Come exploring with Astro & Rich
Learning the art of visual storytelling takes both practice and patience, but can also be a lot of fun.
Here’s a short piece that I shot and put together over the weekend. It serves to illustrate some essential elements of visual storytelling.
So, can I preface this by first reassuring you that Astro wasn’t abandoned in the making of this film! I was standing perhaps just 10-15 metres away when I filmed him, and was actually with me in the car when I ‘drove off’. All good 🙂
Tip 1 – get it started
Probably the single most important thing is to get started, and to do so quickly.
We’re all so spoilt for choice of audio-visual material that we can afford to be fussy, and quickly click away. The window of opportunity to capture people’s attention is surprisingly small. Facebook, for example, provides statistics for video audience retention at the 3 and 10 second marks!
It’s worth remembering too that online video is often watched with no (or soft) sound. So think about how to engage people’s attention primarily with visuals, rather than rely too heavily on dialogue or text.
TIP 2 – cultivate curiosity
People will continue to watch something if there is a reason for them to do so. This usually results from setting up a scenario which captures their interest – posed as either a question (as in this case) or a statement.
The film then takes them on a journey, and it is their desire to see that leading to a satisfactory conclusion (along with obstacles along the story presents along the way) that provides the narrative drive.
In the short film of Astro & me, you will see I have used various tactics to draw people along, but at the same time delayed their arrival at the conclusion.
TIP 3 – conflict is important
Stories always thrive on conflict, however this concept of ‘conflict’ is often misunderstood to mean something aggressive or violent. It can be that, but it needn’t be by any means. Any juxtaposition of opposing forces or themes is conflict. E.g. the desire to understand something is opposed by the difficulty in understanding.
Conflict arises in this short film because of the my struggle to film what is on top of the tree versus my ability to do so. The simulated ‘abandonment’ of Astro provides another such example.
TIP 4 – keep it visual
Film by its very nature is visually oriented. So, your emphasis should always be not on “what will your audience hear or read?” but “what will your audience see?” This is especially true of content destined for social media, which is often viewed with the volume turned down.
The short film demonstrates use of different perspectives, for example my own perspective versus a 3rd person’s, which is all part of the grammar of screen language which we’ve come to understand and accept.
In conclusion: visual storytelling can be learned, if you are observant, have patience, and keep practicing.
As with any artistic endeavour, there are certain conventions which one can absorb and understand. Watching a wide range of material and trying to deconstruct it in order to work out how to put it together can be valuable too – particularly when you’re starting out.
I also think willingness to make lots of mistakes and learn from them is very important. Creativity thrives near the boundaries of what is known and accepted, and the great unknown beyond.