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Rebranding a Classic Western with Final Cut Pro

Hollywood makes plenty of sequels, but how do you retell a classic story in a fresh new way? If you’re the Oscar-winning team of Joel and Ethan Coen, you come out with technological guns blazing. For the Coen brothers’ 2010 update of the 1968 classic, “True Grit,” the Coens turned to Apple’s Final Cut Pro to edit and assemble their rough-riding film.


Joel and Ethan Coen review footage from “True Grit,” with Oscar-nominated star Hailee Steinfeld.

The Coen brothers have made some amazing films (“Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men,” and many more) and have evolved a unique style – the brothers work together to direct and produce a movie. They also edit their films together (using the pseudonym “Roderick Jaynes”). So, with all the creative back and forth between the brothers, the Coens need an editing tool that gives them as much flexibility as possible. “True Grit” presented another challenge to the pair; it was shot on a tight schedule and had to be prepared for a Christmas 2010 release. Final Cut Pro solved both of these problems for the Coens.


Final Cut Pro is the leading editing software being used in film today. Digital Media Academy will use and teach Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Pro X in its Summer 2011 program.

Making The Cut
In a recent online article, Apple showcased the Coen brothers’ editing techniques and how they used Final Cut for “True Grit.” In the article, the Coen brothers discuss how Final Cut Pro fits their style of shooting and editing a film like a glove, and how the application regularly saves them time and extra effort.

“Now I look at footage in Final Cut Pro, mark ins and outs of various takes, and send them over to Joel, who assembles them in a Final Cut timeline,” says Ethan. “We’ve always co-edited,” explains Joel, “And that’s actually the main reason we use Final Cut Pro. The application managed to match the way we were used to cutting together on film, so the transition was almost invisible to us. Final Cut is a very efficient, flexible way of editing.”


“True Grit” stars Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin. 

Final Cut Pro is the acknowledged industry standard among editing software, and Digital Media Academy is ready to teach you how to use it. Take a week-long or three-day certification course or a film & video production course. Cover Final Cut Pro from all angles – everything from an overview of the software all the way through advanced editing courses that put you in the editor’s chair. See for yourself why legendary filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Murch and the Coen brothers use Final Cut Pro.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Video Production,News Blog and have No Comments

Stanford and SkateWorks for Teen Summer Camp

Even if you don’t know an Ollie from a McTwist or Gain from Shutter Speed, Digital Media Academy’s got teens covered this summer at Stanford. We’ve teamed up with leading local retailer SkateWorks and are raffling off a board AND free spot in our upcoming Skateboarding and Filmmaking Camp for Teens.

Digital Media Academy + SkateWorks

Or if you’re an experienced boarder and have made videos in the past, you’ll be able to kickflip your vids to an entirely new level. This year’s class at Stanford is taught by taught by SoCal’s visual fx and skateboarding master Nick Guth with UCSC grad and extreme sport junkie Travis Schalfman.

As with all our camps, you have the choice to get a taste of the college life by sleeping at Stanford’s campus each night or come for five action-filled days. Regardless, you’ll wrap the week with a dynamic vid … and there’s even a rumor the Skateworks Team will showcase their gravity-defying talents in an exclusive session for the class.

But if you’re not in the Bay Area this summer, there’s no need to despair. Digital Media Academy also offers the Skateboarding and Filmmaking Camp at UCLA, UCSD, George Washington University and Harvard, while SkateWorks’ brand-name boards, decks, trucks, wheels, and apparel are available for shipment across the country from their website.

Classes are filling up, be sure to register for our raffle before June 18 !

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Digital Media Academy Alumni Creates Smule Productions

Doug Larsen is a multimedia professional hailing from Ohio. Doug spent a year on the road as a producer for the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. When Doug was hired he had just graduated from University of Miami and his polished chops were really in the departments of songwriting and keyboards. He had no formal training in the areas of digital video production. Oh, how the times have changed.

Doug is one cool cat.

He’s also a very lucky cat.

When Doug was hired on with the Lennon Bus a couple years ago we picked him up at the very end of our tour season. This is typically in the late fall and it’s also the time period the crew spends training on all of the latest and greatest hardware and software from our many sponsors. At this point in time the Lennon Bus and Digital Media Academy had a fairly new relationship and one of our first experiences together was to train on Final Cut Pro, Motion, Logic Pro, and After Effects and become certified in these programs in just under 20 days while we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in San Francisco.

