Storyboarding Basics and Finding Your Dream Job

    by Mark Glaser
    May 19, 2008

    i-18b0f1f0bb3d4e8df991af9c92d5db73-Paul Grabowicz Day 2.JPG

    Paul Grabowicz

    BERKELEY, CALIF. — It’s Day 2 at the Knight Digital Media Center’s week-long boot camp for journalists learning to do multimedia reports. On the agenda for the day is learning about doing “storyboarding,” or laying out how a multimedia report will work. And there will also be some basic tutorials on using videocameras and techniques in video shooting. (Some sessions will be webcast live and archived online here so you can follow along at home or work.)

    UC Berkeley journalism school new media director Paul Grabowicz is now talking about the basics of storyboarding, along with UC Berkeley instructor Jane Stevens.


    For what kinds of stories would you shoot video?

    Stevens starts a running list of possible video topics, as suggested by fellows in the audience:

    > Action sports
    > Takes you to a place
    > Character — person
    > Breaking news: taking you there
    > Showing a process or how-to video
    > Show a large perspective of crowd at live event
    > Humor
    > Animals or pets
    > Kids, especially if they are talking to the camera
    > Drama
    > Celebrities


    What are events not worth videotaping? Politics, especially if it’s just a politician speaking in a rote setting.

    When would you use photos? Steven starts a new list of good times to use photos:

    > Show emotion instead of drama, show that moment
    > Give perspective or angle on something
    > Stay in one moment instead of video
    > When Olympics runner cross finish line (vs. video for whole race)
    > Faces or portraits
    > Show changes over time
    > Show details
    > Portray a concept

    What’s audio good for capturing?

    > Hear the character of someone
    > Catch the ambience of situation
    > Intimacy of conversation
    > Emotion of situation
    > Reflection (if someone’s talking, you can reflect on what they’re saying better)
    > Create a mood
    > Musicality: musical interludes in stories, pacing

    i-dd8e4ff7bda2ec8b79873cba6a426a1c-Jane Stevens Day 2.JPG

    Jane Stevens

    Stevens: The relationship between audio and photos is very interesting. There’s a lot of interplay between these.

    Grabowicz: If there’s one thing you’ll learn in this training, it’s the primacy of audio. You’ll always be checking the audio, whether you’re capturing video or audio. A common sound will often take you someplace, like the tone when you enter a corner store. When I hear that sound, it really makes me feel like I’m there.

    Q: What’s the ethical problem if you use a sound effect that didn’t come from that place?

    Grabowicz: If it’s a generic sound, and you’re not implying that it happened then, I think it’s OK. But if it’s a story about school bus accidents, and you put in a generic screeching sound, then no. But if you’re just using school bus sounds as background, that might be OK. It depends on the news organization, but you don’t want to create a mis-impression, making people believe you are somewhere and you’re not.

    What are graphics good for?

    > Explain how things work
    > Show statistics, numbers
    > Locational, maps
    > Simplifying data, processes
    > Timelines
    > Provide context
    > Take people where humans can’t go: space, bacteria

    What is text good for?

    > Snide answer: whatever is left
    > Breaking news; blog it first, get it out fast, urgent info
    > Ability to translate words
    > Highlighting things
    > Linking out, getting more information
    > Scan-ability, browse-ability, especially vs. video or audio
    > Backgrounders and history
    > Explaining things
    > Thumbnails, essential info on profiles

    Stevens: There was a project called The Fair, where an audio report was fabulous and it went along with video. The writing was amazing, even though it was audio.

    Grabowicz: Print might be going away but not text.

    Sample Storyboarding

    Grabowicz: What’s a breaking news or disaster story that might be happening in your community. What are the parts of a disaster story you have to cover? Let’s say it’s wildfire. Fire is everywhere. What are the components?

