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Behind the Video: Making “Adding Descriptions to Digital Photos: Your Gift to the Future”

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The following is a guest post by Gloria Gonzalez, a 2011 Junior Fellow working with NDIIPP.

When watching a video online, do you ever wonder how much time it took to create? Or what content was left out? During my time as an intern, I worked on a video about descriptive metadata for personal photographs. Now that I realize the breadth of the planning and preparation involved in creating an instructional video, these questions linger in my mind every time I watch something online.

Screenshot from "Your Gift to the Future"
Screenshot from "Your Gift to the Future"

My video provides tips for adding descriptions and tags to image files and explains why embedding descriptive metadata is important. Digital photography has massively increased the size of our personal photograph collections, which makes them harder to manage; however, embedding descriptive metadata into your files can help you identify and track down your photos.

I collaborated with Glenn Ricci, Lead Information Technology Specialist for the Office of Strategic Initiatives and Mike Ashenfelder, a Digital Media Project Coordinator for NDIIPP. They guided me through the writing, editing and producing process. While working with Mike and Glenn, I discovered several key aspects of video production: identification of audience, selection of the most vital information, and most importantly—revision, revision, revision. These three steps make creating a concise video that captures and holds the attention of its viewers much easier.

The first part of the writing process was identifying an audience. It helps to ask questions like “who needs this information?” but as Mike explains, when it comes to determining audience, “we have a diverse audience in mind: the general public is one target group, as are people who work in libraries and archives. We imagine they have varying degrees of technical knowledge so we have to strike the right balance.”

The diversity of my audience caused me to be very careful; my goal was to define and explain photo metadata clearly while not over simplifying the subject. I avoided the standard definition, “metadata is data about data,” and instead settled on “metadata is information about the digital photo file itself and the image it displays. Your digital camera automatically embeds technical metadata, such as the date and time, to each photo as it is created. You can also manually embed tags, or other descriptive metadata using photo editing software.”

Screenshot from "Your Gift to the Future"
Screenshot from "Your Gift to the Future"

The next part of the process was selecting only the most valuable information to communicate. Originally, I had a 3-5 minute video in mind but then I learned that when it comes to videos, three minutes is golden—a concise video with a length of three minutes or less is much more likely to hold the attention of its viewers.

“In informational videos, as in writing, it’s best to get right to the point and not dawdle over fluffy language,” said Mike. He likes to quote Elmore Leonard from Ten Rules of Writing: “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”  Mike also stresses the potential perspective of our audience.  “If we’re presenting a concept or an idea that is completely new to some viewers we want to give them time to digest it,” he says.  “That’s why we try to keep videos short and centered on a single topic.”

At first I found this part to be particularly difficult (there’s just so much to say about photo metadata!) but it became easier after a few drafts. Which brings me to the most significant part I learned about during the video making process—revision, revision, revision! I really can’t say it enough.

And with revision comes teamwork. The final script for my video was far different from the first draft, but I didn’t clean it up by myself. It’s always helpful to get the opinion of others before filming. In addition to Mike, the NDIIPP communications team members reviewed the script and were extremely helpful in determining what was essential and what should be left out.

“It’s refinement, a constant crafting of the end product, trimming out unnecessary elements, smoothing rough patches, making sure that there is a logical flow in the narrative and visuals from beginning to end, that we’ve told our story and made our point clearly,” Mike told me. “Often an idea might be very clear in your mind but when you put it out in the world—by describing it or writing about it or creating a video about it—that idea might not be so obvious and clear to your viewer. That’s why you need objective feedback from others, to make sure that the video works from beginning to end.”

Our final product, “Adding Descriptions to Digital Photos: Your Gift to the Future,” can be viewed here.  Take a look and let us know what you think!

Comments (4)

  1. An excellent video and to the point for me since I’m working to add metadata to my photos right now. The only scene I would cut was where someone used a Sharpie ink pen to write on the back of a photograph. Ouch!

  2. Great job! I am a video editor and have been thrown like the rest of us into the IT world of metadata also in video. Great production process too. Teamwork os the absolute key – especially in the revision stage as you discovered. (On a side note, the Sharpie pen doesn’t bother me – just let the ink dry! Much better than a ball point!)

  3. This is a refreshing insight to the other side of the house. Im on the IT and Internet Marketing side. I appreciate the thoughts on Thinking about retaining a viewer’s attention. And tagging videos with data. I especially like this phrase: “In informational videos, as in writing, it’s best to get right to the point and not dawdle over fluffy language,” thanks for the post it will help me to better target and market to my customers. And I’m smiling because I think you may have not even known that that’s what you’re doing.

    Matt Johnson.
    Get found in Google

  4. I learned alot by reading your article. This article is really remarkable, particularly since I was searching for thoughts on this issue last couple of days. Many thanks for the article.

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