It seems like an insane task and it was, but we all made it through. Not only did we survive but we came out with endless knowledge of the programs and freshly printed certificates to go with it.

Doug learned a lot in those 20 days. We all did.

Since then Doug has entered in two contest for Smule. He was a finalist for the “I Am T-Pain App” contest and he is currently a contender for Smule’s latest contest.

I love these videos. Not only because they are hilarious, creative, and well crafted, but they also come from a friend of mine whom I was able to watch go through the process of learning how to utilize digital media to fully express his ideas. Doug is a great songwriter, but he is also a great music video director and he may of never had explored that avenue had it not been for the DMA training we went through to polish our chops.

Help Doug by watching this video and voting for him!

Friday Night Grind: SMULE ReMix – Legendary Johnson

And be sure to check out this video that Doug did for the “I Am T-Pain App” contest. It’s a great video and it gives some insight to living on the Lennon Bus. Enjoy!
I\'m On A Bus

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Stanford University Summer Camp From a Teaching Assistant's Perspective

Stanford University Summer Camp – A Teaching Assistant’s Perspective

Written by Kenneth Chan

Last summer I had the pleasure of being the Teaching Assistant for four amazing classes at the Digital Media Academy at Stanford University summer camp: Final Cut Pro (300) with Tom Wolsky, Final Cut Studio Integration with Mark Spencer, After Effects CS4 Studio-Advanced Techniques with Betsy Kopmar, and Advanced Web Design Techniques with Sandy Novak. I had my troubleshooting skills tested in these four challenging and fun-filled classes, learned from four awesome and dedicated instructors, and helped four diverse sets of motivated and talented students.

What I love about being a TA are the truly thrilling challenges and learning opportunities that present themselves when troubleshooting student projects. I see my primary role at summer camp as this — to do everything possible to keep kids on track with the teacher’s instruction. When everything in class is going smoothly, I learn a lot by following along with what the instructor is teaching and reinforcing my own knowledge. But where it gets really interesting for me is when a student stumbles into a way to “break” the program or get stuck during a complex project. And if a class has fifteen students, they will often find fifteen different ways to get stuck somewhere along the way. That’s when I get to play the detective and figure out what’s wrong and how to get them back on track. Seeing the smile break out and the sigh of relief from a student who can now continue moving forward in the project is pretty rewarding. Further, I love the partnership I have with the instructor — the more efficient I am at proactively keeping our students on track, the more effectively the instructor can present their lesson material without getting slowed down by unexpected problems on an individual machine. Everybody wins when these goals are achieved.

It may sound funny, but I particularly love it when students run into a new problem that I’ve never seen before. The more bizarre, the better! There is no way I could, by working solely on my own projects, come up with all of the different “problem” conditions that may arise during normal use of these sophisticated software applications. That’s where the students of each class really do me a big favor when they raise their hand and have something “really weird going on” to show me. Often I can inspect their project and quickly spot the step they missed or the keyboard shortcut they need to input to get back on track, but every once in a while, I really get stumped! And for me, that’s where some serious learning and troubleshooting starts. It drives me crazy if I can’t adequately answer a student’s question in class, so I’ll often find myself trying to reproduce the problem on my own and doing online research until I come up with a satisfactory solution. It’s a thrill to be able to wrestle with a mysterious problem, grow to understand the nature of it, and then come up with a viable workaround for it. My expertise in an application grows each time I encounter and troubleshoot a new problem.

Finally, this entry wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention some of the awesome lessons I have learned and the projects I have seen come out of the Digital Media Academy. I’m truly astounded by the personal growth and quality of projects many students have achieved after just one week of instruction at the Digital Media Academy summer camp. Even as a TA at Stanford University summer camp, I love to work on the in-class projects to bolster my experience with the applications, and I thought it would be fun to share a few examples with you here:

This video was created  in the Final Cut Pro 300 class.


This animated DVD menu sequence was designed in the Final Cut Studio Integration class.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0O77d6ab8g

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you at a future Digital Media Academy summer camp!

