For the past year, students at Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad, Calif., have lived and breathed television. But these 11- to 14-year-olds are not just sitting passively in front of their TV sets–they’re behind the camera, producing and broadcasting their own live news program.

Aviara Oaks offers an elective course that teaches students the art of television production. The students produce a news show every Monday morning that is broadcast throughout each classroom in the school, and then re-broadcast the following Wednesday on a local cable channel that reaches nearly 250,000 households.

The most exciting aspect of this course is that the students get hands-on experience learning how to report stories, operate cameras, and produce the entire show–using the same techniques and equipment found in sophisticated, real-world television studios. The show is called AOTV, and the students have profiled it on their web site (see link below).

Aviara Oaks wanted to give its students the chance to create television programs that have the look and feel of real network programs. The class’s instructor, Doug Green, also insisted that students learn the proper techniques using current technology so the course would present them with a true school-to-career opportunity.

Unfortunately, traditional studio equipment can easily cost more than $125,000–well out of reach for most schools’ budgets.

Three months before the school’s TV studio was to be built, however, Green came across a new video production system called Trinity from Play Inc. Trinity is an all-in-one, PC-based system that replaces an entire television studio full of equipment for a much lower cost–around $10,000 for a complete system.

“I wanted the students to produce television using the same tools that are used in the industry,” Green said. “I wanted them to become critical viewers of television by becoming ‘real providers’ of television. When I visited Play’s web site, I knew immediately this would fit the bill for us.”

Since buying the Trinity system in August 1998, AOTV has developed an entire curriculum based on each of Trinity’s features: a multi-camera switcher for live production, a chroma-keyer to superimpose the student anchors into sophisticated virtual environments, a character generator to add text over video, a graphics system to create broadcast news graphics, and an editing system.

While most school news shows consist of students reading a daily bulletin in front of a single camera, Aviara Oaks students are now producing a news program that rivals their local network affiliate in sophistication. A typical AOTV production includes announcers, music, student anchors reporting the news, live remote interviews from across campus, and pre-recorded packages complete with Hollywood-style special effects and customized graphics.

The show has received numerous awards–and quite a bit of publicity. Student reporters have interviewed several celebrity guests, including the late golfer Payne Stewart, professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, Trevor Hoffman from the San Diego Padres, Junior Seau from the San Diego Chargers, and a cameo appearance from Tiger Woods.

Last year, AOTV won more than $10,000 in prize and grant money from various educational institutions and programs. Most recently, the program was awarded a grant in excess of $3000 from a local cable system.

The AOTV course has become a favorite among students and has proven to be very popular in the school’s community. More importantly, the Aviara Oaks students are gaining first-hand knowledge from all sides of the television production environment and are enjoying the experience.

The experience “has given me something to look forward to at school every day,” said one eighth-grade student who works on the program.


Play Inc.