Click here to view the details of Digital Storytelling courses I have recently been teaching. For the postgraduate module click on the MA button. For the undergraduate module click on the BA button.
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WRITING A SCRIPT FOR A DIGITAL STORY
A story is more than just words.
A Digital Story is personal. It's told from the heart with feeling and makes frequent use of the word "I". The narrative of a Digital Story is revealed in both words and pictures.
A great piece of writing doesn't always turn into a great voice-over, for a voice-over is written to be spoken. No one listening can see spelling errors or bad grammar so write it as you would speak it, it's not an address or a lecture but it is a considered narrative.
So much depends upon the way that you deliver it. Your voice is unique and its sound is important to the meaning of your story. You are not an announcer. You are not merely performing lines. You are narrating the story as you would tell it to a friend. If you "posh it up" or use a manner of speaking which is not your own, you will spoil it. Be yourself.
The precise word count is less important than the rhythm with which the words are delivered.
For a story of two minutes, the script should be about 250 words long. Be aware, though, that most stories benefit from pauses, gaps in the voice-over where the pictures are allowed to carry the narrative by themselves. It can also be useful to vary the pace of your delivery -- slow bits and fast bits.
In a two minute piece there is plenty of time to lose your way. A story is like a journey and it is very easy to set off in the right direction and yet never reach your destination. When you get to the end you should be able -- as it were -- to look back over your shoulder and still see the place you set out from. So, while you are writing, keep asking yourself: "What is my story about?" Do not include anything which dilutes the story's intention.
Think how few words and pictures you need to tell the story, not how many.
There is never any need to describe what the viewer can already see, or vice versa. It is only necessary to tell us things that we cannot work out for ourselves from the pictures and, even then, only things which keep the story moving on. Remember you must leave space for the viewer's imagination to do its work.
Music and sound effects can very easily create the wrong mood.
Music can be useful when it comes to creating mood but it's always more satisfying to use music and sound effects which you have created for yourself. If you aren't musical (is there anyone out there who never hums a tune or whistles one occasionally?) then work with a friend who is. Digital Storytellers use sound effects sparingly.
There are no right or wrong ways of telling a story, only clear ways.
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Here are some how-to-do-it tutorials for people who want to make Digital Stories. They were written for students who had enrolled on my modules at Cardiff University but, with a little adaptation, they can be used by anyone. Click the icons to download them as .pdf files.
Windows PC versions
Adobe Premiere is my software of choice for making Digital Stories. Currently I teach using Adobe Premiere Elements. Adobe Premiere Elements v.7 for Windows: a tutorial.
Click the .pdf logo and the file (885 Kb) will open in a new window. When open, download it by clicking 'Save a Copy' in the menubar.
This one is for an older version of Premiere: Adobe Premiere Pro (released between 2004 and 2006). Adobe Premiere Pro v.1.0 for Windows XP: a tutorial.
Click the .pdf logo and the file (846.3 Kb) will open in a new window. When open, download it by clicking 'Save a Copy' in the menubar.
Apple Mac version
How to make Digital Stories using iMovie HD in Apple's iLife '06.
Click the .pdf logo and the file (2.3 Mb) will open in a new window. When open, download it by clicking 'Save a Copy' in the menubar. Note: The versions of iMovie which come with newer versions of Apple's iLife are not really suitable for making Digital Stories and, although (for a while) Apple did allow those of us who preferred iMovie HD '06 to continue downloading it for free, in February 2009 that service was discontinued. So this manual is intended for Mac users working with old (pre-2008) machines running iLife '06. The best software for Apple users now (with machines made since 2011) is, without doubt, Adobe Premiere Elements 10 which works on both a Windows PC and a Mac. I haven't yet written a manual for Premier 10 but, if you download my Premiere v.7 manual (above), you'll find that little has changed and you'll be able to work it out for yourself.
The Complete BBC Capture Wales Guide to Digital Storytelling
Click the .pdf logo and the file (232 Kb) will open in a new window. When open, download it by clicking 'Save a Copy' in the menubar. There's an online version too (link opens in a new window).
My old gang at BBC Wales produced this in their last big push before they were disbanded in March 2008. It's a 47 page 'bible' on everything you need to know about running Digital Storytelling workshops, from 'picking an ideal venue' to the 'ten things you need to show someone who has never used a computer before'.
It's a fine document. Of special interest to anyone wanting to push and stretch the Digital Storytelling form are Lisa Heledd's three key principles of participatory media (see pp 33/34). These are:
- That the story told should be a strong story. The job of the facilitator is to help the storyteller to tell their story in the very best way that that person possibly can tell it.
- That skills are transferred. The job of the facilitator is to pass on both storytelling and technical skills to workshop participants.
- Ownership. The person telling the story must feel that they have complete control over that story.
If you ignore these principles then, as Lisa writes, "it's a slippery slope to old fashioned smash and grab journalism."
To this list I would add only the absolute need that what is made must be shared. It ain't over until it's been screened in front of an audience.
So, as Jello Biafra says: "Don't hate the media. Become the media."
Or, as I say: "If you don't want to be done by media, do it yourself."
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