Storymaking Methods For Project Videos

For close to 20 years I have studied, experimented with, taught, and presented on digital storytelling — and I still have much to learn. For the purposes of the Project Community video projects, I wanted to assemble something to share to help you with the modality of making a video. Mostly, I hope to encourage you to think of the typical report / essay approach of presenting information.

Initially I was planning to produce a video about making video, but I have many examples to share, and decided on a blogged approach so you can go through to skip at your own pace. What follows below is distilled from a collection of talks and workshops from the last few years (found among the pile at

Mostly, I like to ask students to consider the narrative format of media they watch for interest or pleasure- film, television, internet meme videos, even commercials. Rarely do you see bullet points, outlines, or telling you of the conclusion from the start. For effective video campaigns, you really ought to consider what works well for effective storymaking, and then be prepared to say, none of the rules are etched into truth.

So make a big batch of popcorn, and sit back for a long blog post. Continue reading Storymaking Methods For Project Videos


Collaboration + Communication = Cooperation

imageIn 2012 we started Project Community in this form and shape. We (I mean Nancy & Alan actually) made it visible. I was along for the ride and was way more Confusiastic than any of you possibly could have been even though I had already been working at IDE for almost a year.

Students were very worried for the first two weeks, and to be honest, so was I. Today I have the luxury of knowing it will all work out in the end. This year I have seen an exceptionally quick response and understanding of where we are going with this course and why it is so important to your future, not only here at THUAS, but after graduation as well.

“Be true to yourself and to your team”.
I have seen the teamwork and seen how last Wednesday in the IWF teams, the course guide was working (My goodness what a relief that was)… I saw the team leaders saying, “Okay STOP… Kill your Darlings, start over and take a new approach”.
I saw another role off filming an interview together, while yet another role was hard at work already starting to think about the video. All I can say about that is, make sure that what you are thinking about now, it still fitting to your NGOs goal.
Don’t jump quite yet to the solution, but make a “program of Requirements” first before the design…

In 2012, one of our students (who is not at IDE anymore, but was an amazing Italian blogger) posted this in her personal blog and I’d like to share this positive feeling:
– Positivity: Is there anything better than working in a friendly, relaxed, nice and funny atmosphere? Positivity is the key to success, I have no doubt about it. Truth is that in a positive environment everyone is more dedicated, active, creative and so on, and that’s because working doesn’t feel like working at all, but it feels like an opportunity to have a good time and learn something new. Positivity is the main reason why, this time, I’m not feeling like working by myself is way faster and way better than cooperation.

An introduction to visualising development data (The Open University)

In conjunction with the BBC, the UK’s Open University has produced a fabulous video and lesson series on visualizing data related to international development issue. These feature the fabulous TED speaker and world health expert Hans Roling.

In An introduction to visualising development data explains the principles of visualizing data and how you can do the same using tools such as his GapMinder.

These are possible tools that you can use in your international projects.

This is part of a series on Don’t Panic – How to End Poverty in 15 Years

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 — 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!

Every Blog Post Should Be Able to Stand Alone

When you are blogging about your projects, you are in the middle of a familiar forest of information. When you write your post, you may want to consider this question:

If this is the only blog post someone finds from our site, will they know what it is part of? What it refers to?

Your posts may show up on search results, shared through social media, maybe linked from a large international paper (think BIG). Look at your post- if it is the only thing a reader finds, will they understand what it is about? What it is part of?

Every blog post should be a stand alone island. It should stand alone and be able to be understood from it’s content.

Public Domain image from pixabay
Public Domain image from pixabay

This does not man you have to explain your project in every blog post. This is where a link is your friend.

If you refer to “our NGO” — will a reader know what that is? The easiest way is to make a link to something that represents your NGO. If you refer to “our last meeting” — will a reader know where that information is? link to another blog post that explains it.

You do not have to explain everything or link everything, but try to look at your blog post through the eyes of an unfamiliar reader.

<hr />

Featured image credits: flickr photo by piczoom shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Introducing Janneke, (not) my super powers

Hi all,

I have experienced some confusiasm getting my post to turn up in the right spot on the internet. Thanks heaps to @cogdogroo for the help.

My name is Janneke Sluijs and I’m one of your tutors during Project Community. What I love about this project is the way it challenges traditional ways of learning and how it encourages, the students, as well as their NGO’s and not the least their teachers to learn. I enjoy a touch of chaos in every process and during my masters Imagineering I learned how organisations can behave like complex living systems adapt and learn following rules from complexity science/chaos theory. As long as the (starting) conditions are right these systems tend to adapt and learn. I believe Project Community sets the conditions for your complex learning environment and I’m excited to be part of it again!

THUAS is my home base for already ten years now. I’ve done my bachelor program here, where I learned to be a user researcher. I’m a researcher on Design Thinking and educational innovation for most of my professional life and I took part in setting up the IDE program and worked here ever since. I also have a room on the sixth floor; SL6.91, I spent most of my time there. Last summer I’ve been working in/renovating my new house; my superpowers or skills really aren’t in this department. However I confronted the challenge head on. I take pride in the results and my parts in it and I will definitely share some of the results and my learnings on the way.


One I will share with you right now: With many tiny or bigger decisions in the house I was confronted with things I knew nothing about. My default is to go and ask people who know more, and learn about the subjects. This is a useful process and I love it, secretly I was hoping that there would be people who would tell me what to do or how to do it. This however is never the case; in the end, I’m the one who has to take the responsibility, make the decisions and live with it. I would suggest this phenomenon also applies when you’re studying; you are responsible for your learning; and in the end you get to live with the knowledge and skills you learn on the way.

My plan is to move in next week; I empathise with all of you who moved this way in the past months or earlier. I look forward to the confusiasm of this year’s Project Community. By the way, if you’re stuck in confusion, I, as many of your teachers, can help you to enjoy the process and get enthusiastic about it!