New Hands-On Production Course at NPCollege Preps Students for the Pros

Ofelia De La Torre wanted to give it another shot.

Five years ago, as part of a group of investors headed up Rolando Nichols, who formerly provided Spanish play-by-play for the MLB’s Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, De La Torre worked as a recruiter for a new bilingual broadcasting school in the Los Angeles area.

Its aim was to grant opportunities to local youth to work behind the scenes on live television productions. New students of the program had the chance to work on ESPN’s X Games broadcasts and various Fox Sports broadcasts in the area. The school was even on the verge of formal accreditation.

Then came the economic recession of 2008. Federal agencies cut back on new approvals of financial aid, students struggled to afford the course and dropped out, and the budding school was forced to shut its doors.

De La Torre, a broadcasting professional with more than 25 years’ experience mostly in the Los Angeles market, didn’t want to give up on giving promising young members of the community – including L.A.’s Latino population – a chance to be a part of the industry that has meant so much to her.

Students get the chance to work with professional equipment, including in the control room built around a Ross Video Vision 3M switcher.

Students get the chance to work with professional equipment, including in the control room built around a Ross Video Vision 3M switcher.

After a few years, Nichols, De La Torre, and the team brushed themselves off and turned to a local institution to bring their dream back to life. Nichols spoke with a representative from National Polytechnic College (NPCollege), an accredited institution in Commerce, CA, that specializes in postsecondary occupational instruction. The Los Angeles-are school is open to all but offers numerous bilingual opportunities to assist the area’s Latino population.

Together, they developed a curriculum and, utilizing the studios of Centro Net Productions, were able to make it possible. The two sides came to an agreement, and, this month, NPCollege’s first graduating class of the Media Technical Production course headed out into the work force.

At less than a year old, the school is catching the attention of the local television industry.

“We can’t churn out enough graduates,” says De La Torre. “Everybody [in the industry] says the same thing: people are not qualified enough to handle [the equipment]. They have to give a lot of training. So they are looking to our school [because] our students learn the whole gamut.”

NPCollege’s new satellite campus in Torrance, a city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County, is generating a lot of buzz thanks to its exciting new course.

NPCollege students spend the first eight months of the Media Technical Production course getting to wear all of the hats in a live studio production. In the final month, they get to specialize in the field of their choice.

NPCollege students spend the first eight months of the Media Technical Production course getting to wear all of the hats in a live studio production. In the final month, they get to specialize in the field of their choice.

In the Media Technical Production course, students get the opportunity to work hands-on with HD production gear in a fully functional studio. They learn the elements of media production: camera work, lighting for studio and field, editing, recording systems, audio and communications, broadcast signals, interviewing techniques, and hosting and reporting. The nine-month course centers on production of a daily 30-minute news-style studio program.

Chief Engineer Jaime Hernandez, who works for Centro Net Productions on video commercials, live shows, and postproduction videos in the Los Angeles area, designed the facilities and studio. He also works with ESPN on X Games in Aspen and Los Angeles and often takes some of his top NPCollege students with him to work on professional live broadcasts.

“For me, it’s about giving others an opportunity,” says Hernandez. “We have the studio, we have the infrastructure. [We see] somebody come in with no clue not only in what we do but where they want to go and, by the end of the nine months, see a group of those [forming] a television crew, knowing their place, knowing how to operate. It gives you a lot of satisfaction. It lets you know that you, in some way, contributed to making a person’s future a bit brighter.”

The course’s HD studio is loaded with some of the latest live-video-production equipment. The control is built around a Ross Video Vision 3M switcher (the studio also has a Grass Valley Zodiak SD switcher that is used on occasion). The control room and set also include a Ross HD-SDI routing system, NewTek’s 3Play for playback, JVC 790U cameras (used both in the studio and in the field), AJA and Harris frame syncs, and a Yamaha PM5D audio board. All recording is done to a set of AJA Ki Pros.

Students spend the first eight months of the course getting to wear all the hats in a live studio production. That includes getting to interact with all the equipment on a daily basis. During the course’s final month, students are allowed to specialize in whatever facet they like most.

Combining the course’s hands-on nature with the chance to work with seasoned industry professionals like Hernandez and De La Torre gives students a unique opportunity to sharpen the skills needed to flourish in a live production environment.

“I tell students that they have to get to the point where they [can] react,” says Hernandez. “If you [have to] think, you’re too late, especially in the sports world and in live television.”

The course’s first crop of approximately 20 students just finished the program’s first nine-month track, and a new wave of about 15 students began their trip through the curriculum last week. For those who join this new venture, the school offers opportunities that even some major broadcasting schools can’t offer: the chance to shadow and work in the field on professional broadcasts.

“The opportunity to go out into the field with us and do real shows: that is the huge advantage,” says Hernandez. “Also, the fact that they have a full, functioning studio to use. A lot of other schools may have a studio, but the students aren’t allowed to disconnect equipment and move equipment or reroute or repatch. That’s usually left up to the instructors. We allow them to do that. The experience they get is such an advantage.”

It’s experience NPCollege hopes continues to land its students jobs that pave the way for successful broadcasting careers.