Digital Storytelling – Year 2014

During the Spring semester of 2014, 22 students from various Masters Journalism programmes, and hailing many different countries,  enrolled on my Citizen Media: Digital Storytelling module at Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University.

Here are a few of the stories from this years group.

Childhood from Jayne Lutwyche on Vimeo.

What is your story about?
It’s about struggling with and recovering from an eating disorder.

Nina, Papa Giovanni and I from Sarah Janina on Vimeo.

What is your story about?
My story is about faith. I explain how I came to be an agnostic, and how, at the same time, my grandmother helped me find comfort in Catholic traditions.
It goes to show that religious beliefs are, above all, coping mechanisms. But I mean no disrespect at all, everyone should reserve the right to hold on to what they believe. 

Why did you choose to tell this story?
I chose to tell this story because I wanted to pay a little homage to someone from my wonderful family. After a long search for the right pictures, stories, and themes, it just had to be my grandma and her faith.

What did you find most rewarding or challenging about creating the story?
The challenging part was really just finding the pictures that would fit with the words,
come to think of it. How do you communicate the idea of God visually without being blasphemous? How do you communicate the idea of insecurity without resorting to pathetic stock photos? Questions that only digital storytelling can answer! 

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Subtitling with Avid Newscutter

This guide has been written to support the MA International Journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University. Some of the text may be specific to our own setup but Im sure the guide will be of use to anyone working with Avid Newscutter.

Interviews that are not in English will need to be translated before submission. The translation could be done in two ways; a voice-over using a different voice than your own and appropriate to the interviewee (gender, age) or subtitled text over the pictures.

You should already have the skills to record a voice-over and edit audio into a sequence.

This guide explores how to add subtitled text over interview pictures using the SubCap effect in Avid, similar to the example below.

It is assumed that you will have interview clips edited onto a sequence. You should also have transcribed the interview and have the transcription available as a text file, such as a Word document.

  1. Log on to an Avid computer
  2. Connect your USB device containing the transcribed text file.
  3. Open the text file with WordPad (Start menu – All Programs – Accessories – WordPad).
  4. Open your Avid sequence. You will need to resize the Avid window to see both applications at the same time; Avid Newscutter on the left screen and WordPad on the right screen.

The subtitled text is added to a video track above the other tracks. It is usual to use a number of video tracks in a documentary. You may use 2 tracks for video; the main track and an overlay track; a third track for name captions; and a fourth track for subtitles.

Preparing the sequence

  1. To add a new video track, go to the Clip menu and select New Video Track.
  2. Switch OFF all the tracks making sure the subtitle video track is the only one ON
  3. Move the play bar to the beginning of the interview
  4. Press the Add Edit button to add an edit point.
  5. Move the play bar to the end of the interview
  6. Press the Add Edit button to add an edit point.

These two edit points split the track and create a space on the sequence to add the subtitle text. Listen to the interview and add more edit points after every two or three sentences (about 40 words). Don’t worry if these edit points are not in exactly the right place. They can be moved with the Trim tool.

Adding subtitles

  1. Open the Effect Palette (Tools menu) and choose Generator from the menu
  2. Select the SubCap effect and drag onto the space created by the edit points. The space fills with the effect ready to be edited.
  3. Open the Effect Editor (Tools menu). You may need to click on the effect on the sequence and then the Effect Editor window to see the options.

Text can be added in two ways: the Caption Text window or the Master Caption List. The Caption Text window is used when adding or working on a specific subtitle. The Master Caption List will become much more useful once multiple edit points have been added. This will enable multiple sections of text to be added quickly.

Master caption list

Master caption list

 

  1. Choose the Master Caption List option to reveal the caption text box/boxes.
  2. Copy a portion of text from your transcript (select text and press the Copy button) and paste into the text window (right click and Paste or Ctrl V).
  3. Click OK
  4. Play through the sequence to see the text added over the pictures. The text will not be in the correct position or style. These changes will be made in the next step but you could continue adding more text to other sections and adjust the formatting and style later.

Formatting subtitles

The SubCap effect has a lot of settings that can be altered to change the look of the subtitle text. Click on the arrows to reveal all the settings. The window may need to be resized to show them all. Below are suggested formatting options.

