Making a Digital Storytelling Project in iMovie '11


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The presentation guides you through the process of creating a digital storytelling project in iMovie '11.

For more info, such as links to playable versions of sample stories as well as other versions of the presentation (including one that has over 20,000 views!), see:

This post is on my help site, which features resources to help students and faculty compose in digital media (including separate tutorials on each step of using iMovie). Feel free to share the site with students and colleagues!

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  • MY INTRO: Instructor and Digital Composition Coordinator for the PWR at CU BoulderGiven lots of workshops and presentations for faculty on aspects of digital composition, with special interest in digital storytellingGot interested in digital storytelling when a student wanted to add photos to her personal narrative essay; suggested she use iMovie and the project really took offStarted assigning digital storytelling projects in most of my classes and will be teaching a whole class on it next semester.Also: attended an independent school for K-12 (not an AISL member but a rival of one of them) and really value the education I received thereQUESTIONS: How familiar are you with digital storytelling? How might you use it?
  • I’m hoping this workshop will help you to…
  • Coming next: a short sample from the man behind 50 ways to tell a digital storyLeslie Rule, Digital storytelling association, 2009Conveying ideas or values using a narrative frameworkancient and intuitive human practicehow we make sense of the worldGrounding ideas in everyday lived experience rather than abstractionskey players are people, not ideasdesire to understand behavior and find coherence and meaning drive story forwardPAUSE a few beats after each main point
  • Alan Levine set out to explore how to use a variety of free digital tools to tell a story about his dog, Dominoe. We’ll use his story as an example for the kind of project we’ll learn to create.
  • Sample photo story
  • How do you produce your own digital story?
  • Not necessarily a linear process. Some steps are recursive. Helps to know the whole process before starting.
  • There are other approaches as well, but these are commonWorth considering in the planning processThese are two approaches to the process BEFORE you put the photo essay together in iMovie
  • Applications should be in dockOr look in Applications folder
  • tried and true planning strategies taught in compositionclasses
  • THINK ABOUT what purposes appeal to you for a practice activity(hoping you already have some ideas)
  • Highly recommend checking out the Center for Digital Storytelling and the Cookbook (links on web page for workshop)First four chapters available for free, rich with good info. My students found it very helpful.
  • What topics are appropriate for librarians?Literacy narratives are a common assignment in English, writing, language arts, etc.Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives
  • Give yourself permission to make a crappy photo essay! (just as it helps to have permission to write badly)
  • See faculty topic questions on web site
  • ASSETSis the word used by multimedia composers to describe all the parts you might want to use to assemble a digital storySome might say that STORYBOARDING should come next, but sometimes the story you can tell is limited by the assets you can find.
  • May need to use image, audio, or video editing app to change formatSometimes need media convertersText: can be on a title slide or in an imageWe’ll be using image files: jpg and png
  • Basic apps for image, audio, and video editing come free on your computer or available for free on the webMore advanced options available at a range of pricesJPG is compressed format that re-compresses with each save; fine for export but not image in progress
  • You can drag images into iMovie, but not videos. Dragging audio not recommended.Use QuickTime to edit or strip audioOther tools to use for planning: - folders and sub-folders - Evernote or other synching app to manage files (with categories and tags)
  • I’ll show you how to save your project files and get everything off the lab computers laterIDEALLY: you’ll have a few photos and an audio clip, maybe also a video - might also download from web instead
  • say something about creative commons and fair usePUT LINKS ON BOARD?renaming, saving, converting or resizing if necessarydon't re-save jpgs oftenAlso choose version that will work with your assembly app (mp4 or mp2 should work with all) of file formatshow to save as, export, or convert into the appropriate file formats
  • DEMO coming up on next slideBut also demo on live web page?
  • Right click or control click on a link and choose “Save link as”
  • Might want to download some media even if you brought your own assets“Usable” ultimately should mean Creative Commons or copyright free, but anything goes for today’s practice activity - worth considering how to approach this with students: is it ever OK to “borrow” images without permission?
