This post was authored by Evonne Heyning, and cross-posted from

Learn about and enter the 2012 Digital Storytelling Challenge and use the tips below to make your story!

One of the most common questions is how much time will it take to produce your first digital story. This varies wildly depending on the people, the team, the equipment availability, and how you tend to work so I can only tell you my personal experience with various platforms, in order from least amount of time needed to most amount of time and resources to produce your one minute story. Time, software, and other elements needed are mentioned here... feel free to ask questions and leave comments using the #tsdigs tag so we can address them in the event.

Flip Video Camera: Less than one hour total time needed $$
Requires: Flip camera with the flip upload andedit software, time to cut your clips and put them in order, add a quick title card at the beginning and end. This can be online to YouTube in an hour from first shooting footage if your shots are simple and require little editing. This is not a tool that looks extremely professional (the HD camera lacks broadcast-quality sound and editing options) but this will get you online quickly to be more prolific. Similar tools exist for mobile phones and some platforms have video editing apps available at a low cost.

Xtranormal, Moviestorm, and Animoto: One hour to produce a short animated video $
I have primarily used Xtranormal but there are many tools that allow you to make quick online movies using your existing images, content, or script. With Xtranormal, I spent a few minutes scripting it out, blocked out movements and animation prompt, and did a few iterations in under an hour, uploading it to YouTube at the hour mark. This media works well for humor or for making complex ideas simple.

Flickr Photo Collection: 2-5 hours to produce a 5 photo slide set $
Plan to spend more time curating, fixing, adding text or watermarks in Photoshop, and cleaning up your images prior to upload. Taking photos is fairly easy and straightforward but the greatest artists in this arena work with their raw material and help it tell the story more vividly through juxtaposition, composition, additional text and descriptions, along with tags and online tools for telling the details of your story, like geolocation and the people featured in your photos.

Machinima: 6-15 hours to produce a short animated/mixed media short video $$
My practice with machinima was to shoot it live using IShowUHD in Second Life and get the energy of what's happening in the moment (like improv), not overscripting but making sure all characters know what to expect and what questions to answer in their voiceovers. I record voice over separately using Audio Hijack and edit pieces together, aiming to have projects take me less than a day's worth of work, or a few hours spread out over a week. Well produced shorts by Draxtor take more time and more attention to post-production after your shoot.

DIY HD Video: 4-48 hours to produce a short live action video $$$
This wildly varies based on time scripting, how many scenes, how complicated of an edit, and whether you're waiting for special pieces like voice over or music from someone who is hard to reach. I need at least an hour to polish a short script, an hour to shoot, and an hour to edit for upload as minimum but expect that your first video story may take a few afternoons: one day for scripting, one day for shooting the essentials, at least one or two for editing, and iterations with room for pickup shots and photoshopping art for title cards. If you will be editing and showing a rough cut to your team prior to uploading a final cut, plan for an extra day or two for rewrites and changes as you find your voice.

Animation: 3-555 hours to produce a short animated video featurette $$-$$$$$
Depending on the software you are using and the complexity of your content this can be done in an afternoon or can be produced by dozens of people over the course of weeks. Google Docs, Photoshop, and other non-traditional animation tools can make animation available to everyday users without paying for expensive 3D programs like Maya, while AfterEffects and common animation tools for video are more expensive than most DIY solutions and require a professional-level user to make high quality content.

Produced HD Video for Broadcast: 14 days - 90 days with a professional production company $$$$$
Most large nonprofits hire companies that act as production studios for their PSAs and broadcast-ready content. A professional producer/writer/director team will want to meet with your nonprofit team for at least 3-5 sessions where script, shooting details, and iterations will be discussed. This is very difficult to pull off in a short amount of time unless there is a focused team that understands tight TV schedules with quick turnaround needs.

Are you curious about other methods, platforms, software, or digital storytelling tools? Post your comments in the Digital Storytelling Event forum! Remember to enter by January 31 to join the TSDigs Digital Storytelling Challenge in 2011.

Check out our Digital Storytelling Video, created with Animoto.

Megan Keane

Follow me on Twitter: @penguinasana or connect with me on my website.