NOTE: The syllabus is nearly complete for Spring 2023, check back for minor website updates

Course Meeting

Meeting time

For Spring 2023, the course’s lectures have been pre-recorded and you may watch at your own pace, so long as you keep up with the sections. While there are no in person lectures, every other week we will meet synchronously via Zoom for sections/labs (see Syllabus for schedule). Attendance at synchronous sections is optional but encouraged. Each week, students must submit a reflection on the lecture/section’s topic. See sections/labs for more information.

Meeting Location

Online, the lectures have been pre-recorded in 2019. Lectures are public on the Weeks page. We will meet live for sections every 2 weeks (see Sections / Labs)


Dan Coffey, Ian Sexton, David J. Malan


[email protected]

Office Hours

By appointment. We encourage you to email the staff to schedule an online meeting if you would like to chat!


This is a practical, introductory course that gives a fast-paced overview of a broad range of topics related to contemporary digital media. The course aims to equip students with an understanding of the basics of exposure and composition which are vital for the closely related fields of digital photography and digital cinematography. Topics also include fundamental lighting techniques, video technology, video production processes with practical exercises in each stage of the workflow, audio production, video compression, and distribution.

Given the power of modern personal computers, all course topics apply to both professional production environments and personal media projects alike. By the end of the course, students can expect to understand common production workflows for a wide array of digital media including digital photography, video production, audio recording, and practical related topics.


  • Access to a camera with full manual control (see FAQs)
  • Weekly access to a computer and sufficient internet speed for web-conferencing and editing


Zoom sessions will be held on alternating weeks. You should install and test Zoom before the first class meeting.


In the alternate weeks the class will meet online via Zoom for synchronous in person discussions and labs. Attendance is not required but strongly encouraged. For participation credit, all students (attending section or not) will be required to submit a reflection paragraph which will follow the discussion from the section. If you don’t attend the section you must watch the media on your own time and submit the reflection.


Separate of assignments, you will be asked to provide feedback to your peers. This will count towards the Critique and Participation portion of your grade. Timely feedback relative to the assignment is important. These feedback requests will be assigned by email, canvas, or similar mechanism.

Sections / Labs meeting time

Alternating Mondays 6pm to 8pm ET. Links are in both the Canvas Calendar and the Weeks page of the course website. Location: Zoom

Lecture Topics and Due Dates

Date Week Location Topics Released Due
Monday, January 16 0 Online Pre-course material & Welcome, 2023 edition Assignment 0  
Monday, January 23 1 Online Telling a Story and Introduction to Post Production Assignment 1,
Final Project Specification
Assignment 0
Monday, January 30 2 Online Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion Assignment 2 Assignment 1
Monday, February 06 3 Online Framing, Composition, Lens Basics Assignment 3 Assignment 2
Monday, February 13 4 Online Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion Assignment 4 Assignment 3
Monday, February 20 5   NO CLASS (President’s Day Holiday)  
Monday, February 27 6 Online Exposure and Visual Camera Artifacts Assignment 5 Assignment 4
Monday, March 06 7 Online Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion Assignment 6 Assignment 5
Monday, March 13 8   NO CLASS (Spring Break) Assignment 6, part 1
Monday, March 20 9 Online Basic Video Production Assignment 7 Assignment 6, part 2
Monday, March 27 10 Online Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion Assignment 8 Assignment 7
Monday, April 03 11 Online Basic Audio Production and Sound Design   Assignment 8, Final Project Idea and Schedule (checkpoint 1)
Monday, April 10 12 Online Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion    
Monday, April 17 13 Online Video Encoding, Technology, and Delivery (pre-recorded)   Final Project Progress checkpoint (checkpoint 2)
Monday, April 24 14 Online (Optional) Lab Week: Small group discussion    
Monday, May 01 15 Online (Optional) Lab Week: Small group critiques and discussion   Assignment 10, Final Project Draft Checkpoint (Checkpoint 3)
Monday, May 08 16 Online (Optional) Final class meeting, Project Presentations   Final Project

Grading Criteria (with approximate weightings)

Below is a percentage breakdown of how we grade this course. As always, we may make adjustments to this scale if necessary.

Assignments 60% (9 assignments at 6.66% each)
Final Project 25%
Critique, Reflection and Participation 15%
Total 100%

Graduate Credit

This course is available for both graduate and undergraduate credit. Assignments are mostly the same (documented where requirements differ). Graduate students will be held to a higher standard when it comes to grading.

Late Policy

Students may turn in 1 assignment or project past the deadline without penalty, up to 7 days late, with notice to the staff before the original deadline. Students must also alert the staff once a late assignment or project has been turned in so that it can be graded. All other assignments and projects must be turned in on time or they will receive an automatic 0. The final project and all checkpoints may not be turned in late.

Final Projects

A larger final project will be due at the end of the semester in addition to the projects above. The project has three checkpoints to be outlined in the project specifications. All checkpoints are required.

The final project must include the following elements: still photography, video, and a web component. We highly encourage students to help each other, but everyone must submit their own project.

The final project specification will be released at the first lecture so that you may start planning early!


