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Sequencing and storyboards

Once you have mastered basic shot types and angles, it’s time to learn to create shot sequences to support your visual narrative.

Sequences are a well-established method of telling a story with video, and this guide from Poynter explains how to film one, no matter what camera you’re using.

We also recommend watching this short tutorial from the University of Birmingham that explains how sequences are shot and edited:

In the tutorial you heard the terms ‘cutaways‘ and ‘overlay‘. What do they mean?

Cutaways: Shots of parts of an interviewee’s body e.g. hands carrying out an activity, eyes looking at an activity, or of the interviewee in full, engaged in an activity. Used to provide variety and to give context to points in an interview. Keep each shot to a maximum of 10 seconds, as you’ll only use each shot for around 3 or 4 seconds when you edit your video.

Overlay: Shots of internal and external locations that help tell the story. Capture plenty of these, including wides, mediums and close-ups, so that you have a good choice of angles and shots in the edit. Again, keep your shots to 10 seconds at most. You will use less than this when you come to edit.

This video, shot by our Manual team members Manzar Elahi and Hashim Hakeem, uses cutaways and overlay with a video interview, to bring a story about umbrella manufacturers in northern Thailand to life.

Filming for the edit

Planning scenes of your video in advance is called ‘filming for the edit’, and you can learn more about how to do this in this BBC blog post.

Often you’ll need to film your subject doing the same activity more than once, so you can cut from wide to medium to close-up shots from the same angle. This BBC tutorial explains how to do this with a DSLR camera. Remember, with a smartphone you have fewer zoom options – so you’ll need to physically get closer to your subject.

Draw your story

Even if you are not an artist, creating a sequence of drawings for shots you know you’ll need to capture when on location can help you film for the edit. This series of drawings is also known as a storyboard.

This BBC blog post explains how to create one and includes a link to a sample storyboard. The Journalism Education Association in the US has also collated free, downloadable storyboards.

If you prefer, you can put your drawings on sticky-notes, so you can move them around while tyou decide how the story will start, progress, and end.

Storyboards are used in many forms of video storytelling, including dramatic film. In this video, story artists at Disney’s’ Pixar Studios explain how storyboards help their animators create content for each scene.

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