Graduations can be very stressful for all involved; graduates, event planners, school administration and the video production crew.
Everyone wants it to go smoothly, especially the video production crew. Why? Everyone can watch your screw-ups for years to come; all they have to do is pop in a DVD.
Most graduations are pretty similar, the graduates march in, there are a few speakers and awards, the graduate’s get their diplomas and then they march out. Your job is not to miss anything or more importantly anyone! You want to make sure you show EVERYONE marching in and EVERYONE getting their diploma. This can actually make the production less complicated because you know exactly what you need to show, not like a sporting event where things are very fluid.
A pre-production checklist (see our survey by clicking here) and then triple checking everything should make popping in that DVD a good experience for all involved. Some of the big picture items to think about: Are you going to live stream the event? How many cameras will you need? Will the event be live switched or multi-cam edited after the event?
Camera placement is very important and should be first priority. Make sure the event planners know where you want to put your cameras to get that shot of the graduates walking in and the diploma hand-off. For the walk-in you want to show faces, not the backs of their heads. For the diploma hand-off you want to make sure no one walks between your camera and where the diplomas are being handed out. Do you need risers for the cameras? Do you need to rope off an area for cameras? Will you potentially be blocking the view of some of the attendees? You need to figure all this out well in advance, not ten minutes before the event starts.
If you don’t need to live stream your graduation that can make the event much easier from a planning perspective. That means you don’t necessarily need to live switch the event and run camera cables, but then you are just adding more work on the back-end and postproduction.
The situation in my School District is that we only have two high schools with one graduation on a Thursday night and one on a Friday night. Of course they are not in the same venue! In fact, they are about 50 miles apart. Time for the traveling “road show.”
We live stream the events because in one of the venues the graduates have a limited amount of tickets and if we stream one we have to stream both. We are lucky to have a great relationship with the local Cox Cable provider who provides us with a modem to use for streaming.
I use an all student crew to produce all of the events in our district. One problem is that my crew is made up of almost all seniors so I have the honor of breaking in a new crew for Graduation. We usually arrive for setup six or seven hours before the event. I like to have my camera cable run way before the decorations are set and the band and choir arrive. I usually have a setup crew of some of my former students and a production crew of new students because of the long day.
We also don’t rely on the venue’s sound system, we always run our own audio. We put wireless mics on the podiums and in front of the band and choir. Also, don’t forget about a nat-sound mic away from people talking. Also, test your wireless mics way in advance with the venue’s sound system to make sure you are not interfering with each other.
Included in the article are some behind the scenes pictures of the Destrehan High School Graduation production at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Louisiana and the Hahnville High School Graduation production at the Alario Center in Westwego, Louisiana. The Pontchartrain Center is a larger venue so there we put up two screens for live projection, which adds another layer of complexity.
For equipment we used a BlackMagic Design ATEM Switcher with four cameras and a Tricaster Pro for Streaming. We used different graphics for the web audience than would show on the final recording. We recorded the production on a BlackMagic Design HyperDeck Pro and also an AJA KiPro. Also crucial is an intercom system. We use a wired Clear-Com system that has worked great for us.
We only had one mishap, and all I’m going to say is, remind your crew not to lock their knees when they will be standing for a long time. Fortunately, the crewmember only ended up with a few bumps and bruises, it could have been much worse.
When the year is winding down, it’s easy to let things go and kind of “wing it,” but Graduation should not be one of those events. With some preplanning and a little luck you can pull off a successful Graduation production and not have to wince at the ten-year reunion when they pop your DVD in the player. That is if they have DVD’s in ten years!
To View our Graduation Productions:
For More Behind The Scenes Pictures:
Albert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005. The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools. The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.
Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years. As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009. He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 5.