  • These are strategies you can try LATER(may demonstrate basics when we start with hands-on in iMovie)
  • 7 elements of storytelling
  • Narrative arc: do what makes sense for your subject matterCommon story pattern: stasis, conflict, disruption, resolution (as seen in Patient Voices sample)
  • Consider the value of juxtaposition and contradictioneffects     - title cards     - caption cards     - transitions     - photo effects (Ken Burns, crop, etc.)     - closing creditsassemblyapps: video, presentation, photosupporting players
  • Might also write in script format, describing digital media clip rather than including it** Acts and scenes are the units of thought, rather than sections or paragraphsNOTE on using Word: dragging images in for planning is ok, but don’t try to get them back out; use original fileStickies for Mac: virtual post-it notes
  • Here’s an overview of what goes on a storyboard - Will demo how to use later
  • From a project I’m working on: my digital literacy narrative - collecting these from anyone who’d like to share -
  • Will need to return later to work on this once you learn more about the kinds of effects and transitions available
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration* Should be here no later than 11am!
  • Just going over the basics now. Ease yourself into it.Don’t try to learn what everything does all at once.iMovie SAVES FOR YOU, automaticallyWhat menu settings??
  • I usually use Standard for photo essays unless I’m certain I’ll benefit from the wider screen
  • Could record a bit of video if you don’t have any to import. Click the camera icon.ROUND ROBIN ACTIVITYif time allows, interview yourself or a partner(use title cards for questions)
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration
  • Sample of alternative:
  • NOTE: Title cards can be dragged on top of photos, but subtitle cards are better for this purpose(Images can be layered on top of each other with advanced tools: cutaway)
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration
  • Note: “fit” and “cropping” both work for VIDEOS as well as photosFIT: is best for images that really can’t be panned or zoomed without losing the key person’s face
  • Note: “fit” and “cropping” both work for VIDEOS as well as photosFIT: is best for images that really can’t be panned or zoomed without losing the key person’s face
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration
  • - Play around with sound effects and put a few inAlso put in some audio you downloaded Can layer multiple audio tracksCan also RECORD your own audio narration; click microphone button
  • We will take the approach of assembling assets and then adding audio narration
  • Other web ready formats include mp4 and movIn Windows, web-ready is wmv
  • Just do this now: I’ll explain why in a minute.Exporting always takes time. If it doesn’t, you didn’t do it right.
  • Highly recommend using standard video hosting sites, as that helps you and students become accustomed to how they work - I prefer Vimeo for quality and length - but YouTube is most likely to get traffic and is linked everywhere
  • (or just watch as I demo on screen)
  • I can help with external HD – we’ll figure out later how to get files to you.Move on to discussion, and I can help individuals with saving files.
  • Making a Digital Storytelling Project in iMovie '11

    1. Digital StorytellingMaking a Digital Story in iMovie ‘11Amy GoodloeProgram for Writing and Rhetoric, CU Boulder
    2. Workshop Overview Identify the steps involved in producing a digital storytelling project Follow each step, using iMovie ‘11 and additional apps, as needed End result: 2-3 minute practice digital storytelling project (rough cut)
    3. Workshop Goals Understand the process and terminology associated with digital storytelling  Storyboarding  Assets Develop confidence in using iMovie ’11 to:  Import images and video  Add title cards, photo effects, and transitions  Export a shareable digital story Have fun!
