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Burr & Burton Academy Teaches Students Advanced Cinematography Skills with Blackmagic Design

Situated overlooking picturesque Manchester Village, Burr & Burton Academy (BBA) in Manchester, Vermont is a 180 year old independent, coeducational New England secondary school. With about 700 students from the surrounding communities, as well as 60 international students, BBA is dedicated to educating students of diverse backgrounds and talents in a warm and caring environment that encourages excellence and community. 

One of its most popular courses is the cinematography program, taught by Bill Muench. And for this program, the school uses two Blackmagic Cinema Cameras to teach its advanced students. 

A Blended Learning Environment

According to Bill, BBA is unlike many other private schools because it admits any student who wants to attend. Students often transfer to BBA from surrounding schools because of the exciting courses it offers, a prime example of which is the cinematography course. The program is designed to allow students to investigate many aspects of cinematography and broadcast journalism. Students work on various projects throughout the year, and even collaborate with those in the acting program to create short films, many of which can be seen at The Gawlik Awards, BBA's annual film awards show. 

Students have been using DSLR cameras for many years. As the program grew, Bill began to consider upgrading some of their cameras for a more cinematic look. With the help of one of his top cinematography students, Bill turned to Blackmagic Design and put his budget toward two Blackmagic Cinema Cameras and lenses to use in the course.

The program now has 135 students, and because it is becoming so large, Bill wanted to structure it in a way that would maximize the learning potential for each student. Some of the students are beginners and some are much more advanced, so Bill wanted the program to be a more blended learning approach, containing different levels and some advanced tools, but still promoting a collaborative learning environment.

"I don't want the program to be one class of all beginners and a separate class of advanced kids," said Bill. "You end up losing too much that way. The newer students learn on DSLRs, and the more advanced students use the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras. They teach the younger students how to work with them. It's nice for the beginners to be able go on set and see what a DP does and how the process works. We are also aligned with the acting program, so the acting is solid and helps our process."

The students work on a number of projects throughout the course of the program, including filming commercials, PSAs, music videos, news stories and short films. They hold an awards show each year, complete with a formal red carpet, where they are all able to show off their films. According to Bill, they do a big fall film project each year, which involves six or seven cast members, a crew of seven or eight and shooting every day for three or four hours over a three month period of time. The students make a 10 minute film and premier it at the end of the marking period. Bill said this process has been great for the students using the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras because they can really put it to the test.

"The cameras are so easy to use, which is a huge advantage, but you can do so much with them, so it's great for the students to be able to take advantage of that and really learn about all the different camera aspects," he said. "It takes some learning for students to understand how to shoot in RAW, or how to color correct using heavier footage. But learning with the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras has been easy for them because the cameras are so intuitive." 

From Start to Finish

BBA students also use DaVinci Resolve Studio for color correction, which Bill said has been a powerful tool for them and has helped them understand the entire filmmaking process. One of the students even purchased a Pocket Cinema Camera on his own and used it as part of his camera workflow to make a feature film.

"With the Blackmagic cameras and DaVinci Resolve, along with the lenses we purchased, our students are able to learn so much about the filmmaking process and how to get the end results they want," said Bill. "The seamless transition between production and post production really allows the students to learn the process as a whole and gives them a well rounded knowledge base of cinematography."

As one of Bill's students by the name of Ethan concluded, "I have found the Blackmagic Cinema Camera to have a really simple interface and be really easy to use, but it has so many advanced features, like 2.5K ultra wide dynamic range and touch screen display. It's great to have a cinematography program at our school and the fact that we have high caliber cameras that we can rig up professionally is really cool for kids who actually want to get into filmmaking and production."

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