When Adam Robinson was a freshman at Lansdowne High School, he walked into Brandon Nicklas' televideo classroom. He was too young to sign up for Nicklas' televideo class — prerequisite requirements meant sophomores were the youngest students eligible for a seat — but he wanted to check it out nonetheless.
He "just started asking questions about the equipment that I didn't even have the answer to," said Nicklas, in his tenth year at the school..
Immediately, he knew there was something special about Robinson.
After that, Nicklas said he remembers thinking "'this kid is going to be doing great stuff.'"
Over the course of the next three years, Robinson met, and then exceeded, those expectations.
Last year, he and another Lansdowne student, Nathan Airy, who graduated in 2014, co-produced a film about the role of technology in learning that received honorable mention at the inaugural White House Student Film Festival.
This year, Robinson has worked at the school recording and producing videos of events and performances and has directed and produced television shows as part of an internship for the Baltimore County Public Schools cable television station BCPS-TV.
When the school won a grant to upgrade its video production equipment going into Robinson's sophomore year, before he had even taken a media course, Nicklas asked him to help pick out the tools and devices the school would purchase with the funds. Knowing that Robinson would be one of his students, Nicklas decided to get more high-end tools that he knew most students would never use.
Nicklas said he receives compliments about Robinson on a regular basis, but adds "I can only take very little credit for Adam. He's naturally gifted."
Making Robinson even more outstanding, said Nicklas, is that he doesn't just rely on his natural talents. He spends much of his own spare time learning about trends in shooting and editing and staying on top of the latest equipment.
For Robinson, the start of his interest in videography is blurry.
"I can't tell you the beginning," he said. He added that he remembers playing with his mom's point-and-shoot camera. He liked watching the picture on the camera's viewfinder move. It wasn't like watching television, he said, it was like watching a still photo move.
When he was 12 years old, he put together his first film. It was about his little sister, Erin, who had been born a year earlier. He recorded and edited a video of her baptism and first birthday party set to Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." He showed it to his family, and they loved it.
"That kind of gave me confidence to see my projects through to the end," he said.
In the years since, he has expanded his experience beyond family videos. At BCPS-TV, he shoots and produces game shows to instructional shows. He has gained experience in all kinds of videography over the past few years. But he can't pick a favorite genre.
"Anything kind of video-related, I have a passion for," he said.
He shoots most of his work on the school's Cannon 5D camera and does a lot of editing in Premiere, one of the most popular video editing software programs. And he has made a concentrated effort to learn Final Cut and Avid Media Composer, programs widely used in the televideo industry.
In addition to reading books and industry magazines in his spare time, Robinson has also taken four classes with Nicklas. It has reached the point, Nicklas said, where Robinson functions almost more like a teaching assistant than a student in his own class.
"He's the kind of kid where I can give him an assignment and he does it completely independently and to a very high standard," Nicklas said.
When multiple students in the class have questions about editing or the equipment at one time, said Nicklas, Robinson sometimes steps up to help some of the students while Nicklas helps the rest.
"His technical knowledge surpasses mine," said Nicklas, who added that he has focused largely on providing Robinson with instruction in the non-technical side of televideo, such as concepts and the history of the industry.
Robinson says he does like working on his own in some instances, but he also enjoys the input he gets from other students when he works on projects in a group.
"It allows me to bounce ideas off other people," he said.
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For the White House Film Festival, he worked with a number of other students for parts of it, though he and Airy took the lead on the production end. It was a good experience, he said, even though they didn't win. He said the pair, along with Nicklas, were working on revisions to the video when they received word about the recognition.
"We were gunning for something to be shown at the festival," he said. "But honorable mention is good too."
He insists he's not a perfectionist, but he does go back to old work on a regular basis to critique the editing and many his projects involve re-shoots after he imports the clips onto the computer.
"I think the details make everything," he said.
In the fall, Robinson plans to attend the Community College of Baltimore County. After that, he said, he will most likely transfer into Towson University, where he will major in video production or communications. He's tempted to pursue a career in news production, he said, but his ultimate dream would include working in production for a show like Saturday Night Live.
When Robinson graduates on May 29, Nicklas said it will be bittersweet for him and his televideo program.
"It's going to be different without him, because there won't be that person setting the bar as a student," he said.