As we started to collect our ideas for the structure of the project, the multimedia group agreed that we didn’t want to create a bunch of different overlapping pieces and hang them all off the text. We wanted to make a single story out of all the assets, including the text. So the larger project wasn’t a typical design effort. It was an editing project that required us to weave things together so that text, video, photography and graphics could all be consumed in a way that was similar to reading—a different kind of reading.
Last month, the NY Times created a beautifully compelling story on avalanches and skiing in Washington State. This morning, we get to read about exactly how they did it. Most fascinating is their discussion of how to pace the story so it would feel like a seamless reading experience:
Q. There’s a ton of audio and moving-image work in Snow Fall, and you used a lot of techniques from filmmaking, but within a very reading-centric experience. What kind of challenges did those elements present?
Catherine Spangler, Video Journalist: The challenges of crafting multimedia to compliment a text-based story were the same challenges faced in any storytelling endeavor. We focused on the pacing, narrative tension and story arc—all while ensuring that each element gave the user a different experience of the story. The moving images provided a much-needed pause at critical moments in the text, adding a subtle atmospheric quality. The team often asked whether a video or piece of audio was adding value to the project, and we edited elements out that felt duplicative. Having a tight edit that slowly built the tension of the narrative was the overall goal.
Graham Roberts, Graphics Editor: With the visuals, especially ones that would actually interrupt the reading, we wanted it to feel like a natural continuation. This required choosing appropriate color palettes, and the right kind of fluid movements. The reader would hopefully feel that they were reading into the graphic, and not see it as a distraction. Content wise, these elements needed to occur in passages that were challenging to express with words alone, like the layout of the terrain, and the shape, speed and duration of the avalanche itself. Or something that was very hard to follow without a visual aid, like the trajectory and timing of each skier’s path down the mountain.