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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFFIq1pIUo8?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0&w=880&h=495]

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

[vimeo 133089536 w=880 h=495]

Time lapse photography has occupied my attention for several years. The visual passing of time strikes a chord with the part of me that is in constant daydream mode. With most of my experience coming from video production and not photography I had (and very much still have) a lot to learn. At this point I should mention that when I refer to time lapse I am typically referencing the process of combining numerous photographs into video form as opposed to dramatically speeding up recorded video. I flirted with both and settled on the photography base as my preferred method.

Start simple

My first foray into the world of time lapse was pretty basic. I started with a fixed camera taking “standard” photos, usually over the course of 30-40 minutes. Nothing special here, but I was trying to convert my video knowledge into basic photography principles. It was fun, but not particularly successful.

What I learned

  • You need a really sturdy tripod base. Any vibration or movement will more or less ruin the party.
  • Understand the passage of time and how fast your subject moves. Things that move slower require a longer interval between photos to create any effect. Think of a plant growing from a seed. You might have to take one photo every week to notice any difference. ON a busy street corner you could take a photo every 3-5 seconds. The sky is popular component of good landscape time lapse. Keep in mind that an interval of at least 10 seconds is useful to create dynamic cloud movement.
  • Understand how long you have to actually run your time lapse. Not being a fan of basic math I struggled with this. For example, pretend you are setup to do a nice landscape time lapse. You reckon since the clouds are slow moving you might want to have an interval of 12 seconds between photos. Going with the assumption that you are going to produce a 24 frames per second video (cinematic standard) it will require 24 still images to make up one second of video. With this information we can figure out how much actual time you need to have your camera running for every second of time lapse video. 12(seconds between photos) X 24(total frames needed for a second of footage) = 288 seconds or a little less than 5 minutes. If you are ever going to use the time lapse for anything you want a time lapse to last on screen for at least 10 seconds (at the very least). So if we extend that information we now have 5(minutes for every second of video) X 10(minimum length of useful video) = 50 minutes! The takeaway here is to plan out your shots, in some cases be prepared to be out there for hours.

Motion Controlled Time Lapse

Naturally after I crawled further into the subject I noticed people making incredible camera movements throughout their time lapses. I was obsessed and had to figure it out. The concepts are all the same, but now you introduce the technique of moving your camera during the interval between photos. Each movement is incredibly subtle, but over the course of the entire time lapse it adds up to, in some cases, a six foot slide or a 180 degree pan.

In order to jump into this technique some additional equipment is required. There are many manufacturers out there so I won’t get into specifics, but you will need a system that will drive the motion of your camera over time including a control system that can program the movement. Some have been able to master this with a simple slider and moving your camera by hand, but human error makes this very difficult. Having this controlled mechanically and by a computer provides a much more consistent result.

(Random example of some time lapse with motion. There are tons of amazing examples on YouTube and Vimeo.)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DMGfbje7NY?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0&w=880&h=495]

Motion Control Systems

Hyper Lapse

After spending a lot of time practicing the “vanilla” time lapse and even leaping into some motion controlled projects I was pretty engrossed in the art form. I mention art form because it’s more and more evident to me that you will only get as far as your creative mind will take you. I consider myself fairly well educated in the science of time lapse but to truly get the shots that make you go “wow” you need that left brain point of view. I don’t say this to deter you, but be prepared to crawl on the ground, climb a mountain or do whatever it takes to find that elusive void to make art.

Darryl, another time lapse acolyte in our department, turned me on to the concept of a hyper lapse. Instead of taking tiny movements sliding or revolving around a fixed point (tripod) you move the whole package throughout space. An example of this is approaching an object of note from say a 100 yards away. Between intervals you would move your tripod in a very controlled manner. If done well this creates a “sliding” movement but on a very large scale. This technique becomes another layer of complexity that takes a while to master.

