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March 25 2013


“Silent Storytelling: Motion Speaks Louder Than Words” GUEST post by Danny Groner

by Danny Groner/ Shutterstock


“The sounds of silence.” It’s a vivid refrain we’re all familiar with, thanks to Simon and Garfunkel. Behind this apparent oxymoron lies something more, a certain sensibility that all digital producers work into their final projects. Skilled professionals use silence to help establish, build, and propel their stories forward. That goes beyond reaction shots from main characters, though; acting can only take a film so far. Adding carefully-selected and re-purposed B-roll shots can carry the emotional weight to pack a real emotional punch onscreen. To push a story along, filmmakers draw on a whole slew of effects, which can include audio-less clips that still speak for themselves. Here are five areas where filmmakers can incorporate stock clips to maximize emotional impact:




Man washing car clip
If a film doesn’t start from the beginning, chances are at some point along the way it’ll feature a flashback to another time. These devices help viewers get much-needed context in a constructive and crafty way. Otherwise, characters would have to express revelations through awkward dialogue, and, worse, viewers would lose out on making connections that increase the depth of a story. Beyond highlighting attributes or trauma of a lead character, flashbacks can offer a glimpse into a different era. Pick a clip that both demonstrates an event, an episode, a season, or a time period, and drives the point home with emotion and mood that reinforces it.


Grey owl clip

Suspense relies on prolonging a feeling of mystery for as long as possible without alienating the viewer. The best directors achieve it thanks to a combination of great acting, steady camerawork, and a slow-burn pacing. To set the mood, they’ll allow a shot to go on for just a bit longer than others typically would, giving a clip enough time to marinate and resonate with the viewer. For instance, think about how Alfred Hitchcock masterfully lingered on a window, or on a dark bird, to give it a sense of importance. Watching it, you don’t know when it’ll come up or matter again. But it plants the idea in your head, handing you information that even the characters don’t have.


Pedestrians timelapse

Confusion. Disorganization. Mayhem. They’re difficult emotions to display without having someone knock over a stack of papers or fall into a wedding cake. But digital producers must find ways to make everything seem crazed without losing sight of the plot. Yes, there’s an order to the disorder that must come through. Your best bet is to showcase stress and disruption through external effects first, such as crowded streets and people banging into one another, and then afterward to turn the focus onto the characters. People will naturally attach the emotions they see in one place to the one that immediately follow. That way, it’s not a reflection of the characters as much as the circumstances surrounding them.


Ladybug clip

This is one area where you must be careful to avoid cliches as we all associate certain places or objects with the same calming sense. However, settings like beach getaways can get in the way of telling a truly original and provocative story. Instead, the best filmmakers call on other ways to deliver the mood. One idea would be to zoom in on a blade of grass in the morning, slowly swaying in the wind. A closeup shot on something innocent and ordinary can soothe the viewer. The pace of motion in the clip also goes a long way towards communicating calm — keep it slow and your audience will find themselves in the right headspace for the action that follows.

Tags: Guest Post

September 17 2010

Sponsored post

July 20 2010


Guesstimating the Times’s online readership: 46,154

Several people have tried to work out how many people are paying to get into the pawalled Times website. My estimate (first published here) is: 46,154 a day.

To come up with this figure, I compared how many people commented on two stories – one on the Times site (now paywalled) and one on the Guardian. The screenshot, below, taken at 1.45pm yesterday, shows the Times with 4 comments in 2 hours. The Guardian, on a similar but slightly later story, had 117 comments in 90 minutes.

So if we multiply the number of readers of the Guardian’s website – 1.8 million a day according to the ABCes – by 4/117 (the ratio of comments on each story) and by 90/120 (because the Times story had been online longer) we get:

1,800,000 x (4/117) x (90/120) = 46,154 readers.Times paywall numbers

Assumptions …

Obviously, 46,154 is a slightly spurious level of accuracy …

Propensity to comment

It’s unlikely that the same proportion of readers comment on Times stories as Guardian ones. But as the Times seems to have deleted comments from its old pre-paywall stories, I couldn’t see how many comments Times stories got pre-paywall compared to the Guardian.

Growth of comments over time

Comments probably don’t increase in a linear way over time – but comparing stories after 90 minutes and 2 hours seems close enough.

Comment bait

The stories aren’t exactly the same so may not have motivated people to comment in the same proportions.

But it’s not easy to find stories with the same sort of angle published at the same sort of time and which allow comments. These were the most comparable stories I could find.

Comparing this figure with other estimates

15,000 paying subscribers

This figure of 46,154 is higher than the 15,000 paying subscribers since the paywall went up that Beehivecity claimed over the weekend – but you’d expect this as existing Times+ subscribers (ie those who joined Times+ before the paywall went up) can also access the site. They will count towards daily unique visitors –  but won’t count as extra paying subscribers.

I can’t find a figure for Times+ subscribers, but I have this vague memory of about 60,000-odd of those. This story, from October 2009, claims Culture+, a version of TImes+, “has attracted 90,000 active members” (whatever “active members” means).

Either way,  if you subscribe to The Times newspaper 7 days a week, you get free access to the websites. So all this would explain why there are more than 15,000 daily viewers of The Times paywalled sites – because  people are getting it free as part of their other subscription packages.

2/3 drop

The FT, on the other hand, reported at the weekend that:

Visits to The Times’ website have dropped by two-thirds in the weeks since News International, the media group controlled by Rupert Murdoch, began to implement its paywall strategy, according to new data.

However, the decline has been gentler than the 90 per cent fall in traffic some researchers expected.

Now, 1.2 million readers used Times Online a day according to the last ABCes before it pulled out – so if its traffic had dropped by 90% it would be looking at 120,000 a day.

But even this figures sound too high to me, knowing what else we know. And Hitwise’s figures seem a bit odd – the last lot in particular failed to distinguish between home page traffic and those that gone any further beyond the paywall.

So what do you think? I wrote once that, if anyone can charge for content, Murdoch can. But maybe even he can’t ..,

June 02 2010


Can We Talk? Data Integration and Nonprofit Organizations

"Can we talk?" If your donor database is asking your accounting software, the answer is probably "no." And this lack of communication between systems is causing increasing problems for nonprofit organizations.

Today’s typical nonprofit uses a variety of information management systems for collecting and storing data ranging from client and constituent contacts to program tracking and evaluation. While standards for data exchange and inter-software communication are developing in the nonprofit sector, the vast majority of nonprofit organizations face steep barriers to realizing the benefits and leveraging the power of technology.

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