Digital Video Production at PTC

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG —In today’s world, expert video production isn’t merely for broadcast TV stations and cable channels. Web sites, schools, big companies, little companies—even churches — are increasingly relying on the video industry and all it can do for their organizations.

The Digital Video Production program at the St. Pete campus of Pinellas Technical College offers students the opportunity to learn about video technology in a professional setting with the most up-to-date equipment.

“What we do is we teach everything you need to know to get a job behind the scenes in the video production industry,” said longtime PTC instructor Bruce Copeland. “You’re going to learn camera, lighting, microphone, audio and video manipulation, editing, interactive training material, software—all sorts of things like that.”

During the 18-month program students participate in the making of advertisements, short films and even gripping short documentaries. Copeland said many times these projects would actually air on TV stations and web sites.

“Many times their projects are not just projects, they’re real!” he said.

This work appears on such notable sites as CareerSource, where some orientation and training videos were produced by PTC students. They’ve also crafted videos for the Pinellas Refugee Education Program (PREP).

“The video featuring who and what refugees are was made by us,” Copeland said. “They can use that to go to Lions Club or wherever and say, ‘This is what we do. Here are people from Bosnia and here’s their story about being chased around the country with their family being executed and they finally make it out of the country. Here is their story.’ We did stories on Iraqis, Africans, Bosnians—so the students get involved in those and tell the stories.”

Often PTC students will make films or advertisements for nonprofits, and the course even calls for them to create their own commercial from beginning to end.

“We have them create the idea and they bring that idea to life,” Copeland explained. “How they want to shoot the product, how they want to tell the story, what type of actor or actress they want, what type of lighting they want to use.”

Sometimes students will enlist their classmates to star in the commercial, but Copeland said that many times they’ll seek professorial voices and actors to help them with their projects.

Above all, Copeland stressed that the Digital Video Production program at PTC is a professional set up in every sense.

“One of the key things about our school is that we’re not doing toys here,” he asserted. “This is the real thing. You can look at our studio then go to a TV station and you can’t tell the difference. So when you leave here and you go to work at a high-paying job, you can recognize the equipment.”

Copeland added that they are in the process of making the transition to high definition.

“We’ll be producing in HD here very soon,” he stated. “We’ll have the most advanced state-of-the-art cameras and editing facility that’s not tape-based in central Florida when we fire up.”

When students graduate, there are many options available to them from a plethora of companies and organizations. Copeland averred that many graduates have even been taking jobs in an ever-widening number of fields outside of their initial training.

“Because they’re so well technically trained they can now get jobs where traditionally they wouldn’t take our students,” Copeland explained. “But because they have a good strong technical background, there are new areas.

This even includes engineering jobs where heretofore, Copeland explained, people would have to have an electronic engineering degree.

“So they do the traditional jobs,” he said, “but today there are so many others.”

Copeland asserted that in addition to companies having a very big web presence these days, more and more churches are also taking advantage of the merits of using professional quality video production.

“Many churches now are very, very video centric,” Copeland said, “and they need people to operate that equipment in either paid or volunteer ways, but more and more paid.”

Churches use video production in a number of ways, from merely displaying the words of hymns on screens to showing videos in the church to making expert films of youth missions and trips.

“When the congregation says, ‘We just funded $6,000 for a youth group to go to Haiti,’ they want to see video of these kids in Haiti doing something!” Copeland remarked. “So everybody knows that the word is being spread. They can see the church that they help build, they can see the kids that they helped, they can see them delivering food to shacks—all very powerfully told with pictures.”

In Copeland, students not only get an instructor who has been in the industry for over 30 years but has connections in the video production field nationwide. He has his finger on the pulse of the industry and is attuned to its changes long before any book of the trade can be published.

“I know what’s going on in the market,” he stated, “I know who’s hiring and who’s not, who’s getting rid of positions, who’s creating new positions.”

He added that once students graduate and find placement, it’s common for them to be very mobile in their new careers.

“They’ll often change jobs three to five times in the first five years,” Copeland admitted, “either at the same facility or they move around, because they’re able to move up that quickly once they get in the industry!”

The Digital Video Production program offers dual enrollment for students who wish to take the initial courses at PTC while still attending high school. Yet students of all ages are drawn to the program and above all, they can be assured of a first-rate education in the exciting field of video production.

“We have the equipment here that many facilities don’t,” Copeland affirmed. “We’re a state-certified school and I’m a certified teacher—it’s not the ‘adjunct teacher of the day.’ This is serious stuff. This is preparing students to go directly from here to working in the industry. And that’s what the industry wants: people who are ready to go to work and make money for the company, and don’t have to be taught everything once they get there.”

If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit myptec.org or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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