How The Storyteller Studios Made 2020 Commencements Possible

2020 has been filled with a lot of difficult problems, and the most severe has been Covid-19. The arrival of such a hard-to-stop and difficult-to-cure virus has meant that many in-person activities and interactions are no longer possible even at a basic level, and virtual communication has become the main alternative. But, with education still running on schedule in most parts of the world, it has become almost impossible to offer the same experiences to students of all ages and education levels.

College Graduate
Source: Unsplash

The Storyteller Studios have managed to help the University of Illinois deal with this problem when it comes to commencement for graduates, making use of some innovative ideas to get around the Coronavirus restrictions.

The Plan

Kelsea Gurski, from the UIS, approached The Storyteller Studios and worked with two employees – Josh and Chris – to come up with something that could emulate a regular commencement while still offering the same experience to the graduates involved. It had to be something meaningful that didn’t replace the original traditions at all but also had to feel genuine instead of being a hastily-made substitute.

What they came up with was a unique and innovative video that allowed each graduate to experience a graduation first-hand through point-of-view shots, simulating the act of walking up to the stage as they would in real life. Timothy Killeen, the President of the UIS System, acts as a voice-over, formally handing them their degrees and setting the tone of the entire experience.

This first-person element isn’t the only interesting detail about how the video was shot, but it’s one of the more notable ones, creating a real-world atmosphere that The Storyteller Studios have perfected.

The Technical Side

One of the key choices made during production was to shoot at a high frame-rate and slightly slow the footage down afterward, creating a floaty and almost fantastical element to how it looks, as if the entire sequence is being dreamed. 

As stated by Chris Costello from TSS himself, the student used in the footage was kept anonymous as a way of letting other graduates impose themselves in her place – the staff also spoke to the camera rather than the person operating it, making their interactions feel more directed at the graduates.

This, combined with The Storyteller Studios’ skill and the attention to detail taken by the staff who set up the commencement scenario, has created something that manages to sit alongside the real ceremony rather than replacing it. The deliberate slow shots and careful manipulation of the camera turn it into an experience that’s hard to criticize.

The Response

The work that The Storyteller Studios have done is already making waves on certain circles online, but you’ll find the biggest praise among the graduates and staff themselves. Even Kelsea considers the video to be beautiful and unique, saying that it “…was emotional and serves our intended purpose. A total home run”.

While the graduates weren’t able to attend an in-person ceremony due to Covid-19 making it almost impossible to achieve safely, the results of this video have proven that you don’t need to be there in person to feel the same emotions. In fact, the concept of the video existing forever may make it even more emotional: every student can re-watch it at any time, letting them relive their graduation as often as they like.

The Results

But does a video lose some of the personal touches that a real celebration would provide? Technically, yes, but that’s easily washed away by the sheer spectacle of what The Storyteller Studios have created. When talking about them after the production, Kelsea states that the group “…has a unique understanding of how to use professional-level visual storytelling… how they arrange camera angles and combine it with compelling interviews, music, and be-roll…”, showing that even the staff involved in the production itself were blown away by the results.

What’s more, this sets a precedent that similar ideas may be possible in the future. Even if Covid-19 is dealt with before the next wave of graduations, who knows what The Storyteller Studios may be tasked to take on next? Now that the world knows that pre-recorded graduations are possible, we could see the concept spreading to all kinds of celebrations and ceremonies both in and outside of education.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top