By Alex Murchison
Holland College in P.E.I. helps its photography students stand out from the crowd by teaching them to shoot digital video
During 2007, I began to think about how digital video would impact my program and my graduates. Video had existed as part of Holland College Photography when I took it over in 1994 but I soon dropped it. I found the quality of both stills and video suffered in a two-year program.
Now it was back again in the digital era. Could we include it in the already crowded curriculum? Should we include it? Would we again make poor video and weak stills? How could we include it in a meaningful way for the students? Yes, there was Vincent Laforet with the MarkII and a number of other photographers and filmmakers making big impressions with DSLR video but where did we fit? Lots of questions came up but not so many answers.
The light bulb went on for me as I reviewed our self-promotional projects: competition entries, business cards and postcards, portfolios and related marketing materials.
What I envisioned was a self-promotional video project, shot in teams of two or three, with each student shooting as directed by an other student. The student subject of the promo video would have to edit, select and source music (keeping copyright in mind) and then undertake one of the most challenging aspects of the project – the voiceover.
This is our second year doing this, and for 2013 we will add a full-day workshop with a filmmaker on top of my teaching sessions. We have fairly basic gear and no major "rigging" for the cameras. This includes several 5DMIIs, 60Ds, assorted lenses, dolly, Glidetrack HD base kit, some microphones, Photoshop, iPhoto and iMovie. We have some hot lights and I am thinking of adding several LED panels in the near future.
On the face of it, my inspiration may seem like a small eureka moment, but I believe the results are speaking for themselves. Not only do the students gain a basic level of DSLR video experience (about 100 hours of work per student), they have a promotional piece for their portfolios.
The sessions go beyond how the video controls work on the camera and delve into film technique. The videos add another dimension to these emerging professionals, helping to set them apart from the crowd. The videos have already helped students to secure quality work-term placements in locations ranging from Toronto to New York City. You can see the videos on our YouTube Channel.
Alex Murchison is a professional instructor and image-maker at the Holland College Photography & Digital Imaging program in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Alex has managed successful careers in both Halifax and Toronto, and has been teaching full-time since 1994. Favourite imaging options include: black-and-white film, Polaroid transfers, digital composites and digital video.