Significant stories: The roots of VOXUR.

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Recently 55degrees give a brief talk at a JISC conference. The theme of the conference was Enhancing Business Performance: The Role of Technology in Developing Skills and Knowledge.
We spoke about VOXUR, we explained some of the thinking and philosophy behind VOXUR. Titled “Significant Stories” it looked at how the development of VOXUR fits with 55degrees’ aim to make digital story capture, creation and sharing available to everyone ... anywhere. We also talked about one of a key case study with NESTA which has influenced the development for VOXUR.
Our talk looked at some future developments with VOXUR which will enable the capture, edit and sharing of stories using video, data and other media.
We made this presentation into a pdf, which you can view here. Click on the menu option to watch in full screen.

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Significant stories: The roots of VOXUR.

  1. 1. VOXUR Significant Stories: The Roots of VOXUR 55degrees.co.uk1 | VOXUR: Significant Stories April 2011
  2. 2. Significant Stories Sometimes soundbites are not enoughRecently 55degrees give a brief talk at a JISC conference. The 55 believe that people and organisations should be able to telltheme of the conference was Enhancing Business Performance: their own stories using video, stills and other media and theyThe Role of Technology in Developing Skills and Knowledge. should be able to do that well without the need to resort to professionals.We spoke about VOXUR, the tool created by 55degrees that enablespeople and organisations to capture, edit and share their own Video (in all its forms) is a very powerful way to tell stories, to sharestories using video, data and other media. It is available as a knowledge, to consult, to record progress and gather insight. Butportable device, and we are developing mobile, browser and kiosk for many stories soundbites are not enough, they need a richer andversions. It is used through out the UK by the public sector, more in depth approach. As a media company some would sayeducational and research establishments, health organisations and devising tools for people to make their own stories is shootingbusiness. ourselves in the foot, but we believe that there will always been aWe explained some of the thinking and philosophy behind VOXUR. need for different story tellers and there is no reason why peopleWe think this helps highlights why it is such a useful tool. A product and organisation themselves shouldn’t be one of them. Video is toobuilt on a strong philosophy has a good foundation that feeds into powerful a communication tool to be in the hands of relatively fewits development. Apple’s desire to make products and software that professionals and if organisations want to truly own their ownare user friendly and well designed can be seen today in the iPhoneand iPad, Facebook’s desire to digitise peoples real social stories need to master this medium.experience has led to it being responsible for 25% of all web traffic And the appetite for rich stories and ideas delivered on video isand Microsofts intention to put a computer into every home and growing and shown by the popularly of TED talks and RSA. It is onethat computer to run Windows ... they have done quiet well. You can of 55degrees aims of VOXUR that the using video to communicatetell a lot about a company and its products from its ethos. With complex ideas should be an option available to everyone.VOXUR, 55degrees aim to make digital story capture, creationand sharing available to everyone ... anywhere.2 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  3. 3. NESTA and VOXURLike a lot of good ideas VOXUR wasdeveloped out of a need.In 2003 55degrees was commissioned by NESTA (NationalEndowment for Science and the Arts) to produce a series ofvideo reports on projects they had funded.These reports where to be filmed in location with the awardee. Theywould feature video interviews with the person and documentationof their work and practice.The stories varied ranging from the development of new surgicaltechniques to film making, from inventors and artists to boatbuilders.What they had in common was that they were rich stories thatcouldn’t be told in a few sound bites.The challenge was that the projects were spread throughout the UKand there wasn’t the budget to send a film crew around the country.So 55degrees devised a plan to courier a kit around the country thatwould enable people to capture their own story.3 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  4. 4. What would we put in the kit?Kit contentsAs film makers what would we put in the kit to help peopleremotely capture films?In 2003 55degrees was a small innovate video production companyspecialising in documentary, as we grew we added software anddesign to our services. In the early days many of us had beeninvolved in community video, helping non-professionals to makefilms using broadcast video facilities so we were very aware of thechallenges faced in enabling the public to produce films.We ask our selves two questions:“If we were capturing these stories ourselves using a traditionalfilm crew, what would we want to capture?”“What approaches do we use to ensure that we capture thematerial required to tell a good story?”.4 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  5. 5. What did we want to capture? D - Data We need to be sure that we are getting the information that we need to deliver the story that we are communicating. So if the film isThe HARDE Index about the stages involved in a surgical procedure, then we should ensure that we captured the relevant elements of that procedure.As film makers there are certain qualities and attributes that werequire from of content we capture in order to build an engagingstory. Whatever went in the kit would have to help our users to E - Engagementcapture this type of content. The HARDE index brings together We want material that is engaging. What is engaging is difficult tosome of the key attributes of good content. put your finger on, but passionate, lively and truthful interviews help, along with well made succinct points.H- HumanThe Human element. Research says that in terms of trust andengagement humans take very little from the actual words peoplesay and a lot more from who is saying it and how they are saying it.It’s the job of the interviewer to bring the best out the intervieweeto ensure that their performance is engaging and truthful.A - AestheticsAs film makers we are very keen on how a shot looks, and that thesound is good.R - RelevanceWe need to gather content that is relevant, no point getting lots ofshots of apples if we are making a film about monkeys.5 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  6. 