Every program elective at Technology Center of DuPage must keep pace with industry standards to prepare students for success in their chosen career path. An example is the Multimedia and Television Production program, which balances innovation with timeless academic and workplace skills.
Jeff Heise, a production engineer and veteran of Chicago's broadcast industry, began teaching at TCD in 1994 when digital technology and the Web were in their infancy. Fortunately, administrators and the DuPage Area Occupational Education System board caught Heise's vision for building a program capable of responding to a rapidly changing industry.
"We purchased TCD's first AVID Media Suite Pro, similar to the Media Composer but at one-fifth the price tag," Heise said. "It was still a lot of money, but when that got approved, I knew then that TCD had a strong commitment to seeing students become successful in this profession."
Over the years, with input from his advisory committee of industry professionals, Heise expanded the space to include a new production studio with a full lighting grid, green screen, voice-over booth, and adjacent audio and video control rooms. The lab now has 25 AVID Media Composers with Pro Tools audio software and the full Adobe Suite.
A year ago, advisory member Mark Sarantakos of MTS Systems helped Heise dismantle the last of the analog equipment, making Multimedia an all-HD program with the studio accessible to all edit bays.
The curriculum covers electronic news gathering, digital video and audio editing, multitrack recording, video graphics, and animation. In the studio, students learn set design and lighting, camera operation, script writing, and directing. Multimedia's high school students also have the opportunity to earn up to nine hours of college credit and take part in internships.
The technology and its applications are exciting, but Heise is quick to caution students that strong language arts skills are even more important.
"The best technology in the world can't fix a poorly told story," he often says. "If you can't write a story or read a manual, life in this industry is going to be very hard."
Still, digital technology has greatly expanded job opportunities beyond traditional film and television studios. "New media" is interactive, on-demand, accessible on any digital device, and designed to foster communities of its participants, as the careers of these alumni illustrate:
• Brett Novak, Glenbard South '05, is a filmmaker whose artistic skateboarding videos have made him an internationally recognized presence on YouTube, attracting not only millions of viewers but corporate advertisers.
• Meredith Davis, Wheaton North '11, earned her degree in television postproduction at Columbia College-Chicago, where a documentary she coproduced earned a regional Emmy. After interning with WTTW's "Check, Please" program, Davis was hired as editor of the program's new short-form digital interview series "Chat, Please."
• Jason O'Malley, Glenbard South '05, works for late-night host Conan O'Brien as the Web video editor for Team Coco Digital, producing digital content to support the online experience for fans.
O'Malley, a team Emmy and "Webby" award recipient, traces his career success back to TCD.
"Every day I still use the fundamental skills I learned there: camera operation, audio recording, video editing in Adobe Premiere, and photo editing in Photoshop," he said via email.
O'Malley said TCD not only prepared him for media studies at College of DuPage and later Columbia College, but the credit he earned enabled him to graduate early. He landed an internship, then a job, at Current TV in Los Angeles, which in turn led to Team Coco.
Heise appreciates such feedback from alumni, who often report they are leading their college class or have become the go-to person at work.
"I want students to leave my class well-versed in the industry, with the confidence to make it in college and the workplace," he said. "That includes workplace skills like being dependable, doing things right the first time, and doing your job with a great attitude."
O'Malley agrees those skills are critical, advising students: "Be nice to everyone you meet and work with! Our industry is a very small world. If you're nice and hardworking, people will keep hiring you."
Learn more about Multimedia and Television Production at tcdupage.org.
• Alf Logan is the Interim Director of the DuPage Area Occupational Education System, the governing body for Technology Center of DuPage and other CTE delivery sites in the region. He thanks Jeff Heise and Jason O'Malley for providing the insights shared in this column.