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Education Features

Video club harnesses energy of ambitious Notre Dame students


Notre Dame Academy, NDA,  has a unique after school club. Our Lady Media is a video production unit that the South Buffalo elementary school uses to promote the activities at its two campuses. The eight sixth-grade students involved are now branching out to minister to the rest of the diocese.

The production crew of Our Lady Media Club under the direction of Paula DeAngelis (third from right). (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Through a STREAM grant, Notre Dame Academy was able to purchase video equipment from Daybreak TV Productions, the former television production arm of the Diocese of Buffalo, which enables the live streaming of important events at NDA. With training by former Daybreak producer and now NDA’s advancement/marketing director Paula DeAngelis, sixth grade students are able to operate three professional-grade video cameras and act as technical directors and audio operators for both live events and edited productions. 

The majority of the productions have been promotional videos for the school that are shared via social media. The crew recently shot an advertisement for a “Wizard of Oz” T-shirt sale, tied into the school’s production of the classic L. Frank Baum story. A spot about the school’s cookbook drove up sales. A promotional clip for Socktober clothing drive written, directed and starring the students drew 2,200 views on YouTube.

The kids are self-starters who use their phones to shoot video they want to share, such as a basketball game, and edit them on Chromebooks. They send their finished products to DeAngelis who approves and posts.

One student, Cash, took it upon himself to shoot a video on paper airplanes as his STREAM class learned about aerodynamics. “I brought in my tripod and attached my phone to it. I recorded it, edited it when I got home, and sent it to Miss Paula and she looked at it and put it up on Facebook,” he explained.

DeAngelis, who runs the club, wears the hats of producer, executive producer and director, often on the same shoot.

“The goal is to train the kids, and they all have phones,” she said.

The latest project for the Our Lady Media crew has been recording Masses for the sick and ailing. DeAngelis will send the YouTube links to Catholic Health to share with patients in their hospitals and nursing homes. Celebrating these Masses were Father Sean Paul Fleming, rector of St. Joseph Cathedral and director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Buffalo; Father Paul D. Seil, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the chaplain for the Buffalo Fire Department; and Father Bill Quinlivan, pastor of the Catholic Family of South Buffalo.

The students served as lectors in front of the camera, and handled the audio and video recording behind the scenes.

“It’s really a big process, these Masses,” explained Connor L. “The first Mass we had to start over once or twice because we had to get the ground rules for it. It’s really a process. You got the technical director, lectors, cameras, the audio, all of that stuff.” After a thought. “I think it’s easier than it would look.”

“It is,” added DeAngelis. “When you have someone actually driving the crazy train – The director drives the train – You listen to the director, you’ll be OK.” 

The plan involves the director watching all the cameras on one monitor, speaking to the camera operators through headsets, and telling the technical director which camera feed to switch on.

“It’s not too difficult. Everyone has a job to do. You do your one thing,” said Connor P.

They had one technical difficulty with the first Mass. No one had put a memory card in the digital video cameras.

“It never saved to anything, so we took a break and waited for (Father Seil) to come back and record another Mass,” explained Connor P.

Along with learning the mechanics of working a camera, the capabilities of Canva graphics software, Adobe Elements, and OBS Studio, the kids learn teamwork and patience.

“I always had a passion for all of this stuff,” said Cash. “Basically, this club is the start off of professional video production. I think it’s really cool for our school to offer this. And learning this now is a big step for us. I’ve always loved video production and editing. So, being in this group is really cool.”

The production experience was a brand new experience for Maddy. “At first, I was terrified because I did not know what I was walking into, but I got walked through it. I think it was the first or third thing we recorded was the spelling bee, which was on live YouTube. It was kind of scary for me at first, but Miss Paula walked me through it and we did a good video,” she said.