The Digital Naturalist is an inspired forum for video, film, and multimedia with a cause. It brings together an elite panel of experts to analyze what makes digital storytelling successful, establish helpful guidelines for advocacy groups, and shine a light on the most effective and inspiring work being produced today. Through analysis, forums, interviews, and personal accounts, we hope to help nonprofit organizations and the creatives working with them better communicate the most pressing, complex issues of our time.

Try This!

If your video is comprised of interviews, try to get your b-roll after you’ve recorded all or most of the interviews. The reason is that inevitably the people interviewed will say certain things that may inspire the kind of b-roll you’ll want to shoot. Read more bladeronner.com.


Entries in Scott Pauli (1)


A Designer's Eye

Scott Pauli and David Nevala

As an editor who's job is to communicate important information to 325,000 national park lovers, I have to make sure that the stories we tell-- no matter how politically or scientifically complex-- are told in a way that engages, educates, and inspires. So when words like "sublimation," "acidification," or "deposition reduction policies" pop up, I have to think carefully about what we're really trying to say. How would I explain this to a friend? What's the big picture? Why should we care?

Such focused, simplified storytelling is a common challenge in the advocacy world. Which is why I took immediate notice of David Nevala's TomoTherapy video when a coworker brought it to my attention a few weeks ago. Not only did Nevala find a way to visualize an incredibly technical topic, radiation therapy-- he had the foresight to partner with designers Scott Pauli and Drew Garza, whose collective eye for visuals helped turn a lifeless machine into a compelling and emotional story. Watch Nevala and Pauli's revealing video commentary below, then read the following Q&A to learn more about the thoughtful vision behind this piece.

TDN: I was surprised to hear that this video was produced as an internal piece, because it's so appealing to a general audience. Did you intend to produce something that could be marketed on a larger scale?

NEVALA: We didn’t intend to produce something that Tomo would share outside of their all-employee meeting. Our goal was to create a short movie that showed how each Tomo employee contributes to the end goal of helping people with cancer. That includes featuring the forklift drivers in the warehouse AND the physicists who develop intricate beam modulation. We also had total creative freedom to wander their facilities for two days, and we really tried to ferret out the best vignettes from our short interviews with people.

TDN: There's the idea that we shouldn't be so literal when we're telling people a story, especially through video-- that there's something to be said for leaving something up to people's imaginations, and letting the viewer's brain fill in the blanks. I think you do this really well in this piece. Can you talk about this a little more?

NEVALA: Being subtle is almost always the biggest challenge during an edit. One of the main challenges in making the Tomo video was that the environment we were shooting in was also the audiences’ workplace. We wanted to make the employees of Tomo see their surroundings in a new light. By allowing the shots to be somewhat abstract and not focused on the obvious, we were able to give the audience a new perspective on otherwise familiar territory.

TDN: I noticed that the visual transitions aren't always an exact match to the music-- but it still works. Any reasoning behind that?

NEVALA: I think keeping transitions completely in sync with music can start to feel predictable. Varying transitions can help keep things unexpected.

TDN: A lot of photographers are struggling to do this kind of work by themselves. What's the value of bringing designers on board?

NEVALA: I’ve always valued collaboration; the end product is invariably stronger. Since Scott and Drew were developing an overall campaign to redesign Tomo’s materials, it was logical to have them art directing the video. They are both agile thinkers and since we were working so quickly, it was incredibly helpful to have more eyes involved. We mentioned in the commentary that we thought of developing the ‘circle’ concept during our first day of shooting. It’s an example of flexible thinking and working with a team that values concept and aesthetics.

TDN: What do you think is a reasonable range for NGOs that want to produce a similar piece about who they are and what they do?

NEVALA: That depends on so many factors that are unique to each project. How long is the piece? How many days of shooting are needed? Is the audience TV, or web, or both? Is this a stand-alone video, or part of a bigger campaign that includes other work? To date, I’ve given estimates on multimedia projects that range from $5,000 to $25,000. Nonprofits typically trend on the lower end of that range.

I always hate to see wide ranges like that when I’m trying to decipher how other people bill, but alas, the cost really does depend on the project. Tomo was right in our hometown, and we already had a high level of trust with the marketing department. Because they trusted us, we avoided a lot of preliminary planning, writing, and storyboarding. We were able to get right down to business. This also allowed for more spontaneity, which ultimately made it a better piece. We spent a couple days shooting and a couple of days editing, and we only had about a week of lead time before we had to show the video.

There are a lot of factors involved with getting a project like this to work on a nonprofit level. Do the organization's decision makers understand what's needed to create a successful video? Does their budget align with their enthusiasm for quality work? Most importantly, does the organization see its contributors as partners and trust their vision?

TDN: Do you think you could have produced an equally effective video on a smaller budget? What would you have had to sacrifice, knowing that you wouldn't sacrifice quality?

NEVALA: To produce something with a smaller budget, you sacrifice choices in your edit. If we shot for one day instead of two, we would have had to make harder editing decisions. Even though it’s painful to leave great clips on the proverbial cutting room floor, I also think it’s a good sign that you’ve got the makings of a solid video.

To see the official video, click here. To learn more about the original score behind this video, click here.