Case Studies

New College Virtual Tour

New College of Sarasota, Florida, is consistently voted as one of the best small liberal arts colleges in the US. Money Magazine consistently votes it one of the “best buys” in a market that is almost prohibitively expensive. But the university market is fiercely competitive. To attract prospective students, colleges have to do something special, and above all, they have to be visited. But how do you visit a college when you may not have heard of it & may not have the resources to go visit it in person?

New College contacted ardes to assist in an online promotional project. We were to create virtual tours of key locations on New College’s campus.

The Brief & Choosing Locations

New College, Palm Court--dual-node Quicktime VR movie

For two (for Florida) chilly January days, Ray Drainville of ardes scoured the campus for four locations that were representative of the average New College student’s experience. New College is situated on a bay overlooking the Gulf of Mexico & enjoys impressive sunsets. Many students pop down to the bay in order to view them. Clearly, this was one location.

Another clear location was the “Palm Court”, in the centre of a series of dorms designed by I.M. Pei. This area is a sort of communal area for the students & serves as the location for many parties.

New College, Tutorial in Caples Hall--Quicktime VR movie

New College students are high achievers. January is an “Independent Study Period”, where students pursue individual projects. Part of the experience of New College for every student is the extensive one-on-one tutorials they receive, both within these ISPs & beyond.

Finally, it’s not all about communing with nature, study & parties. Sometimes you just want to relax in your room. This artist’s room shows the quality of the buildings that New College provides its students.

Integration & Delivery

ardes shot the panoramas during the day & processed the photos in the evening, delivering the finished panoramas (plus some photography of life in Sarasota) in a few days. This was not without its problems: January light in Florida is very low & extremely bright, which can create extremely strong shadows & bright spots. In order to ensure a positive outcome for New College, Ray created two or three variations of each panorama at different times of day.

ardes’s work was sent along to a motion graphics firm who assembled the panoramas & photography into a Flash application. The full time for the project, between initial contact & having the work up on New College’s website, was two months. That’s a very quick turnaround.


New College’s virtual tour instantly got the recognition it deserved. Describing it as an “interactive experience that raises the bar for virtual college tours”, Campus Tours awarded the tour four stars—one of the highest-ranking virtual tours for the entire year.

Since then, New College has been made the honours college of the entire Florida state university system and their matriculation rate has grown considerably. By creating a virtual tour that achieved such high attention, ardes helped New College reach out to students who might not have heard of them. Moreover, by placing the tour online, New College was able to attract prospective visitors might not have be able to go to them physically.

See more of our virtual reality work.