John Bird and John Fortune (The Long Johns) brilliantly, and accurately, describing the mindset of the investment banking community in this satirical interview.
A curious nun ventures into the darker side of her animated World. A very witty and creative Argentinian animated short film by Juan Pablo Zaramella.
With a short post to a computer-science department bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University, on September 19, 1982 at 11:44 AM, Scott Fahlman became the acknowledged originator of the ASCII-based emoticon.
19-Sep-82 11:44 Scott E Fahlman
From: Scott E Fahlman
I propose that the following character sequence for joke markers:
Read it sideways. Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use:
With that post, Fahlman became the acknowledged originator of the ASCII-based emoticon. From those two simple emoticons (a portmanteau combining the words emotion and icon) have sprung dozens of others that are the joy, or bane, of e-mail, text-message and instant-message correspondence the world over.— Wired | Read The Full Article
You can’t get more low-budget budget than this. Try this “rubber band” maneuver with your tripod. A very simple idea that can add production value to your shot.
AJ Schnack offers some advice for filmmakers in his “An Annual State of the Industry Post and Some Festival Advice for Filmmakers.”
…Distribution companies shutting down (or seemingly on the rocks). New technologies seeming to arrive on a daily basis. With all the fast and furious changes in the independent film world, it’s become necessary to take a somewhat yearly look at the state of our union and to question whether we are abiding by an old, outmoded system.— AJ Schnack | Read The Full Article
In our last featured list we covered “202 DIY Filmmaking Tutorials.” In this feature we will focus on Final Cut Pro. In future articles we will take a look at the other elements that make up the Final Cut Studio suite. Also stay tuned for other featured lists covering popular editing programs such as Adobe, Avid, Sony and more.
***Update: “222 Apple Motion Tutorials“
It should go without saying Apple.com should be your first stop when wanting to learn about Final Cut Pro. They have video tutorials coving all aspects of Final Cut Studio, we have included the links specific to the FCP tutorials below. Other pages of interest are: Downloads, Third-Party Plug-ins, AppleCare Support, Final Cut Support Page and Final Cut Discussions. If you intrested in more advance training you should take a look at their Apple Pro Training.
As I’m sure you know the amount of FCP videos on YouTube seems to be endless. Below we have highlighted a few of the highest rated, most relevant videos and channels. We have also included some of our favorites from Vemio.
$1 Geenscreen and a Keying secret
Changing the Colors of an Object
Multicam Essential Editing
Making a moving filmstrip
Sync menu explained
MultiCam editing basic’s
Making a cheap Giant with mask’s
Make clips run backward
Playing with speed
Sending clips from FCP to Motion
The BIG diff between FCE and FCP
Using Final Cut Pro Audio Filters
Extracting and replacing Color
Using an Asymmetrical Edit
Making a Reflection
2 of the same Filters!!!! WHY???
C.O.P.S Face Blur Effect
Picture in Picture with a 3D Filter
Transitions and how they work
Final Cut Pro Title Sequence
Advanced Render (making it fast)
3 point editing
One Minute Tip – #1
One Minute Tip – #2
FREE Plugins and Garbage Mattes
Time Remapping secrets and workflow
Final Cut Pro: Layering Video
Final Cut Pro: Effects & Pasting Attributes
Final Cut Pro: The Cloning Effect
FCP Lesson 1: The Interface (Part 1)
FCP Lesson 1: The Interface (Part 2)
Altering Clip Speeds in Final Cut Pro
Nesting Sequences in Final Cut Pro
Working with Bluescreen: Part 1
Working with Bluescreen: Part 2
Final Cut Pro: Calling the Yak
Final Cut Pro 6 Tutorial: Teleport Effect
Final Cut Pro Tutorial: Basic Motion and Keyframes
Final Cut Pro 6 Tutorial: Basketball Movie Tricks
Final Cut Pro 6 Tutorial: Freeze Frames
Final Cut Pro 6 Tutorial: The Basics Part 1
FCP Tutorial: Reflection
How To Work With the Patch Bay in Final Cut Pro
How To Create Motion Master Templates in Final Cut Pro
How To Use Keyboard Shortcuts in Final Cut Pro #2
How To Use Keyboard Shortcuts in Final Cut Pro #3
How To Color Correct in Final Cut Pro
How To Find Audio Peaks in Final Cut Pro
How To Create a Freeze Frame in Final Cut Pro
How To Search For and Apply Filters in Final Cut Pro
How To Rename Files and Clips in Final Cut Pro
How To Preview Unrendered Clips in Final Cut Pro
How To Apply Filters To Partial Clips in Final Cut Pro
How To Perform a Replace Edit in Final Cut Pro
How To Use the Updates Of Final Cut Pro Version 6.0.2 #1
How To Use the Updates Of Final Cut Pro Version 6.0.2 #2
How To Use the Updates Of Final Cut Pro Version 6.0.2 #3
How To Use the Updates Of Final Cut Pro Version 6.0.2 #4
How To Use the Button Bars in Final Cut Pro
How To Search For Unused Assets in Final Cut Pro
How To Create a Timeline Static Region in Final Cut Pro
Final Cut slow motion at various speeds
Final Cut Pro Tutorial: Plesantville Effect
Final Cut Studio slow motion demo
Final Cut Pro Tips – Bleach Bypass look in Final Cut Pro 6
Smoothcam effect with Final Cut Pro
SmoothCam demo – Smoothing lateral moves
Final Cut Pro Does This Sometimes
How To Blur Out Images In Final Cut Pro So You Won’t Get Sued!
