Four area schools are getting a brush with professional media production this year, thanks to the School Broadcast Program which is offered by the Michigan Interscholastic Connection or MIC.
Hillman, Onaway, Rogers City and Alcona schools have already begun to film, edit and produce professional quality videos of their school sporting events that they can post online for their communities to view.
Sparky Nitchman of the MIC explained how the program works.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Hillman High School teacher Erin Brege instructs students Michelle Smith, left and Grace Buck during the school’s broadcasting class. Hillman is one of four area schools along with Onaway, Rogers City and Alcona that are taking part in the School Broadcast Program, which allows students to shoot and edit sporting events and other school events and upload them to a school-specific Web site through the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
"We provide professional equipment and training for the teachers and students," Nitchman said. "I work directly with the teachers and kids for a brief period to help them understand the equipment and editing software. Once they're ready, they work independently."
According to Nitchman, the students can film and edit sporting events in real time. Their videos are then uploaded to a school-specific site on the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Web site.
All of the video editing is done via Final Cut, an editing program used on Apple computers. Allan Cramer of Hillman took to the program quickly, emphasizing how easy the program is to learn and operate independently of teacher assistance.
"Its great to learn so many new things I never would have known otherwise, I never knew how they made commercials or television shows before this class."
- Hillman student Shane Holford
"I love the program (Final Cut). Once you get the basics figured out, it's pretty user friendly and fun to use," Cramer said as he edited footage of Hillman's homecoming football game against Rogers City.
Alcona assistant principal and athletic director Dan O'Connor offered strong praise for his students, who have already broadcast several Alcona athletic events online.
"I help set up the class and recruit students, but the kids do the rest," O'Connor said. "There are about five to ten students involved in our program with Walter Kelly and Ryley Mancine really helping take the lead. We've already broadcast four football games, two soccer games and a volleyball game and are working to create school announcements as well."
Some schools are also sending their videos to be broadcast on local television stations.
"We upload our videos online and also send them to the Sunrise Cable Network, which is our local channel six," Hillman broadcast teacher Erin Brege said. "We've also filmed PSA's for the school and are available to produce PSA's for anybody in the community."
This diversity of use is what makes the School Broadcast Program unique. Although it is designed specifically for sports, it can also be used for other school events.
"Students can film band performances, concerts, graduations and any other school-related activity," Nitchman said. "It's available for their needs. It's a great, diverse distribution platform."
Barb Kowalewsky, head of Onaway's broadcasting class, found the School Broadcast Program platform to be incredibly effective for sharing videos with the community.
"We've uploaded five videos already and each of them have about 400 views. That's a lot for a small community like Onaway," Kowalewsky said. "It's amazing how many people have seen the videos. I feel like this program is an excellent way to expand the community of Onaway beyond the city limits."
Kowalewsky also offered strong praise for the students involved in running the program.
"Our program has 26 kids and most of them are really taking to it well. They've all done an excellent job of acting like professionals and working hard to make everything look and sound as professional looking as possible," she said.
Many of the students involved are excited about the unique educational opportunities offered by the program. Shane Holford of Hillman was especially thrilled with the chance to participate and learn.
"Its great to learn so many new things I never would have known otherwise," Holford said as he and classmate Chad Wixom distorted their faces using a Final Cut filter. "I never knew how they made commercials or television shows before this class."
Nitchman is excited about the possibility this program could offer to Michigan area schools. Ten schools are signed up this fall, but MIC hopes to be in 20 schools by the end of the school year.
Schools using the program are required to produce four home football games a year. They must also pay a fee of $800. This may seem steep but compared to the earlier fee of $3,000, it is a cheaper investment for local schools already struggling from budget woes.
People interested in watching videos produced by these schools, can view them at MSHAA.tv and can search for their school.