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Education — Professional

Back to School – Industry Professionals Hone Their Crafts and Master New Ones

By Mark R. Smith

Back to School – Industry Professionals Hone Their Crafts and Master New Ones

The only constant in this business is change, so savvy production and postproduction professionals seeking to stay current, to sharpen their skills and to learn new ones are taking advantage of an array of classes, workshops and interactive webcasts to gain new insights.

ICA Shows True Colors

Australia-based Warren Eagles has made his living practicing the colorist’s art and, in recent years, has supplemented that livelihood by teaching courses for his professional brethren.

Through their affiliation with the International Colorist Academy (ICA), Eagles and his business partner, Kevin Shaw – who possess more than 50 years of color grading experience in all forms between them – have shared their insights with all comers from production and postproduction backgrounds.

The ICA (www.icolorist.com) attracts “a good mix of people,” says Eagles, ranging from students and established colorists to photographers, directors, DPs and editors who seek additional insights into the color grading process. “One of our recent class members worked on [the Fox TV series] House, one on a reality show and two as part of camera and lighting crews.”

Back to School – Industry Professionals Hone Their Crafts and Master New Ones
Warren Eagles (left) taught an ICA class at Burbank post house,
Roush Media, last December.

Classes in the United States take place in Burbank at post house, Roush Media. “They provide the facility, and we accommodate up to eight students,” he explains. “The classes last from one to three days, depending on what we’re teaching. The installments can be manufacturer specific [Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci, Autodesk’s Lustre or Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master, for example], which are the classes that tend to last three days. Those that last a day concern color management, monitor calibration and colorist looks.” Tuition ranges from $500 to $1,500.

“We started two years ago and have more interest than we thought we would,” says Eagles; he and Shaw plan to do a road show this summer with stops in New York, Toronto and maybe Florida. “I won’t go anywhere if I don’t sell spots in the class, because it’s a huge commitment for me to travel from Australia, as it is for Kevin to jet in from London.”

Key to the ICA’s success is learning at all levels, from apprentice colorists to working colorists and others who want or need to learn another skill, such as on-set coloring for the RED One or the capabilities of a software release, like DaVinci Resolve – one of the industry’s least expensive tools. “We do a course called ‘Resolve Colorist Strategies,’ which is our most popular class. It’s about color theory, working with clients and the overall role of the colorist in the production,” he says.

Eagles enjoys teaching in person. “The interaction between me and the students – as well as the students and the students – is really keen,” Eagles says. “You don’t get the same experience with online or DVD classes.”

Add to that valuable interaction the fact that Eagles and Shaw share with students about a half-century’s worth of experience in London, Australia and Asia and ICA participants are assured of “getting real insight” from their classes. “This isn’t about just pushing buttons, but how you talk to directors and other professionals,” notes Eagles.

“I like to say that it’s more about the art than the act. Yet, it’s like any job. There’s no substitute for what you learn. It gives people new options.”

Midtown Video Dishes the Latest Cameras and Content on jtown.tv

When Jesse Miller started a monthly live webcast for shooters via jtown.tv in August 2009, he thought that it would attract a gaggle of professionals looking to learn more about (and trade tips concerning) their camera of choice.

But it turns out that vendors watch the stream, as well. “Mind you, we’re getting lots of end users, too: They’re about 80 percent of our viewers,” says Miller, CTO at Miami’s Midtown Video (www.midtownvideo.com). “The rest are manufacturers.”

Back to School – Industry Professionals Hone Their Crafts and Master New Ones
Midtown Video’s live monthly webcast for shooters at jtown.tv,
hosted by Jesse Miller, is about to mark its second anniversary.

It took time for that mix to evolve, however. “It started out just end users, but the vendors came to find out that our webcast was a great place to show off their software and hardware,” he says.

The webcasts’ viewers have confirmed Miller’s hunch about starting the production and have proven to be a vocal audience. “We get many requests to feature new models,” Miller says, “and they want the latest updates.”

