Blackmagic Design recently announced that The King’s Academy’s robust Digital Media Arts program is powering its new virtual production studio with Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K digital film camera. Boasting a 55 tile LED volume, students as young as sixth grade are learning the art of virtual production, preparing them for professional, real world careers in filmmaking, post production, television and more.
Located in West Palm Beach, Florida, The King’s Academy is a private, nonprofit, college preparatory school for grades K through 12. Austin Parenti, the school’s director of digital media arts, set his sights on building a world class digital media arts program. Ensuring the students are learning cutting edge production technologies and workflows, the school opened its virtual production studio in December 2021, making it one of the world’s first K through 12 schools with a working LED volume virtual production setup.
Today there are between 170 and 210 students enrolled in the school’s digital media arts classes each semester. Each year, the students produce eight short films and one virtual production backed feature film, which premiere at a local movie theatre twice a year for the community to enjoy. Gray Trials, a Star Wars fan series continues to be one of the most notable virtual production projects the school has produced. Under Parenti’s supervision, a crew of 21 students completed the project, designing the backgrounds in Unreal Engine, including a starship cockpit, a prison lobby and a dark lord’s chambers.
“When it comes to virtual production, our camera of choice is, of course, the URSA Mini Pro 12K given its higher resolutions, ND filters and multiple SDI outputs, especially since genlocking is a must for LED projection, which requires a camera with SDI out,” said Parenti. “In some cases, we amplify the footage in post with animation and visual effects, pairing students with a faculty member to learn the Fusion page in DaVinci Resolve to design and composite the desired digital effects.”
Parenti has grown the program in staff, structure and gear, including upgrading from a single Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K digital film camera to adding the URSA Mini Pro 12K, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro digital film cameras, as well as DaVinci Resolve Studio for end to end post production.
“In the Digital Media Arts program, we try to resemble the professional media industry as closely as possible by incorporating industry standard techniques and technology,” noted Parenti. “Audiences walk away from our films and can’t tell the difference between our content and what they see on a major streaming service, and Blackmagic Design cameras are a huge part of our success. In addition to being what our students will someday find on set, Blackmagic Design cameras are shockingly affordable, deliver a truly cinematic image quality and feature the most intuitive user interface, making it a clear winner for educational institutes.”
In addition to filming with Blackmagic Design cameras, Parenti is beginning to introduce DaVinci Resolve Studio to the classroom. “Our next feature film will be cut entirely on DaVinci Resolve Studio. It’s DaVinci Resolve’s expert handling of Blackmagic RAW that motivated our decision,” said Parenti. “In training to use Resolve, we’ve found that the software is easily the most intuitive on the market. Of course, its colour grading can’t be beat. We were pleasantly surprised to find Resolve has a robust multi user collaborative workflow using Blackmagic Cloud that will surely transform the way we package our films. This will allow us as a faculty to welcome more students into post production, dividing our classes into a true editing team, with lead editors, sound editors, colourists, and foley artists collaborating in real time.”
Construction was recently completed on an innovation center which will boast two Digital Media Arts computer labs equipped with two private editing suites and a state of the art production studio triple the size of its current space.
“The way we are structuring the program at The King’s Academy directly translates into what corporations, small television studios, universities, and even big budget Hollywood studios are doing,” said Parenti. “Blackmagic Design is powering these productions at all levels, and by immersing our students in it, we are setting them up for success and familiarity down the line.”