Master of Fine Arts Digital Cinema
Mr. Edward Alyn Warren, III, MFA
The Digital Cinema MFA program provides graduates with an in-depth study of digital motion picture production and postproduction and a foundation in film history. Graduate fellows develop technical skills in digital cinema production, the ability to critically evaluate film and video projects for practical and commercial outcomes, and a critical acumen in the area of film, visual communication and media studies. The curriculum covers screenwriting, digital cinematography, lighting, directing, production management, non-linear editing and post-production workflow, producing and distribution.
The program focuses on developing filmmakers well versed in all aspects of low budget, independent narrative and documentary style filmmaking and prepares graduates to work in a variety of production capacities in the following fields: commercial or industrial film and television, digital entertainment media and communication, educational or instructional media production. At the completion of the Digital Cinema program, students will possess the knowledge and skills needed to produce a professional quality digital motion picture and to participate in the ongoing scholarly and critical discussions of issues in the field of film, film theory and criticism.
The MDC program consists of five core seminars and six workshops with concurrent studio practica. In addition, depending upon their thesis project and professional interests, graduate fellows select one elective in film studies and one specialization workshop in advanced screenwriting or producing documentaries prior to taking the 4- course thesis sequence. Graduate fellows will complete the program with an original professional quality, digital short tailored to their interests, needs and desire for career development and a written thesis containing original research, critical analysis and a complete record of the thesis project. At the completion of the Digital Cinema program, students will possess the knowledge and skills needed to produce a professional quality digital motion picture and to participate in the ongoing scholarly and critical discussions of issues in the field of film, film theory, and criticism.
Program Delivery Format
The MDC program is offered as a hybrid format with instruction for a majority of courses delivered online, and a required one-month intensive residency at the Los Angeles campus. The program is also offered full-time at the National University Los Angeles campus with a majority of classes conducted onsite.
All Digital Cinema fellows must take the intensive residency consisting of three courses onsite at the National University Los Angeles campus: MDC 683P Directing and Production Management Practicum, MDC 688 Production MDC 689 Postproduction. The MDC 688 Production workshop lasts the first two weeks of the month and the second, MDC 689 Post-production, runs for two weeks during the second half of the month. MDC 683P runs for the whole month. These three workshops provide students with hands-on production experience in a collaborative environment using professional equipment and must be completed prior to the thesis sequence.
Students who are unable to devote a full month onsite for both MDC 688 and MDC 689 may elect to split the onsite residency by taking MDC 689 first and then later scheduling MDC 683P and MDC 688, which must be taken concurrently. For more informationon the residency workshops, contact the program lead faculty advisor.
Production and Course material fees listed below cover the additional costs of the residency including workshop and production, expendables, materials, supplies and related expenses. Expenses for accommodation and transportation are not included in the fees or tuition, and students are responsible for arranging their own accommodations and transportation during the onsite residency. Additional equipment fees may apply to some onsite workshop courses.
For more information on program formats, residency workshops, onsite courses and fees, contact the program lead faculty advisor.
Production and course material fees:
MDC 688 Course Fee........................................................ $1,200
MDC 689 Course Fee.......................................................... $550
To qualify for the Digital Cinema thesis sequence the MFA fellow must have successfully completed all core courses by maintaining a B average and have completed the Production Sequence with a minimum grade of B. Candidates who do not meet these criteria will be required to successfully repeat a course based upon policies for Graduate programs published in the National University catalog and consultation with the program lead faculty. Through the thesis project a thesis fellow must demonstrate her/his ability to work under the guidance of a thesis advisor to independently develop, produce and edit a short subject digital motion picture project of between 12 and 30 minutes in length, that presents a coherent storyline and sustains the interest of a discriminating audience. Projects may be documentary or fiction. Specific parameters of the project are developed in consultation with a thesis advisor.
In addition to the digital short motion picture, the MFA Candidate must complete a written thesis that demonstrates the candidates ability to communicate coherently, critically, and creatively. It will include the complete production documentationa treatment or synopsis, a project funding, budget, schedule and distribution plan and a shooting scriptas well as a critical analysis of the project, relevant genre influences, and a self-assessment of the candidates evolution as a filmmaker during the thesis period.
The thesis sequence consists of four-courses and may last from 12-18 months. The courses are: MDC 692 Thesis Development, MDC 693 Thesis Production, MDC 694 Thesis Post-Production and MDC 695 Thesis Qualification. During Thesis Development a thesis fellow works with a thesis advisor to develop the story and outline for a short film project and completes a formal thesis proposal that includes a first draft of a fiction screenplay or documentary production outline. Upon qualification of the proposal, the fellow is eligible for the Thesis Production course. During this time the candidate develops a shooting script, conducts pre-production planning and completes the production phase of the project. Upon satisfactory completion of the production phase, the fellow is eligible for post-production, during which s/he edits and submits a a series of cuts for review by the editorial thesis advisor. During post-prouction the editorial thesis advisor will arrange for the thesis development and production advisors to review the project as a thesis committee based on the progress and completeness of the project. The committee wil provide written notes and criteria for successful qualification of the film to the thesis fellow for incorporation into a directors cut. A thesis film must be sattisfactorily meet the qualification standards set by the thesis committee in order to pass Thesis Post-production.
Upon satisfactory completion of the post-production course, the fellow is eligible for Thesis Qualification, during which s/he completes the written thesis and submits it for evaluation. The thesis committee then makes the final determination on wheterh or not the thesis fellow has met or exceeded the qualification requirements for the Digital Cinema Master of Fine Arts.
