University of Michigan Spring Commencement 2021


Bartha has been a key partner with the University of Michigan since 2017. We have created and executed their vision for their highly produced Spring and Winter Commencements. Of course, it’s a big deal when you are invited to “The Big House.” But, it’s an even bigger deal when you are invited to the University of Michigan’s iconic football stadium to produce its Bicentennial Commencement with an audience of 60,000 graduates and their loved ones. Enter 2020 and all the changes and challenges that came along with switching to virtual and hybrid events. The University did an in-house Zoom commencement that year, and in 2021 they wanted to continue to improve their production in a big way to allow their 13,000 graduates to participate.

They came to us looking for ideas for how to make the commencement interesting and engaging, giving the students a feeling like they were still part of it, even though they were not in the stadium. Most of the creative was focused on making the opening video have a huge emotional impact as well as developing a hybrid solution with reliable streaming capabilities so parents and extended family could view the event.


We created a 90-minute pre-recorded program from over 200 hours of footage that we shot in-person, gathered virtually, and received from the client. The production encompassed their entire ceremony with speeches, honors, and celebration of accomplishments. We were honored to produce several stand-alone segments, including an engaging opening video that highlighted all parts of the University and celebrated achievements from students and alumni from around the world. We also created two music videos in conjunction with their School of Music, Theatre & Dance. Our pre-production creative also included pre-recordings of speakers and presenters recorded in person and virtually from NYC to Geneva.

Perfectly imitating University of Michigan’s official website style, we built a custom page that was uploaded and hosted on their site. The YouTube livestream and chat were embedded on the top of the page. Below the stream there were anchored sections for a variety of purposes including: a social wall embed linked to Michigan’s tagboard account, a program PDF download button, and a typical footer with a help hyperlink. View the webpage here.

For the live in-person portion, following COVID protocols for the state of Michigan and the University, we incorporated a live stage and stadium audience and presenters with two 40-foot-wide LED walls, sound systems, cameras, and staging for the 5,000 in-person attendees in Michigan Stadium. We set up a stage for presenters, who kicked off the program for the in-person and other 50,000 worldwide virtual attendees. We also had thousands of students attend via Zoom so that they could be on screen during the ceremony.

In addition to the video and in-person portions of this event, we also created a custom streaming webpage that allowed attendees to view the stream, interact via a social media wall and reference the commencement program.

Overall, this event was an enormous success. The client admitted that the opening video made them so emotional they cried, and we think that’s a win. Hybrid events pose a unique challenge of weaving together attendees and connecting across great distance, and we were honored to provide a solution that celebrated the momentous accomplishments of their students and connected attendees from the stadium to locations across the world.

The University of Michigan has worked and trusted Bartha to complete our in-person Winter and Spring Ceremonial events since 2017. When it came time for the University to resume ceremonies for the 2021 season, we knew we could rely on Bartha to help us make it happen. They exceeded our expectations! For our virtual Honors Convocation and Rackham Graduate Exercises they were able to create animations to acknowledge each student as if we were in person. Both parents and students shared in our excitement as they had the opportunity to process across the virtual stage. For our Spring Commencement, they created our first-ever hybrid ceremony. Utilizing a custom website, in-person camera work and Zoom, whether students were in the stadium or at home, everyone was able to share in the ceremony experience. As we look ahead into the unsure future of events, the University of Michigan knows they can count on the Bartha team to provide high quality productions and amazing customer service.

Erin Dolski, Event Manager, University of Michigan

Michigan Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI