This past summer of 2015, I, along with Callie, produced and shot the short film “Reach”. It’s about a group of students that traveled to Uganda to meet and understand a life-destroying condition known as “obstetric fistula”. We traveled with these students and shared the experience of hearing devastating stories and meeting women who have survived the disease. However, I’m not here to talk about the film itself. I’m here to talk about how we lost the majority of our equipment and continued to produce a film.reach-animationOur stay comprised of about 2 weeks in the country. We were greeted with the most open arms and to extremely gracious hosts. We were welcomed to their homes as they cooked, cleaned and did everything to make our group feel comfortable. And beside a bit more humidity and heat than I’d prefer, we felt safe. I tell you this because our hosts became our friends and they played such an important role after we discovered our equipment vanished.

It’s taken a while for me to come to terms to the fact that our equipment was stolen. Personally, it was hard to know that it happened under my watch but without going into too much detail into why and how, the fact of the matter still remained: Everything was gone.

Gone were the thoughts of “What does my next shoot look like? Who do I interview next? How many timelapses can I get tonight?” Immediately, I sprung into action and started listing out exactly what was missing. Our hosts, being as helpful and beyond appalled as to what happened, helped us file a police report. The police then brought dogs, to see if they could sniff anything out, to no avail.

It wasn’t until noon when I sat down, it all started to sink in. I realized that we were 1 week into our 2 week trip. Callie told me that not all was lost. She kept the hard drives and a camera with her that night to work on. We still had something to shoot on! Gears started turning and I began to think what we needed to continue our production.

    • This is what we had: A camera, lens, one battery, two chargers, one memory card and two hard drives. Those two hard drives were a miracle, as they had everything we’d shot backed up.
    • This is what we needed: an acceptable microphone and a tripod.

I thought I was fair in thinking we only needed two things. I was also confident to think that in Uganda, those two things could be found somewhere. Our hosts arranged a ride for me to take me into the market to find a camera store. Any camera store.

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This is me proudly displaying my craftsmanship in taping back the headphones for our new lav mic.

It must have been 6+ hours until we got back from the city. We probably checked five different places, made multiple calls and came home with one of those two things: a tripod. During dinner, I sat there and felt defeated. We had a camera that could record ambient audio, but not interview audio. Maybe we could use our phone as a recorder, that would have worked better than in-camera audio.

Then, a moment of brilliance. I asked our group, “Does anyone have iPhone headphones?” All of them turned to me and several started to speak and said they do. Bingo.

The microphone on the headphones, it was crazy but it just might work. After testing it, we concluded: it worked surprisingly well.

So for the next week, production moved forward using a Ugandan tripod and makeshift iPhone headphones lavalier mic.

For the first time that day, I felt pretty good about myself.

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A still from one of our interviews using the our new “mic”

Reach: Partnering With the Forgotten Women of Uganda will be released within the next month and preliminary viewers swear they wouldn’t have noticed that all our gear was stolen during production. Also, a special thanks to our friends at Terrewode who without their help and understanding, we would be looking at terribly shaky interviews and barely audible anything. 

 

-Darryl

lab0

So you’ve got yourself a Drupal site, and it’s feeling a little neglected. Maybe it doesn’t have any friends and nobody plays with it anymore. Why not bring it to one the Drupal Open Labs? Or maybe you don’t have a website yet but you’ve always been thinking about getting one. Why not stop by and try one out? At the Open Labs, someone might let you play with theirs.

Think of the Open Labs as a sort of 4-H club for website owners. The free program has been around for a while as part of CWS’s suite of web training and support services, but this quarter we’re giving the sessions an adrenaline injection in the spirit of experimentation. We’re planning to hold extended sessions weekly through March, and we’ll not only have our Drupal trainer-in-residence, Sher Fenn, on hand, but we’ll also bring developers, site builders, graphic artists and writers.

We’re looking for web property owners who want to improve their sites. Bring your projects to the lab and we’ll assemble a team on the fly to either workshop solutions right on the spot or set you on a course to continue to work on your own with confidence. Are you lacking a robust web support team? Well now for two hours per week you’ve got one. Oh, and the program isn’t restricted to just Drupal. We welcome other web species as well, from WordPress to garden variety HTML.

So bring your neglected pet projects or even your major initiatives to the lab and let’s poke ’em with a stick and watch what happens.

Here are the dates for the upcoming labs. And you can sign up here. We hope to see you there this winter.

