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Videos show 360-degree campus views

Higher ed deploys immersive video to create virtual tours and tell eye-catching stories
University Business, March 2016

Early adopters tout virtual reality as the next big thing, and in higher education, 360-degree videos are adding exciting, immersive experiences. The best indicator that the time is right for “VR” can be found in the investments made by two competing tech giants, Google and Facebook.

YouTube and Facebook now both support the showing of 360-degree videos.

What is 360 video?

Panoramic, 360-degree photos have been around for years now. These photos let you explore static scenes by using controls to move the view in any direction. The 360-degree videos provide the same experience, but with moving pictures.

When you watch a 360-degree video on your desktop, mobile device or with a VR headset, you are in the director’s seat. On a desktop, you choose the view by dragging your mouse at the sides of the video player. On a phone, just point the device in any direction. With a VR headset, just turn your head.

Higher education uses 

Early uses of 360-degree video in education fall into two categories: virtual tours and immersive storytelling. Caldwell University in New Jersey, for example, created a video tour series. “We used the new Ricoh Theta S camera and an external microphone and had our student ambassadors film the tours that they were giving,” says Anthony Yang, director of web strategy and social media.

Other notable examples: Colorado Mesa University’s campus tour on a bike; shots from a flying drone at Deakin University in Australia; a video filmed by the mascot at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom; and an overview of the first day of school at Brigham Young University in Utah.

And the University of Connecticut created a video to showcase its new Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center. “We wanted to create an immersive experience for fans and donors who support the team,” says Multimedia Manager Bret Eckhardt.

Special events

A few institutions have tried to go beyond tours to chronicle special events on campus. Plymouth University in the United Kingdom and Red River College in Canada both set up camera rigs near the stage during commencement to put a new twist on graduation coverage.

Boston College went a step further by using the format to provide a behind-the-scenes look at its men’s ice hockey team’s locker room before a game.

“The goal was to tell a story that aligned with Boston College’s core messaging,” says Ravi Jain, senior associate director of digital media and web development.

The video, shot with a Kodak Pixpro SP360, provides an insider view of what happens before the players hit the ice.

The University of Notre Dame shot videos during the football season that would resonate with students, alumni and fans. Using the 360Heros Pro 7 package, the video team captured three traditional campus experiences: the pre-game entrance of the Band of the Fighting Irish, the “trumpets under the dome” performance and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The videos are featured on a branded site dedicated to the new format: Notre Dame 360. “It took people a few tries to figure out how to get the full effect of the video, but once they did they shared the video with friends and family,” says Liz Harter, social media manager.

Possibilities

While the necessary equipment is an investment, the cameras and software are now within the reach of college budgets.  “Expect a learning curve and some hiccups along the way,” says Tony Fuller, a videographer and editor at Notre Dame.

To Joe Case, director of digital media at Northeastern University in Boston, quality for 360-degree videos comes at a price. While some cameras speed up the production process, the resulting resolution isn’t as good as in videos shot with seven HD cameras stitched and synched together with the editing software.

Case’s advice? “Take time to explore.”

(See the videos mentioned here by visiting collegewebeditor.com/360videos.)

Karine Joly is the web editor behind www.collegewebeditor.com, a blog about higher ed web marketing, public relations and technologies. She is also the founder of www.higheredexperts.com.

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