DMA Central


Come Together and Register for Summer Camp!

In just weeks the summer camp shenanigans of Digital Media Academy will be in full effect and I can’t wait. I love working with kids. Their imaginations and outlook on this world is so refreshing in comparison to the box most adults put their brains in. The summer camp course I’m most excited for is the Come Together: Music and Video Production Class I’ll be teaching this summer. I enjoy the fact that this course shakes your brain to think of everything from producing music and writing lyrics to shooting video and editing in Final Cut Pro. I’m especially excited to expand my instructor skill set from teaching this process in one day to one week. I think the students are going to have a ball and come up with some really creative projects. Here is one of my favorite projects produced in a day on the Lennon Bus in Fairhope, Alabama. It was during all the Swine Flu hype and the students on that day had their own angle on the hoopla. Check it out and be sure to register for the Come Together course HERE.


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Expect the Best With Digital Media Academy Summer Camps

What can you expect from a Digital Media Academy Instructor?

  What are the summer camps like?

By Ben Jaffe, Instructor

As a regular instructor for several companies around the San Francisco Bay Area, I believe it is important to ensure that every class I teach is different from the last. Even if I teach 5 consecutive classes on CSS, each class has a completely different set of students, each with different skill levels and interests. In many training centers, often classes really do end up exactly the same. Many instructors I have worked with simply plod along, following the curriculum word by word, line by line. No deviations, and no excitement. Of course, as a student you can ask questions and take advantage of their expertise in the field. But that experience doesn’t make for an interesting class. You may learn the topic, but it’s not fun.

It is certainly important to have guidelines and curriculum for a class so every class matches or exceeds a certain quality baseline. But what really brings a class to life is enthusiasm and flexibility. The instructor and the students both need to have fun, or it will be monotonous.

Digital Media Academy hires passionate and enthusiastic instructors for their classes. Just as importantly, DMA also allows their instructors quite a bit of flexibility with the course curriculum. Some of the best classes I have ever taught were classes where we went off the beaten path, attacking a project that nobody in the room had ever tried before. Last year, I taught Flash Actionscript Class for Teens at Stanford. After a few days, we voted on a game to work on together. We ended up making a playable version of Connect Four in Flash. Not only was it the first time any of my students had programmed Connect Four, it was the first time I had too!

Because Digital Media Academy hires only the best and most competent staff and instructors, we can go places with our classes that other companies cannot. Having taught with many computer training companies over many years, I truly do feel Digital Media Academy has something very unique. When you take a class with DMA, you don’t leave with a curriculum mindlessly stuffed into your brain. You leave with knowledge, confidence and a fulfilling experience.

I hope to see you this summer at Digital Media Academy!

If you’ve had a fulfilling experience at DMA in previous summers, feel free to join the conversation and leave a comment below!  Read one of our summer camp success stories!

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Infomercial Parody

By Lisa Ratner, Lead Instructor

As I prepare for Summer 2010 Stanford Filmmaking Adventures Summer Camp I am reminded of the successes of 2009. The project that always yielded the most creative and witty videos was the “Commercial.” The students’ task was to select a product and sell it to their audience. (An assignment quite familiar to professionals in the media world). Yet at Digital Media Academy the demand to produce high bucks is replaced with the enjoyable pressure to create high laughs at our End of Summer Camp Film-Festival.

First, we reviewed the 4 stages of film-making: Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production, and Exhibition. This enabled the students to really plan all aspects of the project before they filmed — an essential skill. Then the brainstorming began. The costume box was transformed from neat & tidy to the delightful whirlwind of a creative mess. Debates over wide-angle shots versus close-ups competed with the sounds of furious typing at the keyboard so the script would be ready in time for the production phase.

“Camera ready?” the assistant director calls out.

“Ready!” the cinematographer answers.

“Actors Ready?”

“Ready!” pipes a lion-dressed “salesman”

A kid from the web design class sneaks in to watch the action.

“Camera Rolling”


To me, the most fulfilling thing about being a film instructor is seeing the kids come out of their shells. When they perform in front of the camera, even the ones who seem “too cool” or “shy” simply can’t hold back and they shine brilliantly. I can see the surprise on their parents’ faces during the film festival. It is truly exciting.

Since last summer at DMA, I’ve been producing video tours and websites for a real estate company. I’ve been itching to return to DMA to see what kind of parodies these kids can make of video tours! It’s going to be a blast!

Do your kids long to be in film production?  Check out film school with Digital Media Academy this summer!

