Diversity & Inclusion
Arts / Media / Software / Universities

Howard students just got a tech upgrade through new partnership

With Backlight's software, HUFO students will have access to technology for scripting, reviewing, editing and more production functions.

Behind the scenes of a HUFO production. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of State of Local Tech Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.

Update: This article has been updated since its initial publication to clarify HUFO's work and relationship to Howard University. (5/15/2023, 5:03 p.m.)

Thanks to a gift of tech, filmmaking students at Howard University are one step closer to the professionals.

The Howard University Film Organization (HUFO) recently received a monetary contribution and access to pre-and post-production video software developed by Boston’s Backlight. With the help of the assets, Howard students were able to use professional technology for organizational and creative processes in filmmaking.

HUFO, which was founded in 1989, is a student-led film organization at Howard. The org films on-campus debates and invites industry professionals to speak with students about their careers. HUFO reached out to Backlight in October 2022 for a subscription to CeltX but ended up working with Backlight to receive access to the Celtx, ftrack Studio, cineSync and iconik platforms. Backlight also provided training for the students to learn how to use the software properly.

“It wasn’t just like we were thrown this software and told to swim off the deep end,” HUFO Director of Operations Rachel McCain told Technical.ly. “They helped with the onboarding process and made sure that we understood what we were doing — which meant a lot to us,  and it really was a fantastic process.”

Previously, HUFO VP Aaliyah Plummer said, the organization had to work entirely off of hard drives and SD cards. Now, it has access to cloud options and other tech that make workflow easier.

“Having the ability to finally upload that to the cloud, having the ability to have call sheet templates that are uniform throughout and not just having people pick from one of their favorite websites, having something rigid and firm was really helpful,” Plummer said.

This year, HUFO’s work revolves around Afrosurrealism. With the help of the software, the org is creating a film series called “Where’s Everybody At?” that both undergraduate and graduate students will take part in. Production of the three short films wrapped earlier in 2023, and students are currently preparing the films for festivals.

Afrosurrealism, McCain said, centers on the idea of what it looks like to be young and Black in 21st-century America. The idea is to take a bit of a “warped and whimsical” glimpse of everyday life to create something enjoyable.

“This is the first production endeavor that our organization has taken under our wing. So this was the perfect partnership to be able to be introduced to this process,” McCain said. “Our entire team really looks forward to getting to know their software and being able to have this knowledge going into our future projects.”

For Ben Kaplan, the CEO of Backlight, the best part of this work with HUFO is that the company could provide software that students actually use, thus making a direct impact on their work. Backlight’s software is used by professionals in the industry, and he thinks it’s a great experience for the students.

Plus, he added, it was an easy way for Backlight to support Howard students, and he hopes it inspires other companies, as well.

“There are so many easy ways and small things that companies of all sizes can do to help and try to make contributions to society beyond just jobs and growth,” Kaplan said.

Companies: Howard University
Series: State of Local Tech Month 2023

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