An intermediate-level course in video production. Course includes further development of technical and creative skills, with special emphasis on the production of documentaries.


Through the project-based work of this course, the student will:

  • employ research as a basis for generating and discovering a non-fiction message that can be effectively communicated through digital video and audio.
  • articulate the aesthetic and ethical challenges common to processes of documentary production.
  • identify and engage in the pre-production activities that govern digital filmmaking: budgeting, scheduling, storyboarding, and location scouting.
  • integrate transcribed interviews into a documentary script.
  • articulate the responsibilities of and engage in various crew positions:  producer, director, writer, cinematographer, gaffer, editor (video), colorist, audio recordist, and editor (audio).
  • articulate the principles that shape the grammar and mechanics of digital audio signal processing, editing, and mixing.
  • articulate and practice the principles of project organization which facilitate collaboration in post-production.
  • collaborate with an assigned student composer to record an original score.
  • store and distribute a finished digital video.
  • direct and respond to the direction of others.
  • learn principles and terminology of media project planning and management.


Unless otherwise indicated, written assignments should be typed in MLA format, then submitted as hard copies. Substantiating paperwork (storyboards, lighting plots, scripts, talent releases) tends to be rewarded with higher grades if presented professionally (i.e., typed in easily-navigable folders or binders). Written work submitted by e-mail should be formatted as .pdf (not MS-Word) files.

The majority of coursework will take the form of practical performance and projects. If you are not present in class when your name is called to undertake a task, your work will be considered late. If your work is submitted incomplete or otherwise outside the assignment’s specified format parameters, it will be returned to you for correction. Upon resubmission, it will be considered late work.

Late work can earn no more than a maximum of 64 points. Work is considered late if it is submitted (or, in the case of e-mail, time-stamped) after lecture begins on the due date. If, because of extreme and prolonged sickness, you miss a deadline and are able to substantiate a claim of incapacitation with a note from a reputable doctor or Calvin Health Services, the grades of your remaining assignments will be given greater weight to compensate. Otherwise, you will receive a zero for the assignment. Examinations must be taken when scheduled.

Syllabus deadlines are the date and time an assignment is due in its final version. The nature of filmmaking is such, however, that you should plan on soliciting your professor’s feedback on at least two intermediate versions of each project. While this is not a requirement, you ignore this recommendation at significant peril to your grade.

Quizzes may be given without warning to encourage attendance and affirm content mastery throughout the term.

Participation will be evaluated throughout the semester by professor and peers based on student contribution to class community. Assigning the grade, I am chiefly concerned with the following questions:

  1. To what degree and in what ways does the student demonstrate respect for his/her audience and co-laborers?
  2. To what degree and in what ways does the student model dependability and responsibility?
  3. In what ways has the student participated in work load, idea generation, and leadership — apart from the work necessary to complete his/her individual assignments?
  4. Of what value are the student’s criticism and suggestions for improvement valued by his/her peers?

Coursework will be weighted as indicated:

Projects 60%
Final Exam10%
Quizzes & Assignments10%


Assignment grades will be based on the following scale:

77-79C+< 60F

Responding to students’ desire for the most immediate feedback on their project work, grades and comments are reported via Moodle. It is therefore the responsibility of students to regularly consult Moodle for the most current report of their grades.


Sequenced assignments lead student groups through design and production tasks, building upon skills and work products as they advance through the semester. Assignments in the last half of the term employ footage shot or effects recorded in the first half. The assignments combine and culminate in the production and exhibition of a short film. Students who, therefore, commit themselves to the highest quality of work in the course’s initial projects are likely to get better grades on successive assignments which incorporate that earlier work. Simply put: the better your raw footage in February, the better your rough cut at mid-term, the better your final project grade in May.

Because film is chiefly a collaborative art, your work is not solely your own. You share it with others. Uniform strategies of disc management and documentation are so essential to an efficient workflow that your professor has specified the file nomenclature of each assignment to help you develop the habits of saving, duplicating, backing up, and renaming files, sequences, and sessions. Work which deviates from these file nomenclature guidelines may be penalized or simply not accepted.

Even if you have employed Avid’s Media Composer software in previous production courses, I strongly recommend you review peculiarities of the ISIS Server workflow. I find, in particular, that students’ projects routinely suffer from ills that can be addressed by attention to the editing software’s Media Creation project settings.

