Cinema Students Produce Videos For Elkhorn Valley Museum


Northeast Digital Cinema students interview Elkhorn Valley Museum Education Director Jeana Ganskop

Jackson Miller , Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Learning how to be a professional videographer, writer, producer, and editor requires extensive practice and actual field production experience. “Sometimes it is hard in the confines of a classroom to replicate actual video production”, said Nancy Sutton-Smith, Mass Media and Digital Cinema instructor at Northeast Community College. When she was approached by Dr. Wade Herley about helping the Elkhorn Valley Museum with a video, she jumped at the chance.

Sutton Smith said the opportunity arose at the point in her Scriptwriting curriculum when she needed that type of project. “Scriptwriting is a writing class but these new digital cinema majors need to see a project go from script through production to finished product, or they will not know if their script worked or not.”

Digital Cinema is a new program under the Media Arts department, where students learn lighting, cinematography, post production, and everything it takes to be a video professional.

Instructor Timothy Miller and Digital Cinema student Madison Hill use a camera crane to follow a miniature train in the Discovery Children's Zone
Photo by Seth Johanson
Instructor Timothy Miller and Digital Cinema student Madison Hill use a camera crane to follow a miniature train in the Discovery Children’s Zone

“Digital Cinema is a very exciting new program at NECC. It is an interdisciplinary field that requires technical knowledge, creative thinking,  problem solving  and good communication skills. Our students have to think about the script, the talent, lighting, sound, color, cameras, crew and location at each step of the production process,” said Timothy Miller, Digital Cinema and Audio Production instructor.

Miller and Hill adjust the camera crane and the Canon DSLR
Miller and Hill adjust the camera crane and the Canon DSLR

Both Miller and Sutton Smith want the students to get real-world training, and have videos they can use for resume building. The chance to do a non-profit museum video was exactly the type of project they were looking for.

Digital Cinema student Bryce Eisenmenger takes video among the historic vehicles at the Elkhorn Valley Museum
Digital Cinema student Bryce Eisenmenger takes video among the historic vehicles which includes a one of kind Square Turn Tractor (pictured below), made in Norfolk, Nebraska in the 1920s
Photos by Seth Johanson

Dr. Herley, Northeast’s Dean of Business and Technology, first visited the Elkhorn Valley Museum after driving by one day with his family. His wife, Kristine, saw an opportunity to volunteer in the children’s area. That connection led to museum curators asking Dr. Herley if there were students at Northeast that would like to volunteer. Dr. Herley immediately thought of the new Digital Cinema students, and asked Miller and Sutton Smith if this might work as a media project. “Dr. Herley walked into my classroom  and said ‘ the Elkhorn Valley Museum called, is there anything we could do for them?’ My students were finishing up commercials and I was wanting a Public Service Announcement (PSA)-type project and this non profit video was perfect”, said Sutton Smith. Miller, who teaches Videography for both studio and field production says putting into practice what they learn in the classroom will make students much more prepared on the job.  “Theory is important for understanding the principles of an idea or technique. It is abstract in a sense. A lab class is good for applying and practicing those principles and helps the abstract become more tangible. But being in a real world situation brings both together, it tests people and ideas, it refines techniques and approaches, it builds confidence and experience and it lets the student see how their efforts look and fit in with the rest of the project. We embrace these opportunities to make it real,” said Miller.

Digital Cinema student Kat Stuthman
Digital Cinema student Kat Stuthman

Students have been filming exhibits and events at the museum in the month of October. Miller and Sutton Smith have used the project to demonstrate everything that is required in a pre-production, production and post-production video shoot. In order to professionally light the exhibits and to avoid the  sunlight coming through the windows, students spent an evening in the museum getting all the shots they needed under professional video lighting standards. Miller said, “It is rewarding and exciting to see the growth and development in these students. They have already created some great shots and are refining their techniques and workflows to improve for the future. We have hit the ground running, learning and adapting this semester and I am proud of them and their efforts.”

Josh Ottis interviews Jeana Gansrop, Director of Education
Josh Ottis interviews Jeana Ganskop, Director of Education for the Elkhorn Valley Museum

Students wrote questions about each of the exhibits and interviewed museum Executive Director Ryan Leichenauer,  Director of Education Jeana Ganskop, and board of directors Vice-President Sheryl Schmeckpeper who is also a reporter for the Daily News.

Ty Vetter interviews Board Vice President Sheryl Schmeckpeper
Ty Vetter interviews Board Vice President Sheryl Schmeckpeper

Students have also been filming events like the Hands-on History Saturdays and Johnny Carson’s birthday party October 23. Sutton Smith said, “The students have been collecting B-roll, an industry term for video footage, that will be used to illustrate the exhibits they are responsible for. They will use that B-roll along with an interview to create an informational video for each exhibit.” Those videos will be combined into a larger non profit video for the whole museum. Museum staff hope to premiere the video early next year. Ganskop said, “We want to build our presence in the community and let people know about all they can see and do at the museum.  A video is a dynamic way to share what we have via social media and our website, and it can even serve as an orientation video in the entrance to the museum.”

Ryan Leichenauer, Executive Director through the lens of Northeast's 4K Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Ryan Leichenauer, Executive Director of the Elkhorn Valley Museum through the lens of Northeast’s Blackmagic Design Production Cinema Camera 4K

Dr. Herley said that it is really important for media arts students, even in the first semester to get this kind of head start on their career. Dr. Herley said, “It is that first step. It is getting out there. It has to do with the instructor, seeing what students can do, what sort of raw talent we have to work with, and how far we can push students, and see what their talents and weaknesses are. And what better way than to get out there and do a full project like this.”

Additional images of the students working at the Elkhorn Valley Museum can be viewed on The Viewpoint Flickr page.