What makes a good audio slideshow: the dos and don’ts

This post is part of a series of How to do an Audio Slideshow

Audio Slideshows are a very simple language: a story can be told in a clear and arresting way without big technical effects. Benjamin Charleston explains this feeling really well:

(…)with moving video, the viewers eye is centred – broadly, locked to the framing of the video camera. With still images, the eye roams. It stops and moves and stops and moves. Frozen gestures and expressions kick off a cognitive process – thinking – that moving images simply never do.
Something similar is true of good audio. The best audio blends reportage (‘being me, being here’) with the kind of aural cues that make audiences think and wander off down their own pathways while still engaging with the sound.
Put the two together – great audio documentary and great still images – and you have something that is potentially MORE than great storytelling.

The truth is that audio slideshows make us think and we can construct a story in our mind. But Gather pictures and audio is a struggle, no doubt. However, with practice and research you start to see what you should and shouldn’t do with an audio slideshow. I put together the dos and don’ts to make a good audio slideshow:

DOS

  • Show around 8-10 pictures per minutes, explains Paul Kerley BBC’s audio slideshow expert.I made a few experiments about this matter.Here I put just 5 pictures in 1 minute. As you can see it is really slow:

After that I decided to use a total of 15 pictures in 1 minute:

And finally, I follow the advice and used 9 pictures in 1 minute. I works much better:

  • Each photo should appear on the screen for at least 3 seconds but no more than 10 seconds, according to Mark S. Luckie. However, the pace of the story and the length of the pictures shoudl be dictated by the pictures themselves and by the story. If you have shocking and detailed pictures maybe 10 seconds is a good time. If you have pictures that don’t require a lot of attention, maybe 3/5 seconds is enough.
  • Open with natural sound rather with someone talking. Natural sound softnesses the audio slide show and easer the viewer.
  • Have a clear relationship between what is being said and heard. It does not make any sense to have a picture one horse and the person has been talking about cows!
  • Normalize the audio – the final production is crucial to the slide show to make sure that there are not low and high dropouts otherwise people will get distracted.
  • Include a picture of the person who is narrating the story. I always helps, especially if you are short on pictures.
  • Put an amazing photo for the opening and look for a memorable sentence to start to capture people’s attention. The first picture will set the scene. Adam Westbrook says that the the most important thing to consider when making online video it is the first ten seconds. I believe that with audio slideshows the principle is basically the same. Adam gives examples of what exactly should be used in the first 10 seconds:

To show your most arresting images
To use your strongest soundbite
To surprise your audience
To raise a question in the mind of your viewer setting up the big reveal
To get straight into the story

  • Record one or two minutes of the room ambient where you are recording. You can then use it in in between edits (VERY USEFUL)

Let the audio guide the story. It is going to be the audio that is going to tell the story with the help of the pictures. Mark S.Luckie is Digital Journalists’ Handbook is very clear:

(…)the audio is the foundation of the slideshow. Before selecting the photos that will be included in the presentation, you must first arrange and assemble your audio clips into one audio file. The length of the audio determines the length of the slideshow, the number of photos that can be included in th slideshow, and roughly how long each photo is shown”. Pag. 115

Do I need to explain more?

  • Play around with the structure. As Sam says, begin with the ending and end with the beginning. It can make the story mysterious!

DONT’S

  • Put people introducing themselves. I had that question in my mind and I realized that I hated it and it breaks the audio slideshow
  • Have dead air sound gaps. It kills the narrative and you take people out of the moment
  • Use too many pictures , as discussed above, or the viewer will not be able to keep up. However, few pictures will make the audio slideshow very slow and people will start to get bored.
  • Make your audio slideshows longer than 3 or 4 minutes, an advice by Paul Kerley
  • Allow background sound/noise to distract you from the narration
  • Use redundant pictures. I read this in one comment Finding the Frame and it makes complete sense. Pictures need to be relevant and tell a story.
  • Use music unless it really suits the piece. Music can benefit the Audio Slideshow but not always. Choosing the right song requires a lot of work and to mix it with the slideshow can be really tricky. Personally, I try not to use music unless  the piece really calls for it.
  • Use poor audio
  • Treat the audio as an afterwards. You can have an story with potential an a lot of good photos but if you don’t prioritize the sound, not only in technical terms, the audio slideshow is doomed.Do you have any more tips? Let’s ear them!
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Guest Post: Shooting with a DSLR

Franzi Baehrle, from Germany, is a video journalist and a former MA Online Journalism student at Birmingham University. Here she blogs about shooting with a DSLR camera and how it has been her work with it.

