How to tell a Digital Story

The key to successful Digital Storytelling is to keep it simple. The COFFEE tutorial is an excellent example of how photography and Adobe Voice can work together to deliver a seamless digital experience.

Moreover, perhaps it is time for Weekend Coffee. Put the kettle on and enjoy.

1. Setting the Digital Storytelling Scene

Begin by creating your scene. Envision where you what your stage to be. Use your camera and lighting to run test shots for possible scenes. Keep it simple.

For the COFFEE tutoring video – I used a kitchen table to place my items. Think of the things as your actors, and position them where they can deliver your message best. It is important to have your story ready and to do a few practice rounds before committing.

With COFFEE the positioning of the items – begins with the coffee jar and moves right to the sugar, milk, and water.

Photography by Gary Crossey IrishGuy - How to make Coffee

2. Start your Digital Storytelling Experience

What are the things in your digital story? I used Adobe Photoshop to add ID text. Consider your viewer when adding labels to photos. In my case, most people know what a cup and spoon are. Even with the most annoying names – find a way to be useful.

Boiling Water – having the instruction in use boiling water is more user-friendly than the label Kettle.

Photography by IrishGuy Gary Crossey - Asheville

3. Tell Your Digital Story

One step (or a teaspoon at a time). Consider how the instruction and the objects in the scene interact with each other. For the instruction to add one teaspoon of coffee – the coffee jar is positioned in full view, with the lid (open) and in center view. The hand reaches from the right. During the storytelling, the length of the arm decrease – helping to carry the viewer’s eye from left to right.

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4. The steps to Digital Storytelling success

Establish the pace. The sugar jar seizes the position of the coffee. The sugar jar lid resumes the location and position that the coffee jar lid – creating a learning expectation. The end user can focus on the essential element of the lesson by not having to consider the less valuable items.  By positioning the lid from each jar in the same location, the viewer does not have to second question what the item is.

Photography by IrishGuy Gary Crossey Add sugar to coffee cup

5. Maintain the Pace

Maintaining the pace for a Digital Story is hard. When teaching a step-by-step process, the user focus does best when the other items on the stage do not upstage the frame message.

Positioning the jar of Coffee and Sugar – back in their place – is created by the pattern established in the first four frames. Always look for opportunities in your storytelling to provide objects in your scene “their place”.

Add Milk to Coffee - Photography by Gary Crossey for IrishGuy Asheville

6. Enhance you Message

Enhance your Digital Story Lesson with visual effects. Reducing the exposure rate of the camera created a time-lapse. The motion of the hand is reinforced by the prior frames – with the hand is also shot in stillness. The hand motion was set up by leaving shooting the image with a long exposure.

Look for moments to enhance your message with special effects. However, be careful not to let the special effect overshadow your message.

Visual Effects are powerful tools that overpower a weak story.  

Stir Coffee

7. One Step at a Time

The second to last frame – this is where everything can go wrong. The end user has already figured out that the water is next. All other items have had their turn and have returned to their spot.

When creating this second to the last frame – maintain. Yes, manage and deliver the frame as expected.

Try not to break your visual pattern by moving items around, or altering the camera focus.  By planning the stage layout before beginning to photograph the frames – you can imagine the position of objects. Grouping the Coffee, Sugar, and Milk together allows the viewer to capture the three prior elements quickly and calculate that that process involved four steps.

The learning process in this frame would less if the jars had not resumed their original position, with the caps restored.

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8. Show the Result

What have we achieved? Was the lesson plan a success?

The successful reader of the Digital Story Lesson has a new or refined skill or piece of knowledge.

The Show The Result frame finalizes the lesson.  There is no more ground work, no more questions, no more information to share. The viewer has this last frame to grasp the importance, and leave with a deeper understanding.

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9. Provide that Something Extra

Include something extra. Wrap up the experience with a helpful piece of information – that some of the users can use. The Digital Storytelling Lesson taught the user how to make a cup of coffee. The frame provides the user with the information they can add liquor to the drink – with the disclaimer that adding this step is limited to weekend use.

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10. Recap the Essentials

Recap the overall process. When teaching a class – this is a perfect final slide that can be left on the screen for students to capture the information they need. Don’t treat this Digital Storytelling Lessons like a cooking show – that would end highlighting the final product. With a Digital Storytelling Lesson, it is best to recap the main points in the final frame (which may often be a repeat of the first frame).
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