  • January 22, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • January 29, Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • February 5 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 12 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 19 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • February 26 -Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 4 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 11 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
  • March 25 – Autzen Classroom, Rm 2082, 2nd Floor, Valley Library, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Photo: Oregon Digital Collections)

walkers

“I think there should be a real war against commercials,” said Werner Herzog, the great German director famous for his cerebral documentaries and his dark narrative voice. Charlie Brown warned us of the perils of commercialism as he stood next to his sad little tree. Edward Abbey famously called the television, “the Great American Lobotomy Machine.” For much of my life I largely agreed with this trinity of wise souls, swearing off the tee vee, opting instead to spend my time with trout streams and Russian novels, pretending to be both a Luddite and somewhat clever.

Suddenly too many years have slipped by and here I am now working on commercials. Am I a hypocrite, a pragmatist, or was the younger, more idealistic me just plain wrong? Maybe all three or none of the above.

After dabbling in film, I’ve come to appreciate the artistry, creativity and craft that goes into commercials. The good ones, not the local pitches for your town chiropractor…though even some of those have their moments. Everything from the writing, visual style, editing, narration, composition can be quite sublime in a well-made television pitch. Certainly, nothing on screen garners more attention per frame than the classic 30-second broadcast spot, with many TV spots sporting budgets that rival feature films.

Which brings me to our latest broadcast commercial at Oregon State. Our budget was nominal. Microscopic by industry standards. What’s more, it was it was put together by a band of in-house state employees, not some fancy agency where creative types get to wear retro tee shirts and cool glasses. But still, our commercial will be seen by millions thanks to an agreement between our school, the NCAA and the networks that broadcast our sporting events. It’s a great deal, really…we get to show our commercial, basically for free, during the only type of programming left on television where people actually watch the commercials: live sports. Corporations would pay millions for that kind of exposure. But our little homemade commercial gets shown instead. Take that AT&T, Nike and Cialis!

So we made a commercial at OSU. In house. Take a look, and then I’ll tell you how it was put together:

So after watching the commercial, you might be wondering a few things: What’s with the ocean stuff? Well, OSU has a historic legacy of strength in marine and ocean research, plus there’s a brand new Marine Studies Initiative (so big it even has its own website!) that is bringing an expanded ocean focus to all of our colleges and programs. Why didn’t you show the campus? I really wish you would have. We usually do, but we had a different point to make this year. Oh, and we thank alumni like you for your ongoing support. Did you use a drone? No, we actually strapped and intern to a weather balloon.

We started the process with some internal conversation. We had some agreement that this would be a rare opportunity to have a focused commercial. Most university television spots say the same thing: we do a lot of stuff, and we’re good at all of it. Cue the students tossing a frisbee on the quad. Cue the one handed catch in the end zone. Cue the lab assistant in a white coat and safety glasses holding a beaker colored with food dye. You get the picture. The root word of university is ‘universe.’ It’s tempting to try to be ecumenical when it comes to your lone television spot, especially when there’s a room full of people to please. But vague, broad claims filled with cliche images and fancy boardroom words are deadly boring in the world of marketing and basically try to say so much that they wind up saying nothing.

But we figured we could be bold this year and actually say something concrete, and thankfully our leaders agreed. Our university launched a Marine Studies Initiative this year, which connected all of our eleven colleges. The groundwork had already been established, and that helped greatly to sell the concept.

We wanted to say something simple. Our basic message was, “The ocean needs our help, so we’re helping the oceans.” Bam, get ‘r done, OSU.

The next step was to brainstorm ideas. We had several versions and concepts for how we could bring the marine environment to life. One concept included a woman surfing. But the pitch that actually stuck was an idea to illustrate the path that water takes to the sea from glaciers in the Cascades to the open ocean. That had a nice downhill visual metaphor that’s easy to grasp.

This pitch had a number of things going for it right off the bat. First, the concept that the ocean environment extends to the mountains is a core concept of our Marine Studies Initiative. Next, if you follow water from the glaciers to the ocean in Oregon, you encounter some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. We knew the scenery would be a character in the piece. Probably the main character.

I wrote a rough script and made some image notes. The original idea followed a single drop of water from glacier melt all the way to the sea, and along the way you’d encounter OSU people in the real places where they conduct research or connect to the landscape. I took that script to a talented illustrator on our team, Oliver Day, and he created illustrations to match the script, giving us our storyboards.

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We asked a student worker to read the script. It wasn’t just some random intern, though, it was Claire McMorris, who had a wealth of theater experience and happens to be the very sort of exceptional, involved student who we like to show off. We set it to music and showed the concept to our leadership team next to some other options that approached the idea of marine studies from other angles, and they made their choice and green-lit it on the spot.

