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College degree really necessary ?

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John Frank
College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 15, 2009 at 7:33:25 pm


I'm wondering if it's really necessary to go to a college for post production, or anything other courses that involve video editing. I've finished high school and I've been editing as a hobbyist for quite awhile (4 years) but I've only used Sony Vegas. Not sure if I could actually get any work with that program. I also have Adobe Photoshop, and I've used Adobe After Effects for 30 days (trial) and learned a lot about the program, I plan to purchase it whenever I get enough money if I do go into this type of field... (do video editors tend to use special effects alot? in AE it has alot of neat tricks for rotoscoping animation text etc.,)

Anyway, yeah I'm wondering if I could enter the field of video editing without going to college, get a job somewhere where I can see what they do (although I THINK I know basically what has to be done) I've seen a lot of pictures / videos of the job, and they all seem to be in a video editing suite room. Is that required? I know how to work with camera footage, compression, and a bunch of other things.

So far I've created a commercial for one of my dads products, that is only on youtube though. I've made some home videos, edited some footage for a friends website, made some videos out of shows I've watched for fun. I've read tons of guides on a bunch of things around audio / video and how everything works, I'm just wanting to turn this hobby I enjoy into something I could possibly make money with, any advice?

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Rocco Forte
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 15, 2009 at 7:56:09 pm

There's no definitive answer to this question. Some do really well without a degree, others couldn't live with out their experience. What is of vital importance however - whether you decide to get a degree or not - is work experience. You must intern or get a no/low paying job in a post house, production company, broadcaster soon if this is what you want to do. It's a priority. Best of luck.

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Gary Milligan
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 15, 2009 at 8:10:00 pm

Anyone can look good on paper. Let your work speak for you... put together a demo reel to showcase your skills. Check out the Demo Reel forum here on the COW.


This is me - this is what I do -

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Mark Suszko
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 15, 2009 at 10:37:07 pm

Well John, I wouldn't say it was *impossible* to get along doing as you propose; there are a number of people who are auto-didacts to one level or another, who make out okay. You could go take a short course for a couple weeks or months at a tech school to show you all the buttons in Premiere or Avid or Final Cut.

But that alone doesn't make you an editor, merely an equipment operator. And whether you rock FCP or Vegas, nobody at the end user level cares what you cut it with, just that it is cut WELL. And these days, just knowing the software, without also having a killer reel, is not enough to get you hired anywhere that pays over minimum wage.

There is more to being successful at this than knowing where the buttons are, you need to also know why and when and where to make the cuts, to become successful. This is something we spend our entire careers working on, and the one thing I know for certain is how much I still don't know, and have yet to learn.

Let me say that a well-planned college curriculum is very helpful for a couple reasons. On the very practical side, universities can get you great learn-as-you-work opportunities with internships and studio hands-on work called practicum or lab work in furnished and equipped studios. This is huge, because typically those college programs are exclusive and only the students get the access. If you do well in the internship, it is very often a short step to getting hired by the company full time when you're done with school. But even if you don't get a job directly out if it, the internship programs really help you apply the " 'book learnin' " to real-world situations and you're dealing with real-world professionals, networking, making contacts, learning how to behave in a "grown-up" biz world.

Secondly, I'm a big fan of a Liberal Arts and Sciences education, one that makes you a well-rounded person. There's rarely a week that goes by where some facet of those 'useless' A&S classes doesn't come into play in my job of writing, producing, directing, and editing. From understanding some art history, theatre and graphics concepts, to some basic music theory and history, to ideas in psychology, to marketing, history... well, it goes on like that for a while. A Liberal Arts education may not lead directly to a six-figure computer programming job, but OTOH, with a good mix of coursework behind you, you can adapt to most any field of endeavor, because you not only learn, you learn HOW to learn, how to find things out for yourself, analyze situations and figure out things. When the job outlook changes, you can adapt and change with it. You also will be able to communicate and manage people and teams of people much better than someone who stuck to a single narrow technical track of specialization.

Schools also let you buy hardware and software for half price thru student discount programs when you're enrolled in related coursework.

People in their late teens now, according to some stats I read, may change entire careers, not just jobs, five times in their working lifetimes. Changing the entire career, I said. So how does a person train for THAT? By being a generalist that knows a little about everything. from there you can certainly still branch out into specialties, but you retain that base set of skills and knowledge that doesn't go out of style when the technology shifts yet again. And you know it will.

