Texas H.S. expands video productions to HD

Mark Fitzwater, a teacher in the Career and Technical Education Department at Belton High School in Belton, Texas, launched the school’s first audio and video production courses three years ago with 26 students, three old computers, and one mini-DV camcorder.
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Mark Fitzwater, a teacher in the Career and Technical Education Department at Belton High School in Belton, Texas, launched the school’s first audio and video production courses three years ago with 26 students, three old computers, and one mini-DV camcorder. Today, the program has more than 160 students and is moving toward HD production with the recent purchase of four GY-HM790U ProHD camcorders from JVC Professional Products Company.

Tiger Productions, the Belton High School student production group, provides video production services for the 12-school Belton Independent School District. The new GY-HM790Us were purchased in October through Austin, Texas-based Omega Broadcast, and were used to cover the high school’s last two regular football games and a playoff game. Fitzwater said Tiger Productions is using the new camcorders extensively for a variety of events, including local elementary school performances and even some commercial productions.

Fitzwater discovered the GY-HM790U camcorder in April at the 2010 NAB Show, and chose it over other models he had researched. “Our next step in growing our program was moving to HD cameras,” he explained. “We wanted our students to use professional cameras so they would be able to use the cameras at TV stations.”

The program has been steadily improving its equipment and facilities over the past three years. Its computer lab includes 31 iMac computers running Apple Final Cut Pro, and Fitzwater said his advanced students are working toward Final Cut Pro certification. A small green screen studio, anchored by a NewTek TriCaster production system in the control room, is used for interviews and coaches shows. Students also have access to about 30 Canon consumer camcorders. The GY-HM790Us are paired with Secced Ares 2 tripods with focus and zoom controls.

High school football has been one of the major ongoing projects for Tiger Productions, with game coverage and coaches shows produced for a local channel on Time Warner Cable and MYTX, a digital subchannel for KCEN, the NBC affiliate serving the Waco-Temple-Bryan market (DMA #89). Belton does not have a mobile production unit, so game footage is recorded separately on each camera, then edited in post for broadcast.

Without remote multi-camera production capabilities, JVC’s native file recording to solid-state SDHC cards was an important selling point for Tiger Productions. It saves significant time in post, particularly for football games, as students can edit the Final Cut Pro footage immediately without digitizing or transcoding. Not only does Fitzwater appreciate the time savings, but the investment in reusable, non-proprietary SDHC cards is also far less expensive than his usual $1,500 annual tape budget.

Although the move to HD acquisition has been a challenge, Fitzwater said his students are learning through the process and are extremely excited about the opportunity to use the new JVC cameras. Specifically, he has been impressed with the Canon 14x zoom lens (KT14x4.4KRSJ) included with the camera – and JVC’s patented Focus Assist has been very helpful, too. “We’re thrilled. The quality of our pictures has dramatically improved,” Fitzwater added. “I know my students couldn’t be any happier with the quality of the lens and the quality of the cameras.”

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