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Online Storytelling — How to Plan & Produce a Compelling Video

Digital StorytellingVideo

Does your organization have great stories to tell — but lack the skills required to plan and produce compelling videos to post online?

Last week’s Toronto Net Tuesday was all about using video to communicate your stories to the world.

Net Tuesday - Online Storytelling

Jaime Woo - Why online storytelling and videos?

Net Tuesday - Online Storytelling

For Jaime Woo, storytelling is all about “putting facts into a context.” He’s used stories in biotechnology, in journalism, and now in communications for small businesses and non-profits

As a child, Jaime begged his parents to take him to the movies every day. Through his mom, he developed a penchant for horror movies in particular. What struck him was how something that didn’t actually take place in real life could terrify him so much.

He talked about a short video project that he had done for blogger Anita Clarke. The challenge was to be “relatable in a compressed amount of time.” And instead of spending thousands of dollars on broadcasting a short ad on television, this video was able to reach her audience and only cost a few hours of time and a few hundred dollars for the camera.

Another project he described was a short clip for the Luminato festival that was to be played in the TTC. “The audience is busy and wants to be amused.” He used short 3 second vignettes, and bright colours, and avoided using a long narrative.

He left a final thought: online storytelling is just one tool that you have access to. “Before you engage in this, make sure that you need it.”

“To make a meal, there are a lot of tools — salad spinners, magic bullets, etc. — not all are needed.”

Brad Dworkin - What should your online story and video include?

Net Tuesday - Online Storytelling

Brad Dworkin is an award-winning filmmaker and new media artists. He came to share some specifics as to what your online story and video include.

“You’ve got a story to tell. Now what?” The first thing is to figure out who to target. Saying that your project “will appeal to everyone” won’t work.

More specifically, he gave some reminders of what to keep in mind before shooting:

Preparing for the shoot

  • Use storyboards: Quick sketches of what you want to shoot can help give a sense of what’s going on in any scene.
  • Do script breakdowns: For every scene, record who’s going to be in it, the setting, the time of day, and what type of shot it will be.
  • Budget: Remember to include tape stock, equipment, and food for the crew. Another tip is to include donated services in the budget — this will increase the overall budget of the project which will work in your favour if you have to apply for a grant.
  • Legal: Broadcasters always want to see release forms and they’re not hard to collect so always make sure to get them for everything.

He also raised the possibility of outsourcing the process by running an online video contest for instance. The downside; you lose some control over your message.

Billie Mintz - How to produce your online story and video?

Net Tuesday - Online Storytelling

Billie is part of the organization Artists Raising Consciousness, a group that produces films for non-profits. He shared some practical tips that he gathered over the course of his 15 years of working with video:

  • Camera: You get what you pay for. Don’t forget to ask about the sound quality of the camera.
  • Lighting: Don’t shoot through window, learn about aperture, and learn how to control white balance
  • Audio: Always use an external mic, consider using a digital recorder, and avoid busy streets or windy settings when possible. Wireless microphones are cheap to rent.
  • Editing footage: Go through your footage, pick your “selects,” and then work with this. Figure out the story you want to tell in advance.
  • Music: Don’t worry too much about using music you’re not cleared for — the worst that will happen is you’ll get a letter asking for it to be taken down. Make sure to buy royalty-free music yourself (as opposed to the people who are doing the editing)
  • Some more general tips: Invest in a tripod, label your tapes and files, and remember to think about the “negative space” of a shot.