 

commons.wikimedia.org : CanonEOS 550D

commons.wikimedia.org : CanonEOS 550D

 

Why I’m shooting my videos with a DSLR?

Two years ago, I bought myself a Canon EOS 550D DSLR. What for? To shoot pictures, get started in photography instead of running around with a point-and-shoot only. I was already working as a video journalist that time, but never thought about using my new DSLR for that cause. This changed when I by chance found out that the DSLR does not only provide a great picture, but also video quality. I never thought I would soon own a proper high quality video camera, similar to those I was working with during my VJ trainee at a TV station – they just were too expensive. And it never came to my mind to shoot videos with a DSLR.

Since two years I’ve been working with my DSLR now – and was never disappointed. I’m shooting in HD and got all the functions I need. I now have three lenses I’m working with, a decent tripod, everything packed in a professional, comfortable backpack to take it wherever I want to go. That’s one thing I love about shooting with a DSLR: Your equipment is much lighter – I even took mine to New Zealand (https://vimeo.com/53008920) and never suffered from carrying it around all the time. At the moment I’m even taking two cameras with me, in addition to the lenses, a tripod, some accessories and a laptop.

What I don’t like about my camera is the poor sound, I’m always carrying a additional audio recorder with me which I’m using for interviews, synchronizing sound and images afterwards.

I haven’t thought about getting a different camera at all, apart from another DSLR. I got everything I need, I can take it wherever I want, I can film from nearly every position without being limited by a big camera in my hands. And I didn’t have to spend a fortune for this. Sure, you can spend a fortune here…Step by step I will also keep on upgrading my equipment, speaking of additional lenses, a better DSLR one day, more additional stuff (a slide, a rig etc.).
But I was ready to start shooting high quality pictures without having to invest thousands of euros first.

It’s actually getting more and more popular to use DSLRs for videography. If you wanna learn more about it, I’d recommend this ebook (http://nofilmschool.com/dslr/) which you can download for free.

Franziska Bährle
@franzibaehrle
www.franziskabaehrle.com

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I Follow…Do you?

Since I stared my Masters I started to realise the importance of Twitter for my professional profile.  I decided to come up with the list of the digital faces to follow on twitter:

Film maker, digital producer, lecturer and multimedia journalist.

Lecturer and social media consultant. Writes the Online journalism blog @ojblog. Great tips!

Journalism professor, blogger, author and manager of BuzzMachine.com @@BuzzMachine

Online  journalism lecturer and online video specialist with a twitter stream for @digidickinson links: @linkydickinson

Author of the Digital Journalist’s Handbook and founder of the 10,000 Words blog.

Specialist in video blogging, mobile blogging, social media, digital storytelling…basically, almost everything. Updates his twitter feed constantly.

He is the face of Portuguese Digital Journalism. Skills:  Non-Fiction Multimedia Storytelling,  Digital Media, Documentary

 Multimedia producer at The Spokesman-Review newspaper (@SpokesmanReview) and author of the the blog Mastering Multimedia.

And finally…

Online Journalism MA Student at Birmingham City University. Interested in video, audio, well pretty much everything. Author of themultimediajournalist.wordpress.com

OK, I am kidding…but it was worth a shot!

More lists with great journalists to follow on twitter:

20 Must-Follow Twitter Feeds for Student Journalists

Great people for journalists to follow on Twitter

10 Twitter users that every journalism student should follow

Who else do you recommend?

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Ideas for Projects

I really liked Adam Westbrook’s post about 30 free ideas for multimedia producers and digital storytellers. Sometimes I have a lot of ideas but I ended up writing them down in strange places.

That is why I decided to start writing some ideas and good concepts for multimedia projects. Also, it is a good brainstorming exercise.

So, let’s start:

  • “If I was God I would…” – Remember when I told you about Someone Once Told Me? It can work with the same concept. People can write what they would do if they were God.
  • What would you like to read in the newspaper tomorrow? – It can work with the same concept as the previous one or you can turn it into a video clip with nice music, with people writing what they want to to read in the newspaper.
  • A cool grandmother – If you know a cool and cute grandmother with a nice story why not bet on an audio slideshow? You can focus on a lot of topics: when she left her parents home, how people dressed back then, her marriage, how she learned how to cook…the possibilities are endless
  • Cliches of…– If you live in a city/town with a lot of tradition and history, try to photograph or record typical places in a different perspective.
  • Look for typical markets – it can be a bit cliche but markets are good places full of colours, sounds, history and people with interesting stories. E.g: a woman that is working in the market for more than 20 years.

