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How to Create a Digital Story (2)

This second method of making Digital Stories is slightly trickier, but the basics are all the same. The difference is here you, as the Digital Story editor, take snippets from oral history interviews and creates your own narrative out of them. This requires a little more experience at audio editing and can get quite fiddly, but the results can be fantastic.

Again, this is more of an overview rather than a step-by-step guide. I've put this guide into a pdf form as well for you to download and keep.

1.Undertake Your Oral History Interviews

Please see our ‘Oral History – A ‘how-to’ Guide’ for all the advice you need on undertaking oral history interviews. There are just a few things that become particularly important when undertaking interviews to make Digital Stories.

  • Always keep very quiet as the interviewer if you want to use these in digital stories – you want the voices of your interviewees to come out, not yours. I always, for example, reassure my interviewees that I’m only not laughing out loud at their stories because I don’t want my voice on the story, not because I don’t find them funny!
  • With this in mind, DO NOT talk over the interviewee, and try and leave silence between your speech and theirs – this makes the editing much easier.
  • Again, for ease of editing, it is really important to record somewhere AS QUIET AS POSSIBLE. Background noise makes editing sections of speech nearly impossible, and if you use more than one voice you can easily tell. Now, as you can tell from TTF’s Digital Stories, we’re not hugely worried about this. But you will get much better recordings if the initial interviews are quiet.

2. Select Your Story

This is the really creative part of making this type of Digital Story, and the most important – Digital Stories are based entirely around a voice, a central narrative. Using this method, the editor has a lot more control over the story and therefore a greater deal of responsibility to reflect the intentions of the people speaking. This can be a sensitive topic, and I’m sure that none of you will abuse this responsibility, but do keep this in mind when choosing and editing the story you want to tell.

  • After listening to your interviews, pick a good story or theme. This can be a clip from one person just telling a story, similar to method 1, or a more complicated mix of snippets from different sections of the interview or even different interviews.
  • Remember – you want emotion, not detail. Digital Stories quickly lose their impact if they are not personal, so keep this in.
  • Do not try to do too much – keep your stories to 2-3 minutes, 4 at the most.
  • Always keep in mind the story that you want to tell and try and keep some sort of narrative structure – not just some random collection of different sentences!
  • Again – do not abuse your position as editor. Do not use sections that you know people do not want you to, or cut and paste people’s voices so that their real meaning gets distorted. If possible, involve the people you are making stories about in the process so nobody is misrepresented.
  • By all means use different voices – TTF’s Digital Story ‘Blaina's Youth Through the Years’ from Blaina CC  is interesting because it uses different impressions of training young cricketers at different times. If you want to use different voices, do use with care. Do not use too many voices or jump from one to the other unnecessarily. Under three tends to work best.
  • Edit as little as possible. Try to keep people’s words in the order that they spoke them, and don’t cut out little idiosyncrasies.

3. Editing

This is the other tricky part of making Digital Stories this way – once you have built your narrative/story, editing it so it sounds as smooth as possible can be fiddly!

The process is, however, very similar to that in the first method. So once you have the basics from that, concentrating on the fiddly bits becomes a little easier! Again, below is the process you need to go through. For step-by-step instructions on how to perform these actions, see 'Oral History - The Aftermath: Cataloguing and Editing'.

  • Firstly, select the entire track and normalise it. This will make the audio sound even throughout.
  • Cutting is the difficult part of this process. I normally select large sections of the interview, copy it and past it into a new audacity file – select the section, go to ‘Edit > Copy’, then ‘File > New’ and then paste this section into the new file. From there on you can select exactly where to make the cuts you need.
  • Only ever cut at 'zero-crossing points' - i.e. when there is no sound. This way you won't notice the cut on the final track. It is better to keep in an odd sentence to allow the story to come to a natural conclusion than to cut prematurely. This is both on an audio quality level and a storytelling level!
  • Don't cut out 'ums' or 'ahs' or hesitations, we want to hear a natural voice.
  • If you are using different voices, then leave a pause between them. At the end of one person’s section, fade out their voice for half a second or a second. Then, create a second or two of silence – use ‘Generate > Silence’ and then enter the amount of seconds you want to enter. When the new voice comes in, remember to fade in that voice.
  • Listen carefully to the track that you are putting together and save the project regularly (I have had no problems with Audacity crashing but this is just good practice). Listen out for any ‘clicking’ sounds or anything that sounds distorted. You get this when cutting at places that aren’t zero-crossing points so do try to avoid this.

At this point, you have created your main audio track and it needs to be treated as you would any other Digital Story audio track.

  • At the beginning and end of the track 'fade in' and 'fade out', this sounds much more subtle and professional.
  • After you finished, select the entire track and normalise the audio again.
  • Export and save it to a different file - make sure that you keep your original!