Submitting assignments will be specified within each assignment specification.


The Extension School is committed to providing an accessible academic community. The Disability Services Office offers a variety of accommodations and services to students with documented disabilities. Please visit Disability Services for more information.

Academic Integrity

You are responsible for understanding Harvard Extension School policies on academic integrity and how to use sources responsibly. Not knowing the rules, misunderstanding the rules, running out of time, submitting “the wrong draft”, or being overwhelmed with multiple demands are not acceptable excuses. There are no excuses for failure to uphold academic integrity. To support your learning about academic citation rules, please visit the Harvard Extension School Tips to Avoid Plagiarism, where you’ll find links to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources and two, free, online 15-minute tutorials to test your knowledge of academic citation policy. The tutorials are anonymous open-learning tools

Acknowledgement and Authorization

Harvard plans to record audio, photos, and video of this course’s lectures, labs, sections, office hours, and other events and activities related to the course (the “Recordings”), with the aims of making the content of the course more widely available and contributing to public understanding of innovative learning (the “Projects”). The Recordings, or edited versions of them, may be made available to other Harvard students, to students at other educational institutions, and to the broader public via edX, the Internet, television, theatrical distribution, digital media, or other means. It is also possible that the Recordings may be used to make other derivative works in the future. Students may elect not to appear in photos and video used in the Projects and may still participate fully in the course.

When you submit the course’s first project, you will need to sign online an Acknowledgement and Authorization in the following form:

I understand that, if I do not wish any photos or video of me to be used as part of the Projects, I should so inform the course’s instructor by emailing [email protected] within one week of enrolling in the course. In that event, I understand that I should sit in the designated “no-film” zone of the course’s classrooms and should not walk in the field of view of the cameras. I understand that Harvard will take reasonable steps, with my cooperation, to avoid including identifiable images of me in the Projects’ photos and video shot in classrooms and other course locations after I opt out as just described. I understand that I am free to opt out of the Projects’ photos and video in this way, and that doing so will not affect my grade or my ability to participate in course activities.

Unless I opt out of the Projects’ photos and video as described above and take the steps that will be outlined by the instructor to avoid being filmed, I authorize Harvard and its designees to record and use photos and video of my participation in the course and activities related to the course (the “Recordings”). I understand and agree that the Recordings may include my image, name, and voice. I also understand and agree that, even if I opt out of the Projects’ photos and video, my spoken name and voice may be picked up by microphones outside the “no-film” zone and may be included in the Recordings.

I understand and agree that Harvard and its designees will have the irrevocable, worldwide right to make, edit, modify, copy, publish, transmit, distribute, sell, publicly display, publicly perform, and otherwise use and make available its respective Recordings and any other works that may be derived from those Recordings, in any manner or medium now known or later invented, and to authorize others to do so as well. I hereby transfer to Harvard any rights, including copyrights, I may have in the Recordings that Harvard makes. I will remain free to use and disseminate any ideas, remarks, or other material that I may contribute to course discussions.

I acknowledge and agree that I will not be entitled to any payment, now or in the future, in connection with the Recordings or any works derived from them. This Acknowledgment and Authorization is a binding agreement, and is signed as a document under seal governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Unless you opt out as described in the Acknowledgment and Authorization, you are agreeing, by attending the course, that your participation in the course and related activities may be recorded and used by Harvard in connection with the Projects without further obligation or liability to you, even if you do not sign any authorization.

If you have any questions about the above, contact [email protected].

The above applies to Zoom sessions as well.


Do I need to purchase a camera for this class? What camera should I buy?

We do not require you to purchase a camera for this class. However, we recognize that some students enter this course with the intention of improving their photography and were therefore planning on purchasing a camera anyway. Of course, given the wide range of cameras available, it is difficult to recommend any single particular camera that might fit everyone’s needs!

For this class, you will need access to a camera with full manual control and interchangeable lenses. It should also be capeable of HD video, in resolutions of either 720p, 1080p or greater. If you are local, there are some cameras that meet these requirements available for loan from Harvard Extension’s Church Street Media Support Lab. If you are at a distance, you may have a friend or family member that is serious about photography and might lend you their camera for some assignments.

In the end, if you are able to delay a camera purchase for even a few weeks, you may find that you have a better understanding of your own style of photography and which features you may want in a camera. Buying used from B&H or KEH may also make a purchase more affordable.

If you are looking to purchase, here are some possible options depending on your budget. If you don’t know about sensor size, not to worry, we’ll cover that in class! You should choose the tool that best fits your budget and expected use. We’ll explore the tradeoffs in class. If you buy a camera, be sure to also get 1+ batteries and 1+ memory cards. Please note that there is a whole world of other cameras and brands out there. If you have questions if a camera that you find will meet the course requirements, feel free to email us.

Brand Camera Price Sensor Size Category
Canon EOS Rebel T6 $345.73 APS-C (cropped) Entry-level
Canon EOS-6D $1,498.00 Full Frame Intermediate, High-end
Canon EOS-5D IV $3,999.00 Full Frame High-end