That posed something of a problem. We now had to execute what we had designed. And in a hurry. Our concept called for nine different locations and dozens of people across a range of environments. What’s more, we were running out of dry weather (a precious commodity in our corner of Oregon). Our team wanted to also be sure that our commercial featured people represented a number of different programs across the university and ensure that the research was accurately portrayed and was as ecumenical as possible, even if most images were on screen for less than a second.

Enter the scheduling fiasco.

But we soldiered on and started shooting, assembling different teams and sending them to the far corners of the state with some packs full of camera gear, some emergency OSU sweatshirts and a granola bar or two.

The locations we filmed included a receding glacier on Mt. Hood, mountain streams, a rocky seaside cliff and a collection of boats on the open ocean and even a dive shot in one of the tanks in the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The concept shifted away from following a single drop of water as the script was workshopped through the usual channels, but the fluid downhill motion remained a metaphor throughout the project. The script was more like the connecting tissue. The basic function of the words was to deliver this concept at the culminating point: the ocean is facing the greatest challenge in human history, and OSU is rising to meet that challenge.

The downhill motion was a vital visual metaphor…the bones of the piece. The script served as the tendons. But there is one more component that is equally as vital, and that is the transition style. Justin Smith and Darryl Lai on our team helped create this concept of a circular movement from a wide, aerial landscape shot transitioning to a handheld shot. That transition helped to emphasize two important points about OSU: our community is made up of real people, and Oregon’s landscapes are our spectacular natural laboratories. This concept of place and people was technically executed through a mechanical camera technique. I’m reminded that Tolstoy, when asked what was most vital in storytelling, plot or character, the age old dichotomy, he answered to everyone’s surprise: transition. Storytelling is all about transitions, or so says old Lev Nikolayevich.

And who said 30-second commercials couldn’t be literary?

So to get a sense of how we executed those transitions, check out our behind-the-scenes footage:

Because every detail and every person featured in the commercial was the result of a lot of thought and attention to authentic nuance, we didn’t want all of that detail to exist solely in the heads of the people who made the commercial. We developed a companion website to help tell the deeper story behind the images, and we plan to make it part of a larger campaign celebrating Oregon State’s commitment to protecting and understanding our natural resources at a critical point in history. In past years we’ve been equally faithful to authenticity with our commercials, with every person featured, even narrators, being a real member of the OSU community with a real story. But often, the only people who knew this fact were on our communications team. It would get mentioned at conferences and in meetings and the like, but through this website we hope to extend that concept and showcase the people who made this all possible.

The great thing about a project like this, where you work on location with people from different backgrounds, colleges and disciplines, is that you really become invested in their personal stories and their work. Some of the people I met on this project have already become new friends. All of them and their work will become parts of our future storytelling efforts.

Finally, here’s our extended version of the commercial. You can get a sense of the range and volume of material you need to shoot to get a 30-second spot like this:

 

Stats & Credits:
– DJI Inspire 1
– Panasonic GH4
– Audio mix by Digital One, Portland, Oregon
– Music: In Anticipation of Flight, D. Holter/M. Smith, License Lab
– Director – David Baker
– Cinematography – Darryl Lai, Justin Smith
– Behind the scenes – Kegan Sims, Oliver Day
– Storyboards – Oliver Day
– Design – Santiago Uceda, Oliver Day, Kegan Sims
– Additional writers – Callie Newton, Gary Dulude
– Producers – Laura Shields, Melody Oldfield, Brittney Yeskie, Larry Pribyl
– Web development – Kegan Sims


The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

An emotional connection

Whenever a police car is following along behind me I get this overwhelming sense of panic and fear. Usually they speed ahead or turn off in other pursuits but for that instant I am frozen thinking about all the possible laws I could have broken. It doesn’t matter what city I’m in, if they are a sheriff, state trooper or even campus security they all bring that same reaction. For many reasons (media, TV, personal experience) over time the law enforcement brand has developed this emotional connection.

That is exactly what we should strive for in our marketing efforts, although probably along the lines of hope and positivity instead of panic and fear. If we can create that kind of emotional response when people encounter our brand we will have joined the elite.

Ignore their minds connect with their hearts

Sometimes we get stuck trying to force our “Strategic message” on audiences that can’t relate. A great example of this is our Brand Statement. “Oregon State University is an authentic community, whose accomplishments, inclusive excellence, innovation and leadership promote a healthy planet, wellness and economic progress.

Your average human doesn’t think in these terms, that statement is really hard to understand. They don’t have a history of higher ed nomenclature to pull from. The base instinct that we are actually going for is “OSU, yeah they are super smart” or “OSU, they always impress me”.

