I made my first leap into multimedia storytelling after following, with considerable interest, the work of MediaStorm, a video production company founded by Brian Storm. Their videos wove together interviews, music, ambient sounds, and still photographs into artful, dynamic stories. As I watched them, I realized that hearing the ambient sounds and interviewee’s voice created a stronger emotional connection to the story—it just seemed more real than a photo slideshow with captions. I wanted to be able to produce my own multimedia video, but I was intimidated… I had never recorded audio before or used a video editing program.
In the spring of 2009, a client asked me if I would be interested in documenting a month-long undergraduate research experience in the Siberian Arctic. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, with one requirement: the chance to produce a multimedia video.
That July, I found myself in Siberia, wading through knee-deep permafrost goo, battling legions of abnormally large mosquitoes (audio recorder in one hand, DSLR in the other). At the end of that month, my hard drive brimmed with over 20,000 images and about a hundred pages of interview transcriptions. The thought of the next step nearly overwhelmed me: how to create a coherent, compelling story from this mountain of material. I decided to enlist the experts at MediaStorm for some one-on-one training.
A month later, I knocked on the brushed-aluminum door of MediaStorm’s office in New York. Storm introduced me to my mentors for the week: Bob Sacha, an award-winning photographer-turned-multimedia-producer, and Maisie Crow, a talented up-and-coming multimedia journalist. In five short days, we needed to turn my pile of photographs and interviews into a living, breathing, multimedia story.
Sacha quickly introduced me to the MediaStorm process. First, we poured over the material, starting with the interview transcripts. The edited interviews, he explained to me, would form the backbone to the story. Once the interviews were on the timeline, Sacha showed me how to choose music and integrate ambient sound recordings I had collected in the field. Lastly, we added my photographs and credit slides—it was complete!
Looking back, those five days at MediaStorm really changed my trajectory as a photographer. From a pragmatic standpoint, my new skills opened up a whole new avenue of funding opportunities, allowing me to keep photographing the stories I love. Since 2009, I have produced dozens of multimedia stories and worked as the lead cinematographer on an hour-long documentary production. Some of the videos have simply been a series of images set to music or a voiceover. Others have been more complicated, such as a series of videos on ocean robotics that involved filming interviews in front of a green screen and incorporating historical underwater footage. An unexpected benefit to my multimedia training is that my photography skills have improved as well. Now, it’s easier for me to break down a story idea into the elements I need to illustrate with my photographs. In essence, I have evolved into a better storyteller.
At the 2015 NANPA Summit, I will be co-presenting a Breakout Session with fellow photographer and filmmaker Morgan Heim on the lessons we’ve learned producing multimedia. There you can find out our most critical multimedia storytelling tips, like: whatever you do, don’t forget the…
The 2015 NANPA Summit takes place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com. Early bird registration ends on October 31st!
Chris Linder works part-time at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as an Expedition Multimedia Specialist and runs a freelance photography and filmmaking business. Chris focuses on communicating the stories of scientists working in the field. In the last ten years, he has documented over 40 scientific expeditions from Antarctica to the Congo. Chris’s images have appeared in museum exhibits, books, calendars, documentary films, and magazines worldwide. He is the author of Science on Ice: Four Polar Expeditions.