6. The film makers approach A - Afterwards. Film makers are aware that they will have to make something from the material that they have captured. Thats why it is important toCOAST ensure that it is well documented and that you don’t create huge amounts of useless material that you will have to wade through. So“COAST” outlines some of the things filmmakers do to gather the capture less but keep it good and document what you havebuilding blocks to capture a story. Encouraging our kit users to captured.follow these approaches would help to ensure that their story couldbe told. S - Structure. Even the most basic story has a structure, for example: beginning,C- Coverage. middle and end. Structure is a set of rules that underpins your storyFilm-makers “shoot to edit”, they film knowing that they will chop that help the viewer understand and engage with what they areup and rearrange the material they capture, so they cover an event watching. There should be changes in tempo, texture, interestor subject with multiple shots from a variety of positions. This peaks and quieter parts. Having an idea of the structure you aremeans it is possible to edit that material together to build up a aiming for helps you define what type of content you are trying topicture of the scene or event. Its a bit like cooking, when you are capture.buying ingredients to make a dish you don’t have to buy them inthe order you are going to put them in the pot, you just have to T - Theatre.make sure you get the right, good quality ingredients. There is a lot of theatre involved in film and video production, the lights, the cameras and the people involved. Done right it can helpO - Open Questions. interviewees and subjects rise to the occasion.When interviewing to get the best out of people, one technique is toask open questions that don’t have yes/no answers. An example ofa closed question is “Do you feel okay?” the answer would be yes orno. The open version would be “How do you feel today?”. Questionslike “Why is xxx important to you”, “what first interested you aboutXXX?”. Questions that tap into a persons passion for a subject canillicit engaging responses.6 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  7. 7. Kit contents A video camera: We found a small one with a good lens and flipround viewfinder so people could see themselves for framing andlighting.An external microphone: important for capturing good sound.A little tripod: to put the camera on while they were interviewingthemselves.A spec cam: To help with coverage and to get a variety of shots,users could film themselves at work and give us an “inventors eyeview”.A stills camera: Following action, carrying out pans and zoomstakes a great deal of skill which is an issue with amateur filming.Using a stills camera means the user focuses on the framing at the We put all of this in a James Bond style case,moment of taking the shot. this added to the theatre of the kit, so it was exciting when it turned up. We we give it a...... and Guidance name the “Suitcase Acquisition Kit”. We askedThe physical kit was the easy part, what we wanted was for peopleto use that kit well. So we included a short video outlining what we everyone to take a picture of themselves withwere looking for, with tips on filming locations, framing, lighting the kit and this formed part of the final films.and sound. Guidance on the type of shots we required for coverage.Instructions on how we wanted things filmed, eg: we wanted themto address the camera when answer questions. And we gave them apile of open questions and telephone support.7 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  8. 8. ImplementationThe UK tourWe made up 4 kits and we sent them away on an adventure,couriers transported the kits around the country. To add to thetheatre, before people got their kit, we sent them a pre-arrival pack.This contained blank video tapes, an instructional video, a printedlist of questions and a combination number for the lock that was onthe case. It was all meant to be a bit “MI5” but this added to the funof it.People got their kits, carried out their filming, took their photos,and then packaged up their tapes and sent them back to us. Thecourier then picked up the kit and transported it onto the nextperson.8 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  9. 9. ImplementationThe presentation55degrees carried out the editing, but because people had followedtheir instructions we had the material we required so the processwas fairly straight forward. In the end we made 18 short films.These films where shown as part of that years NESTA awards.Interestingly we had gathered so much high quality information andcontent that NESTA was able to use quotes and information gleanedfrom the video in their company documentation and branding, andthe imagery and ascetic formed the core of that years annual report.9 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  10. 10. DevelopmentOver the years VOXUR has under gone many changes anddevelopments, and it is continuing to be developed with iPhone,iPad, kiosk and browser versions.VOXUR has developed to combine qualitative and quantitate data toensure that people and organisations have even greater control overshaping their own stories.But core philosophy remains the same ... that people andorganisations should be able to take control of their own stories,that they should be able to use digital media to capture, shape andshare those stories, they should be able to tell significant storiesand they should be able to do that very well.10 | VOXUR: Significant Stories
  11. 11. ! 55degrees Ingram House 227 Ingram Street Glasgow, G1 1DA T: 0141 222 2855 www.55degrees.co.uk11 | VOXUR: Significant Stories

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