PRCC programs work together to build sophisticated film equipment

May 13, 2010 - 2:32pm -- braswell

When Pearl River Community College''s Healthy People Now! program needs equipment, the crew often turns to the college''s technical programs for assistance. That is what they did recently to construct an expensive camera tracking device. The device allows the camera to "float" from one point to another without jerky or bumpy motions.The tracking dolly was recently completed by PRCC''s Machine Shop Technology program. The program is located in new quarters in the Career Education Building on the north end of the Poplarville campus.Ronn Hague, Healthy People Now! writer and filming director, drew up simple plans and found some online photos of the type equipment he needed and went to the Machine Shop Technology program''s instructor, Kenny Adams.Adams'' students had produced a couple of inexpensive additions to the equipment Hague needed, including a large tracking dolly used for transporting a camera across rough terrain and a rotating camera apparatus, but Hague was looking for a more technical piece of equipment that would require machined parts to produce."Most of the equipment used in Hollywood today was initially produced in machine shops late at night by Cinematographers who needed something different to accomplish a special shot," Hague said. Following that tradition, Machine Shop Technology student Ben Atkins of Lumberton took Hague''s hand-drawn plans and began turning metal on large and complex equipment."Ben did most of the project''s work on a Haas Computerized Numerical Control milling machine, a machine all the students are taught," said Adams. "He is in his final semester here running some top-of-the-line equipment to make the camera apparatus. He did a fine job.""We modified the dollies we found online so that with the addition or removal of several wheels, the sled apparatus can be placed on tracks," Hague said, "or used as a table dolly without tracks, or can be used as a device called a ''high hat'' for shots low to the ground. Atkins did a wonderful job with the device. He even came up with some modifications of his own that really added to the variation in which the device can be used."When asked about the experience he gained, Atkins said, "I never expected I would ever build film equipment, but I found out that a lot of the equipment used in film is made in the machine shop. It was an interesting project that helped me hone my skills."Atkins recently won the Gold Medal in his category at the SkillsUSA regional contest and will be representing PRCC in the SkillsUSA Nationals in Kansas City, MO in June. He will be taking part in the Precision Machining contest.The advertised version of the tracking dolly apparatus, which is not as versatile as the one built by the college''s Machine Shop Technology program, sells for $800. The materials cost the program less than $300."Students from numerous programs are benefitting from the experience they are gaining from the Healthy People Now! program,"said Nursing/Wellness Coordinator and Nursing Instructor, Lindsay Loustalot. "Nursing students are learning to address and realize the extent of how negaive psycho-social issues affect all aspects of the community." Loustalot is the Healthy People Now! Films Executive Producer.The Television and Film Productions class also gains hands-on training on the Healthy People Now! Productions sets, while the college''s technical programs are able to put their training to good use for a program that actually benefits the area K-12 schools.The college''s Healthy People Now! program began six years ago as a joint effort between the Department of Nursing Education and the Office of Public Relations. The program was funded by the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation for $50,000 in January 2008.