I popped down to Washington State University on Tuesday to lead a multimedia workshop with former colleague Ben Shors’ journalism students. The class is working on a reporting project that will appear in The Spokesman-Review, and this time they wanted to add an online component. (Check out the first story generated by the class.)
Despite their interest in producing video, I suggested the students start with an audio slide show. So I set out to show them how to do two things: 1) Create a multitrack audio file in Audacity. 2) Combine this audio with photos in the irresistibly simple Soundslides program.
Finally, a couple useful links for anybody interested in mastering audio slide shows from Colin Mulvany.
We’ve been seriously mixing our mediums at the Spokesman-Review lately. We’re on the air. As in on the radio. And the broadcasts are coming from our newsroom. Check it out here. Read Editor Steve Smith’s announcement here.
We’ve been at it for about seven weeks, by my count, and I think editors, reporters and multimedia people have made strides in incorporating audio collection into our routines.
Regardless of what you think about newspapers doing radio, the push for multimedia in newsrooms makes audio collection and editing valuable skills. At a meeting yesterday, radio reporter/announcer Dan Mitchinson and multimedia guru Colin Mulvany led a discussion on good audio habits. Although we talked mostly about sound destined for the radio, these tips are important for video productions as well.
- Get your recorder/mic as close as possible to the source.
- Learn to listen: If you’re indoors, watch out for electrical hums or fans. If you’re outside, be aware of traffic noise, planes passing overhead, etc. Try to find a place where such background annoyances are minimal.
- At the same time, remember to get natural sound from your environment. This too can help tell the story. (Our editorial page editor raised a valid ethical concern: Don’t use these natural sounds in ways that mislead. For instance, don’t overlay sounds from a park with an interview conducted indoors.)
- Check those recording levels before you start interviewing. If you need to adjust, don’t do it while your source is in the middle of a sentence.
- It’s better to hold your mic a bit to the side of the mouth that’s talking. This helps avoid popping P sounds.
- Use headphones to monitor the audio you’re receiving. It may seem weird to talk to a source while wearing headphones, so just explain why you’re doing it.
- Just as some people are afraid of TV cameras, others are afraid of mics and the way their voices sound. Use humor and self-deprecation to warm them up. You probably don’t like the way your recorded voice sounds either.
We covered other ground germane to our particular operations, but I won’t go into that here. If you’re looking for more tips, check out Colin Mulvany’s blog. He’s been doing this a lot longer than I have.
I’ve always been fascinated with all things oceanic. The geek in me hopes Google Ocean happens just so I can mess around with it. But this item also got me thinking about the potential for integrating this technology with other media. Granted, as a journalist in the Inland Northwest, Google Ocean wouldn’t lend itself to our coverage as well as Google Streetview has with, for example, business reporter Parker Howell’s blog covering growth and development, Here’s the Dirt.
But I hope bigger media outlets, especially magazines and documentary filmmakers, let their imaginations run with the possibilities. Imagine visiting nationalgeographic.com, reading a story about weird deep-sea creatures like this guy, then being able to zoom around the canyons where it lives via Google Maps. An incredibly rich layer of information.
Or imagine an interactive Web component accompanying the BBC’s breathtaking series “The Blue Planet.” You could navigate the programs as a series of clips such as the one below geocoded to corresponding undersea locations. Or track the migration of featured species.
I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of potential applications. Any more great ones out there?
There’s an astounding investigative piece in the New York Times today about who the Pentagon used the analysts hired by TV networks to control the messages about military affairs in the post-Sept. 11 world.
In many cases, David Barstow documents, these retired officers echoed Pentagon talking points on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and other networks. In exchange for their allegiance, the analysts were given royal treatment at the Pentagon, special tours in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, and extensive access to contacts within the military. As many of the analysts received income from firms involved in military contracting, such contacts were likely quite lucrative.
It’s a compelling story with a good outrage factor. But the Times also did a tremendous job putting together multimedia to accompany it. (Click here to check it out.)
I like that the presentation, divided into three chapters, forms a narrative. Occasionally, flash-based presentations leave me trying to piece together a story from linked video, audio and documents. Here, David Barstow walks viewers through one part of his story: the Pentagon’s response to so-called Generals’ Revolt against then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Narrated by Barstow, the piece combines static images, video, audio and documents to good effect.
I would love to be able to pull this kind of project off someday.
The Spokesman-Review ran a front-page tribute today to Spokane’s Charlie Ryan, a rockabilly icon who penned the song “Hot Rod Lincoln” and died Saturday.
It’s a good read, but it’s an even better read online, where we were able to link to a MP3 of the song, thanks to the generosity of Ryan’s family and the efforts of columnist Doug Clark.
Odds are most of our readers have already heard the song. But even then, what better testament to the qualities that make Ryan worthy of a tribute than a creation that embodies them and gets your toes tapping?
I’m learning that pairing multimedia with local news can take imagination, planning and doggedness. But luck also plays a role, and it sure is sweet when a perfect multimedia opportunity practically falls into your lap.