I made this story for use in workshops and as a training tool for digital storytelling facilitators. It demonstrates many of the effects possible when editing a story. Starting simply with cuts and dissolves, it moves on to include superimpositions, subtitles and alpha channels.
But it's not just about technique. I wanted to create something exemplary, a classroom training film that might inspire those working with it, layered with subtexts, meanings to be discovered and enjoyed.
Central to Scissors is a time-stained b&w group snapshot from my maternal grandmother's photo-album, taken in the mid 1920s. Five people gather on a step in a doorway. A sixth person has been cut from the picture with a pair of scissors, hence the title. The missing person, I have always believed, is my grandfather. My grandparents divorced sometime in the late 1920s and grandfather was never mentioned again.
The film begins with straight cuts: a camera, a clock and an eye (for seeing). If you can drag images into the timeline, stretch them out a bit or make them shorter, then you can make a rough cut. If you can make a rough cut you can make a Digital Story. But you need practice, so Scissors gets you to repeat the cuts. And now here comes a piece of video, the blinking eye, the bully in the playground who brings with him a lump of audio and pushes every other clip out of the way. You've got to learn how to handle Mr. Video or else he'll dictate everything. Learn to sort out his in points and his out points. Coax him into line.
And then there are transitions, cross dissolves that give the illusion of movement to a sequence of stills. The album opens. And then here I am, my face pressed flat, peering into the glass coffin of a photo album. A zoom and a dissolve to white. A pair of scissors dragged on the platen of the scanner to make them wicked-looking and, in the background, a portrait of my mother as a baby in my grandmother's arms. "Be very careful not to lose" scrolls from right to left, an overlay. Transparency and alpha channels, tools to be in control of. Remember, elegance and economy at all times. Effects only work when they are used to advance the story. And so it goes on. The scissors fight. Snip, snap. Grandfather's gone. And by the way, his name was Goode.
Scissors has a script of 256 words and is two minutes long. It uses 19 photographs and one video clip. Its sound track is a ticking clock. That's all.