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Valenti students create promotional videos for Houston Grand Opera

Media production students gain valuable experience through HGO project

To help promote its 60th anniversary season, the Houston Grand Opera tapped the creative talents of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication.

Students from the school’s Media Production program with guidance from professor Keith Houk produced eight promotional videos for HGO’s upcoming operas including season openers Verdi’s “Otello” (opened Oct. 24) and Mozart’s “Così fan tutte” (opened Oct. 31).

While producing HGO’s videos, students worked in a variety of roles including lighting, audio, editing and shooting. They also recorded on-camera interviews with HGO’s HGO artistic and music director Patrick Summers, assistant artistic director Mena Mark Hanna and other creative team members.

“This was a great learning experience, but it also was an introduction to the world of professional videos,” said Valenti senior Vicky Hernandez. “We worked with an actual client, so we took what we learned in class to make sure we delivered a quality product.”

Senior Michael Pyndus served as a key grip and ensured that all of the video equipment was on site and functioning. He also helped set up cameras and lights and made sure the audio was recorded properly. This experience, he said, was particularly helpful as it broadened his knowledge of the various roles required on the set. His career ambition is to be a film producer and screenwriter.

“As a filmmaker or anyone going into the industry, it’s helpful to have an understanding of how all of the systems work,” he said. “This project was beneficial in that regard, but our professors also teach us a little bit of everything. They lay the foundations of video production out for us, so we are prepared for the profession.”

Both Pyndus and Hernandez were recruited for the HGO project from Valenti’s Digital Cinematography class. Aimed at seniors, the course provides media production students with an overview of visual storytelling, scripting, lighting, operating video cameras and editing. While projects produced in this class can be used as resume builders, instructor Houk said there’s no substitute for professional experience undertaken through internships or activities outside of class.

“When students work with clients on a professional product, they stand out,” Houk said. “We try to find opportunities like the HGO project for our students. When students can have a production credit on an HGO promotional video, it looks great to potential employers.

“But, projects like the one with HGO allow us to contribute to the community too. When students apply what they’ve learned in class to one of the city’s top arts organization, they’re able to contribute to Houston’s cultural landscape. Our students gain invaluable experience, but they also provide something for Houstonians.”

Houk is among several veteran video and film professionals who mentor Valenti media production students. Aimed at undergraduate students, the school’s Media Production concentration provides technical and theoretical skills necessary for careers in filmmaking, television, multimedia communication and broadcast journalism.

- By Mike Emery