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Capturing an Image of the Class of 2016

The first Duke tradition most first-year students participate in is the university’s annual class photo shoot on East Campus. Each year, the Duke Photography department pours a ton of time and resources into capturing the perfect shot of the incoming class at sunset at their new home for the next four years.

Since this is such a high-energy event, we decided to start a new tradition: Live streaming video of the event, including student interviews, social media interactions and a skycam view of the photo shoot.

Photo credit: Jim Rosenfield. Showing Jonathan Lee, James Todd and Cara Rousseau, from left to right.

This ended up being a pretty slick project, with over 4,000 total viewers and a ton of social media praise. Here’s how we pulled off the project and some things our team learned.

Video Production

We used the Duke UStream channel as the platform for the live stream of the class photo shoot. Because the photo shoot is taken by photographers up in 60-foot lifts, we also wanted to incorporate some “skycam” aerial footage to show the students filling in the class numbers. In order to do a picture-in-picture type video, we used live streaming software Wirecast, which allows live feeds from multiple cameras to be streamed in a broadcast.

iPhone capturing aerial footage

Because we didn’t have resources to man a video camera in the lifts, (the Duke photographers were busy!), we duct-taped my iPhone to the lift and used Skype to send live video of the aerial view to our equipment on the ground. The result: A skycam!

To be safe, we were plugged in to the Internet with an ethernet cable, and had a staff of three manning the cameras, running production and overseeing the student interviews and social media interactions.

Graphic design and music added a nice layer to the production this year. For music, we used “Time Has Come” by Tauri Wind, a student band featured on the Small Town Records 2010 Compilation. We incorporated graphics showing the make-up of the incoming class and Duke’s student body at key times during the event. We also used visual reminders to prompt viewers to use social media channels to connect and participate throughout the event.









After the webcast, the video was archived on our UStream channel and the video is now available on the Duke YouTube channel and Duke on Demand, Duke’s video website.

Student Interaction and Social Media 

To keep the event authentic and fun, two upperclassmen hosted the live stream and interviewed first-year students on the ground as they filled in the numbers for the photo shoot. Senior Ashley Alman and Junior Vinesh Kapil did an amazing job and provided entertaining commentary throughout the event. We practiced a run-through with them for about 20 minutes before we went live, but they were mainly unscripted, which we hope made Mom and Dad feel like they were on the field with us Wednesday evening.








The Twitter hashtag #Duke2016 is being used for all Orientation Week activities, and was especially used by parents during the photo shoot event. UStream is great because it has a social stream function where viewers can connect their Facebook and Twitter accounts to join the conversation. We had many parents participating through social media as they looked for sons and daughters in the 2016 on East Campus.



We live-streamed the event last year, but chose to treat it as a beta test and not do promotion around the production. This year, feeling more confident in ourselves, we used social media and traditional channels to promote the event to incoming students and their parents. We utilized the Class of 2016 private Facebook group and the #Duke2016 hashtag to spread news about the event. Also, our Student Affairs friends kindly sent an email to first-year parents a week ahead of the event, letting them know to tune in on Wednesday night to watch their students participate in their first big Duke tradition. Finally, UStream featured the event on their homepage, which definitely helped with traffic flow. We ended up having over 4,000 total viewers during the live-stream and are interested to watch the viewer numbers on the archived video.

I’m interested to hear how you would improve this project next year. Please leave feedback and questions in the comments section below!

Watch the entire video here: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLHHNtkA830