DMA Central


Film & Video Production: A Constant State of “ACTION!”

Course: Film & Video Production

DMA Instructor: Neal Dhand

Education: The University of Chicago (Major: Interdisciplinary Studies, combining Film Theory and English Literature). Master of Fine Arts degree: Rochester Institute of Technology; Rochester, NY (Major: Film and Video Production)

Professional Portrait: Filmmaker Neal Dhand has six short films and several music videos under his belt (like his video for the band SPiN, which aired on the Fuse Network). But now the writer/director’s credits also include “Second-Story Man,” his first full-length feature film. Since March, it’s been playing the festival circuit throughout the U.S., scoring good reviews and being chosen as an Official Selection at the Indie Spirit, Cinequest and 360-365 film festivals – and prompting discussions of a distribution deal. Neal demonstrated his versatility by helming “Second-Story Man” as the film’s director, co-producer, co-writer and co-editor. He also has impressive teaching credentials, having served as an adjunct lecturer at Ithaca College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester. A dedicated student of cinema’s past who’s working hard to become part of its future, DMA Instructor Neal Dhand is definitely someone who’s going places.

DMA Courses: Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects

DMA Campus Locations: Harvard, Drexel and Swarthmore


Filmmaking has never been bigger, more complex or more thrilling. And if you ever wanted to learn film production, you’ve never had a better time to do so. DMA Instructor Neal Dhand can tell you all about the excitement that accompanies making a movie, because he just directed a full-length feature film that’s now getting lots of notice on the festival circuit. After that, who knows? Perhaps his movie, “Second-Story Man,” will be coming soon to a theater, DVD or a video-stream near you. (Visit for info.)

Film director and DMA Instructor Neal Dhand makes a point while shooting his new feature film, “Second-Story Man.” The tense crime drama involves would-be bank robbers, and was shot on location in upstate New York.

As he has in past summers, Neal will again be teaching DMA courses in Video Production, Final Cut Pro and After Effects. Each course involves a whirlwind of activity, and that suits the filmmaker fine. “I like the DMA’s energy,” he says, “And the energy the students bring to it. It’s a great combination of fun and technical know-how. In past years, some of my favorite parts have been when we’ve gotten really creative and experimental with film techniques.”

Neal’s formal training in film (including a Master’s degree in Film Production) makes him the perfect instructor for DMA’s digital filmmaking courses. He understands the key components of filmmaking that make movies work, which he lists as “great acting, interesting camera moves, tight editing, and beautiful sound and music.”

His DMA courses are hardly dry “Film Theory” classes, either. Students enrolled in Neal’s courses receive hands-on instruction in actually holding and operating a movie camera. In addition to shooting film, students learn how to cut and assemble footage using Final Cut, the industry standard in editing software. Young Spielbergs-in-training also get instruction in directing – including directing short scenes as well as directing scenes for use with special effects. Because, let’s face it – no modern course in film production would be complete without training in the creation and use of special effects. In Neal’s classes, students use After Effects to explore green-screen/compositing techniques – the same special effects that allow movie stars to do the impossible and appear to be posed against any kind of background you can possibly imagine.

Shooting any kind of modern studio-quality film requires state-of-the-art equipment and professional personnel. DMA’s Film Production programs show you the ropes and help get you started creatively.

As Neal explains, imagining’s the easy part. “A ‘green screen,’ is used for many shots. Using software like Final Cut Pro and After Effects, our goal is to take away the green background and replace it with something else. We want to make it look like our characters are somewhere else entirely. This isn’t as easy as it might sound. We need to pay careful attention to things like costuming and lighting. Then, once we have everything set up, we go in and ‘key’ the shot to get rid of that green background.”

It’s tricky technology, but green screens and After Effects can give directors an infinite number of possibilities when shooting. “The fun things about shooting and trying effects like this are all the possibilities,” Neal says. “If we want, we can place the characters anywhere, as long as we can either find that place ourselves, or find an image of it somewhere.”

These days, film directors have to be as comfortable working in front of a computer as behind a camera. As shown in this production still, director Neal Dhand checks a shot via a laptop.

Digital Media Academy students get to experience the possibilities first hand when they take the creative ride of their lives in DMA’s filmmaking summer camps and two-week filmmaking academies. As DMA Instructor Neal Dhand puts it, “The film industry is dominated by people who know both ends of filmmaking: behind the camera, in front of a computer…and everywhere in between! We’ll be experiencing some of all of that, this summer.”

Tailor-made for young talents who have a love of movies and are eager to master actual production techniques now, DMA’s programs vary by age and prior training. But no matter your level of interest and experience, there’s something for every type of aspiring filmmaker at Digital Media Academy.


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The Future of Video Editing: Final Cut Pro X

Apple continues to drive toward its app-based business model with the release of Final Cut Pro X – a product that delivers not only features video editors wanted, but features video editors didn’t even know could exist.

Final Cut Pro is Apple’s popular professional non-linear editing application and is used by video editors all over the globe, for everything from documentaries to feature films such as True Grit.”

FCP hasn’t seen an upgrade in a few years, so FCPX is really exciting considering this isn’t just an update to FCP – it’s a complete rebuild of the already powerful application, with a host of jaw-dropping new features. FCPX uses the OS Xs’ Cocoa, Core Animation, Open CL, Grand Central Dispatch and includes 64-bit support.

Apple’s Randy Ubillos demonstrates Final Cut Pro X and its features at NAB in Las Vegas.

Apple’s chief architect of video applications, Randy Ubillos, demonstrated the new app before an eager crowd at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in Las Vegas. There was a list of new features centered around the User Interface overhaul, but the main three points Apple focused on when developing Final Cut Pro X were Image Quality, Organization and Editing. Let’s take a look at them:

Better Image Quality

With 64-bit support, editors can finally make use of more than 4GB of RAM. By utilizing Grand Central Dispatch, editors can now handle 4KB clips on 8-Core editing rigs. Final Cut Pro X also provides a newly designed floating-point linear color system.

Improved Organization

Organize your clips using “Smart Collections” and never misplace a piece of video again.

Simple iMovie-style functionality has been incorporated into FCPX, along with some new features of its own. “Smart Collections” for organizing clips is now available, based upon custom keywords and/or people. Also now featured are automatic face detection for a single person or group of people, and auto image stabilization upon import along with shot identification (e.g., medium, wide, close-up).

Faster Editing

Background rendering, much like that seen in iMovie, now allows you to get into your editing faster than ever before. A “magnetic” timeline means your audio and video will never fall out of sync again. Non-destructive color balancing allows you to experiment and create on-the-fly, without fear. Other new features – such as automatic audio clean-up and compound clips for easy video nesting – were also demoed.

When? How Much?
Apple hasn’t released an official press release in regard to Final Cut Pro X, nor has it officially recognized any of the rampant rumors about FCPX coming to the iPad 2. But Apple has said that Final Cut Pro X will be available to download from the App Store this June at $299.

Learn Final Cut Pro X
With the popularity of YouTube, mobile video and more, video editing is a more popular hobby than ever before, and it’s a hobby that can turn into a great career. Do you want to take your video editing expertise to the next level? Or get a guided tour of tools like Final Cut Pro X? Maybe you just sharpen your current skills and learn more about Final Cut? Digital Media Academy offers some the most popular and critically acclaimed film camps, with the industry’s longest-running courses based around video production and using Final Cut Pro. Register for a Digital Media Academy Filmmaking course that uses Final Cut Pro and learn the inside tips and secrets to the software that’s changing the way the world tells stories.


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Film Camp. Watch a Stop Motion Movie made at DMA Summer Camp with Skittles!

See what teens made at Digital Media Academy film camp this summer in Chicago!

This video was made by shooting hundreds of individual JPEG photos and piecing/editing them together in Final Cut Pro. This was made during DMA Film Camp in Chicago this past summer in the Teen Film Editing and  Filmmaking Course. Learn how to make a movie like this at a DMA course this summer!


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