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The Grand Tour

Concurrent with the film in my prior post, Happy Holidays from TCNJ (2020), I was working on not one, not two, not three, not four, but… sixteen more videos for the same client.

I give you the TCNJ Virtual Tour, all 16-stops (cue the applause):

The TCNJ Virtual Tour on YouTube and Vimeo

This version of the video corrals all sixteen videos into the same timeline but you can view the videos individually, in their native habitat, over on TCNJ’s Admissions site.

The project’s goal was to recreate the tour that prospective students and their families take when they visit campus. In the age of COVID with everyone traveling less this has become all the more important for a school’s marketing as well as for a potential student’s ability to evaluate their own options.


TCNJ, The College of New Jersey, came to the the project with a well-oiled framework provided by their tours, their printed campus guides, and the Ambassadors. This is a group of students selected and trained to lead tours on campus. They are well versed in its script and its mechanics. If you have been on a college tour you know that the ability of a guide to walk backwards while talking is a necessary skill.

Suffice it to say, I took that as our touchstone when it came to filming the project. Rather than rely on sticks based camera work (too slow and too limiting) and with the prospect of handheld or shoulder mounted camera work not being the right feel, I opted to go with a smaller gimbal based camera. In this case, the Canon EOS R5 on a DJI RS2 gimbal.

Full kit for the TCNJ Virtual Tour project. Canon EOS R5, EF 16-35 f/4L, DJI RS2 gimbal, Litepanels Astra 6x, and more. Princeton, NJ. November, 2020.

The combination of the R5 on the gimbal kept the kit compact and lightweight which allowed us to cover a lot of ground on each of the two filming days. More importantly, I proposed it as a way of recreating the feel of an actual tour. Retaining that sense of moving through space and the signature college tour walk and talk.

I used one lens for the project, a Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, attached to the camera via Canon’s EF-RF Drop-In Filter Mount Adapter. I chose this over a native RF mount lens because it allowed me to take advantage of Canon’s excellent Vari-ND filter. With it I could adjust to changing outdoor light conditions on the fly or quickly swap in the clear filter for work indoors, all without needing to rebalance the gimbal.

Calibrating the gimbal on site. November, 2020.

I filmed in full-frame 4K HQ/Fine mode, C-log, 23.98 fps. The is the camera’s high quality 8K downsampled mode and I’ll note that in two ten-hour days I experienced no overheating with the R5 and no downtime whatsoever.

A single light, a Litepanels Astra 6x with a frosted diffuser, was used to highlight and separate each guide from the background. My production assistant held the light so that it could be moved in concert with the host as they moved through each space.

Audio was fed directly into the camera via wireless lav mic kits and was monitored through the camera’s headphone jack.

The client provided scripts for each tour stop as well as access to their archives for the b-roll of still images and clips. Campus was closed this fall but, luckily for us, there remained a pool of Ambassadors as well as other campus leaders nearby to lead the tours.

Performing a gimbal Auto Check on site. November, 2020.

Thanks to everyone involved!

Tour Guides: Victoria Yuknek, Alekhya Madiraju, Harish Rajagopal, Mariss McGauley, Anissa Crump, Jared Green, Angelia Seda, Nick Cosenza, Nate Byrnes, Frank Fabiano, Beverly Cadot, and Melissa Marshall.

Kara Pothier for TCNJ, Kelly Andrews for TCNJ, and Production Assistants: Ivan Guzman and Christopher Flanegan.