The purpose of our semester together is not so that you may fulfill graduation requirements. Instead, I want you to conclude the term with a short film that you may confidently submit to festivals, competitions, and would-be employers. Thus, many course projects require the approval of your professor before they are submitted for grading. This approval will likely come following my formative involvement in multiple drafts of the project at various stages. The more times I see and hear your work well before it is due, the better your grade for this course.


Technical & Creative Competence Testing  W Feb 01 5:30 pm – 9:20 pm

To demonstrate creative and technical competence acquired in previous media production courses, rotate through the five skills tests set up through classrooms and studios in the media production area.

Initial Research  W Feb 08 5:30 pm

  • Generate and present elements of preliminary topic research.  Take rigorous notes of classmate feedback.
  • Generate and present elements of preliminary design research
  • Discuss and submit crew contracts.

Workflow  W Feb 15 5:30 pm

  • Directors will present storyboards for coverage and composition based on two or more famous paintings. Bring images of those paintings with you to class. I am frequently inspired by leafing through Sister Wendy’s 1000 Masterpieces.
  • Directors, Cinematographers & Gaffers will each research 2 films in back issues of American Cinematographer. The films should — in some matter of visual tone or style (and to a far lesser degree, content) — inform the one you are making this semester.
  • Audio Recordists will present location roomtone recordings. Marantz PMD660 and Tascam DR-100 flash recorders are available in the equipment check-out room. Transfer the audio files to a ProTools project on your group partition so we can audition them in the Audio Control Room, DCC 030.
  • Editors will research and present at least three ideas for temp music. No copyright clearance is required at this point in the semester. In addition to the temp music, members should share a total of three other musical tracks generated from their shared image files.
  • Producers will submit a marketing and distribution portfolio to more accurately budget festival entry fees.
  • Cinematography teams will shoot test footage employing multiple cameras and settings.
  • Editing teams will organize post-production work: naming bins, designing timelines, and importing test footage at multiple project settings.

Talent & Equipment W Feb 22 5:30 pm

  • Producers will submit copies of completed personal and location releases. Friendly advice: never give professors the original of anything.
  • Gaffers will submit scale lighting plots and equipment lists. (Google SketchUp is a useful [free] drawing tool with a fairly gentle learning curve.)
  • Cinematorgraphers will submit an equipment list.
  • Audio Recordists will submit an equipment list.
  • Teams will discuss specific concerns for impending shoots, paying rigorous attention to the feedback of their classmates.

Location Shoot W Feb 29  5:30 pm – 9:20 pm

I do not expect that you will be able to shoot your entire documentary in a single, four-hour class period.  Rather, I am reserving this class period for project work.  I will be available to visit any filming location within easy driving distance of the school, with priority given to groups who have reserved my time in advance.

Logging & Transcription W Mar 07 5:30 pm – 9:20 pm

This class period is reserved for project work, preferably the transcription of documentary interviews.  I will be available to peruse any of your work product to date, with priority given to groups who have reserved my time in advance.

Principal Photography M Mar 12 1:00 pm

  • Cinematographers will submit a file/footage log to the professor (as a .pdf) as evidence of completed principal photography.  Each video file should be accompanied by corresponding audio files.
  • Producers will submit a complete transcription of all interviews.

Assembly Edit W Mar 14  5:30 pm

Editors will screen an assembly edit for the class (chiefly to check for coverage).  The remaining class period should be spent improving the edit.

Editing Workshop W Mar 28  5:30 pm – 9:20 pm

Editors will screen an assembly edit for the class (chiefly to check for coverage).  The remaining class period should be spent improving the edit.

Rough Cut due M Apr 02 1:00 pm

Editing Workshop W Apr 04  5:30 pm – 9:20 pm

Visual Lock due M Apr 09  1:00 pm

Given our collaboration with the Music department to marry your work to an original score, consider this deadline virtually sacrosanct.  No extensions.  Late work may earn partial credit toward your final semester average.  However, if your group’s visual lock is submitted after the deadline, your film may not be included in the Showcase screening.  The film’s producer must secure the instructor’s approval of your film before class begins.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   Footage will be graded as an Avid timeline saved to your group partition.

Graphics and Color Correction due W Apr 11  5:30 pm

For further instruction in Avid Color Correction, I recommend this well-organized series of tutorials. Interested in still more? Consider The Art and Technique of Digital Color Correction as a supplemental text.

