announcers, who read scripts off iPads turned into teleprompters. Taping produced out in the field (students were required to complete seven, off-site news stories each) is edited into the program, as well.
Senior Andy Wirtz said he had so much fun during the course, he will be seeking out opportunities in college to learn about and use more video production skills. “Half the things I learned in this class, I just had no idea about before. Now I know the basics of how it works. Video production is a very sought-after skill.”
The units taught in class are camera operation, shooting composition, audio, pre-production, production and lighting. When the semester starts, students need to learn quickly enough to start producing videos right away. But Kieffer expects students to show growth across the semester, and the various technical aspects of the videos produced should show a continuous improvement.
“I held students to pretty high standards, and they found it challenging,” said Kieffer. “There are very real deadlines, for example. If you’re reporting on a game, you can’t wait two weeks to put it together. Turnaround time has to be fairly quick.”
Senior Branson Stang has been producing the lunch menu segment, featuring an announcer standing in front of a graphic slideshow of the week’s daily menus, adding a comic twist or two. “It was kind of cool to get a perspective from working behind the scenes,” he said. “I learned how to work all the equipment in the control room, how to set up the camera angles, what a good lighting structure would be, learned how to work with the green screen, how to edit.”
“I really enjoyed being a news anchor for the first time. I learned a lot from this class,” said senior Brandon Davis. “When I watch Channel 5 or Fox 8 news, I can really understand what’s actually going on because, in this class, we learned all the stuff behind the scenes, all the lighting, how the cameras are operated, what we have to do to put the graphics on the screen and all that. I have worked with video editing programs, but this really took my skills to a new level.”
The full semester's worth of the “Ground Control” video series can be viewed online at: bit.ly/BayHighGroundControl.
Director of Communications for the Bay Village City School District