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Commencement Ceremonies Going Virtual

In midst of pandemic, high schools and colleges wrestle with safe alternatives to celebrate seniors. Companies are stepping into accommodate them.

As high schools and universities across the country grapple with what to do about commencement ceremonies amid the pandemic this spring, one New Jersey company, Perlow Productions in Marlton, is offering a viable solution to give seniors their moment in the sun: virtual graduation ceremonies.

A safe alternative to walking with classmates in crowded arenas or football stadiums, virtual graduations provide a fun, streaming celebration replete with photos or even videos of each student, commencement speeches by administrators and valedictorians, and even caps tossed in the air – and the benefit of downloading the entire ceremony for posterity.

The desire to offer a semblance of a traditional commencement runs deep. Many schools have announced plans for drive-through ceremonies with Pomp and Circumstance and speeches played over PA systems, and drive-in ceremonies in old drive-in theaters, with families safely ensconced in their cars and audio broadcast on local public access radio stations.

Virtual ceremonies, including polished multimedia elements, are yet another way to deliver students a sense of closure and families an avenue to feel the pride they’ve imagined for years.

“This is the time of year when caps and gowns are being ordered, when diplomas are being printed, when hotel rooms are being booked. The sudden cancellation of in-person ceremonies is heartbreaking for students and parents alike, but we live in a time when we can substitute online experiences to allay that disappointment a little bit,” said Mike Perlow, founder and president of Perlow Productions. “Is it the same? No, but it can be rewarding and morale-boosting in its own way, and shareable in a way live ceremonies typically aren’t. And many schools will do virtual now, with live ceremonies planned later when it’s safe to do so.”  

Perlow, a former Boston TV sportscaster, said he has fielded inquires from multiple schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, and even China. “COVID-19 has impacted virtually everywhere, and schools everywhere want to recognize their graduates during this season – it’s universal. Right now, the need to stay safe and adhere to social distancing is the priority, and that means getting creative in terms of all kinds of activities.”

Perlow Productions, whose typical focus is corporate video production, animation and augmented reality, pivoted when everything started to shut down and stay-at-home orders swept the country. Seeing the quandary schools were facing, Perlow saw a way to help fill a void using the company’s creative skills and technical know-how.

The company began offering three turn-key packages this month, with pricing based on a graduating class of 500 students. All include at least one address by a school official and the pronouncement of each graduate by name along with their photo on-screen. Additional options include a “procession” accompanied by Pomp and Circumstance and candid photos of the graduates, additional speeches and presentations, integration of video clips, and secure streaming online and on social media pages of the full virtual graduation production. Traditional moments, including the shifting of tassels and tossing of caps, can be added via video as well.

Perlow will work with schools to further customize the commencement experience based on their individual needs or wishes and larger or smaller class sizes. “Almost nothing is out of the realm of possibility,” he said.

Perlow Productions is a corporate video production, animation and augmented reality company based in Marlton, N.J. It creates highly strategized, branded video content for a wide array of industries and organizations. It also produces interactive videos, event live-streams, and one-of-a-kind aerial video tours.

For more information, visit www.perlowproductions.com.

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