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Presentations from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, goupstate.com

Soundslides

Combine images and audio quickly, easily and inexpensively Copy by Bradley Wilson with Tom Priddy and Becky Tate

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n Aug. 23, 2005, Joe Weiss announced, “My stealth project is no longer a secret.” In the three years since, what Weiss, a former photographer with the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun and Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, describes as a “rapid-production tool for still-image and audio Web presentations” has become a part of the repertoire of many photojournalists. Early reviews, such as one by Andrew DeVigal, touted the elegant simplicity of the software. “Soundslides won’t let you do anything beyond an audio slide show,” he said. “But with what most news organizations are doing now in terms of audio slide shows, this is going to be a boon to the professional and academic community.” He continued, “As a professor of multimedia storytelling and online journalism, I’m constantly torn between teaching either technology or journalism first. With Soundslides, I can finally focus on journalism first. I’ve seen the most technophobe students use Soundslides to produce their narrative without opening Macromedia Flash. Within minutes of editing their photos and audio, they have a Web-ready directory with swfs, html, jpgs and mp3. “For any journalist (young, seasoned, focused on visual or sound), Soundslides will get your story out there with minimal technical production know-how. This application will help storytellers focus on their stories and not the technology.” Weiss endorses a similar approach. “Soundslides was made for journalists but has countless applications in the corporate, public relations and academic worlds,” he said. “Go nuts.”

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PLAN Any good Soundslides endeavor begins with strategic planning. Select a topic full of emotion. Think about the story: the beginning, middle and end. Even one journalist gathering audio and shooting photos can Nhat V. Meyer, Richard Koci Hernandez and the other San produce a show quickly. Jose Mercury News photographers have posted hundreds However, doing a qualof their slide shows and audiovisual presentations online at MercuryNewsPhoto.com. Their shows include everything ity show requires planfrom spot news to sports to coverage of the San Jose Sharks and the ning and preparation, Basin Complex Fire. and a team of people working on pre-planning helps to identify problems before production begins. Tom Priddy, online producer at the Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal, identifies the diversity: “Not everyone will create audio slide shows in the same manner. We are all still in the early stages of putting sound with photographs, and your choices may be different from mine. There is no stylebook.” Other innovators add their insights. William Cannon, commenting on Soundslides in an online blog: “It is important to treat Soundslides as one of many tools for presenting content. There are times where the images and sound are far more powerful than the video could ever be. While I agree with the need to take this content to the next level, I do not want my staff to be burdened with the technical aspects. The simplicity of Soundslides for the publisher and for the viewer is currently hard to beat.” David Berman: “The reaction I have had from our readers and reporters to our Soundslide productions has been overwhelmingly good. However, it is important to use each media correctly.” Rob Galbraith, CEO of Visual Editors and education consultant: “Even as we enter into a new era of multimedia journalism, there is still a place for strong collections of photos shown one at a time, without much fanciness. The many fabulous galleries that came out of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing are a

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testament to this. Soundslides enables a photographer, in the field, on deadline, working alone and with no Flash programming experience to rapidly assemble a slide show of photos with clean transitions supported by moodsetting music and ambient sound. “It’s a one trick pony, but it does that trick very well because it has been built exclusively for the purpose it serves. Jens Dresling, a staff photographer at Politiken in Copenhagen, produced more than two dozen Soundslides shows from Beijing during the games and did so because the number of views and positive reader response justified the effort.” Michael Bazeley, editorial director for electronic media at Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California — Berkeley: “But audio slide shows have always felt sort of like a poor man’s video to me, trying to create movement and energy out of something static. Now that video tools are so cheap and ubiquitous and the delivery so easy, why not just use video?” Richard Koci Hernandez, deputy director of multimedia/photo/video, San Jose Mercury News: “Just because you, as the creator, know how common Soundslides is doesn’t mean your users do. In fact, they don’t care. They care about the story you are telling them, not the delivery tool.” Of course, professionals are using Soundslides largely because it is inexpensive, easy-to-use and viewer friendly. For some stories, that’s just the right mix. SHOOT PICTURES Tom Priddy: “It’s like shooting a picture page, but with more photos. In addition to the wide-angle shots, the tight concentration shots, the details, the ending photo and so on, you need to show how the story begins, how the subject got from picture 1 to picture 2 and, in pictures, what the audio is talking about. “You need to think about the title page because that will become the teaser.” Priddy says he prefers images that are “quick reads,” from which you can get the gist of the story in one image.

