Hobby or résumé builder?

It may seem odd to some, but skills related to video games and video podcasting have an ever-increasing presence in the career world of today. Just like any other skill set, the sooner one is given access the better. The University of Northern Iowa's Camp Multimedia (CMM) recognized this growing need and has offered an exciting introduction to these skills to interested youth for the past four years, and this year was no different.

The camp lasted one intense week in which campers were introduced to the skills that pertain to the fields of video production and video game design. The camp used a wide variety of programs to teach participants, and by the end of the week, each participant had completed a project, be it a video podcast, a digital animation or a video game. This year the camp hosted four different sub-camps: animations, video podcast, video game design and advanced video game design. A current UNI student or recent graduate led each sub-camp.

First-year counselor Valyn Reining led the animations section of the camp. At the start of the week, Reining said she was a little nervous. "Going into that first day, you have to assess what they have and haven't done and what they would like to do." Reining had four campers in her sub-section, and together they created an animated collage using artwork made in Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Premier -- all programs her campers had never used before.

"It's just a matter of being able to light a fire. Once you show them 'this is what you can do,' they want to carry it out and do it."

A more seasoned counselor, Joshua Mitchell, led the video podcasting crew. This summer marks Mitchell's third summer as a counselor for CMM, and he says he is always happy to come back. "This camp is only one week, and I'm always amazed how quick kids of this age, sixth through eighth grade, grasp the concept of editing. With people my age, it takes months to figure out the software and how to do certain things. But to see the projects done in this time span, it's always amazing."

Similar to the animation group, the video podcasting sub-camp used some Adobe software, along with iMovie. Mitchell said the goal of the camp was to introduce his campers to some new programs, as well as video editing techniques; different camera shots and angles; various types of transitions and effects; and how to export videos to YouTube or podcasts.

Leah Jeffries co-counseled the camp's largest sub-camp, video game design. Twelve campers were given an introduction to video game concept development; techniques and jargon of the industry; and an introduction to the program Construct 2, which is available as a free download. The sub-camp was an instant success, said camp coordinator Jim O'Loughlin, and because of its popularity, he decided to add another class in the same vein: advanced video game design. He said he knew kids who enjoyed last year's camp would be coming back, looking for more.

Jacob Meade stepped up to fill the new counselor role for advanced video game design. Using the open-source, free program Blender, he led a group of five campers in the exploration of 3D animation and game design. Meade has been teaching the program since 2009, but this is the first time he has taught a group of this age. 

"Some people think middle school kids can't handle this sort of program, and that's not the case at all. It's just a matter of being able to light a fire. Once you show them 'this is what you can do,' they want to carry it out and do it." 

By using free programs or commonly accessible programs like Construct 2 and Blender, the goal is to encourage campers to continue exploring and developing the skills introduced during camp. "The idea would be that someone would pick up something they are good at and run with it," said O'Loughlin, "that they would be able to continue their learning outside of camp."

For more information about camps at UNI, visit www. uni.edu/camps.