Storyboarding your video production

A storyboard visually tells the story of an animation panel by panel, kind of like a comic book. They come in handy for producing commercials & public service announcements.

Sure you’ve read Amar Chitra Katha comics when you were in high school. Well, I think they’re the best way to know how to & do storyboards. But you don’t have to be an artist to draw out your storyboards.

But then, what are storyboards? A storyboard visually tells the story of an animation panel by panel, kind of like a comic book. They’re particularly useful for creating commercials & public service announcements (PSAs), although a few filmmakers including Satyajit Ray, Alfred Hitchcock & Bapu (late Telugu film director)used storyboards for full-length feature films too.

Of late, storyboards are find usage in elearning/instructional design too.

Satyajit Ray’s storyboard. (Courtesy:

So how to create storyboards?

  • The simplest storyboards are stick figures drawn in boxes on an A-4 sheet of paper. They indicate what shots you intend to record on location. Download a template from here.
  • The second choice is to use dummy actors on location & click low resolution pictures & edit them using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (Mac). You could use audio too!
  • The third option is to use expensive software like FrameForge Studio, ToonBoom,Storyboard Pro etc.

Find some great tutorials on doing storyboards using any of the above.

Windows Photo Story is a cool software to add your photographs, add audio tracks & even some good effects. All you need is your photographs, good music, sound effects and if possible mp3 files of your dialogues. Just insert them using this software & your storyboard’s ready!

Watch this video to get an idea of how to use Photostory for storyboarding:

Do you have additionals tools/ ideas to share? Do share your feedback.

What are some of the popular video formats?

The most popular video format is perhaps mp4, given its flexibility and versatility in playing well across platforms. Also does very well in terms of streaming.

The digital media world can leave us bewildered, particularly when dealing with video. If you have tried uploading a video to youtube, you will know that there a number of formats that the service can accept to show off to the world.

Listed below are some of the most popular video file formats.  Remember that each format has a particular utility. We would do well to

3g2: An audio, video format to be delivered over 3G or the next generation phones. It is designed to deliver audio, video files over the internet and was derived fromQuickTime.

AVI: Stands for Audio Video Interleave. Files of this format have an ‘.avi’ extension. It was developed by Microsoft and has become a popular format. It runs on a number of different systems like Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix and is supported by all of the most popular web-browsers.

flv: Video format developed by Adobe Systems. Flash Video has been accepted as the default online video format by many sites. Notable users of it include YouTube,metacafe, etc.

m4v: A file format developed by Apple for its iTunes. Requires QuickTime for playback.

mov: Commonly associated with Apple and the QuickTime. It was developed by Apple which also developed the QuickTime Player, it is compatible with both the Microsoft and Mac platforms. MOV files are capable of storing two or more tracks which can be video, audio, text, graphics or effects. This is also a popular format for editing video.

mpeg-2: Yet another very popular file format that is used for DVDs and satellite and cable broadcast purposes. Such files are denoted by a ‘.mpg’ extension.

mp4: Is an abbreviation of MPEG-4. This is perhaps the most popular format these days. Can play on several platforms including mobiles, desktops, tabs etc and is the most sought after since it requires lesser bandwidth, particularly when using with internet. Follows that this can be quite useful when streaming video. mp4 is also popular since most media players in the market today can play this format.

wmv: These video files contain audio developed by Microsoft. These files can be played on a variety of video players on both Mac and PC machines.

(Video courtesy: Tuts+ Motion Graphics on 

For more details on other file formats and video compression techniques, look out for the second edition of Video Production, Oxford University Press.

Would be delighted to get your feedback!

Practical tips for successful Radio interviews

Good research, working equipment, monitoring audio, maintaining eye contact and making it conversational are among the tips for a great interview

A word of caution. This is a long post. Like the title suggests, it is all about interviewing for radio.

According to the Wikipedia (what else? ;-), an interview is a conversation between two or more people where questions are asked by the interviewer to elicit facts or statements from the interviewee

This post will cover both pre-production and production phases of an interview.