Our typical pattern would be to do a very good job of storytelling. We would find a research breakthrough and if we were good we would come up with a way to make it relatable. It could be in written form, story, video, web site, etc.. Then if we were really good we would have systems in place or ways to make sure that content had maximum exposure.

Does that sound familiar? The content was created from an institutional perspective. The likelihood of creating an emotional response is pretty low. What if we came at it from a different direction? What if we created content with the purpose of getting people to think “wow, they are super smart”. We could come up with content that taught people something and not academic sense, more on a real life level. I bet if you made a list you could think of five things that you have always wanted to learn or maybe it’s five life hacks you learned in the last year.

Here is my list

  • Learn how to be an average singer. I don’t want to be a rock star I just want to be able to sing karaoke and people not hate it.
  • How to bake chocolate chip cookies? I’m terrible at anything culinary and learning simple recipes was super useful.
  • What are the best house plants and how to keep them alive? Plants are great to have around but I used to kill everything. A simple guide on what plants are easiest to grow and how to keep them alive would go a long way.
  • Poetry, I have always had an interest in writing poetry but I have no clue where to start. A basic guide would be really helpful in potentially unlocking something I’m passionate about.
  • How to change a flat tire. It seems silly but this is not a skill that you are born with and is useful for everyone.

So imagine we developed a series of content that accomplished all of these things. They were branded OSU but just cut right to the topic, no bull, no core messages. Imagine if you learned how to sing from a YouTube series? Wouldn’t you have a great connection with whoever provided that? The positive experience would transfer to the brand, people would consider us to be knowledgeable only because they had an experience where we taught them something as simple as how to change a flat tire.

Not only does this simple transference happen, but the content we would be producing is much more shareable and has a chance to reach a much larger audience. Even the best breakthrough research content has a limited audience and it is also temporal. Todays innovations are old news tomorrow.

Disclaimers

  • This is just one example and it might not even be a good one. It just represents the shift in how we could be connecting to our audiences in addition what we do now.
  • The OSU brand statement is not meant to actually show up in any collateral it is by definition steeped in academic terms. I very much believe in our brand statement and think that it is quite well written. It is just the easiest example I could find.
  • My visceral reactions to law enforcement, following me, no way reflects how I actually feel about them. I am deeply thankful for the men and women who dedicate their careers to protecting our communities. It’s also quite possible that the negative emotion tied to their brand is a good thing. It might help keep crime in check.

-Kegan

-Kegan

The idea came from an off-hand comment in another interview I was having with Ron Mize, the director of CL@SE at OSU. We’d talked about the subject of the story: The Tenured Faculty Diversity Initiative for almost half an hour. At the end of our chat, I asked him what he does for fun. Of course, most of our very dedicated professors don’t have a lot of free time, and he explained that he ESPECIALLY doesn’t because he happens to live in Portland and commute to campus in Corvallis four days a week.

I was shocked. I hate commuting. I live exactly 1.5 miles from campus. It takes me about 10 minutes on my bike…

“But people do this?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. And it’s not just him. There are more than a dozen faculty members at OSU in this unofficial carpool, and the idea intrigued me.

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My first thought was, “This could make a great story for our Beaver Nation PDX newsletter,” which I work on and contribute content to regularly. It focuses on content that relates to our Portland audience. Blah Blah…. But the idea became more than that for me….

I mean, these people are brilliant, right? Ph.D.s! In a car! For hours at a time! The conversations they must have! It wasn’t difficult to get the rest of my team on board with the idea.

I knew I couldn’t just talk to them about it. I needed to experience it for myself, so I got permission to join them on a Wednesday in May. But I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Please never accuse me of not suffering for my art. This is what happened:

•5 p.m., Tuesday: I picked up a car from the motorpool
•4:30 a.m., Wednesday: I drove to the Park-N-Ride in Tigard
•6:15 a.m.: I began my journey back to Corvallis with the Carpoolers
•7:30 a.m.: I arrived in Corvallis and made my way directly to Java II for some caffeine
•5:30 p.m.: I met the carpoolers again
•6:30 p.m.: We are stuck in traffic behind an accident that eventually closes I-5 North.
•7:30 p.m.: We arrive back at the Tigard Park-N-Ride. I hop back into my motorpool car and turn around
•8:00 p.m.: I stop at the Sonic in Wilsonville for more caffeine. And tater tots. I need the tater tots.
•9:00 p.m.: I drop off my motorpool car. Go home and directly to bed.

The result: This story. And I’m totally and completely thrilled with it. It was a blast, and I hope you enjoy reading it!

