COMM 370: Advanced Video Production

Professor: Tim Scully
Office: 305B Loras Hall
Phone: 651-962 5824 (office)
Office hrs.: 10:30-11:30 MW or by appointment


Douglass, John S. and Hamden, Glenn P.. The Guide to Film and Video Production. Allyn and Bacon: Needham Heights, Mass., 1996.

The text is required for the course and is available at the UST Bookstore. Readings are listed on your calendar. Finish reading assigned chapters before class on the day listed in the calendar and be prepared to discuss them. Some revisions in the calendar are to be expected. It will be updated as necessary during class.

As the final step in the video production sequence, this course builds on the skills and knowledge you have acquired in COMM 160: Electronic Media Production, and COMM 270: TV Field Production. These prerequisites, or significant relevant experience and instructor approval, are necessary for enrollment.

Students in this course also must be registered concurrently for JPST 489: A Vision of Civil Rights. Your participation in both courses is necessary for successful completion of this course and your knowledge of the civil rights issues and course dynamics explored in JPST 489 is essential to the documentary and other assignments required in this course.

Please note that enrollment in these courses implies that you are committed to full participation in the spring break trip to Selma, Alabama. The trip is a requirement for both courses. You will be performing a service for the local community and shooting for the documentary during the trip.

Also understand that because our major project for the course is a documentary, you will be asked to work on aspects of it for a considerable amount of time outside of class throughout the semester. Although I will try to divide the work fairly, sometimes you may have to do more or different work than you were expecting. This is a team effort. If we all pull together to get it done, the work will not overwhelm anyone.

With the primary goal of producing a documentary, the course will focus on how the techniques of production are employed to effectively communicate via the medium of television. In the course assignments, you will communicate carefully crafted messages to well defined audiences. You will improve your skills with the camcorders, lighting equipment, sound equipment, and the digital editing systems. You will learn how to raise your standards of technical and aesthetic quality in your productions. You also will learn the specifics of how to plan and manage a large scale production. With this knowledge and these skills, you will be better able to produce effective, high quality programs for diverse audiences.

Discussions, demonstrations, and the viewing of examples will take up some of our time. During many class periods, students will discuss their work and help others find solutions to production problems. In class discussion of readings will play an integral part in the course. In class critiques of works in progress and finished pieces will enhance the quality of your productions and increase your ability to constructively criticize the work of others. Guest speakers from the industry will contribute production and employment tips.

During the semester you will learn to relate production techniques to the ways in which audiences form meaning. Emphasis in the course will be on four major areas essential to successful video productions:

1. The production process.
By the end of the course, you will have increased your knowledge of how programs are produced by studying, planning, executing, and evaluating video productions.

2. The aesthetics of production design.
You will learn how to plan and execute effective, aesthetically pleasing productions that engage, inform, and entertain specific audiences.

3. The production techniques.
You will increase your understanding and ability to use the camera, lighting, sound, and editing equipment to execute technically sound and effective video pieces.

4. The message.
The process, aesthetics, and techniques all contribute to the message you intend to convey to a target audience. Various elements such as dialogue, voice over, sound effects, music, lighting, and editing must focus audience attention for maximum intended affect. Much of your time will be spent defining the message and how best to convey it to a specific audience. Writing effectively for the medium of television requires knowledge of how to engage, inform, entertain, excite, and move a chosen audience in complex ways that result in the knowledge, emotions, or actions you desire from them.

An important dimension of the course is the Avid Xpress digital editing system. All of your editing for course exercises and projects will be accomplished with this system. This is an opportunity to learn about the concepts involved in digital nonlinear editing as you learn to operate the hardware and software used in increasing numbers of production facilities around the world. The skill you develop on this equipment also may increase your marketability in the electronic media industry. You all have had experience with the Avid system during a course or in Campus Scope. In this course you will expand your knowledge of the system, especially as it applies to the documentary process.

In a broad sense, this course will sharpen your communication skills and ability to cope with complex communication environments. You also will gain a better understanding of the ethical considerations and responsibilities involved in the production process.


Production Exercises
Exercises will not be graded per se, but your participation is required. Late, incomplete, or poor quality work on these exercises will affect the participation component of your grade for the course. These exercises will be outlined in class.