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You’ll Find the Most Current Software at Digital Media Academy Summer Camps

By Ben Jaffe, Digital Media Academy Instructor

It seems like every year, all the major software companies come out with new versions of their software.  Usually the companies tout the new revolutionary features in the latest version, and though the features seem useful and exciting, it is often tempting to ignore those companies and choose not upgrade.  After all, it means spending money on the upgrade, and devoting your time to learn the new features.  Several non-upgrades later, many people suddenly find themselves way behind the curve.  Their skill set becomes more and more outdated, and the learning curve on the latest and greatest version is steeper than ever before.  This happens all the time to people who have been in their industry for years. 

Although buying every single software upgrade may break the bank, it is definitely important to at least be aware of new features and workflows as they are introduced.  Especially in technological fields, it’s important to remain informed; technological fields are unique in how rapidly they change.   Just as skipping the latest upgrade is tempting for you because of money and time concerns, it is often even more tempting for training centers to skip.  In fact, some training centers still train on Flash and Dreamweaver MX 2004!  Those versions were released when Macromedia still owned Flash, many, many years ago!   Those centers haven’t paid for new software in years, but their training is becoming more outdated and useless to the students with every new version.  Ultimately, if your training center is not up to date, you can’t be either. 

 As an instructor, I have always been impressed by Digital Media Academy’s policy on software.  They definitely understand the importance of developing their courses around the latest versions.  For example, back when Final Cut Studio 2 was announced only two months before Digital Media Academy’s summer camp started, Digital Media Academy coordinated with Apple to get versions of the new software in time for their summer Adult, Teen, and Adventures camps.  Everyone who took DMA’s video courses that summer got trained on software that most video editing houses didn’t even have yet!  With Digital Media Academy, you can be sure you are getting up-to-date training on the latest versions of the software. In fact, having the latest version ensures that the instructors are up-to-date as well. Digital Media Academy only hires proficient instructors with real-world experience for their courses.  This definitely raises the bar above other camps, and keeps the bar raised high from year to year. 

 From an instructors viewpoint, it is impressive and reassuring that Digital Media Academy has such a reliable and responsible outlook on software upgrades.  Even if you don’t personally upgrade to each new version, spending a week or two at Digital Media Academy with the latest versions of the software will certainly keep your brain up-to-date and help you excel.

Heading off to training?  Check out Digital Media Academy’s Training Centers for Adults

Digital Media Academy offers training for adults at Stanford University, University of Texas at Austin, University of California San Diego, and Harvard University, as well as the Silicone Valley training location.  Current training opportunities include Final Cut Pro 100, Final Cut Pro 101, Final Cut Pro 300 Advanced Editing, Documentary Filmmaking, Flash 11, Certification Programs, and more.  As a Certified Apple Pro Aps Training Center, Digital Media Academy offers the training you need to suceed. 

What about kids summer camp?  Read more here:  Summer Camps

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Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Graphics Summer Camp!

Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Summer Camp!

I’d like to share with you my experiences from Digital Media Academy summer camp for kids.  Last summer, I had the pleasure of teaching kids one of the game-oriented teen Maya courses (similar to this year’s Introduction to 3D Art, Modeling and Animation for Game Design).  We created our own environments and built our own characters, and then loaded them into the game engine.  We waited patiently to see if they would actually work.

When they did, there were squeals of delight as our custom characters showed up in our custom maps.  We enjoyed several rounds of networked gameplay, simultaneously battling and congratulating each other on this or that excellent feature of the current map.  The kids found it more thrilling than a normal game because they had made it.

As the summer camp instructor, I was really entertained and encouraged to see my students losing themselves in their own work.  But I also wanted the kids to understand that even though the summer camp class had ended, they had been equipped with some pretty useful skills, and not just for games.  In fact, I tried to get my students to forget about games.

Well, not all games, and not forever, but at least for the moment.  I pointed out how games are just a form of what are called “real-time” graphics.  In other words, these are not fixed images that have been burned to disc or rendered on film (like television or movies).  Rather, they are images that are created on-the-fly by a computer in response to some sort of interaction with a user.

The most commonly understood use of this technology is indeed games.  But there’s a whole world of uses for real-time 3D graphics, and my students in my DMA courses could use some of the same things they learned towards these ends.  For instance, my own experience with this technology has been in the creation of museum exhibits.  In particular, my most recently finished project involved creating animations for an exhibit on the human brain for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago;.

