Issue: Volume: 33 Issue: 1 (Jan. 2010)

Education


By: Ken McGorry
As competition heats up and tools grow both more sophisticated and less costly, executives in the business of instructing new and veteran pros stress: “Education drives the job market!”

Thus, as we enter 2010, education, in its multitude of forms, becomes an important topic, especially for those considering a new job. Here, industry experts offer their perspective on this topic, addressing associated SWOTs: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and perceived threats.


Mike Flanagan

President, Video Symphony
Burbank, California
www.videosymphony.com

Postproduction “career college” for budding video editors, audio engineers, and motion graphics artists. Emphasis on authorized Avid, Final Cut, Pro Tools, and After Effects job-oriented training in a traditional classroom setting.

Strengths: “The times and technologies are ever changing. There’s always more to learn. Knowledge and the ability to learn quickly are what differentiate excellent workers from the ‘also-rans.’ Education drives the job market. There are many incompetent and marginal workers in post. Until they all leave the post marketplace, well-educated, competent workers will not have opportunities.”

Weaknesses: “Many post companies don’t ‘get it’ in that they need top-quality, educated staff to operate effectively. I think many companies are unnecessarily scared that if they train their staff better, the staff will demand more pay or leave. These companies are unwilling or unable to pay for their staff to improve. Maybe it’s because these same companies themselves need to be educated about how to run their post businesses successfully. Other than the Hollywood Post Alliance, post industry resources for best practices are lacking.”


Students at Video Symphony who become digital content creators can help shape content for online instruction.

Opportunities: “Making money from the ‘chunking’ of content—parsing out content in discrete slivers. Current TV calls them ‘pods.’ A good example is ringtones. These chunks of songs often ‘ring up’ more sales dollars than do the full songs. Chunking is more about communicating and informing than it is about entertaining. Communicating is growing far faster than we could have imagined (think cell phones, the Internet, Facebook and other social networks, IM-ing, texting, and Tweeting). There’s an absolutely huge amount of show and news content waiting to be chunked and sold as tasty informative bites rather than as full entertainment meals.

“As just one example, the market for online learning is growing and will be huge. Education as a sector of the US economy dwarfs entertainment by several multiples. Digital content creators can play a huge role in shaping content for online instruction.”

Threats: “The content market, and postproduction specifically, continues to fragment and decentralize. Far more post jobs exist now than in the past. What’s threatened, though, are the very high paying jobs because audience sizes (and, hence, revenues and budgets) for shows are declining. This trend is unalterable and is a threat primarily to post industry vets with high wage expectations and/or calcified learning curves.”

Outlook for 2010:  “Many folks in postproduction, or those who want to be, are stressed about jobs. Getting them. Keeping them. The job malaise will continue in 2010 due to a number of things: the weak economy, leading to a weak advertising market; FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) currently plaguing the entertainment industry; and continued fragmenting and decentralization of the post marketplace. Video Symphony will amp up its job-centric focus by publishing a how-to book, Hollywood Jobs, [from Flanagan] due out this month, and creating a sophisticated database-driven software system, code-named Career Aspirin, that will aid our graduates and others in finding good jobs.”


Lynda Weinman

Co-founder/Executive chair of the board
lynda.com
Carpinteria, California
www.lynda.com
 

Offering online software training through the company’s Online Training Library and DVDs to individuals, businesses, and academia.

Strengths: “Online education and training has distinct strengths: from convenient learning when and where a person needs and wants to learn, to saving companies expensive on-site training expenses. When used for students, it can be significantly less costly than text books in an academic setting.”


Lynda.com is utilizing the latest technologies to improve online training instruction.

Weaknesses:
“There are definite advantages to face-to-face learning: having immediate interaction with an instructor, the ability to ask questions and have them answered by an expert teacher, and receiving immediate feedback on work. Online training works well as a supplement to that kind of training, where applicable. Since the dot-com crash and 9-11, both individuals and companies have smaller training and travel budgets, and educational conferences have folded due to high expenses and lack of attendees. As the economy has changed and technology has improved, the growth of online training has helped to pick up where these alternative methods of teaching have fallen short.”

