Video & Photo Presentations: 2
Assembling Your Presentation

by Roger Roth

Last month, I talked about your audience and the organization of your presentation, including its basic format in somewhat of a logical order, or your storyboard.  This month, I’ll continue with the storyboard, and address more specific things about your presentation such as some of the shots you choose to use, and how long you should allow them to be viewed.  Admittedly, much of this discussion is geared more towards video, but will be applied to slide presentations as much as possible.

Specific shots in your storyboard that only take and/or place the viewer at your destination can be shorter in length, as they are only transporting tools (“trans” meaning getting across to”).  I suggest using a quick series of 1-6 shots depending on how much of the story really belongs to the introduction and the trip to the destination.  In video, each of these shots should be only 2-6 seconds long, shorter being better many times.  In slide presentations where the length of viewing is constant with every slide, using fewer slides will accomplish a quick transport.

Once you’ve shown your titles, introduced your subject, placed the viewer at the destination, and/or in the water, you have finished the first chapter of your story.  With titles and introductions, this should have taken no more than 1-1½ minutes, depending on the length of your actual video or slide presentation.  Consider this your first “chapter.”

Dividing your presentation into these chapters allows you to change the music (and the scene locations), thus giving you the opportunity to introduce a second chapter of your story.  Between chapters, a fade to black or a special effects transition will nicely aid in breaking up your story.  Unless you are producing a dazzling commercial, keep your special effects subtle and to a minimum (to be discussed later).  Subtitles can also be used in between chapters.

You must continue your story as if it were happening all over again.  As your dive profile probably does the deeper dives first, wide-angle wall shots and panoramic reef shots will establish the second chapter of your presentation and retain a logical order to your presentation.  It will introduce the lava rock community of Hawaii or the colorful soft corals of Fiji.  It will show the flooded landscapes in the limestone quarries of Ohio or the healthy stands of black corals on the walls in the Red Sea.

Remember to occasionally include divers in some of your shots, preferably exhibiting some sort of action, like pointing with fingers or flashlights inspecting things closely, or comfortably talking to the camera; thus your audience.  Within each chapter, do not overuse the same diver, action, or critter, unless it is the reason for the chapter.  There’s nothing more boring than to see Bubba Diver over and over again, or to watch seven different approaches of a friendly angelfish.  Use only one or two of your best shots of that diver or fish, then move on to another subject in your story.  You’ve got many more experiences and critters to share.

From the above paragraphs, you could deduct logically that the importance of the shot should determine its length in a video.  An average video scene should range from 2-8 seconds as long as some action continues that long.  Anything longer better have some incredible images/messages to reveal throughout and especially by the end of it.  (The next time you watch a TV program, count the seconds they hold a specific shot to retain the viewer’s attention.)

Video sequences longer than eight seconds need to continue to have action and tell a story.  An example of this might be an eel stalking its prey within coral crevices, curling up to strike, then attacking its prey!  This entire video sequence should only be used if all of it occurs within 8-16 seconds naturally.  Anything longer merits dividing the sequence into 2 or 3 separate shorter shots that tell the same story.

How long should you allow the slide to be viewed?  In a pre-set slide show with projector fades and dissolves all choreographed to music, 2-5 seconds might be a suggested length of time for viewing each slide in your story.  Keep in mind that 5 seconds is a long time to view a motionless subject.  An emphasis on specific critters or actions can be gained by using more than one slide of your subject, obviously from a different angle.

How long should you make your actual presentation?  I like to keep my video productions between twelve and twenty minutes long.  Anything longer than this and you will probably notice your audience rushing towards the door.  The same would be true of a slide presentation that is pre-set.  Twelve minutes is the ideal time for retaining sharp audience attention, and twenty is probably the maximum time most people want to sit still during a production even if the action continues throughout.  Remember, if your actual show is shorter than what the audience might want, you have just left them wanting more!  Sea Ya!

Next: Basic Shot Types and Their Uses

Critter corner:The mating process of hamlets shows them wrapping around each other, head to tail, and takes less than five seconds.  This “quickie” makes for the perfect length of a video shot!

copyright © Roger Roth, 2002 - 2011

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Roger Roth is a roofer by trade and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. But his passion is underwater vidiography and after several decades of learning how to shoot and edit he has evolved into a teacher and a photographic philanthropist. Roger is the founder of the annual international Underwater Images Photo and Video Competition. You may contact Roger at