(You can see the hyper lapse concept in a commercial we produced for Oregon State. They create an almost dreamlike feel.)
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzmR3zAehyo?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0&w=880&h=495]

What I learned

  • Planning is even more critical for this kind of move. You want a relatively straight path free of obstacles and hazards. If a car parks itself along your path the party is over. Try to have your move as linear as possible. Since you are mimicking a sliding movement you don’t want to have to bend around a tree or else it breaks the illusion.
  • Although you are moving your whole tripod the camera needs to stay locked onto the target. Think of looking through your viewfinder as crosshairs. You want to move your tripod and then re adjust the camera so it is still framed similarly. Using your grid will help with this, but ultimately takes a lot of practice. If you change your framing the video will end up a little insane. (you just have to see for yourself)
  • This technique requires some manipulation on the video processing end. Because this is done by a human hand inevitably there will be some wobbles in your path. Using a tool like the warp stabilizer in Adobe Premiere/After Effects does a great job of smoothing out these rough edges.

My love for time lapse photography will always evolve as I learn, but that’s part of the fun. I haven’t even scratched the surface of Night Sky time lapse. Being in Oregon there is always a vista just down the road. Trial and error in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. I could do worse.

-K

Since this past winter, I’ve been working with colleagues from Information Systems and college web and communications teams on mapping a digital platform strategy, a plan that will help to guide the overall direction for web and mobile for the university. It’s an exciting development: it is the first time in my seven years at Oregon State that our main IT and communications units are collaborating with campus at this level. We’re happy to be able to share this initial draft. It should be a great foundation for things to come.

Take a look and let us know what you think.

I recently got a tour of the new online catalog that our Extension office built. Essentially it houses all of their publications in one easy to navigate Drupal site. For anyone with Drupal or database experience you know that alone is a heroic task. The site is full of features and cool modules. It is a shining example of quality content, great architecture and strong development. A big congrats to everyone in Extension and Experiment Station Communications who knocked this one out of the park.

-Kegan

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Our latest digital campaign is underway. It’s our Beaver Nation interactive documentary, and it’s following the themes of the ongoing Beaver Nation efforts led by our sister unit, University Marketing. The whole campaign launched last year with our new commercial (also produced by our team in partnership with University Marketing).

What the interactive documentary does is establish a sense of place. Oregon State University has the great benefit of being located in a natural resource wonderland. Old growth forests, dramatic volcanoes, glaciers, gorgeous coastlines and waters rich with sea life, an array of agricultural products, vineyards, hop farms, pastures, painted hills, mysterious canyons: all of these wonders orbit our main campus like a constellation of glossy tourist brochures. You sometimes have to pinch yourself as a reminder that it’s all real.

We’re lucky to live in Oregon. And that our campus has such deep connections to every corner of the state.

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The Beaver Nation documentary and site is intended to show our reach within the state and beyond, but it’s more than that. We also want to just step back and celebrate the places that we’re fortunate to be surrounded by.

Our crew traveled to all of these spectacular places to uncover the stories of the people who call them home and are connected to them. And we didn’t just focus on OSU students, alumni and faculty. Anyone who loves where they live and appreciates their local bounty–and works to protect it–is an honorary member of Beaver Nation. It’s not just about orange and black…it’s about making a difference in your community.

We’re releasing a new chapter every few weeks through early 2015, and we’ll be finishing with coverage of Beavers around the country and across the globe.

What I’m particularly proud of is that the entire project has been produced completely in house with our full-time staff and student workers. Our team can compete with the best agencies and show the potential of committed workers devoted to the institution. Beaver Nation isn’t just out there. It’s right here, inside our studio as well.

And our staff also produced the various chapters. Each region had a different producer who pulled together the team and invested a part of themselves into every story, word and pixel. And the results are amazing. It’s a great privilege to be part of this talented crew.

– David

The campus community was extremely excited about the opening of the new Centro! That’s a great thing and further reinforces our hope to post more stories about some of our more underrepresented groups.
I’m also pretty proud of how well our dance story, “A common step,” did in the short amount of time it was actually on the home page. Things are moving along swimmingly. Soon we’ll be posting some of our “Beaver Nation” preview stories to the homepage!

