Thanks to Derek's comment on my last entry, I decided to fake being a 17 year old college bound youth, and see what the various sites picked as my perfect college match. I used my interests as they were back then (liberal arts, photography, journalism—I started an underground newspaper in high school), my high school academics and interests (lots of advanced classes, president of Student Government) and my SAT scores (pretty high with no prep, but less than my brilliant niece, who got a perfect 800 on the non-math part).
MyUSearch.com had as my lead Perfect Match the school I actually went to: Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Never mind that the school no longer exists (they need a little database housekeeping) or that I had a horrible time there. Other compelling matches included Franklin & Marshall, Gallaudet College (?!), Lambuth University, Iowa Wesleyan (both United Methodist schools--guess what denomination I was born into?), Simon Rock's College of Bard (this one might have been perfect—I had exhausted all my high school courses by the end of 11th grade, and that's who they admit), Southwestern University (yet another UM school), St. Louis University (Jesuit), and The University of the South. The last is one that I was supposed to have photographed last spring, but a scheduling conflict interfered. Now I really wish I had seen the place. On the "Good Matches" list were two schools I photographed and really liked: Whitman College and Williams College.
Collegeboards' picks were weirder, including a host of religious and military schools (Central Christian College of Kansas anyone?), but also included Macalester in St. Paul, CA Institute of the Arts, Rhode Island School of Design, Fordham, and the US Air Force Academy.
Ah, a bucketful of regrets. Because of my current photographic niche however, my inner 17 year old gets to have the time of his life that he should have had back then.
I have spent the past three days at the NACAC conference, the big national shindig for college counselors. My motivation was twofold—to see what other market opportunities were out there for my photography and, especially, my video work, and to better understand college admissions marketing requirements.
In the big vendors exhibit hall, I sensed a profound bifurcation between traditional college marketing firms who produce strategic plans and admissions viewbooks, and the web content people. The firms that produce the viewbooks (invariably on thick glossy stock that shows off photography to great advantage) are firmly of the opinion that there is no substitute for print. Some may also have a finger or two in website design, but you can see where their attention is focused.
The web content folks think (somewhat rightly) that the old school marketing firms don't know that a train is about to smash them into smithereens. They are all hot on virtual tours, 360 degree pans, platform development, web development, video tours, video hosting, video production, site metrics, student sourced content, fad of the moment internet internet internet. It all has the whiff of momentary trendiness, with no telling what might emerge as a stable enterprise.
Then I attended a panel of smart, articulate college-bound kids talking about what worked for them. The truisms about this generation that are totally spot on is that they (think they) know how to sift through a ton of information, and they make quick decisions about what to pay attention to. What works for them? Video, video, and more video. Video of students talking about their schools. Passionately. Honestly. If they say what's wrong with their school as well as what's great, the college gets triple credibility points. They hate slide shows of still photographs. Too long to wait for them to load, and they don't tell you anything. They hate anything that has a whiff of them being advertised to. They like the aggregator sites that have lots of schools and lots of student reviews on them. The college home sites all look confusingly alike (“It looks like one person designed them all”), but if there is video of students talking about the school, then they pay attention. They need to see something that makes the school stand out from the crowd. It better not be a “We Like Diversity” message.
And print still works. “If it looks like they put a lot of effort into it, I'll look at it. It's the postcards and advertising stuff that I throw out.”
Everything I saw and heard confirmed my current stance, based on painful past experience: when things feel comfortable and swell, it means everything is just about to change.
As a neophyte in this realm, I am on the lookout for models and mentors. Who knew it would end up being USA Today? Check out the work of Garrett Hubbard, and follow all the links in Mindy McAdams blog entry on Hubbard, on teaching online journalism.
I am generally immune from GAS attacks (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) in my photographic life, which makes me somewhat unusual among photographers. The cameras I have work fine, and until I have a need for a different capability, I never look at camera reviews or new equipment announcements.
But something big has come along, and it's going to accelerate the convergence of still and video shooting. All the major manufacturers are adding video capability to their pro DSLRs, but Canon has leapfrogged over all of them with the 5D MKII. It shoots 1080i HD video, in Quicktime .mov format. On CF cards. No rendering necessary. You can drop the footage right into the Quicktime player or a Final Cut timeline. The top ISO is a mind blowing 25,000, three stops faster than the current 5D, which was the best performing camera in low light.
As an afterthought, the file resolution for stills is 21 megapixels.
Think of it. Shooting HD video in almost no light, with SLR lenses. And yes, there is an audio input. I can imagine putting a Beach Tek splitter on the camera, mounting a shotgun on the hotshoe, a wireless lav pickup off the camera strap, and making this my main camera for everything.
Read Vincent LaForet's blog for an amazing story of how he got his hands on one for a weekend and how he made himself a movie. The photos on his blog are video frame grabs, BTW.
And I just got my name on the list at Glazers Camera for one. They're saying late October/early November.
This was a different kind of project for me. Instead of revealing a piece of someone's life, I was telling the story of a collection of research labs in a newly built set of buildings. It pushed me creatively to a good result.
I took about an hour of footage over two half days. I knew at the time that I wanted it energetic and fast and that I would be doing very short cuts. I put together the first 20 seconds and sought out a piece of RF music to fit. Then I had to transition to what could have been a screeching deceleration into interviews. There's some of that, but I keep the pace up and a lot of information comes through very quickly.
What really made this project successful was the institutional and personal support I had. These are not facilities that just anyone gets to see--they trusted that I wasn't a PETA mole, for example. I've worked for the University of Washington over the entire course of my career, so I came vetted. There were layers and layers of bureaucracy and permissions to traverse, and world renowned egos to tread carefully upon. It came together so smoothly that my only wish was that I had a couple of years of this under my belt so that I could do something really out of this world.
I made a modest remodel of the website this month, and it's now live. The menu bar and portfolio sections are simplified, and the images are bigger. And there's now a video page. Check it out: dougplummer.com
I suppose I should have a sliver of embarrassment about this one. After seeing the Taptone Syncopators in performance, I wanted to learn how to clog. Dina (one of the Taptones) lives across the street, and she offered to tutor me and put together a routine for our block party talent show. Here is the shaky result after two weeks of practice.
The latest video, on the Monroe swifts. Up to 12,000 Vauk's Swifts roost in an old chimney at an elementary school in Monroe, Washington during their fall migration. 15 minutes of tape, 3 hours of edit.