On Video, On Story, On Movie Making

In a short hangout today with Yasin (look at him embed video like a blogging pro!) we discussed thinking about the video your teams will produce at the end of this project (your teams will combine to produce a single video for your NGO client). You all know what video is, you see films, movies, funny shorts on YouTube all the time, but how are the good ones made? And we are not just talking about the mechanics, but actually the craft of creating a short story.

In this post I will offer some points (and yes tools) to consider, largely based on my experience and open digital storytelling course called DS106 — many of my resources I will mostly link (you do know now, the power of hyperlinking, right?).

Perhaps the most important understanding of why stories work (see more from DS106 on Storytelling) comes from novelist Kurt Vonnegut who explains the shapes of stories:

When you start thinking about your video as a story, try to focus on what you can portray as a journey for a person in your video, and what kind of surprise/unexpected part you can have happen. Do not give away the end of your story at the beginning.

In addition, neuroscientist Paul Zak explains the brain science behind why stories work – they cause the release of neurotransmitters associated with seeing someone in distress and having empathy for that person. His talk presents the important of Vonnegut’s shape in a new way.

Before you think about how to make movies, it’s worth practicing what we in DS106 call “Reading Movies” — take a closer look at video you see on your various screens, and start paying attention to details. Listen to the ideas too of documentary film amkers sucj as Ken Burns, who focuses too on the story element:

In film, you do not see them using a lot of fancy video transitions that you find overused in video software. Look at camera positions, cuts of shots, lighting, sound, staging (positioning). Look at some of the short videos from DS106 Reading Movies (open the “reading Movies” header) that explain or identify techniques of filmmakers, e.g.

As you look at video content you see, see if you can identify these methods.

As far as the tools part (yes I know you want to hear it), you can do all of what you need for this project with the basic software that comes with your computer- either Windows Movie Maker or Apple iMovie (I do all of my video work in the latter). If you or anyone on your project has experience with more advanced software, by all means, let them go to town with it.

But every computer comes with this software that allows you to import photos, graphic., video, sound and turn them into a video, plus add titles, and other elements like end credits. While you are still developing your ideas, you may want to start assembling media that might lend itself to your project. And you are more than encouraged to combine using media that you find online with photos and video you acquire yourself.

If you use media that is not yours, keep a record where it came from. Make a document that includes the name and source URL of where you found them (not just “on Google”). Just because you found it on google does not mean you have the rights to use it, so use search tools like Creative Commons to find media licensed for reuse. I have a project site that lists over 50 sources for open licensed media. Or look in Wikimedia Commons. Or in Google Images search, learn how to restrict your results to items licensed for reuse.

To use clips you find in YouTube or vimeo and many other sites, the best tool (there are hundreds of them) I know and use is SaveFrom.net — the browser add ons add a download link to all compatible sites.

Your mobile camera is made for capturing media, but also as you do this for your project, you will want to consider for video trying to not do hand held shaky video (unless that is part of the script). Look for ways to prop your mobile against a book to keep it steady or maybe you have a small tripod device to hold it steady.

Pay attention to audio too- if you record, make sure your sound levels are audible, think about sound effects (or what is known as Foley) and background music.

You will also find ideas in the projects done by last year’s Project Community Students

We look forward to seeing on the big screen in November what the 2015 teams produce!


Published by


Barking about and playing around with web technology at http://cogdogblog.com On twitter @cogdog and flickr http://flickr.com/photos/cogdog

One thought on “On Video, On Story, On Movie Making”

  1. Aahhh, Kurt Vonnegut… I have quite a few of his books on my E-reader. I finished Basic Training and 2BRo2B, We are what we Pretend to be, Cat’s Cradle and Welcome to the Monkey House during the summer and have to say that this was relatively easy reading. Perhaps because they were short and I could finish them… while books that are long and drawn out are hard for me to swallow.

    To me this is the same as repeating blogs or just checking the boxes to get things done. I like things short and sweet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s