KD Studio (Dallas, TX), renowned for its 30-year legacy of training professional actors for stage, film, and television, just last month instituted a Motion Picture Production Program that integrates Panasonic AG-HMC40 professional handheld AVCCAM HD camcorders in its filmmaking curriculum. The hands-on training program, whose graduates receive an Associate of Applied Arts Degree in Motion Picture Production, was developed by veteran Hollywood producer (and Dallas native) Dennis Bishop.
“Our objectives are to teach our students how to make films and how the industry operates, and to give them a craft,” said.
Bishop, program director for the Motion Picture Production Program. “We hope many of our students will continue their education at four-year institutions, but at the end of their 15 months with us, we want them capable of producing a film worthy of festival submission.”
“In terms of acquisition tools, that meant we needed to look at professional-level cameras,” he continued. “We were impressed with the AG-HMC40’s solid-state reliability, its professional appearance, its affordability and low-cost media—and its enviable image production.”
“I loved that the AVCCAM provided great image quality for the price and allowed us to purchase much better equipment than we thought we had the budget for,” Bishop said. “Plus, the camera allowed us to stick with one brand for the entry-level and the advanced-level classes: this continuity throughout the program is extremely beneficial to the students and the program.”
When KD Studio decided to branch out into film production education, the goal was a program that would befit the school’s standing as the country’s the only accredited, degree-granting Conservatory outside of New York or Los Angeles. In turning to native son Bishop, the institution found a longtime champion of independent filmmaking. Director of the Lone Star International Film Festival, Bishop has been an integral part of many critical and commercial successes, notably Horton Foote’s Academy Award winning The Trip to Bountiful and Universal Pictures’ mega-hit, The Fast and the Furious. As Vice President of Physical Production at HBO Pictures, he oversaw twenty-seven of HBO’s most acclaimed cable movies, including And the Band Played On, Barbarians at the Gate and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader Murdering Mom. A recent foray into television production resulted in Bishop’s first two pilots being picked up as series, the critically acclaimed Dexter for Showtime and Cane for CBS.;
KD Studio purchased six HMC40s from Videotex Systems (Dallas, TX), and the camcorders are currently being used in the first semester Cinema Technique 1 – Production class, which introduces the tools and techniques used in filmmaking. Fundamentals of the equipment used throughout the program are taught, and students work both in front of and behind the camera to produce several short films and exercises.
During the second semester, students will use both the AVCCAMs and P2 HD handhelds. In Cinema Technique II – Directing the Actor, students utilize the AG-HMC40s to illustrate how blocking and camera placement affect the telling of a story, and to capture the student directors’ collaborative explorations with actors in a variety of scene work. Digital Cinematography will focus on the basics of digital video
filmmaking techniques used to create independent shorts and feature-length films. Here students will be introduced to the P2 HD camcorders that will become the backbone of their production work as the emphasis shifts outside the classroom when they prep, shoot and post their thesis projects in the third and fourth semesters.
Robert Castaldo teaches the Cinema Technique I class, where lessons encompass how a camera works, how to shoot a scene and how to prepare a simple shoot. “These are the absolute basics, so initially I thought we should use the simplest capture gear, i.e., DV camcorders,” said Castaldo, who will also head up the postproduction department. “But then we would have had to build a capture station, which we don’t have to do with file-based camcorders. Ultimately, working with the HMC40s couldn’t be simpler, and I’ve come to love the format.”
The students typically shoot in the AG-HMC40’s highestquality PH (average 21 Mbps/max. 24 Mbps) mode at 720/24pN. “Students assigned a 16GB SDHC card, and shooting in that mode at that frame rate affords them way more time than they need,” Castaldo noted. “The AG-HMC40 and SD media represent a great deal and deliver great quality.”
Each student in the Motion Picture Production program is issued a new MacBook Pro laptop with industry-specific software such as Final Cut Studio, Final Draft, and EP GORILLA Scheduling and Budgeting. The students edit in Final Cut Pro v.7, and will present their work on DVDs at the culmination of the Cinema Technique I class.
For more information about KD Studio and the Motion Picture Production Program, visit www.kdstudio.com.
* The Users Reports provided aboveis correct as of the time of publication. Note that information such as company and organization names may no longer be correct.