Final Cut Pro Tutorial: How To Bleep Out Words
Keyboard Shortcuts A to Z
Import Video into from AVCHD cameras.
With over a million FCP users and countless sites we could have easily listed 100′s more tutorials. The sites we highlighted are some of the most prolific. Most of the sites below we have only listed a small sampling of the tutorials available on their site. We encourage you to explore beyond the links we provided.
EDIT TO TAPE – A STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Recapturing HDV, Can it be done?
Preparing Your Sequences to Go From FCP to Color
Maximum FCP Efficiency with Tabs
Walter Biscardis Secrets for Real-time Sequences
Travel Mattes in FCP: Part One, The Basics
Travel Mattes in FCP: Part Two, Adding Animation and Drop Shadows
Travel Mattes in FCP: Part Three, Enhance Your Interviews
Field Editing & Production Using Final Cut Pro
Vee You: 8 Free Mac Plug-ins for FCP, AE and Motion
Fast Flowing Montages for FCP & Motion
Using Automator for repetitive tasks in Final Cut Pro
How2 Upgrade to Final Cut Pro 4 — the Right Way!
Technique – How2 Canvas & Viewer with Waveform & Vectorscope
Become replaceable. Have a life with better FCP project management
Better Media Management in Final Cut Pro
Get Fast in Final Cut Pro — FAST!
Jittery Film Effects in Final Cut Pro
Travel Mattes in FCP: Faster than AE
Really? Capture HDV to ProRes in FCP? Over FireWire?! Yes!
The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 1
The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 2
The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 3
Build Unique Transitions with Filters in Final Cut Pro
P2 Import in Final Cut Pro 6
DVCPRO Frame Rate Converter
Movement on Stills
Importing P2 into FCP
Creating a Hologram
Stephens Five FCP Time Saving Tips
Compressor Custom Settings: A Creative COW Final Cut Studio Video Tutorial
As a Page Turns: A Creative COW Final Cut Studio Video Tutorial
Bad TV Look: Final Cut Pro Tutorial
Creating That Old Film Look with Final Cut Studio 2
Bad TV Effect for Final Cut Pro
Creating That Old Film Look For Final Cut Pro
Capture Cards and Codecs
Apple’s ProRes 422
Part 2: ProRes for HDV, with a splash of Color
FCP Titling with Boris: Old-fashioned LED Animation
Organizing tips for Final Cut Pro
The Final Cut Pro Interface
Final Cut Pro Timeline Editing
How to capture and input video
3 point editing
Trimming tools for Final Cut Pro
Adjusting Audio Levels
Final Cut Transitions
Using Multiple Video Tracks
How to make a Filmstrip effect
Using Alpha Mattes
Outputting from Final Cut Pro
Uploading Movies for YouTube with maximum quality
Exporting Project Files for DVD
Scrolling Text in Live Type
Using Compressor to export to IPO
Final Cut Pro Multi-Cam
Different way to work with HDV in FCP
Thumbnail Video Index
Chroma Sampling: An Investigation
Breaking Free of HDV Limitations
Using Transfer Modes for ‘Film’ Effect
Creating a Photo Montage in Motion
Trim Edit Window Part 1
Finding Unused Shots
Cutting a Slide Show to the Beat of Music
3-Way Filter Color Corrector
Applying Transitions to Multiple Clips
Final Cut Pro Keyboard Shortcuts
Working with XDCAM EX Footage in Final Cut Pro 6
How to get SDI Timecode into Final Cut Pro using AJA capture devices
Gain Adjust: Absolute vs Relative Audio In Final Cut Pro
Freeing Up Space In Those Finished Video Projects
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Collapsing the Multiclip
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Trim Edit Window
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Ripple tool
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Open Format
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Replace Edit Technique
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: 3-point editing
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: The View Menu
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Customizing your workflow
Final Cut Pro 6 Essential Editing: Navigating the workspace
Add Motion templates to create lower thirds in Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro Advanced Technique: Using Sorenson Video 3
Final Cut Pro 6 Techniques: Editing with Canon?s 24F
Final Cut Pro 6 ? Editing fast, accurate, and effectively when adding clips
Keying options for Motion 3
Singling out a color in Final Cut Pro 6
Trashing Preferences in Final Cut Pro
Working with XDCAM EX Footage in Final Cut Pro 6
Exporting a Media Composer edit to Soundtrack Pro
How to get SDI Timecode into Final Cut Pro using AJA capture devices
Gain Adjust: Absolute vs Relative Audio In Final Cut Pro
We have only scratched the surface of the information available for Final Cut Pro. Below you can explore a vast collection of sites to continue your ongoing education.
