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By Lawrence Lerner
Run by pioneering videographer and Professor Edin Velez and celebrated documentary filmmaker and Associate Professor Kimi Takesue, RU-N’s Video Production program has been preparing students of diverse backgrounds for successful careers in the film, TV and multimedia production industries for some time.
Last year the department gained greater visibility when several student films were selected to screen at the Newark International Film Festival and, more recently, as part of the Newark Museum’s “Muslim Voices” event celebrating the city’s 350th anniversary.
So it seems only fitting that the program made a giant leap this semester by moving from its former home in Bradley Hall to a new state-of-the-art facility in the Hahne’s building, which also houses RU-N’s community-arts incubator, Express Newark.
The move represents a huge investment by RU-N in a discipline that is the wave of the future, as media production and consumption shift rapidly toward online video. In the new space, students will gain more opportunities to collaborate with professional filmmakers and the community, wider exposure for their work, and better preparation as they step out into the field of video production.
“In Professors Velez and Takesue, we have two of the most imaginative, brilliant and acclaimed video artists in the world. And now, in the renovated Hahne’s building, they have facilities to teach in that are as cutting-edge as they are,” says FASN Dean Jan Ellen Lewis. “These two are also spectacular teachers. We are making RU-N the place to learn to become a videographer.”
Investment in Facility and Technology
With the move, the program now occupies much of the top floor of RU-N’s three-story facility in the Hahne’s building. The space features two edit labs and classrooms, a 2,300-square-foot production studio plus multi-camera control room, storage rooms, a sound-recording studio, a 1,000-square-foot equipment and resource-distribution center, an artist studio, offices for faculty and staff, and a shared conference room.
The edit labs are furnished with 17 of the newest 5K Retina-display iMacs equipped with the latest Adobe software, enabling RU-N’s budding videographers to work with the latest 4K video standard. This also means one computer per student and no waiting for workstations, as was the case in the old department facility in Bradley Hall, which had a single edit lab with 12 computers.
The program’s video cameras have also been upgraded from HD consumer-level camcorders to the new 4K consumer cameras, DSLRs and prosumer camcorders, equipped with boom mics, LED field lights, wireless lavalier mic systems, and professional headphones and tripods. In some instances, rather than capture audio onboard their cameras, students are working in teams and employing a dedicated sound-operator who records audio with shotgun mics on boom-poles.
The variety of equipment setups is designed to give students experience with different shooting and recording practices they’ll encounter in the real world.
“We need to know this stuff before we even apply for internships, given how competitive the field is,” says Jasmine Freeman, a junior from Danville, Va., majoring in video production. “Having this industry-level equipment gives us the tools to make this possible.”
The program also now is working in a large, state-of-the-art production studio, complete with green-screen and a film-production-grade LED lighting grid controlled by a touch-screen console that can alter the intensity of individual lights and change their RGB color on the fly.
The green-screen is, technically speaking, a green cyclorama covering two adjacent walls in a continuous curve and merging seamlessly with a green-painted floor, enabling a uniform green hue to be picked up by the cameras. This is important for compositing, or isolating subjects and paring them with alternative backgrounds of one’s choice in post-production. The control room not only controls the light grid but is equipped with multi-camera capabilities.
“This multi-camera setup is basically the same as a TV production studio, and so it will allow students to gain real-world experience while still in school,” says Corey Pieper, a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, majoring in video production.
The new Hahne’s space also features a 1,000-square-foot equipment and resource-distribution center that will make it far easier for students to borrow and return equipment, one of many improvements that will streamline the workflow during their years at RU-N.
Finally, the new RU-N Video Production classroom accommodates 40 students with movable modular furniture, a cutting-edge 4k laser-projector, a large retracting projector screen, and theater-quality surround-sound.
“It’s nice because the colors on our iMacs translate accurately onto the large classroom screen because of the beautiful laser-projector,” says Freeman. “That helps ensure our color-correction is on-point when we show our work to the class.”
Investment in RU-N–Community Partnerships
The Video Production program, like other RU-N visual-arts offerings at Hahne’s, will cross-pollinate with the arts-incubator Express Newark (EN) in myriad ways. EN was conceived as an artistic hub, bringing together artists, scholars, and arts presenters from RU-N and the Newark community in a variety of disciplines, including photography, 3-D printing and design, and video production.
The collaboration will attract community-based filmmakers who will have access to a dedicated classroom and edit lab on the fourth-floor of Hahne’s, plus use of the conference room and production studio. These partners and residents, some of whom work for Newark-based multimedia companies, will enjoy up to six-month stints at EN.
EN will also conduct free introductory video-production classes for Newark residents. Each course will meet weekly and last a month.
This arrangement is mutually beneficial: Community filmmakers and residents gain access to state-of-the-art facilities, while students benefit from engaging with professional filmmakers and industry veterans.
“Our students will learn from these professionals, gain opportunities to collaborate on projects, make valuable contacts, and be better able to imagine a future path for themselves within the industry,” says Takesue.
RU-N believes the new facility and the opportunities it affords will lead to increased enrollments as the program grows and achieves greater visibility.
And while students are excited by their new home, many know their success rests ultimately on the quality and commitment of the instructors.
“The new Hahne’s facility will inspire and encourage students to try new things and really develop our skills,” says Aaron Gabriel, a junior from Bayonne, N.J., majoring in Video Production. “And having a faculty and staff who care so much about the students is just as important, if not more so. I am so thankful for our new home in Hahne’s, and am equally thankful for our professors and staff, who continue to put in tremendous effort on our behalf.”
(Photos by Lawrence Lerner)