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There seems to be a big shortage in our industry - no, I'm not talking about airline upgrades or backstage catering with surf-n-turf for every meal... this week I want to discuss training for people working in our industry.

 

I know that most of us started out at the bottom of our fields and slowly worked our way up through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, to get to the place where we are today. I think there is a huge value to people that have had this type of education that a school just can not provide. If you are like me, you have worked in more than one area of expertise, and many of us have, through necessity or just some sick geeky desire, learned much about other departments with whom we work. This can create some excellent, well-rounded technicians and future stage managers, directors, department heads and business managers / owners.

 

But where did we really learn our trade? I've been working in some area of the entertainment biz / media for over 26 years now, and would have to say that most of what I know, I've learned on-the-job. Sure, I've attended a few classes and courses over the years, and have manufacturer certifications to prove it. InfoComm and LDI trade shows have also provided some great industry specific classes, although some of them seemed a lot more like sales pitches than actual training.

 

But are we, as a high-tech industry, capable of training the new kids as they come up through the ranks, or just as importantly, training the old dogs on the new gear that is being specified on shows? What kinds of training opportunities are offered to our industry that can be practical, affordable, hands-on, and have the student walk away with something of value to them in the future? Are we willing to trust our shows to people just learning to operate the new gear?

 

I am a manufacturer-certified trainer on a specific image processing switching system.  I work both for the manufacturer and for their customers that choose to hire me to train their employees on the system. I appreciate that this manufacturer offers such classes, and they have provided valuable training on their previous systems throughout the years. Such classes won't make anyone that attends an expert operator, but they do provide valuable hands-on time and practical training and tools that a person can use to learn the system better. I know that at least one major competitor to this system offers similar classes for their switching system, and perhaps other manufacturers do the same. However, these are the only video related classes that I am aware of that train a person to OPERATE the gear in a show-type situation. For example, most projection manufacturers offer classes, but mainly teach the maintenance and repair of their projectors - not how to use them in the field to make pretty pictures.

 

So where can a freelancer go, or where can a business send an employee technician to obtain such training? There are schools that specialize in training full time for people that want to eventually get into this business, but they don't offer classes that a freelancer can take to improve his or her skills in a specific area, without dedicating an entire semester (and a LOT of money) to school. I'll keep other thoughts on such schools to myself, other than to say that I think a person that spends their time and money to go to one of these schools will likely still start out at the bottom, sweeping shop floors, packing gear and trucks, and pulling feeder cable, just like someone that didn't attend such classes, but instead went right to work and learned from those around them. I'm NOT saying there is no value in these schools, but our industry usually requires some period of paying your dues.

 

I think that the way most of us learned our trade is valuable, and we (should) continue to learn more every day, whether it be new equipment operations, tips on software to help us do our jobs, or even business techniques on getting new business or paid more quickly. But I think we are at a place where we need to have more options to learn some of these skills more quickly, more efficiently, from our peers, in a classroom setting. I see the demand in lighting and rigging for such classes that are offered by my friend Richard Cadena and the Academy of Production Technology. And for lighting console programming by my friend Steve Irwin at the Show Training Network. Heck lighting even has the LightNetwork website, where squints can get together, chat about converting monkeys and eels to do their jobs, and ask for help on gear or subjects that have them stumped. But I don't personally know of similar classes or websites dedicated to those of us doing video and projection work for corporate events, concert tours, theater and broadcast.

 

Yes, there are the Projection Master Classes that do offer some round-table discussions, panels, and some very valuable information and training, but doesn't appear to provide really in-depth, hands-on training to teach people HOW to use the gear. Don't get me wrong - I'd love to attend one of these, but I would prefer to spend my money on education that I know I can put to work to make more money by making me a better director, TD, engineer, projectionist, etc.

 

So, what say you? I think most of my readers here are actually lighting guys that are curious about the video freaks, and want to learn about us so they can take away our video gigs someday (just kidding!). But whether you are a lighting guy that wants to learn more about video and projection, or a video guy that wants to improve your skills and range of gear that you can operate, would you like to see such classes? I see a need for training courses that are small enough to provide personal training, hands-on time with the gear, and where you can walk away feeling like you learned valuable information that will help you on future shows.