Pro Video Coalition
Post Production Standards
little frog in high def
Final Cut User
Make Better Media
Final Cut User Groups
Arizona Final Cut Pro User Group
BOSFCPUG – Boston Final Cut Pro User Group
Carolina Final Cut Pro User Group
Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group
Connecticut Final Cut Pro User Group
CUTS – Austin Final Cut Pro User Group
Denver Final Cut Pro User Group
Digital Video Detroit
Lafcpug – Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group
Indianapolis Final Cut Pro User Group
The Moving Pictures Collective of NYC
NAProViG – Nashville Apple Pro Video Group
New Jersey Final Cut Pro User Group
Oklahoma City Final Cut Pro User Group
Philadelphia Final Cut Pro User Group
San Diego Final Cut Pro User Group
SBFinalCut – The Santa Barbara Final Cut User Group
Seattle Final Cut Pro User Group
SoFlaFCPUG – South Florida Final Cut Pro User Group
South Louisiana Final Cut Pro Users Group
Tulsa Final Cut Pro Users Group
Dublin Final Cut User Group
Calgary Final Cut Pro Users Group
Final Cut MTL : The Montreal Final Cut Users Group
GAPRUG – Gauteng Apple Pro User Group
Hong Kong Final Cut Pro User Group
Midlands Final Cut User Group
MexiPUG — Mexico Final Cut Pro User Group
Final Cut Pro User Group Sweden
Sydney Final Cut Pro
TOFCPUG -Toronto Final Cut Pro User Group
Tokyo Final Cut Pro User Group U.S.A
UKFCPUG – United Kingdom Final Cut Pro User Group
VCFCPUG — Vancouver Final Cut Pro User Group
WEFCPUG – West of England Final Cut Pro User Group
Apple Discussion Forums
2-Pop Final Cut Studio Forums
Digital Media Net Final Cut Studio Forums
Final Cut Studio Planet
Ken Stone’s Final Cut Pro
macProVideo.com User Forums
Post Forums for Final Cut Studio
Recipe4DVD DVD Studio Pro Forum
DVD & CD Training
$5000 to $5999.99
Final Cut Studio 2/Mac Pro Turnkey System
Final Cut Studio 2/Customized 17″ MacBook Pro Turnkey System
$6000 to $7999.99
Final Cut Studio 2/Mac Pro Turnkey System
AJA Io Breakout Box Mac Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
$8000 to $9999.99
AJA IoHD/17″ MacBook Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
$10000 to $12500
AJA IoHD Breakout Box Mac Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
Blackmagic Decklink HD Mac Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
AJA KONA LHe Mac Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
$12500 to $15000
Blackmagic Decklink HD Mac Pro Turnkey System with Final Cut Studio 2
Final Cut Studio 2/KONA 3 Mac Pro Turnkey System
Multibridge Eclipse/Mac Pro Final Cut Studio 2 Turnkey System
Lead Photo “Final Cut Pro!” by Louis Kreusel
For many people plot is the same thing as structure. Both deal with designing the story, creating relationships between its elements and developing how action builds to a climax. When you structure a film story, you’re working out the plot to discover the best way of telling it.
~ The Principles of Organization – Story Structure
Real structure gives you the organizing principles for your material. It is far more than plot points, turning points, act breaks or whatever you choose to call them. Structure gives you a framework to manage and make sense of all your material – the action, conflict, characters, exposition, theme, subtext, etc. It creates the context for this complex interplay of elements. Yet in the finest films there is an underlying simplicity to their structures that is as elegant and graceful as quantum physics.
~ The Scene-By-Scene Relationships – Plotting
Plotting, on the other hand, is the nuts and bolts of putting your material together. You move from being the neat and tidy architect to contractor and craftsman breaking your nails, and find along the way, all the ensuing problems of turning the plan into the project.
When you “plot” you turn the structural story considerations that have to do with conflict and meaning into moments that convey exposition, build suspense, reveal character and expose emotion to deepen the audience’s involvement in the work. You look for specific actions that tell us how a character acts and reacts – intellectually and emotionally – and then construct specific scenes to advance the action, reveal character or convey exposition. You want to find the clear line that shows how one action leads to the next and so on, so that you build a chain of events that flows intelligently and coherently. But you want the most interesting, surprising and moving ways to connect your scenes from one to the rest. Plotting is really the art of creating the relationships between your scenes to make your story points more powerful and meaningful. (By “story points” I mean more than just “turning” or “plot” points and act breaks; I mean the important information, emotion, action and exposition of a story.)
Of course, you can call all this structure and story design, too, and you wouldn’t be wrong. What I’m really saying here is writing a screenplay is a multi-faceted process. First you need an overall plan that gives shape and meaning to the material. The next step is the actual outlining or plotting of the scenes to create the path of action and reaction that builds tension, meaning and emotion.
~ Emotional Plotting
The best plots build to emotional payoffs that feel real and important. Yet this is one of the hardest things to see when working on the overall design of a screenplay: where emotion fits into the story. Often in first structuring a story, writers focus on the characters’ actions and goals. Writers want to keep their stories moving forward to ensure momentum builds and skip over characters’ responses to the action that might be emotional for fear they slow the story down.
But emotion is frequently a key motivating factor in a character’s action. Because the writers jump over the reactions, their stories lose emotional dimension or reality. As a result the emotions aren’t incorporated effectively into the plot action of the story – and the characters feel less 3-dimensional and the stories feel flat.
