Like No Business We Know ... from the Music Industry to the Movies: Tech Careers in the World of Entertainment
Cutshall, Sandy, Techniques
Americans love music, movies, television, the Internet and the visual and performing arts. We are both the world's largest producer and consumer of entertainment products--and we seem captivated by the apparently limitless potential for technological innovations in this industry.
Whether we are being amazed by the latest 3D animation or movie special effects, enjoying the highest quality digital music recording or experiencing the newest electronic game--almost everyone at some point each day seeks out a form of entertainment and media arts.
Technology is truly transforming the entertainment world, and many gratifying careers await career and technical education (CTE) students in this industry. Innovative programs and schools across the country are readying the next generation of tech professionals to take us all to the next level in entertainment technology.
A Growth Industry
Despite the continuing economic slump affecting most industries in the past few years, global entertainment and media industry spending continued to grow and, in fact, exceeded the $1 trillion mark in 2001. At $438 billion, the United States is the largest market in terms of overall entertainment and media spending and is projected to expand at a 5.5 percent compound annual growth rate through 2006.
The electronic age continues to transform entertainment and media of all kinds, including publishing, broadcasting and film. Multimedia, the Internet and other new media outlets for entertainment and information are being refined at a rapid rate.
According to the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA), the demand for audiovisual (AV) technology and services is a significant cultural trend. Moreover, visual communication is utilized not just for entertainment, but also by business, education, and almost all segments of our economy to some extent.
There is a looming labor shortage in the AV industry, according to the ICIA. Their estimates are that the U.S. AV communication workforce will grow by 20,000 to 30,000 new high-wage, high-skill technical jobs each year over the next five years. Despite these tough economic times, a recent survey at the end of 2002 showed that many AV companies were seeing more business than in the previous year.
Not only are audiovisual professionals in demand, but they also are well paid and trained in fascinating high-tech fields. A student interested in audiovisual careers may find work as a technician, project manager, salesperson, engineer, or designer. Or they might become an AV technology manager in a business, university, government agency, or other type of company.
To speak of entertainment technology can reveal some overlap in artistic and technological communication industries. In addition to AV communication, it may also include Web design and development, digital visual media, multimedia, and music recording and production--to name only a few areas.
All About Education
While previously many people may have stumbled into a job in the AV industry, today there is a solid career path for students to follow in this field. The ICIA has taken the lead in the industry to promote education in audiovisual communication careers.
According to Terry Friesenborg, CTS, Senior Vice President of Education and Information Resources for ICIA, the association's primary focus has always been education, not only for the incumbent worker but also for students who are interested in entering the field.
"It's difficult to attract workers who don't even know there's an industry to join," notes Friesenborg. "With the shortage of workers we are facing, it is vital to raise awareness of our industry at all levels."
Every day more than 2,000 people are enrolled in ICIA online courses. One of their major educational efforts is known as AV Tech Online--a partnership between the trade association and seven different community colleges.
The AV Tech Online Project is an eight-course curriculum that can be offered to incumbent workers or those seeking a professional AV career, as a college certificate program and/or as part of a college degree program. The seven colleges and the industry are working as partners and have collaborated on instructional design, course development and course delivery.
The online courses are offered collaboratively, and students from partner colleges are co-enrolling in course sections taught jointly by one faculty, thus creating a community of learners across the partner colleges. The Internet/Web-based online courses are scheduled across five academic terms throughout the year and are structured to facilitate learning activities in an anytime learning and anyplace configuration.
Colleges participating in the program include Coastline Community College, Dallas County Community College District, Metropolitan Community Colleges, Miami-Dade Community College, Monroe Community College, Northern Virginia Community College and Portland Community College to organize the National Partnership for Workforce Development. The project is currently funded through a U.S. Department of Education, LAAP/FIPSE grant.
The ICIA also has significant outreach to students at the secondary level. A free online course--"A Quick Start to the Audiovisual Industry"--is offered through their Web site (www.infocomm.org) and designed specifically for high school students exploring careers as well as new employees in the AV industry.