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David Berman of the Croydon Advertiser recorded a 2:45 show about a tree being cut down, available online at sitbonzo.com/tree/. Quality images, moving narration, emotion and a real story with a beginning, middle and end make it a successful presentation. He included title slides to make the subject clear for the viewer.

“I also believe you need some photos that show motion through a sequence so the show can ‘move.’ That may be something as simple as a gesture in a two-photo sequence. “Think about how you might videotape a subject moving. Then grab what might be the first frame, the middle frame and the end frame of that movement. In most cases you don’t want a single image to stay on screen more than 10 seconds. Shooting a sequence will help you move the story along without it seeming to drag.” Becky Tate: “Shoot! Get all angles and types of shots ... especially detail shots.” GATHER AUDIO Gathering the audio and taking pictures must be simultaneous or nearly so. However, it is difficult for the photographer to be the one gathering sound when covering an event. When possible, send a reporter who can ask questions and gather audio. Becky Tate: “Try and get audio that will go along with what the photos are about. For example, if the girls varsity soccer team is your topic, have audio of the coach talking while showing a picture of the coach.” Tom Priddy: “The photos should match the sound. If you’re interviewing a woodworker and have great photos of him working on a cabinet, you have a problem if all he talks about in the audio interview is tables.” Think about two types of sound: natural sound (“nat sound” or “background”) and interviews.

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Natural sound, such as the sound of a lawnmower or a short-order cook shouting out orders, is not always necessary if you have a good interview, but it helps when you have a slide show showing action. You only need a few seconds of any sound, and you can get it by turning on the recorder and leaving it in your back pocket or on a counter. Simply point the recorder in the right direction. Nothing fancy is required. I have kept mine sticking out of my back pocket during ballgames. Interviews: You need to be much more careful recording voices than you would if you just needed to transcribe quotes from an interview. Leaving the recorder on the podium during a coach’s press conference or placing it down on a desk is not enough for good voice. You have to hold the recorder close to the subject, within a foot and a half, for sure. Avoid the temptation to talk over your interview. Avoid saying, “Umhmm” and “Yeah.” If possible, go inside. Wind can mess up your sound. Try to find a small interview room. Turn off any background distractions unless, of course, you want to have your subject talk while completing an action. Do not ask questions that can be answered yes or no. Ask open-ended questions, such as the following: “What is your name and what kind of work do you do?” “How did you get started in this business?” “What technique are you using now? Why?” “What has been your best game this year? Any special strategies?” Equipment: Olympus DS2 recorders work effectively.

According to Joe Weiss Image files • Image files must be JPG files with RGB colors and must have a ”.jpg” file extension. Images must not be Progressive JPGs. • Soundslides can import any image size and will resize the images to fit the size of the final slide show automatically. Tone, crop and caption in Adobe Photoshop. 1. Set color profile to “Generic RGB.” 2. Size images to 1000px (longest dimension). 3. Sharpen lightly if necessary. 4. Save as JPG at quality of 12 or “Maximum” in single folder.

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Kevin Wellenius posted some of his presentations on his Web site at kevinwellenius.com. His advice for creating Soundslides presentations: 1. Make the audio count. If all you are doing is setting pictures to canned music, you’re making for a worse viewing experience than a standard photo gallery because the viewer is

Save the caption info in Photoshop’s File Info/Description field

EDITING PHOTOS 1. Cull 2. Crop 3. Color correct 4. Caption

now forced to obey your timing and sequencing decisions. The audio has to add something substantial to the piece. 2. Keep it short. I’ll look at just about anything that’s 2 minutes or less. If it’s longer than that, I need to be hooked early on. Edit photos tightly. This is not a dumping ground for outtakes or four similar pictures that you can’t choose between.

EDIT SOUND Tom Priddy: “I always look through the photos first and then edit the audio. The photos will give you an idea of how the sound needs to flow and will give you a good idea of what to leave in and take out of the audio. If your audio is focused on something you have no photos to show, then you will have a problem. Once I have an idea of the available photos, I edit the audio.” Nhat Meyer: “A big issue with shrinking staffs will be the amount of time it takes to produce a multimedia piece — more time on the front end and more on the back end. If you’re just doing ambient sound, then it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour to produce a one- to two-minute show. “But once you come back with 30 minutes of interviews, the time it takes to produce the show multiplies exponentially. The more audio you take, the longer it will take you to produce a show. If you take two hours of audio, it will take you two hours simply to listen to all of the audio.” EDIT PHOTOS Cull images. Rob Galbraith: “Don’t include a lot of photos simply because you can. Edit tightly. Also, discarding photos that are not very good is as important in a Soundslides presentation as it is in the printed paper. The same is equally true for sound.”

