A 360 Overview of #HigherEd 360-Degree Videos

May 3rd, 2016 Karine Joly 20 Comments

A New Age for Higher Ed Videos?

As many higher ed marketers and communicators are getting ready for graduation day, I’m posting this extended and unedited version of my UB Column about 360-degree videos I wrote earlier this year and that you might have caught in the March 2016 issue of the magazine.

I have embedded the videos where they are mentioned in my article, so you can watch what I’m taking about while using a desktop computer.

I hope this post will help you come up with cool ideas for commencemnt season. Oh, and make sure to send my way your 360-videos, so I can compile them for the higher ed community.

360 Overview of Higher Ed 360 Videos

Virtual Reality, The Next Big Thing?

Everybody says virtual reality (VR) is the next big thing, but does this mean it’s time for your school to explore and experiment?

At the core of the virtual reality experience, 360 videos can already offer an exciting, immersive yet accessible experience. VR headset adoption is still marginal, but it’s rising.

Yet, the best early indicator the time is right for early adopters in higher education can be found in the investments made by the 2 competing tech giants, Google and Facebook. YouTube and Facebook now both support the uploading and distribution of 360 videos.

What’s a 360-video?

360 photos have been around for a few years now. Popularized by the hospitality industry, these photos let you visit rooms and facilities from a screen.

The 360 videos provide the exact same experience but with moving pictures.

When you watch a 360 video on your desktop, your mobile device or with a VR headset, you are in the director’s seat. You can explore all the angles of the scene – as if you were behind the camera.

On a desktop, you can steer your way up and down or right and left by dragging your mouse at the sides of the video player. On your phone, you can just point your device in any direction you want to explore as you watch the 360-video. With a VR headset, just turn your head.

Browser compatibility issues still exist. For desktop, Safari doesn’t support the 360-format yet. On iOs devices, you have to rely on the YouTube or Facebook app to watch 360 videos hosted on the site.

So, what can kind of videos early adopters in higher education have produced so far?

They can be divided in 2 categories: virtual tours and immersive storytelling experiments.

Virtual Tours

Caldwell University created a 360 Video Tour Series. “We purchased the new Ricoh Theta S camera, an external microphone, (used) some student ambassadors and started to film the
tours that they were already used to giving,” explains Anthony Yang, Director of Web Strategy and Social Media at Caldwell University.

Other noticeable examples in campus tours include:

Colorado Mesa University’s campus tour on a bike

a tour including shots from a flying drone at Deakin University (Australia)

a virtual tour on foot in the hand of the mascot at Newcastle University (England)

an overview of the first day of school at Brigham Young University.

UConn created a 360-video to showcase a brand new facility, the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center. “We wanted to create a truly immersive experience for fans and donors who support the team,” recalls Bret Eckhardt, Multimedia Manager at the University of Connecticut.

Storytelling Experiments

Meanwhile, a few institutions have tried to go beyond the 360-view tours to chronicle special events on campus.

Setting up their 360 camera system close to the stage or behind the curtains during commencement, Plymouth University and Red River College (Canada) put a new twist on the traditional graduation coverage with 360 videos.

Plymouth University

Red River College

Boston College went a step further by using the new format to provide a behind-the-scene look its Men’s Ice Hockey Team’s locker room — just before a game.

“The goal was to align the technology with a situation or story that wasn’t just gimmicky but leveraged this tool to tell a story that aligned with Boston College’s core messaging,” explains Ravi Jain, Senior Associate Director, Digital Media and Web Development at Boston College.

Mission accomplished: the 360 video, shot with a Kodak Pixpro SP360, provides a great insider view of what happens just before the players go on the ice.

At the University of Notre Dame, the goal was to shoot videos of different events during the football season to offer content that would resonate with students, alums and fans. Using the 360Heros Pro 7 package, the 3 university video producers captured 3 traditional campus experiences:

the pre-game entrance of the Band of the Fighting Irish

the “trumpets under the dome” performance

the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes tour.

Available on YouTube, the videos are also featured on a branded site dedicated to the new video format: Notre Dame 360.

Widely shared on social media, the 3 videos had received more than 9,000 views after only a few weeks. “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 — and exclamations of amazement,” says Liz Harter, ND Social Media Manager.

By giving either early access to campus spots or exclusive access to private places, these 360 videos have the power to delight their viewers.

Oh, the Possibilities!

After watching a few, it’s easy to feel excited by the possibilities. While the necessary equipment represents an investment, the cameras and software are now within the reach of college budgets. But, the technology is still time-consuming. “Expect a learning curve and some hiccups along the way,” warns Tony Fuller, Videographer and Editor at the University of Notre Dame.

For Joe Case, Director of Digital Media at Northeastern University, quality for 360 videos comes at a price. While some cameras, like the Theta, speeds up the production process, the resulting video resolution isn’t as good as the resolution of videos shot with 7 HD cameras stitched and synched together with the editing software.

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

Got a great 360 video from your school?

Post a link in the comment, so I can compile your videos in a future post.

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