Production Assignments

The primary objective of the course is to produce a documentary centered on your experiences in JPST 489: A Vision of Civil Rights. Your resources will include the readings, discussions, guest speakers, films, projects and trip to Selma, Alabama. A major objective will be to connect the personal experiences of the students in the course to social justice issues in the United States and in our community. Interviews with fellow students, Mike Klein, archival materials (film, texts, photos,) websites, interviews and cover on the trip to Selma as well as cover and interviews in the Twin Cities area will provide the raw materials for the documentary. By developing an historical perspective, augmenting it with personal accounts and connecting these elements to contemporary national and local perspectives, you will produce an informative, engaging video documentary.

As is typical with the documentary form, we will set out to discover what is happening in this large arena, then focus on illuminating what we believe are the significant issues. Because there is no such thing as an “objective” documentary (that would eliminate being selective in what we choose to shoot or edit altogether), we will research, plan, schedule, shoot and select in editing the most significant events to inform our audience of what we sincerely believe is happening. That means we educate ourselves and try to leave our biases behind.

If this seems like a big job, it is. We will scale the project to the context of the course, our time constraints, and our budget. Because documentary is a process of discovery, our roles and tasks may take unexpected turns, eliminating some material here, refocusing the piece there, and going in new directions when appropriate. This is the excitement of the documentary process. Enjoy the ride!

Each student will conduct and edit an interview with a classmate from JPST 489. This “practice” interview will prepare you for the many interviews required for the documentary you will produce. Depending on the quality of your work, this piece, or a revised version of it, may become a part of the finished documentary. The technical and aesthetic values, as well as information content of your interview, will be critiqued.

Each student will design and shoot a large scale lighting setup. The setup should be related to the content of the interview you have conducted. This assignment will test your knowledge of the instruments, the techniques you have learned from your text and in class demonstrations, and it will prepare you for the field work you may encounter during your trip.

Each student will shoot cover of a classmate to illustrate the interview assignment. The raw tape of the cover shots will be evaluated on their technical and aesthetic quality, their variety, their relevance to the interview material, and on their adaptability in editing sequences of shots.

each student will write and voice effective copy for the student interview. The work will be evaluated according to the quality of the writing and the delivery of the voice over. A script also will be required to analyze the voice over within the context of a documentary.

Each student will digitize and edit a piece combining the elements in the three preceding assignments. The style should incorporate design elements that you feel would be effective for the documentary project.

Each student will be graded individually for his/her work on each assignment. A part of your grade for each project will be based on your assistance on another student’s project. The assignments will be graded according to the criteria described on the individual assignment sheets. Turning in required paperwork on time and within guidelines is an essential part of each project. Meeting all deadlines is required, as is a high standard of quality in your work. Late work will be assigned a lower grade (diminishing with each late day), and work that does not conform to guidelines will not be accepted or may have to be revised. A professional attitude toward your classmates, your instructor, the ISS staff and members of the community on and off campus is important to your success in this course.

These are brief, typed answers to questions about the readings or viewings. They must be handed in at the beginning of the class period in which they are due. Make a copy for me so you have one to refer to during class discussions. Probes will be assigned in class and due at the next class meeting. If you miss a class period, it is your responsibility to check with a classmate to see if a probe is due for the next class.

There will be no formal exams in the course. Probes, required paperwork and other artifacts of the production processes will be used to assess your progress.

An additional part of your grade is based on class attendance and participation. Tardiness beyond five minutes after the start of class will be viewed as a lack of participation. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to catch up with notes from a class member, assignments, and any announcements. In addition I will keep track of your participation in exercises and discussions. Missed or incomplete exercises or failure to participate substantially in discussions will lower your grade an additional amount. Because this course will be conducted as a seminar, it requires your active and regular participation. Be prepared to discuss your projects in their various stages of development. Your cooperation and a professional attitude throughout the production process is expected. Plan on spending a substantial amount of time on readings and your productions outside of regular class times. Demonstrations of equipment cannot be repeated without scheduling an equivalent amount of time, facilities, and equipment. Discussions cannot be recreated. Likewise, in class critiques of work in progress cannot be repeated nor can guest speakers be asked to come back if you miss class. Therefore, prompt, regular attendance is expected. Meetings scheduled with clients, class members, or others must be adequately prepared for and attended. If you cannot attend class or another meeting, I expect you to inform me and others involved at the earliest possible time. Failure to meet these expectations will result in a lower grade for this portion of the course and may affect your grade for an assignment as well.

