Published on April 22, 2017 by

In the video clips above, Lorna Boschman and Harris Taylor discuss their collaboration on Agawa Canyon during the recent Art of Digital Storytelling workshop in Vancouver. Every digital story begins by asking, “Tell me about your story.” We recognize that someone wants to hear our story.

Jill talks about her idea for a digital story

1. What’s your idea?

The first step is simply to have an idea you’d like to pursue. All stories begin with an idea. You the storyteller provide the curiosity and perseverance to take it further. Here at Digital Stories.ca, we know that working with someone who knows about the technical and artistic side can help you to transform your idea into a digital story.

2. Gather your digital story materials

Once you’ve started to work on an idea, gather together images and sounds you’ve already got and think about what else you will need to tell your digital story. Do you have a collection of old photos or home movies? They might be useful in your story. Recent images will likely be digital already. You can scan old photos to make them digital – we suggest scanning at 600 dpi to prepare for video editing. You can write a voice-over and record it with your cell phone or on an audio recorder or video camera. Copy audio, video and still image files into a central folder on your computer. That way, it will be easier to find everything you want to include in your digital story when editing with editing software like Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. Video editing software like iMovie actually makes another copy for you while it imports the footage.

Example of a storyboard from the workshop

The most important thing is to move forward with your idea. Unlike Hollywood movies where dozens of people are paid to create a story that follows the shooting script, working on a digital story means that you have the luxury of exploring your idea without much cost. If you find that your voice-over is too long or your performance could be improved, you are able to record it again.

During the Art of Digital Storytelling workshop, we ask storytellers to do free-writing about their idea. Storytellers work on ways to create a more dynamic story using images and sound. We encourage storytellers to look for the story behind the story; one that includes the potential for emotional engagement with viewers.

If you are ready to record your voice-over, we help you with that during the Art of Digital Storytelling workshop. Between classes, you have time to do additional shooting and file transfers once you’ve got a strong idea and the beginnings of a script.

3. Ideas about editing

Film editor Roger Crittenden shared some valuable insights for directors and editors in The Thames and Hudson Manual of Film Editing (1981, now out of print). To avoid dull editing effects, keep in mind:

Making plans during the workshop

1. Where at any time is the focus of interest?
2. When and to what does the focus shift?
3. What is the mood and therefore consequent pace of the scene? Does that pace change?
4. Are there natural pauses which should be reflected in stillness and silence?
5. What significant detail must be seen?
6. Conversely, when is it important to see the whole area in which the action takes place?
7. Is there movement which requires covering?
8. When is a reaction more significant than an action?
9. Does any sound off-screen affect the understanding of the scene?
10. How do the beginning and the end of the scene relate to those immediately before and after?
11. What is the function of the scene in the overall script?

One benefit of working with others in a workshop is getting immediate feedback. While you may not agree with all suggestions, this gives you an indication of which areas of your story are not clear to the viewer. It is hard to predict the way that an audience will respond to your digital story. Whether you are editing at home, at a studio or in a workshop, getting another set of eyes is often quite useful. Strangely, when someone else is watching your digital story, you can see flaws that were not apparent a minute before.

4. How to work with us?

Individual tutoring and leadership in group workshops are ongoing services available through Digital Stories.ca. Our scheduled Art of Digital Storytelling workshops will return in September 2017.

We work with storytellers at a distance using Skype or similar services. Email us: info@digitalstories.ca to book an appointment – our basic rate is only $50/hour. Thanks to Sebnem Ozpeta for recording the workshop on video and to Lorna Boschman for editing together the clips. And to Harris Taylor for sharing Agawa Canyon with us. Jill Mandrake completed Waitin’ Till the Cows Come Home during the workshop.

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