YouTube LinkedIn Google+ Instagram Pinterest FourSquare Flickr

Refocusing Durward Hall

How can you use social media to more accurately show what it’s like to live in a residence hall? As anyone who’s lived in a university residence hall knows, the time you spend living on campus is defined less by the physical space you’re in and more by the community you get to be a part of. It’s not often in life that one gets to live with a bunch of strangers and it’s even more rare to live in an environment where there’s so much potential for starting lifelong friendships all while learning about a wide range of people whose lives can be very different from yours.

But how do you convey these non-physical, and often-times nebulous attributes in a visual medium like social media?

It’s as simple as shifting the focus:

YouTube / CSU Halls – via Iframely

The video featured above highlights the personal narratives of two students living in Durward Hall, a 12 story residential tower built in 1967 on the northwest corner of campus. Even though Durward can look imposing from the outside, anyone that’s lived in the tower knows that it’s a pretty special place.

Focus: Part 1

Instead of making Durward Hall the subject of the video, we made two extremely interesting students who just happen to live in Durward our subjects. In this way, by not making the building itself the primary subject, we get to reinforce its presence in subtle, deeper and ultimately more powerful ways. The Durward Hall in this video now functions – much as it does in real life for its residents – as subtext. For Jack and Taylor, Durward is a place that allows them to focus on their studies and develop their interests – in Jack’s case mountain biking and emotional growth and in Taylor’s case; developing her leadership skills. Durward becomes something that is more felt than seen, a place that promises the possibility of emotional and academic growth, meaningful lifelong relationships, and a deep connection to place.

Focus: Part 2

The majority of people who will be viewing this video are prospective students who are either deciding if they will apply to CSU or they have been accepted and must determine which hall they would like to live in for their first year. Our analytics show that most of this young, super-savvy audience views our videos via a mobile device so it was important for us to optimize our videos for small screen consumption. To do this we adopted a cinematographic style that translates effectively on phones. Each shot is composed with an obvious subject that is relatively large and in focus with a shallow depth of field. By blurring backgrounds and having a limited, highly directed focus, we convey the point of each shot in the least amount of processing time as there’s less ‘stuff’ in the scene for the viewer to worry about. This way of filming also helps convey a sense of intimacy with the subjects – you feel like you’re physically close to them and this translates emotionally; it’s easy to imagine what Taylor and Jack would be like if they were your friends.

Know Your Focus

With video, almost even more so than with writing, it’s important to really understand your audience and what you want them to feel. Who’s going to be viewing your video? What do they want to know? What things do they think are cool or uncool? Where are they going to be watching it? On their desktop computer as they scan through Facebook at work? Or on their iPhone as they wait for their parents to pick them up from cross-country practice? Know your audience and tailor your video content to their needs and you have a better chance of both connecting and conveying a meaningful message that sticks.

Christian Herrmann

About Christian Herrmann

Adopted into the Ram family after years of social anthropology and documentary-making in England. Vine obsessed. Connoisseur of awkward Youtube videos. Greatest accomplishment so far: made a rap video that hit the front page of Reddit.