Multimedia storytelling guru speaks at Meek School

MediaStorm founder Brian Storm opens SPJ Region 12 Conference at The Overby Center.  Photo by Alysia Steele, April 5, 2013

MediaStorm founder Brian Storm opens SPJ Region 12 Conference at The Overby Center. Photo by Alysia Steele, April 5, 2013

MediaStorm has built a business by not doing perishable stories, according to founder Brian Storm.

Storm, who made a name for himself as the first director of multimedia at MSNBC.com, spoke to a group of journalists about his strategies for producing powerful, visual narratives that have a long shelf life.

Storm was the keynote speaker for the SPJ Region 12 Conference, hosted by the Meek School and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, April 5-7.

“I’m looking for people to make a human connection with the piece before I introduce an issue,” Storm said.

He used a portion of “Driftless: Stories from Iowa” to illustrate his points.  The segment “Harry & Helen” deals with Alzheimer’s, America’s food supply and other deep issues, but it begins by telling the audience a love story.

To grab and hold the audience’s attention, Storm says he and the other storytellers he works with diligently log and transcribe every piece of video and every image.

“We transcribe emotion, make note of body language,” Storm said.  “You have to have a reason for every edit; everything has to contribute.”

Storm is a big fan of combining still photos with audio and video.  He says still photos let the audience stare at a person or study a scene without embarrassment, but video can also offer another special feature.

“You should be shooting for visual sequence.” said Storm.  “Ninety seconds becomes 12 seconds in a video sequence; it allows you to compress time.  Sequences are the key to good video.”

Storm also likes to use sound to telegraph the visuals.  He says you want to hear the sound of the flag flapping in the breeze before you see it.  Also in the toolbox is full screen text.

“Text allows  you to internalize meaning; it’s a powerful tool, but don’t overdo it.”

For Storm this is an exciting time for journalists.  He says multimedia is about using and respecting all media to tell better stories.

“You know what’s going to save journalism? Great storytelling.”