Prosâ€¢Film cameras are available by 3rd semester.
â€¢Staff are reluctant to fine students for late returns.
â€¢Campus has 3 sound stages / studios for student use.
â€¢Equipment is usually given to students in great condition.
â€¢Equipment is provided to non VMA students
Consâ€¢Students can only borrow equipment specified by their instructors.
â€¢Administrators can be rude and personally invested/responsible for equipment.
Emerson College is a wonderful film school. Graduating just 2 months ago in May 2010, I have a fresh recollection of what has been offered by their Equipment Distribution Center on a regular basis from 2006 - 2010. Since tuition to this school is quite costly (approaching 40k per year) prospective students should be aware of what media making tools you'd have at your disposal - continue reading for some behind the scenes insight to aid your college selection process.
The good news:
It's not that hard to get state of the art professional film equipment even as an underclassman. Production courses in the VMA (Visual Media Arts) department require few prerequisites, as video cameras (such as the DVX) are available to students in their 2nd semester. 16mm film cameras can be accessed by sophomores (Bolex - 3rd semester, ARRI-SR - 4th semester).
You can make reservations 2 weeks in advance, allowing you to get all the equipment you need if you plan ahead. The EDC (Equipment Distribution Center) staff are usually hesitant to fine students with costly late return fees. The dozens of Equipment packages doled out by the school is usually maintained in great condition. Usually errors in packages are made by students when they mistake or forget part of their orders.
There is an auxiliary equipment department called The Media Service Center which provides an adequate equipment resource for non VMA students (which VMA students can get with a few white lies - complete with DVX, HV-30, wired Lavalier mics). The Center also provides 2 fully equipped and sound proof Final Cut Pro suites with a mini studio, all usually unbooked. If you're looking to edit like a pro you're in luck. Throughout the campus you'll find the 16 avid suites and 80 lab dual boot computers (MAC/PC) with final cut pro or premiere pro at your disposal (expect complete CS5 software by fall 201o or shortly after). The capability at Emerson to shoot projects in-studio are tremendous. There are 3 professionally wired and maintained studios on campus (2 in the Tufte and 1 in the Paramount) which students can reserve for their projects (it is possible to shoot extracurricular work with a few white lies to staff).
Reality check, Emerson's not perfect:
Students can only borrow equipment specified by instructors of courses in which they are enrolled, usually only production courses (at first only 2 production courses are permitted per semester, starting with 5th semester until graduation you can take up to 3). While most are kind and easy going, there are some EDC administrators who can be rude and personally invested/responsible for equipment, making visits to the EDC troubling.
Every course except for the competitive cinematography courses, B.A. and B.F.A. workshops (thesis courses) prohibit you from taking out skater dollies, glide-cams, 2K lights and more. As you would expect there are some items for advance film shoots such as follow focus systems, jibs, kino flos, etc. which aren't for rent whatsoever. So you have two choices: 1) Make excellent connections with extracurricular clubs like FPS, NBS, EIV to get special access to their unique equipment stock. 2) Rent from Film Star Rentals in the South End or Rule in Brookline. Stay tuned for a post comparing Film Star and Rule (the rental houses most suitable for Emerson students).
Rental Specifics: (may vary according to prerequisite)
As far as audio, Booms and Shotgun Mics can be rented as early as freshman year, Lavalieres, both wired and wireless are available for upperclassmen. Extras like tripods, flex fills, sand bags, hi-hats, etc. are available with almost any production class.
UNDERCLASSMEN (a max of 2 production classes can be taken every semester)
Freshman year, one can rent a lowel elemental kit (2 Omni lights and 1 Tota light) and a DVX / PD-150 (SD video cameras). Sophmore year, one can rent an ARRI combo Kit and ARRI lights (four 650/1000Watt Fresnels) and a Bolex / ARRI-SR (film cameras) and Doorway Dollies!
UPPERCLASSMEN (a max of 3 production classes can be taken every semester)
Junior year, one can rent an HVX-200B (HD video camera). Senior year, one can rent an PMW-EX3 (HD video camera).
As far as the future goes, I would be skeptical of any expensive new additions to Emerson's equipment stock pile. Just last year the college purchased several Indie Dolly Systems and somewhere between 5 and 12 Sony PMW-EX3 packages, not to mention the completion of a hefty addition to their campus, the Paramount Center. Complete with a studio with several 5K and 10K lights. But, professors have talked about Emerson adding the Canon EOS 7D to their arsenal. Rumors have it that the RED camera will be available for advanced senior level / grad courses. However, the RED is already available for students at least once every semester through the NBS (National Broadcasting Society) chapter workshops held at the college. I would be surprised if DSLRs aren't introduced by fall 2011.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your college endeavors, and don't forget that getting a film/video degree will not land you more than an entry level position at a "typical" office job. But at Emerson you may find your creative niche strength and/or group of gifted friends to launch a career that is more exciting and fulfilling than most others you could pursue.