"Audiovisual communications is an excellent career opportunity," says Friesenborg, "and one of our missions is to give it a higher priority." In 2001, the ICIA began participating in the SkillsUSA national competition to help promote the industry to students. (See sidebar on page 20.)
Today, more and more secondary schools across the country are adding AV technology to their curriculum, allowing students at times to write, produce, film, edit, mix audio and prepare and use technical equipment for live performance as well as audiovisual production.
One such program at Miami Senior High School in Miami-Dade County, Florida, is part of the career cluster initiative featured in the February issue of Techniques. Students at the high school produce a 10-minute live news show every week. Students in the ARTEC (Arts Related Technology for Entertainment Careers) academy learn digital editing on computers, how to use different equipment and run the control room, and even have worked on writing, producing, shooting, editing and scoring 16 mm. films.
Making the Music
Everyone loves some kind of music. Young people in particular use music to express both individuality and the collective experience of their generation. Students who find the music industry appealing as a career may want to consider working for record companies, recording studios, talent agencies, music publishers, or other recording industry businesses.
For those so inclined, the answer may be to head south. Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (www.mtsu.edu), boasts the largest recording program in the nation, offering unique opportunities to students at the postsecondary level. As part of the MTSU College of Mass Communication, the Recording Industry Department has been around for more than 30 years and is one of the best equipped in the country. It is housed in the $14.5 million John Bragg Mass Communication Complex and offers technology such as three audio recording studios, a post-production lab, an MIDI lab, 21st century classrooms and much more.
MTSU offers a Bachelor of Science in the Recording Industry, a degree unlike any other offered from another institution. Students may choose to concentrate in Production and Technology or Music Business. More than 1,500 students are pursuing majors, and over 46 different courses are offered in the department.
According to the Chairman of the Recording Industry Department Chris Haseleu, Murfreesboro's proximity to the Nashville music scene was a major factor in the original establishment of the program at MTSU.
"The program is very active in placing students in internships with local recording companies and other music-related businesses to help prepare them for future careers in the industry," he says.
"At MTSU, we have quite a large facility with an impressive setup. We're offering a complete range of technical courses, from basic audio up to three levels of music engineering," notes Haseleu.
He says that most high school students who come into the program have sought it out or learned about it by word of mouth. "A lot of students also transfer in from other two- and four-year schools," Haseleu says.
MTSU is also involved with the GRAMMY In The Schools outreach program designed to educate interested students about the music industry and technical careers available to them. (See sidebar on page 23.)
All the way across the country in Emeryville, California, a unique educational institution has been designed to meet the rapidly growing demand for trained, talented professionals in digital visual media, sound arts, and Web design and development.
Ex'pression Center for New Media (www.expression.edu) is a school that promotes itself as "not being for everybody." However, Ex'pression President Gary Platt can't say enough good things about the school he heads up.
"Quite simply," says Platt, "we aspire to be the Julliard of the Media Arts. Our students are excited about what they are doing throughout the learning process, and they emerge as seasoned and prepared as they possibly could be when they graduate."
The school is based upon the concept of learning by total immersion. This means that Ex'pression students live, breathe and sleep digital animation, sound or graphic design in a highly-intensive 14-month postsecondary program.
Small classes, master teachers and the "most advanced technology offered by any school on the planet" (their claim) make the $28 million Center a great place to acquire skills in the latest communication technology and new media. They even host guest celebrities who come to explain to students what opportunities await them in the various fields of entertainment technology. These "Insider Days" give students an opportunity to both learn inside information about a company or industry, and also network with some of the most powerful people in their chosen profession.
According to Platt, outreach to potential students is extremely important for the Center. "We meet with high school counselors and participate in career fairs. But a lot of students interested in digital arts also will seek us out, often finding us on the Web. We appeal to people who are looking for something different--students who are very bright and motivated--but who perhaps can't get excited about a traditional four-year university program."
The Center currently offers bachelor degrees in three programs: Sound Arts (all aspects of the audio industry); Digital Visual Media (animation, 3D modeling and special effects); and Digital Graphic Design (color theory, typography, branding, print design, animation principals, motion graphics, user interface design, and digital video skills).
