Less than a decade ago, to organise a DS workshop meant using a centre with specialist IT equipment, sound recording facilities, technical support personnel and quite possibly an in-house photographer or TV professional to ensure everything ran smoothly. Due to the digital revolution, the situation is a little less specialised these days, but in order to work effectively and efficiently, some of the skills employed by our predecessors are still vital elements of the DS process, like choosing the right environments to work in. These areas are:
- Venue for the briefing
- Venue for the storytelling circle
- Sound recording space
- Venue for the editing of stories
- Venue for screening
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, so to a certain extent, the workshop environment is likely to be predetermined by external, institutional factors but ther e are a number of issues to consider carefully when planning a workshop. Always check out the rooms that will be used for the workshop in advance and try to change rooms that simply won’t work.
- For the briefing, any space where the trainer can show stories to their true potential is acceptable. Always check that the sound is clear at the back of the room and the image on the screen can clearly be seen by all. Avoid bright rooms with sunlight blazing in and noisy spaces, because the aim of this session is to inspire new storytellers, not have them wondering what is going on.
- The storytelling circle environment must be a closed space in order to work best, free from all interruptions besides emergencies. Participants should be able to sit comfortably around the right number of tables for the group size, in a way that everyone can see each other. It needn’t be a circle at all, a rectangle or square is fine. Avoid rooms with noisy corridors outside and external visual distractions. The last thing one wants in a story circle is half the participants watching a delivery to the building next door!
- The recording space is so important and requires some experimentation for best results. Try to pick a room with plenty of soft furnishings, like curtains and carpets and without much visible wall space. This will reduce echos. As a test, clap your hands and listen for the echo. In a perfect situation, you shouldn’t notice the echo at all. Also, listen for outside noises, like a nearby road, or pedestrians, or people talking. Anything you can hear, the microphone can hear and audible distractions on a DS soundtrack can ruin the story. One useful idea is to record the voiceover in a modern car. Providing it is parked in a quiet place and the doors are shut, the acoustic environment in a car can be excellent for DS. Always do a test recording and scrutinise it carefully for clarity and quality.
- Nowadays, using laptops for DS editing means that they can be used effectively almost anywhere, a complete contrast to just a few years ago. However, for the purposes of giving software tutorials, choose an environment with a data projector, where all storytellers can see the screen and the trainer can see all the storytellers computer screens.
- Quite often, the venue for the briefing would be acceptable for the screening of the stories, but if large numbers of family and friends are invited, then a room with the appropriate projection facilities will be required.