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Video interviews for more than video production


A picture is worth a thousand words...    and a video can have a thousand pictures

That's a lot of knowledge. We've developed an analytical strategy - called a video-based qualitative analysis - that helps to organize and make sense of the information, experiences, and stories shared during video interviews. This approach blends the strengths of documentary filmmaking and qualitative research to examine human experiences and their embedded visual contexts, while also producing a creative storytelling output that can be communicated to various audiences.



How this approach was developed

This approach was developed as part of a larger community-based film and research project called HERD: Inuit Voices on Caribou. Led by Inuit from across Labrador, Canada, and as part of David Borish’s doctoral work, the goal of this initiative was to create impact driven documentary films and qualitative research papers about Inuit knowledge and experiences with caribou population declines.

Rather than working on the research first and then the documentary film, the HERD team worked on both processes simultaneously. In this way, the video content was not about the research - it was the research! The result was the co-production of both an award-winning documentary film and peer-reviewed articles published in journals such as Global Environmental Change, Ecology and Society, and American Imago - all based on the same video interviews!

We created a short video that describes our community-led and research-based process for co-creating the HERD film and qualitative research outputs. Starting at about 6min in the video, we specifically discuss how we developed the video-based qualitative analysis process. 

How it works

Rather than bringing video into qualitative analysis software, this approach does the reverse: it repurposes the coding, searching, and filtering tools within video editing software for qualitative inquiry - specifically, Lumberjack Builder and Final Cut Pro X. 

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Starting with Lumberjack Builder, you can connect interview transcripts directly to video interviews, and apply keywords and other metadata to specific sections of both the transcripts and video interviews. We repurposed this text-video-coding feature for creating qualitative codes for themes, characteristics, and other elements of interest within the data. With the ability to watch, listen, and read all at the same time, users of this approach can review not only what participants are saying, but also how and in what context they are saying it, which is especially important when exploring place-based, cultural, and health-related knowledge..

Coding in Lumberjack Builder

All codes and metadata from Lumberjack Builder can be imported directly into Final Cut Pro X, which can be used not only to edit the video content into a film, but also repurposed for qualitative analysis by leveraging a variety of search, filter, and categorizing tools within this software. Keywords and other metadata can be searched for, which can help identify relationships and trends across the video interviews based on what people said.

Thematic Analysis in Final Cut

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Rather than bringing video into qualitative analysis software, this approach does the reverse: it repurposes the coding, searching, and filtering tools within video editing software for qualitative inquiry - specifically, Lumberjack Builder and Final Cut Pro X. 

Data-Driven Storytelling

Analyzing interviews during the storytelling 

process can help identify what concepts to focus on when developing a video's narrative. 

Holistic Analysis

Watching, listening, and reading the data all at the same time can help to explore the intangible dimensions of the data, such as body language.  


Video data can be a more accessible way to engage participants and communities when collaborating on a project that prioritizes their own voices.

Multidimensional Outputs

Producing qualitative research outputs in addition to creative video outputs can help with reaching diverse audiences, thus contributing to a project's impact.

Data Visualization

With a video-based qualitative analysis, there are also opportunities to visualize data in new ways, such as the creation of PhotoGraphs. This visualization strategy uses a bar graph to present findings that were derived from the video-based qualitative analysis. The graph is constructed from portrait photos, which represent the individuals who discussed the concepts shown in the graph. 

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We've developed a variety of resources for those who are interested in exploring how this approach can support their own work.

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How-to Guide

A 40-page step-by-step guide that details the process of undertaking a video-based qualitative analysis, including tips, lessons learned, and areas for further exploration.

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Journal Article

Our peer-reviewed article about blending film and qualitative research was published in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods (2021)

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Summary Document

A four-page summary of what a video-based qualitative analysis is and the benefits based on the HERD project.

Learn more

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Check out the Storytelling for Impact blog from American University's Center for Environmental Filmmaking (Dec 2022).

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Listen to our discussion of a video-based qualitative analysis on OWC Radio (July 2022).

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