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September 2014
Issue: August 1, 2008

HIGHER LEARNING: VIDEO SYMPHONY

By: Marc Loftus
BURBANK - Ask Video Symphony president Mike Flanagan how his school differs from other educational institutions that offer training, and he’ll tell you it’s the “post production focus” that sets it apart.

Video Symphony opened in 1994, initially serving as an Avid authorized education center and corporate training company, but evolved into a career/vocational/technical college and now trains established industry professionals as well as those looking to break into the business.

“A lot of people think we are a film school, and we are like a film school, [but] we also aren’t,” says Flanagan. “A lot of people who have gone to film school eventually come to us to get some of the specific skills they need to be ready for the job market. Going to film school makes you into a filmmaker, and there are very few jobs offered for filmmakers. It’s ‘make your own opportunity’ when you are a filmmaker. What we are doing is teaching people the specific aspects of the filmmaking process. We are teaching them specific skills for video editing, sound engineering and motion graphics design, and as a result they are able to have a higher level of success.”

Video Symphony’s career programs in editing, motion graphics and audio engineering span 10 to 14 months, but pros looking  to broaden their existing skills can take single courses that run 40 hours.

The average program for a full-time student runs around 20 hours per week and includes two- or three-day-a-week classes. “It depends on how diligent the students are and how much time they have available,” he notes. “We are dealing with second-career adults a lot of time, as opposed to people right out of high school. So as a result, second-career adults tend to have more life responsibilities — they are working and have other things going on.”

COURSES OF STUDY

While Video Symphony’s editing curriculum has a long history using Avid tools, Apple Final Cut Pro is now being offered and will see an increased presence in the future curriculum. The graphics program offers the most variety, covering Adobe After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and Autodesk Maya. But when it comes to audio, Digidesign Pro Tools is the sole focus.

“We don’t divert attention by focusing on applications that do the same thing,” says Flanagan of the strict focus. “It’s a little different with video editing. We’ve had to expand out and include Final Cut Pro, but ideally, there is enough to learn when it comes to technique and workflow that we don’t want to get people confused by having to switch back and forth between applications.”

The college has 55 Avid systems, 28 Final Cut Pro workstations, 13 Pro Tools systems, and 40 motion graphics/effects stations. All are desktops based on the Mac platform, and have been since the school opened in 1994. A roster of four dozen instructors provide expertise on the tools.

Each day is broken into a series of four-hour shifts: 9am-1pm, 2pm-6pm, 6:30pm-10:30pm and 10:30pm-2:30am. Classrooms and labs occupy the same space, but when classes are not in session, the rooms are available for HOT (hands-on training) time. Students can sign up for HOT time, and the 10:30pm to 2:30am block is always available, as classes are never scheduled that late in the evening.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES

Pricing for the different programs vary, and can be found on the Video Symphony Website (www.videosymphony.com). Flanagan points out — and it’s something that many are not aware of — the incentives that many Californians can take advantage of to save on tuition.

“There are some very good arrangements for people here in California because we have a lot of industry affiliation discounts or special programs going on,” he notes, adding that the school is also nationally accredited, a key for students looking to secure financial aid.
A class might cost $300 per day, but through the ETP (employment training panel), the state picks up a fair amount of the bill. “And we have been able to do that from no charge to the students, up to about $10 an hour charged to the employer,” says Flanagan. “It’s the State of California reinvesting in its own workforce.”

Members of the Motion Picture Editors Guild can also take classes for just one-third the price. “The balance is something that we take care of through contract services, which is the funding source for the Guild.” So, the message that Flanagan stresses for the post community is that “high quality professional training is available at no cost or highly-reduced costs, and is very accessible.”

And what can graduates of the school’s programs expect? For students, the school offers job placement services to those completing the year-long programs. And for employers looking to hire talent, the school can screen candidates and provide connections with those that are highly qualified.

Flanagan says most editing and graphics program graduates transition into paid positions, while audio students tend to secure internships initially. “Our graduates are able to succeed by getting paid positions right off the bat. They know enough or more than some of the people who are out there working; they don’t need internships. It’s relatively rare that someone takes an internship when they come out of the film or video editing program. It’s much more commonplace in the Pro Tools and sound program, and that’s just because of differences in the ways that those segments of the market work.”