    4. What is digital storytelling?"Digital Storytelling is the modern expression ofthe ancient art of storytelling. Throughouthistory, storytelling has been used to shareknowledge, wisdom, and values. Stories havetaken many forms. Stories have been adapted toeach successive medium that has emerged, fromthe circle of the campfire, to the silver screen,and now the computer screen." (Leslie Rule 2009)
    5. Digital Storytelling Process
    6. Overview of Composing Process1. Brainstorm topics 6. Assemble assets2. Gather assets 7. Apply effects & transitions3. Modify assets 8. Export rough cut*4. Explore storytelling techniques 9. Revise & polish5. Build storyboard* 10. Export & share * Get Feedback (recommended)
    7. Two Approaches to Photo EssaysStory first, then images Images first, then story  Write a story  Gather visuals on a topic  Gather visuals to  Assemble visuals in accompany story iMovie  Assemble visuals in  Prepare a script to iMovie accompany visuals  Record audio narration  Record audio narration (emphasis on storytelling) (emphasis on visuals)
    8. Materials Recommended Optional Story  iPhoto and iTunes Photos  Video clips Audio clips  PowerPoint iMovie ‘11  Access to email Web browser  Text editor Image editor
    9. Tip: Finding Applications
    11. Planning Brainstorming Strategies Freewriting  Interviewing Listing  Reviewing old photos Cluster mapping Dialogue Rhetorical Situation Audience  Timing Purpose  Distribution method Motivating occasion
    12. Types of Stories by Purpose Inform Persuade History or biography  Public Service Announcement Documentary or docudrama  Visual argument  Call to action Analyze Reflection on personal  Parody experience Concept analysis
    13. Types of Stories by Content Important People Important... Character  Places Memorial  Events Adventure  Activities Accomplishment  Discoveries Relationships Joe Lambert, Digital Storytelling Cookbook
    14. Topics for Educators’ Stories why you chose your profession or one of your hobbies memories of:  learning to read and write  learning to use a computer or go on the web for the first time  learning how to become a good student an “embarrassing moment” that was particularly educational an event that changed your attitudes about an issue or inspired you to fight for a cause a powerful memory about a pet, event, or friend an incident that illustrates the value of something you learned in school that you thought at the time would have no practical value
    15. A word about expectations We spend most of our grade school and college years learning how to write well, and yet very few master the skill well enough to be published, much less widely read The digital stories most of us make are not likely to ever be nominated for Academy Awards! One benefit of a workshop is to help you develop reasonable expectations for student projects
    16.  Brainstorm a few possible topic ideas for a 2-3 minute practice digital story  Consider what would give you the most hands-on experience (with a variety of media)Workshop TIP: Brainstorm in writing so you Step can add to it later
    18. Types of Assets Digital Media Sources photos & other images  archival footage video clips  media labeled for reuse audio clips  media used with permission narration  self-produced music & sound effects animations text
    19. File Formats File format needed depends on which app you use to assemble the story  such as iMovie, MovieMaker, PowerPoint Common digital media file formats:  Images: jpg, png, gif, tif  Video: wmv, mov, m4v, mp4  Audio: wma, wav, mp3, m4a
    20. Tips for Working with Assets Download, scan, or create images in highest quality possible Modify images in tiff or native image app format, not jpg  Save jpg format for exported version Name (or re-name) with helpful file names  But don’t change file extensions (like .jpg) For video, choose what works best with assembly app  May not be highest quality option
    21. Asset ManagementPLANNING TIP: Think ahead to develop astrategy for managing your assets, but remainflexible and experiment. Mac users: put assets into iLife apps (iPhoto and iTunes) or a folder Windows users: put assets into WindowsLive apps or a folder
    22.  If you brought your own assets, access them now.  If on a lab Mac:  Try putting assets into iPhoto and iTunes  If that doesn’t work:  create a new folder on the desktop  give it an appropriate nameWorkshop Step  save your files there (or work from a portable storage drive)
    23. Finding Assets Search for images with creative commons licenses or otherwise marked as copyright-free Images  Google Images, Flickr, many others Videos  YouTube, Vimeo, Audio ,
    24. Tips for Downloading Find the highest quality available  depending on your bandwidth limits Use a browser tool like Download Helper (for Firefox) to access embedded videos  also offers conversion and audio stripping Rename files for clarity, as needed  x&4lxp8w.jpg is not a helpful file name Right-click or control-click on image or file to download
    25.  Downloading mp3 from
    26.  Downloading movie file from