-Callie

Clear Lake is located at the headwaters of the McKenzie River.  It sits right around 3000 feet above sea level and the temperature fluctuates from around 35 to 43°F year-round.  The bottom composition and water sources for this lake all contribute to unbelievably clear water.  Rowing on the surface is more akin to flying across an alien terrain than what you’d typically expect on a mountain lake.  These conditions all contribute to a remarkable albeit challenging SCUBA diving destination.  It is an odd site to see weekenders unloading camping gear alongside divers unpacking tanks and fins.  It’s easy to understand the allure of diving Clear Lake once you drop below the surface.  Exploring the bottom of Clear Lake you will come across a preserved forest frozen in time, carpets of algae, and sunken boats.  Some claim it is possible to experience up to 200 ft. visibility in the lake.  Locals mentioned we were in the midst of a seasonal algal bloom though even so we estimated being able to see over 100 feet.  All of this awe and wonder doesn’t come without a cost.  During our visit the water temperature averaged about 40 °F.  Even with a 7mm semi-dry suit (I was the only non drysuit diver in our group) I was pushing my ability to fight off the cold after 30 minutes underwater.

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This trip was part of our continuation down the path of becoming AAUS certified scientific divers.  Currently in the middle of production on a film about global coral reef decline (coralreefmovie.org) it became essential for us to develop underwater filmmaking skills.  It has been an incredibly challenging and rewarding experience thus far.  Diving and shooting in varying conditions has really helped us become quicker to adapt and meet the demands of the shooting situation.  In all honesty capturing images underwater has proven to be far more difficult than we could have anticipated.  Our appreciation for what you see in any given BBC ocean documentary has gone through the roof.  Behind every shot is an incredibly skilled camera operator/ SCUBA diver managing an array of variables to capture the stunning images in the given project.  Our humble efforts have yet to reach that level though each dive gets us a bit closer to our goal.

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Equipment Used:

Panasonic GH4

Panasonic Lumix G Fisheye 8mm lens

Nauticam NA-GH4 housing

Interactive Communications has the important task of being a multimedia production team on the Oregon State University campus, which includes the production of video content ranging from short documentary to the university’s institutional commercial. We often get questions from our university partners from all corners of campus. Can you make a video for us? Is it possible to get such and such footage from such and such project? Can you teach our student worker how to use a camera? And the age old question…

What camera should I get?

Camera-question-mark

Last week, our discussion on camera equipment led to three key principles in building a camera package for use in the higher education environment. With this in mind, I’ve spec’d out three different packages. A low-cost package that aims to get quality without breaking the bank, a package that emphasizes future-proofing and finally a package centered around getting the best images within a higher-ed setting.

What we didn’t talk about last week was what kind of image quality and control we are looking for. Naturally for us, we want the best possible image, which typically translates to bigger sensors, thus leaving out handheld camcorders (dubbed “handycams”) cell phones and GoPro’s as cameras. Why not handycams, cell phones and GoPros? Short answer: Lack of control. Long answer: Another blog post.

I don’t want to knock these amazing devices in any way but if we want to ensure control in the work we do, the best possible solution will be a dedicated camera for the job. I also purposefully chose cameras that double as great photo cameras as well as having impressive video capabilities.

In these packages, I’ll list out a specific camera and additional accessories to consider with a general budget in which the package should typically run. However, I won’t be too specific, I feel like it’s important to do research and read about what makes a good tripod or a good camera bag.

 

Entry option

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In this package, the cameras suggested are both excellent cameras but also share the feature of having a dedicated lens attached. This means spending less money on lenses, which can be a huge expense. This does, however, limit the longevity of the camera, whereas an interchangaable lens camera (ILC) would be more versatile.

  • Panasonic FZ1000 or Sony RX10ii ($800 – $1300)
  • Tripod + tripod head ($200 – $300)
    • I’ll say it once and say it again, do not skimp on your tripod. It might be tempting to buy the $35 special, but you’ll regret it the moment you try to get a steady shot, or a panning shot (you know, what a tripod is used for…). The more you spend on a quality tripod, the better.
  • SD cards ($100)
    • These cards are getting cheaper by the day and with bigger capacity. Look for 32GB and above, but don’t skimp on the speed class, U1 or U3 is what you want to look for.
  • Batteries ($100)
    • The question of generic or OEM always comes up here. If it’s a question, just get OEM.
  • Zoom H1 or Tascam equivalent ($100)
    • These portable audio recorders are great to connect microphones with and also to record using their built-in mic. They use microSD cards, so if it doesn’t come with one, make sure to get one. In this case, speed doesn’t matter as much.
  • Lavalier microphone ($50)
    • A lav mic is just for interview situations. Almost a must for higher-ed.
  • Camera bag/backpack ($150)
    • A good quality bag will survive the test of time, keep your gear safe and make sure your gear has a place to live. Comfort is also key!
  • Total: $1,350 – $2,050

 

Forward-looking

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-G7FRA w EF-S 18-135mm IS STM_WEB IMAGE_pack_tcm13-1064826

This package offers a couple cameras that are capable of swapping out lenses, which provides the ability to get better images and range of shots. This comes at the cost of complexity and cost.

