Wolf TV is Timber Creek’s cctv station, but it does much more than read the daily announcements. We spoke with Sam Morris at Timber Creek High School.
Students study broadcast and media history, ethics and law, as well as learn technical skills. Students also produce content for broadcast and internet outlets. No other high school program in Orange County does as much. Juniors and seniors have the opportunity to take industry certification tests which allow them to enter the job market with real world credentials and experience.
SVN: Tell us about your background and how you decided to start teaching TV/Video production?
SM: I was in the industry for many years before going into education. I was fortunate that when the time had come to make a career change, I was able to teach something I knew about and had real world experience in. I think the students benefit from my experience as much as they do the hands on training.
SVN: How did you obtain initial funding for your program? How do you fund the class now?
SM: We have received grants from the district and from Perkins funding, but we mostly rely on underwriting from the community and sponsorships, which these days is getting harder to get due to the economy.
SVN: Did you have equipment available?
SM: I took over an existing program, and the studio was equipped with antiquated gear. All VHS, and a switcher from the 1980’s. We have spent the last four years gradually bringing the facility up to a more modern standard with DV machines, new switcher and graphics, and HD field cameras.
SVN: How many kids are in the TV/Video Production classes? How is it broken down? Is it a multi-year program?
SM: This program has four levels, each one a full year course. Currently I have over 100 level 1 students, 40 level 2 students, and 23 in my level 3 and 4 classes. Each level is designed to prepare for the next. Beginners learn copyright and First Amendment laws, along with basic production skills. Level 2 students are the “production house” wing of the program, producing commercials, promos, news stories and other content for air. The upper level classes produce our shows, including the live news and podcasts.
SVN: Can you tell us a little more about the sessions: How long are the classes? How many students? What types of projects?
SM: Our class periods are only 50 minutes at most, so for the students who have things in production, time is money (just like the real world)! They are usually working on scripts, storyboards, and editing their video, so getting right to work is essential to meet deadlines. We do experience some “log jams” due to the number of computers available, but we can often get things scheduled so everything works out.
SVN: How many kids to do the morning news broadcast? Do you also do a weekly broadcast? Special events coverage?
SM: Our morning crew consists of ten students who present the live news show. Those who are not scheduled for the crew are busy putting together our monthly newsmagazine show or out taping campus events for future coverage.
SVN: Do your students capture other school events? Sports? Assemblies? Board meetings? Musical Performances?
SM: Wolf TV covers most campus events as news for one of our programs. Due to copyright concerns, we do not record plays, concerts or things like that, but we do cover and present events that show the community how involved our school is in various causes, or when we have services that most schools don’t have. For instance, on our campus, we have a student run credit union; daycare, pet care, auto detailing, food pantry, and more.
SVN: What jobs do the kids do? Do the kids rotate through on-air talent and crew positions or are they “hired” for a specific task?
SM: Senior students have managerial roles – producers, assignment editors, creative services – and they are responsible for making sure everything is done correctly and on time. With four shows in production, they need to have ownership of those programs. Our on-air talent has a rotating list of students who have worked their way up from field reporting to the anchor desk or host positions. Everyone promotes through hard work, dedication and demonstration of professionalism, just like the real world.
SVN: Do students audition for on-air positions?
SM: We do auditions when we are looking for new faces, or need to fill positions left vacant from recent graduates.
SVN: Do they write the content?
SM: Students write every bit of content we produce, from morning news to commercials.
SVN: How long does the show run?
SM: Our morning program is only 10 minutes, but our monthly show is a half hour, as is our talk show. Our shortest program is our podcast, which may only run about 5 minutes.
SVN: Do you submit programming to independent contest such as those sponsored by StudicaSkills and SchoolTube TV?
SM: We enter as much as we can, from local competitions to Schooltube to STN. We’ve been fortunate to place somewhere, every year.
SVN: Can your broadcast be viewed outside the school? District-wide? Local cable access? On your school/district web-site?
SM: We have programming on Schooltube, and this year we will be shown on a local internet tv service. Last year our local PBS affiliate aired two of our shows on their digital channel, and we hope to be back on PBS by the year’s end. The local membership station changed, so when they get things settled down, we hope to be back in the lineup.
SVN: Where do you post programming? YouTube? Vimeo? SchoolTube? SVN-TV? Other?
SM: Our work can be seen on Schooltube, and soon we will have some content on SVN –TV.
SVN: Do you have an equipment list you can share with our readers?
SM: We edit with Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere. We shoot on Panasonic HMC-40’s. Graphics for live content comes from Compix.
SVN: Have any quick start tips!
SM: Plan your productions with the viewer benefit in mind – from the student to the administrator to the parent at home. They will watch the things that have value to them. Everybody’s program, regardless of how well equipped can provide service to the audience. Make it about substance, not flash.