If we look at great films we see emotion plays an integral part in the plot action. Scenes exist to dramatize the emotion a character feels so the audience can feel it and empathize with the character, too. These scenes can be some of the most memorable in a film. Look at the moment when Lester (Kevin Spacey) in American Beauty registers that his daughter Janey (Thora Birch) is in love. The joy and happiness that spread across his face makes us feel good, too. Or when Will (Joseph Fiennes) in Shakespeare in Love discovers that his friend and rival Kit Marlowe (Rupert Everett) has been killed and he thinks he’s responsible. We feel his pain. Remember in Jaws when the mother of the boy killed by the shark slaps and blames Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and how the Chief accepts the responsibility, and we feel for him.
But the emotion does even more. It serves to motivate characters and expand the audience’s understanding of story events. Let’s look at Erin Brockovich. In the middle of the story, Erin (Julia Roberts) is trying to get more families to commit to the lawsuit. She meets Rita and Ted Daniel (Cordelia Richards and Wade Williams) whose daughter Annabelle (Kristina Malota) has cancer. Her head wrapped, presumably because of the chemotherapy, Annabelle snuggles in a nightgown between her parents while Erin talks to them. But instead of talking about the lawsuit, Erin focuses on the girl and keeps the conversation light, complimenting the girl and smiling at her, though in Erin’s eyes we see how affected she is.
The following short scene shows Erin driving home, emotionally wrought, her eyes fixed on the highway, clearly moved and upset by what she has experienced.
The next scene shows her dogging Ed Masry (Albert Finney) to convince him to widen the scope of the case. We understand her motivation; we’ve seen how deeply affected she’s been, and now we see it in her actions. He refuses, but she just doesn’t give up. She dogs him outside the office building, through the hallways, all the way to his office where, still refusing, he closes the door on her. But she doesn’t quit. Erin waits, possibly just pausing, unsure but unwilling to give up. Ed opens the door, not expecting to find her there, and relents just a little. He learns there are a lot more families involved and finally yields to Erin.
This short sequence develops how Erin moves this case forward to the class- action suit. It does so not by flatly recounting each step along the way, but by showing emotional moments that tell us as much about Erin as they do about the story. They allow us to connect with Erin and care about her because we see how she connects and cares about these people.
Effective plotting incorporates action and reaction, cause and effect, to build momentum and deepen meaning. Audiences then become more intensely involved in the story. We use action to propel the forward motion of the story; reaction to show the consequences the actions have on the characters. When we show what characters have to deal with as a result of their actions, and how that leads to new actions, we often understand the characters better and empathize with them as well.
When working on the overall design of a screenplay, another difficulty writers face is knowing when to play sequences for suspense. Writers tend to indicate continuous rising action in their structural outlines usually in one or two scenes. They then go on to plot out a full story of 65 or 75 scenes. The trouble is when they come to those suspense scenes in their screenplays, they don’t have room to do them right. They’ve misjudged how something that can be summarized so quickly in outline form will translate into script pages and end up writing a quick scene or two to cover the action, but it’s not very interesting or exciting.
Plotting a great suspense sequence can take up as much as five or fifteen minutes of screen time (and as many pages), and increase tension and excitement in a script. But if you haven’t left room in the overall design of the story, the action will be rushed and unsuccessful. A writer who knows how to plot identifies these sections of the story so she can develop them into effective segments of action that contribute to the success of the screenplay.
~ Structure Supports Plot
Plotting and structure are two sides of the same coin in screenwriting. They go hand-in-hand in creating a successful screenplay. Coming up with the overall design is the first step. Understanding that the story must be plotted in terms of action, emotion and suspense is the second.
If you’ve seen those maps of the Rockies or Himalayan Mountain Ranges with elevation points outlined for the highest peaks, then you have a good idea what a plot should look like. Think of those peaks as the main story points in your outline, the major turning points you want to build to.
What those maps don’t show you are the harsh and windy, snow- and ice-covered paths that carry you up to the precipice and down into the next valley of complications. Those paths are the plot of your story. They are the routes you must cover step-by-step to get to your goals. Negotiating those paths is the only way you’re getting to the summit and back down again. The goal is making the trip, not just looking down from the top – you can do that from an airplane.
Plotting your story is really “plodding” your story (“to work slowly and steadily”). Story structure is a map, plotting is taking the trip. Nightfall, avalanches, weather, and animals real and fanciful will try to distract you, so set out well prepared. You can use a guru for story; for plot, find a Gurkha.
About the Author:
Linda Cowgill is a screen and television writer who teaches at Loyola Marymount University and the Los Angeles Film School. Her feature film, “Opposing Force,” was released by Orion Pictures in 1986. She has written for such shows as “Quincy,” “The Young Riders” and “Life Goes On,” for which she won a Genesis Award. Most recently, she optioned her script “Honor Student” to World International Network. She received her MFA from UCLA where she won a Jim Morrison Award for best short film. Ms. Cowgill is the author of the popular film school textbook Writing Short Films and Secrets of Screenplay Structure.
From: dillonp23 This is an easy effect but for the best result you will NEED Action Movie Essentials from videocopilot.net. You will also briefly learn how to add muzzle flash/muzzle fire too. I hope this tutorial helps.
As writers, we are practitioners of an ancient art: the art of storytelling. Storytelling is a continually evolving form of expression. The first storytellers had only one simple tool at their disposal – the spoken word. Later storytellers had more sophisticated methods of spinning tales, using staged dramas, printed texts, and ultimately, recorded sound and filmed images.