Each group will partner with an assigned Graphic Arts student to design a promotional poster for your film.  His/her artwork will be presented to you as a collection of layered Adobe elements.  You are expected to import those components into After Effects and use them as the basis for a coordinated suite of lower thirds, titles, and other graphics.

Dialogue Edit due M Apr 16  1:00 pm

During today’s class, each group will screen the dialogue edit of its film.   The group’s designated dialogue editor must secure the instructor’s approval of the film before class concludes.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   The project will be graded as a ProTools session file saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one ProTools session file only.

Score due W Apr 18  5:30 pm

During today’s class, each group will screen the music edit of its film.   The group’s designated music editor must secure the instructor’s approval of the film before class begins.  You may not proceed to any successive phase of the project without this approval.   The project will be graded as a ProTools session file saved to your group partition.  The instructor will open and evaluate one ProTools session file only.

Trailer due F Apr 20  1:00 pm

30 secs, 0 frames.  1080p.  Include bars, tone & slate.  Employ proper project, bin, and sequence nomenclature.

Dinner and a Movie  Fuller’s House  S Apr 21  5:00 pm

All Media Production Students and their guests invited.

Final Poster due T May 01  1:00 pm

18″ x 24″ .psd @ 300dpi, Adobe elements separated in layers

Final Audio Mix due W May 02  5:30 pm

Each group will screen a final mix of its film in the Bytwerk Theater.  Copies will be submitted to the professor as an Avid timeline saved to the group partition.  The sequence will only contain a video mixdown and a two-channel audio bounce.  The instructor will open and evaluate one Avid sequence only.

Final Projects due T May 08 12 noon

Exhibition Plan W May 09  5:30 pm

Withoutabox account; poster; BTS photos

Final Exam: Screening  R May 10  7:00 pm

Media Showcase, CFAC Recital Hall, Mandatory Attendance

Final Exam: Assessment W May 16 6:30 pm

All student work must be removed from the ISIS Server



Where’s Brian when we need him? Is it really okay to call him at home in the middle of the night?

The classroom setting is such that not all needs can be met within it. I encourage you, therefore, to visit my office often. It is my pleasure to discuss grades, attendance, notes, lectures, or anything else which will make you a better student. Your grades can only benefit from regular communication with your professors. I will gladly work with you to arrange meeting times convenient to us both. Feel free to contact me:

  • by e-mail at mail@brianfuller.org [good].
  • by phone or voicemail at 616.498.4336 (49.VIDEO) [better].
  • in person [best].


Can I see some successful projects from previous semesters?

Sure.  Many of THESE FILMS have gone on to festival screenings and awards.


Can I leave early to get to my next class across campus? What happens when I miss a class?

If you write a good essay or fail a math exam, you do so as an individual. But the success of a video production is often a collaborative endeavor that begins with attendance. You jeopardize any group project for which you show up late (or not at all). Reflecting the emphasis Media Production professors place on collaboration, strict attendance is required. Students will be penalized for late arrivals and early departures.

I’ve got tickets to leave early for spring break. Can I reschedule work to accommodate my travel plans?

Classes will not be held on holidays officially recognized by the college. All other days of the term are fair game for lectures, quizzes and assignments. Those students who plan to leave early for or return late from holiday breaks may not reschedule exams or other work.

Can I take class notes on my iPad? What are the professor’s expectations for electronic etiquette?

You’re encouraged to use smart phones, tablets, and laptops in disciplined ways which accomplish the work of the course. It’s considered rude, however, to engage in private communiqués (facebook, twitter, IMs, texts) during class.

Oops. My phone started ringing in class. Probably Mom calling…

The professor reserves the right to answer any cell phone call received by a student during class time. From a practical standpoint, you’d hate to ruin an otherwise fabulous take on location with a Justin Bieber ringtone.


I’m dissatisfied with an assignment grade. Any chance I can have it changed?

Because there are no “right” and “wrong” answers in this field of study, I am open to a certain amount of discussion with regard to the grade awarded any given assignment. Appeals should be made in a timely fashion, within two class periods of grade notification/posting. You may be notified of a grade by the return of paperwork or, more usually, in the posting of grades and comments to Moodle. Appeals should be made face to face (not by phone, in writing or by e-mail) and offered with rhetorical and presentational clarity (After all, this is a communication class).


I downloaded a great new song on iTunes. Can I use it in the soundtrack of my class film project?