Grade Percentages
Interview 10%
Camera 10%
Lighting 10%
Writing/Scripting 10%
Editing 10%
Documentary 30%
Probes 10%
Attendance/Participation 10%

I expect you to:

  • arrive on time for class and attend entire class sessions;
  • read assigned text pages prior to class discussions of the material;
  • actively contribute to in class discussions;
  • answer assigned questions with care;
  • take careful notes during class sessions and meetings;
  • make sure that you understand what is expected of you;
  • prepare for class activities with high quality work;
  • make yourself available to participate in relevant activities;
  • arrive on time and be prepared for meetings and productions;
  • meet deadlines with high quality work;
  • discuss problems with me before they get out of hand;
  • inform me and appropriate class members when you are unable, for good reason, to fulfill your obligations,
  • then complete the work at the earliest possible time;
  • follow required procedures for equipment care and usage;
  • follow guidelines for equipment checkout and return;
  • follow guidelines for edit system management and usage;
  • be flexible when circumstances require a change of plans;
  • be prepared to defend your decisions concerning your work;
  • be prepared to rewrite, re-shoot, reedit, or revise your work when necessary;
  • be considerate with your classmates, contacts, professor, and other UST faculty, staff and administrators;
  • maintain a good sense of humor.

You can expect me to:

  • be knowledgeable about the material;
  • be clear in my explanations of the material;
  • challenge you to raise your standards of quality in video production;
  • help you to learn difficult concepts;
  • meet with you as necessary to discuss your work or concerns;
  • be concerned about your general wellbeing;
  • be fair in assigning your work;
  • be fair in grading your work;
  • be understanding when your sincere efforts have been overcome by circumstances beyond your control;
  • resolve disputes in favor of the welfare of the majority the class.


Videotape – You will need two sixty minute MiniDV digital videocassettes for field shoots and output of finished sequences to videotape. I will provide the field tapes for the documentary. You also may want to buy a couple of VHS tapes for convenient viewing of projects and rough cuts on consumer video decks.

Zip Disk – Please purchase one Mac formatted 100 Mb Zip disk for storing project information. You must have this disk before you can begin editing on the Avid system. These are available in the UST Bookstore.

Course Calendar

T 1/29 introduction, equipment training shoot JPST 489 class as determined

R 1/31 documentary structure, research doc. proposal, interview prep.
T 2/5 doc proposal, interviewing interview prep.
R 2fl doc proposal, production schedule due shoot “Reflection” interviews
T 2/12 locating resources, shooting cover shoot interviews, cover
R 2/14 Avid editing, project management shoot/edit interviews, cover
T 2/19 edited interviews due, local research location scouting, research
R 2/21 archival resources, writing gathering resources, write
T 2/26 documentary music edit interviews, cover into package
R 2/28 graphics edit interviews, cover into package
T 3/5 “Reflection,” mid course interview prep. interview prep., location scouting
R 3/7 “Reflection” interview package due interview prep., location scouting
T 3/12 trip prep. shoot interviews
R 3/14 trip prep. shoot interviews
T 3/19 trip prep. edit interviews/plan trip
R 3/21 trip prep., edited interviews due edit interviews/plan trip

F 3/22 3/30 Selma shoot shoot, shoot, shoot

T 4/2 process trip, plan edit edit trip video
R 4/4 no Tim, meet to process and edit edit trip video
T 4/9 structure: trip “Integration” interviews plan final interviews
R 4/11 define needs: video, audio, business plan interviews, other resource acquisition
T 4/16 filling the holes: specifics shoot interviews, cover
R 4/18 editing the rough cut shoot interviews, cover, edit rough cut
T 4/23 finishing the rough cut edit rough cut
R 4/25 rough cut due, master sequence editing re edit rough cut
T 4/30 finishing re edit rough cut
R 5/2 master sequence additions edit master sequence
T 5/7 master sequence due, changes, additions re edit master sequence
R 5/9 final master due, duplication/distribution duplicate, distribute

T 5/14 1:00 3:00 final exam period

School: St. Thomas University
Professor: Tim Scully