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University Video Producer Andrew Hatling and others work on Binghamton University's new TV spot on the Lois B. DeFleur Walkway.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
New TV spot is a homegrown effort
November 19, 2014Tweet
What does it take to shoot a modern TV spot? Expensive equipment? A 40-man crew? A gargantuan budget? For Binghamton University, all it takes is some teamwork.
The University’s new 30-second TV spot, “Binghamton – This Is Premier,” is a study in collaboration. The video, which showcases the University’s history using archive footage and props, period furniture and digital effects, was produced almost entirely in-house by students, faculty and staff.
“The way that people came together to put this project together, it’s unbelievable,” University Video Producer Andrew Hatling said. “From so many different arenas, it was such a huge, huge team effort – from theater to Special Collections in the library to people on the web team and the marketing department.”
“Binghamton – This Is Premier” tells the story of Binghamton’s 60-plus year mission. The video opens with a shot of a vintage TV set playing film clips from throughout the University’s history. The camera zooms out to a living room set straight out of the 1940s, complete with period furniture and Binghamton memorabilia. As the TV begins to play more modern footage, the camera pans up and the back wall drops out to reveal the campus, where over 100 Binghamton students are walking around — shaking hands, high-fiving and smiling under a sunny autumn sky.
“I think the coolest thing about this spot is it helps to show the journey the school has made,” said Hatling. “At the very end, you see the reality of that. You see this school with a beautiful campus, with a great, diverse group of students, and they’re happy. They’re happy here, learning and growing. I think it’s cool to see the evolution of the school.”
Hatling had created a lot of videos before — he worked with visual effects on a Pringles spot and worked with a food stylist for a Breyers ice cream commercial — but he had never done a period piece before.
“With this one, it was fun to work with period and think, ‘How do I make this look believably like it’s 1946?’” Hatling said. “So, you learn something on each of these projects, about all those different layers of filmmaking.”
The biggest challenge, said Hatling, was pulling together all of the props. For insight on appropriate period furniture, he turned to Barbara Wolfe, chair of the Theatre Department. She showed him what types of pieces to look for. He then visited numerous stores in the area, looking for just the right furniture and period wallpaper. The television, which dates back to 1948, was a Craigslist purchase.
Next was the living room wall. Under the direction of Technical Director Don Guido, the Theatre Department constructed a 10-by-12-foot wall and covered it with period-appropriate wallpaper Hatling found at a local shop.
To give the spot a touch of Binghamton authenticity, Hatling turned to University Archivist Yvonne Deligato. Together they went through boxes of memorabilia, archival videos and photographs, and selected materials that reflected a range of the University’s 60-plus years of development and history. A total of 18 props, dated from 1948 to the early 1970s, were loaned out for the shoot. Deligato also provided photos from the early 1950s and 1960s, videos created for the University’s 25th and 50th anniversaries, and several films from the 1950s and 1960s, such as early commencements, scenes of campus and building dedications.
Deligato is happy to have been a part of the process.
“I believe it is important to know how the University came to fruition, how it has evolved and that it continues to offer outstanding educational programs, as well as life-long learning experiences and memories for the students,” Deligato said.
Along with creating an authentic-looking set, the next biggest hurdle was incorporating archive footage from the University vault. Hatling worked with library staff to find interesting titles in the University Archives, a good chunk of which had never been seen before. He then turned the film over to James Pitarresi, assistant provost and executive director of the Center for Learning and Teaching, who used a special machine to transfer it to digital format.
Pitarresi is pleased with what Hatling was able to do with the footage.
“To see the final product is amazing, and to have a tiny part in that is very satisfying,” Pitarresi said. “What’s really exciting for me though is kind of the nexus of all of these threads coming together, if you will; this old technology of film coupled with the new technology of digital, coupled with this concept of digital fluency.”
Filming took place on the DeFleur Walkway. Hatling and a small crew constructed the living room to the curious looks of passersby. Local video production company White Knight Productions came in with a dolly and other gear.
The final piece in the puzzle was the extras. Messages were sent out to students via e-mail and B-Line. More than 100 Bearcats showed up, many of them clad in Binghamton green.
“It was cool that we had 100 students show up and everyone had Binghamton gear on,” said Hatling. “That just shows the community aspect of the school.”
Hatling fired the students up between 24 takes with words of encouragement – “Smile!” “You love your school!” “You’re going to be famous!”
Mark Donahue, a freshman computer science major, was one of those students.
“Being in the commercial sounded like something that would be a nice break from the busy workweek,” Donahue said. “Plus, it’s just a cool experience to be able to say that I was in the commercial for my university.”
Once students were in position, the next biggest challenge was handling the wall-drop, which was achieved by two crewmembers pushing the wall down at the right moment. It was a nerve-wracking experience for Hatling, who didn’t have a chance to test it beforehand.
“We didn’t know if that wall was going to work,” he said. “We got it out there, and we weren’t sure if it was going to fall down. The first take, when we set up outside, we were like, ‘Is this going to work?’ And then it fell down, and it went beautifully. It was a huge relief and it was exciting, too.”
Just about a month after its inception, the video premiered via a Binghamton University Blog post, which gave a behind-the-scenes look at production.
“We, collectively, as a marketing department and a school, should be able to look at this and say that this is an authentic representation of who we are,” Hatling said. “It’s a cool summary of where we’ve come over the past few decades, and hopefully it challenges us to keep striving forward.”
Pitarresi is impressed by the final product.
“The best art, the best videography, the best photography – it looks easy,” he said. “And boy, the easier it looks, the harder it is. They really did a fabulous job.”
Hatling noted that a video such as “Binghamton – This Is Premier,” which would normally call for a 40-person crew, couldn’t have been done without the help of the community.
“I’m proud of this. I’m proud to put my name on this project, but I don’t want to take credit for it at the same time,” Hatling said. “There was such a huge community effort here to pull it together.”