StuTrav U.S.A.

     The Event.  It was during the late summer of 2009 that Martha Doyle, board member of EF, visited Passports, Inc. in the company of her newly-appointed corporate president, Shane Steffens. A lunch was had at the nearby Castle Restaurant, during which she expressed the hope that a larger gathering, to involve the chief executives of the other student travel companies, might and ought to be possible. 
     Martha was immediately shouted down, it being thought that the American student travel industry was too competitive, and too striven with the bad blood and recriminations and ill will having arisen out of decades of disputes and the lawsuits which had never fully settled those disputes, for such a social gathering ever to occur. Wagers were made around the table in general support of this view, with odds as high as ten to one backing the almost certain non-appearance of certain individuals. 
     Flying in the face of this sentiment,  invitations were nevertheless sent out to the active CEOs (and to one "lieutenant" of their choosing) of the ten major student travel companies in the United States, suggesting a gathering that would occur some three weeks later, on Friday the 25th of September, in Spencer, Massachusetts. 
     All ten CEOs accepted this invitation, and all ten CEOs (in most cases with their lieutenants) appeared at the offices of Passports, Inc. at eleven o'clock in the morning on that Friday in September, all in fine humor. Included were

     Tina Falcione, CHA
     Louise Falcione, CHA
     Martha Doyle, EF
     Christina "Bobo" Wlding-Jonsson, EF
     David Stitt, REALGAP/TUI
     Peter Adams, CASTERBRIDGE
     Ted Voelkel, ALSG emeritus
     Des Maguire, NETC
     Mike Forhan, PASSPORTS
     David Markle, PASSPORTS
     Jeff Thomas, PEOPLE-TO-PEOPLE
     Dick Footner, ACIS
     Olle Olsson, EXPLORICA
     Peter Jones, ACIS
     Manuel Araque, EUROCLUBTOURS
     Ron Blake, CASTERBRIDGE
     Mike Eizenberg, ETRAV


    The Summit.  If it was a serious and high-level discussion of current challenges to the student travel industry which had been expected, it was a party that ensued instead. Champagne was served by a white-gloved butler in a tuxedo, assisted by a young woman in a black cocktail dress. A sit-down meeting in an upstairs conference room began with ritual recitations of the "travel changes lives" mantra, familiar of course to the altruistic stutrav marketers in attendance, but this note of piety quickly dissolved into a loud fracas of jokes and mutual fun-poking which ended only with the temporary exhaustion of all those present.  Remarkable was the fact that these revelers had never before been in the same room together.    
The DVD.  The most interesting thing about StuTrav U.S.A., the DVD, is that no one ever set out to make it. It was not planned. The feeling was that sticking cameras into the faces of the guests would queer the event, and make people nervous. It was only on the way up the stairs to the conference room, after having alerted guests to the presence of video cameras, that it was decided, by Gil Markle, to let the cameras roll. The results around the table speak for themselves. 
     Likewise, it was never planned to record Dick Odgren's piano performance at the Castle Restaurant. It was only at the last minute, after everyone had arrived at the restaurant, that a wire was run from his keyboard to a flash recording device making an .mp3 audio file at 256KBsec. There wasn't the time for any tests. The device was simply plugged in and turned on. 
     The result was fortuitous and unexpected: a high-quality audio recording of all piano keyboard events, including those simultaneously recorded at a distance by the video cameras which were covering the activity of the group. In some cases, the video cameras would capture all or most of a song, which was playing in the background. These video sequences would be later synched with the high quality audio recordings of the same material, producing in mix the intensely musical and voice-animated scenes around the eating table. The music heard on the DVD is the music which was actually playing at the time, which can often be seen in the body language of the assembled guests. 
     In other cases (e.g., Martha Doyle, Mike Eizenberg), there was no piano playing in the background. However, high-quality audio was added later, synched to camera sequences which would include live shots of the piano player, all this creating the impression that the piano had been playing in the background all along, and that the speaker was a choreographed element of a musical performance. 
     Audio was all processed using SoundForge, and for the purposes of noise reduction (e.g., in the Summit interviews), Audacity. The video edit and extensive manipulation of the audio time line was done using Adobe 6.5. 
     Roger Hendrick authored the production in playable DVD format, correcting color imbalances between the cameras, mapping user-command of the program sequences, and (what took a lot of time) scripting the orange highlight menu selection buttons to pop on and pop off in time to the music. 

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 All original material copyright © Gilbert Scott Markle. All rights reserved.