Chapter three

Equipment Basics

It would appear that learning the equipment might be the best place to start in a course about television. However, in the Teaching Chronology, formal training on the equipment does not start until the second or third week. There are two schools of thought on the best way to get started. Some believe that students must first master all the cognitive skills prior to allowing them to handle the equipment. Others feel there are many disadvantages to technique-led practices. Regardless of the certain dangers in giving into the temptation to simply begin, perhaps students learn best from solving the problems they create.

We compromise. Instruction begins with classes on minimal equipment functions, care and handling procedures. Subsequently, we get right into a couple short and carefully guided exercises and activities. This relieves some of the anxieties students have to get going. Younger students want to handle the equipment as soon as possible and become easily bored if the projects are delayed too long. All the projects in this course are spaced and placed in the Teaching Chronology in a building-block fashion that progressively requires more knowledge and understanding as they are introduced. The first few projects center on framing and focus control and are not constrained by scripts. They only require only minimal knowledge of storyboards and camera operation. Students need only to know how to turn on a camera, to know how to use a few of the basic buttons, and how to read only a few indicators before they attempt to shoot footage.

Alternatively, you can utilize a Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) to allow students to progress at their own rate. An example of a standard format to follow, and information on this teaching strategy may be found on the Teacher's Toolbox page on this web site.

The instructional orientation of this Coursebook with regards to equipment training is to provide enough generalized content and technical orientation to teach students how video equipment can be utilized to accomplish the specific outcomes associated with the acquisition model for media literacy as explained in Chapter Two, and visual acuity as explained in Chapter Four. Developing a visual sense for, and a literacy of, the media are two of the most important outcomes for this course. Instruction on the use of equipment is, therefore, aimed towards that end.

Because equipment training occurs so early into the schedule, its goals are quite simple:

The lessons in this chapter are:

Digging Deeper

Tom Schroeppel has privately published two excellent books on how to utilize video equipment to attain video production goals. The first is called Video Goals: Getting Results with Pictures and Sound. The book introduces an approach towards using video equipment to consistently make good programs. The author’s suggestions are intended to serve as a basis for developing a successful work methodology that is based on individual goals. The second Schroeppel book is entitled The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video. This companion book explains, as simply as possible, how to shoot images on film or tape. Both are written in a common vernacular, cost under $10, and are goal-oriented in that they are aimed at demonstrating how to use video equipment to attain specific outcomes. Like with this coursebook, the specific operational details are left to others.

These two books may be ordered directly from the author: Tom Schroeppel, 3205 Price Avenue, Tampa, Florida 33611, or go to his webpage.

For more information on digital and high definition TV, the Cringley Crash Course may be found on the PBS website. As is usual with Bob Cringley's discussions, he presents an easy to understand description of how digital and HDTV works.

Two recent additions below explore the electromagnetic spectrum in terms that make it very easy for high school students to understand. Both sites describe technical concepts in layman's so that students can grasp key elements of how radio and television transmissions work. They also help in providing a conceptual map to what Marconi's invention actually was. Further information on Marconi may be found on the Hall of Fame Page on this website.