Technology On My Back

A seasoned traveler gears up for education marketing with lessons to share.

GUEST COLUMN | by Richard Lakin

CREDIT Richard Lakin 18 rabbitsIn my youth, as an avid backpacker, I was a devotee of Colin Fletcher, who had walked the length of the Grand Canyon and wrote The Complete Walker, a book that significantly contributed to the wilderness adventure boom of the 1970’s. One of the things that I learned from him was that you could allow yourself any luxury on the trail, as long as you’re willing to carry it up a mountain on your back, so I became that kind of backpacker. Rather than “do without,” I would carry whatever would make my wilderness experience more enjoyable regardless of the added weight. I had many great morning espressos in the forest because I carried one of those Italian stovetop espresso pots and a small folding chair to sit in while I drank it. Not light to carry, but well worth the effort.

I researched all available technology before making decisions on what are fairly sizable purchases, and I will share some of it here, along with a few creative possibilities.

I continue that approach with the international travel that I do when producing digital content for education and NGOs. I carry a lot of gear, and it needs to be practical for planes, trains, and automobile travel, but still not “do without” as far as technical capabilities. I need to be able to shoot HD video and then edit it the same day on-location in order to post it to social media platforms in a timely manner. Since I generally travel by myself, I have put much effort into getting as much production equipment into as little a package as is possible. I researched all available technology before making decisions on what are fairly sizable purchases, and I will share some of it here, along with a few creative possibilities.

I use a Sony HVR-Z5U, one of Sony’s higher-end camcorder-size digital video cameras, along with a small tripod, microphones & stand, cables, batteries, international plug adaptors, chargers, and wind screens… plus a GoPro Hero 3 camera with a variety of accessories. I never want any of this gear to leave my sight, so I have to get it all into one carry-on backpack. I use a Kata camera backpack which (just barely) fits in the aircraft overhead bin, and is well padded. The presence of cables, rods, and batteries pretty much guarantees an additional manual search every time that I go though airport security. When fully loaded, it weighs so much that, despite my warnings, it has literally pulled several hotel baggage porters to the floor when they insisted on grabbing it.

Also in the backpack’s laptop pouch, I carry a 15” MacBook Pro with Retina display that is maxed out in processor, video card, and flash storage capabilities. This allows me to run Adobe Production Suite and Red Giant Looks with very fast render times. I back everything up on two 2 TB external drives throughout the trip and lock up at least one of them in the hotel room safe. I also carry a Beats Pill speaker for audio playback during editing.

Last fall, I had an extended trip to several educational institutions; one in Berne, Switzerland, and two in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At the Swiss school, ISBerne, it was important to focus on community and school culture. The student body is primarily expats, so community is a big part of their appeal to potential enrollment. Here is a video package that was shot, edited, and distributed globally within the span of about 5 hours. The GoPro footage and Red Giant Looks color treatment, I believe, make for more compelling blog media. When I got to the distribution phase I would, most days, go to Einstein Kaffee, a restaurant in old town Berne, which has a good Internet connection and is actually in the building where Einstein lived in that city. With a tagline of “relatively the best,” it seemed an ideal place from which to disseminate education content.

Then, on to Dubai. I happened to arrive at the Dubai Women’s College High School (DWCHS) just in time for UAE National Day and the anticipated announcement of which city would host Expo 2020. This, and a variety of other circumstances, made this a particularly interesting time to visit Dubai. First, the United Arab Emirates is a very young country. Founded in the 1970’s, national pride in what has been accomplished in such a short time is very strong in the UAE. Additionally, if Dubai (one of four finalist cities for Expo 2020) was picked as the location, it would be the first World’s Fair in an Arab country.

The culture of the school also added to the atmosphere. DWCHS, a girl’s high school on the impressive and modern Higher Colleges of Technology campus, promotes women’s empowerment. The school theme of “Empower yourself. Empower your community.” reflects a new generation of Emirati women who are engaged in the leadership of their society. Dubai was picked as the host city…and on UAE National Day to boot. I created this GoPro time lapse of the students painting the UAE flag to capture the excitement of the day. Again, this was produced in a very short period of time to provide more immediacy in the content.

Also in Dubai, I visited the K12 International Academy, which offers both online and in-center blended learning courses. A common concern of parents whose children home-school online is the lack of socialization with other kids. This video addresses that concern.

The extensive array of gear that I carried allowed me all the technical and creative capabilities necessary to complete the assignment. If you’re involved in education marketing, I hope this post provides some insight into the current technology to produce stories that reflect your educational institution’s culture.

Richard Lakin is the co-founder of 18 rabbits digital media. Named after the Mayan king (695-738 AD) who supported the arts during his reign in Central America, 18 rabbits digital media promotes social entrepreneurs, international development, educational institutions, NGOs, corporate social responsibility, non-profits, and community outreach projects through a strategic program of multimedia and Internet distribution.

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