Using the gear: Northampton Open Media free classes teach the technical side of filmmaking

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  • Northampton Open Media production coordinator David Newland, right, leads a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video. Participating are, from left, Justin Marsh of Northampton, Marjaneh Peña of Costa Rica and Katherine McCusker of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Katherine McCusker, right, of Northampton uses a Crane 3 Lab gimbal to follow Marjaneh Peña, left, of Costa Rica, in motion during a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video at Northampton Open Media. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Max Lauf, left, and Justin Marsh, both of Northampton, try out a Crane 3 Lab gimbal during a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video at Northampton Open Media on Tuesday, Jan. 28. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Max Lauf, right, uses a camera mounted on a Crane 3 Lab gimbal with a monopod extension to follow Justin Marsh during a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video at Northampton Open Media. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Max Lauf, left, of Northampton uses a gimbal-mounted camera while Northampton Open Media production coordinator David Newland leads a hands-on workshop. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Justin Marsh and Katherine McCusker, both of Northampton, take turns holding a gimbal during a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video at Northampton Open Media on Tuesday, Jan. 28. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Open Media production coordinator David Newland lets go of a jib arm, or crane, after balancing it for a mounted camera during a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video. At right is participant Max Lauf of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A Zhiyun Crane 3 Lab gimbal mounted with a Sony a7S mirrorless camera used for a hands-on workshop on camera stabilization for video at Northampton Open Media on Tuesday, Jan. 28. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 2/5/2020 5:19:52 PM

Every week, Northampton Open Media (NOM) opens its doors at 33 Hawley Street in Northampton for free public videography classes welcoming students of all levels, whether they’re aspiring filmmakers or just interested in learning how to use a digital camera for video.

Five people attended a recent class on January 28, each with their own reason for attending, whether that was brushing up on camera techniques, furthering their education of videography for their own creative projects, or honing their skills for their career.

During that night’s class, David Newland, production coordinator at NOM, led a discussion about camera stabilization by using equipment such as a gimbal or crane to show the difference in achieving a smooth and stable motion as opposed to the shakiness of handheld cameras. Students shot video during the two-hour class, taking notes, and noticing the differences that each piece of equipment brings out in making videos.

Newland, a graduate of Fitchburg State University in videography, has been leading classes at NOM during the past seven years. During that time, students have gone on to create everything from award-winning short films to local community media.

Other courses offered at NOM run the gamut in terms of the technical aspects of filmmaking and videography, including an introduction to exposure and composition, DSLR camera production, field and cinema production, audio and lighting video, or learning how to edit video footage in Adobe After Effects.

And once students have taken a course with the gear studied through each individual class, they’re allowed to sign out professional video/ film equipment in a library system model, he added.

“We’ve had people come to classes multiple times because they’ve come to the class, they’ve gotten that cursory knowledge of the equipment or the concept we were teaching, and then maybe they took the camera, went out or found a problem,” Newland explained. “Or they’ve found a whole slew of different questions that they didn’t know how to ask the first time … It’s been really cool to see people take the class, and then come back again, and drive the dialogue of the class forward.”

For many, taking courses at NOM to be able to use the community media center’s professional cameras and equipment negates the often expensive price of entry for would-be filmmakers, Newland explained.

“Our goal is to have professional gear that’s cutting edge,” he noted. “We want to be able to expand people’s capabilities, rather than just have something that they could do just as well with their phone.”

For Justin Marsh, 36 of Northampton, the classes he’s taken during the past two years at NOM led to being hired in his current job doing media and marketing for Tapestry Health in Florence.

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing as a profession if it wasn’t for this place,” Marsh noted, adding that he’s taken each course at least twice.

Although he went to graduate school for broadcast journalism, he said he learned more about the technical side of working cameras attending the classes.

“Here they really teach you the nuts and bolts of camera settings, how to record audio, how to set up lighting, how to do things like camera stabilization,” Marsh said. “Those weren’t really focused on in graduate school, but they are here. And they’re focused on for free.”

Katherine McCusker, a 49-year-old Northampton resident, has been working on a documentary film about Northampton and climate change during the past two months utilizing NOM cameras and equipment.

“I have always wanted to get better,” she explained. “I wanted a chance to improve my video skills and really learn how to make documentaries.”

She added that she filmed a series of short videos in the past about Leeds Elementary School and is also working on short promotional videos about other elementary videos in Northampton Public Schools.

“I’m doing that because of my access to this place and what I learned here,” McCusker noted.

Marjaneh Peña, a 19-year-old from Costa Rica who has been living in western Massachusetts studying English for the past few months, said she’s only taken a few classes at NOM, but as a filmmaker herself, she’s glad that the classes are available to her and other community members.

“I’ve only used a tripod, so being able to use other equipment is really cool,” she noted, adding that she’s made two short films (an action movie and a comedy).

Max Lauf, a 31-year-old resident of Northampton, said he started taking classes about a year ago at NOM, but just recently returned to learn more camera and video skills.

“I studied it in college and it’s always been something that’s appealed to me, just the way you can tell stories with it,” he explained. “I haven’t been doing it as much as I like. But it’s a fantastic resource, for free, to have access to the range of equipment.”

Lauf is developing a sitcom inspired short film or web series that’s live action and cyberpunk themed, but takes its influence from animated comedy series Archer. He plans on using equipment from NOM to film the project.

In the past year, he’s also volunteered to film events such as performances by Young@Heart Chorus at the Academy of Music Theatre. Lauf also filmed a school bus demolition derby at a past Three County Fair.

“It’s almost like now that I take it for granted that I have access to all the gear, especially with how good it is,” he added. “It’s just a great part of the community.”

For more information about NOM and its videography and filmmaking classes visit

Chris Goudreau can be reached at

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061


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