But while these innovations offered us new ways to convey plot, depict characters, and portray action, the fundamental elements of storytelling essentially remained the same. Today, however, thanks to the development of digital technology, not only do we have a whole new set of storytelling tools, but these technological advances are profoundly impacting the nature of storytelling itself.
The new type of narrative made possible by advanced technology is often termed “digital storytelling.” It’s quite likely that you already have at least some familiarity with these new kinds of stories, for they include one of today’s most popular forms of entertainment, the video game. But they also include lesser-known but groundbreaking work in interactive cinema, virtual reality, Web-based narratives, interactive TV, and a number of totally new genres of writing. We’ll be taking a look at several of these fascinating new kinds of dramatic narratives, but before doing that, let’s first do some groundwork and go over a few of the basic characteristics of digital storytelling.
First of all, let’s define “digital storytelling.” The “digital” part of the name refers to the fact that it is supported by a diverse array of digital devices and media, including computers, digital video, the Web, wireless devices, and DVDs, just to name a few examples. And the “storytelling” part of the name refers to the fact that these new forms of fiction are narratives, too, just like the older forms. They depict characters in a series of compelling events, following the action from the inception of the drama to the conclusion.
But despite the basic similarity between traditional and digital stories, there is one major, and extremely radical difference between them: interactivity.
In older forms of narrative, events happen in a fixed order: A follows B follows C and so on. The story is depicted in a fixed linear manner; it never changes. But these new types of stories do not have a fixed linearity. Instead, they call for back-and-forth communication between the audience and the material, wherein the story changes and is shaped by these communications. In other words, audience members have an active relationship with the narrative. They are expected to make choices as the story unfolds, and these choices have the potential to determine a number of critical things about the characters they encounter and the story they are moving through.
This one factor, interactivity, dramatically changes not only the way stories are told, but also the way the audience experiences them. The relationship between the audience and story is so different from linear narrative, so much more intimate and personal, that we cannot even comfortably use the word “audience” here. Instead, we use terms like “user,” “player,” or “participant.”
The Impact on Storytelling
In addition to offering interactivity, the new digital technologies change storytelling in several other profound ways. These new kinds of stories:
Break the Fourth Wall
In traditional drama, an invisible barrier separates the audience watching the story and the actors portraying it – the so-called fourth wall. But with digital storytelling, that wall is often dissolved. Characters may speak directly to audience members, relating to them like old friends, or audience members may actually enter the story, interact with its fictional characters, and play a pivotal role in the drama.
Blur Fiction and Reality
When you watch or read a traditional story, it is usually very clear that the work is a piece of fiction. But in digital storytelling, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the difference between what is “real life” and what is invented. For example, many of these stories employ contemporary communication devices to further the plot line or reveal character – things like phone calls, faxes, emails, and authentic looking websites. Parts of the story may even be enacted at real venues or events, employing actors who give no hint that they are playing a role. Sometimes animatronic characters cunningly impersonate living creatures.
Vastly Expand the Story Universe
While traditional stories are told via a single medium – the spoken word, the printed page, or the cinema screen, for example – digital storytelling encourages the use of a number of different media, all tied together to serve the core story. In these new stories, the plot is advanced by everything from content on websites and DVDs to highway billboards to magazine ads to cell phone messages. They may incorporate mainstream media as well -including feature films and TV series. This method of tying many media together to tell a single story gives the writer a potentially enormous and versatile canvas to work on.
Offer Deeply Immersive Experiences
While traditional media involve at most only two of our senses, seeing and hearing, some digital stories also involve the sense of touch and smell. They may also be projected as a life-like three-dimensional world that the participant can actually move through – a world that includes not only props and structures but also characters. These additional ways of “consuming” the story, coupled with each participant member’s ability to determine what happens within the narrative itself, makes for a powerfully involving experience.
Allow for New Kinds of Participation
In digital storytelling, an audience member becomes an active part of the drama, and these stories offer a variety of ways to become involved. You may act as a behind-the-scenes invisible assistant to the fictional characters, or step into the shoes of the hero of the drama. Or you may create an avatar for yourself – a personalized character put together from a selection of physical attributes, skills, and personality traits that you then control throughout the story. In some forms of digital storytelling, your avatar can even join forces with others and you can go on a mission or quest together.
Instill Characters with Artificial Intelligence
Thanks to computer technology, the characters who populate these new narratives may possess a convincing degree of brainpower and personality. Simulated characters can engage in life-like dialogue with us and become our friends or our foes, depending on how we treat them.
Types of Digital Storytelling
Digital storytelling is an extremely new form of narrative. It can trace its ancestry back only a little more than thirty years, when Pong, the first successful video game, made its debut. But in just a few decades, imaginative storytellers have moved beyond video games to invent a multitude of different ways to take advantage of advanced technologies and create new types of stories. The field is still so young that many of these new types of narratives do not even have generally recognized genre categories. But let’s look at a few things these ground-breaking storytellers are doing.
Making Make-Believe “Real”
As I noted earlier, digital storytelling excels at smudging the lines between reality and fiction. Take, for example, an episodic video drama called Rachel’s Room that lived on the Web. The conceit here is that the 16-year old protagonist, Rachel, is going through a turbulent time in her life and, feeling misunderstood by everyone around her, decides to turn to strangers for help. She places webcams around her bedroom and creates a blog (Web log), where she posts excerpts of the webcam videos, along with her diary and a message board. Every evening Rachel goes online to chat with “cyber friends,” soliciting their support and advice.
