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24-Bit Dailies in a 16-Bit World

Student Projects

guillotineI have spent the last several days reviewing and grading student projects for my 358 class, and in general I am very dissappointed. There were a couple of good projects turned in, but the majority of them were pretty bad.

During the semester, when we did our in-class production exercises, most of the students showed real promise. The class film crews functioned smoothly, and the quality of the production sound was most impressive.

So I assumed that when it came time to shoot a couple of short exercises on your own, the video projects would represent what you are capable of. I expected to see creativity, at least basic production quality, and superb audio. The audio was the most important aspect, since this is a class about production audio!

The syllabus went into great detail about what was expected and what the requirements were. Seems like a lot of you never bothered to re-read it before beginning your projects.

To begin with, your videos were to be turned in either as a playable DVD or uploaded to a streaming site, such as Vimeo. Most of you were able to do that, although there were a couple of students who neither burned a proper DVD nor even bothered to test play their media prior to turning it in. Also, a few of you did not see the value in putting your NAME on the disks.

The first video was supposed to be a dramatic scene, involving at least two actors. You were supposed to shoot a master, followed by some closer coverage. If you had bothered to re-read your assignment, then that would have been clear.

What some of you consider drama is pretty bad. Just walking down a hallway, playing with Nerf guns, does not show very much creativity nor effort. Did any of you bother to play back your takes before calling it a wrap? Some of the framing and bad audio makes me think that you just did one take and ran off to Burger King!

The other video project was supposed to be a live demo akin to what might be on a local broadcast. You were instructed to have a Reporter/Host on a hand mic, and also to mic the talent/guest, and to cover sound effects! Most of you only used two mics instead of three, and hoped to capture the sound effects and talent from one boom. Most of the video's showed absolutely no concern for creativity nor production quality. One group of students rigged a lavalier so as to demonstrate everything that could be done wrong in rigging! What happened to all of our work in class about the proper placement and rigging of lavs? Are your memories that short, or were you just lazy? Couldn't you hear the audio problems in your headsets?

As seniors and juniors about to earn a degree in Cinema Television Arts, these projects should have been good enough to serve as sample works, or at least represent something produced by advanced film students. Instead, what I saw, was a lot of rubbish that looked like it came out of Mrs. Brook's 7th grade class. Not only should you be embarrassed to screen them, but I am ashamed to admit that they were made by members of my class!

In addition to the video submissions, you were all supposed to turn in paperwork. Log sheets are supposed to have your names, the project name, recording format & specs, and a LOG of what is on the disk. The comment sheet is a chance to talk about what you tried to do, how it went, and rationalize what went wrong.

Presentation in all things is important. One of you chose to turn in his DVD's in a homemade, paper wrapper. Not only did it look like something a six year old might make in Kindergarten, but it defeats the purpose of protecting the disk from scratches! I refuse to believe that you could not find a real CD lined sleeve or plastic jewel case that you could use.

Let's talk about the Budget Projects. Only one budget was properly done. The others were just tossed together without any thought or proofreading! The syllabus was very detailed about what I expected to be turned in. Besides, you had all semester to email me or phone me with any questions.

I told you to visit a real rental house, and to sit down and talk with an expert. None the less, many of the projects were done by just copying and pasting info from a website. The whole idea was for you to learn how to put together a package that would realistically work in the real world. Instead, you present equipment lists that made little or no sense. For example, one team elected to use an inexpensive, 2-track non-timecode reacorder, rather than a more professional timecode unit. Okay, not my choice, but technically acceptable. Then, as a backup to that unit, they actually specified an obsolete Nagra stereo reel to reel! Not only did the Nagra rent for more than twice the daily rate of their primary recorder, you cannot even get tape for them anymore.

People put down microphones, without any idea of what the mics were. And there were lots of half items, such as a furry outer cover for a zeppelin, but no zeppelin. A transmitter, but no receivers. Boompoles, but no shockmounts. No mention of long XLR cables for running mics, or for connecting to video cameras. Or, maybe no cables to connect mixers to recorders! No duplex cables for the boom operators.

Packing lists were very incomplete. They were supposed to go into detail and reflect everything that you would bring to the set. Based on what most of these lists were, you would never be able to record a single scene!

I asked for a brief description & justification of all the equipment. Many students just copied and pasted catalog or advertising descriptions, without even mentioned anything practical. I was looking for words like short shotgun, echo reducing, or best side rejection for exteriors. I wanted to see lavs described as trasnparent, natural sounding, good for plant mics; or proximity, good rejection of background noise. In short, I wanted to know WHY you selected what you selected.

Most of you will end up passing the course, even though you deserve not to. The University is overcrowded, so you will be paroled on good behavior just to get you out of the system. A few of you will indeed flunk, since you made even less effort than those who submitted poor projects.

You will have a diploma, and it will work well to cover up a hole on the wall, or as a placemat under a dinner plate. It will NOT get you a job.

To work in this industry, you need to bring good skills and great attitude to the workplace. If these projects are any indication of your filmmaking potential, you should seek training in the food services industry.

Yeah, we will see you at Commencement. But will we ever see you at a  union or guild meeting?

I am not known for mincing words. But I sincerely hope that you recognize the failure of your ways, and make a change for the better. Becuase if you think that my grading is tough, just wait until you show your first client what you have produced. They will expect and demand absolute perfection, and nothing short of that will suffice.

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