IWU Commencement 2021: behind the scenes

Illinois Wesleyan opted for a virtual commencement in 2020 due to COVID restrictions but was able to conduct a modified in-person ceremony in 2021. Social distancing rules made it a logistical challenge – Class of ’21 grads were split into two events, and a third smaller event was conducted to celebrate ’20 grads. Each graduate could bring a maximum of 4 guests so it was imperative that we provide a quality online streaming experience for friends and family at home.

To add to the excitement, we didn’t know until Friday if the weather would be good enough to use Tucci Stadium. Michael and Jerry from the IWU network team hustled to get outdoor WiFi in place for the stadium and totally nailed the deadline. The event had to move indoors but was lovely nonetheless:

We brought in two large high-res LCD screens to support such a large room. Jay and his colleagues at Physical Plant provided audio support for on-stage mics and music cues pre-recorded by IWU student musicians.  Abby, Eve, Vinny and Trey set up and operated 4 cameras, produced by Curtis (see below) and streamed on YouTube and a second platform, SideArm. This allowed international viewers to participate even if YouTube is blocked in their location. It was also a great backup for anyone at home having trouble with YouTube buffering.

IWU IT Services and Physical Plant workers worked behind the scenes for days to set up and test, then were on-duty for around 12 hours on Sunday to produce the live event. Follow that up with a clean-up day on Monday and we can finally call this unique, improvised celebration a success. Congratulations to the classes of ’20 and ’21!

2 thoughts on “IWU Commencement 2021: behind the scenes”

  1. The twin JumboTrons were actually LED screens put together in a 20′ x 11.5′ matrix and hung from the rafters on each side of the Commencement stage. These consisted of LED panels, similar to what you’d find in most arena jumbotrons or digital billboards, just at a tighter pixel pitch for higher resolution. The outdoor rated panels that were used for this are rated at 5000 nits, so these can get very bright and have no problem punching through direct sunlight. For comparison, most computer monitors are in the 200-300 nit range. Only very expensive HDR LED screens even come close.

    It’s hard to compare this to lumens in the projection world, as with projection, the black level is dictated by the ambient light hitting the screen. Unless you’re in total darkness, there is no comparison to the contrast that can be achieved by LED, since you’re looking directly at the source rather than a reflection. Just for fun though, 5000 nit = 464.52 lumens per square foot. The 20’x11.5′ screen is 230 square feet, amounting to 106,840 lumens. Factoring in the average gain rating of front projection screens, you’d need around 120,000 lumens of projection to keep up, and that’s in total darkness. This is why we will never likely be able to go back to our older projectors for this event!

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