  • Panasonic G7 or Canon 70D ($800 – $1100)
    • The price here includes a kit lens.
  • Lenses (0 – $1000)
    • Spend nothing or spend it all on lenses. Like tripods, what you pay is what you get, so spend more money on good lenses, they will last a long time.  
  • Tripod + tripod head ($200 – $300)
    • I’ll say it once and say it again, do not skimp on your tripod. It might be tempting to buy the $35 special, but you’ll regret it the moment you try to get a steady shot, or a panning shot (you know, what a tripod is used for…). The more you spend on a quality tripod, the better.
  • SD cards ($100)
    • These cards are getting cheaper by the day and with bigger capacity. Look for 32GB and above, but don’t skimp on the speed class, U1 or U3 is what you want to look for.
  • Batteries ($100)
    • The question of generic or OEM always comes up here. If it’s a question, just get OEM.
  • Rode Wireless lav kit ($400)
    • A wireless system will greatly improve versatility and workflow during shoots.
  • Zoom H1 or Tascam equivalent ($100)
    • While the lav kit will work seamlessly with the camera, a portable audio recorder
  • Camera bag/backpack ($150)
    • A good quality bag will survive the test of time, keep your gear safe and make sure your gear has a place to live. Comfort is also key!
  • Total: $1,850 – $3,250

 

An ideal

panasonic_dmc_gh4kbody_lumix_dmc_gh4_mirrorless_micro_1028453

If your university has emphasized its support behind video storytelling, then this is the package for you. It combines the best functionality in technology today and longevity of use for years to come.

  • Panasonic GH4 ($1500 + $1000 for lens)
    • I’d recommend the Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 lens, it’s pretty much the best lens that Panasonic offers for this camera system, thus a great image and lens that will work for many years to come.
  • Tripod + fluid head ($500)
    • A quality fluid head ensures smooth pan/tilt movements without jitter.
  • SD cards ($100)
    • These cards are getting cheaper by the day and with bigger capacity. Look for 32GB and above, but don’t skimp on the speed class, U1 or U3 is what you want to look for.
  • Batteries ($100)
    • The question of generic or OEM always comes up here. If it’s a question, just get OEM.
  • Sennheiser ew100 ($630)
    • More versatile than the Rode wireless lav kit, the Sennheiser kit is a bit more expensive while being a mainstay in the industry.
  • Zoom H4n or Tascam equivalent ($200)
    • The difference here is the ability to use equipment that connects via XLR connector in addition to 3.5mm, which is an industry standard. This uses an SD card, so don’t forget to buy one.
  • Rode Videomic ($150)
    • An on camera shotgun microphone will be extremely useful when you don’t have time to setup a wireless lav. Not only that, this mic will pick up some excellent ambient sounds that will really help in editing.
  • Camera bag/backpack ($150)
    • A good quality bag will survive the test of time, keep your gear safe and make sure your gear has a place to live. Comfort is also key!
  • Total: $4,330

A camera is just a tool

The real key here is to get people thinking, and to give a general idea of what kind of investment it takes for a certain level of production. I tried to make these suggestions with campus communicators in mind, emphasizing a practical, timely and holistic approach. While these cameras are easy-to-learn, the art of storytelling is a lifelong pursuit in itself. Today, we discussed the tools to make that possible and I certainly hope that I’ve helped in starting a conversation on what tools are needed for your level of storytelling.

Let us know if you have anything to add or if you have questions on anything. And if your department has specific needs, we’re more than happy to talk. Thanks for reading!

-Darryl

 

Getting Started

My internship at Interactive Communications has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The journey here was quite random, after being rejected for a graphic design internship I was encouraged to apply for an internship with Web Communications (the department’s previous name). I kindly thanked the referrer, wallowed in self-pity and didn’t apply due to having no experience with web design or motion graphics.

Weeks later Santiago, the Assistant Director, contacted me and asked if I’d like to interview for the position, I thanked him for the opportunity and pointed out my lack of knowledge in their field. He explained that a few of their previous interns started off with a print background and transitioned into motion graphics, and that the important part was having a strong sense of design. The interview went smoothly, Santiago and Dave liked my portfolio, so I tried out After Effects and joined the team.