Yours Truly,

Kenneth Chan

Kenneth ChanAbout Me: When I’m not TA’ing for the Digital Media Academy, I manage the Multimedia Studio and Meyer Tech Desk at Stanford University, a drop-in facility equipped for students and faculty to learn to use image, audio, and video editing tools to realize their creative visions for academic and personal projects. I also teach the Multimedia Production class at Stanford University during the Academic Year, which includes the basics of Photoshop, GarageBand, video production, iMovie, Final Cut Pro, and iDVD. You can find me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/niftyken

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments

Surfing and Filmmaking

ucsd_surfThis summer the Digital Media Academy is proud to announce another exciting sports action course – surfing and filmmaking! Held only at UC San Diego, this new course is offered in partnership with La Jolla Surf Academy, based in La Jolla, CA. In this “hybrid” course, students spend the morning gaining new or improving surfing skills, under the guidance of certified instructors of the La Jolla Surf Academy. In the afternoon, students return to the UC San Diego campus and to DMA’s studio classroom to view and edit video footage taken earlier in the day or week. By the end of the week, students go home with their very own surf video – uniquely edited by each student!

The first “pilot” of this course, taught San Diego native Chris Owen, was held the week of July 13-17 with six students and was deemed a huge success by all! Some of the students who took the course had surfed before, but a few had not. One student who wasn’t naturally enthusiastic about surfing felt confident and excited about surfing by the end of the week. As his mom commented, “David didn’t want to learn to surf before he started the class. The idea of making a movie of his adventure kept him motivated, and now he loves surfing!”

To see one student’s surf video, click below:
DMA Surfing and Filmmaking

Surfing and Filmmaking, for both teens (ages 13-17) and Adventures students (ages 9-13), is being offered again the week of August 3-7 at UC San Diego. For more information and to register, call 866-656-3342.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog,Surfing and have No Comments

Music & Video Production at UCLA

mvpro_classAmong the many new Digital Media Academy courses featured this summer is Music and Video Production, taught in partnership with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. This course provides teens with an experience in the entire music video production process – from mixing music with Apple’s Logic Studio, to writing lyrics, to editing video footage with Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

I recently sat down with students taking Music Video Production at DMA’s UCLA location. Several of these students came from outside of California to participate in this very unique course. When asked what they enjoyed most about this course, I got a variety of enthusiastic responses. Christian Cox, from Monroe, Georgia, commented, “Teachers are young and can relate to any music style.” He explained that their class had divided into two groups, one writing a reggae song about nature and another writing a hip-hop song about having attention deficit disorder. Whatever genre of music they wanted, their instructors were talented enough to adapt!

mvpro_instrumentsMany of these students had never done anything like this before and were amazed at how much they were learning in a short amount of time. As Stephen Herandez from La Canada, CA explained, “You can go into this course without any knowledge and by the end of the week, you’ll think you can anything with Logic and Final Cut Pro!” Another student explained to me that she didn’t have any prior experience playing a musical instrument, but had learned a few simple guitar chords that week – enough to make a song! In addition to working with industry standard software and several musical instruments, students worked with high end Sony cameras to capture video footage around campus.

mvpro_instructorsIt was obvious as I talked with these kids that they had learned to work closely together. Many were also staying together in DMA’s residential UCLA program. “We have fun meeting new people and working together as a team to make videos and share memories, “ said Ron Magana from Canoga Park, CA.

To see an example video produced by the UCLA Music and Video Production class, click below:

DMA at UCLA: Trees and Leaves

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The Joy of Teaching Final Cut Pro

By James Alguire, Lead Final Cut Pro Instructor, DMA @ UC San Diego

I’ve been teaching Final Cut Pro courses at DMA for about 4 years now.
Each time I teach a class, I am challenged and grow as a teacher and also as a Final Cut Pro user and editor.

Final Cut is such a robust program and since I’ve been editing on it since version ONE (we are now up to SIX),
I have watched it grow and offer even more tools for my work.

What’s great about teaching new and existing FCP users is that there is always a question of ‘How do I do this?’, and sometimes, I’ve never had to execute said question, so as a group we figure it out together!  I love collaborating with my students in that regard.  And sometimes I watch their projects and get inspired in my own work. (Another great benefit to teaching!)

I also love working with ‘mature’ students who are adapting to a new platform: Sometimes an Operating System – Sometimes a new program.
I love the moment when they are able to execute an edit and they get very excited and want to show me their work!
This always reminds me of my first films, when I found the ‘right’ cut, I always wanted to share it with as many people as possible.

At the end of the day, editing for me is about telling a story.  Choosing the right ‘frame’ to cut upon is sometimes essential to telling that story.
FCP is a tool that we learn  and I embrace the challenges of helping new and current editors learn their tool to better tell their stories.

