Minimalism: The Audio Slideshow as a Storytelling Medium
I want to get this out of the way first: Growing older is for the birds.
Let me explain this inevitability: I’m now firmly in my 50’s and those two things I use to do what I do — my eyes — aren’t what they use to be. Even with corrective lenses — shooting video has become painfully more difficult with maintaining focus on my subjects that are not stationary. This became readily apparent this past weekend shooting what I call hand held video portraits — shooting footage of a subject looking at the camera but hand holding the camera instead of putting on a tripod.
Even with focus peaking and such, I could not maintain accurate focus on the subjects eyes. The footage I shot was soft, slightly out of focus and mushy — a total bust.
With my eyesight not being what it use to be 10 years ago, it’s become readily apparent in the past year I’m having to reassess what I shoot and how I shoot it since I work as a lone wolf – a solo shooter.
So how does this preface relate to the title of this post?
I’m revisiting the use of audio slideshows as a storytelling medium. What drives me in what I do is producing story telling projects that have real meaning, a purpose for making the world a better place as well as working with those companies, Non-Profits and NGO’s who are like minded.
Let’s face it, stills are much easier to shoot given that autofocus just works. It also allows you to capture decisive moments that video cannot impart effectively. That’s not to say video isn’t a compelling medium, but there are times it’s not as effective — and vice versa with regards to stills.
Yet it seems the audio slideshow has been relegated to the back seat these days due to the massive consumption of video.
In my opinion the audio slideshow is a thinking persons medium. It provides context in a single frame that allows the viewer to ponder what’s being shown. Combined with compelling audio — either narration, ambient sound, music or a combination of these elements, and you bring a richness to the story that video, in many ways, over stimulates the viewer and can dilute the story.
Then you have to take into consideration the technical aspects of things like internet bandwidth. So many video only shooters extol the so called virtues of 4K video — without taking into consideration the final delivery platform. So much of this kind of content is consumed not on broadcast television, but via the internet on mobile devices. I’ve learned that quite a bit of 1080p HD video is upscaled to 4K – even IMAX, and the viewer is none the wiser. That speaks volumes about the longevity of 1080p HD format.
For shooters like myself who are predisposed to their eyesight gradually getting worse, and the very idea of 4k video showing any minute flaw in focus, it becomes apparent that a shift in media paradigm to tell stories is needed for me to continue working in this field. I still see a place/need for video in my own work, but it’s more for the sit down interview aspect — the subject being stationary in a controlled environment. I see projects as a fusion of motion, sound and stills to tell stories. The audio slideshow simplifies a projects scope and removes the complexity of what gear is needed — especially when it comes to shooting video if needed. What I’m delving into now is a more NPR style of audio for story telling, using it as the sound component to the stills being used in my projects.
There are those who feel pure video/cinematic filmmaking is the most compelling form for storytelling. I believe it has more to due with the kinds of stories being told while setting the clients expectations and budget to to fit the medium.
The audio slideshow brings the minimalist philosophy/mindset to the medium – just as there are those who have less real world practical experience and more gear, paring down to the bare essentials while having a high level of experience separates the men from the boys so to speak.
Patagonia founder and CEO Yvon Chouinard made a statement that has impacted my work profoundly:
The more you know, the less you need