5.1 The Digital Storytelling process explained
There is more than one model for the DS process. Click here to view a variety of styles and methodologies. But in simple terms, the DS process follows the path illustrated below:
1: Briefing → 2: Writing → 3: Recording → 4: Editing → 5: Sharing
Let’s take each section in more detail here:
1: Briefing. Often known as the gathering, where potential storytellers are introduced to the concepts, processes and some examples of DS. This is a chance for storytellers to mix with each other and with their Trainers. The atmosphere should be collaborative and informal, efforts must be made to allay any storyteller’s fears about what lies ahead, and they should have the space to ask any questions about what is required of them. In this session it is important to demystify any issues surrounding DS, like the fear that their ideas for stories are not very good, or that their skills/ confidence are lacking. Important areas to cover in the briefing:
- Exploring the elements of a DS
- Clear explanation of the process and timescale involved
- Advanced notification of requirements for the coming sessions i.e. when to write a script, bring in photos etc.
- Basic but essential legal/copyright advice
- Introduce the signing-off process
2: Writing. Normally the writing process starts with a ‘storytelling circle’. This session is designed to bond storytellers as a group and to tease out of them their innate powers of storytelling. The story circle can be tailored to suit variable time slots between 2 and 4 hours. The ultimate goal is to get scripts drafted and finalised ready for voice recording. The three underlying principles of the story circle are:
- Everybody gets involved (including Trainers, technicians, observers etc.)
- Nobody is allowed to apologise for their lack of understanding, ability or confidence
- What is said in the story circle, stays within the room i.e. it is confidential
There are a number of activities involved in the story circle and they are covered in the next section. These activities can be time-consuming, so Trainers tend to pick a selection, depending on the time allowed. Click here to see some important tips on how to get the most out of the story.
At the end of the story circle, every storyteller should know the subject of their story and ideally a first draft should be typed up ready to read. In the case of any storyteller who has difficulty reading, there are alternative options to consider, like producing an interview-generated narrative. Once again, by the end of the story circle, these storytellers should be content with the method they will use and the focus of the interview.
The final aspect of this phase is the creation of a storyboard for the piece. As an approximate rule, one image per sentence is recommended. This organises the storyteller and highlights any areas in the script where there may be missing images. Often storytellers find that in their mind’s eye they have all the pictures they need to tell a story, but the storyboard quickly tells them they may have several images to cover one sentence, and nothing to cover the rest of the the film! A template for a storyboard can be found here.
3: Recording. This is the point at which the technical aspects of DS begin. Both the technical quality and the ‘feel’ of the voice recording are vital to the success of a DS. Some skill and judgment is required by the Trainer to pick the right room and to settle the storyteller ready for the recording. Click here for a full account from a professional sound recordist.
Included in the ‘recording’ phase is the capturing of images and the gathering of any music track or sound effects. Many of the pictures used in a DS may only be available as photos, so they will need to be scanned, or photographed using a digital camera. It is becoming regular practice to download photos from the internet, from social networking sites and the like. There are two important considerations to be made here:
1: Image sizes and resolutions: For the appropriate image size and resolution for a DS, click here.
2: Copyright: For information about copyright and legal issues, click here or here (pages 16-21).
4: Editing. There are several forms of editing required to produce a DS:
- The recorded voiceover track needs to be gapped and mistakes must be removed.
- Photographs need to be edited, especially if they have been scanned.
- The edited soundtrack, edited photos and titles are combined to create an edit of the DS.
The amount of work that goes into an edit is easily underestimated. It is predominantly a technical process but the creative aspects are crucial to the production of a successful story. There are some magnificent moments during a DS edit, when the elements start to come together and tiny changes make massive improvements. Once the edit is finished, the DS is exported as a completed movie file, for sharing.
Technical specifications for the DS film:
- Standard HDV 720-25p format
- Resolution 1280 x 720 pixel in square format
- Framerate 25 fps (PAL) progressive scan
- Audio 16bit 44,1 kHz or 48kHz (depending on the used codec)
- Possible output-formats are: .AVI, .MKV(H.264), .FLV, .MOV, .MP4, .MPEG, .WMV
5: Sharing. Storytelling is a multidirectional process, so every story should be shared. Some DS are too personal to be put out to a wider audience but the rest, which accounts for the absolute majority should be made available for people to see. Three ways to share stories are:
- Burn a DVD and show family and friends
- Put them on a website, like Detales, Vimeo or YouTube
- Hold a screening event for a batch of stories and invite guests to marvel at your work
Continue with 5.2 Choosing the right environment for the workshop