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Student Outreach Efforts by the SMPTE Membership Committee

September 19, 2022

The SMPTE Membership Committee, formerly under the leadership of Renard Jenkins and more recently that of Rose Lockwood, has continued its focus on outreach to students. Although the creation and support of SMPTE Student Chapters continue to be a primary means of engagement, the committee is dedicated to developing new ways of connecting to potential future members.

The pandemic created a complex environment for teachers and students as school buildings were replaced with endless Zoom sessions. In the midst of this new environment, SMPTE was challenged in its outreach effort to new members, especially students. The SMPTE Student Chapters are a grassroots effort, aided by the SMPTE administration staff, but ultimately in the hands and responsibility of the local Section.

In the San Francisco Section, which includes Silicon Valley, we have had the local resources of no less than the president, now past president, Pat Griffis to support the chapters. In addition, local chairs Keith Graham and Kent Terry, along with members Jeff Way, Steve Lampen, Shane Ruggieri, and Matt Lavine, have all contributed to local efforts. John Shike, a director of the membership committee, is also based in the Bay Area and was on hand to manage the local outreach to students. One might expect that a region that has been instrumental in the creation of television (TV), video recording, and online video would already have had a student chapter established, rather than starting from scratch.

As described in a presentation at the SMPTE 2019 Annual Technical Conference, Shike described the path to the founding of a Student Chapter at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, CA. De Anza has a renowned Film and TV department, and Film/TV Department Chair Susan Tavernetti was willing to put in the considerable effort required to enable an on-campus program. Regular meetings were established with an introductory meeting of 100 students and professionals gathered in the creative arts building’s auditorium.

De Anza has continued its chapter, semester after semester, with the ongoing efforts of a faculty member, Milena Grozeva Levy, who as the chapter’s advisor, ensured that a new student president was elected to continue to manage meetings and programs. The first President Robb Villicaña contributed an article to the September 2019 issue of the Motion Imaging Journal, recounting the chapter’s trip to Dolby where Ruggieri demonstrated color grading for film. Ruggieri described the art as well as the technology of grading, and, in this way, reached the creative as well as technical interests of the students.

In the fall of 2020, the chapter continued under the leadership of President Austin Tong, who joined De Anza after a summer film program at University of Southern California (USC). Restricted from holding meetings on the campus, Tong made use of Zoom to hold online meetings. This provided the possibility of special presenters from afar, including Greg Ciaccio from SMPTE Hollywood, who spoke about virtual set production during the COVID 19 lockdown period.

The current president, Nicholas Wingate, has taken on the tough but rewarding job of managing one to two meetings per month throughout the semester. Putting together programs and managing attendance on this schedule was not easy. To enlarge the group, Levy arranged to include the neighboring school, Foothills Community College, as part of the chapter. Meetings of the current chapter included a presentation by Membership Director Chris Lapp, who provided his own journey from school into the industry to where he is now technical solutions architect for media and entertainment at Cisco.

The State University in San Francisco (SFSU) has been a target for student outreach for the last several years. Griffis and Shike established a relationship in 2019 with Dina Ibrahim, a professor in the Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts department, better known as BECA. Ibrahim is also the managing director of a unique resource, California State University (CSU) Entertainment Alliance, a website that acts as a portal for State University students interested in media and entertainment. In fact, among the 23 campuses, there are 180 media and entertainment departments, with nearly four million alumni. The website organizes events, internships, and other tools. SMPTE is among the partner organizations supporting the site.

To move beyond the many months of online-only classes and events, Ibrahim suggested that SMPTE organize an event for both students and SMPTE professional members to be held onsite at SFSU. This was also an opportunity to showcase the university’s new Marcus Hall building with its impressive facilities that include two TV studios with independent control rooms, a newscast studio, a classroom with full audiovisual capabilities, a podcast room, and more. A program was put together featuring three topics: The “Perks” for students joining SMPTE, presented by Griffis, an introduction to multicam live stream production by Shike with a demonstration of Telestream’s Wirecast production system and Bird Dog’s Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras by Shane Scriminger, and an overview by Kent Beichley of the engineering that went into the design of the media production facilities. Beichley is both a professional SMPTE member and a 2006 graduate from SFSU with a degree in radio and TV.

The program was conducted in a hybrid fashion, on the premises, and a live stream of the program on BECA’s Twitch channel and SMPTE’s Discord channel. Having the program available simultaneously onsite as well as live-streamed greatly expanded the audience. While this particular program was intended for the CA Sections, the value of live streaming programs raises the possibility of broadcasting to a greatly expanded audience, even global.

Such virtual or hybrid events offer the possibility of moving SMPTE—with its value proposition for the student population and young careerists—beyond grassroots efforts, which have enabled SMPTE to maintain the size of its membership, without really growing it. The student chapters certainly imbue the SMPTE messages—standards, education, community—but this activity is limited to a tightly maintained audience and existing membership. Many—perhaps most students pursuing film, TV, or similar careers—have little idea of what SMPTE does. A marketing outreach—if you will, a branding exercise—is needed to further our engagement with the student population and young careerists.

These grassroots efforts of the San Francisco chapter have provided a roadmap for other regions to follow. In an effort to help bring the global cohort of student members together, several social media platforms were evaluated with the goal of engaging the students where they spend time with other students. Discord was found to be an ideal candidate: Discord from its origin has been a meeting place where young people share media, discuss technology topics, and collaborate on gaming; from this beginning, it has grown to encompass a broad range of interests. As a platform, it is a means to bring students and instructors together from across the globe, where they can engage in discussions of all kinds in the creative and technical aspects of media and entertainment—industry trends, job opportunities, career advice, etc.—in collaboration with experts from SMPTE’s global organization.

The membership committee, in this case especially through the efforts of directors Lapp and Ian MacSpadden, has launched a SMPTE student server on Discord. This use of social media using a platform that is popular with the younger generation is an initial step, but it is one with a footprint that is truly worldwide. In March 2022, the channel reached over 200 registered users. There are now resources for both students and instructors, channels to engage with both fellow students as well as industry experts, and regular industry updates provided by Director of Education Joel Welch.

The possibilities of online presentations to a wide student audience need to continue to be tested. As with any social media engagement, regular updates and compelling content will both drive growth and the effectiveness of the effort. High-quality presentations will be required for success. The topics must be engaging for the audience and the speakers must be eloquent. Steve Wozniak made a fascinating presentation about his journey in the IT world that overlapped with TV at the SMPTE 2019 Annual Technical Conference. This is the kind of presentation that could capture a young audience. With the depth of talent within the SMPTE ranks, the hopes are that the organization can use this platform to hold regular interactions with students on a platform they are familiar and comfortable with.

Finally, there has been an effort within SMPTE to help provide guidance, based on industry needs, for educational institutions to develop the curriculum needs of interested schools in better preparing students for careers in media. Media organizations have been challenged with competing for technology talent that so many internet companies are snapping up. In many cases, students with an interest in technology are unaware of the plethora of opportunities within the film and media industries. MacSpadden has worked with several educational institutions to provide guidance on what industry needs are for the workforce and to develop educational tracks to prepare students for careers in media arts. Some of these efforts have been posted within the Discord platform for both students and instructors to access. The membership committee is also looking into how it might provide some level of certification for their studies as a bonus value to students and young careerists as members of our organization.

In summary, we anticipate that student membership may be increased by efforts at the grassroots level by the individual Sections, in combination with global programs such as social media platforms (Discord), virtual and hybrid meetings to broad audiences, informed curricula, and certification.

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