Before you start, it is useful to show the Safe Zone Grid over the video pictures. The grid works as a guide helping you to keep the text within the safe text zone.

Text Appearance

SubCap effect editor

SubCap Effect Editor

  • Colour = White
  • Opacity = 100
  • Font = Arial or Veranda
  • Font Size (pixels) = 24
  • Line Weight = 20
  • Outline Weight = No Outline
  • Shadow = No Shadow
  • Alignment – Centre Align

Box Appearance

  • Colour = Black
  • Opacity = 60 (approximately)
  • Box = One Box
  • Anchor = Anchor to Bottom of Text
  • Anchor = Anchor Centre
  • Anchor Position
    • X = 0
    • Y = 390 (for 3 rows of text)
  • Width = Fixed Width (Wrap)
  • Box Width = Variable (no more than 570)
  • Rows = As Many Rows As Needed or Exactly N Rows
  • Row Count = 2 or 3
  •  Padding
    • Vertical = 2
    • Horizontal = 3
  • Row Spacing = 0

Applying Global Styling

Adjusting the formatting and styling, as described on the previous page will apply changes to one subtitle only.

To make the subtitles look consistent your formatting choices can be applied to all subtitle clips with the Global Properties option.

Global Properties

Global Properties

  1. Click the Edit Global Properties button in the SubCap Effect Editor window.
  2. Select the Synchronize tab
  3. Scroll down the list and change all options from Clip to Track.
  4. Click OK to confirm the changes.
  5. Review your clips. All subtitles should now display your formatting choices and any changes you make to the SubCap settings from now on will update to all subtitles.

Adjusting timings

Subtitling Avid

Subtitling with Avid Newscutter

With your subtitle text added to the sequence, review the subtitles making sure the text on the screen fits appropriately.

To adjust the timing of a caption, use the Trim tool to move the position of the edit points.

If the text does not fit the caption box, use the Master Caption List to move text (cut and paste) from one caption box to other.

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Preparing and working with images for video

This guide has been written to support the MA International Journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University. Some of the text may be specific to our own setup but Im sure the guide will be of use to anyone working with Avid Newscutter.

This guide will explore how to create a graphic to be used within a piece for TV (i.e. your documentary). This example will use a range of different tools and techniques and you will learn skills which are transferable when creating and working with graphics.

Preparing images in Photoshop

Often images will need to be created or prepared in Photoshop before they can be used in a video editor. Before importing an image to Newscutter, there are a number of things to consider such as image dimension, layers and safe zones.

This example, shown below, will show you how to create a map graphic that changes over time.

Image Dimensions

All images used for widescreen TV must be sized to the 16:9 ratio. If the size is different from those below then the image could be displayed out of proportion or with black edges.                                                                       

16:9 ratio = 1024 pixels (width), 576 pixels (height), 72 pixels/inch (resolution)

Your options are to either crop the image to size or build an image on a correctly sized new document. Both options are described below.

Option One – Crop to size

Graphic crop toolbar

Graphic crop toolbar

The Crop Tool is the simplest method to resize an image.

  1. Before cropping an image you must make sure that your image is bigger than the 1024 x 576 pixels. To see the pixel dimensions of your image go to the Image – Image Size menu. Cropping smaller images may cause blurring and loss of quality.
  2. Select the Crop tool. Notice the Crop toolbar displays at the top of the screen
  3. Type the pixel dimensions and resolution into the boxes in the Crop toolbar
  4. Then click and drag the mouse over the image to create a selection.
  5. Adjust the selection by moving the corners. Notice the shape is always wider than taller. This is the 16:9 ratio.
  6. Click the Tick (or double click the selection) to apply the crop.
  7. Save the image as a TIFF file format with no compression (highest quality).

Option Two – Build a new image

Graphic new image

Graphic new image

A New Photoshop Document (File & Video) will display Safe Zone guidelines assisting in the placement of text or graphics.

