Digital storytelling: A How-To

By Alea Ibrahim, Communications Intern for EVOC 150 Heritage Programme

It started off as a huge box of old photos, but the Living Memory Association has done a brilliant job of digitising and categorising our archive of Edinburgh protesting and campaigning snapshots covering several decades. Nobody knew where the photos came from or who the people in the photos were, so we wanted to find out more about these hidden stories and Edinburgh’s protesting past.

We went on a mission to find these faces and wanted to create as much digital noise as possible. We geared up our social media platforms, fired up the website and made our digital stories. Our inboxes started buzzing. People actually started recognising themselves in the videos as well as their families and friends, and friends of friends. Our ‘Pilton Girl’ story actually made it to the real Pilton Girl who then reached out to us.  

With the Oscars fresh in mind, here is a step-by-step guide on how you can make your own digital story and throw Spielberg off his throne. You don’t need to be a tech-expert or require any big fancy cameras. You can create your digital story in just a few hours. All you need is:

  • A recording device. If you have a microphone, great! But your phone will do
  • The images you want to use in the story
  • Audacity, to edit your sound file and add in sound effects
  • iMovie or Windows Photos to create your slideshow
  • Pen and paper to write down your masterpiece

1. Finding your voice

For ‘Pilton Girl’, the story came through the photos. The image contains so much expressive visual power and reflects the clash between the council-neglected outer communities of Edinburgh and the city centre.

This photo magnificently sums up the struggle and anger of Edinburgh’s communities. Nobody could identify the girl which is why we wanted to give her a voice ourselves.

Sahar’s story, on the other hand, is fictional, but that does not mean that her story and large parts of it are not lived by others who moved to Edinburgh or founded organisations. We wanted to reflect on what it is like to be foreign and what home really means.

Once you have found the story you want to tell, write it down as you would tell it to a friend. Read it out a few times until you have familiarised yourself with it and you feel confident enough to record yourself without having to read it out word-for-word.

2. Picture it

Equipped with the rich resources of our archive we continued matching the photos in the gallery to our story of damp housing, growing up in Edinburgh and activism. We also found a photo album with snapshots of a Middle Eastern scenery and a family no one could identify, which was useful for Sahar’s story.

If you do not happen to have thousands of archive images at hand, don’t despair, there are other ways. Pexels or Pixabay are only two examples of free stock image databases you can use to source visuals for your story.

Tip: You can also use screenshots of tweets, Google Maps or similar to make your story engaging.

3. “This is what my voice sounds like?”

It might take a bit of courage and the certainty that nobody is listening to you, but now you can record your story. You can do this with a microphone and the freely accessible software Audacity, which you will also be editing your audio track in, or you can just record yourself on your phone. Try to record several takes to warm up your voice and have a glass of water ready.

4. Just a trim

Now we are getting to the juicy part where it all comes together. You can import and edit your audio file in Audacity and cut out the “ehms” and “errs” and edit pauses. You can also add sound effects to your audio which you can find on Orange Freesounds or any other royalty free database. You can even record your own effects if you like. YouTube has some great tutorials on the ins and outs of Audacity.

Once you have your audio track ready you can focus on the visual side of your video. You can either use iMovie on a Mac or create a slideshow with photos on your Windows and import your audio track. You can easily time each individual photo in the slideshow to match with the parts of your story and adapt the seconds for each photo. Once you are happy with the timings and edits you can upload your video to YouTube to work on your subtitles.

Tip: YouTube even lets you download the subtitle file. If you download the .srt file into the same folder as your finished video and open the video in Windows Film & TV, you can play the video with subtitles independent from YouTube.

That’s it! There is nothing stopping you now. Good luck with your own digital story. We would love to see your results.


Twitter: @evoc_edinburgh

Facebook: /EVOCEdinburgh


The EVOC 150 project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to players of the National Lottery.

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