Do you have more ideas? Let’s hear it!

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Multimedia Journalism: Useful Links

Some great tips and suggestions from Adam Westbrook, an online and entrepreneurial journalist,  about what to do and what to avoid when it comes to telling a story through online video.

This is a blog made by Mark S.Luckie, author of the Digital Journalists Handbook. Similarly to Mastering Multimedia the blog offers great tips and examples of projects worth looking at.

Learning it is not just about reading posts but also looking at other peoples’ work. This is website has a collection of multimedia projects worth to look at.

Again, a great website with tips. If you are doing an audio slide show it is worth looking at this tips.

As the names says, this blog is all about about and to use it. Great post about what makes a good audio slideshow and the do’s and don’ts.

This blog has been a reference throughout this project. It is simples and has amazing tips for audio slideshows and online video.

This is a great website to get feedback for your project and watch goos examples of independent work. It also includes a forum to get answers to your questions and vice-versa.

A great and fun place for everyone to learn how to make video. Also you can take a look at the projects for inspiration.

Read this e-book if you are shooting with a DSLR.

Every step to make a video.

If you are doing audio slideshows or online video here is a great tutorial for composition. It is worth looking at.

As the name says this website offers tutorials and how to’s. Again if you want to learn basic tips about audiovideo, blogging this is very useful and organised.

If you want a good website of tutorials this is the one to go. Audio, Video, Visualizations, Social Media…it has a lot. For audio and video I recommend the following tutorials:

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Ideas for Podcasting

After recording my interview with Sam Coley I started to think about ideas for podcasting and general principles that i could use in the future:

1. Identify your podcast verbally

Always identify yourself and what is your podcast about in the beginning. If you have a name for the podcast or if it is part of a series, always say it in the beginning. In my podcast I didn’t say my name which was a big mistake. I should have started with: “I am Mariana” or “My name is Mariana”

2. Use Music

Normally I like simple podcasts but after trying out a podcast with or without music I have to admit that music in the intro softens the podcast.

Also, see if it is suitable to use music in the betweens. If you think your podcast is too slow try to use music, sound effects or something similar between your segments. It is not a rule but  a matter of trying out and see how you like it. A good way to end a podcast, after your goodbye, is to use music fading out.

Adam Westbrook has a list of useful websites where you can use music for free.

3. Don’t take yourself seriously

Relax and see your podcast as a normal conversation. You don’t have to be formal to talk about something serious. Take the example of Coffee Spanish Break, a series of podcasts where you learn how to speak spanish while you are drinking a coffee!

4. Know your public

Have in mind that it will difficult to have a podcast that is interesting to everyone. Ok, Steven Fry does it but he is known all over the world and he is amazing in what he does. Why? Experience.  However, not everyone is like him.

A good example of a interesting and specific podcast is “The Digital Story”. It is made by Derrick Story with tips about digital photography. If you are interested in photography or, if by any chance, you need to learn some techniques this is a good tool.

5. Show notes on the podcast

Soundcloud allows you to make notes on your audio clips which is very useful. If someone mentions an article, a book or a song put the link to it on your track. It makes it more interactive and easy to follow.

In this podcast, Franzie Baehrle talks about the importance of audio and makes a few notes to helps keep up with her podcast:

6. Make it as short as possible

Podcasts should be not be too long. Since it is “just” audio it demands a lot of attention. I am not saying that time should be your primary concern or that you should edit to make it short but try to be concise. Unless you are interviewing Barack Obama or a dead person  people won’t listen to you for long.

7. Don’t rumble

Don’t turn on the mic and rumble. Prepare questions in case it is an interview and do some background research about the interviewee. In case it is just you, have guidelines and a mind map with your topics. Basically, the same principle about planning explained by Sam Coley applies here.

8. Don’t rush

Take a deep breath and start speaking. I know, it may seem paradoxical since I said that a podcast should not be too long. Nevertheless, a podcast is not a run against time. You should take your time to introduce the podcasts, ask the question you need, have fun and make it interesting. If you listen to my podcast you will see that it seems I was in a hurry to start the interview and my introduction is too fast.

