VSAR 303: Introduction to Video Art

Time: Monday, 6-9:45 PM.
Location: VPA Arts 340
Instructor:Tony Allard
Office: VPA Annex
Office Hours: 5 - 6 PM Monday
Telephone: x8164
Email: antalla@home.com
Online syllabus: http://www.csusm.edu/fossilmedia/school.html
Visual and Performing Arts Support Staff: Lani Woods, 750-4137
Technician: Chad Huggins;huggi001@csusm.edu cell phone: 760-591-8917
Student Assistant: Albert Rascon:
rasco001@mailhost1.csusm.edu or alrascon@hotmail.com

Course description:

This is a beginning level video production course in which we will be learning to use video within the context of art making. This semester will be divided between production, screenings, readings and discussion. You will learn how to operate Hi8 and digital video cameras, off-line editing, on-line digital editing with the Media 100, lighting, basic audio recording and mixing, and video installation art. A series of technical and conceptual exercises and assignments will provide the matrix for your course work, equally emphasizing technique and content. You will also become familiar with the historical movements in video art as well as contemporary work being done by video artists.


Attendance is taken at the beginning of each class by signing in. You may not sign in after the class has started. Four missed classes constitute a failing grade.

Equipment Policy:

Materials and Checkout

You will be responsible for supplying your own videotape. Tapes range in kind and price, but you will need Hi8, Mini-DV, SVHS and VHS tapes which can be bought from San Diego Audio Video (http://www.sdav.com/). Hi8 tapes and SVHS tapes can be bought locally, such as at Good Guys. Do not use used tapes. They make your work look terrible (dropouts) and they are bad for the machines. Only use new tape. Hi8 tape costs about $8.00, MiniDV costs about $15.00, SVHS $7.00.

 Cameras, with the exception of our Sony Hi8 HyperHad advanced camera and two new digital cameras, are available at Media Services on the fourth floor of Craven Hall. Check out policies are available at Media Services. Our Sony Hi8 Hyperhad and digital cameras are for advanced students only and can be used only if you have received training on them.

 All other equipment, such as new tripods, microphones, cables, lighting kits, are available through our program reservation policy and are stored in the annex. You can reserve the equipment in advance through Chad Huggins, the program technician and Albert Rascon, the TA, or you can sign up. Please email Chad in advance when you want equipment (cehuggin@csusm.edu). Chad will make arrangements with you to meet you in the annex to check equipment out to you as his schedule allows. If you reserve in advance you are guaranteed to have the equipment. Otherwise it is on a first come first serve basis.

 Equipment can be checked out for three days. If you do not return equipment on time you will be fined and your privileges to check equipment out will be revoked. Please email Chad to let him know when you are picking up and returning equipment. Do not leave equipment out-always make sure it is checked back in and you are signed off on it.

 You are responsible for all equipment you check out. DO NOT EVER LEAVE IT IN YOUR CAR UNATTENDED. Do not force parts. Handle with care. Do not leave in dusty, hot, or freezing (?) places. Keep dirt away. All of the equipment is expensive and fragile. Please be very careful handling it. Heat damages equipment, as does direct sunlight and dust. If you break it or lose it, you pay for it.


The video equipment in this department ranges from the brand new and expensive to the older which can be touchy and quirky. Video, as rewarding as it is to do, is at times frustratingly difficult. Equipment well cared for will not break down on you. Please do not drop the equipment, leave in a hot car or trunk, get near dust or dirt, take to the beach or generally handle it roughly. Sometimes the editing equipment can be especially quirky. Do not disconnect any cables or change any switches unless the instructor or an assistant have trained you to do so. If you do change something, always change it back.

TROUBLE REPORTS: If you think a piece of equipment is not working, please fill out a trouble report which is located in the room. Leave this in Chad's box. If you don't fill one out, the equipment won't get fixed.


A successful class depends on the participation of all its members. Therefore, your grade is based on several points, all of which carry weight. Your failure to complete any one of them will result in a failing grade. In general 75% of your grade is on your assignments, and 25% on attendance and class participation. I use the guidelines below when determining your grade.

-the completion of all production assignments on time (no late work excepted)
-the completion of all reading assignments
-the completion of all writing assignments
-participation in class discussion and critique
-peer-mentoring (helping others with technical or conceptual problems)
-self-teaching (consulting manuals when in doubt, conducting self-generated research or work)
-presentation of research to the class, with paper
-handling the equipment carefully and helping to maintain the studio
-attending lectures and presentations outside of class time, especially when they are listed on the syllabus

Your production assignments will be graded using the following criteria:

-is there a balance of form and content?
-is the content well thought out, and relevant to a larger community outside class?
-does the form of the work embodied creative elements appropriate to the content?
-did you try to make the piece as technically good as you can? (well-lit, good audio, no glitches, etc.)
-have you used the time during assignments and between assignments to improve your work? (i.e., shoot more material, re-edit it after comments are made, re-do your audio, add to your subjects, do more research, etc.)
-did speak up about your work and ideas and the work of others during critiques, discussions and screenings?
-have you tried to incorporate elements which are new to you into your work as you learn about them?
-does the work challenge us conceptually or formally?


