October 13th, 2009

Ever walk around the Manoa Campus on a Saturday or Sunday? It’s only for brave, lonely or misguided souls. Silent tumbleweed prevails – just as across the erstwhile biotech campus at Kakaako – with nothing happening. So quiet, you can hear a pin drop.

But there is life inside the corner of Sakamaki Hall – where Pacific New Media (PNM), vital and still going strong after all these years, has its cutting edge software lab. PNM is dedicated to teaching media software, and well, to our community - a gem to those who know about it, and an eye-opening discovery to those who don’t.

I wasn’t there for drill. Let me tell you about the class I attended at PNM over the past couple of weekends. It was a great learning experience, well worth being there and worth mentioning here.

It was a class in Final Cut Pro 7 (FCP), which is one of the many fabulous programs in the new Final Cut Studio. This is flagship software from Apple. It’s a leader in professional video editing.

There were about a dozen in the class. My guess is they all had professional experience with FCP. They were all good natured, and always willing to help the person next to them. The classroom was bristling with good ideas, tips and tricks you wanted to take home.

The teacher, from whom I have taken a number of courses at PNM over the years, was Steve Szabo, a leading video editor in Hawaii. He is steeped and fully credentialed in FCP and in teaching FCP. One student called him an “officer and a gentleman” who gave the class “knowledge and power” and “brought it together as a team”.

That student found the class a “thrilling and exciting boot camp” where they started on varying levels of knowledge but finished as a “united front of warriors capable of capturing and rendering footage until it was useful.”

He said the “chicken skin” moment was at the end when they did a group cheer. “Forming a circle, fists clinched and in each of our own native tongues, we yelled FINAL CUT PRO, screaming at the top of our lungs so loud that the veins were popping out of our necks, we knew this class had changed our lives forever.”

This was not an ordinary class, and Steve Szabo is not an ordinary teacher - he can perform any task and answer any question. His style is casual but structured. He refers to the text, which helps you when you forget something later, and his own rich experience.

He’s quick to see and deal with your level of comprehension and respond to class quips. He shows you wonderful movies from his editing business and makes FCP come alive. He takes you through the powerful menus, buttons and boxes, from miracle to miracle.

You can’t appreciate the astonishing power and complexity of these programs until you’ve taken a course in them. I’m self-taught in FCP among others, with a Swiss cheese kind of understanding. A class like this brings things together for me, as nothing else would.

Most of the students went on to take the FCP test that was offered this week. Good luck to them. If they pass, they’ll have better prospects in the job market, which is a little sketchy right now.

Do we have a video editing post production industry here? Are there jobs? Yes, but it’s a conglomeration of small shops, and editors who move around. If we made more movies here, and if producers were willing to hire more local rather than mainland editors, we’d have more shops and more jobs. That’d be great.

Until that happens, all we can do is train and encourage those who would be editors, and make them competent and creative so they can form the nucleus of a post production industry, waiting for word of their talent to get around and for a wave of local movies.

FCP is only one of many excellent courses offered at PNM. Just Google “Pacific New Media” and you’ll see their delicious catalog - a curriculum as good as this doesn’t happen overnight or by accident.

Credit goes to Susan Horowitz as PNM’s prime mover and muse there, and to her many talented teachers, local and visiting, who keep us coming to Manoa during these quiet weekends, including Steve Szabo and, one of my other all time favorites, Colin MacDonald.

Keep up the good work, you guys, you give great training and you nourish the development of an important industry. Good for you.

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