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M-A Today: Behind the Camera

4 mins read

Third period in I-3 is a mad dash. Keyboards clack as anchors craft a script from a loose sheet of disconnected announcements. Computers and cameras whir to life as lights flash on while the technical director sits at a button-littered station. Students frantically run across the room as segments are altered and scripts are printed. Anchors and specialists enter nervously into the green-screened room where M-A Today! is filmed, cameras rolling on monitor after monitor in the control room. They take their seats, clip on their mics, and the floor director motions for them to look at the camera. The teleprompter reads:

“3

2

1

Smile!”

Digital Communications and Video Broadcasting is the long name for the class that does M-A Today!. The class not only teaches students basic filming techniques and how to use Premier Pro, but also, a large portion of the class is centered around running the school’s official broadcast which plays 3 days every week and has broadcasted live to M-A for 10 years. While some duties are first done by the teacher, John Giambruno, as the year goes on and roles are more solidified, the broadcast becomes entirely student-run. 

Along with running the show live, students learn how to create segments. These can be transitional, like intros and outros, or longer and more intricate. There are VoxPops, ‘man-on-the-street’ style quick interviews where M-A students and staff answer a question and have their answers strung together to survey the school on that topic. There are also longer interviews, where students learn more about a topic around M-A and interview people with knowledge on the subject with a goal of educating the viewers.

Running M-A Today! live requires numerous roles in order to ensure a smooth flow.

Anchors and Specialists:

Anchors are the main people delivering the announcements. Their jobs before the show consist of reading through announcements submitted to the show and writing up the script, including an intro and outro and a  This Day in American History (which M-A Today! does as a required patriotic announcement in order to skip the pledge of allegiance). After the script is written, students run through a pre-show, where they practice the entire script prior to the actual show. Specialists are anchors who announce special news. They also have to write their own script, and can either be a student in the class, reporting on more specific topics like clubs, or someone not in the class, such as an administrator talking about new rule changes.

Floor Director:

The floor director is the only other person in the recording room during broadcasts. They are the director’s line to the anchors and specialists, and their main job is to signal to the anchors which camera is filming them. They also turn one of the cameras to look at a specialist just as their section goes on.

Lights/Audio:

The ‘lights and audio’ person manages the lights and the audio. Primarily, they work on balancing the audio and lights, while ensuring that the anchors and specialists are unmuted as their section begins.

Teleprompter:

The teleprompter is responsible for making the script accessible for anchors and specialists. They use a dial to scroll through the script, and must manually match the speed of the anchors speaking to avoid issues in the flow of the show.

Technical Director:

The technical director (TD), has one of the most complex jobs in the class. They orchestrate every camera change, transition, segment, and intro/outro with a complex tech board. When segments are planned, it’s the TD that has to get them into the show. Later in the year, the TD will also be responsible for writing the show’s subtitles. They have to pay close attention to the show’s progression to make the transitions at the exact times; otherwise, shots might end before the announcement does, or leave the person on camera staring silently for a few seconds.

Director:

The director keeps everything together. Before the show, the director makes sure that everyone is where they need to be at the right time. When the anchors and specialists are done writing the script, the director prints it and distributes it to the anchors, specialists, and TD. Then, during the show, the director manages the show giving instructions to the floor director and TD in order to ensure correct transitions and segments occur at the correct time.

M-A Today is a performance, orchestrated by a class working together, a lot of which being behind-the-scenes. What unites them, more than anything, is the experience of working with a great team to make something that the whole school will watch.

Senior and first-year Digital Comm. student Izzy Zarate’s favorite part of the program is the community: “Everybody is nice, it’s fun working on the set and finishing it, because you’re like ‘We’re done with this episode. Yes. Success.’” 

Giambruno remembers how big of an impact it can have on the school: “There was a recent alum that had passed, and we memorialized him very soon after that happened, and the anchor teared up when doing it. It actually was cathartic and unifying for the whole school, is what the viewers said.”

Ask both of them, and they will tell you to join and speak to the school. “Some students are very shy about being on camera in front of the whole student body. I want to challenge students to take that plunge and try it, because there are some students that really take off, that weren’t really going to be an anchor and then, all of a sudden, they were a fantastic anchor. Some students have really stepped into the role of [TD] that were not really technically competent and then they kind of felt their groove,” Giambruno said.

“If anyone is thinking about joining, do it. It’s fun…You’re going to have to be on camera at least once, but, other than that, it’s fun,” said Zarate.

Giambruno said, “I’ve had several students say something like ‘I didn’t feel smart or really good at something until I took this class and I realized there’s a niche for me here,’ so it’s kind of like an undiscovered talent or skill that some students really dig, and I think more students should try.”

Brian is a senior at M-A with a storied history of journalism. His favorite stories to write are about school, local and state policies, and politics. He enjoys creative writing, and plays chess in his free time.

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