Though Rachel’s Room was in fact a tightly scripted serialized story and Rachel was a fictional character, the drama unfolded as a believable account of a troubled girl. But everything put up on the website was fictional, except for the messages posted by visitors to the site and the nightly chat sessions. But if Rachel was fictional, how did she take part in these chats? Actually, the head writer of the series went online in the persona of Rachel and communicated convincingly with the evening’s participants. Sometimes pieces of these discussions would be recorded by “Rachel” in her online diary, further blurring reality and fiction.
Many regular visitors to the site were convinced Rachel was a real person and were extremely concerned about the problems she was having. When the 50 installments came to an end, it was hard for them to grapple with the fact that it had all been just a story. They had become involved with Rachel and the drama of her life in a way they never could have become involved with a “linear” fictional character.
Majestic, a Web-based conspiracy story-game produced by Electronic Arts, is another example of how these new kinds of entertainments can be made to seem real. Soon after you registered to play Majestic, you would receive a terse fax from Electronic Arts notifying you that the game had been cancelled due to an explosion that had destroyed the offices of the game’s developers. Shortly thereafter, you would receive desperate emails from the game developers, saying their lives were being threatened and pleading for your help. The emails would be followed by a menacing phone call from a stranger warning you not to get involved.
However, the fax, emails and phone call were all part of the narrative, along with homemade looking video messages, supposedly taped by the story’s characters, and the “classified” maps and other documents you could access online. The story in Majestic was further conveyed by a number of realistic-looking websites, which furthered the story and offered clues about the conspiracy.
This technique of combing a story and game to create a synthesized reality belongs to an evolving genre of digital storytelling called an ARG, or Alternate Reality Game. Players of these story-games derive a great deal of enjoyment from the sense of participating in an exciting real-life drama.
Another such ARG was a mystery called Push, Nevada, which was told in quite a different way than Majestic – its centerpiece was a primetime series on ABC TV. The story of Push, Nevada revolved around the embezzlement of over a million dollars from a Nevada casino, and a quick-witted participant could actually determine where the money went, “recover” it, and keep it. The money was actually real, as was the chance to win it, but the rest of the story was fiction. Parts of the story were conveyed by the TV episodes while other parts were conveyed by a number of other media (the Web, cell phones, and so on), an approach termed an “integrated media production” by the company that created Push. Thus, Push, Nevada illustrates another characteristic we noted about digital storytelling: its facility for employing a number of different media to serve the same core story.
For instance, participants in this mystery game could learn more about the strange goings-on in the town of Push by visiting the extremely real-looking websites of its Chamber of Commerce, the town newspaper, and the dance hall and casino featured in the drama. Helpful clues could also be found on the website of a mysterious deep throat character. All these websites were closely tied to the TV show and updated regularly. In addition, participants could become further involved with the story by playing a version of it on their cell phones. They could even download and read a “tell all” book about Push.
The “Distributed Narrative” Approach
Another technique used in digital storytelling is the scattering of little bits of the narrative across a great number of interconnected fictional websites. However, access to key sites may be blocked unless the participant solves various puzzles. This approach was used in a story-game developed to promote Steven Spielberg’s movie, AI. The work, a murder-mystery set in the future and revolving around the emancipation of intelligent robots, had no formal name, but was called The Beast by its hundreds of thousands of fans, possibly because it was so demanding and addictive.
Although The Beast had game-like aspects to it, it was as much a story as a game, with structured story arcs, fully developed characters, and an emotional punch. Like Majestic (which it actually predated), parts of the story were communicated via faxes, telephone calls, and emails. The creative team developed a way for the story to penetrate the real world even further, by staging live events supporting the rights of robots, a major theme in the story. These “free-the-robot” rallies were well attended by enthusiastic participants in the game.
The major narrative thrust of The Beast, however, was carried by the hundreds of websites constructed for it. They contained not only text and graphics, but also audio, animation, and, in some cases, video clips. The fascinating thing about these websites is that each was a tiny fictional universe in its own right. The websites varied enormously in tone, style and content, from sites “built” by a poetry-writing scientist to others constructed by powerful corporations. Each site matched the personality of its fictional owner, much like a character in a screenplay speaks in his or her own unique voice, and each revealed a piece of the overall story. The head writer of The Beast termed this new genre of writing a “distributed narrative.” In such a work, the onus is placed on the participants to gather the various story pieces and make sense of them, somewhat like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle.
All works of digital storytelling are immersive, in that they demand a high degree of active involvement from the participant. But some of these worlds are particularly immersive because they employ techniques that heighten the sense of actually being inside the story world. These elements include the use of virtual reality, physical props, synthetic characters who possess artificial intelligence and various devices that enhance the sensory experience.
Two of the places you are most likely to find sophisticated immersive worlds are in the experimental labs of military organizations and in major theme parks.
The military is extremely interested in using digitally rendered worlds for training purposes, aware that they are highly realistic and are far safer than putting soldiers in harm’s way; cyber bullets and bombs cannot injure the trainees, but they can certainly focus their attention.