    27.  Search for some usable media  download 2-4 images  download an mp3 audio file (optional)  download a video clip (optional)  Put files in iPhoto and iTunes or assets folderWorkshop  rename as needed Step
    28. For Later: Creating Assets Record your own video with QuickTime X or iMovie (Mac) or MovieMaker (PC)  or digital camcorder or smartphone Record audio narration with QuickTime X, iMovie, or GarageBand (Mac) or Sound Recorder or Audacity (PC)  or smartphone Take your own photos with a digital point-and-shoot, SLR, or smartphone camera Create images in Photoshop, Illustrator, or similar apps
    30. 7 Elements of Digital Storytelling 1. Point of View What is the  4. The Gift of Your Voice A way to main point of the story and what personalize the story to help the is the perspective of the author? audience understand the context. 2. A Dramatic Question A key  5. The Power of the Soundtrack question that keeps the viewers Music or other sounds that support attention and will be answered and embellish the storyline. by the end of the story.  6. Economy Using just enough 3. Emotional Content Serious content to tell the story without issues that come alive in a overloading the viewer. personal and powerful way and connects the story to the  7. Pacing The rhythm of the story audience. and how slowly or quickly it progresses. From the Center for Digital Storytelling
    31. Traditional Narrative Techniques Show, don’t tell! Offer details of character, place, and setting  Include sensory details like taste, touch, smell, sound  Use dialogue to convey conversations Experiment with plot  chronological is not always the most interesting  start in the middle, not at the beginning  follow a narrative arc, not an outline Build up anticipation with foreshadowing Focus on a central theme
    32. Digital Narrative Techniques Let the images, video clips, sound track, and other elements do some of the “talking” for you  each element contributes meaning: images, narration, music, text, effects, and transitions  elements can complement or contradict your message, depending on the desired effect Go easy on the effects and transitions  use the most subtle unless the effect or transition is meant to convey additional meaning
    34. What is a Storyboard? Method of planning a visual composition by mapping it out scene by scene  Describe digital media clip, narration, effects, soundtrack, transition out, etc. Tools: PowerPoint, Word tables, Comic Life, Stickies, print or “virtual” index cards, etc.  lots of Word and PDF storyboard templates available online
    35. Storyboard ElementsStructural Elements Scene Elements Title card  Digital media clips Introduction (optional)  Narration or script Body sections or “acts”  Effects applied to clip and “scenes”  Music or sound effects Closing scene  Transition out to next Credits scene
    36. Storyboard Using Tables
    37. Storyboard Using PowerPoint
    38.  Sketch a few scenes for a storyboard  in Word or PowerPoint  in Stickies  on sheet of paper Storyboard contents:  Digital media clips  Narration or script  Effects applied to clipWorkshop Step  Music or sound effects  Transition out to next scene
    40.  Launch iMovie ’11  Click on the black star icon in the dockWorkshop Step
    41. Overview of iMovie Interface Event browser  for video clips recorded or imported Media browser  access to iPhoto, iTunes, GarageBand, etc. Project library  individual movie projects in progress Preferences  turn on Advanced Tools Keyboard shortcuts  press space to play and stop
    42. Create a new project Create a new project and give it a name Choose an appropriate aspect ratio:  standard 4:3 (good for archival footage)  wide screen 16:9 (good for new footage) Do NOT check the automatic transitions box May click on themes to preview, but leave “no theme” selected  Can switch to a theme later
    43. Adjust properties Go to the File menu and then to Project Properties Change Initial Photo Placement and Initial Video Placement to Fit  you can apply cropping or Ken Burns’ Effect later, to individual clips Adjust default photo and transition durations, if desired  you can adjust durations for each clip later
    44. How to Import Photos Finding photos:  iPhoto library in Media Browser  folder on desktop Drag and drop onto your new project timeline Drag to change order
    45. How to Import Video Go to File menu, select Import, and then Import Movies  Will go into Event Browser Drag whole clips or selection from Event Browser onto Project composing area
    46.  Take a moment to finish importing photos and video footage  Don’t worry at this point about sequence, duration, effects, etc.  If you have time, try movingWorkshop the photos around by Step clicking and dragging them
    47. Title Cards: Overview You can use title cards for:  The project title and producer’s name  Commentary or quotations  Any time you want a chunk of text in the project  Explanatory subtitles Alternatives:  Create slides in PowerPoint, export as images, and import into iMovie  Create text in an image editing app and import