From here on, you’ll notice that the method looks remarkably similar to method 1! I’ve kept the instructions here for your convenience

4. Pictures

Again, for more detailed help on taking and editing pictures see 'Photographs - Some Tips'. Just a few things here specific to Digital Storymaking:

  • Build your pictures around the narrative - use them to illustrate certain points or to help tell the story. You know the old saying...
  • I always like to start with a photograph of the person who is talking, so the viewer gets a good picture in their head.
  • How many pictures you choose is up to you. A really good image could be used for 30 seconds or more, or if the story is quick-paced, then use lots of photographs to keep this pace going.

5. The Digital Story

The fun, but fiddly part! This is where you need your creative head on and really think about how the pictures work with the narrative. But as always, let the audio track lead the way.

There are a number of programs to help you do this. Most windows PCs now come with Microsoft MovieMaker, which gives you most basic tools. At TTF, we use Adobe Premier Elements (available quite cheaply in a package with PhotoShop Elements), or if you use Macs, then iMovie is one of the best video editing programs around, and free on your machine. Instead of giving you detailed instructions on how to use each program, here I'll give you the basics. The help pages and tutorials available for all these pieces of software will be able to give you step-by-step instructions.

  • Make sure that you create your Digital Stories in the PAL Standard frame size format (720x576 4.3 interlaced - not widescreen). You can burn this format to a DVD and watch your stories on the tv.
  • Always save as avi files - these are dvd quality. You can convert them to something smaller then to upload online if you would like.
  • Save your project AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. Certain editors can be a little temperamental so I would suggest you did this whenever you make a change - it will save you time in the long run!

Premier Elements editor. With this program, your preview screen is on the top left, you choose photographs and effects from the menus on the top right, and there is a timeline at the bottom for you to add audio and pictures to. You can drag the cursor along the timeline to preview at that point.
  • First of all - put your audio track in the first audio section of the timeline. Build everything around this
  • Using the 'timeline' you can listen to the audio and see exactly where to introduce new pictures

Close up of the preview and timeline screens in Premier.
  • Add pictures by putting them into the 'video' section of the timeline
  • Start with a title slide - give your story a name and tell us who you are! You can download the TTF logo in colour here or in black and white here.  Below is an example of a TTF title page. To download a template of this you can add text to, click here. We use the 'Book Antiqua' font if you would like to keep this consistent. If you want to create your own then by all means do so!


  • Your title side and your audio track don't have to start at the same time - a second of two of silence so the audience takes in the title is absolutely fine
  • Fit your photos around the flow of the story - try to change them during pauses for example. This will add to the flow.
  • As I said above, if the story is slow, then only use a few pictures, but if it is exciting or quick-paced, then use lots of pictures. You can do this to create a mood.
  • Make sure that your photos don't overlap - put them next to each other
  • In between pictures add a 'crossfade'. This stops the pictures from jumping from one to another and looks more natural (for details on how to do this in Windows MovieMaker see Microsoft Help)
  • End with a credits screen - and remember to thank everyone who's spoken or given you photographs - and credit yourself! Here is a Credit page template to download.

That's the bulk of the Digital Story creation! As you can see, most of the input is in the story itself and the pictures that you use to illustrate it. There are a few things you can do to jazz things up, if you would like, detailed below:


  • You don't need to, and not all movie editing programs offer it, but some animation (zooming in and out, or panning from left to right) can really add to digital stories.
  • Use it carefully - too much zooming or panning will leave your audience feeling sick! Try gentle, gradual moves instead.
  • We naturally think left-right, so this may influence your panning
  • Don't pan left to right and then immediately after pan right to left - again, making your audience nauseous is not the aim!
  • Think about the picture itself - zoom into the focal point. You can use the animation to simulate walking down a road or following the ball in a cricket match if you do so carefully.
  • In many editors you can use either the pre-programme effects or you can do it yourself by telling the program the position you would like the photo to start from and the position you want it to move to. The computer will do the rest. Again - your program's help pages can give you detailed instructions on this
  • Play about and preview everything you're doing - and remember to save as soon as you get it to look right.


  • In most programs you can add titles to explan what happens in each picture. Again - use sparingly - you do not want to distract your audience from the audio track. 
  • It is sometimes useful to put up names or dates of team photos, say, or batsmen scoring great centuries. Again, use around the audio track. If someone is being spoken about and the picture appears just as the narrator starts talking about them, you don't really need to add their name - people will work it out! 


  • I would use with care. Not only are there the copyright issues involved (meaning that most commercial tracks could not be used in TTF Digital Stories) but also - music can change a whole mood very subtly. If you choose to use some music, do show it to someone with a musical ear and see what they think.
  • If you are using it, then make sure that it is much quieter than the narration - we want to hear the voice more than anything. You can do this on your editor.
  • Perhaps think about using music just at the quiet moments in the recording, rather than throughout the entire Digital Story.
  • As with any audio, remember to fade in at the begining and fade out at the end.

And finally:

  • Save your Digital Story - again in avi format and PAL Standard. In most of these programs you have to 'export' or 'share' it to save it in this form.
  • Proudly show to your club, upload to TTF and turn it into a dvd!

Phew. Give yourself a pat on the back. I know it can be a fiddly process - but it is a basic one. The more you make, the easier it will get!