For instance, the US Army recently developed a virtual reality scenario called DarkCon to train soldiers in surveillance techniques. By donning a special headset, the trainee is able to take part in a frightening mission set in Eastern Europe where a civil war is taking place – it is his job to discover where a stash of illegal weapons is being hidden. To find them, he must make his way through a dark culvert and into a thick forest and then to a deserted warehouse, meanwhile avoiding detection by enemy soldiers and a savage watch dog.
The sense of reality is augmented by various sound techniques (for instance, he can hear his own footsteps – they slosh in the mud as he snakes through the culvert; twigs snap when he enters the forest; his footsteps pound faster if he should start to run). Reality is also conveyed by something called a “rumble floor” – if, when he is in the culvert, a heavy military truck passes overhead, the floor vibrates. The scenario even brings the soldier’s sense of smell into play. A device around his neck called a “scent necklace” releases particular odors at appropriate times. For example, when he is in the culvert, there’s a dank, musty smell and a slight scent of rat; when he encounters the watchdog, he smells wet dog fur and the dog’s disagreeable breath.
All of these elements – the different scents, the sounds, the vibration of the rumble floor – are written into the scenario. They are as important to DarkCon as dialogue and action are to a traditional screenplay, and specifying them is part of one’s role as a digital storyteller.
It is hardly surprising that theme parks create totally different kinds of immersive environments, since the objective here is to entertain, not to train. One such environment, created by the folks at Disney, is called DRU, short for Dolphin Robotic Unit. As the name suggests, DRU is a life-like robotic dolphin, a free-swimming audio-animatronic puppet. It communicates with humans by nodding or shaking its head or splashing water, all in a friendly manner.
At first DRU just swam around in a giant fish tank at Epcot’s Living Seas exhibit. But he was then given a chance to swim in the real ocean as part of a prototype “swimming with the dolphins” attraction for snorklers at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, thus taking an immersive experience to an entirely new level – the open sea.
And, as with all good immersive environments, a story was created to enhance the experience – one about a pod of dolphins living just off the coast. And even though all the swimmers had been told in advance that DRU was an audio-animatronic creation, he was so life-like that everyone who swam with him was certain he was real. This worried the producers, who were at one point thinking of adding a shark to the performance. They finally decided to scratch the idea, feeling it wasn’t worth the risk of a heart attack.
Rethinking the Relationship to the Screen
One of the most interesting things now occurring in digital storytelling is the way new media pioneers are experimenting with our relationship with the screen. Thanks to digital technology, we can now interact with material that is broadcast on TV and with narratives taking place on theatre-sized screens. We can even interact with stories we receive on the tiniest screens of all – the ones on our cell phones and PDAs.
Dozens of different approaches have been developed for screen-based interactivity. Let me give you one as an example. Up in Toronto, a company called Immersive Studios is doing work in creating interactive narratives for large curved theatre-sized screens. The events in the story are controlled by audience members sitting at small touch screen consoles, the size of small TV sets. This is the so-called dual-screen approach, a form of interactivity which is also being used in interactive TV.
Here is how this works in an Immersive Studios film about outerspace exploration: on the large screen, we, the audience members, see astronauts engaged in a hazardous operation outside their space ship, completing a repair job on a robotic arm system. Their mission complete, they are ready to go back inside the space station. But they find the door is locked, and their oxygen is running low! However, we, the audience, can save the day by using our console screens to work out a way to unlock the door. Thus the action on the small and large screens is closely interconnected.
This approach is just one example of how a traditional entertainment medium – the cinema screen – can become a vehicle of interactive storytelling. Thanks to digital technology, we are no longer restricted to a rigid one-way experience. We can now devise narratives that allow the audience to play a meaningful role.
Like the Iliad and the Odyssey, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or MMOGs, are epic adventure stories. But these are epics in which audience members play an active role and become deeply involved in the story’s dramatic, often violent, events.
MMOGs live on the Web, and they are one of the fastest growing and most lucrative forms of digital storytelling. MMOGs are played simultaneously by tens of thousands of people, each controlling one or more avatars. They are set in sprawling fictional universes that include multiple complex worlds, all of which may be populated by an assortment of human and fantasy creatures, both friendly and hostile. These game worlds are also persistent universes, meaning that the stories continue even after a player has logged off, just as in the real world things continue to happen even when we go to sleep.
One of the most popular of these story-games is EverQuest, which, like many works in this genre, is set in a medieval time period and has a “swords and sorcery” motif. It is so addictive to players that it has been nicknamed EverCrack, and the majority of its players are young single men who devote hours a day to it.
But recently, Disney Online proved that a MMOG need not follow the EverQuest formula in order to produce a winning work in this arena. With Toontown Online, their brash entry into the field, they went at creating an MMOG in an entirely different way. This MMOG is set in a cheery world inhabited by Toons – cartoon characters. True, there are evil forces at work here, but you won’t find violence in Toontown; all conflicts are fought with humor.
The Toons are being threatened by a bunch of drab business-obsessed characters called Cogs, who have names like Pencil Pusher, Number Cruncher and Head Hunter. They want to take over Toontown and turn it into a high-rise corporate mecca. Your goal as a Toon is to prevent this by any means possible, and that may mean going into battle, though these are hardly military types of exercises. A typical Toon versus Cog skirmish is a messy but non-violent affair. As a Toon, you’ll do such things as hurl cream pies at the Cog or drench them with your own personal rain cloud. In turn, the Cogs may squirt you with ink from their fountain pens or fling their half-Windsor ties at you.