This particular use of real-time 3D graphics is called “Augmented Reality,” and it’s becoming a very popular form of interaction.  In its most basic form, it’s the virtual markers appearing on the field of a televised football game or on the olympic ski slopes.  But it can be used for much more sophisticated applications.  One very popular recent example is the “We Are Autobots” site that was launched in conjunction with the release of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.  As you can see from the following youtube video, it can be combined with facial tracking to create a pretty cool interactive experience.

Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Summer Camp!

The 3D models and animation in this interactive were created with the same tools and and followed the same recipe as the characters and environments that kids in the Digital Media Academy summer camp classes learn.  When I said this, I think it surprised and encouraged my students (and their parents).  They could take what they learned about 3D modeling in the course at Digital Media Academy and apply it to something beyond the first-person shooter that we were playing.

While talking with them about their experience, many kids expressed a hope that they would be able to pursue this beyond summer camp –  professionally as adults.  Some kids wanted to create character animation for films.  Some kids were intrigued by the artistic possibilities of creating 3D worlds.  And some kids dreamt of making the next great game.  What was great about the course is that they really could go in any of those directions.  It really was just the tip of the iceberg.

What plans do your kids have for summer camp?  Check out all the great kids summer camp courses

You’ll enjoy reading more!

Teen Filmmaking Summer Camp

Learn How to Make a Movie at Summer Camp

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Teen Filmmaking Summer Camp

An interview with Lee Manansala, Digital Media Academy Teen Filmmaking Summer Camp instructor:

Lee, what have you been up to lately?
For the past year I’ve been working on my thesis film project at NYU.  I love writing and I am surrounded by wonderfully talented friends and colleagues all willing to lend support and advice, one of those reasons why I love filmmaking and wouldn’t trade this life for any other.

What is your experience at Digital Media Academy?
For the past two years, that experience has come in the form of teaching the beginner’s and advanced digital filmmaking courses for teens at Digital Media Academy.

What’s it like teaching film summer camp for teens?
Digital Media Academy’s week-long teen film summer camp courses really rejuvenate and inspire me, and it has less to do with the professional satisfaction a teacher feels after a day of work, but more to do with being around immensely creative, eager, and talented young filmmakers. Every one of my students has come to class with ideas, sometimes more ideas than they know what to do with. It’s my job to help them organize those ideas, turn them into a story.

What kinds of film projects do the teens at film summer camp work on?  What do the teens learn?
Last summer, a group of Digital Media Academy film summer camp teen students set out to make a short film in the thriller genre.
Take a look:

This film was made at Digital Media Academy teen summer film camp.  All the creative bits—the sound design, the effects, the varied shot selection—are all the products of the students’ imaginations. The courses culminate with a screening of all of the work; I was incredibly proud to watch the final film, and was gratified by the smiles on my students’ faces as they enjoyed the result of all of their hard work. The teens deserve all of the credit, but I like to think that my instruction pointed them in the right direction.

What can teens expect at Digital Media Academy film summer camp?
At Digital Media Academy I emphasize a sound, three act story structure, which to my mind is the difference between kids having fun with a camera and young filmmakers setting out to make a short film. And instead of burying and intimidating my students with technical parlance (something that happened to me when I first became serious about cameras and editing software), I give them the essentials. We use sophisticated cameras and very powerful editing and authoring software, but it’s more important to know how to utilize them for our specific needs. When the technical aspects of digital filmmaking are more approachable, a young filmmaker is more likely to return to it and cultivate his or her love for it.

Do teens need any special preparation for Ditital Media Academy’s teen summer film camp?
Ultimately, what my students bring to class is joy. It’s the joy of being around and working with other young people with a similar passion for film and creativity. It’s the joy of having an idea for a movie and seeing it through until it is, in fact, a movie. I’m only too happy to help and watch it unfold before me, because I, selfishly, get as much from the experience as my students do. The digital filmmaking courses for teens at Digital Media Academy are an incredible opportunity (one I wish I had when I was teenager) to immerse yourself in a creative medium that is challenging, rewarding, fun, and joyous.

What’s next for your filmmaking work Lee?
I am set to teach the digital filmmaking courses for teens at Digital Media Academy teen summer filmmaking camps at Harvard and Brown. 

For information about teen summer camps at Harvard University, click here:  Harvard Summer Camps

For information about Brown University Summer Camps, click here:  Brown University Summer Camps.

Can film students contact you?
I’d love to answer any film and video related questions you might have. I’m easily reachable—and friendable—at:

Click here:  Lee’s Facebook page

Or you can visit Digital Media Academy’s website at:   Teen Summer Camps 

Register for summer camp today!  Click here: Register for Digital Media Academy Summer Camps

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“Pulling a Kanye” at the Oscars?

I like watching the Academy Awards as well as anybody. There’s the glamour of the Red Carpet, the Oscar predictions about “Who Should” and “Who Will” win, and the wild unpredictability of live television. This year’s telecast did not disappoint.

When Music by Prudence won the Oscar for Documentary Short Film, a woman “pulled a Kanye” – rushing onstage, grabbing the microphone from Director Roger Ross Williams and launching into a speech of her own.

I was horrified. This was the only Oscar award I actually cared about. I had heard Prudence sing last January when DMA helped bring the band Liyana to Stanford University. In 2009, through its partnership with The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, the Digital Media Academy hosted and sponsored a Liyana concert at the Stanford Bookstore.  I found both their music and their story uplifting. I hoped this Oscar nomination would draw attention to Liyana and the plight of the disabled in developing countries. Instead, Liyana’s 45 seconds in the spotlight was hijacked by an unidentified woman in purple.

Liyana is a musical group from Zimbabwe that started as a class project. Each member of the band faces extreme physical challenges. They met at the King George VI School & Center for Children with Disabilities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. King George is a haven for disabled youth in a country where disability is misunderstood and despised. The school’s life-changing work is funded largely by donations from abroad.

The HBO documentary chose to focus on lead singer, Prudence, the only female band member. But each member of the band – Marvelous, Tapiwa, Farai, Energy, Honest, Vusani, and Goodwell – has an inspiring story. Each has overcome discrimination. Each testifies to the beauty of the human spirit. Each proves that giftedness defies disability.

Liyana means “it’s raining.” According to Williams, in Zimbabwe, rain is considered a gift from God. When the band is on stage, they’re “raining,” sharing that gift with the world.

By now, much has been written about the woman who stormed the stage. No doubt there are two sides to every story, and this story is a colorful one. Elinor Burkett is the film’s co-producer. She says she came across Liyana in Zimbabwe and introduced Director Roger Williams to the project. They later had a falling out over creative direction of the film.

She takes umbrage at the reference to Kanye West, saying her name was called as an Oscar recipient, and she felt entitled to speak. She claimed the director’s mother tried to impede her progress to the stage with her cane. Burkett has adamantly defended her actions, explaining that she only stepped in when the director failed to properly acknowledge the subjects of the film.

Ironically, it was her rudeness, rather than her speech, that has drawn attention to the band. This unfortunate producer-squabble-gone-public has become a blessing in disguise.

Roger Ross Williams was given a chance to repeat his acceptance speech on Larry King Live. Exposure for the film has increased exponentially. Many more people will now tune in to the May 12 debut of Music by Prudence debut on HBO2.

So here’s to Academy Awards show drama. Bring on the cane-blocking and microphone-grabbing antics. May the hubbub draw greater attention to Liyana and bring an outpouring of support for the King George VI School in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

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DMA's Maya Certification Program – An Accelerated, Immersive Experience

DMA’s Maya Certification program centers on its series of 3d modeling and animation courses. These courses are broad and deep and tackle some of the most complex problems and powerful tools in Maya, Autodesk’s industry standard software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and visual effects. From a beginning of how to create basic shapes in Maya I, to a finalized piece with finished facial animations, body rigging, and narrative based story  – the Digital Media Academy series of courses provides an intense submersion into the Maya toolkit and workflow.

Paul Randall and Karen Laszkiewicz – who attended DMA at Stanford University as part of a partnership with NOVA this past summer – in collaboration with other students at animation summer camp created the sample project displayed below.  Both Paul and Karen were among the Digital Media Academy attendees who tackled all four courses back to back.  The amount of technical information was huge.  The requirements to process and apply the information were quick.  And the necessity to work as a team came as an extra spice to the mix.  Paul and Karen were integral parts of a diverse team that included participants of varying ages, abilities, gender, and nationality.  They both kept learning, kept producing and working with the team through the deadline to create the final piece seen here.

This project is based on a story from a children’s book and due to time constraints does not have voice over or final render.  That said, in this format you can see the scripted words (for voice over) and the skeleton (rigged, model) and other directional tools.  The important thing to remember is that Paul and Karen started with no experience in 3d or Maya and after 20 days of class were able to produce this.  Digital Media Academy will get you started on your new career path!  The skills they departed with will enable them to pursue the field of 3d art, modeling and animation as a viable career path.  What are you interested in learning with Maya?  Is it time to learn new skills to be competitive in today’s employment marketplace?  Why not learn new skills and have fun too at Digital Media Academy’s Maya summer camp?  Please join the conversation, and leave a comment below! 


