Distance Learning Degree Program in Digital Filmmaking

Essential Information

Digital filmmaking programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. In a digital filmmaking program, classes are conducted online, either with scheduled live seminars in which students can log in and contribute to real-time discussions, or through recorded presentations that students can watch at their own convenience. Often, classroom blogs are set up for student participation.

An instructor posts reading assignments, homework, scripts and film clips for students to download and view. Examinations are either posted online for students to download and return or offered as interactive online tests. Students can upload files of completed film or audio assignments to the instructor or burn DVDs and submit their work by mail.

Individual schools or instructors may have specific platform or software requirements. In addition, students preparing their own films need a digital camera, a basic lighting setup and a computer equipped with film, sound, editing, graphic design and word-processing software. They may find equipment and potential collaborators at local community access media centers.

Working on local cable-access shows is one way to gain valuable production experience. Students who aspire to work at high-end studios or with professional-grade equipment may want to arrange supplemental training, like an internship with a commercial television studio or a job on a movie production crew.

Associate's Degree

Applicants to an online associate's degree program in digital film should have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Most programs last two years, covering the basics of traditional filmmaking history, techniques and procedures, as well as an introduction to the operation of digital cameras, microphones, mixers and editors.

Course Topics

Associate's degree programs in film and media studies cover the vocabulary and fundamentals of cinema and television production, but programs in digital filmmaking offer more training for film production jobs. Course topics in an online digital filmmaking associate's degree program may include:

  • Motion picture language
  • Cinematic storytelling
  • Digital videography
  • Screenwriting
  • Directing
  • Digital editing
  • Software production tools

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program in digital filmmaking includes a liberal arts core, in addition to a thorough study of film and media fundamentals. Filmmaking coursework covers the use of the technology needed to create digital films, generally requiring students to experience them all first-hand by producing their own digital film and video projects.

Bachelor's degree programs usually take four years to complete, but students with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in another subject may be able to get credit for their liberal arts courses. As a result, they may be able to concentrate solely on the filmmaking courses and finish their degrees in as little as two years.

Course Topics

Much of digital filmmaking is a collaborative process, and courses are designed to give students the ability to view and discuss each others' projects remotely. Online courses cannot provide geographically scattered students with the experience of working together as a film unit, on a set or on location, although students are encouraged to assemble their own teams separately. Online course topics may include:

  • Writing for film and TV
  • Storyboarding
  • Directing actors
  • Digital cinematography techniques
  • Makeup and wardrobe
  • Software production tools
  • Set design
  • Production schedule and budget
  • Digital asset management

Master's Degree

An online master's degree program in digital film offers graduates of a BA or Bachelor of Fine Arts program the opportunity for specialized study in an area like producing, directing, production design, screenwriting or cinematography. Applicants to a master's program should prepare a portfolio that demonstrates competence in their chosen concentration.

Course Topics

For many students, a master's program provides the opportunity to complete a digital film thesis project, which may be entered in student film competitions or serve as the highlight of a demo reel. In addition to a master's project, other coursework may focus on subjects like:

  • Cinematic aesthetics
  • Nonlinear computer editing
  • Set design detailing
  • Unit production management
  • Advanced editing theory
  • Story development
  • Color correction
  • Audio special effects
  • High-definition video

Digital filmmaking degrees can be found in the distance learning format as associate's, bachelor's and master's programs. Filmmaking equipment may be required, along with internships or access to work within the field.

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