Dow Jones Fellow Ecuador

8 lessons when storytelling for digital news media

By on December 8, 2017

By Loren Giordano

Lesson #1: Understand the vision for the project.

In order to create a powerful explainer video or motion graphic in general, you need to have a vision for the project before you even start animating. To know what you want to accomplish with the animation will also help you pick the right style and elements. Ask yourself who the project is targeted at, what is the purpose of the project, the style that is needed, and anything else you need to know in order to bring this vision to life.

Lesson #2: Do your own research.

Even if reporters or other people in the newsroom provide you with the information about the article you need to do the storytelling about, I strongly recommend doing your own research and looking at different resources to be able to get more familiar with the story and subject, and perhaps think of other angles or ideas to incorporate to the story.

Lesson #3: Set a strong base from the script.

Work on a script that is strong and good enough so that it will NOT be changed later during the animating stages, or that may have small details to fix but not structural.

Lesson #4: Work rough and fast on developing your sketches.

In order to make sure that your idea is the right one before you begin your animation, you should take the time to storyboard the project. This means sketching out each scene to get an overall look at how they will come together. But if time is not in your favor, I suggest doing this sketching stage very rough and fast, not putting too much detail into it. You will be able to see the entire project laid out in front of you so you can identify mistakes and improve the flow of your animated message in a faster way. It will also allow you to get faster feedback from reporters or editors in order to know if the images are the right ones or if someone could misinterpret them; it may even help you get ideas of what illustrations to make for certain parts of the story.

Lesson #5: Keep the message clear and simple.

When doing motion graphics, you are typically trying to convey a certain message or quickly persuade viewers, sometimes even educate them. Since these videos need to communicate different important messages, they have to be easy to understand. Strive for clarity and simplicity. In order to accomplish this, I recommend trying to get inside the mind of a kid who doesn’t know ANYTHING about the story. The audience may not know a lot about technicalities or very specific data from the story. Keep it simple so that it is easier to understand and digest. This will also help you make this video be seen and understood by a broader audience.

Lesson #6: Be purposeful when you’re animating.

The need to generate impact or make a stunning animation may tempt you to add in elements just for the fun of it. By doing so, you may confuse audience and disrupt the flow of the project. Consider that the message should be clear and easy to understand, and the flow of the animation should be smooth, seamless, and appealing. Make sure that every element serves the overall purpose of the project, and is not added “just because”.

Lesson #7: Keep your files organized from the beginning.

This is an animation basic rule, but I still want to make a strong reminder to keep it present while you work. Remember that having a logical and organized nomenclature for your files will help you save lots of time. It will also make it easier in case something needs to be adjusted, or replaced, or if the reporter wants to insert something into the animation at the last minute and you need to rearrange different files.

Lesson #8: End with a thought, question or strong statement.

Leave the audience wanting to know more, or perhaps cultivate a doubt that will make them want to investigate more about the story. The closure must have just as much impact as the beginning, don’t let all your hard work fall flat in the end, make it strong!

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