    48. How to Add Title Cards Select the T in the media browser area and look through title card selection Drag a card to your project and release in appropriate spot, when green + appears  Cards can go between or on clips Choose a background for the card Type text  Adjust fonts if desired Click Done when finished
    49.  Create an opening title card and a closing title card  Also create other title cards, as applicable  Optional: Create a sub-Workshop title on top of a photo Step
    50. Transitions: Overview Transition effects ease the shift from one photo to another, which creates a more polished look for your project Use subtle transitions in most cases and save flashy ones for when they really count  Subtle: dissolves, blurs, fades  Flashy: spins, swaps, circles, squares, wipes
    51. How to Add Transitions Browse through transition options  Mouse over to see demo Drag a card and release in appropriate spot between clips, when green + appears Preview transition in project:  move playhead before transition  press space bar to play Can adjust duration and overlap, as needed
    52.  Apply a few transitions between your photos  Don’t worry about choosing the “right” ones at this point, as your goal is to play around and see what’s available  Transition types and durations can always be adjusted laterWorkshop Step
    53. Photo Effects: Overview EFFECTS TIPS Ken Burns Effect  Pay attention to the message  Panning: side to side conveyed by the effect! and up/down  Never let key person’s head go  Zooming: in and out off screen Fit  Slower is better Crop  Alternate between panning and zooming Rotation  Use “Fit” or “Crop” instead in some cases
    54. How to Apply Photo Effects Select a photo and click on the gear icon Select the Cropping, Ken Burns, and Rotation menu  Ken Burns Effect:  set the “start” and “end” points as well as duration Preview and then click Done when finished Also try Fit, Crop, and Rotate, as needed
    55.  Apply a few photo effects to your photos  Don’t worry about the speed of the Ken Burns effect at this point  Focus only on the placement of the image and whether you prefer it toWorkshop zoom or pan Step
    56. Photo Duration: Overview Your photos will all “play” for the custom duration you set in Project Properties (default is 4 seconds) You can set the length of time that each photo displays in your project using the duration setting TIPS:  Don’t set the duration until you’ve finished inserting all photo and video clips, title cards, and transitions  Viewers will get impatient if an image displays for longer than 10-20 seconds
    57. How to Apply Photo Duration Double-click on the photo whose duration you want to set In Clip Adjustments window that pops up, set the duration in seconds
    58.  Adjust the duration of a few of your photos  To preview, position the play head at the start of the photo and press the space bar to “play” the photoWorkshop Step
    59. How to Add Audio Browse audio options  iMovie Sound Effects  iLife Sound Effects  GarageBand  iTunes Drag and drop audio file when green + appears TIP: Don’t release while background is green or the clip will become an embedded soundtrack with no option for adjustment
    60. Audio Adjustments Click gear to access clip adjustments  Set duration  Advanced audio options Click and drag audio ribbons to move Use Clip Trimmer to trim TIP: Get out your ear phones!
    61.  Add a few audio clips to your project  TIP: You can layer spoken and musical audio tracksWorkshop Step
    62. Preview Your Cacophony  Click the “play project full screen” button Go back and play around some more
    63. STEP 6: EXPORTING
    64. Exporting: Overview iMovie regularly saves your project as you work on it, but you can’t share the iMovie file itself To share a movie with a friend or to upload it to the web, you must first EXPORT a web-ready version The resulting file will end in .m4v, which you can upload to most video hosting sites or share via Google Docs or Dropbox  The file may be too large to send by email
    65.  Go to the Share menu  Select Export Movie  Specify file name and location  Choose medium  Click OKWorkshop Step ... and wait!
    66. Sharing Options Upload to video hosting site like YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Docs  provide URL to video on site  use embed code on blog or web page  enable privacy options, if applicable Upload to CMS or web space  Make file available for download  Use custom-installed player
    67.  Log into account on Vimeo, YouTube, Google Docs, or Dropbox  Click Upload  While video uploads, add relevant info (if applicable)  Restrict viewing options:Workshop  YouTube: unlisted Step  Vimeo: password  Google Docs: share link
    68. Saving Your Project File Attach external thumb drive or HD and make copy of Project files in Project Library browser Do the same for Events Also save all downloaded files, if applicable Or, if you were really just goofing around, never mind!  All files on lab Macs will be wiped on reboot
    69. Resources For handouts: Please feel free to contact me with questions! Amy Goodloe