So I would recommend to any younger person a 4- year course in arts & sciences and make sure it contains some business courses like accounting and marketing, as well as history, art history, some music appreciation, photography, sociology, politics, film history, english comp, beginning philosophy, psychology, and literature. Add your major to that and you are a human Swiss Army knife; ready to tackle almost anything.

But school is not everything, and just sitting and absorbing lectures is not a complete learning experience; the rest of it boils down to you keeping a hunger and curiosity for learning new things, trying new experiences, putting what you're learning into action and seeing people and places different from your immediate bubble. All of this, the schooling and the life experience, informs your work as an editor. Or anything else you want to be.

I have worked with editors who had nothing more than a GED. They started working in TV after dropping out of high school in their sophomore year. Yes, they could push a button and get a result. But they didn't know what was *behind* that decision to push the button, nor how the machinery even really worked, they learned by rote, like memorizing button pushes in a video game sequence. Their editing also was very ham-fisted, crude, and a blunt-edged imitation of whatever they had seen on TV the night before, whether it was appropriate to the material they were working on or not. They also tended to make very basic mistakes in things like writing and spelling, things that came back to bite them when the tapes were submitted for client approvals and the graphics needed lots of corrections. These kind of folks that try to short-cut around formal schooling hit a wall very early in their career because they never developed the tools to go beyond their simple beginnings. Their pay always remains low.

That's why what I want for you, John, is to develop yourself so you don't limit your growth too early and have to re-start the race from the back of the pack. Certainly, keep working on things like the project for your dad, that's all good stuff. But instead of re-discovering by trial-and-error all the things the industry has already learned in the past fifty years, maybe you'd want to just get all that information up front thru some formal classwork or study, THEN use that as your jumping-off point, as you go on to develop your own look, your own aesthetic. And THEN, after getting some practice, you can think about hanging out your shingle and starting your own business. One way or another, we all pay our dues first.

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Stephen Smith
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 16, 2009 at 1:07:22 pm

You may want to check out this thread.

Stephen Smith
Salt Lake Video

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2

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Richard Herd
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 16, 2009 at 6:39:21 pm

Mark, that was an excellent post.

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Rick Turners
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 16, 2009 at 9:02:55 pm

Honestly, no.
No employer in the industry cares about your degree, unless the employer went to your school and feels the need to keep his peers/alumni working, which can be beneficial. You have a better chance of getting into the industry through meeting people who work in it, getting recommendations and starting at an entry level. Even if you rock with FCP/Avid/Smoke and are an incredible editor, no one is going to let you jump in and start as the senior editor. The 30+ year old guy above you probably started as a PA and wont let you move up until he's seen you go through the same shit he had to go through. It's the nature of the beast.

I would goto a community college and take some courses, learn the programs, learn your craft, and be prepared to show your skills when an opportunity arises.

This is coming from someone who studied film for 6 years at a university.
But! If it's not a financial problem, goto college, party, meet friends who will hopefully be great filmmakers and climb into the industry with them.

I know plenty of people who have great editing jobs who only know Avid, or FCP. Meanwhile some of the younger guys know every program in the book and can shred with them. DOESNT MATTER. It's all about connections!

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grinner hester
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 17, 2009 at 11:40:45 pm

No art requires college. All art requires passion.
That said, man don't skip it if the old man is paying for it. The parties alone are worth going.

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Del Holford
Re: College degree really necessary ?
on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:30:25 pm

+1 for Mark's post.

My degree is in Political Science. I also took Bible courses. I learned photography while in school but not from the school. Then I went and got a job at a start up running camera, lighting, designing and building sets and occasionally running audio. I progressed to being a very good studio cameraman and then began to direct. The live 2 hour unscripted talk show was a challenge to direct but I and four others did it in rotation. Then I moved to video tape operations and learned to manually edit. Then to the editor's chair editing on quad machines. Then to a CMX 340 type edit controller on 1" type C. Then to Sony 9000 linear edit controller on D2 and BetaSP. Then to non-linear on smoke and fire and Final Cut.

I say all this to reinforce that my choir and band performing experiences in college, my writing long papers, my social life, all connected me to people who hired me and who have been my friends for 35 years now. Oh, and please, learn to spell correctly! :-) Best of luck.

fire*, smoke*, photoshopCS3
Charlotte Public Television
del underscore edits at wtvi dot org

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