As schools across the nation find themselves closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the end of the term looms near, many are looking at graduation ceremony plans in a new light. How does one take a tradition hundreds of years old and update it to a social distancing world? Here are 5 key steps to successfully enable a fully digital commencement. If you have any question about any of the items below, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 1: Pre-recorded broadcast
Like most late-night talk shows, you can record your graduation long before it airs but still make it appear live. First, break your commencement down into its parts:
- Processional/National Anthem
- Head of School/Principal/Superintendent Welcome
- Student Speaker Introduction
- Student Speaker Address
- Guest Speaker Introduction
- Guest Speaker Address
- Presentation of Candidates
- Conferring of Degrees
You can ask participants to pre-record all these components into separate video files and slides and send them to you in advance. There are several free and low cost software applications like vmix, in which you can load all these pre-recorded videos and then play them live in sequence. You can add titles, control the sound, and insert transitions, so whomever is directing (Select a Director from your IT/Media Staff) your commencement can simply fade from one video to the next while broadcasting live. Do not, however, just upload the completed commencement to an online platform. You want to create the shared live experience for your community, especially to prevent first time viewers from fast forwarding your specially created program. Make sure the title is live at least 15 minutes before the ceremony starts to give people time to pull up the stream on their preferred device and troubleshoot any issues. Many families will want to cast the graduation onto their big screens at home.
Step 2: Get recordings from your presenters
A few weeks to a few days ahead of your commencement, ask your presenter to record their Performance, address, etc. Any school staff still on campus can use their existing school facilities to really simulate being there. All presenters and speakers should choose their outfit and location carefully. However, the most important aspect is the audio. Large rooms with an echo should be avoided unless a microphone is used. The school may consider shipping a good quality microphone to each speaker to ensure quality audio. Ask your speakers to record in MP4 format (available on most camera and mobile devices) and share their videos using Dropbox or WeTransfer. Make sure each video is recorded in 1080 or 720p HD, so that one speaker doesn’t look more pixelated than others. Due to the crisis, schools may want to reach out to more exclusive speakers that may have more time than usual and be friendly to the remote format.
Step 3: Create a slide for each candidate
Now that you have your speakers, how do you present candidates that aren’t there? What works well is to create a slide deck with a photo of each candidate, their accolades, and perhaps even a personal message for their friends and family. The Director can slide though each candidate while someone is speaking their names into a microphone attached to the computer running the broadcast software. We recommend the Yeti Microphone, which can provide optimal sound quality and filter out background noise. This can be done pre-recorded but can also be done very well live. Have music playing in the background of the slides.
Step 4: Beware of copyrighted music
Avoid using any copyrighted music in your commencement, especially if using YouTube or Facebook for your streaming. Streaming providers have algorithms that can recognize copyrighted works and can shut down or mute audio, mid-broadcast. Even after a broadcast is concluded you can find your commencement deleted from major streaming platforms for copyright infringement or they can monetize your broadcast by automatically inserting ads. Pomp and Circumstance, many other famous classical pieces and the Star-Spangled banner are in the public domain. Stick to those and the school song to be safe.
Step 5: Send the video as a gift.
After the ceremony is over and diplomas are being mailed, consider sending a school-branded USB drive with an MP4 of the ceremony to your entire graduating class. Perhaps you can include a personalized message. Students and families will appreciate having a high quality, permanent digital record of their commencement, which they can share with family that was unable to watch the broadcast.
For more information about virtual commencement or other ways schools are connecting with their communities during these difficult times, please email us at email@example.com