Smart phones to the rescue as COVID-19 disrupts work placements

This is the time of year when many second-year students in Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Media Production program would be placed in a professional work setting to gain hands-on experience before graduating.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has forced a change in plans.

Instead, Kevin Mahlberg, program head for Sask Polytech’s applied and visual arts programs and his faculty have come up with a creative alternative. They are having students produce and shoot music videos using their smart phones.

While the assignment will be hands-on and require students to apply what they have learned in the classroom, Mahlberg says smart phones or DSLR cameras will have to be used because students do not have access to professional equipment.

“That’s our biggest issue for the students—capturing that video component,” says Mahlberg.

To make the assignment as authentic as possible, Mahlberg enlisted the aid of Ross Nykiforuk of Cosmic Pad Studios. Nykiforuk, a professional producer and engineer who has worked with a number of well-known Canadian bands, including The Northern Pikes and The Sheepdogs, has agreed to play the role of the artist’s management to guide students through the concept and production of their videos.

Nykiforuk, who has twice been nominated for Gemini Awards, also serves as a Sask Polytech instructor.

“He’ll say, ‘This is the song’ and ‘this is what we’re looking for,’” says Mahlberg in explaining how the creative process will unfold. Because Nykiforuk knows the industry well, the assignment will closely reflect a client-directed project.

Fortunately, students were able to complete three of their four major projects before the COVID-19 situation forced Sask Polytech and non-essential businesses across Saskatchewan to close. Those included dramatic production, documentary production and corporate video production.

Media Production is a two-year diploma program. The program covers advanced production techniques and helps students develop management skills related to media production environments in video acquisition, post-production, sound recording and editing in computer based, digital, and HDTV formats. Such skills allow graduates to find careers where content creation and skills in sound, lighting, editing, live streaming, location production and more are required.

Published June 2020.