Looking for more information on Maya Certification?  Please click here:  Maya Certification   Which Digital Media Academy location will work best for you?  Take a look!  Please click here:  Digital Media Academy Adult Training Locations.


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DMA Training Courses Changed My Life : 3d, Animation, Film, and Special Effects

Written by Albert Frates : DMA Teen Alumnus

Throughout my three summers spent at Digital Media Academy, I have met many new people, that share common goals, and interests.  I have grown more aware of the different aspects of digital media, and have been inspired by both instructors and other students.  However DMA has brought me more than inspiration, and new friends.  It’s brought me a solid footing for my future.

I began at DMA summer 2006 only fourteen years old at the time. I took Maya I with Adam Watkins, knowing very little about Maya, or what could be achieved.  In less than a week Adam had brought the  class out of the unknown, and into what I would call my first true steps of digital media at a professional level.  Opening many new doors I began to pursue other aspects of media, (Film, Animation, TV, Games, Web Design, etc…).  The following school year I worked on many media projects, for my school.  Live event recording such as Graduation, and sporting events was the beginning. Later entered into a student film festival. Using Adobe After effects, and Final Cut Pro for the first time I managed to craft what would be a festival winner.  Knowing this was something to potentially pursue I went back to DMA summer 2007.  Taking classes that both focused on After Effects (Motion Graphics, and Compositing) with Betsy Kopmar, and Hands on Digital Filmmaking with Travis Schlaffman.  (On a side note I recommend both courses).  Sure enough I was right that fall I was had met up with a producer on a school trip in Seattle who was working on live events for DECA (A High school organization for business and marketing students).  After talking to him briefly during a seminar he had invited me to come check out the production backstage.  Getting to sit in on, and at one point help out with the production I was offered an internship at the end of the show for the next conference in spring.  This is where I love to point out that this would not have been possible without Digital Media Academy playing a role in my past.  Because of the tools, and concepts learned at DMA I was fluent working in a professional environment at at the age of sixteen when the challenge of a live production was presented to me I was able to tackle it without any issues.  My point is it’s never to early to start achieving your goals, especially with DMA.

On a last note which is something I kinda blew off at the start of this post.  Friends and connections you make at Digital Media Academy, is possibly one of the best parts of DMA.  The more people anyone knows in life the better off they are, and once again most of the people at DMA will share goals, and interests that you do.
It’s never too early to start, achieving your goals.

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Learn How to Use Apple Logic Pro : Audio Recording and Editing

Written by Ben Hazen from the John Lennon Bus

Apple’s Logic Pro 8 is a really amazing and intuitive program for recording/arranging audio, and its great comping function is just one example why. This is especially effective with vocals since it can sometimes be difficult for a singer to hit every note and rhythmic value of the melody. With Logic Pro 8, the process has been made much easier on both the engineer and the artist. This also really helps to keep the vibe nice and mellow in the studio.

Start by recording a take of your vocalist. Don’t even start to stress about any mistakes that are made. When this is done, simply re-record over that take on the same track, concentrating on the sections that you think need to be re-done. Do this as many times as you like until you’re satisfied that the different sections from each take will add up to one great take. Now comes the real digital magic, my friends.

Learning and Teaching Logic Pro at Digital Media AcademyWith the pointer tool selected, click in the left corner of the track’s region to open the take folder, showing all recorded takes within the track. Then, click-drag over the desired section of each take. As you do this, notice that Logic automatically compiles or “comps” each highlighted section into the topmost region, complete with crossfades. Notice too that selecting one area of a take de-selects that same area in the other takes because only one take can play at a time for each section. Next, drag the end points of each section to fine-tune your selections.  When you have all the best sections chosen, click on the arrow in the top right of the take folder to Flatten or Flatten and Merge the comped sections. The Flatten option will turn your selections into a series of regions that are movable within the track. The Flatten and Merge option will create one new region that includes all the chosen sections. Now just push play and watch the surprise on your vocalist’s face as they listen to the “perfect take”.

You also can use this technique to get a killer whalin’ guitar solo, thumpin’ bass groove, or to nail a difficult passage for any instrument. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes. P-Schwaze from the B-Haze.


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