Opportunities: “The market for online-distributed content is burgeoning due to new formats and growing worldwide audiences. From broadband Internet access through gaming/media centers in the home, to iPhone and other mobile media in everyone’s pocket, content is accessible from nearly every corner of the globe. New markets include foreign audiences as content becomes more accessible and the demand for software training grows.”

Threats: “Many companies that offer content for sale online face the thievery and illegal distribution of their content through torrents by those who believe that all content should be free. While that’s a never-ending and difficult battle, a key to the continued success for companies like lynda.com is the fact that the experience of being a lynda.com member can’t be duplicated and isn’t solely based on the training content alone.”

Outlook for 2010: “Along with all other content and media, online education resources will continue to grow by increasing content and their customer base. There will be more courses, new topics, new kinds of courses, and more efficient types of content presentation. Improved technology will allow further collaboration with classroom teaching and better peer-to-peer and instructor-to-student video interaction. While the economy promises to improve, consumers will continue to be frugal with their budgets, and will continue to seek sources from which to improve their skills and keep competitive to ensure financial security.”


MEWshop students Katie Ainslie (standing) and Michelle Kim discuss film editing techniques, the focus of the educational facility.



Josh Apter
Owner/Founder
Manhattan Edit Workshop (MEWshop)
New York City
( www.mewshop.com)

Offering a full range of certified classes in the art and technique of film editing. Customized classes are designed to provide top-tier training both to professionals and aspiring editors.
 
Strengths: “Our greatest strength as an educational facility is the ability to keep pace with rapid developments in content creation and to offer cutting-edge, intensive training in its evolving disciplines. Whether it’s new workshops in DSLR filmmaking or niche classes in popular software plug-in sets, we can respond to the changing needs of our students while still offering the staples of certified training in Apple, Avid, and Adobe products.

In recognition of our rapidly morphing technology environment, MEWshop was designed from day one to evolve our teaching methodologies to mesh with how students want to be, and need to be, trained.

“Where someone with a working knowledge of Avid or Final Cut Pro may not see the need to take a refresher course, especially in this economic environment, we feel if we can offer something unique, be it an aesthetics of editing course, or a targeted low-cost class like the Filmmaker’s Guide series (that focuses the technical aspects of After Effects to the specific needs of the filmmaker/film editor), we can appeal to a variety of student needs.”

Weaknesses: “There will always be a need for the basic “brick and mortar,” instructor-led training that we provide at MEWshop, as the potential for a diminished experience through online and DVD-based training always exists. The endless variables when teaching online—bandwidth problems, software requirements, and media installation—make the ideal of a consistent training experience for each student nearly impossible. That said, we are expanding our offerings to online training and are testing different solutions to mitigate as many of these variables as possible.

But if a student can come into a classroom and devote the time to learn with a certified instructor, we can guarantee that the software is configured, that the media is online, and, most importantly, that the experience fits the student’s skill level. Our classes are small enough and the situations controlled enough that, beyond the certified curriculum, we can accommodate a variation in skill level by offering individual attention as well as alternate and additional exercises.

“DVD training and classrooms-in-a-book are completely different animals. For self-starters, it’s great, but for students with attention-span issues (and I’m in that category), it’s a potential disaster.”

Opportunities: “MEWshop, backed with tech experts and working filmmakers, understands that the delivery model is changing and will continue to do so. Mobile content, 3D, and immersive environments are part of the creative deliverables, and we’ve adapted to address those with our training. We offer a six-week intensive course that covers Avid, Final Cut Pro, and After Effects. There’s a components of film theory class almost every day, and students can create a reel with the guidance of a prominent film editor through our artist-in-residence program (Suzy Elmiger came to work with our December group). These students are clearly willing to make a serious commitment to the craft, and we’ve had amazing success with our graduates finding work, and we now find employers coming back to us when they need new hires.

