Almost three years ago, I was enrolled in Digital Storytelling at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) with one of the best professors I have ever had. At that time, I was interested in journalism, and I loved creating feature stories. However, I didn’t want to limit myself to journalism, so I decided to explore other paths in English, Technical Writing and Communication, and Asian Languages and Literatures. Now it’s my senior year, and I have some big decisions coming up. Perhaps I’ll return to journalism, but for now, I’ll just try to give an overview of one of my past digital storytelling assignments.
Enter, the buddy project. I interviewed and featured one of my journalism classmates at UMD and made a story about his role as a mechanic at a bowling alley. Each of us were paired up and were supposed to make about a 2:00 min video about something the classmate did, whether it was work, volunteering, or a hobby. It was a lot of fun! See the video below:
Since the class was centered on journalism, we used many of the journalistic styles of writing and video-making. For example, anecdotal quotes from the person being interviewed as well as getting b-roll, like a background shot, and action of them doing something they were talking about was super important for telling the story. (As I’m writing this, I realize how long I can talk about what was involved with this project. I’ll try to just mention the really important things).
For starters, I came up with a few interview questions as a guideline, then set up a good time to interview and follow my classmate around at his job. Before interviewing, I had to set up my camera and adjust its settings. I used a Canon T3i DSLR, which was borrowed from the university. I’m saddened to say that I have forgotten a lot of the controls because basically, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” Once the camera angle was set, using the “Rule of Thirds” guideline, I started the interview by making it more of a conversation than a strict Q&A. If he said something I wanted to know more about, I would ask questions that weren’t on my sheet. Many good follow-up questions are just, why and how, because they allow the interviewee to just talk from their perspective instead of me swaying them to say something interesting.
After the interview, I asked if I could get some footage of him doing his job. From time to time, I’d also have him talk into the microphone to describe what he was doing. When the field work was done, I went home, reviewed the material, and came up with a script. Then, it was the computer work. I used the campus computers because I didn’t want to purchase my own Adobe Premier Pro software, which we used for video editing. I learned to use the video editor by my instructor’s handout as well as just experimenting on my own. I may have also used Audacity to focus specifically on audio, which was the first component I edited together. Once my audio sounded uniform and smooth, I began to choose the video to go along with the story.
When I was satisfied with everything put together, I rendered and uploaded the video. I can’t remember exactly, but the whole project took more than ten hours, and I ended with almost a 2:00 min video! I have a whole new appreciation for video making, even if the professionals are probably ten times faster than me. In the end, this experience was one of my favorite assignments, and I learned many of the complexities of digital storytelling.