Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Power of Visual Storytelling

As an artist, I'm constantly learning about the ways to make a lasting impression with stories, and even when it comes to something like a hobby to make videos with, I believe there's something to be said on focusing on having fun and making something you love, and how it can affect others.

For some projects, I've wanted to make a period piece to generate effects of an old camera of film taken "on location," like train-spotting these classic Thomas and Friends characters in a way that is nostalgic and timeless. It can be very easy to get carried away with the technology instead of tailoring that to focus on telling a story through the images. A question I often ask myself is:

"What good are all these effects if they don't do anything to make me or the audience feel connected to the story I'm telling?" 

This is something that inspires me in creating better content in a way that resonates with people. Including something as seemingly simple as a compilation of favorite footage showcasing locomotives at various locations, it takes a long time to make the working locomotives, the props, and sets to make these. Projects like this still have to show in the sequence of shots an intentional balance to give a captivating experience and have meaning to what you're making. As an artistic creator and a visual storyteller by profession, I find I produce work that's stronger when I think about these things, even when it comes to my hobby! :)

A perfect example is Skarloey traveling through the countryside in my newest video. In the middle, we get a chance to see what the railway looks like in different seasons, the good times and the bad times, and where the engine characters are going on their journies. Skarloey is first shown at the end of a warm summer with warm color grading in the footage, with a full train from the quarry. The next scene we cut to a wet, foggy day, when Skarloey puffs by the camera looking very sad and pulling a long empty train. It's obviously a very sad moment in his railway's history.

This is a moment where I believe color grading and the effect serve a strong purpose. First clip, it's bright and sunny, the atmosphere of the valley is very warm and happy. The next, there's heavy fog, with cold and dark colors, and it feels depressing, sad, and dreary. These are elements of storytelling that make us care for the character, allowing us a chance to empathize, getting us to feel the way the character feels. We want to root for him and that he succeeds somehow.

But then we cut to the next few clips to end the sequence, and as Skarloey reaches the top of a steep track, the sun fills the valley again, and he feels much better and happy again. Even when times get hard, there are moments that give you joy and peace to encourage you to carry on, and to move forward toward your goal. The point is, you show the viewer what you're working to communicate through the visuals, the sounds, and the music.

Speaking as a fan, Thomas and Friends have been a prime example that captures these values so well. It has inspired me in my professional art career to strive for excellence in the craft of making good stories, that make you feel, that move you, and maybe inspire.

This is a first for me writing down ideas as like a journal essay dissecting an element of filmmaking for a railway hobby or children's programming, but I really enjoyed writing it down! These are some of the many things I think about that's helped me with projects like this, and I hope it does for you too.

If you want to see these models in motion on these sets, you can watch my newest video compilation made especially for them on my YouTube Channel.


You can follow my work from this hobby on social media through these platforms:

Twitter | SodorRyModeler
Follow for live updates and process.

YouTube | SudrianRailwayModeler
 Watch and subscribe for model reels, effects, and remakes

Blogger | Sodor Model Railroading
Process blog

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