Dartmouth High media program gets upgrades with help from students

Jun 26, 2022

Lights, camera, action!

The Dartmouth High media program got a major makeover this year as upgrades were made to its control center and equipment.

Media is a study track at Dartmouth High which includes five different half-year classes — ranging from beginner skills to near-professional “internships” — as well as an extracurricular program, all overseen by teacher Robert Perrotti.

The students — who number about 125 at any one time — produce a variety of programs from coverage of events and School Committee meetings to talk shows and profiles of Dartmouth High’s extracurricular clubs and teams.

The videos are posted on the media program’s YouTube channel DHSTVmedia.

“That’s kind of our branding,” Perotti said.

The upgrades to the facility included major changes to the control room, new wireless audio equipment, new graphics software, and a video wall which acts as a backdrop for studio shows.

And students didn’t just benefit from the equipment once it was installed.

To save money and gain even more valuable experience, Perrotti’s students helped plan, configure, and set up much of the new equipment.

“Learning how to do it and figuring it out is a great skill for the students,” Perrotti said, adding that he learned a lot from the experience himself. “As we get new equipment, I have to learn along with the kids.”

In one instance, Perrotti sought bids for a professionally-installed video wall, consisting of four big-screen TV’s put together to create one giant picture.

But the price — quoted at about $47,000 — was far more than they could afford. So, with help from the school’s engineering class and custodians, the media students built their own.

The final price, Perrotti said, was about $3,000 — such a bargain that he said they are considering adding two more panels to the wall next year.

The department was also able to save money by applying for grants, which paid for portable live streaming equipment that can be used to broadcast live events online.

All this hard work and penny-pinching has led the media department to go from having “literally nothing” in terms of equipment when Perrotti first arrived in 2017, to a professional-level media center, he said.

And the transformation of the facilities has been reflected in the success of the students and the quality of their work.

“You can actually see the quality changing year to year [looking back at the archive of the DHS TV YouTube channel],” Perrotti said. “It just keeps improving.”

As the final class in the media track, Perrotti said seniors can take an internship class in which they work directly with Perrotti and DCTV and act as producers, coordinating events and managing the work of their fellow students.

“They take on the role of student leaders at that point,” said Perrotti.

Some students have even been recruited to do work with outside companies as student interns, where they are paid for their expertise.

One student, Perrotti said, is making $30 an hour shooting videos of dance recitals.

“We just want to give kids the experience out there when we feel they’re ready,” he said, adding that when students realize they can get paid for the work, they understand how valuable the skills they’ve learned really are.

“Their faces light up when they get that check,” he said.

Perrotti said that although the program has only been around a few years, some of his former students have already come back to speak to the class while enrolled in media studies programs at schools like Emerson College and Bridgewater State University.

While DHS TV Media produces several programs, including talk, news, and sports shows, the students also broadcast a variety of live events and provide coverage for Dartmouth School Committee meetings.

“Before, I don’t think people really saw what happened [at School Committee meetings], so I think we’re doing the community a service,” Perrotti said, adding that current viewership numbers are “holding steady” at about 1,000 per meeting.

Event coverage too can make a positive impact on the community.

In a recent example, the media students covered the high school’s Special Olympics event, filling the live four-hour broadcast with their own commentary, interviews, and even drone footage.

The video has nearly 2,000 views, showing that there is demand for their coverage.

Perrotti said that he wants to expand DHS TV Media’s coverage of community events, and would even be willing to cover private events when appropriate, which could help bring in revenue for the program.

“We want to increase our presence in the community,” he said.

To request coverage from DHS TV Media for an event, email Perotti at robertperrotti@dartmouthschools.org.