Recent Meeting Minutes

Spring, 2009

The Spring meetings for Pasadena City College's SMPTE Student Chapter have come to an end with two excellent final guests.  These meetings were open to everyone but specifically productive for students looking for a career in Production and Post-Production for Television.

One of our last guests, Paul Leonard came to tell us about how he made his way up in the industry from being a temp at Fox to being a Co-Producer for "Battlestar Galactica".  He showed the before and after of an episode to demonstrate how the quality of a production increases with post production elements such as music, editing, sound, and special effects.  He also explained how tax rebates and paying in Canadian dollars in Vancouver helped to save in production costs compared to shooting in LA.

Our final guest of the season was Agatha Warren (aka "Time Code Queen"), Co-Producer of Post-Production for "Prison Break".  She spoke of her career in the TV Industry.  Working up from running tapes at WB, she moved up to eventually work in TV dramas as an associate producer for "Roswell", "Taken", and "Prison Break".  She spoke about the various editions that happen after a production is shot.  Starting with the Director, an episode is edited four times before it is "locked" and sent to post, where it gets online edited, colored, composed, titled, mixed and finally delivered.

October 7, 2008

On October 7, 2008 Eric Gsell of  Dolby Digital spoke to Pasadena City College Chapter of The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.  Monica Gullon, the chapter chairperson presided.  Eric talked about getting his start in broadcasting.  He was a self-confessed “AV nerd” in High School and went to Virginia Tech to earn his degree in broadcasting.  He did an internship for CNN and wound up landing his first position in a local access TV channel as a remote engineer.  He then went to work for Digital TV Lab in Washington DC where he did everything from general help to developing ATSC technologies and videotape editing.  Eric briefly talked about the advantages of different compression standards.  He also discussed SMPTE RS-170, time code and H.264, the most advanced video technology format that he helped develop and which won him an Emmy.  Revisiting his history he spoke of a friend who became a contact for a position with Demographix.   Eventually Eric asked for and received funding from Dolby.  His company, Dolby Digital, deals with imaging technologies.  In conclusion Mr. Gsell spoke of the upcoming SMPTE Annual Meeting in LA.  He explained the importance of standards for television and the importance of understanding the standards as they apply to your specific area.


Monic Gullen, PCC-SMPTE chairperson and Eric Gsell

September 23, 2008

On September 23, Hena Cuevas was the guest speaker at Pasadena City College’s bi-monthly SMPTE Student Chapter Meeting.  Ms. Cuevas’ job title is CNN Producer Correspondent.  Hena explained that she emigrated from Panama and attended Community College in the United States.  Her major was Broadcast Journalism.  Hena said the pay wasn’t all that good and the hours weren’t much better.  Ms. Cuevas explained that one really has to be willing to do anything that will allow you to get one foot in the door. Ms. Cuevas spoke about how hard HDTV is to handle with live  talent; next Ms. Cuevas talked about the value of internships and urged students to take advantage of them.  She particularly emphasized  how working at a smaller company allowed her to learn so much more in a short period of time. She then explained the importance of a demo real and gave the students insights into properly putting a demo reel together.  She explained that it should not be longer than 10 minutes in length and that if you are talent a personal montage is a good idea to begin with.  Begin and end the reel with your best footage and build the reel by volunteering on jobs through Craig’s list.  Ms Cuevas  then talked about working her way up at positions with CNN, and an NBC affiliate.  She met her mentor at CNN En Espanola and finally got her chance to produce when many of the employees were out sick or on vacations.  She ended her presentation by showing us her demo reel.

May 8, 2007

Donald M. Morgan, ASC and 5-time Emmy award winning cinematographer was the guest speaker to the SMPTE student meeting in Pasadena. Mr. Morgan began his career in the entertainment industry in 1953 when his father, who worked for Disney animation during the 1930’s and 40’s, got him a job as a film lab technician at the age of 20. Morgan never planned to get into the industry, “I got into it by luck.”

He had previously been a rodeo rider and racecar driver. “I hated school, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make a living.” And working at the film lab was unfulfilling, so he left and became an assistant to Nelson Tyler, who invented the Tyler helicopter camera mount. “All the movies wanted aerial shots, even though they didn’t belong there.”  The excitement of working up in a helicopter was very fulfilling for Morgan, “It was a perfect time for a guy like me.” After the competition grew and the work began drying up, Morgan sought to expand his knowledge and moved forward. He became interested in photography and lighting and acquired a job as a lighting board operator and worked on commercials. He taught himself how to light for film by purchasing paintings and analyzing how artists used light to portray their mood.

Mr. Morgan’s first film as director of photography was called Win, Place and Steal. “When I first started, I used to get a lot of criticism because they said my work was too dark. I think I was one the early guys to do the dark thing.” His body of work as cinematographer includes Dillinger, Geronimo, Miss Evor’s Boys, A Lesson before Dying, For Love or Country, Out of the Ashes, Something the Lord Made, Hercules, Elvis, Christine, Starman, and many more. “I’m usually hired because they like what I’ve done.” When director Robert Zemeckis hired him to shoot a film, “he knew what he wanted and how he wanted it” said Morgan. But sometimes, “my job is to make suggestions.”

Mr. Morgan shared a story of how a friend once told him, back in the 1950’s, that film wasn’t going to last very long. “I’ve been afraid to loose my job for the last 53 years” laughed Morgan. He also shared his philosophy on cinematography. “The art of cinematography is to bring the look, not the real look, but something exciting to look at.”  In the last few years, he’s worked on television movies, and most recently received a prestigious honor. “The ASC granted me a lifetime achievement award.”

Mr. Morgan shared humorously how a younger guy, who was interviewing him for film project recently, kept repeating “this is a really physical film.” Morgan, who is 75, said “I love working with young people. If you’re looking for me to fall in a heap I think you’ll be surprised”. So don’t think that this former rodeo rider or racecar driver isn’t up for another film project. “It’s never been work for me, I don’t intend to retire.”

Written by: Horacio Jimenez
Secretary, SMPTE Student Chapter, Pasadena City College

Donald M Morgan, ASC with Akash Singh, Student Chapter Chair

Past Meeting Minutes

March 20, 2007