    Parts of the Story — Matched to Medium to Tell It

    > Evacuation — map, video, text
    > Where is the fire? How is it moving? — text message to cell phone (Twitter), graphics
    > How big? —- map, photos, user-generated photos
    > Deaths, injuries, victims — photos with audio, data
    > How did it start? — photos, text, map, graphic
    > Authorities — text, photo, audio, video
    > Prevention — animation, games, text, graphic
    > Hospitals and evacuees — audio, photos (might not let you take them), video
    > Personal stories (firefighters, homeless, etc.) — audio, user-gen content,
    > History — text, timeline, photos
    > Future — text, graphics, timeline
    > Rescue — video

    Stevens: Text lives in two ways that doesn’t work in print as well. Sometimes you just need bullet points of text next to a graphic or photo. We’re always forcing the same festival story every year. Well, don’t do it. Just put up photos with bullet points and allow the audience to tell their stories.

    Projects Fellows Will Be Doing

    Jeremy Rue of UC Berkeley is laying out the projects that groups of trainees will be taking on this week.

    Tele-immersion: Look at lab at UC Berkeley doing tele-immersion. It’s a process for using video shot from all sides to recreate a user, an event, or object, so they can be experienced, and users can collaborate in real time. Researchers think it will help revolutionize the way physicians, artists and educators interact with their colleagues and audience.

    Learning from Nature (Gecko Project): There have been new discoveries about the way geckos use their tail to twist their bodies around and even fly. There’s a scientist studying it using robotics, and his lab is creepy. He has a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation and it’s fascinating. You will be there for four hours with him. His office has tons of toys, dragons and beetles. It’s a great story. They’re adapting the finding about geckos to improve robotics. DARPA is funding this project, so they’re getting government money.

    Eco-House: A super-efficient house is in Berkeley, a house of the future with maximum efficiency. It uses gray water to recycle plumbing, with that water going out to the gardens. We’re on the cusp of a huge water shortage here and there’s been an emphasis on conserving water. But it’s difficult to do this kind of gray water recycling and plumbing and getting permission to do it.

    Bay Area Outreach and Recreational Program for Disabled Cyclists: Helps people with disabilities to bike and get around. BORP provides training, hosts games and advocates for the disabled community.

    Teams are being split up by specialties, so each group has people with varying abilities in different mediums. I’m on Team Gecko.

    Team Gecko Storyboarding Process

    My breakout group includes Karl Mondon from Contra Costa Times; Martha Irvine at Associated Press; Laura McClure from Mother Jones, MIguel Castro from Open Society Institute and Penelope Carrington from the Richmond Times Dispatch.

    Here are the elements for our story:

    > Background on gecko finding
    > Why do the research
    > How did researcher get into this?
    > Background on researcher, Dr. Robert Full, life sciences pofessor at UC Berkeley
    > Him or his work
    > Cast of his robots, examples of his work
    > Other famous geckos
    > Creepy factor
    > Bloopers/mistakes
    > Dehumanization, sociological aspect
    > Ethics of using science for military
    > DARPA funding, explainer
    > Who owns project?

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    Miguel Castro

    How do we storyboard this on the web?

    Home page could contain these main chunks: The researcher (Full); his robotic creatures; ethics around project; why do the project or uses for technology. Include brief explanation on home page about why people should care. Background image: Could be evolution of robots, showing them getting better over time.

    Should we create a game? Yes, it would be excellent to have a game where you choose animals or robots and see who would win a race or battle. “Animal Wars”?

    For ethics page, what medium do we use? Text story could be good. Maybe get people in the community to answer questions about what they thought about robots relacing soldiers in the military. We’ll fold this page into “Uses” page.

    For page about Professor Full, what medium do we use? Video, photos, audio, kid photos, timeline.

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    Martha, Karl, and Laura from Team Gecko

    For page on his things and robots, what medium do we use? Video, photos, audio, slide show or Flash. Compare robots vs. real animals with text “fun facts.” Might be a good place for blooper videos, later uploaded to YouTube. Put game here.

    For page on “why” or “how come?” what medium would we use? FAQ, examples slideshow with audio.

    We’re going to rename the “why” page as “Beyond the Lab,” and cover ethical issues, military usage, other uses outside of his lab.

    Now we’re laying out the web pages for our project.

    Home page: Still photograph of him (linking to page about him); photo of robots (linking to page about his robots); photo of military robot (linking to “Beyond the Lab” page on uses for his science). Quick explanation about the story.

    Page about Full: Photo of him; timeline explaining his bio; video overview of him; his famous presentation (if he lets us use it).