9. Finally…Edit it if you have too

Professional and experienced podcasters are able to record everything in one take and sound amazing at the same time. If you are a beginner, the chances that you are going to record a podcast that doesn’t need edition are very little. So, remove the parts that you think are not worth it or where you think the answer is not so good. A little production works towards building a good podcast.

After this I decided to create an official podcast with Sam. Here is how it sounds with no edition:

And after the edition:

Finally, here are some good websites to help you start podcasting:

Do you have other tips? Comments highly accepted!

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Great Multimedia Projects

There are thousand of good multimedia projects. Not only the big newsrooms like The New York Times ,The Guardian and the BBC are producing great material but also students and independent producers. Watching how the best are producing multimedia content:

1. One in Eight Million by The New York Times

To be honest the New York Times is a reference in every single field but they outperform themselves when it comes to multimedia projects. “One in 8 Million” is a compilation of audio slideshows with stories about average citizens who make New York the melting pot it is.

My favourite audio slideshow is a profile of Joseph Cotton, a grandfather from Bronx, who helps raise his four grandchildren. The photography is all in black and white and it is mesmerizing.

Every character is shown through pictures depicting daily life routines of an average family. You can a great variety of stories. From a woman who likes sadism and masochism to an actor who helps men meeting woman, every story is interesting.

2. Last Word by The New York Times

I have always loved the obituary section in newspapers. The New York Times is known to interview a lot of famous people about their lives for their own obituaries. The Last Word is completely different: people were asked how they wanted to be remembered.

The way the clips start is always memorable. Ed Koch starts by asking : “Did you miss me?”. As I said before, Art Buchwald has the best start: “Hi, I am Art Buchwald and I just died”. It is brilliant and we have the feeling that we are actually watching them for the last time!

The Last Word uses clips from the interview, photos, music and one thing that I normally don’t like: voice over. Here everything works perfectly.

3. Someone Once Told Me by Mario Cacciottolo

I love this concept: people take pictures of themselves holding a card with a phrase someone told them once. It has to be something said to them directly. Then you have a slideshow with all the pictures and what the sentences mean and they chose that particular sentence. It is so simple but it works perfectly.

Here are my favourite phrases:

4. A Tour of Duty by Paul Kerley

Compared to the previous projects this one is much simpler. It is an audio slideshow with pictures from behind the scenes of British soldiers in Afghanistan. In 2007 Captain Alexander Allan completed six-month deployment to Helmand, a province in Afghanistan, and photographed a lot of his experiences while he was there.

Opposite to a lot of slideshows where the music does not work, here the background music is amazing and just helps get in the story. This is the proof that simple projects can be amazing and all you need is a good story.

5. Snow Fall by The New York Times

When I discovered the Snow Fall it reminded me of 13 Seconds in August, a project by the Star Tribune produced in 2007 after the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, United States of America.

Snow Fall was a web project made by the New York Times about a deadly avalanche. It has been called the “future of journalism” or, at least, a new level in multimedia journalism.

To be honest it is a brilliant long format project that used a lot elements in multimedia storytelling: texts, maps, graphics, video, audio and animations. It is probably the first big journalism project that uses HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript instead of Flash. However, it took 6 months and a team of about seventeen people to be done which most of newsrooms can’t afford.

This project has been very controversial and the question remains: Is this he future of journalism? I agree that it is not  but for a different reason. This is a project where the investment is worth it as “13 Seconds in August”. It was made by a Newspaper capable of investing in this kind of project, which is not usual ,as I said. But I have to say it is the future of big multimedia projects. Is it possible to do it weekly? Monthly? No.

But again it is all about the story and the demanding. The digital market is growing and the newsroom should keep up with with the pace.

I am going to finish by saying that in Portugal there was only one newspaper capable of pulling off a project of this nature and the difference is still abysmal.

6. HighRise/Out of my window by  Katerina Cizek

Highrise is a multi-media and multiyear art project about the human experience in vertical suburbs. HighRise also included a web documentary that explores the lives of families living in high-rise buildings in 13 cities around the world. Out of my window was shot in Chicago, Toronto, Monteral, Havana, São Paulo, Amsterdam, Prague, Istambul, Beirute, Bangalore, Phnom Penh, Tainan and Johannesburg.

The project was funded by the National Film Board of canada and won an International Digital Emmy Awards in the category of digital program: non-fiction.

The stories are in 13 different languages with subtitles in English which makes it more authentic. Moreover, we have control over what we want to see and ear. We can choose to travel around with the map. It is massive!

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