  1. Open Photoshop, select File – New and select the following options
  • Preset – Film and Video
  • Size – PAL DV Widescreen Square Pixel
  • Width – 1024 pixels
  • Height – 576 pixels
  • Resolution – 72 (pixels/inch)
  • Colour Mode – RGB, 8bit
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio – Square Pixels

Safe Zone guidelines

Graphic safe zones

Graphic safe zones

The new document opens displaying guidelines near the edges. These lines are the Safe Title and Safe Action zones. To guarantee that text or a part of an image appears on the screen, they must be arranged within the relevant Safe Zone guides.

 

Using guides for safe zones

When adding text to an image you must be aware of the Safe Zones. Words and images might be cut off if placed outside the safe zones. To view the safe zone guides go to the View menu and select Show – Guides

Adding an image to another image – building up layers

  1. Open an image
  2. Select the Move tool
  3. Click and drag the image on to the new document
  4. Move the image to a suitable position
  5. To resize the image (if too large) click ON the Show Transform Controls button in the Move Toolbar
  6. Hold the SHIFT key and drag a corner of the image. The image changes size and stays in proportion.
  7. Click the Confirm button on the Move toolbar to accept the changes

Layers palette

Have a look at the Layers palette. When you dragged the image on to the new document a new layer was created. Layers keep the individual elements separate so they can be moved or adjusted without affecting other parts of the image.

Click a layer in the Layers palette to activate it. The image on that layer can now be altered in many ways such as moving to another position, decrease opacity, brought to the front or back, and much more.

Highlighting areas of an image

Graphic shape highlight

Graphic shape highlight

  1. Create a new layer. The highlighted shape will be added to this layer so make sure this layer is selected during the following steps.
  2. Select the Lasso Tool (Polygonal).
  3. Click and drag on the image to create a shape.
  4. Double click to complete the shape.
  5. Go to the Edit menu and select Fill
  6. Choose a colour and click OK
  7. The shape fills with the colour.

Repeat the steps creating a new layer and a different coloured shape.

When complete the image should have 4 layers; an empty background layer, the actual image, and two shape layers.

Saving each layer

Graphic layers

Graphic layers

  1. Each layer can be switched on or off to show or hide information. We will use this function to save specific layers which will then build over time in Newscutter.
  2. Switch OFF the shape layers to hide the shapes and show the image only
  3. Save the image as a TIFF (with no compression). Name the image as Image01
  4. Switch ON the first shape layer
  5. Save the image as Image02
  6. Switch ON the second shape layer
  7. Save the image as Image03
  8. Save these images to a USB device

Newscutter – Import and edit

Graphic import

Graphic import

  1. Connect the USB device to a Newscutter computer and open a bin
  2. Click on the bin window to activate the window
  3. Select File – Import
  4. Click the Options button and make sure the Image Size Adjustment section is set to Image Sized for Current Format
  5. Browse to the USB device and select the images
  6. Check that the Y: Drive is selected as the Video/Audio drive
  7. The images are imported into the bin and can be viewed and edited just like a video clip
  1. Edit the images in order onto a sequence

    Graphic edit to sequence

    Graphic edit to sequence

  2. Add dissolves with the Quick Transition tool
  3. Use the Trim Tool to adjust the position of the shots as required
  4. Text can be added using in Photoshop or with the Title Tool in Avid (more flexible option).
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Creating and working with the Title Tool – Avid

This guide has been written to support the MA International Journalism at Cardiff School of Journalism, Cardiff University. Some of the text may be specific to our own setup but Im sure the guide will be of use to anyone working with Avid Newscutter.

Graphics are used in TV to visualise complicated areas, to make a point and to help tell the story.

This guide will explore how to create a graphic to be used within a piece for TV (i.e. your documentary). This example will use a range of different tools and techniques and you will learn skills which are transferable when creating and working with graphics.

Creating Graphics with the Avid Newscutter Title tool

The title tool is an excellent tool to create text and graphical elements that lay over video. This example, as shown in the video below, will show you how to add text and a graphic over a freeze frame. The freeze frame fades to grey reducing background distraction.