 

What about costs? Classes at the manufacturer-specific classes aren't inexpensive - I'm hearing from $1k to $2k for a 3-day course. An outside (industry-neutral) training group would have to provide training facilities, equipment on which to train, and most importantly, skilled, experienced teachers for these courses. What would YOU be willing to pay, for a 2 or 3 day class that improves your skills and could perhaps even increase your day rate? Would you be willing to travel for such classes? What classes would you like to see? Manufacturer-specific courses on the most popular systems being used, or general video classes that cover specific areas like signal flow, basic or advanced projection, camera switching and engineering, image scalers/switchers, etc.?

 

And Swami Candela, if you read this, perhaps you could gaze in your crystal ball and see if there is a future for me in starting up such training for the video world?

 

Salud!

 

Kirk

Views: 97

Tags: Academy of Production Technology, Richard Cadena, Show Training Network, Steve Irwin, Swami Candela, education, projection, training, video

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Comment by Steve Irwin on August 10, 2011 at 2:09pm
Although there are not enough of us who beleive in training, we are here. Over the years of providing training I have noticed how hard it is to get people to free themselves from work in order to receive training. Most techs are just to hungry to give up the work.

That is why I beleive so much in online training. It makes it much easier for people to get the training they need while keeping up with their busy schedules.

Great topic Kurt and thank you for mentioning us who do provide training. The best site I run for people to visit is LightingTrainer.COM.

Http://www.LightingTrainer.com

Here's to learning more than we know now!!
Comment by Kirk Garreans on August 10, 2011 at 11:58am

I do understand Jason's point... especially here in Central FL, we have a certain school that tends to have a lot of inexperienced graduates "dumped" onto the local labor market, and many of them are willing to seriously lower daily rates in order to get the gigs. As Jason points out, these people seldom last very long in the biz, because they prove their inexperience on show sites, and have the potential to cause some real problems on shows that choose to hire inexperience over higher rate techs.

 

That said, most of the paying work here in town is in corporate events, not in movies or TV, and there aren't a lot of kids wanting to hang out backstage at a medical meeting... very few corporate show groupies.

 

Many of the kids that are creating these problems do so because they come out of these schools thinking that they know everything - they have nothing left to learn, and DESERVE to be the LD, TD, Director, whatever. They don't have any willingness to start at the bottom and work their way into the higher-paying jobs, and that can create a lot of conflict between the experienced crews and the NKOTB.

Comment by Elisa Goad on August 10, 2011 at 11:42am
Thats why being a mentor may help. No one at a young age should have immediate money. I ate noodles till I was 24. It was about being on movie sets/television sets, and the excitement of not working at McDonalds. Anyone who goes into a field looking at their money, never lasts. I have been able to find quite a few young techs who just want to be a part of the business. Jason-for those 'who don't last more than 3 years' probably didn't truly LOVE the art of being a technician.I think the true end is that a technician should drive their own money generating gigs, but first need to get dirty by being an assistant.
Comment by Jason R on August 9, 2011 at 8:39pm
Sadly, there are now more hopeful kids coming up the ranks and out of the schools, than there are jobs to support them. Yes, this can be said of many career choices, but it's a particular a problem in our industry. What's worse, the pay rates have steadily gone down, as these kids have come out of school with ever increasing debit and will jump on the lowest offer made to them, just to get "in the door." They don't last more than 3 years.
Comment by Kirk Garreans on August 8, 2011 at 3:06pm
Excellent point, Elisa. Mentors have played a vital part in my growth as well. And I completely agree with your summation of the current techniques of belittling others in order to make themselves look better... I see that on almost every show I do.
Comment by Elisa Goad on August 8, 2011 at 2:38pm
I've been a tech for 20 years now and 'back in the day' I had a mentor. My mentor made sure I was the best assistant a professional could have. I traded pure lifting for specific hands on training. My mentor drilled it into my head that I had to be a stand up technician because their stamp was on me. Over the 20 years I have seen how the new norm for technicians is to walk into a room, size up other techs, come up with a topic that makes them look like they know everything, and talk about their bosses like they are idiots. I had to re-train my brain to not trust a super nice tech because they were selling me out for the next job. So I decided I would start mentoring young techs. I only take one tech on every year or so and try to instal the knowledge that will get them to the next level without stepping on someone. I get some weird looks from my protégé's, but I have 2 great examples of successful  techs to use if I need too. Training only comes from good techs who don't have fear about how they appear to other techs. Friendships within the tech world may be our best training tools. I don't absorb classroom type teaching, and need to be vulnerable, make mistakes before I learn. SO maybe start a movement of mentors to meet new young techs thru a website. Everyone wins with the proper matchup.

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