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The Roller-Coaster Video:
Not Your Standard Virtual Tour

The car's clickety-clacks slow perceptibly as the track ascends into a crisp autumn sky. You hesitate for a second at the apex; then you pitch forward and hurtle down ... not toward a carnival midway or an amusement park's grounds, but into the Bryn Mawr Campus Center. You pause for a look around before shooting off to the next destination on campus.

The effect is produced by the Admissions Office's "Roller Coaster Tour," a playful and inventive approach to the virtual campus tour that is now posted on the Bryn Mawr Web site as the capstone video in the "Webisodes" series.

The tour takes viewers on a five-minute circuit of campus that includes a dining hall, a dorm living room, a library, classroom and administration buildings, athletic playing fields, and other important sites of student activity. It pauses for a longer look at campus landmarks, and student tour guides are introduced at a few critical locations.

Director of Admissions Communications Maureen McGonigle '98 dreamed up the roller-coaster tour.

"Our campus is one of our best assets," McGonigle says. "Prospective students who visit fall in love with it. So I was looking for a way to show it off to people who may not be able to visit, and I thought that casting the tour as a ride on a roller coaster was a good way to grab people's attention."

To translate her vision into virtual reality, McGonigle turned to her Bryn Mawr classmate Sheena Joyce '98, a Philadelphia film producer whose documentary Rock School earned critical raves. Joyce's 9.14 Productions has partnered with the Admissions Office before.

"Maureen called me and said, 'I've got this crazy idea—is it even possible?'" Joyce recalls. "I loved it. I said I thought it was really inventive, very cool, and totally unlike any college admissions video I'd ever seen. I said, 'Absolutely. We can make this happen.'"

Joyce and her partner, director Don Argott, met with McGonigle, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jenny Rickard, and several undergraduate tour guides to examine campus maps, decide what campus attractions were essential, and work out a route.

"Then we came back to the office and hammered out the logistics—what cameras to use for what shots, what our entry and exit points should be for interiors, how to pause long enough to get a good look at the buildings but keep the movement fluid," Joyce says.

"We couldn't get as high as an amusement-park roller coaster goes without hiring helicopters, and that wasn't in our budget. But I think we did a good job simulating the experience of a roller-coaster ride using a combination of cranes and steadicam shots."

The video was shot over two days last fall. Joyce brought two film crews so as to cover as much ground in as little time as possible; the editor moved between crews to ensure that the shots matched at places where they would later be joined.

"Everyone involved really enjoyed this project," Joyce says. "It goes without saying that it's a beautiful campus, and it's always a pleasure to spend time there. We were blessed with great weather, and the people we worked with could not have been more accommodating.

"And we enjoyed the technical challenge," she adds. "It's definitely not your standard college video."

The roller-coaster tour is posted as streaming video on the Admissions Web site at http://www.brynmawr.edu/admissions/webisodes/BMCTour.html. It is also available on YouTube.

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Posted 2/14/2008 by Claudia Ginanni