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    Penelope Carrington

    Page about his robots: Group photo of his robots, where you could roll over and get info on each robot. Audio slide show for each one or video — but try to keep it consistent. Also, include the game on this page.

    Beyond the Lab page: Show the evolution of Big Dog, a robot based on a dog. FAQ on this page. Timeline might include past, present and future.

    We then tried to figure out how to fill in the “Beyond the Lab” page, thinking about doing a chart that would include various uses for the technology, along with things that have been successful, some that have flamed out, and others that were controversial.

    How to Get Your Dream Job

    Now we take a break from the hands-on work on storyboarding to hear from a speaker. Laylan Connelly is a reporter for the Orange County Register, who started as an intern and moved up to doing a blog and covering the beaches. She was a fellow at the Knight digital training previously, and is going to talk about how she used those multimedia skills back at her newsroom.

    Laylan Connelly: I actually did a business plan based on what I learned at the seminar. It is real important for me to tell the people in my company what other publications are doing. I took quotes from Rob Curley.

    So how do you change the culture of the newsroom? Editors have to care about it and not just give lip service. It’s important to change the culture when moving from a print-centric publication to a web publication. But you don’t have to be at the top of an organization to change it in today’s climate.

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    Laylan Connelly

    You can’t just send everyone out to shoot with videocameras without any training. You need to start doing informal training sessions, and I volunteered to run those at the Register.

    My new job title is: reporter, columnist, blogger, photographer, videographer, website manager, broadcast journalist. I’m better at some than others.

    (She shows her new OC Beaches website.)

    Q: How do you carry your gear with you?

    Connelly: Let me show you. (She stands up with notebook in hand, and one point-and-shoot digital still camera wrapped around one arm, and a Flip videocamera wrapped on her other.) I do my interviews on my notebook because I never trust that I won’t lose a video recording or audio. If I like a quote, I’ll ask if I can videotape it. I use Microsoft MovieMaker because it’s the easiest one to use. What I’m doing is pretty basic, quick and easy.

    Blogs are great for people with short attention spans. They also help create two-way dialogue, and I’ve added other bloggers as well from the community, adding different voices.

    Being a blogger does not negate that I’m a reporter. I still do front page articles, but the blog and web offers me different ways to tell stories. When there was a shark attack, it was 8 a.m., and the only information was in the San Diego newspaper and I linked it on my blog. We need to join the conversation that the rest of the world is having. And we can do our own unique reporting, and add in AP reporting as well. We had a videographer get local reaction, I called local lifeguards, and we added a map showing where the attack was. They eventually took what I had done on the blog and put it in the paper, and it was an A1 story.

    Q: Would you link to newspaper sites that compete in your market?

    Connelly: Yes, if they are the only one who has a story, then I would link to it.

    Q: Did you check with your editor before putting those links in?

    Connelly: I don’t like checking with editors. [audience laughs]

    Q: Do you have an editor look at your blog posts before they go up on the site?

    Connelly: I just post things on the web without an editor. Sorry, editors. Readers do a good job telling me if there’s a typo and I just fix it. If it’s something big that will be featured on the home page, then I do get an editor to look at it first.

    Q: Are you the only reporter in America that can wear a swimsuit to work?

    Connelly: Yes! Sometimes I feel guilty going out and getting sources while I’m out surfing, but that’s what I do.

    There should be discussions in the newsroom about these things. We need to engage our managers about what’s possible. You guys are in a unique position to go back and help move journalism forward and make a difference.

    Read More about the Knight Digital Training:

    > Live-Blogging the Multimedia Boot Camp for Newspaper Journalists

    > Hands-On Training for Videocameras and Shooting for the Web

    > Photography Training and Doing More with Less in El Paso

    > Flash Techniques, and the Participatory Push by Current TV

    Photo of Miguel Castro by Jerry Monti. You can see a whole stream of photos from the storyboarding sessions taken by Monti here on Flickr.

    Tagged: education journalism skills video editing videocameras videos

    One response to “Storyboarding Basics and Finding Your Dream Job”

    1. Hi Mark, I’m excited to be a Knight News Challenge awards winner and I look forward to blogging here. Please let me know when I can start! Also, I would like to visit you at the boot camp if that’s possible. I will be in the Bay Area for at least a couple of weeks. Peace, Andrius

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