The Low Budget Video Bible, New 3rd Edition Cliff Roth. This book is available at the CSUSM Bookstore. You will also be given handouts. You are required to purchase a three ring binder in which you can keep all handouts and notes, as well as a journal of your ideas, scripts, storyboards, etc. Periodically I will ask to see your binder.
Occasionally I will give you extra reading material.



Week #1, August 27, Introduction
Scanning the syllabus and week-to-week schedule
Checkout policies, facility use, student responsibilities, Media Services.
Introduction to the class: what is video art and independent media?
Screening of work by Bill Viola
Supplies needed for next week:
Purchase three-ring binder notebook with dividers and blank paper for notes
Purchase 1 Hi8 videotape and 1 Mini-DV tape to bring to class #2.
Required Reading
The Low Budget Video Bible

"Camcorder Basics: The Camera Section", pg. 67 - 90
"The Language of the Moving Image", pg.203-219
"Other Camcorder Features and Frills", pg. 101-111
"Tripods", The Low Budget Video Bible, pg. 131-135
"The VHS Family", pg. 151-153
"The 8mm Family", 155-158
"The DV and MiniDV Format", 159-179


"Fiona's Handy Camcorder Hints", Fiona Boneham

Optional reading:

"The Language of the Moving Image", 167-182: this reading explains many of the conventions (rules) used in production. However feel free to experiment by breaking the rules.

Week #2
September 3, Labor Day, No class

Week #3, September 10, The Camera
Intro to cameras, cables, adapters, tripods and tape formats. You will learn how to operate the cameras available to you through Media Services and complete an in class project.
Assignment #1: In-camera Edit In Class
Bring 1 piece Hi8 tape and 1 piece Mini DV tape to class.
The in-camera edit has been used by artists and activists throughout the history of video as a quick and inexpensive way to record ideas and events, create narrative and diaries, etc.

This is an in-class group project during which you may produce a short in-camera edited tape on the Hi8 or DV cameras with a small group of classmates. You will learn how to storyboard before starting to shoot.
Screening of the in-camera edit pieces.
Screening of artist's work: Sadie Benning and Tony Allard
Review Reading assignments:
In preparation for the Quiz next week on camera basics, review the reading assignments given the first day of class.
Handouts on offline editing

Week 4, Sept. 17
Quiz on camera basics.
Assignment #2:
Found Footage: Off-line editing and appropriation
Demonstration of off-line editing system. In this class you will receive an introduction to the off-line editing system and tape formats. You will have a chance to practice editing on the machines with an instructor present to make sure you understand how to use them. You will learn how to bump up or transfer Hi8 footage or Mini-DV to SVHS for editing. You will also learn how to take footage you did not shoot--appropriated footage from other sources or use found footage--and incorporate this into your work. We will also discuss various editing strategies and styles. Keep this work under 3:00.
This assignment includes:

1. making clean audio and video transfers
2. learning how to read and set audio levels
3. experimenting with the video switcher
4. learning how to time your edits and use principles of montage and the hard cut
5. how to work with appropriated or found footage to change its meaning or recontextualize it

Jem Coehn, "Lost Book Found"
Bruce Connor selected works
Elizabeth Subrin, "Swallow"
Tom Kalin, short videos
Reading due:

Handouts on off-line editing
The Low Budget Video Bible:

"Tape Editing Technology", pgs. 243-245, 252-254, 260-265
"Building an Editing System", 275-281, 285-290

Optional Reading:
"Non-linear Digital Editing Technology"

Week #5, Sept. 24
Quiz on editing basics
Work in progress due:
Discuss your ideas for the assignment; questions about editing; bring in videos or movies which use appropriated footage
Reading due:

Sergie Eisenstein, "The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram" (handout)
Please write a short 1-2 page paper which explains Eisenstein's theory of montage-name several ways in which edited video or film can show conflict. What are instances of montage in images you see on television or in films you may have watched?

Screening: "Man with a Movie Camera", excerpt; "From Here to LA"

Week #6, Oct. 1
Visiting Artist: To Be Announced

Week #7, October 8: Screening Your Work
Assignment #2 due: Please have completed work on SVHS master tape to show.
Assignment #3
: Media 100 Tutorial
You will be introduced to the Media 100 Editing System. During the week you should meet in small groups to complete the Media 100 Tutorial.

