'Tornado TV' gets students excited

It was supposed to be a nice, seasonal feature highlighting the perks of cutting down your own Christmas tree instead of purchasing a pre-cut fir from a lot. But what took Hoover High School’s film crew an entire day to produce was wiped out in seconds.

“We actually went to a place where you can chop down your own Christmas tree, did a whole day of shooting, and then somebody by accident recorded over it because [the tape] wasn’t labeled correctly,” on-air reporter Cain Buckler, 17, said.

It was just one of several learning-on-the-job experiences for a dozen Hoover students who have spent the last several months developing the high school’s television show, “Tornado TV,” set to air this weekend for the first time.

The inaugural episode, which will be broadcast 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the Glendale education channel, Channel 15, will include an interview with NBA great Jerry Chambers, as well as features on the dangers of texting while driving, school spirit, and the recent drama production. It can also be viewed on the “Tornado TV” YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/thetornadotimes.

“Tornado TV,” set in motion in the fall with the support of Principal Jennifer Earl, is being produced as part of a class under the umbrella of the school’s journalism program, which already publishes a monthly student newspaper, the “Tornado Times.”

The magazine-style show is entirely student-driven, said teacher Brian Crosby.

“I am sitting there and I offer suggestions, but they definitely come up with their own ideas,” Crosby said.

Crew members are responsible for generating ideas, scheduling interviews, and shooting and editing video. Much of the learning is done on the go — students share with one another what they have picked up in past multimedia classes, or turn to tutorials on YouTube.

Among the most challenging aspects of his job as videographer with “Tornado TV” was mastering how to set up and dismantle the equipment, said David Bonilla, 17.

“You have to get lots of shots so your editor will have something to work with,” David said. “You always have to be thinking about what the editor can work with.”

Editor Dahn Kim, 16, learned the basics of the film editing software Final Cut Pro in an earlier class, and then developed his skills with the help of YouTube. Dahn’s first independent projects included highlight reels of Hoover football games. Now he is responsible for all 14 minutes of the first episode of “Tornado TV.”

“It is hard to get it just right,” Dahn said. “It takes a lot of practice to get new concepts.”

The highlight of producing the show so far was the interview with Chambers, students said. Student videographer Shane Vera’s mother is friends with Chambers’ sister, and was able to make the connection. They conducted the interview at the Pan Pacific Recreation Center in Los Angeles, where the basketball star now serves as athletic director.

“The best thing is we all came with almost no experience,” Cain said of the class. “This was a new thing.”

In addition to producing a monthly show for the education channel, the broadcasting team hopes to launch a weekly video bulletin next month to be aired at Hoover High School, Crosby said.

“If nothing else, these students are so excited to come to class,” Crosby said. “For many of them, it is the highlight of their day, it is the reason they get out of bed in the morning. Schools in general should do a better job of finding classes like this.”

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