Making an i-doc

Consider making a documentary for the web, why not make an interactive doco (i-doc) or a web series. Below are some steps toward making a web doc on a budget this is only one process of many, but hopefully one that will inspire you to make something, no matter big or small.

A web series is based on episodes also known as ‘webisodes’  They can be 3-15 minutes in duration. Creating  2 or more episodes is considered a web series.

An interactive documentary can be created in a variety of formats be it a linear, user navigated and gaming. Its a way of telling a story using a multiple variety of media, such as video, photo images, text, audio, animations, graphics.  Its aim is to engage the viewer to interact with the content on the screen.  Every user’s experience is different.

You will need to learn some basic web developing skills or engage a web developer to help you bring the project to life.

Step 1:  The IDEA (preproduction)
The Power of the story is in The Story, the story is the key here
Think about a topic that you could easily obtain an audience for.  Yes, this is the hardest part of this process, and really needs to come from a place that you feel passionate about.  You might want to start in your own neighborhood, telling the stories about those around you.

In the example about making a web series about someone or something in your neighborhood you have an instant audience, ‘your neighborhood’, this could stream out to local councils, community groups and so on.  Strong human stories are engaging for audiences.

Step 2: DEVELOPING THE IDEA – Remember Your Audience
Technology and innovation can seduce you into creating something radical which could potentially become an obstacle for your audience.  When developing a project consider your audience and the type of experience you want them to have as they navigate through your content.  Keep your project clean, simple and user-friendly.

Research other web documentaries.  Look at how and what they are using to tell their story.  Is the software easy to navigate, is it accessible for all, does it fit into the type of story you want to tell, is it affordable, how adaptable is it to other platforms such as the iPad/iPhone if you were wanting to use these platforms.  This research early in the development stage will save you a lot of money and headaches down the track.

Being flexible is a new skill you will have to learn, if you don’t already as this type of documentary tends to take on its own life at some point, you will need to learn how to move with it and adapt to its journey.


Camera: You do not need to use a high-end camera, as the footage that screens on the web doesn’t have to be as high resolution as what you would shoot when making for TV or the cinema.  You can pick up a HD Canon Legria or similar for around $450.00 or a Sony HDV for around $2,000.   It is wise to use HD as you may want to release your series on DVD for the educational market and or domestic market later down the track.

Good to keep your options & ‘platforms’ open.

Tripod:  Make sure the tripod you choose is light to carry, as you will be moving it from place to place, a fluid head will give you a smooth tilt and pan feature,  and a lock option which keeps the camera still, in case it gets moved or slightly hit whilst filming.

Lights:  You can either get a professional light kit or choose a less expensive route by purchasing halogen lights and some fluorescent.

Sound:  The ‘Shot Gun’ mic is essential as it allows you to capture high-end audio.  Make sure you buy the one that gives you the option of mounting it on top of the camera or using it handheld.

Radio mics are a necessity as they allow the camera and the talent to be at a distance of up to 500metres apart, this allows you the option to shoot wide shots, giving you better range.

Editing: Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier or even iMovie would be more than adequate to edit your webisodes.  As they are small clips to cut, the editing should be easy.  If you are having difficulties, their are many ‘How to Edit’ clips on YouTube to learn from.

TIP: Have all the material you are going to need, cutaways, graphics, sound effects, music tracks already before you start editing, this will make the process smoother and more efficient. Cutting up 5minutes of footage may seem like an easy task but you still need to keep your audience engaged, so be aware of this at all times. Cutting for the web you need to keep your images moving fast and close-ups are recommended.

Music: You may want to add some music to add an element of ambiance and keep the image moving along.  Free music is available from the web, their are sites like which feature hundreds of incredible music tracks copyright free, as long as you give credit to the musician you can use it, or you may want to hire a musician to write you a few ambient tracks.


As you begin filming, begin uploading parts of your content as ‘teasers’ across all your social media sites in order to start building an audience. I would consider setting up the following social media tools.

  1. a. Set up a YouTube Channel / or Vimeo and upload your ‘teasers’ here. Name the YouTube Channel after the title of your documentary.
  2. b. Create a Facebook Fan page, and post your ‘teasers’ here.  Here is where you will start building your audience and community for your web series.
  3. Build a WordPress website (or search for other free web building sites, there are many around) and link the videos from the YouTube Channel/Vimeo to the website.  The website is the platform where your web series will be screened.  You can add backstories, photos, create forums and blogs to engage your audience.  You can link your Facebook account to your website, and website to your Facebook account.
  4. Set up a Twitter account, this is a great way to broaden your audience and get people talking about your film.  Every time you post a clip on your website/Facebook/YouTube make sure to tweet about them.  Every time you write in your blog, make sure you tweet it.

Another great way to get people engaged in your sites is to ask questions, they are great conversation starters toward engaging your audience.  Add a hashtag addressing an issue.  Hashtags are a great way of aggregating a conversation

# Make sure you place all 4 social media logos on all your content and have them linked to their specified sites. This creates easy access to all your content for your audience.

Use social media sites to help you distribute your content across the web. Plug into online communities that may share an interest in your subject matter.  Contact schools thru ATOM, Universities. Use Search Engine tools to distribute links to your website all over the web.

Their are many festivals around the world that now have categories for web series and interactive documentaries.  Also, there are specific festivals that focus completely on websites.  Apply to as many festivals as you are eligible for, this is a great way to distribute your content and have it exposed to as many eyes as possible.   For a list of these festivals click on the Resource page from the main menu.

Now that you have made a web series, you can use this as an example of your work in this space.  Apply for funding, contact broadcasters directly and send them an email with a link to your web series.  Broadcasters are all looking for new fresh content as technology is moving them into the ‘Internet TV’ space, their are many slots that need to be filled.  Be persistent, and keep sending your content to as many people as you can.

Good luck and have fun!