Classes at RCTV offer kids new avenues for creativity

By Steven Ryan – The Reading Advocate

Purchase this photo Tim O'Sullivan, Will Meyers, and Matteo Coelho follow instructions on as they film and follow a script at RCTV.

A clay-mated Stewie from “Family Guy,” a Lego-animated video based on the video game Portal 2, and kids dancing to the “The Hamsterdance Song” in front of an ever-changing backdrop are just some examples of the creative ideas from a group of nine Reading middle-school kids being brought to life in the RCTV studios.

On a Thursday afternoon at the studios last week, kids were using the green screen room, working on projects in the editing booth, filming scripts using remote cameras in various locations throughout RCTV and huddling over laptops to check out what their peers were able to create.

“The world is so technology-based, and we want kids to figure out ways to have a voice for themselves, give them another voice with which to express themselves,” said Angela Merrill, education coordinator at RCTV.  “It’s what public access really promotes.”

On Thursday, April 4, the kids, who are mostly from the Parker Middle School, were working on a music video project. They picked a song and must film a video to accompany it. They were working in pairs. One pair, Tim O’Sullivan, an eighth-grader from Parker, and Will Meyers, an eighth-grader from the Coolidge Middle School, were editing a video for “The Hamsterdance Song” by Hampton the Hamster.

A still on a screen as Tim O'Sullivan edits his hamster dance video in Final Cut Pro

“It gets us more familiarized with green screen,” O’Sullivan said. “We put pictures in that go along with the song…It’s really fun doing the live stuff on the machine and choosing the pictures for the background.”

Merrill said the kids learned how to use a tricaster, which mixes video, graphics and titles while working on the music videos, along with becoming familiar with the chroma-key, also referred to as green screen, in a fun way.

Kyle Chuha, left, and Emily Doucette test out backgrounds in the green room

O’Sullivan and Meyers were adding the music to their video, working on making sure the images and the audio work together,

“We learned to work with each other and how to use the different machines,” Meyers said. “[In the video], you can put anything you want behind you using the green screen.”

That day, kids were also tasked with shooting scripts. In one group, the kids were shooting a man sitting and reading the newspaper, hearing a scream and then walking away.

“We can do some sound effects later.” “Try to do it with more expression.” and “How did the screaming sound?” were some of the directions and questions the kids were directing towards each other as the group of three worked collaboratively on shooting their script.

Some of the kids have already worked independently on projects based on previous projects involving stop-motion animation and other techniques. Michael Aucella, a sixth-grader from Parker, created stop-motion movies using Legos based on the Portal video games. He said he takes pictures of the Legos and edits them together with Photoshop.

He said sometimes he does Star Wars videos as well and is planning to make a video based on “The Hunger Games.” Aucella said he was always interested in making stop-motion movies and RCTV gave him the chance to do them using top-of-the-line equipment and teach him some production tricks.

Jack o'Connor, Michael Aucella, and David Chuha edit their video in Final Cut Pro

“This is probably the first time I used RCTV cameras,” he said, referring to his video based on Portal 2. “Other times I used my cameras. It was not as good even though they were still OK. One big help is that they taught me how to make things fly in the air.”

Parker sixth-grader Matteo Coelho made a stop-motion movie of a clay-mated Stewie from the cartoon series “Family Guy.” The video is only nine seconds but impressed his peers. He noted that the average stop-motion video requires 24 frames from just one second of footage.

He was also already interested in filmmaking and pounced on the opportunity to learn about the craft at RCTV.

“I got into stop-motion seeing videos on YouTube,” Coelho said. “This taught me new skills. The people here are great. I am really thinking about getting an internship. I’d really like to get into filmmaking. I think all kids should come here. It’s fun and easy.”

Middle School students Will Meyers and Tim O'Sullivan work with final Cut Pro to edit their music videos

Merrill said RCTV also offers classes in TV acting, which is open to middle-school kids through early high school. There are also opportunities for high school students as well, such as the Rocket Independent Video Club, which produces the TV show Inside RMHS. Merrill noted the TV station broadcasts the students’ work.

“It gives you a good education in things kids want to do,” Coelho said about the classes.

“Kids like to create things, such as with Legos and drawing, and this just makes those things more lifelike.”