Design. Web. Video. Social.

Giving Students A 360° Perspective

Every year, thousands of young people leave behind the comforts of home to live and learn at UBC. As Canada’s most international university, students from over 150 countries attend one of UBC’s two campuses.

How does UBC attract so many international students? Recruiters don’t only tell potential students about their academic opportunities, they help them see what their life could look like on campus. As Graeme Menzies, UBC’s Director of Prospective Student Marketing, Communications, and Social Media, said “[Recruiters] need to be able to explain to kids the whole soup to nuts experience. What kind of degree they might take, what kind of courses they might study but also what kind of lifestyle they live.” A key to grasping what their life at UBC could look like is understanding the city they’ll be living in.

UBC’s Okanagan campus is in Kelowna, BC—a city vying to be known as the Silicon Valley of the north due to its impressive number of tech start-ups. Yet, most international students have never heard of it. To give students a better understanding of UBC’s Okanagan campus, they turned to Agency Media. With experience producing scalable 360° videos, we were able to work with UBC to create a unique recruitment tool that gained 15,000 organic social views.


The Problem: Where is UBCO?

One of the ongoing goals of the UBC Prospective Undergraduate Students department is to help potential students understand the location of UBC’s Okanagan campus. While many students from around the world have a basic knowledge of Vancouver, Kelowna is not so familiar. Recruiters have found that when describing Kelowna, students seem confused and uninterested. UBC’s Prospective Student department knew they needed to help “students from outside of the province and around the world have a better understanding of Kelowna, the Okanagan Valley, and UBC’s presence there,” said Graeme.

To accomplish this goal, they tried using video and photography. But that couldn’t quite give students context for where the campus was in relation to the city of Kelowna. Steve Taylor, a Marketing Communication Specialist for UBCO, said, “Photography and video always work really well for us. But, there’s only so much that you can do with either.” They needed something creative and captivating that would also help students understand the geography of the region.

A few weeks earlier, our team had produced a 360° video of  Vancouver at sunset with SKY Helicopters. The video quickly gained attention from about 30,000 viewers, two of which were Graeme and Steve from UBC. “We came across your city of Vancouver video,” said Steve, “and we said, ‘oh man, that would be perfect for Kelowna.’”

The Plan: Helicopters, sun calculators, and Google maps

Filming aerial 360° video is all about timing. Once you factor in helicopter fuel, sunlight, battery life, camera memory, and wind speed there isn’t much room for error.

After a couple discovery conversations with Graeme and Steve, our team was able to clearly understand the goals of the video and learn the exact areas of Kelowna they wanted to showcase. In these initial conversations, we were also able to educate them on the basics of 360° video and layout next steps. “I think there were a lot of details we didn’t think about like the shadows and the location of the sun,” said Steve. “That part of [Agency’s] process was really good.”

One issue we ran into was maintaining battery life. “Once you’re up in the air,” said our video team lead, Ben Lum, “the batteries within all ten of the GoPro cameras only last a certain amount of time and then you can only shoot for about five minutes in one continuous shot. So that’s why that flight path mattered a lot.” With help from a few helicopter pilots, a sun calculator, and Google maps, Ben Lum and Michael Bernard, two of our veteran video producers, were able to map out a route that would showcase all the landmarks UBC wanted while conserving battery life. They then pinpointed a date on the calendar to take the flight. With only a few chances to get the filming right, we couldn’t afford to make any major mistakes.

The Process: Hang $9,000 out the window

After packing our gear into a helicopter at Pitt Meadows airport, Ben and Mike took off for Kelowna, aiming to arrive just before lunch. As they flew up, Ben prepared the camera rig. The equipment consisted of a camera pole, a custom 3D-printed head to carry all the cameras, and ten GoPros facing in all directions. “All said and done,” Ben explained, “with the printed rig and the GoPros you’re probably looking at eight or nine thousand dollars worth of stuff just hanging out the window.”

Once they saw Okanagan Lake, there was no time to land, debrief, and take the shot slow. Since they were only going to get a few passes at their route, they needed to use every chance they could get. “As soon as we started seeing Okanagan Lake, I powered on the cameras and we started getting them synchronized and ready to stick out the window.” Once they were above the William R. Bennett bridge, Ben “plopped the rig out the window and started rolling.”

After landing at the Kelowna airport to refuel, they went over their flight route two more times to get the shots they wanted before heading home.

Now that the filming was done, the editing process began. Editing 360° video can be extremely time consuming. Not only do editors need to cut and organize footage from ten different cameras, they also need to stitch those ten video files together.

Kelowna landmarks like the William R. Bennett Bridge, Knox Mountain, and downtown needed to be marked with titles to orient prospective students of their location. In the world of 360° video editing, this is not an easy task. “It’s something that’s totally new in terms of spherical video,” said Ben. “How do you embed graphics into a video that, when I’m editing it, looks just like a ball?” But, with a little bit of innovation and many hours editing, they were able to add tracked titles into the video.

The Prize: A recruiting tool worth more than 15,000 views

Once the video was released on UBC’s Prospective Undergraduates Facebook page, it immediately garnered attention. In just a few short weeks, it was viewed just under 15,000 times and shared by 100 people. All of this organic growth was helping current and prospective students get excited about their campus and the city of Kelowna.

More important than being viewed on Facebook, student recruiters were given a tool that orients the city of Kelowna with UBC’s Okanagan Campus in a captivating new way. Steve recounted the story of a recruiter bringing a Google Cardboard headset with him when he visited a high school. When a few students had questions about the location of the Okanagan Campus, he was able to answer them by having them put on the headset and watch the video.

With this video, Steve commented that we were able to take “two cutting edge technologies and combine them into one really technologically progressive video that allowed us to really demonstrate what we wanted to.”

On top of providing an attractive look at the city of Kelowna and a useful recruiting tool, we were able to push ourselves and learn more than ever about producing 360° video. Our rig, specifically designed for aerial 360° video, performed amazingly, capturing all the footage we needed. In the editing process, we were able to add tracked titles, something that is rarely done in 360° video.

In every project, we love pushing ourselves to the boundaries of our abilities. UBC’s 360° video was no exception.

If you’re interested in being a part of a case study like this one, send us an email. Or better yet, let us buy you coffee and we can talk in person.

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