Local business and VCU Arts launches certificate program in advanced media

Photo by Brooke Marsh
Photo by Brooke Marsh

After four years of planning, the VCU School of the Arts officially launched a master’s degree certificate program in Advanced Media Production Technology (AMPT) set to begin next spring.

Photo by Brooke Marsh
Photo by Brooke Marsh

Designed to connect graduates with employment opportunities in the expansive field of digital media production, AMPT is a hands-on, project-based program that brings disciplined craftsmanship together with innovative technology.

Carlos Chafin, president of In Your Ear Music and Video Production and co-director of AMPT, saw an industry need for students with a better understanding of media and technology production, but a lack of universities with schools educating students on these topics. This realization is what brought him to design such courses within VCUarts.

Chaffin plays a large role in the program. In Your Ear has offered studio space for students to work and learn. He also helped devise the strategy and vision to identify the best faculty to teach courses.

“I’ve been involved in this business for a long time,” said Chaffin. “I wanted to create a program where people had already put down their money and had already studied and graduated and worked very hard. I wanted to offer a really intensive program of study that would take one or two years and you could really get up to speed with all the technological stuff.”

The program is 24 credits, taken over the course of two semesters. Prerequisites include an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year institution. Potential students can apply through the Common Application. A portfolio is not required, but a personal interview is highly recommended.

While the hiring process for faculty and staff is not completed yet, potential new hires include Richmond professionals and professors from the communication arts and cinema programs.

The certificate educates all students at the same level in sound, editing and production, film editing, production and post production. When students move into their second semester they will begin their capstone project. During this time, they’ll have the opportunity to hone in on a specific aspect of what they want to pursue afterward graduation.

“(The certificate) is designed to immerse the students in media production technology and also designed to bring the students own interests, skills and talents into the program, no matter where they come from,” said Matt Woolman, executive director of entrepreneurship for VCU School of the Arts and co-founder of AMPT.

Woolman said they are looking for a “diverse set of skills and backgrounds” so students will be able to learn from one another, as well as the professors.

“We want students to have the confidence and ultimately the skills to go out and take risks and try new idea,” Woolman said.

Students entering new media industries, such as gaming or postproduction, must master the specific artistic demands and technologies of the trade and have experience with a wide variety of disciplines, including story development, audio production, video editing, digital photography and basic live film production. AMPT provides this broad base of skills while requiring students to concentrate in one of three professional areas: audio production, digital cinema production or post-production.

“Students are involved in developing their own content and telling their own stories with actual professionals and working on real world projects,” Woolman said. “They’re comprehensively getting an experience in the whole industry.”

The AMPT certificate joins a growing list of entrepreneurial programs developed by VCUarts. Although courses on entrepreneurship are not explicitly taught, it is a principal point of the certificate programs and is woven into the curriculum.

“A single person equipped with technology can go out and launch their own studio or be an independent producer,” Woolman said. “So built into every level of teaching the technology and working on projects, we build in this notion of ‘you’re an independently minded individual, you have the potential to launch your own venture.’”

Woolman and Chaffin faced internal and external problems when beginning the program. VCU does not have the correct facilities to teach the technology.

Internal problems include proposing the program to the department of education and State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and all the governing bodies outside the university that see the establishment of new programs.

“There have been a lot of problems of students taking out a lot of debt and then not being employable afterwards,” Woolman said. “The department of education put in place a lot of policy over the last several years of what is called workforce development.”

The end goal of the certificate program is for students become well rounded and prepared to work in various fields. Possible professions include music recording, video recording, video game development and animation.

“We want to meet the professional needs of each student in their own unique way,” Woolman said. “If they desire to enter the vast realm of the media technology, then they will be equipped to do so. We want to prepare the students to enter whatever the next step in their professional lives is and equip them with the technology and skills and confidence to do that.”

Sophia Belletti, Staff Writer

11802522_10207448112303567_588286187022952754_oSophia is a sophomore journalism major who writes for the Odyssey in addition to the news, sports and spectrum sections of the CT. Sophia also works in sales at Nordstrom and likes hiking and going to concerts. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn


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