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Public Affairs

Lights, camera, action: Broadcast legend honored

April 29, 2004

Image of the front cover of "Zettl's VideoLab 3.0"Herbert Zettl has dedicated nearly half a century to a profession that he believes he did not choose, but rather, it chose him. His passionate devotion to that field of broadcast education has earned him one of the industry's highest honors. On April 17 the professor emeritus received the Distinguished Education Service Award (DESA), given by the Broadcast Education Association (BEA).

In recognition of his contribution as an author, scholar and educator to the profession of electronic media education, Zettl received the award at the Broadcast Education Association’s 29th annual convention in Las Vegas.

"I am proud of having my 40 years in the education field recognized this way by colleagues and BEA," Zettl said. "In fact, my former professor at Stanford University, the late Dr. Stanley Donner, and Rebecca Hayden, the editor and publisher responsible for several editions of my media books, are both DESA recipients. So I am in good company."

Zettl is best known as the author of three widely used media production textbooks -- "Sight, Sound, Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics," "Television Production Handbook" and "Video Basics."

Photo of Herbert ZettlBefore joining SF State in 1959, Zettl was a producer-director at San Francisco television station KPIX Channel 5. He was convinced to try teaching by Stuart Hyde, then chair of the department now known as Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts (BECA). Zettl believed in the ideals of Hyde, who wanted “to make the world a better place to live through the prudent use of electronic media” and spent the next 40 years educating young people from all over the world to work toward that goal.

Zettl's area of expertise is media aesthetics -- the study of television production through the use of light, sound, space, time and motion to create images on television and film. He is described by his colleagues as an enthusiastic individual who is excited about ideas and loves challenging his students.

"Dr. Zettl was perhaps the first person to think of television as an artistic aesthetic medium," said Phil Kipper, BECA Department chair. "As the founder of that way of thinking, he gave our department a unique focus that attracted many students and scholars who were interested in this field to our University."

"Sight, Sound, Motion" is considered as the seminal guide for the academic study of television, film and video production. The textbook has been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Spanish and Greek and is used extensively in both professional and academic arenas.

"As media producers, we can no longer rely solely on instinct when it comes to encoding messages. We need to acquire the knowledge and skill to select and apply those aesthetic elements that help us translate significant ideas into significant messages efficiently, effectively and predictable," Zettl said.

"As consumers of media messages, 'Sight, Sound, Motion' helps us to see behind the obvious text and experience and judge television and film communication on several emotional and intellectual levels with accuracy and consistency."

Over the years of working in broadcast and television production, Zettl has collected many memorable experiences. As assistant director for CBS, Zettl had the opportunity to interview Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in his Berkeley home, speak with a warden of Alcatraz when it was still an operating prison, and direct an interview with Richard Nixon. He also worked as an academic specialist for the United States Information Agency, providing consultation to television stations in Bangladesh, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany and Malta.

The Broadcast Education Association is a worldwide organization for professors and industry professionals who teach college students of broadcasting and electronic media. The award is given to an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution to the American system of electronic media.

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson


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