Four things to do before saving the final version of your digital story

You’ve reached the end of your digital storytelling workshop and everyone’s getting ready to render and output their finished digital story. Here are four things you need to think about:

1. Make sure each digital storyteller in the workshop watches their film from start to finish

2. Make sure there are no mistakes with narration or images: an image duplicated or in the wrong place, a piece of narration clashing with an image

3. Correct any typos in the titles or credits

4. Double-check the spelling of names

Here’s a related article on Capture Wales about sharing your digital story.

brainstorming photo
Photo by david.orban

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 30 June 2009.

Why you should keep movie titles away from the edges

When adding titles and end credits to your digital story, use only the middle 80% of the screen. The central area is the TV safe area. If you creep too far out to the edges, there’s a risk letters will get lost if the story’s broadcast on TV. Old cathode-ray tube TVs trim the edges and on newer LCD screens, people often have their zoom set to ‘automatic’, which trims the edges. This TV safe area tip is one I learned from Rob Thompson. He used to be a video editor at BBC Wales but I think he now works with Avid in the Middle East.

How do you solve a problem like portrait?

Showing landscape-oriented photos and still images in your digital story is straightforward. You just crop, constraining dimensions to 768 x 576 pixels, or whichever dimensions you use. But how do you crop and display portrait-oriented images in your story? If you want full control over the way your portrait-oriented photos are shown in your digital story, here are the steps I use when explaining cropping and showing them.

In Photoshop…

  • change background colour to Black (usually)
  • Select the Rectangular Marquee Tool. When you click and drag out, you’ll notice the ‘marching ants’ around your selection
  • On the top Menu bar: Edit > Copy
  • Menu: File > New > Background colour (black)
  • Menu: Edit > Paste
  • If you need to rotate your photo. Menu: Image > Rotate Canvas > Arbitrary
  • Image > Image Size > Res=150 > Height=576 (Constrain proportions)
  • Image > Canvas Size > 768×576
  • Adjust levels and Sharpness
  • Save as .tif.

I learned this back in 2001 from Joe Lambert, Nina Mullen and Daniel Meadows.  By the way, while we’re on the subject of images, have a look at these ace photography tips by Carwyn Evans on the Capture Wales site.

Why naming conventions matter

Here’s a tip that will make post-production, storing, archiving and finding individual digital stories easier.
When working with workshop participants and individuals, ask them to make a final decision about which name they will use on their digital story.
This seems so simple, but some people find it difficult because:

  • they have a name like John Smith which makes it hard to identify or make themselves stand out in public
  • the name by which they’re known is not their given name
  • they think they may like to keep the option of telling an anonymous story
  • etc

Having decided on a name. Make one folder called, say, “joe-m-bloggs”. Spelling is important, as is not using spaces in the folder name. On BBC Capture Wales / Cipolwg ar Gymru workshops, inside this folder we always used to make sub-folders for:

  • projects
  • scans
  • sized_images
  • soundtrack
  • titles
  • video
  • voice-over

This folder is the storyteller Joe M. Bloggs’s special place on the workshop computer. Joe will use these folders to store the pictures and sounds that he is  going to use in the making of his film.

This kind of tidy housekeeping is something I learned mainly from Huw Davies when he was in charge of post production at BBC Capture Wales. When you’re working with groups of digital storytellers in workshops, having each person’s assets all within one named folder is essential. It makes it easy to to keep track of everything, give individuals a copy of not just their story but their source materials. Cleaning up the machines ready for the next workshop also becomes easier.
From the Capture Wales guide, here’s an article on editing your digital story by Huw Davies.

files photo
Photo by Doug Waldron

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 25 June 2009

Housekeeping for digital storytelling training workshop

Here’s a cribsheet I wrote to remind me of what to say at the beginning of the first day of our three-day digital storytelling workshops around Wales:

  • Fire drill
  • Beware of tripping on cables.
  • I’d let people know that I’ve written each person’s name on a PostIt on each computer. Planning the seating is something we didn’t leave to chance.
  • Remind people to take regular screen breaks, change their seating position, be comfy…
  • Let people know where toilets are
  • Let people know start and end times and times of refreshment breaks.
  • Ask people to drink and eat away from the computer please.
  • Introduce trainers, storytellers, newcomers (at start of subsequent sessions)  and any observers/researchers.
  • Try to allay fears.
  • Run through the process and timetable.
  • Invite people to bring family and friend to the final screening

Then, begin the workshop with introductions.

Thanks to Karen Lewis for her input to this. There’s more by Carwyn Evans about briefing participants here and here’s an article on helping people to start on their story by Gilly Adams.

workshop photo

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 23 June 2009

A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words from Ted Chung on Vimeo.

A year ago, I pondered about Stories That Work with the Sound Turned Off. Today I saw this four-minute movie: A Thousand Words. The movie’s by Ted Chung; thanks for the link to  @ShortFilmFest) It’s a personal story – albeit fiction, maybe – but it’s an utterly engaging ‘silent’ movie about a chance encounter. It’s got romance, zing and it leaves you wanting more.
This four minute personal romance is a perfect form for civic screens, noisy pubs, tube escalators, etc.
I love it.

DS4 Festival of Digital Storytelling 2009 cribsheet

Telling stories of Llanberis slate and Hollywood features, more than a hundred digital storytellers gathered for the annual digital storytelling festival in Aberystwyth. Here’s my illustrated story of the day…

L to R: Annette Mees, Dai Evans (holding the new-technology version of a teaspoon) and Bonnie Shaw.

