Published Nov 01, 2018
Meet the Digital Cinematography Grad Using His Degree to Raise Awareness About Visual Impairment
Kenny Cheairs uses a mix of technology and DIY philosophy to make commercials, music videos, documentaries, and more.
Above all, Kenny Cheairs sees himself as a storyteller. In the past, the Digital Cinematography graduate told stories through his music. Now, the content revolution is in full swing, and no medium is prized more than video.
“If content is king, then video is some sort of emperor,” he says. “I’ve always been a visual person. I loved drama and theater in high school, and my friends and I would film a lot of comedy skits when we were growing up.”
Despite an appreciation for performance, Kenny never really touched a camera before enrolling at Full Sail. It’s not that he wasn’t interested - it’s just that he didn’t think cinematography was for him. That’s because Kenny is legally blind.
“A lot of people ask me why I would choose to go into a visual field as a person who is visually impaired. And I think it was just the right time for me. Technology allows me to make the kind of art that I love to make,” he says. “So I just ran with it.”
He’s still running with it. As owner of KNE Films, Kenny has produced commercials, music videos, wedding videos, short films, and more. He does this work mostly by himself, with the help of a few friends and a bevy of devices designed to aid him in his work. He uses the zoom feature on his iPhone as a digital magnifying glass. This allows him to read the tiny print on the buttons of his Sony FS-5 camera. His iPad serves as a large-screen monitor, and at home he edits his footage on a 60-inch Vizio screen. At this point, he does a lot of things by feel.
“I can’t read the shutter speed button on my camera, but I know how it’s set based on its position,” he says. For any artist, you have to take time to get to know your instrument, but for me, it’s vital to what I do.”
KNE is based out of Kenny’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, a town with a vibrant music and arts scene that helped shape Kenny’s artistic philosophy.
“I’m an old-school punk kid, which means I grew up in a DIY culture. I do a lot of things on my own, but I’m okay with that because it allows me to switch gears easily. I’m interested in a lot of things — documentaries, music videos, short films — and the DIY mentality allows me to embrace the potential in each of those things,” he says.
Kenny is using his skills as a platform to raise awareness. He’s currently working on a documentary exploring the world of visually impaired artists.
“My vision isn’t the strongest, but my perspective is my greatest strength,” he says. My eyes don’t work, but that’s okay. Technology helps me focus on the story.”