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3. If I’m more aware of the technique than I am of the content, something’s wrong. So go easy on the Ken Burns pan/zoom effect (or any effect). A little goes a long way, and none at all is often best.

Crop the images carefully. Follow basic composition rules, such as the Rule of Thirds and pulling the viewer into the center of the action. Color correct the image, checking for any colorcast or any exposure problems. Dodge and burn as appropriate. Richard Koci Hernandez: Just because you can create a 10-minute piece with 80 images doesn’t mean you should. Be short, sweet and to the point with your story. If it needs to be five minutes long, then that’s OK. It just better be the best five minutes of a viewer’s life. Record the appropriate caption information in Photoshop’s File Info/Description field. Tom Priddy: “Soundslides will import and display all the information in each JPEG’s IPTC Caption field. However, simply because it will import all this data does not mean you should use it all. When it comes to captioning a slide show, you need to borrow Apple’s slogan: ‘Think different.’ “ First, you want people to concentrate on the images and not spend all their time trying to read the captions before they disappear and the next slide is displayed. Keep the captions short. You do not need to explain time, date, place in every caption, especially if the slide show is about something that is clearly explained in the adjacent material on the Web. In almost every case, your captions will be different from those in print. Second, you’ll want to leave off captions

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entirely in cases where the image, in the context of the entire story, is self-explanatory. Finally, don’t go overboard and omit all captions. Try to briefly identify anyone speaking in the audio and anyone introduced to the show for the first time. When you are finished using the “Slide Info” box in Soundslides to edit your captions, run the show for yourself and see if you have time to read the entire caption before the show progresses to the next frame. If not, go back and cut. Tom Priddy: “Pull all the photos into one folder. Although Soundslides will downsize photos for the show, I always try to downsize and optimize them first so the quality is the way I like it. I run a Photoshop batch action to make each photo 680 pixels in the long dimension at a 72 pixels-per-inch resolution, applying an Unsharp Mask filter set at of 150, 0.5 and 1. “I also make a title page in Photoshop, again saving the file as a JPEG at 680 pixels wide at 72 pixels per inch. Create a style that is unique to your site. Sometimes I make section title pages in Photoshop for sections of the slide show if appropriate.” WORK IN SOUNDSLIDES Import the sound (MP3 files) and images (JPEG files) into Soundslides. The length of the show is the length of the audio clip. By default, each image will be displayed an equal amount of time. For planning purposes, you could figure out the number of images you would need by figuring out an ideal display time and dividing that into the length of time of the audio clip. For example, if the audio clip is two minutes (120 seconds) long and you want to display each slide for five seconds, you will need 24 images, including any title/credit slides. Tom Priddy: “There are no hard-and-fast rules to the length of time an image should be displayed, but the general consensus is three to seven seconds with three seconds being somewhat quick (very little time for the viewer to experience the image) and seven seconds being on the long end. The longer an image appears, the ‘slower’ your presentation will ultimate-

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ly feel even it is short in total length. Using the software, sort the slides into the proper order and adjust the timing of each slide to match the audio. When finished Brian Storm’s Web site, mediastorm.org, goes well beyond what can with Soundslides, be done in Soundslides for storytelling. With stories by photojournalists from around the world, Storm combines still images, audio and video to tell in-depth export the pro- stories, some of them more than 13 minutes long. Storm says the principal aim duction into a of his Web site is “to usher in the next generation of multimedia storytelling by “publishtoweb” publishing social documentary projects incorporating photojournalism, interactivity, folder and post it animation, audio and video for distribution across multiple media.” to your Web link to the “index.html” file inside. It really is that simple. Nhat Meyer: “In the end it’s really worth all the extra time and effort.” Richard Koci Hernandez: “I’ve stopped being a zombie and ‘walking through’ assignments, meaning doing just what is required for the paper. I have been doing this for 15 years. I can do an assignment with my eyes closed, soto-speak. Now I think about every assignment more in depth even if it is something simple. I am asking questions such as ‘Do I have enough story-telling images for the Web? Do I have details or transition images? Is the sound clean?’ Come on — let’s face it. The paper does not have room for eight images from this Little League game, but the Web does.” Nhat Meyer: “This, to me, is the greatest benefit of doing multimedia slide shows — you have to actually think about what you’re doing. We are no longer going out and shooting for one or two pictures and going home.” n

