Rocket Jump Film School Will Shake Up Online Filmmaking Education

What happens when the filmmaking team behind one of the most popular channels on YouTube decides to offer online education for free? You get what will undoubtedly be a shake-up in the online education game (specifically as it relates to film education).

Rocket Jump Studios is the home of Freddie W, a YouTube channel with over 7.5 million subscribers and over 1.7 billion views (that’s billion, with a “b”). They are the makers of Video Game High School, voted by Variety Magazine as the #1 web series of 2013. The studio itself was #5 on Fast Company’s 2014 top ten most innovative companies in Hollywood. Each one of their weekly videos is jam-packed with blockbuster caliber VFX and racks up millions of views. The are a force to be reckoned with.

VGHS Behind the Brand

They’ve offered behind the scenes and “making of…” videos for years. But this project takes that to a whole new level.  There’ll be 8 tracks of education including directing, producing, cinematography, post production, sound, screenwriting, arts & vanities, and visual effects. Each week there’ll be a new lesson shot and edited with the production values on par with their regular weekly shorts. Incorporated into each lesson will be forum discussions, adding an interactive element.

Other Players in the Game

RJFS is entering a game that is pretty jam-packed already. There’s CreativeLive, Lynda.com, Story & Heart, Film Riot, Vimeo Film School, Shane Hurlbut’s Inner Circle, and many, many more. Some of those are paid resources, some are free. All you have to do is Google any topic on filmmaking, hit the “Videos” tab on the search results page, and you’ll find dozens of free content. So the question becomes: what sets RJFS apart?

Well, one of the things I like about the lessons I’ve seen so far is that they have personality, comedy, and even a bit of irreverence. A great example of that is their cinematography lesson where they compare a $150 plastic Canon EF lens with $15,000+ master Zeiss primes; but they do it in a way that is fun and lighthearted, poking fun at traditional methods of lens testing. Basically, they say, “Screw focus charts. How does the final product look, can the average joe tell the difference, and who cares?” An attitude like this is gonna piss off a lot of high-brow cinematography purists for sure. But you can’t deny the point is poignant and worth considering. Their content is both educational as well as entertaining.

I particularly like the “moral of the story” that Freddie and RJFS dean Lauren Haroutunian make at the end of the video: that the difference you see out of these lenses is best seen at the extreme levels and the feature set, and as long as you know the limitations of each, and what you need for your shoot, you can make the right choices based on your budget.

The Future of Education is Online

Make no bones about it. The future of education in this medium is going to be online. One could make the argument that that “future” is already here (ergo my strikeout in the heading). I think there will be a place for in-person education like workshops and brick & mortar film schools for a while. There is something about meeting fellow artists in person, touching the equipment, getting access to equipments, finding a built-in network of people to help you on shoots, in-person discussions and conversations, and building those networks of contacts. But the access to online education, and even the advent of video conferencing and streaming technologies like Meerkat, Periscope and Ustream, make the online education world more and more accommodating and engaging. And if they continue on their current trajectory, I think RJFS will be one of the leaders in that space.

Here’s the introduction video to the school.

Here’s a podcast panel discussion with some of the people behind the school.

I hope to do some more reviews of online education resources, so stay tuned.