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Final Cut Pro Success Story

By Baynard Bailey: Editor, Trainer, and Instructional Technologist

My first year as the Media Cloisters Manager at Vassar College, I sort of dreaded the Final Cut Pro questions that came my way. I knew the bare minimum but I always felt inadequate when helping people. Last summer I was able to take the DMA FCP workshop. I came away with the skills needed to edit video in Final Cut Pro. I now love answering FCP questions. I used my new skills to edit a video for New Student Orientation that everyone was pretty pleased with:

2008 Vassar Library New Student Orientation from Baynard on Vimeo.

I also used my Final Cut Pro knowledge to put together a series of training videos for the students that worked at the Cloisters. I would never have been able to accomplish this without the outstanding training I received at the DMA.

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Staying Ahead of the Students

Tom Wolsky @ CUEIf there is one thing that I hear repeatedly from teachers teaching technology, it is the dual challenge of keeping up with technology … and keeping up with students and technology. In our rapidly growing multimedia culture, companies like Apple or Adobe are constantly adding new features to programs like Final Cut Pro or Photoshop. And teachers have to stay on top of these changes in order to stay one step ahead of their students.

Recently I heard from Carla Eckland from Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista, CA (near San Diego) about exactly this concern. Carla attended two of our hour long hands-on sessions at CUE 2009 in Palm Springs. After her experience with DMA at CUE< she has decided to spend a week of her summer taking an immersive course in Final Cut Pro at one of our California locations.

Hear from Carla on her reflections about how Digital Media Academy’s training is helping her to stay ahead of her students and the technology:

Attending the Digital Media Academy is something I have wanted to do for several years. Unfortunately, I have been teaching in a year-round program. The expense of the program and the difficulty of being gone from my students the first week have prevented me from attending. This year we move to a modified traditional calendar.

I teach the advanced televideo program at Otay Ranch High School. We produce a 10-minute news show, four days a week using Final Cut Pro. Students work in groups to create news stories that are edited into a single timeline that includes student anchors reading daily announcements. The students will often ad lower thirds to their news stories using the text generator or LiveType. The completed broadcast airs to our 3000 student body. Eventually we hope to have a place on our school website where we post our broadcast.

Attending the DMA would be beneficial because I would be able to extend my knowledge of Final Cut Pro. I have read Final Cut Pro 5 by Tom Wolsky and have a copy of the Complete Training for Final Cut Pro DVDs. However, I still find it hard to stay ahead of my students. Final Cut Pro is a complicated program that can do so much more than my students can or I know how to do. Too often, we air material that could have been color corrected or needed audio adjustments. However, unfortunately I don’t always know how to make changes.

I need the opportunity to learn the material thoroughly. Too often, I attend a one-hour workshop, return to the classroom and my notes are insufficient. Attending the DMA will not only improve my knowledge, but I will have more knowledge to share with my students. Working together, we will be able to improve the visual quality of the program.

Carla Ecklund
Otay Ranch High School
Chula Vista, CA

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Documentary Filmmaking : Learn How to Make a Documentary Film

My name is Matthew Levie, and I’ll be teaching Documentary Filmmaking again this summer. I’m a professional editor, and feel free to browse my web site to see what I do.

Last year’s Documentary Filmmaking class was a fantastic experience for me as a teacher. The students included:

• a businesswoman from Boston,
• a sociologist from Japan,
• a teenager from France,
• a flight attendant from Miami,
• a scientist from Texas,
• and a teacher from South Carolina

Imagine what you could learn from a group like that!

Here’s a small snippet from the course. Since I’m an editor I can’t resist an example of phenomenal documentary editing. Have a look at the following clip, from the documentary Carrier, about the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWBH0XSp0Ec

So first, one of the pilots introduces the idea that everybody on the carrier needs to do their job correctly, at the right time, for the carrier to function properly. And that sets off this montage of flight deck operations, set to—wait, can it be?—the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”

Notice how similar motions are grouped together—there’s a beautiful series of circular motions, for instance. And at the end, somebody declares “it’s like a ballet.” Which makes perfect sense, since the filmmakers have already make that perfectly clear from a visual standpoint! But then they extend the metaphor to other areas of the ship, particularly the people feeding the ship and cleaning it up.

This is actually an important priority of the filmmakers: making the viewers understand that an aircraft carrier isn’t all about the planes and the flight deck, but that there are people greasing the cables and cleaning the toilets as well. And they’ve done a great job of conveying that visually at every opportunity.

Want more? Well, you’ll have to come to Stanford. Not a lot of people regret spending a week in Northern California, and I’m sure you’ll learn a tremendous amount and enjoy yourself as well!

Browse the Documentary Film class syllabus here.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have Comment (1)