The Office, the Team and What I’ve Learned

A little while after I became a member of the group, the office moved downstairs to the basement of Adams Hall to an open floor plan with everyone in the department in one room. I understand this setup isn’t for everyone, but I honestly think it’s facilitated growth in our relationships and brainstorming. There are many moments when the office is so dead silent that visitors feel awkward entering the room and other times when it’s in an uproar either due to Kegan having an epiphany of what the next world changing app, sitcom or invention should be or Justin sharing a random video that’s on the borderline of morbid but you can’t help but laugh because of how hilarious it is. This place isn’t just a workplace; it’s a space for discovery, storytelling, laughter, and working hard.

Through these last two and a half years I’ve learned what it’s like to be a part of a true team. Each person brings a readiness to work with others, explore, stay focused and have fun. One of the projects that really brought us all together was the creation of the Beaver Nation Web Campaign. Every individual was involved in the gathering and creation of stories, videos, web design and photos. I narrated for the Beaver Nation Trailer, created a few animations and designed the Beaver Nation History Site.

Home page screenshot of the Beaver Nation history site with an archival photo of the Oregon State Campus in the background.
Home page of the Beaver Nation history site.
An image still from the animation  of Brian Wall.
Brian Wall Animation Still

When I started this internship I had no idea I would get to use and develop such a diverse amount of skills. I’ve explored narration, web design, motion graphics, puppet design, photography, project management, archival research and more through this position. I also didn’t realize I would meet such cool people, each person is witty, hilarious and fun to be around.

A screenshot from the animation Metabolic Melodies: Hemoglobin's Movin' Around, a light hearted animation that describes Hemoglobin in the body.
Here is a still from the animation I directed called Metabolic Melodies: Hemoglobin’s Movin’ Around.

Now It’s Your Turn (possibly)

My time here at Interactive Communications is coming to a close as I graduated with my degree from Oregon State University in June. Their internship will become available in the Fall. If you are a current student at Oregon State with a passion for graphic design, web design, motion graphics, animation and/or video editing then reach out to the team. If you want a creative internship that pushes your skills to the next level in an unpredictable and fun environment then this is the place for you. Email Interactive Communications at: web.communications@oregonstate.edu.

downloadIf you’d like to follow my journey you can find me at www.taylor-howard.com.

– Taylor

Interactive Communications has the important task of being a multimedia production team on the Oregon State University campus, which includes the production of video content ranging from short documentary to the university’s institutional commercial. We often get questions from our university partners from all corners of campus. Can you make a video for us? Is it possible to get such and such footage from such and such project? Can you teach our student worker how to use a camera? And the age old question…

What camera should I get?

Sure. You can go to Google, type in the same question and you’ll get an immense amount of information with a tremendous amount of varied opinions. The question our office can answer quite knowledgeably is what camera will work for higher education. Our office has been producing video content in-house for the university for over five years and we’ve learned a bit about bringing creative in-house to higher ed. Some of our work is award-winning, some ambitious and some just plain silly. All-in-all, we have a good idea of what campus communicators need and more importantly, what does and doesn’t work.

When a department approaches us with this question, their needs are simple: A camera that can shoot video, but also take photos. The good news is that pretty much every camera produced today can do this. The bad news is that every camera produced today can do this. To narrow the field, we often ask ourselves: Is it practical? Is it timely? Is it holistic?

  • Practical: The camera has to be something people will actually use and practical to use
    • Our campus communicators are already tasked to be multimedia multi-tools, we don’t need to send them to film school. However, nor should we neglect the basics.
    • No one should need to lug around a 50lb camera bag, plus tripod. Our campus communicators aren’t film crews and neither are we. If it doesn’t fit in the workflow, then it’s not practical.
  • Timely: There must be bandwidth to dedicate time, energy and passion to producing content.
    • This is a huge barrier to many departments on campus because of the multitude of tasks that are required of our campus communicators. Again, it has to be practical.
  • Holistic: We need more than “just a camera”. Additional gear that will support the sustainability and practical use of the camera are imperative.
    • Tripod, microphone, memory cards, batteries, lenses and anything else that might be necessary depending on application.

The bulk of this discussion has been very much a gear/equipment-centric discussion. However, we cannot stress enough how the camera is not indicative of the end result. Rather, the team behind the camera has everything to do with the caliber and quality of the produced video or photos. It’s extremely important to recognize how the camera will be used and to what means.