That’s what Midtown delivers. “We interview filmmakers and review cameras,” he explains. “We recommend combinations of equipment and accessories, and we feature other content, such as directors of film festivals from around the country who show clips from the best entries from their festivals.”

Jtown.tv also recently featured Sanjeev Chatterjee, the executive director of Miami’s James L. Knight Center for International Media, where he’s also a professor. “He showed some clips of a project that he’s working on in China, India and Africa bringing awareness to issues like water conservation and urban planning,” Miller says.

Another popular feature of jtown.tv is having a guest show two or three 90-second clips, and then start an interactive Q&A about how the shots were achieved and anything else interesting about the content.

“I learn a lot myself from doing this, particularly when new products come to market,” he notes. “The manufacturers send experts to us to explain to me and our audience how [products] work. Some of what they offer is so new that we don’t know about it yet, which [generates] great discussion in the live chat room.”

Miller believes that “the live chat room is the most effective tool that we offer in our mix that helps professionals stay a step a head of the game because they can get immediate feedback to their questions. That’s especially true when we get as many as 50 people in a chat room at once. Also key in that mix is the inclusion of industry experts as guests on the show, because I don’t always have answers, and they come from various sectors of the business.”

While part of Miller’s original intent was to keep in closer touch with Midtown Video’s customers, jtown.tv has “also allowed us to heighten our digital presence and expand our reputation by reaching viewers that otherwise wouldn’t have encountered us,” he says. “So it’s about providing value to our market and building our brand.”

PSS Audio Workshops Solve Problems

Rich Topham of New York City-based Professional Sound Services (PSS; www.pro-sound.com) conducts workshops on the tools, techniques and procedures used in the pro sound business. But while he’s based in the city, he might just as well be in an open room near you.

Do you want to know about the aesthetics of sound recording, audio design, pre-pro planning and the latest in equipment and tools? Then call PSS, which holds at least two workshops per month at its store in The Big Apple or at a college, university or private businesses in another locale, such as Topham’s spot-on-the-map on this day, Ohio University in Athens.

It’s cameramen and editors who usually partake. “The shooters want to know sound better, and the post people want to know why the sound that they’re getting isn’t good,” Topham says.

Back to School – Industry Professionals Hone Their Crafts and Master New Ones
Demonstrating various booming techniques in the field is
part of one of Rich Topham’s audio workshops at PSS.

To that end, the most popular topics are “using wireless mics, frequency ranges and how to hang lavalier mics on talent so they don’t get clothing noise and you pick up the talent’s true voice.”

Other topics include types of patterns of mics and which ones to employ in given instances, matching time code, and matching picture and sound with the new cameras and recorders on the market.

The workshops can last from two to six hours, “depending on how in-depth the users want to get regarding the topic, as well as specific questions [they have] that pertain to how they are working and solving their issues,” Topham says.

His overall goal is for his students “to walk away with the knowledge of how to record sound, so their future projects are more successful and their sound is much better.” Repeat participants are not a rarity. “My students want to not only reinforce what they learn, but they encounter new problems they ask me to help them solve.”

Topham seemingly stops at nothing in his quest to educate; his students get his cell number and are welcome to call virtually any time. “I just had a former student that I had not spoken to in four years give me a ring,” he reports.

The biggest challenges of continuing education in pro audio today consist of keeping pace with camera upgrades. “The mics and the booming techniques have remained the same for the past 20 years,” he says. “What’s key with the latest gear is learning the software changes and knowing how to negotiate the menus, as well as the differences in the laws for wireless mics – and how those laws affect clients. Wireless technology used in the field is another big issue, due to the multitude of new broadband devices that make a crowded spectrum even more crowded,” Topham says.

Indeed, what inquiring minds want to know seems to change constantly.

Students offer input concerning potential PSS offerings, and each seminar includes a Q&A period where Topham can cover everyone’s specific needs.

What’s coming up this summer? Most likely a student filmmakers’ seminar toward the end of July and a gig with the University Film & Video Association, a Boston-based trade group, the following month.

November 29, 2012