Colin's Sandbox

Trip to Grandma’s

by on Mar.25, 2013, under Digital Storytelling

Well – it’s finally over, my first story for my Digital Storytelling class.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve procrastinated a bit on this project; while I have been tweaking my script now for the past few weeks I haven’t been putting the time in to get all the media ducks in a row until the past week.  Finally this past weekend I was able to get it (and by “it” I mean my mojo) into gear and plant myself in the seat for actual focused production time on the piece.

Here’s some thoughts on what I’ve learned in doing this project.

First: don’t procrastinate.  As a lifelong procrastinator (err. sorry, “idea man”), I can tell you that the pitfall propensity goes way up when you wait for the last minute.  Fortunately I have enough experience in the tools that I used that I could fight my way through the hurdles.

Second: I’m not a big fan of the current iMovie interface.  Since the last time I used it (several years ago), it seems like they’ve significantly dumbed down the interface, eschewing the traditional timeline view for what seems like a more object based view.  For stills I suppose this is fine but for me it’s very counter-intuitive as I feel at home with the timeline concept.  My coworker Richard tells me that Final Cut Pro has also gone this way, making me feel like a dinosaur.  I also was having issues whereby importing large numbers of pictures into the library would crash iMovie.  Not too hard to work around, but again, annoying.

Important: do a quick test project first (less than a couple minutes, and very little glitz) to identify where you’re likely to spend too much time in production.  The big time sinks for me was primarily recording my own voice narration.  I have some big hangup or other such that I can’t seem to record myself at all – I’m constantly goofing up, or deleting what is likely good enough audio, or revising the script.  I’m not going to lie to you – it took over 8 hours to record 5 minutes (!) of narration along with the music track and a couple of sound effects (great find: Freesound.org).  Absolutely ridiculous on my part.  Guess what?  I still don’t like how it sounds (I speak 100% too fast), but I had to draw a line somewhere and call it good.  Next time I do a project like this at all I will have someone else record and direct the audio so I don’t have to agonize over the editorialization.  It’s possible too that I likely could have shaved off a little bit of time had I been more familiar with Audacity, but once I learned a few keyboard shortcuts life was quite a bit better.   I couldn’t nail down the sound I wanted; I couldn’t get a good reverb sound from any of the plugins that came bundled with the program, and in general I think I’m a little bit spoiled from my limited experience using Cakewalk more than a few years ago.

Another thing that took a while to do was synchronizing slides with the narration, which took a lot of tweaking, didn’t come out perfect, and was likely not a great use of time in the long run.  I’d say keep the sync’ing to a minimum, and put in longer breaks during the narration to assist in that.

One of my favorite things about the movie was using my iPad to create a stop motion segment in the middle of the video using post-it notes as the medium.  I also did a quick sketch-cast also using ShowMe but I didn’t quite like how it looked in the end, although I ended up using it twice.

Before doing the production, I had created a story map to follow along. The big thing I found is that doing the production is an iterative process for me.  As I was recording the audio (see the time sink section below) I ended up changing the script in subtle ways as well as the imagery to support it depending on what was easily available or easily crafted.

All in all it was fun and I’m looking forward to the next project. IN the meantime, call your loved ones when you can.


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