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Video Communications: Telling Stories Online

May 12, 2015
Welcome back to Public Information, and thanks for sticking with me. This month, as promised, I want to talk about some techniques I’ve used to tell stories online using video.

First, let’s take a look at visual storytelling and figure out why it’s such a powerful medium for connection. First and foremost, we can manipulate our images to fit our messaging. Think here about how, say, Indiana Jones is presented when he first walks into frame. It’s usually his outline or shadow – something that suggests he’s larger than life – a concept – and not just a man.

Second, we can manipulate the audio for the same reason. Great examples of this technique include classic horror movies. The best use sound editing to scare your imagination (think of the Halloween or Jaws scores) and pull you into the reality of the film.

Third, we can use editing to combine those images and sounds into a compelling and emotional narrative. This, in essence, is what film is all about. It’s the synthesis of images and sounds to create meaning.

For our first look into how to use video to help inform and educate, I want to hone in on some questions we have to ask before we shoot a single frame. Simply: Who is my audience?

All you have to do is ask, “Who am I trying to reach with this video?” If you can figure that out, you’ll have an idea of how you want to present the information in the way that makes your city or county look best.

Next, I want you to ask, “What is my city’s brand?” This way, you’ll know how to choose the images, sounds and editing needed to reach your audience.

Here are a couple of examples:

DeBeers, with this commercial, is trying to reach romantics with some class, distinction and taste. So, they’ve chosen classical music, black and white photography, artistic shot compositions and calm, contemplative editing to suggest an iconic, classic romance – you know, the kind you’ll obviously have if you just spend two months’ salary on one of their diamonds.

Here’s a fantastic example of local government video done right. It seems what they’re trying to tap into here is the quirky image of the Northwest perpetrated by shows like Portlandia. They’re not looking for your run of the mill police officer – what they want is someone who’s committed, but has a good sense of humor. A team player who knows that while television portrays police work dramatically, the reality is often much more mundane – but ultimately more rewarding.

OK, that’s it for this month. Next month I want to get into how we can think visually and compose our shots for maximum effect. 
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.