Justin and Darryl on location in Brazil

Next week, we’ll look at a couple different camera packages that will follow these guidelines and hopefully help those in higher ed to find the best solution for a camera package. Thanks for reading, and feel free to send a message or leave a comment.

 

-Darryl


The digital marketing series is a behind the scenes look at projects, campaigns, tools, tricks and other marketing machinations happening at Oregon State University.

Maximizing reach

So much of advertising depends on reach. It doesn’t matter what medium or channel you are considering. Before you can drive engagement and deliver conversions you have to start by reaching your audience.

Sometimes reach at a university ebbs and flows outside of our control. During the summer months reach is diminished. Students leave, faculty go on vacation and our physical touch points start to dry up. The same goes for our digital space, during these months some of our audiences have fewer reasons to go to our home page. The natural (unpaid) forces that provide motivation for people to enter our funnel temporarily dry up.

EndofYear
Commencement 2015

There are also a few times each year where our natural reach is maximized. During commencement our touch points increase. Parents, siblings, alumni, current students, etc. all coming to campus, some for the first time in years. Web traffic analysis shows that this is also a peak time for the university home page and core sites.

As bargain hunting marketers we make an effort to pounce on the opportunity. Every year our department composes features about our graduates often including stories and videos detailing their exploits and possible career options. This allows us to celebrate the university through the stories about some really interesting people. These are particularly useful in targeting our prospective parent demographic. Parents want to imagine their students getting a degree and moving on with the job of their dreams and we happily share examples with them. Callie our storytelling guru and Darryl, the lord commander of video production, usually pair up to make excellent content.

Here is one student from this year’s graduating class.

Normally these profiles would be inserted into our carousel towards the top of the Oregon State home page. Without going on a rant I’ll just say I’m not much of a carousel fan. Typically this feature of our site has a 1.3% click through rate. You can spin that number however you want, but to me it isn’t good enough. This year we decided to try something new.

Going outside of the box

It is unrealistic to consider completely redesigning our home page for this one use and the current design was never constructed to be very flexible in terms of layout. We decided that there might be a way to augment it with some small CSS tricks in order to take advantage of this temporarily increased reach. Oliver (one of our graphic designers — which is oversimplifying his amazing talents, but I digress) came up with the concept of adding functionality that allowed the home page to essentially slide away revealing bonus content. The thought would be to make it feel like you were finding a secret or something hidden. Making an emotional connection rather than the expected experience with the carousel. The simple act of changing the background to an image, instead of a color, might register with the users that something has changed.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

Screenshot of our home page with a background image for the first time. You can also see the button that was added.

After talking it through we came up with a fairly simple solution. We inserted a new graphic that when clicked slid the main content area of the home page to the right revealing our special commencement feature. This was done with one line of jQuery and absolutely positioning the commencement feature underneath the main container with CSS. We played around with all sorts of ideas, but this seemed like the best compromise. We didn’t want to impede the user experience by forcing people to go through this feature, but we also wanted it to be interruptive enough that it would be noticeable.

After clicking the button in the left corner of the page the main content area slides to the right exposing our hidden content.

After clicking the button, in the left corner of the page, the main content area slides to the right exposing our commencement feature.

The results are in

By attaching event tracking to the button, that activated the animation, we were able to track how many times users interacted with our marketing Frankenstein feature. During the 14 days that this feature was on the home page it was “opened” 3,956 times by 2,652 unique users. Those numbers in isolation tell me that at least some people figured out how to interact with this new feature and absorbed some of our storytelling goodness. A few of which probably clicked on it a few times for the fun of it.

A more complete pictures comes into play when you know that there were 101,906 unique users that visited the home page over that same 14 day window. Giving us a usage rate of 2.6% (amount of unique people who interacted out of the total unique people who possibly could have). That is almost double our standard CTR of the carousel, so in some sense you could consider this a smashing success. I also heard anecdotally that people enjoyed the hidden content and generally thought it was a pretty cool feature.

However, I can’t help but feel a little pessimistic. Capturing less than 3% of our users just doesn’t feel good enough. There are all sorts of reasons why I could explain it away. Maybe the button was not very noticeable. Maybe people saw it, but there were no visual queues for them to know that it was clickable. Most likely people saw it and didn’t care. Those users show up wanting to fulfill whatever task they came for and have little interest in being caught our web.

I suppose the takeaway here is understanding that these natural cycles exist and that they can be a valuable tool for maximizing reach. It is also important to explore new techniques and creative ways to capture your extended reach. We proved that it can have a positive impact, but we also found we have plenty to learn when it comes to understanding our audience and the best way to connect with them.

– Kegan

-Kegan