Behind the Scenes of DMA Studios

By Tyler Winick

At Digital Media Academy, we know all of our courses, camps and two-week academies are special. Still, if there’s one that we’re extra proud of, it might be DMA Studios, our intensive film production experience. DMA Studios gives young filmmakers the chance to try on different production roles, and work for real clients.

We received this student diary from TA Ben Dominguez, who wanted to pass along the excitement that this DMA Studios student has been feeling during the first few days of their amazing two-week experience in instructor Tyler Winick’s class.

DMA Studio instructor Tyler Winick
At DMA Studios, you receive world-class instruction. In this case, from pro videographer Tyler Winick.

Written by DMA student Patricia W.

July 6, 2016 – First Day of Production

As I’m writing this, I can barely keep my eyes open. When Vinitha, the director and founder of Zoo Labs, asked me to describe today in one word, I told her I couldn’t just choose one. I told her it was full of ups and downs. It was unforgettable.

Today, I was assigned to the Social Media Team. Our job was to create three concepts for Zoo Labs to use for social media promotion: anything ranging from short videos, to pictures, to memes.

Once we got to Zoo Labs at 10:30, we started brainstorming right away. We watched successful social media promotions and we used so many colored Post-It notes to get our ideas down. We also wrote our ideas down on the wall, which was covered in whiteboard paint! Finally, after a lot of discussion, tweaking and combining our ideas, we narrowed down to three concepts.

One of our concepts was a promo video based off a Dodge Dart Commercial. Once we decided on doing that, we drew out a storyboard on Post-It notes. We wrote a script. Then, we made a video of the Post-It notes while we said the script.

It’s mind-blowing to see all that we accomplished today.

Tyler told us to do this because it helps us get a better idea of where the direction of the video is going, and if we decide that we don’t like the idea, we can rebuild. It’s much better than spending a whole day making something and then realizing that it wasn’t what you actually wanted.

Once we filmed the video of our storyboard, we showed it to other people to see what they thought.

Brad, the music operations chief, gave us some great advice. He told us to focus more on the story behind the artist–like the hours of hard work, the rejection. We would have to make more changes to the script, but it made the video so much better.

After making changes to the script and storyboard, planning out our shots, and waiting for a camera that was charged and shot in 4K, we were finally able to start shooting!

My favorite shot was when we went outside and filmed the subway. Ben, our TA, used a huge lens to make the subway seem very close. It reminded me of the shots of the subway that you might see in action movies.

DMA Studios student films Bosko
DMA Studios student films Rap artist/music producer Bosko, who’s using the ElectroSpit device.

Once we were done filming our video, we went to the live room to see Tyler filming some B-roll of Kiran Gandhi playing the drums.

It was awesome to see the shots Tyler could create with the camera. They were straight-up beautiful. Once he was done, I photographed Kiran for a social media campaign. She was so cool and kind, and definitely seemed like someone to look up to.

After Kiran left, Tyler archived all the footage. Because there are so many SSD and CF cards, this process can take over an hour! While he was doing that, we got to watch some of the shots they got of the gimbal. It looked so professional! I still can’t get over it.

It’s mind-blowing to see all that we accomplished today. The social media campaign went from ideas, to a storyboard, to an actual thing! And seeing everything Tyler, Ben, the main camera team, and the behind-the-scenes team got to do…was so amazing!

July 7, 2016 – Second Day of Production

Today I was super stoked to be part of the main camera team! On our way to Zoo Labs, I was really excited to ride “shotgun”! The drive to Zoo Labs is getting a lot more familiar and I can just feel my energy and excitement build up as we get closer and closer, as we drive over the Bay Bridge.

We worked with Bosko, a music producer who made his own instrument during his time at Zoo Labs! We first wanted to get a few shots with him in the attic of Zoo Labs, which was a really cool space to build things.

One challenge we encountered was the fluorescent lighting. We wanted to dim the lights and use the lights on our C-stands. We looked for light switches, but couldn’t find any. Then we realized: All the lights were controlled by motion sensors! So we taped up all the motion sensors we could find.

DMA Studios checking levels
Class members get to try on different crew roles, so everyone gets a taste of actual production work.

By the time we were done setting up the camera and lights, it was time for lunch. When we came back, we were glad to see that the lights were off. That is, until more people started coming in, and the lights turned back on again. There was a tiny spot on a sensor that wasn’t fully covered.

It was crunch time. We really had to start shooting, but the lighting was off. We tried to turn off the fuse. Didn’t work. Finally, Tyler just took out the bulbs. Epic problem solving. There was still some light coming through, so another student and I held up a quilt while they were filming. That’s why my arms are sore as I’m writing this.

By the end of the day, we got to try all the roles involved in filming with talent—using the slate, holding the boom, holding the cue cards, being behind the camera, and directing.

We then moved downstairs to the Control Room to film Bosko using the ElectroSpit. We were all blown away. It’s such a cool instrument. Bosko just puts the ElectroSpit by his neck and mouths what he wants to say. The ElectroSpit makes the sound for him. His wife came in and she was hilarious.

By the end of the day, we got to try all the roles involved in filming with talent: using the slate, holding the boom, holding the cue cards, being behind the camera, and directing. We learned that it’s the small details that matter in making an awesome film.

Tyler spent a lot of effort making sure that nothing was reflecting in the window. The shots ended up looking like something you’d see in an actual movie. Tyler then taught us how to use the jib, which he used to get some epic moving shots.

DMA Studios student using pro Canon camera
Added benefit: DMA Studios students get hands-on experience using professional Canon cameras.

While Tyler was archiving all the footage, we had a jam session in the live room, playing guitar and singing campfire songs. Ben came and played some piano, which was awesome. Tyler came in and played some beats on the drum that made us dance and our hearts jump.

MORE TO COME…

Stay tuned for more from DMA Studios about its cool project for Zoo Labs – coming your way soon!