Nic DiFilippo's fourth-hour class at Mahomet-Seymour High School buzzes with activity as some students navigate video-editing software on professional grade computers while others adjust lighting in front of a green screen propped against his classroom's chalkboard.
But there's more to this class than just kids fooling around with technology. DiFilippo thinks his video-editing class is the only in the nation to be producing a regular show for a Web site.
The experience not only teaches students things such as how to edit video, adjust volume and light a scene properly, but it also provides them experience working with a bona fide business that expects professional work turned in on deadline.
Students are also learning how to tell stories within a reasonable time limit and how to keep a story moving, DiFilippo said.
"We're working for a business," he said. "We have to have something, no matter what."
The partnership with Midwest Whitetail was forged when its owner, Bill Winke of Albia, Iowa, met DiFilippo at the Illinois Deer Classic last spring. DiFilippo had worked for some other hunting businesses as a cameraman and hunter, and was thinking about starting the video editing class at Mahomet-Seymour. Winke was expanding his Web site to include hunting shows from other states, including Illinois.
After some back-and-forth communication between the two, Winke offered to pay for the equipment the students would need to edit the show, and DiFilippo was able to get permission to teach the class and recruited students to take it.
Winke said he donated the equipment with the goal of creating a long-term partnership with Mahomet-Seymour.
"I know most schools have a budget set," Winke said, and he knew his donation would help make the class happen. "I just thought, well, if I donate this equipment, the school is going to make a commitment to it long-term."
And it is a commitment. Professional hunters and photographers send DiFilippo their footage and he must make it digital.
Monday mornings, students go over what kind of footage they might have, even though they don't usually get a chance to see it. They spend time Tuesday and Wednesday building most of that week's show. Thursdays, students record introductions. They always take one last look, as a class, to make sure the audio is OK and the transitions look like they should.
The videos need to be submitted by Friday, and they go up each Sunday morning. If the class gets enough footage, DiFilippo said, it might start to produce two shows a week for the Web site.
Three students work on the show each week. The other 11 members of the class work on other parts of the class's curriculum, which includes a textbook. They're working on submitting videos for various educational contests and are now being recruited to make videos for different departments and clubs around Mahomet-Seymour. They've talked about doing a video yearbook.
And when the Midwest Whitetail season is over in January, the class will still have a semester's worth of individual projects, studying special effects and becoming more proficient on the equipment used to make videos. They'll continue skills they're practicing now, like meeting time limits and deciding how to best tell a story without going too long.
DiFilippo said video skills will be in demand in the future and they're valuable to his students.
"This is the field everybody's going to," DiFilippo said.
Senior Alyssa Ortel wants to make video editing her career.
"I like being able to create something, tell people's stories and make it so people can see it," Ortel said.
Classmate Steve Pratten, a junior, said filmmaking is his hobby, so he loves that he gets to do it at school.
"We're actually making a product people are going to watch," Pratten said.
Winke said he's seen their show improve with each week. It looks different than it would if he had professionals producing it, he said.
"I don't think I'd feel any better about it," he said. And he's looking forward to students who learn the basics this year come back to the class – and the show – next year and show their experience.
"I want to get to the point where you can just turn them loose and see what they can come up with," he said, and he believe students in this year's class will be next year's leaders.
He thinks it's a valuable class for the students involved.
"I wish they would've had something like that when I was in high school," Winke said, "just being able to create not only a curriculum – these guys have to actually produce something that the world can watch."