Refining the Storyboard
Now's the time to make decisions about exactly what information is going into video, audio, still photos, graphics and text. For this you need to refine your rough storyboards, figuring out what's changed from your original vision of the story, and mapping out what you media have and what should appear on each page. Here are some general guidelines about using the different media:
Video -- Keep videos short -- three or four minutes, tops, and preferably around 1 or 2 minutes. Keep talking heads to a minimum -- a few seconds -- and then switch to "B-roll" (any shots other than the on-camera interview of your main subject - such as action of the subject while he or she is working or playing or whatever the individual is doing when not being interviewed by you, as well as the environment that person moves around in, whether micro -- office -- or macro -- city or country). Usually, the video screen isn't large enough and the frame rate isn't high enough on the Web to capture the nuances of emotion that make some talking-head interviews on television compelling (think "60 Minutes" and Barbara Walters' interviews). Make sure the B-roll is specific to what's being addressed in the interview. This is different from television. For example, if you're doing a story about a research discovery for television, anything that lights up or moves, whether it's directly related to the research or not, is fair game. However, for the Web, the video should act more like the content of a still photo in a newspaper -- the visual specifically illustrates an aspect of the story. And action shots with a lot of movement usually display poorly on the Web, with its low frame rate.
Audio -- It's got to be high-quality. Unless it's the long-lost and only recording of the Abominable Snowman, there's no excuse for poor audio. (An exception is really old recordings, but then those have to be scratchy and tinny, by definition.) Don't be afraid to use subtitles with the audio if necessary (see Oscar's Story in Joe Weiss' Touching Hearts series for an example) to get the point across and you have no other options. Subtitles also can be used to reinforce an important point. Unless it's pertinent to the story, avoid using music as a background.
Still photos -- The Web is a VISUAL medium, so be sure to include photos. Use them to replace 1,000 words, not as accessories to words. If used together, text and photos should complement each other visually, as well as in their content. Don't be afraid to use Photoshop to put text directly on your photos, either. Photos can be used two ways -- individually, to set a mood or introduce a story or section of a story; and sequentially, to tell a story via a "slide show".
Graphics -- Make them interactive and/or animated (with Flash). Used with GIS (geographic information systems), you can let readers personalize the story by selecting a geographic area (such as their neighborhood) and getting information related to it. Don't be afraid to use graphics as the centerpiece of a story or part of a story, and, in that case, make the text secondary. Most crime reporting as it exists now and much of international reporting, for example, can be presented as graphics with text blocks.
Text -- For headlines, captions, with photos in a pas de deux, for history, and for first-person descriptions. Watch out, print folks -- this is your comfort zone, the medium you fall back on when you can't think of anything else to do. If you've got a page that has a lot of text, ask a graphic designer or a photographer or a videographer for ideas for another approach. This is not to say that some stories shouldn't be text -- op-eds, many political stories, analyses, and short updates work best in text. But this is a multimedia story you're doing. Text is what's left when you've put as much information as possible into every other medium.
Here are examples from the Dancing Rocks story of how the media choices and layout change from the early rough storyboards to the more refined storyboards (as well as some notes on how things were further refined in the finished product):
Editing the Content
In print, you generally write the story and then find or assign photos to illustrate or augment the text. In television, you pick out the best visuals, write a script, then begin adjusting each until they work together.
In multimedia, the best approach is to put together your refined storyboard first, and then:
- grab the pieces of the video for the stills, clips and audio you've decided to include
- edit the video, photos and audio and assemble the graphics for each page
- finish by writing and editing the text (captions, text blocks, headlines and nut graph)
View the Dancing Rocks site.