The current edition of our college Code of Student Conduct notes that “the student-faculty relationship is based on trust and mutual respect which can be seriously undermined by the suspicion or reality of academic dishonesty.” It elsewhere defines plagiarism as “the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment.”

Though expected to abide by the document as a whole, Media Production students may benefit from specific awareness of conduct proscribed by Article IV of the Code:

  • Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty.
  • Unauthorized possession, duplication or use of keys or other access devices to any College premises or unauthorized entry to or use of College premises.
  • Use of computing facilities and resources in violation of copyright laws.

The standards of honesty and the penalties of dishonesty apply equally to words, ideas, visual images, auditory images, and all electrochemical means of storage and communication.

I will vigorously pursue prosecution of academic dishonesty to the very limit of sanctions allowed by the college (Article V, Sections D and E), up to and including failure of the course and expulsion from the college. I will just as vigorously work with student to prevent even unintended lapses of integrity. If you are uncertain about how to avoid plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty, please consult a member of the English faculty, the most recent edition of The Little, Brown Handbook,or (preferably) ask me.

While student media producers retain copyright ownership of their respective work, enrollment in this course constitutes your permission to let the college, the department, the professor, their representatives, and successors, exhibit and distribute for promotional purposes those media projects submitted in fulfillment of course assignments. Without any effect on your grade you may withhold or limit such permission by indicating your wish to do so in a note to your professor signed, witnessed, and dated, before the course’s drop date.


How can I arrange to work after-hours in DeVos?

Because college policy governs the after-hours use of the building and its basement level production facilities, your professor recommends your familiarity with the college’s established schedule of access to academic buildings. Exceptions to the policy require a note of permission from a faculty member, submitted electronically to Campus Safety at least 24 hours in advance. To address concerns of personal safety and security, it is suggested that a minimum of two students remain in the building together.

Subject to responsible use, students of CAS 190 and 250 are permitted key card access to the Video Editing Labs (DeVos 055). Students of CAS 249, 290, and 351 are permitted key card access to the Video and Audio Editing Labs (DeVos 045). Access to other workspaces must be scheduled in advance with the Chief Engineer.

I really like using the editing software on my laptop. Can I edit class projects in my dorm?

To maximize opportunities for collaborative learning, the college offers Media Production instruction in a pedagogically-informed, server-based post-production environment. When student teams edit video and audio projects from shared files to common workflow standards, they are learning organizational and interpersonal skills that will benefit them in the workplace and in other relational settings. While we understand and support students’ preference for many different hard- and software combinations, project work for Media Production classes will be done on facilities and equipment in the DeVos Communication Center (approved by the CAS Media Production Faculty in May 2011).

How might a disability affect my performance in this course?
The college will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Students should notify the Coordinator of Services to Students with Disabilities located in Student Academic Services, HH455. Students should notify their instructors within the first two weeks of class (statement adopted by the College Faculty for inclusion in all syllabi).


How do I arrange to borrow equipment for this weekend’s shoot? Can I borrow equipment to shoot my cousin’s wedding?

Media Production lab aides are available in DeVos 025A (hours posted there) to check out equipment for class projects. It is often advantageous to alert them to your equipment needs several days in advance.

The Media Production Faculty approved the following equipment loan policy in March 2009.
Governed by the following priorities, equipment and facilities are available to those students currently enrolled in Media Production classes:

  1. Priority shall be given to equipment loans which support class project assignments and faculty scholarship initiatives.
  2. Production equipment will support in-class instruction as well as out-of-class project work. Return deadlines will be carefully monitored.
  3. Certain equipment is designated for use by each class. Thus, cameras, lighting, and grip equipment set aside for advanced instruction may not be available to students in introductory-level courses (and vice versa). Not even Production Lab Aides should assume free access to all equipment.
  4. Understanding that Media Production majors may not be enrolled in production classes each semester, those declared majors are nevertheless encouraged to engage in project work for their continued improvement (video festivals, competitions, a senior capstone piece, even personal projects). Requests for equipment to support such projects must be made in advance to the Chief Engineer. As a rule, equipment and facilities tend to be more readily available early in the semester. Requests must include (a) a project summary; (b) a detailed equipment wish list; (c) crew list; and (d) desired loan dates.

As in the regular semester, instruction, scholarship, and maintenance, regulate equipment use over breaks, vacations, reading recess, interims, and summer. Exceptions follow the same guidelines enumerated above.