Platt believes that 3-dimensional animation is one of the hottest areas where Ex'pression students will be entering the entertainment technology industry. "Most 3D studios are doubling in size. This business is growing quickly, and we've been able to get jobs for our students because of our established reputation for excellence."
Ex'pression students often become directly involved with the hottest businesses in the industry while still pursuing their studies--by participating in internships and mentor-ships at dream companies such as Pixar, Dreamworks, and Industrial Light and Magic.
"Our mission is to give the industry exactly what it needs," says Platt, "which is not only the best trained professionals, but also workers with the necessary life and social skills to be successful in the workplace. We are interested primarily in making a heart connection--connecting individuals in a positive way with a profession that they love."
Connecting with the excitement of the entertainment industry is the goal of many CTE students who want to pursue their passions of music, animated movies, games, films and so on.
And it is definitely getting a good technical education that will allow these aspiring professionals to "go on with the show!"
Skills USA and the ICIA
For the past two years, the ICIA and its members have demonstrated their commitment to workforce development by participating in the SkillsUSA national competition held in Kansas City.
Students from secondary and postsecondary schools from all over the country showed up and successfully met the challenge of the audiovisual technology test, which included taking inventory, unpacking and assembling a complete typical conference room system. After they had completed assembly, the team was to demonstrate the operation and explain what they had done. They were provided with a complete system diagram as well as an equipment rack evaluation. A written test of general AY knowledge was also part of the contest.
In the first competition held in 2001, the winning secondary team was from Florida. In 2002, the winners hailed from Tennessee. All winners were awarded scholarships by ICIA's Educational Communications Foundation (ECF). First-place team winners received $1,000 scholarships, while second and third team winners earned $500 scholarships. Because many employers needing to hire AV-trained employees find it so difficult to get the skilled people they need, ICIA is at the forefront of developing student careers.
"SkillsUSA is a great way for ICIA to demonstrate the skills and knowledge necessary for our industry in front of thousands of potential employees and their advisors," says ICIA Executive Director Randal A. Lernke, Ph.D. "We view this competition as a key component in ICIA's workforce development strategy to fill the pipeline for qualified employees in our industry."
More information about other scholarships available to high school and college students ($500-$2,500) through the ECF can be found online at www.infocomm.org/Foundation/ Scholarships/.
Behind the Music
"A successful career in the music business is like an iceberg--most people are only aware of one small, dazzling portion of it: the hit single, the catchy video, a platinum album or sold-out concert tour. What's less visible is the huge amount of time and effort that underlies those achievements."--from the GRAMMY In The Schools Web site (www.grammy.aol.com/ foundation/gits/index.html)
The point is that there are far more people working behind the music than are out there performing it: the highly skilled professionals who have followed different paths into the music business. The GRAMMY In The Schools Careers in Music program--affiliated with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS)--educates high school students about career opportunities in music, related fields. Held mostly on university campuses across the country--such as MTSU--this program provides the unique opportunity for students to interact with professionals representing a wide range of careers.
The program begins with a panel of top professionals sharing their career experiences with students. Panels may include producers, performers, recording engineers and others. Students then break into smaller groups to attend hands-on career-specific workshops, master classes, and/or in-depth discussions about the career paths they find interesting. GRAMMY In The Schools reaches 12,000 students from 28 states each year. More information and a 2003 GRAMMY In The Schools schedule is available online at www.grammy.aol.com/foundation/ gits/index.html.
The GRAMMY Foundation is also working with the National Mentoring Partnership and launched a worksite music mentoring program in Fall 2001. More information on GRAMMY Music Mentoring is available at www.grammy.aol.com/ foundation/mentoring.html.
Sandy Cutshall is a regular contributor to Techniques She works as a writer/editor in Mountain View, California, where she also teaches adults English as a second language.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Like No Business We Know ... from the Music Industry to the Movies: Tech Careers in the World of Entertainment. Contributors: Cutshall, Sandy - Author. Magazine title: Techniques. Volume: 78. Issue: 4 Publication date: April 2003. Page number: 18+. © 2007 Association for Career and Technical Education. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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