PHOENIX—The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way students across the country are learning and connecting with schools, faculty and each other. At Grand Canyon University, our plan to use live streaming technology to connect current and potential students and their families with the school and campus life started months before quarantine. We wanted to make the school as accessible as possible for prospective students that couldn’t physically visit before making their final college decision. We previously created campus tour videos using a cell phone and a gimbal, but the Admissions department wanted to make the experience more dynamic and interactive.
Our media group produces all types of content including commercials, live events and web videos. Live interactive video was paramount to generating student excitement and engagement, while increasing enrollment. We talked to students and staff about how we could amp up our programming and quickly moved from cell phones to a cellular-bonded backpack from LiveU. The LiveU enabled our digital media crew and broadcast students to up the production value by implementing higher-end cameras, cutting to different scenes across campus, and adding a studio element so viewers could ask questions in the YouTube chat and have them answered on stream. We have a roving team with the LiveU backpack that can toss back to the studio so they can get to the next live shot in a different area on campus.
The live streaming created a fully broad campus experience that had a lot of interactivity and variety. Over the summer, we talked about ways to use live streaming to cover more outdoor events. The LiveU helps us distribute mobile crews to capture content that we can distribute to viewers.
A NEW WAY OF APPROACHING PRODUCTIONS
When you think about the vast number of live events that typically happen on a college campus, of course they are generally built around the idea of a mass gathering of people. That is going to be different this year. It already has been. As we head into the fall, we are talking about a lot of ways to use live streaming to take experiences that used to be a lot of people in one place and distribute them out.
One of the examples is a weekly chapel service, where there would normally be 5,000–7,000 people in the arena. They are going to have to distribute that and do a lot of that at remote sites and individual streaming viewers. It’s been one of the big challenges that I am sure everybody who’s in my boat is thinking about.
Normally, when you build a live production, you have a large crew. It’s a lot of people wedged in a little room all breathing the same air, which we can’t do anymore. So one of the things we’ve been thinking about is how to use more distributed crews and more mobile crews. The LiveU and the ability to move around—the flexibility and the portability side of it is going to be a huge factor. So many of these events are no longer in a building with great wired connections—they are going to be outside. We have amazing weather in Arizona throughout the fall. We will have all these events outside so then suddenly you wonder, “How do we get a connection out there?” The LiveU really answers that.
RETURN OF SPORTS
We are approaching live sports coverage—whether it returns for fall or winter sports—similar to our game plan for this past spring semester. When streaming live sports you are trying to take that experience and extend it out to this broader viewership. One of the things that is unique about GCU is that we have a campus with 24,000 students and an additional 70,000 that take classes online.
We have a huge body of students that identify with the university and its athletic programs and so we try to give them an equal experience as our traditional ground campus students and let them be a fan and be connected. It’s really all about capturing what’s going on and sharing this with a broader group of people.
Steven Niedzielski is a senior multimedia manager at Grand Canyon University, where he brings 20 years of experience in pro video workflows, managing technical and creative professionals. Niedzielski produces compelling marketing content and implements cutting-edge technology. He can be contacted at Steven.Niedzielski@gce.com.
For more information, visit https://get.liveu.tv/.
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