Toontown Online has proven to be popular not only with kids and their parents, but also with childless adults. Grownups are spending more time on the game than Disney had ever anticipated. These adults are enjoying the Dilbert-like workplace humor, the clever word play, and the tongue-in-cheek nature of the encounters between the Cogs and the Toons. The success of Toontown Online shows that there is a robust audience out there for MMOGs that go beyond the traditional medieval fantasy games. One thing is clear: we are just beginning to explore the potential of this type of storytelling.
Becoming a Digital Storyteller
If you are as intrigued as I am by these new storytelling techniques, you are probably wondering how you can take part in this rapidly expanding arena. As you may imagine, there is no one single entry path. Each person I know who works in this field found his or her own way in. And they did so without the help of agents, employment agencies, or managers, since virtually none exist yet in this field. But let me give you a few ideas of how to become a digital storyteller.
Use The Expertise You Already Have
The question to ask here is what can you bring to the party? If you are already a writer, but in a different field of writing, you will find that many of the skills you have already mastered are highly valued in digital storytelling. For example, the head writer of The Beast was a science fiction novelist, and he used many of same plotting and character development skills in this work of interactive science fiction as he had in his novels. The DarkCon virtual reality scenario was devised by a Hollywood screenwriter who used the three-act structure and other dramatic techniques, just as he would in a screenplay. The head writer of Rachel’s Room parlayed her expertise in adolescent audiences, acquired as an assistant on the popular youth-oriented TV series, Dawson’s Creek, to develop her Web drama.
Skills from other professional vocations can also be ported over to interactive media. Among them are architecture (which, surprisingly, is closely related to digital storytelling); teaching; journalism; and cartooning.
Research The Field
Digital storytelling is an enormous arena, encompassing everything from video games to interactive TV to immersive environments. You need to decide which specific areas you are most interested in and then learn everything you can about them. Which are the most successful works in these areas? What makes these titles outstanding? Play some of them yourself, or have an experienced player guide you through them. Read books on digital storytelling and take a course or two. Subscribe to print or electronic publications that cover the field. And also find out which companies specialize in the kinds of interactive storytelling you are most interested in. This will help you target prospective employers.
The Garage Band Approach
Having a sample work of digital storytelling to show potential employers is extremely helpful. But what if you are skilled in one area, such as writing, but can’t do animation or programming or composing or the other skills needed to make an effective sample? The solution here is to join up with a few other people who have these skills and make something jointly that you can all benefit from.
As with other job-seeking endeavors, networking is a great way to learn what is going on in the field and to potentially meet people who can steer you to employment opportunities. Find out what professional organizations represent people who work in the area in which you are most interested. Join one of these organizations and become active in it. If possible, go to electronic entertainment conferences, too. Conferences are an excellent way to see the newest titles in the field, and they often have informative panel discussions as well.
Make Interactivity Your Friend
Many people erroneously believe that you need to be a technical geek in order to succeed in interactive entertainment. In point of fact, the work is highly collaborative and your computer-savvy teammates will carry the technical load. But you do need to have a basic comfort level with interactivity. For writers who are used to linear narratives, this can be a major mental adjustment. Some writers will never feel comfortable giving up the God-like control they have over the story, and will never welcome the audience becoming part of the experience. Other writers, however, are excited by the new storytelling techniques that interactivity offers, and the larger canvas it gives them to create on. Only you can determine if digital storytelling is for you.
Having a positive attitude about interactivity, along with an open mind, enthusiasm for the field, and a desire to explore its potential – this kind of mind set will carry you a long way towards becoming one of the pioneers of digital storytelling. Good luck!
Carolyn Handler Miller, an award-winning screenwriter, has worked as a writer or writer-content designer on over three dozen new media projects, including the landmark Carmen San Diego series and the interactive version of the Pixar-Disney film, Toy Story. Her work as a digital storyteller includes entertainment, educational, informational and training projects made for CD-ROMs, kiosks, the Web, smart toys and integrated media projects. She has taught her own course in interactive writing and design for the UCLA Writers’ Program.
Here are illustrated instructions to build your own DIY camera boom. The guide was created in 2000 by Paul Turner, the site is now preserve by Archive.org
…My first boom was made from a “No Parking” sign mowed over by some drunk down the street from a bar. The pole was 2 1/2 inch (5 cm) thick walled steel pipe about 9 feet (3 m) long. Very heavy, but more importantly, very rigid. When it comes to making a boom, rigidity is the key. Sure, other materials are lighter and easier to work with, but unless your remaking an Irwin Allen disaster flick, the boom needs to be as stable, rigid and hefty as possible. The pole must be strong enough not to bend or “spring” when the boom movement is stopped. That is to say, when the operator stops the boom’s movement, the other end doesn’t flex back and forth like a fishing pole. Also, they will be times when you will have not only a camera, lights, microphones and cue cards bolted at one end but counter weights, video monitors, assorted food items and a couple of assistant producers strapped on at the other end. Having a pole that will bear the weight without bending, move when you want it to and stop when you want it and stay in place when you let go to catch a doughnut is a real asset to your production.— Paul Turner | Read The Full Article