We've moved! The School of Drama operations are relocating to Condon Hall until Summer 2024, while Hutchinson Hall undergoes seismic upgrades. See additional information.

You are here

DRAMA 406 A: Digital Cinema Production

Meeting Time: 
MTTh 2:00pm - 4:50pm
Kwame Braun standing outside in a grey jacket
Kwame Braun

Syllabus Description:

Drama 406A: Digital Cinema Production.

In this undergraduate studio class, students will be trained on the basic technologies of filmmaking: camera, audio, and lighting. As members of one of two crews, they will alternate as the studio crew for a class of MFA actors, filming short dramatic scenes under the supervision of a veteran film director. Each student will have at least one opportunity to serve as assistant director/script supervisor, director of photography, camera assistant, sound recordist and boom, and lighting gaffer.  In addition to editing the footage that comes out of the studio, students will individually make two short films of their own, as well as a group project with their crew mates. Students are expected to attend all 9 hours of class each week.


This distinctive workshop class is an unusual collaboration between two separate classes: an undergraduate production class, and a School of Drama MFA acting class: the undergrads train for and serve as studio crews to shoot and edit scenes performed by accomplished actors, directed by a seasoned professional director.

The reiterative structure is simple:

  • Mondays will be in person in the studio for practical training on the relevant technologies: camera, audio, and lighting. Time permitting, we’ll also consider conceptual issues of visual narrative, coverage, and composition. 
  • On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the class is divided in two standing crews, Purple and Gold. The 2 crews alternate class activities weekly:
    • one crew will be in the studio with the actors and director
    • the second crew will in the Hughes Penthouse basement studio to explore various concepts and practices in editing.
  • In the course of their crew rotation through the studio, each student will have at least one sustained opportunity to occupy a key technical position.
  • Once footage emerges from the studio, each individual crew member will edit the scenes shot by the other crew. 
  • In addition, students will individually produce two shorts.
  • Conditions allowing, each crew will collaborate devising and producing a short project.



  • Use of provided PPE
  • Practicing social distancing
  • Regular sanitizing of all handled equipment and shared material


The class will continue online as a remote workshop class, a mere ghost of its true self.


Grading is based on the satisfactory completion of individual exercises and assignments, and in completion of the multiple steps to the finished group project, and on your performance as a collaborative member of your team and the class as a whole.

B is the pivot point: do everything assigned, and you get a B; this is institutional policy.

B:  Consistently fulfills expectations; solid, completed exercises and projects, technically competent with minor lapses, unnecessary conceptual compromises or underdevelopment, and minor deviations from assignment parameters.  Steady and reliable class participation.

            B+:  Added commitment and effort;  B-:   Lapses in focus, attention to detail, and participation.

A:  Work at the best of your abilities, exceeding expectations with committed, well-developed work, demonstrating both a focus on craft and expanding conceptual ambition and sophistication.  Full participation in class activities, critiques, and assignments.

             A+:  Rare as hens’ teeth.  Astonishing, standout work;  A-:  flagging drive and participation.

C:  Work that is adequate but less effective in responding to the assignments, fulfilling the central intentions only in general terms, with simple applications of basic technique, but inattentive to details. Project concept rudimentary and undeveloped, production insufficiently planned and executed.

D:  The bare minimum.
F:   Less than that—frequently missing assignments, multiple unexcused absences, disregard for activities of the class.

There is no exam. 

Good citizenship is the basis of the informal contract underlying our collaborative work together, and as such is unrewarded.  It includes: diligently performing your assigned positions in the studio crew; participation in class exercises, workshops, and critiques; and grace and willingness to work and cooperate with your crew project partners.  It also includes maintaining civility in the classroom, adherence to timetables and deadlines, respect for and responsible use of shared equipment and workspaces, and knowledge of and compliance with departmental and institutional rules and guidelines.  Poor citizenship is not only unpleasant and counterproductive, but detrimental to your individual grade. 


Beyond the routine of Monday, Tuesday and Thursday classes, the actual content of any individual class will be dependent on how we are all progressing. We have a lot to cover so we need to move very slowly. We'll get to everything essential one way or another.

Once you are all editing footage from the studio, those of you online with me on Tuesdays will be screening your edits. Thursdays will focus initially on some basic concepts and approaches to editing, then will focus more generally on narrative structures, with lots of clip examples.

Normally, we share a screening of finished edits with the actors sometime in the middle of the term. Dates TBD.

We will not have Monday classes on Jan 16 & Feb 20, for Martin Luther King Jr Day and Presidents Day.


We will cover all the technical information you absolutely need to get started in class, but won’t have time to go into much depth.  If you would like it all written down in greater detail in one place, The Filmmaker’s Handbook, by Steven Ascher & Edward Pincus (latest edition, 2013) is practical, matter-of-fact, and comprehensive. Obviously, there are recent innovations & technology that are not covered in  the book, but the fundamentals principles of ALL the technologies & crafts we use in class have not changed.  This book will remain useful to you should you continue to pursue filmmaking. Used copies are readily available online.

The equipment you will be using in the studio is not available to loan out for your individual projects. If you do not have camera or sound equipment of your own for your individual and group shoots, you may reserve and check out video cameras and DSLRs out of the Kane Hall Student Tech Loan (STF) Program. The STF does not have boom poles or production audio recorders, but they do have little "shotgun" Sennheiser MKE 400 microphones that can be attached to most cameras' "hot shoe".wes Reservations are short-term and equipment availability is not guaranteed. If you’re in a pinch, use your phone—I really won’t hold it against you, though you should understand its limitations.

IMPORTANT: If you are going to borrow equipment, get a SDHC (or SDXC higher capacity) card of your own to record your shoots on—16GB is probably the practical minimum. If you haven’t got one of your own, you have to “capture” your footage to a computer or drive before you return the camera. If you DO use a STF camera, make sure to REFORMAT the SD card—erasing the footage already on it—before your shoot so that you can use its full capacity. Label your own SD card somehow so that you don’t get them mixed up.

If you already have an editing program on your computer, you are welcome to use it—just make sure to bring it to class for critiques. If you are new to computer editing, your options depend on whether you have a Mac (Final Cut) or a PC (Premiere). I’m much more comfortable with Final Cut myself, but I can teach you the basics (all you really need) of Premiere, which is currently ascendant.  You can subscribe to the Adobe Creative Cloud package of tools, which includes Premiere, for $20 a month.

I recommend that you acquire a portable hard drive for storage of your video files. Your laptop will perform much better if it has storage space to spare--at very least 5%.  You may be able to accommodate all your footage and editing generated files on a large USB stick or SDHC card. 64 GB is probably the minimum. But if you plan on continuing in this direction, you’ll need a larger drive sooner rather than later.

Western Digital has one with 2 terabytes of storage for $60. (Last year, $60 bought you 1 TB.) You can probably find even cheaper ones.

Catalog Description: 
Set up, operations and delivery of digital media equipment and content based on professional standards of film and TV production. Focuses on narrative film grammar and structures of cinematic storytelling. Covers cinema camera operations, production sound recording, basic cinema lighting. In rotation, students work as assistant director, director of photography, camera operator, sound operator, lighting and grip technician and script supervisor. Prerequisite: null
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
December 20, 2022 - 8:58pm