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A Visual Story: How To Tell A Story With Digital Video

January 1st, 2016 |

Why will you be telling a story with digital video?

Your reasons may be more traditional, having to do with the story itself, or they may be more modern, a result of the benefits of the digital format.

In order to tell a story with digital video you must blend digital images, sound, and a compelling narrative in a harmonious way. Whether the story is historical, instructional, reflective or persuasive, using digital video to tell a story demands artful construction of narrative, emotional intelligence, and excellent communication.

Storytelling teaches values and beliefs as part of an ongoing exchange. Digital stories take this human pastime further by using robust, dynamic media and technology to express story elements. Every story presents countless opportunities, points in the narrative for digitally preserved artifacts to further the overall story.

Technically speaking, telling a story with digital video both opens up new possibilities and presents new challenges for storytellers. The parameters of any given project may be set by business or commercial goals, informational needs, or personal taste. However, these sub-genres all demand the same technical skills.

How To Tell A Story With Digital Video

Focus on a Story to Tell

First, you must decide which story you will tell. Broad themes like “poverty” or “women artists” don’t work; a theme is not a story. Instead, focus in on the heart of your digital story by moving from the general to the very specific. As you hone your theme into a story, choose elements that are artistically and visually varied. Ideally your narrative will offer numerous chances to focus in on your subject.

Layout Visual Inspiration

Next, collect visual materials that will support and flesh out your story. Not all of your digital story need be live action; mementos, photos and other personal items can be captured and rendered very appealing on digital video.

Writing the Script

The step that gives most people some pause is the actual writing of the script, but remember that a fantastic script can come with a list of points to cover, a set of ideas, or even an outline. To help you get your story into a form you can work with, remember:

Just write.

Yes, everyone wants perfection, but leave that at the door and get the first draft down. It doesn’t matter how awful you think it is—it’s on paper.

Keep it short and simple.

You can add detail later, but first focus on telling the basic story. Use plain language that is exact.


Consider the voice you need for your story. A promotional video for a business must use a significantly different voice than the personal story of a war hero.

Keep your story real.

True stories (or stories with true elements) are typically most compelling.
Find the narrative thread. Even the shortest digital video stories have a beginning, middle and end. Introduce the premise in the beginning, add details and conflict in the middle, and resolve the conflict and provide a payoff at the end. As you go forward, pay attention to the pace; keep it interesting but not too busy or quick.

Remember, your visual story on digital video should incorporate basic storytelling and cinematic elements. You should use substantial resources like photos and mementos in your story that make the most of the digital video format; you can edit, use effects or compositing, and use voiceovers or sound from an interview to support your narrative. Finally, as you bring your composite final product together, make sure each element is present and that the narrative runs strong and clear throughout the video.

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