DS4 – 17 June 2009, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Huw Davies showed intergenerational stories based around old silent colour footage of farming in north-east Wales. And announced he’s secured £200k funding for a feature film mixing old and new footage, with the new being shot by 150 especially-trained film-makers/digital storytellers in Rhyl.

Annette  Mees described how playing Big Ball Bingo and listening to community-members’ stories helped to bring people together in Shoreditch, London.

Cadwyd is Welsh for ‘kept’ or ‘for safekeeping’ and Rhian Cadwaladr and Gwion Llwyd shared stories about a Llanberis Slate Mine, at the foot of Snowdon.

I had lunch with digital Storyteller and photographer Dai Evans and his son Huw. Three generations of Dai’s family have made digital stories.

Bonnie Shaw said she’s invented the Snap-Shot-City photo-challenge format as part of a plan to hatch the best-ever party.

Video Nation’s Melanie Lindsell and Alyson Fielding showed footage from Everest,  a WWI Memorial Rap from Newport and a kitchen-sink monologue from Cwm Gwendraeth, as well as inviting contributions to the soon-to-be-launched Video Nation Network website.

The day was well hosted by DSCymru’s Esko Reinikainen, who launched a new online space for digital storytellers in Wales and beyond on the Ning network.  I’ll put a link to this blog post from that site.


To close the festival, Rhian Cadwaladr, Dai Evans and Alan Thomas handed the archive of BBC Capture Wales / Cipolwg ar Gymru stories over to the National Library of Wales’s Screen and Sound Archive where they’ll be available to view for generations to come.

This post has been about DS4. Here are links if you’d like to read about 2008’s DS3 or DS2 in 2007. Unfortunately, the website of ‘DS1’ – the first International Conference of Digital Storytelling at BBC Wales 28-30 November 2003 is no longer live.

So, will there be a DS5? That’s a question people were asking in Aberystwyth yesterday. By the evidence of the effervescent digital storytelling scene in Wales on display in DS4, I’d reply with a resounding “I hope so”.

Mrs Smoke shares 35 refreshing digital storytelling links

What a great Desert Island Digital Storytelling links list on the Making Teachers Nerdy Blog today. The sections on Web 2.0 and Storyboarding are especially refreshing.

Mrs Smoke is Dyane Smokorowski: a Technology Instructional Coach and Integrationist for the Andover Schools and an Intel US Senior Trainer in Andover, KS, USA. You can follow her on Twitter via

I’ve been commentating on digital storytelling on Twitter for a few weeks now using the username @digitalst. Feel free to follow me there, even if you don’t know me personally. I’ve learned a lot about digital storytelling around the world from the Twitter digital storytelling community, all all credit to them for alerting me to Mrs Smoke’s great article above.

The future of digital storytelling in public spaces

This post is a response to a question asked on Museum 3.0 group about: “the future of digital storytelling in regards to broader social networking tools” by Angelina Russo, an Associate Professor at Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia. As this question’s related to museum of the future, I’ll begin with an editorial approach to applications of digital storytelling in museums, libraries, galleries and other public spaces before addressing technical issues.

The teaching of the activity of digital storytelling in public spaces can form part of a museum’s educational program where:

  • people learn about history, area, objects, etc.
  • the learning spans curriculum areas
  • media literacy is improved
  • citizens get their voice ‘exhibited’ in their spaces

By the way, making a digial story in a workshop offers the best experience with associated community benefits. Kiosks offer a poorer experience but fewer resources are needed. Here are some themes of digital stories shown in public spaces:

  • personal reflection by individuals about object(s) owned by museum (rights permitting)
  • personal reflection about people’s own treasured objects. This is a good way of injecting meaning when museums present iconic objects like gameboys, Etch-a-Sketch and teddy bears
  • personal stories about an era or past event
  • stories about ‘now’, which will take on different significance when exhibited in the future
  • content presented won’t always be especially commissioned, it’ll also be licensed from authors already self-publishing their digital stories and videos on the web

Technical trends include:

  • mobile phones being used to capture and increasingly to edit and upload stories
  • video clips as well as still images being used as building blocks of digital stories because individuals’ personal archives consist increasingly of video clips, often on mobile phones.
  • use of social networking tools result in more call and response and ‘answer stories’, communities of interest, online storage and editing of stories.
  • a move to high-definition video

Thanks to Angelina Russo for asking this question.

Guggenheim museum photo

Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 8 June 2009

Three digital storytelling ideas for museums

If you work in a museum, library or archive and you’re looking for digital storytelling inspiration, here are links to three ideas in this blog:

Archive Meets Storytelling – A step-by-step set of instructions on how to run a workshop which delivers short videos mixing considered but unscripted personal reminiscence with existing archive footage.

What a Museum is
– Pondering on museum paradigms: “Living-memory sections of museums are more to do with memories than artefacts. So museum managers can feel free to move away from traditional perceptions of what it is they’re doing. That’s when they’ll feel it’s OK to instruct their staff to spend less time on objects and more on helping people to share their own memories with other visitors.”

I’m posting links back to these following on from my post yesterday about museum story kiosks called Managable digital storytelling for museums.

barcelona modern museum photo
Photo by [mcd]
Written and first published by Gareth Morlais on 3 June 2009