Part Two: a theory of storytelling…

Part One of this series delved into the elements of visual storytelling. Today we’ll check out different styles of telling the story and how to determine what might work best for your story.

The beauty of storytelling is you can choose which elements to use or not use – and also which elements to lead with and which to use as background noise/information. So you can go with a slide show, an audio/video clip, a narrative….it all depends on what you have to work with.

First ask, “What drives this story?” Is it the interview, the facts, the video or audio (natural sound or music from the scene), or the event itself?

Next ask, “What can I use to hook my audience?” Look at the same elements mentioned above.

Generally I begin asking these questions when I first start considering or shooting a story…and focus on the strengths of the story as I shoot. Before heading down that path, let’s consider the options for styles or formats.

Fact-driven
Stories that are driven by information. City council meetings, legislative hearings, medical reports and updates.

Event-driven
The easy choice – breaking and general news. Fires. Crime. Parades. Sports.

Audio-driven
When audio rules. Parades (again). Breakers (again). Interviews (character stories included). Musical events (profile of a musician). Barking dogs. Demonstrations.

Visual-driven
When visuals tell the story. Repeat the first two above (breakers, events with something happening). The money shot. The perfect sunrise, scenic, decisive moment.

Chronological
I’ve included this because it is the classic. “Once upon a time…” Telling the story for the sheer joy of sticking with a classic form and walking the audience through the details.

Let’s take a look at a couple of stories and how they developed and how the decision was made to go with a certain format.

Yosemite Demograpics/visual, sound (natural or ambient sound), and fact driven

Sometimes the scenery makes the story. You can’t go wrong in Yosemite National Park. This story began as a fact-driven look at how the economy has effected tourism in the park…but the natural beauty of the park was a natural way to get the story going. The sounds of nature also help pull the audience in…and as they enjoy the scenery and sounds, they are also picking up information.

Relay for Live/visual, sound (interviews)


Images drive this story…and a theme of light. The narration works to tie the images and interviews together. This story began as the sun began to set and the theme emerged as spots of light – so I shot to the developing theme.

Absailing/sound (natural sound and narration)

The visuals are so-so, but the enthusiasm of the climbers and the interviews make this story work.

Bleacher Creatures/sound (natural) and visuals

Sometimes the clip alone is enough to tell the story. Sometimes you just need to find a single clip or series of clips and let them run without explanation.

Emergency Windscreen/fact or information driven

A basic how-to video. Simple and effective.

Wyoming Cattle Drive/visually driven

Without the visuals this story would be difficult to tell. One of the few times I’ve used music (royalty free).

You may have noticed that each story fit several formats…and this is true with most stories. You may also realize that choosing the format begins before you begin editing…also very true.

As the story reveals itself to you or as you begin to realize what the story is about, you should begin shooting to the format that plays to the strengths of the story. If there are few visuals, think of ways to enhance the story with audio, information, interviews. If you are strong on information, you will need to come up with appropriate and creative visuals and sound to make the story.

Next up…(hey I’m tap dancing through this as I rack my brain trying to explain what I do daily without thinking about it)…let’s shoot something and explain our way through it as we produce the story.

So sometime in the next week I’ll shoot something and do a walkthrough. And if you’re in my blogging audience and you have a story you can’t quite figure out how to produce, let me know and maybe we can work this out together (yeah…I love a challenge).

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4 thoughts on “Part Two: a theory of storytelling…

  1. Pingback: Part Two: a theory of storytelling… | b-roll.net TODAY

  2. Pingback: Video and audio training tips | News Videographer

  3. Pingback: Links for the weekend | Links para o fim de semana « O Lago | The Lake

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