Film and TV Production Schools

What to expect from film and television production schools

Film and video production schools can help provide the theoretical and hands-on training needed for filming a television production or a motion picture, as well as the skills necessary for editing the video and audio in postproduction.

Film and video production and editing classes are offered by many colleges, technical schools and specialty universities. Degrees may be offered at the associate, bachelor's and even master's degree levels, often as a degree in the fine arts but sometimes in the sciences. These degrees typically take between two and four years to complete, depending on the level of the degree -- master's degrees can take two years to complete but require earning a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment.

Classes for filmmaking and editing may include the history of film, hands-on experience with editing software and cameras, broadcast fundamentals, and a student project to provide practical experience with the technical aspects of a film or broadcast production. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, camera operators also receive on-the-job training following school (BLS.gov/ooh). This training teaches camera operators how film and television production works.

While some production companies and broadcast stations may not require sound editors to have a degree, because the industry is competitive (BLS.gov/ooh), editors with a degree in film or TV production, or broadcast technology and engineering, may have better chances of landing a job than those without such a degree. Camera operators also tend to have degrees in filmmaking or broadcasting.

Some camera operators may have opportunities to advance up to becoming directors or producers of films and television shows and thus may be required to have a degree in cinema production or a related field (BLS.gov/ooh). These degrees not only provide film production training on how to shoot a scene but also how to use a boom-microphone and the key-, fill-, and backlights during television production, which can be necessary for directing a film or television show.

Skills and tools of production editors

Production editors often work as part of a film or TV show's postproduction crew, editing the audio and video produced during filming. Their role is to assemble the out-of-order shots of film and multiple audio tracks into a single, coherent product. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov/ooh), audio and film editors may benefit from the following skills:

  1. Technical/computer skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. Problem-solving skills
  4. Visual skills
  5. Strong attention to detail

Film and audio editing can be done in two ways: linear and nonlinear editing. Linear editing requires physically cutting and then splicing film and audio tapes together to make a single, linear piece. Nonlinear editing is accomplished through the use of software and allows editors to combine video and audio, and sometimes both, into as many combinations as they see fit. Because of its versatility and efficiency, nonlinear editing has become the standard in filmmaking and audio editing (BLS.gov/ooh).

Today, film editing software such as Final Cut-Pro has replaced the film editor's moviola and has also scaled down the audio editor's mixing board from the office table-sized boards of the past to a Yamaha LS9, which can fit on your lap. Software has even removed the iconic switchboard from television broadcast stations.

Popular software for film and audio editors include Corel's Pro X5, Avid's Pro-Tools and Interplay, as well as mixing boards from Mackie and Allen & Heath.

Skills and tools of the trade for film and broadcast productions

According to the BLS, some camera operators can become producers or directors, and some producers or directors, such as Robert Rodriguez or Brian Taylor, can also be camera operators. As such, in addition to having the technical skills needed to operate a modern film camera, the following skills may be beneficial for camera operators in both film and television production:

  1. Creativity
  2. Hand-eye coordination
  3. Manual dexterity
  4. Attention to detail

The first thing to know about film and television production is that equipment is expensive. Cameras and microphones can each run up to thousands of dollars, and lighting can be just as expensive. Even hand-held production cameras, which can resemble home-movie recorders, can cost $3,000 or more. Knowing how to set up a scene, what tools to use, and how to use them can make or break a production.

Some of the tools encountered during a film or TV production may include the following:

  • Directional microphones - directional microphones, such as those made by RØDE Microphones, need to be pointed at an audio source but can limit the amount of background audio picked up during filming.
  • Steady cams - this creation of veteran camera operator and cinematographer Garrett Brown removes the jolts and shakes created by moving a camera by hand. Since its creation in the 1970s, it has allowed camera operators to film in situations, and take those iconic shots, that were previously impossible.
  • Professional camcorders - mobile cameras are typically thought of as the large, cumbersome cameras either mounted on tripods or on the shoulders of camera operators. These professional camcorders made by Panasonic, Sony and Canon allow camera operators to get shots in close quarters and, with their (relatively) modest price, cut production costs.

Job opportunities for film and television production school graduates

According to the BLS, film and video editors are projected to experience a national employment opportunity growth of up to 5 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov/ooh). Broadcast and sound engineering technicians are expected to experience a growth of up to 10 percent during the same decade (BLS.gov/ooh). The tepid growth is expected to be the result of an increase in technology which allows current film and audio editors to be more productive.

Camera operators in both film and broadcasting are projected to experience a national employment opportunity growth of up to 2 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov/ooh), as both the broadcasting and film industries become more productive.

The BLS reports that camera operators in the television, video, and motion picture industries earned a national median annual wage of $40,170 as of May 2011 (BLS.gov/oes). Sound engineering technicians earned a national median annual wage of $46,750 (BLS.gov/oes), and and film and video editors earned a national median annual wage of $52,940 (BLS.gov/oes) during the same year.

California employed the most camera operators, film and video editors, and sound engineering technicians than any other state, followed by New York and Florida.


U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition: Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/film-and-video-editors-and-camera-operators.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-2013 Edition:Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/broadcast-and-sound-engineering-technicians.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Camera Operators, Television, Video, and Motion Picture, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274031.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Sound Engineering Technicians, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274014.htm
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Film and Video Editors, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274032.htm
RØDE Microphones, 2013, http://www.rodemic.com/
Yamaha Commercial Audio, LS9 Digital Mixing Console, 2013, http://www.yamahaproaudio.com/global/en/products/mixers/ls9/photos.jsp
Avid, Pro-Tools Family, 2013, http://www.avid.com/US/products/family/pro-tools
Avid, Professional Video Editing & Finishing, 2013, http://www.avid.com/US/categories/Professional-Video-Editing-Finishing
Panasonic, Camcorders, 2013, http://www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/professional-camcorders.asp
Filmtools, Canon XA10 HD Professional Camcorder, 2013, http://www.filmtools.com/canon-xa10-pro-camcorder.html?gclid=CL3w37rGyLUCFcdxQgodNDsABA

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