Freeze Frame

  1. Edit one or two GV type shots on to a sequence
  2. Move the play bar a few seconds into a shot stopping on a frame that will become the background for the text
  3. Make sure there are no IN or OUT points on the timeline
  4. Press the Match Frame button. This will locate the frame the play bar is at within the source material. The matched frame should open in the Source Monitor (left).
  5. Go to the Clip menu and choose Freeze Frame – 20 seconds. A new Freeze Frame (FF) clip is added to your bin
  6. Edit (overwrite) about 12 seconds on to the sequence to follow the original frame

Fading to Grey

  1. Go to the Effects Palette and choose Image.
  2. Drag the Colour Effect option onto the freeze frame shot on the sequence.
  3. Open the Effects Editor and reduce the Saturation to remove the colour from the shot
  4. Move the play bar to the start of the freeze frame shot and add a dissolve with the Quick Transition tool

Title Tool

Title toolbar

Title toolbar

  1. Go to the Tools menu and choose the Title Tool. Do not select the Marquee Tool if prompted.
  2. When adding text or shapes/graphics you must be aware of the Safe Zones. Words and images might be cut off if placed outside of the safe zones. To view the safe zone guides go to the Object menu and select Safe Title Area.
  3. Use the Shape tool to add a rectangle wider than the safe zones.
  1. Adjust the Fill colour as required and the Transparency to about 40%

    Title Tool Transparency

    Title Tool Transparency

  2. Use the Text tool to add text within the text safe zone.
  3. Adjust the Fill colour as required and the Transparency to 0%

 

  1. To add an arrow, first select an arrow head option, then select the line tool and draw the arrow.

    Title Tool ArrowHead

    Title Tool ArrowHead

  2. Choose the Arrowhead Size option (last option in the list) to adjust the size of the arrow head.
  3. Adjust the thickness of the line with the Line Weight option
  4. Save the title to your bin.

 

 

Edit Title to the sequence

Title edit to sequence

Title edit to sequence

  1. Using a new/unused video track add an IN and OUT point over the freeze frame shot to mark where the title will be added
  2. Turn off any other tracks and make sure V1 source is parallel with V2 sequence
  3. Open the title clip in the Source monitor (left) and move the play bar a few seconds in from the start of the title
  4. Choose Overwrite to edit the title onto the sequence

Finishing touches

Title Tool Graphics

Title Tool Graphics

  1. Use the Quick Transition tool to add dissolve effects where required
  2. Use the Trim Tool to adjust the position of the shots as required

 

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WeVideo at Cardiff School of Journalism

Our postgraduate diploma students have been busy creating digital stories again. Their stories are made following a particular format; using still images and audio narration to produce something like an audio slideshow. Its much more than just an audio slideshow though. Its an in-depth story, told by either the interviewee or the journalist.

I find using still images and audio only is a really effective way to introduce the skills of video editing. As the student takes still images they are using a technology (the camera) that is familiar to them. Learning can then be focused on picture taking skills (exposure, framing, focus, depth of field) rather than be distracted by the complications of a video camera and moving images. That next step towards using a video camera then becomes a simpler one as many of the essential skills have already been learnt.

Here are a few examples of the work produced this year with links to the students blogs.

Martha Holeyman – Classical CDF

 

Will Martin – The MettleWorks

 

Yasmin Morgan-Griffiths – Cardiff Community Couch

 

Sophie Jones – Soul About Cardiff

 

Chris Browning – Get Around Cardiff

 

The students used WeVideo, an online video editor, to produce their story. Its the second year we’ve used WeVideo and its been a great tool to use. During the first year we used free accounts which had its limitations but that was never an issue with a short term project and the work we were producing.

This year, after our work was seen by WeVideo, we joined their Ambassador Program and have been working in an Education group account. This meant that the students joined as part of a group rather than as individuals. The main advantage of working in a group was the ability to share media and when we used WeVideo for the first time I was able to share my media with all 60 students saving a lot of time.

Working online has also proved popular with the students. In feedback most said that they liked being able to edit on any computer, in class or at home. Later in the year the Magazine and Newspaper students used iMovie for video editing but this tool requires the media to be stored locally meaning the same computer must be used while editing.