A fellow must satisfactorily complete each thesis course within the specified term of the course. Thesis Development is four months. Production and Post-production courses are threee months each, and the Qualification course is two months. Consideration for incompletes are considered based on University policy. Any thesis course that receives an unsatisfactory evaluation must be repeated.
To be considered for admission, applicants must meet the University graduate admission requirements listed in the catalog under general information for graduate degrees as well as the following MDC program criteria. Students must submit an application packet, pass a personal interview, and attend the program orientation before they may begin classes. The application will determine applicant proficiency and skill sets in digital technology, editing and photography as well as writing and communication in English at the graduate level.
Students interested in enrolling in this program should contact the MDC program lead faculty advisor for further information regarding the application process and to determine at what point in the sequence they might enter the program. Entrance points may vary depending on applicant experience, skills and proficiencies.
Students in the Digital Cinema MFA are required to conduct independent research and be able to write at the graduate level. It is recommended that students have had undergraduate courses or experience in some of the following areas: communication, film, literature, media studies, graphic design, multimedia arts, history, philosophy, psychology or sociology. The MDC application and personal interview will determine whether or not an applicant meets the program prerequisites. A successful applicant should have entry-level knowledge of video editing software and be able to create new projects, capture digital video and audio assets, assemble and insert, edit, and export sequences to a variety of QuickTime formats for DVD, Internet and streaming formats.
Students are also required to have the basic technical knowledge and skills needed to operate a digital camera using manual settings and be familiar with photographic principles like exposure, iris, and shutter, as well as such digital concepts as white balance, image resolution, frame rate and screen ratio. Students who do not have such experience or skills should take a basic noncredit video editing and digital photography preparation course. Students may also be asked to submit a short digital video project for consideration. Contact the program lead faculty for details.
Students admitted to the program are expected to possess or have reliable access to a high-speed Internet connection including an email account outside of National University for course projects and assignments and a personal computer that meets the system requirements for professional digital video editing software currently available. (Always check the manufacturers web site for system requirements before purchasing software. Students may need to upgrade their computer or components to meet those specifications.) AVID Media Composer or Final Cut Pro editing software are used for the onsite editing and post-production course and students are expected to have a working knowledge of one of those software programs before taking MDC 652 689. All students must have access to a DVD rental service for films and television programs, and own an external FireWire 400 or 800 (IEEE 1394) hard drive for media storage. Students in the online/hybrid program must have access to a digital still camera, a digital video camera with manual controls, a tripod, a basic lighting kit, and nonlinear editing software prior to taking MDC 661, 651, and 652.
Program Learning Outcomes
- Critique the creative works of others using relevant critical models and professional vocabulary
- Evaluate professional and theoretical issues and processes pertaining to movies and aspects of digital filmmaking based on recognized industry models and standards
- Incorporate research from primary and secondary sources into sustained analyses and interpretations of screenplays, films and television programs
- Generate an original narrative screenplay that incorporates standard industry format and narrative structural elements
- Create an original screenplay or a documentary production treatment with a coherent structure and compelling storyline that engages and sustains the interest of a discriminating audience
- Generate the standard industry documentation required to effectively communicate and collaborate with a production team during the development, production, editing and distribution of a professional motion picture
- Generate original digital motion picture sequences using current cinematic theory and techniques to support the thematic concepts and story objectives of a script
- Construct digital motion picture sequences using current visual and sound editing techniques and theory that engage and sustain the interest of a discriminating audience
- Implement post-production workflow processes to capture, edit, finish and export digital video assets to appropriate distribution media
- Create an original short motion picture based on an original concept with a coherent storyline that is significant and complex enough to engage and sustain the interest of a discriminating audience and is suitable for distribution or submission to a film festival
(22 courses; 81 quarter units)To receive a Master of Fine Arts, students in the Digital Cinema program must complete at least 81 quarter units of graduate work, of which a minimum of 63 quarter units must be taken at National University. Students can transfer up to 13.5 quarter units at the graduate level from a regionally accredited institution in the areas of communication, film, media studies, or production, provided the units have not been used to satisfy the requirements of an awarded degree. Program applicants wishing to transfer credits into the program should contact the program lead faculty advisor and arrange for an evaluation in advance. Refer to the section in the graduate admission requirements for additional specific information regarding application and matriculation.
First Year (9 courses, 33.75 quarter units)
Second Year (6 courses, 24.75 quarter units)
- MDC 650 Producing Digital Cinema
- MDC 653 Film Directing
- MDC 683 Production Management
- MDC 683P Production Management Practicu
Four-week practicum only offered onsite and must be taken concurrently with MDC 688.
- MDC 688 Production
Two-week workshop is only offered onsite and must be taken concurrently with MDC 683P.
- MDC 689 Digital Cinema Post-Production
Two-week workshop is only offered onsite and recommended to be taken after MDC 688 and concurrently with MDC 683P.
The production sequence courses MDC 653 through MDC 688 must be taken in sequence. MDC 683P and MDC 688 and MDC 689 are only offered in an onsite residency at the National University Los Angeles Learning Center. This production residency is only offered in July of each academic year. MDC 650 and MDC 688 may be taken separately by splitting the production residency into two visits. However the time to degree may be extended by up to 12 months. Contact the program Lead Faculty for more information.
Advanced Study (2 course; 6.75 quarter units)
Electives (1 course, 4.5 quarter units)
Thesis Sequence (4 courses; 11.25 quarter units)