The Department of Landscape at The University of Sheffield is the top-rated Landscape Architecture Department in the UK with 97% graduate employment. They came to us with a desire to create several course and departmental overview films along with over 20 academic profile videos to accentuate the talent, warmth and enthusiasm of their staff; characteristics that aren’t always easy to get across in a prospectus.
We were able to fulfill these objectives using a visually compelling style and fast-paced narrative that maintained an underlying message of engaged academia – opening the potential for more research collaboration – as well as staying true to one of the department’s major selling point for students; the city of Sheffield. Their newly refurbished studios, located inside the listed Arts Tower building, offers stunning views over Sheffield and out to the Peak District, leaving a lasting impression of how beautifully the city coexists with its surroundings. And despite being England’s fourth largest city, Sheffield is also its ‘greenest’. Blessed with an abundance of open space and tree cover, it provides endless inspiration for Landscape students and is the perfect location to pursue their passion.
This enthusiasm is clearly visible when prospective students visit the department for the first time during the various open days offered throughout the year. These events play a critical role in students’ decisions around applications and are certainly the key vehicle for converting initial interest to first choice destinations. But how do you attract people to open days in the first place as well as thinking about those who are unable to attend? League tables and reputational signifiers such as ‘Russell Group’ status obviously play a big role, but if you want to more objectively represent the learning environment on offer (while also presenting a subjective ‘feel’ of the place) the moving image delivers an unrivalled opportunity – although we might be slightly biased!
Student recruitment is only part of the influence films of this nature can have; the series we created for the Department of Landscape has had multiple purposes. It has encouraged partnership with other organisations in the local area, attracted new industrial contacts and enabled enhanced engagement with the general public; some of whom may never have fully understood the positive impact University research and teaching can have on everyday life, locally. It also evidences teaching and research excellence, providing a valuable asset when presenting evidence to funders such as HEFCE.
A significant part of our job during projects of this nature is working with academics, students and others who have never appeared on screen before. We believe in capturing authentic, meaningful moments, information and opinions rather than scripted, overly-moderated soundbites. For this reason, it’s essential that an individual feels at ease when on camera so they can fully express themselves and communicate effectively. We offer advice on everything from how to structure an answer or statement effectively to tone of voice and body language but in the most part, our work involved making people feel happy to be themselves and forget, as much as possible, about the presence of the camera. Of course, it comes more naturally to some but we can also help with the casting process in advance of production to make sure the best individuals are selected for the film’s desired purpose.
Another part of our role is to advise on dissemination or distribution strategy. With the right plan, it’s possible to reach a much higher percentage of the desired audience once the film is released. It’s always beneficial to think about the audience during the pre-production phase. This allows us to tailor the style, pace, content, duration and other variables with the distribution plan firmly in mind. With the Department of Landscape collection, for example, we knew these videos would predominantly be used on the department’s website, social media feeds and at promotional events but that some were aimed more at 16-18 year old prospective students while some were aimed more at prospective industrial or research partners. For this reason, some of the films have a more energetic, frenetic even, and inspirational arc while others have a relaxed, yet professional feel, with a steady pace to ensure the audience would remain interested and able to retain key information without excessive stylistic distractions.
Feedback from staff and students has been very positive. A few months later, the Department got back in touch to commission a new collection of films predominantly aimed at prospective postgraduate students.
Of course, we’re always looking for our next challenge and would welcome any other University department to get in touch to learn how they too can unlock their potential and create a lasting digital impression.