Other interesting comments refer to the simplicity of editing in WeVideo. Our Broadcast students were introduced to video editing with Avid Newscutter a few weeks before we started using WeVideo for this project. Some of the less experienced students told me that WeVideo was less scary and complicated than Avid Newscutter.

There were a few negative comments as well though. Students reported freezing, import problems, the timeline playing differently than expected and new video tracks appearing when moving clips to another track. Not having seen these problems I am not able to say if these are user or software errors. The plugins needed updating on some machines too, which, in a managed classroom required technician input. We also had an instance of a published video playing different than on the timeline. To be fair to WeVideo once the problem had been reported it was fixed within a few days.

Overall WeVideo has been a great tool to use; a simple and friendly interface providing lots of flexibility as you video edit in the cloud. Its a great starting point for beginners but still offers enough for the experienced video editor.

 

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Digital storytelling with WeVideo

Over the past weeks our postgraduate journalism students have been creating photo stories for the Digital Journalism module. We followed the digital storytelling model of still pictures and audio narration to keep the creation process relatively simple. This process tested a range of practical skills from script writing, audio recording and editing, photography and picture editing and video editing. 

We wanted to introduce the students to tools that are freely available online (where possible) to illustrate how the online environment makes so much more possible and reduces the need for purchased and installed software. The free online tools used included WeVideo for video editing and Audacity for audio editing. 

Photoshop was used for picture editing, which is not a free tool but was installed on all the computers. Perhaps next time we may use something like Pixlr or Gimp to keep the “free” theme going.

This was the first time we had used WeVideo in class and was a little skeptical about using online video editing on mass. I was encouraged by my own tests and positive reviews. In previous years we would have used iMovie or Premiere Elements but with the availability of WeVideo we had to try video editing in the cloud. It has not disappointed.

In class the teaching time of WeVideo was limited to about 30 minutes but in a group where the majority had no or limited video editing experience they all got the hang of it really quickly.

We were using the free account which has limitations of file storage and resolution. We used this to our advantage by using still images instead of video and re-sizing the images to the export size. The smaller file sizes means the storage space become less of a limitation.

My only criticism of WeVideo is the inability to alter the effects. I would like to be able to start the Ken Burns zoom out a few seconds into the still or somewhere other than the middle. I would also like to be able to get the Ken Burns to stop the still for a few seconds. A work around for the is to repeat a photo and add the Ken Burns to the first one.

Each student writes for their own themed blog to engage with a community and so the photo story needed to relate to their blog theme in some way.

Below are a few examples of the work produced. I am really impressed with the creativity and imaginative way some of these stories are told.

Nicholas Pritchard – Postcards from the Past

Alice Thompson – Are Poets Real People?

Betsan Jones – Canton, in just over a minute

Posted in Audio, Digital Storytelling, e-Learning, Learning and Teaching, Photoshop, Social Media, Video | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Creating a Weather graphic with the Title Tool – Avid

This post is an experiment in displaying pre-prepared documents in WordPress. Im trying to find quick and easy way of creating user guide material for print, and web, for viewing on computer and mobile devices.

Historically all the user guides I produce have been stored on BlackBoard as pdf’s. Students can access them by logging on to the VLE.

More recently Ive been adding guides to this blog as well, making them available to the wider audience but also making them easier to access, as navigating Blackboard can be slow if not tedious.

Which ever way I start preparing user guides, the process involves designing the first version and then spending more time repurposing the second version.

So in this experiment I’ve uploaded a pdf user guide to Scribd.com and embedded the code into this post, to see if I can reduce this to a single process of creating just the pdf.

Ultimately the viewing experience is most important. Viewing the post on a computer screen is ok, but much better when viewed fullscreen. There is also the added benefit of sharing the document via other forms of social media.

But what is the viewing experience when viewed on smaller mobile devices. Over the next few weeks I shall be collecting user feedback on a variety of devices. In my own tests with an iPhone and iPad, again once the document is displayed fullscreen, the document is easier to read, with the experience just the same as viewing any webpage, moving and zooming where necessary, suggesting that Scribd.com could be the way to go.

On a less positive not, my mobile phone, an LG 405, doesn’t display the document at all!

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