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COURSE NAME: "Foundations of Digital Video Production"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Marco Ferrari
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: T 3:30-6:15 PM
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course introduces students to the technical, conceptual, and aesthetic skills involved in video production through the single camera mode of production. Still the most dominant mode of film and video production, the single camera mode places an emphasis on using the camera to fullest capacity of artistic expression. In addition to the multiple skills and concepts involved with the camera, the course also introduces students to the principles and technologies of lighting, audio recording and mixing, and non-linear digital video editing. Special focus is given to producing content for successful web distribution.

This course will answer some of the most pressing questions repeatedly asked by first-time and amateur filmmakers:

How do you effectively and efficiently transform an idea first into a story, then into a screenplay, next into a production schedule, and finally into moving images and sound that emotionally transport an audience? How do you operate a camera, record clean audio, and generally make your actors look like they’re in a Hollywood film? What can I do with Final Cut Studio that I can’t do with iMovie?

This course will provide you with an intensive overview of the entire filmmaking process, from soup to nuts, as you work with a production unit to produce a short narrative or documentary film for web distribution.

Class Structure
- Discussions based off of assigned readings and viewings and in-class film screenings.
- Conceptual and technical demonstrations.
- Studio time (planning and production).
- Presentation of works (critiques).

Course Home Page

Most required readings, technical guides and in-class material will be posted on Moodle along with auxiliary readings and points of reference that can help further understanding. The auxiliary readings will generally be on technical aspects of production or to expand on theoretical topics discussed in class. Additional material may be distributed in class and uploaded onto the course home page.Since Moodle is not integrated with the school database, and with the class roster, you will have to create your own account, if you do not have already one. Once you have an account, you will have to enroll in this course by using the enrollment key.

Textbook (required)
Bresson, Robert. Notes on the Cinematograph. Translated by Jonathan Griffin. Nyrb Classics. New York: New York Review Books, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-1681370248

It is recommended for you to purchase this book.
- Anglo American Bookshop, via della Vite, 102 (http://www.aab.it)
- Almost Corner Bookshop, via del Moro, 45 (near the Tiber Campus)

Course Reserves at Frohring Library (for Reference):
-       Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. 2008. Film Art: An Introduction. 8Th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill.
-       Murch, Walter. 2001. In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing. 2Nd ed. Los Angeles, California: Silman-James Press.
-       Nichols, Bill. 2010. Introduction to Documentary. Second edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
-       Nichols, Bill. 1991. Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Attendance Requirements
This course requires an extraordinary amount of work to be completed outside of class hours. Students who expect to travel frequently during weekends are strongly advised against registering for this course.

Three late arrivals (more than 10 minutes) are counted as one unexcused absence. Two unexcused absences will result in a full letter drop in the final grade and three unexcused absences will result in failure. Due to the once a week meeting schedule for the course, missing one class can mean missing out on a major technical or conceptual lesson plan, which can affect the quality of your projects. In the case of excused absences due to documented illness or family emergencies, please present a dean's note as soon as possible.

Different digital recording equipment will be used for each project and these will be available from the Digital Media Lab. You all have access to the digital equipment JCU has on reserve for the course. You can check out gear from Thursday afternoon with gear needing to be returned Monday morning.

Out of Pocket Materials
Students enrolled in this course should provide their own external USB hard drive (250-500GB) to store and archive captured material and video projects. These drives must be Mac formatted.


By the end of this class, you will understand how a film is made from conception through distribution, and you will know how to develop a story for maximum audio-visual impact. You will gain hands-on experience of all stages of film production and all the skills necessary to begin producing professional-level work for the media industry as well as a polished piece of work for your demo reel.


QuizzesThere will be brief quizzes at the beginning of some classes. 10
ParticipationParticipation is not simply a question of attendance and raising your hand in class. In order to receive your fifteen points, you must attend class and ask questions AND you must contribute significantly to group members' productions. To get credit, the director/producer of the project must turn in a call sheet with your signature. 15
Preproduction and production packageThis will be the collection of the in class exercises during the weeks of preproduction and production.15
Non-narrative project (documentary)Students will be required to work in small groups to produce a 5-10 minute non-narrative film of a topic of their choosing. 20
Narrative project (fiction)Students will be required to work in small groups to produce a 5-10 minute narrative film based on their own scripts.30
Final Screenings/Peer CritiquesWritten critiques during the final screening of works, attendance will be mandatory. 10

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


This course requires an extraordinary amount of work to be completed outside of class hours. Students who expect to travel frequently during weekends are strongly advised against registering for this course.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. 
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Please note that this schedule is subject to change.

Non-Narrative–Documentary Film Project

Week 01: Introduction to Non-Narrative Film Forms

Week 02: Pre-Production and Treatment

Week 03: Shooting and Framing

Week 04: Lighting and Sound

Week 05: Editing 

Week 06: Editing and Color Correction (rough edit due)

Week 07: Final Non-Narrative Film Screenings & Introduction to Narrative Film Forms

Narrative––Fiction Film Project

Week 08: Field Trip––Cinecittà Studios and Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia

Week 09: Creative Writing

Week 10: Script Development 

Week 11: Composition and Lighting

Week 12: Directing and Mise-en-scène

Week 13: Editing and Sound Design

Week 14: Editing and Graphics/Effects (rough edit due)

Week 15: Final Narrative Film Screenings