“The Manhattan Edit WorkForce program, where editors’ reels are created and distributed to a number of top postproduction facilities, is a connection service that allows students to meet with industry leaders.”

Threats:
“With the barrier to entry so low today, everyone is a filmmaker (and an expert). This does not change the fact that the cream still rises, and my money is on those with brilliant ideas backed up with the foundation of a developed skill set and strict discipline. Education, whether instructor-led or self-paced, will always be the base from which the success of tomorrow’s creators will be built.”

Outlook for 2010: “Ten years ago, Mini DV and FCP put three chips into the hands of any filmmaker and an editing system on the desk (and soon every lap) of any editor willing to invest a few thousand dollars in their craft. In 10 short years, we see HD cameras for a fraction of the price, and a culture committed to expressing itself through visual media. That expression requires the organization, distillation, and the technical artisanship of editing. As long as people shoot, there will be the need to cut, and providing training that keeps pace with this evolution has always been the goal of MEWshop. I look forward to everything that 2010 and the next 10 years will bring to the industry and culture of visual storytelling.”


Chris Maynard
Owner/Operator
CMIVFX
Princeton, New Jersey
www.cmivfx.com

Offering HD Training on Demand (HDTOD), whereby customers can log in from anywhere in the world to access training videos. Among the programs that CMIVFX covers include those pertaining to offerings from Autodesk, Avid, Apple, Adobe, Eyeon, Maxon, Apple (Nuke), Side Effects Software, and Pixologic (Zbrush).


Strengths: “Education is always going to be there. Its stability draws those individuals who need the consistency of job security. The visual effects and computer graphics industries are still on an incline, and education needs, whether free or commercial, still need to be satisfied at all levels of complexity. The key to success is making a better product than everyone else. In this industry, it can be quite difficult to stand above all the rest. Our clientele are acute individuals with a keen eye, which helps keep the quality of our materials extremely high. Ninety-three percent of our customers return to purchase from us again.”

Weaknesses: “One weakness in the VFX educational vertical market involves organizations trying to make a quick dollar. Unqualified trainers flooding the market with random material can dilute the ability to turn a profit, and they often terminate their efforts, which can hurt others. Training is also subject to theft and the cross-pollination of training companies. One company may take learning materials from another and prosper from it, thus propagating a never-ending chain of dilution.

“Another weakness is user opposition to new instructional products for new markets. We may literally get cursed for trying to help users in their area of expertise. But by the time our second training video is complete for any vertical market, the thank-you letters start coming in from the very same people who led the opposition.”


CMIVFX has witnessed an increased growth in its online visual effects training programs.

Opportunities:
“One opportunity is teaching jobs. We offer jobs to anyone who shows an interest in training and has the technical merit to deliver the highest quality to our customers. Some of the greatest artists in the world can make great pictures, but they cannot teach to save their lives. This opens up a new vertical market for highly technical people with great communication skills. We can prosper from talent around the entire globe and generate more revenue.”

Threats: “Laziness. This is hard work, and our biggest threat is laziness. If you cannot work 80 hours a week, then you might want to try something different. Traditional threats exist as well, such as intellectual property theft, piracy, global economic issues, political views abroad, and, of course, the increase of competition. The only defense is a good offense.”

Outlook for 2010:
“Our formerly scattered global user base is now robust and still growing. Our projections for the next year have doubled from two years ago. The expansion into new vertical markets, and the increase in labor times, has added to our projections. Our inventiveness keeps competitors at bay by us creating innovative, high-quality learning materials. It may be hard work, but it ensures that any mistakes we make are only our fault, and this makes fixing mistakes much easier. While this doesn’t always translate to sales directly and continuously, it does assure us a solid position in the market.”
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