Week #8, October 15
Assignment 3 due: Media 100 Tutorial due.
Demo digitizing to the Media 100. Demo how to prepare your footage for Media 100 editing and mastering. Timecode.

 understanding time code
 recording time code to your tape
 how to digitize video and audio
 how to maintain your files on the Media 100
 patching

Critique of Media 100 Tutorial Assignment
Reading due handouts:
please read in two weeks; handout on time code

Week #9, October 22
Media 100 Hands-on quiz
Assignment 4:
Text on Screen
Choose a text you particularly enjoy (Poem, lyrics, fictional excerpt, letter, found text, laundry list, etc). Incorporate this text visually into your video work. This can be done through experimenting with the CG Studio, bringing text in from PhotoShop or other graphics applications, handwriting text and shooting it creatively with you camera, using graffiti etc. Be creative with your treatment of the text. This piece should be edited using the Media 100 and the off-line. You will also learn how to output your work during this assignment. Keep the work no longer than 3:00.
"Ship of FooLs", Tony Allard; "Prospero's Books", Peter Greenawy
Media 100 CG Studio; importing graphics from PhotoShop; key FX; transitions

Week #10, October 29
Research Presentation Due
Please present your video excerpt and research from Surveying the First Decade. Research Paper also due. (Please see end of syllabus for details) Presentation limited to 10 minutes.
Reading Assignment due

Week #11, Nov. 5
Research Presentation Due
Please present your video excerpt and research from Surveying the First Decade. Research Paper also due. (Please see end of syllabus for details) Presentation limited to 10 minutes.

Week #12, November 12
Assignment #4 Text on Screen due: Please have your final piece ready to show. You should have it edited on the Media 100 and mastered to BCSP or SVHS with VHS dubs. Turn in one VHS dub for credit for this assignment. I will be checking them for audio and video levels.
Assignment #5,
The Documentary Interview: Make a video based on an interview with a person(s) of your choice. Choose a topic and interviewees who will make good subjects. Each video should include an interview with the subject(s) and cut aways or other appropriate footage. It will be graded in part on the clarity of that audio recording, lighting and on your creative response to assignment.
(if time permits)
Steve Matheson, "Stanley"
Required reading

Handout: "Sound Reasoning: Recording Stereo Sound"
The Low Budget Video Bible:"Audio Basics", pgs. 315-350

Optional reading:

The Low Budget Video Bible:
"Lighting", pgs. 353-372

Class #13, Nov. 19
Workshop: Camera, lighting, microphones
Required Reading due:
Handout on lighting

Class #14, Nov. 26
Work Day

Class #15, December 3
Work day

Class #16, December 10: Last class
Assignment #5 due: Screening of work in class.



Surveying the First Decade

This is a nineteen hour collection of early experimental video works made in the U.S. in the 70's and early 80's. It is on reserve in Media Services. There is a reader which accompanies the tapes that will help orient you to the work. It is divided into several subject areas, from activist work to feminist work to image-processing.

Assignment: Choose one video or excerpt from Surveying the First Decade to research and to present to the class. Your presentation should last about 10:00 You can choose a tape by scanning through the collection, finding one that interests you and researching it and it's context, or you can scan the written materials on reserve, find tapes within the materials that interest you and see if they are part of the collection. . Also write a 4-5 page research paper to accompany your presentation. Please use and cite in your paper 3 sources you consulted during research on the tape.

Below is a list of on-reserve research materials and books which will help you in your writing and presentation about these tapes. The two books and other materials listed are on reserve in the library. They can be checked out for two days.

Materials on Reserve in library:


Illuminating Video, edited by Doug Hall

Resolutions, ed. Michael Renov & Erica Suderburg

Other essays on reserve:

"I Say I Am: Feminist Performance Video in the 70's", Chris Straayer
"Video and Electoral Appeal", Patricia Thompson
"Videoperformance", Willoughby Sharp
"Nam Jun Paik, composer
"Provisional Overview of Artist's Television in the U.S.", David Ross"
"Video and Counterculture", Patricia Mellencamp
"Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism". Rosalind Krauss
"What is Paper Tiger Anyway", Adriene Jenik
"Challenging the Global Cultural Factories", Herb Schiller
"Postmodern TV: Wegman and Smith", Patricia Mellencamp

If you have any questions about the assignment or would like guidance in choosing material which is interesting to you, please feel free to talk with me about it. For those you who have already given a presentation on Surveying the First Decade, please choose another video from the reserve collection.