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Easy, says campus video producer Jason Page.
Just report, organize, interview and gather countless hours of film footage and facts. Get up repeatedly before dawn to spend hours in the cold setting up shots, all for four seconds of screen time. Hire a walk-on-water student assistant. Subject everything to "the sift." Mix up-tempo rock music with fast-paced editing. Oh, and let the campus do the talking.
NOOKS AND CRANNIES
"There's a lot going on here. At a liberal arts school like this, there's a lot of different nooks and crannies that you can stick your camera into," says Page, a former TV news photojournalist who's also an independent film producer for his company, 4 Track Films.
Page was hired as part of a multi-year UW-System-funded effort to boost enrollment at UW-Superior. That effort also includes a website redesign, increased recruiting staff and more marketing funds.
Over the past school year, Page produced a one-minute "Unleash" video, a fast-paced commercial style piece. He oversaw a campus tour video which was produced by Jessica Prihoda, a digital cinema major and graduating senior. He also produced a more detailed overview video, which was released just this week. Another campus-wide video, "I'm a Yellowjacket," is due out the last week of school and a video on undergraduate research begins production this summer.
Back in the day, universities invested big money in thick, slick viewbooks. However, "The market has changed and the best way to market to teens now is through multimedia channels," said Lynne Williams, director of marketing and communications at UW-Superior.
About half of the students who enroll at UW-Superior never take a campus tour, talk to a recruiter or request information. These "secret shoppers" do most of their research online. That's why after the university's website, investing in high-quality recruiting videos is key to boosting enrollment -- they serve as the first impression for so many students.
Several marketing studies show that video is becoming increasingly popular among younger teens, with YouTube eclipsing Facebook as their favorite website.
"We know we have high quality programs and an amazing faculty. We know we're a friendly campus. We can tell people, but it's more effective to show them," she said.
The university could have hired out the video work, but that can be more expensive and result in a lower quality finished product. Besides, "We felt strongly that bringing someone on staff was key to getting at that deeper story of UW-Superior," Williams said.
In producing the videos, Page has functioned as an in-house reporter and filmmaker, bringing skills from each realm to bear on content that couldn't have been gathered by an outside contractor.
"Over the course of several months, I've gone out for a half hour here, a half hour there, two hours on a biology field trip. I've been able to do all these little shoots that I wouldn't be able to on a commercial project," he said.
Take the "Unleash" video, for example. "The first four seconds of that piece are two time lapses, a time lapse of the sun rising and a time lapse of shadows racing down Old Main," he said. For that two seconds of sunrise, I got up four different mornings. It took me two times to figure out balancing the light from dark to bright. The third day I went down there the waves weren't right and the clouds weren't right. The fourth morning, finally I got my two seconds. It was the same with the Old Main shot."
Once Page has gathered his footage, he puts it all through what he calls "the sift." "It's this constant process of listening to everybody's sound bites, deciding which sound bites tell the story best," he says. "It goes from multiple hours, to one hour, to 12 minutes, to eight minutes to five, just trying to compress, compress, compress."
Working as an in-house video producer has other benefits. Commercial clients often come to him with a fully developed concept. But the UW-Superior videos grew more out of what the subjects were saying. "I like working in that quasi-documentary style, where you have a message, but allow people to speak for themselves, from their area of expertise. You end up getting a more true, real connection with people than if you did a slick production."
WITH A LITTLE HELP
Page says he got incredibly lucky when he hired student employee Jessica Prihoda, a digital cinema senior who has experience with local TV stations. "Jessica Prihoda is the best student employee that ever existed on the planet," he said. "She's very talented and also a great testament to the skills that the digital cinema department is instilling in students. At her age, I had none of those skills."
Page also was grateful to faculty members who opened up their classrooms and staff members to who took time to get him access and information.
"One of the things that makes these videos so fun is the breadth of experience an institution like this offers," he said. "You can highlight all sorts of different things, from zooplankton to basketball players, it runs the gamut."
Page says the transition from freelance producer to staff member has been rewarding. Sometimes, commercial work deals with subjects that aren't particularly inspiring. Working at UW-Superior has been much better.
"I believe in education, so I can sell that all day long," he said.
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