Choose Audiovisual Content

So, What Audiovisual Components Best Support Your Video?

All video is made up of a combination of visual and audio elements. Think creatively and expansively about different kinds of sound and images. A few key questions to answer:

  • What will make this story visually interesting?
  • Can you tell your story using different a combination of visuals and audio components?
  • What will have the most impact on your audience?
  • What do you have access to given any security, budget, or time constraints?

Visuals to consider

  • Visual and audio documentation of events happening—people doing things, without commentary.
  • Landscapes, locations, and inanimate objects that are part of the story.
  • Interviews—one or more people answering questions, posed to them by an interviewer on- or off-camera who may be edited out of the final film.
  • Conversations observed—people aware of the presence of a camera, but not being interviewed directly.
  • Conversations or people talking to each other, with the camera unobtrusive or hidden.
  • Re-enactments—factually accurate recreations of scenes that could not be filmed, or are in the past. Remember that there may be credibility problems with this in the human rights context, particularly if it is not clear why a scene could not be filmed, or needed to be re-enacted.
  • Expressionistic shots—often symbolic or artistic, to represent a concept or provide visuals where you do not have access to the location, e.g. in historical interviews.
  • Manipulation of imagery via slow-mo, fast-forward, motion-capture etc.
  • Still photos or documents—either static or shot with the camera panning/tracking or zooming in or out can be very useful when you cannot get video footage.
  • Text including on-screen titles, headlines, and graphics—used for creative and informational purposes, including subtitles for foreign languages. These are usually added in the editing.
  • Library, news, and archive footage –this could be from a professional archive, but also personal memorabilia, and possibly material from other films.  Exploring these options are very important because, generally, obtaining permission for the use of footage from a commercial source can be expensive and time-consuming.
  • Blank screen—causing the viewer to reflect on what they have just seen or heard, prime them for what is next, indicate a change of sequence or location, or to emphasize sounds.

Audio or sound elements

  • Interviewee—you can use audio only, or a picture-and-sound interview with only audio used, or both picture and audio used.
  • Conversations—either recorded with the participants’ knowledge or unobtrusively/secretly.
  • Narration—could be a narrator, the filmmaker or a participant.
  • Synchronous sound—sound shot while filming.
  • Sound effects—individual sounds shot while filming, or at a later point.
  • Music—this is usually added in editing, and can have a powerful role in shaping the tone and pace of your video.
  • Silence—the absence of sound can indicate change of mood or place, or cause the viewer to refocus on the screen.

Notice that in many videos the sound and visual elements are not from the same source—in editing you will make choices about how to combine different audio and visual elements.

What’s Next? Find and Use Archival Footage

Exercise: Deconstruct the audiovisual components of a film

Choose a favorite film and watch it with a critical eye for the different audio and visual elements that go into it. Make a note of all that you see, using the lists above as a guide to potential components. You’ll likely be surprised by the variety of different inputs that go into even the simplest film.

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