Current stories:

The stories we have live on the homepage right now are ALL commencement-related. You can check out the stories here (http://poweredbyorange.com/blog/). We profiled six amazing graduating seniors. We also have a general commencement story up based on a press release and our Beaver Boards (http://sites.oregonstate.edu/beaverboards/) gallery filled with photos of mortarboards seniors decorated, showcasing the creativity of our graduates and the Oregon State tradition of decorating graduation caps each year! This is something we hope to continue and add to over the years, collecting the most interesting and unique boards…and maybe learning the stories behind them.

Video:

In this period, our most popular homepage feature story was undoubtedly our tribute to Beth Ray, hosted on our Life at OSU blog. The passing of our first lady was of interest to just about everyone in the campus community. The Olympics also had a far-reaching appeal, and Oregon State was happy to have a connection there! I would have liked to have seen more views on our Rugby microsite, but we didn’t spend any money to promote it, and that is changing now. We’ve thrown some dolla billz into promoting our spring break site (which you can learn about below), so I’m sure we’ll be seeing more ROI in the future!

Stories up on the site at this time include:
New Centro opens
A story and video about the new CCCC facility. It’s pretty swanky!
From the depths of time
Terra’s last cover story covering just about every aspect you didn’t know you needed to know about the Pacific lamprey.
Alternative spring break
A microsite about the alternative spring break experience! This site is chock full of photos, videos and interactive elements. We’re pretty proud of it!
Moms Weekend tradition continues
An overview of the events for Moms Weekend along with a profile of a very Oregon-State-centric family.
The mechanics of a student athlete
A profile of Ruth Hamblin, the Canadian Hammer featuring a video produced by our own Justin Smith.

And here’s a look at the video side:

We love us some Ruth Hamblin!

Finally, we haven’t taken a look at the individual colleges in awhile, so here’s a look at traffic on each College’s homepage. Unfortunately, we don’t have access to data from the College of Forestry, and the Honor’s College numbers are currently unavailable.

Hope you find this interesting. See you in late June/early July for more fun with analytics!

If you check the OSU home page after Friday, April 25, you might sense there’s something different. It’s not your mind playing tricks on you. We’ve made a complete overhaul of the design and structure.

While it looks much like the previous version of our site, there are quite a few changes. A host of accessibility upgrades have been made. The site is now responsive, meaning it adapts to the desktop and various mobile devices more readily. The top menu links are now in individual drop downs instead of one large expandable menu.

We’re planning a new design for the home page for the fall, but we wanted to make sure our interim home page performs as well as possible while that new design is in the works.

If you have any questions or comments about the new page, drop us a note.

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If you think we’ve gotten a bit sluggish about analytics lately, you’re wrong. Back in December, though? Well, that might have been a different story. These pageviews include December all the way up to Feb. 28:

previous homepage stories

“Celebrate the season” happened sort of last-minute, and it had about a 2-week run on the homepage, explaining its low views. There might be more reasons why the Terra story, “Singing His Story” might have been so popular, but from what I know, I’m going to chock it up to the beautiful photography we had, and its much longer run on the homepage through the holidays.

Here’s a look at videos in January and February:

videos

The commercial is still going strong!

And as for what we have up on the homepage right now… Five GREAT stories of course!

Outfitting Team USA: A story courtesy of the Oregon Stater, which was great to have during the Olympics. A pair of our alums own a ranch that supplied the wool for Ralph Lauren to make the sweaters Team USA wore in the opening ceremonies. Exciting stuff.
Changing the world: A student profile from the College of Engineering. They have so many inspiring students, and Nick is up there.
125 years of research: A timeline of the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. This awesome multimedia feature has great photos from the archives, and shows off our rich history as the state’s Land Grant University.
Celebrating black culture: a profile of the new director of the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center. I’m sure we’ll be keeping in touch with them as they move into their brand new facility soon.
State of the University: a recap of Ed Ray’s speech in January with a great infographic about all of Oregon State’s accomplishments.

Make sure to check them out!

-Callie