Research: Research, research & research.  Know more about the subject you’ll be interviewing, her work, her interests etc. Know why you wish to interview this person. Is she in news? Is she/ her work special? Are there contradictions? Is the person a relevant, reliable source? Why is this person interesting for our audience? Work on these questions and create a mind map.  Most beginners skip these steps and turn in mediocre interviews.

  • Pre-interview meeting:  It’s important that you contact the guest/source and fix a meeting with her. You may want to explain the reason for the interview, get her consent and also check if she speaks well! Believe me some people are boring. If the person agrees, fix a time and place for the interview in advance.
  • The questions: Writing out your questions is important. You have an astounding memory, but still, write down the questions. They come in handy for reference when you are actually conducting the interview. Use your mindmap to order your questions. But be prepared to ask supplementary questions. We will come to it shortly. Before I forget: Do not ask close-ended questions. Ex: Do you like going to book releases? What do you expect the interviewee to say? A better way of asking the question would be: Why do you like going to book releases?
  • Dressing: I have had a couple of people calling me up and telling me they felt delicate when my students went to interview them rather casually dressed. I don’t wish to sound prudish, but I’ll say dress for occasion.
  • Equipment: Again, I’ve had students who book equipment and rush to the interview. It’s only after reaching there do they realise that the battery’s run out. Or that the microphone’s not working well. I suggest that you do a test recording and check the batteries. In fact, carry extra batteries with you.  Beginners also tend to forget the most important piece of equipment. Headphones. Headphones are crucial to monitor the recording.

Make the interviewee comfortable:  Establish a rapport with the interviewee. It’s okay to do some small talk relevant to their life. Or even appreciate a painting hanging on the wall. On the other hand doesn’t mean that you sit in an awkward position. Sit in a position where you are able to point the microphone (about six inches away from the interviewee).

Choosing a place: A quiet place is the best for audio recording. By this I mean, choose a place that is relatively away from the main road, a generator that could boom to life or even a tinsmith’s shed! Okay, you’ve chosen a quiet room in the house, but then switch off the fan. Remember, fans/ air-conditioners can ruin your interview. You’ll know it when you wear the headphone.
Check recording levels: Recording an interview doesn’t mean you thrust a microphone into the interviewee’s face and reel off your first question. Ask her to speak for some time and check your recording levels. Most times, I ask them to recite a poem from fifth standard. This helps to break the ice and also serves your purpose.
Maintain eye contact:  Okay, you have a set of questions and a time limit. This doesn’t mean that you drown yourself in your notebook! Looking them in the eye and nodding from time to time reassures the interviewee and demonstrates that you are listening. Do not keep saying “Hmmm”, “Aaa”, “Oh!” all the time. A nod or a smile in response should work.
Make it conversational:  Hopping from one question to another will sound very mechanical on radio. Try to take off from the response, summarize the response or say, “So from the background you came from, how easy was it to…” or some thing like that.
Listen:  I needn’t stress on this more. Very often, when you ask an uncomfortable question, experienced interviewees tend to ramble of and take you in an altogether different direction! To bring them back to the interview you need to listen. The interviewee’s response to a question can lead you to another supplementary question and a more interesting answer.
Do not interrupt: Yes, some people have the habit of giving long answers. It’s okay. You can always shorten them at the editing stage. If the answer is too long, try to summarize the answer by saying, “What you essentially mean is…”
Silences are okay:  You ask a question. There’s a bit of a silence. That’s okay. The interviewee is perhaps recollecting things or trying to frame an answer. Allow for those silences.
On/ Off the record:  While most responses might be ‘on record’ responses to some questions that might put the interviewee (say a controversial person) in an awkward position. She might say, “Off the record, let me tell you that…”.  Respect the interviewee. Eliminate these portions at the editing stage.
Rewording questions: Experienced interviewees may not answer your question to your satisfaction. Do not hesitate to reword your question and ask it again.
Before ending:  Ask the interviewee if she’d like to add anything that you may have probably missed out on.
Thank you:  Do not forget to thank the interviewee, however, controversial and emotional the interview may have been. After all, she has taken the time out to answer your questions.

Download free mind mapping software from here, here or here.
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