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Think about sound Copy by Nhat Meyer, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News

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he world of the newspaper photographer is changing. We can no longer work on a story and merely think visually. We also need to think aurally. With more and more readers moving to the Web, a whole new way of communicating stories, the audio slideshow, was being created to cater to them. The early adapters are benefiting with new job opportunities and a new way of storytelling that allows a photographer to show multiple images instead of only one or two. We can’t just look. We have to listen. There are two types of audio we have to deal with: natural (or live or ambient) and interview audio. You can use either or a combination. For interviews you can either chose to ask questions before or after the event you’re photographing. I’ve done both. The majority of the time I get to an assignment I talk with a subject for several minutes before shooting a frame so why not take live audio during that time? It’s also beneficial to interview a person afterward. Once you know what you’ve photographed, you should have a general idea of how you are going to sculpt the slide show and you can thus ask questions that relate to your vision. Richard Koci Hernandez, deputy director of photography and multimedia for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, said he prefers conducting interviews after shooting. “After is best for me. By then I have a better sense of what the story really is, not what the assignment says. Plus, I have already worked the situation for the best image. Getting the best storytelling image is and should still be the most important task. About the time I would normally say goodbye to the subject, I pull out the recorder for the interview.” Another option is the candid interview — one when the subject is talking to someone else. “Hold the mic close to face for interviews. Open your ears up to notice annoying sounds like air conditioners, refrigerators and street traffic,” said Sean Connelley, co-founder/49th Winter 2008

Parallel Productions and senior multimedia producer at the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune. “If possible, I keep my back to the offending noise. [I use] wireless to get audio of people while their doing something like riding a bike or working.” An interview is like a portrait. When you shoot a portrait, you might ask someone to turn a certain way or smile. “Interviews are different from recording live audio,” said Katy Newton, multimedia producer at 49th Parallel Productions. “Live audio is hands off. Interviews you craft. The best thing to do is watch your reporters. They dig for the answers. I remind them to try to speak in complete sentences. For instance... if I ask them what their favorite color is, I want them to answer, ‘My favorite color is blue.’ As opposed to just saying ‘blue.’ ” Hernandez added, “The rest is just about asking the right question in the right way, like always using the word ‘describe’ as in ‘Describe for me what it was like.’ ” The biggest key to knocking out these slides shows under deadline is to take the least amount of audio you can. The smaller amount you have, the shorter amount of time it takes to edit. Another key is to listen to the audio you’re taking. If there is a key play or comment, then you know to find a certain audio clip. “I’m trying to keep them between 1:302:30 {minutes, seconds} more or less,” said Gerry McCarthy, staff photographer with The Dallas Morning News. “Any more than about 2 minutes 30 seconds and I think it gets boring, like a photo story/essay with too many pictures. Because the medium is so new to us, people aren’t thinking as critically yet — that’s why there are so many 3-plus minutes pieces. I get bored with most of them after about 2:30 and start thinking about ways they could be shorter.” n

According to Joe Weiss Audio • Audio files must be 16 bit and have a sample rate of 44.1 kilohertz or 22.05 kHz. • Soundslides can import MP3 files encoded to 32 kilobits per second, 48Kbps, 56Kbps, 64Kbps, 128Kbps, 160Kbps or 256Kbps. • If LAME is installed on your computer, Soundslides can import uncompressed AIFF or WAV audio formats. There are advantages to this method, and it is highly recommended.

Reprinted with permission. Originally published “Putting the Multi in Your Media for On-Line Galleries” on sportsshooter.com

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This Olympus digital recorder pulls apart and becomes a USB device, requiring no special cords or software. It has a level indicator so it is easy to see if the speaker is talking too loudly or not loud enough. The microphone, purchased separately, cost almost as much as the recorder but can be clipped to a person’s shirt to cut back on the background sound or microphone movement noise.

Getting the sound Hardware Tom Priddy: We use Olympus DS2 recorders. These are about $125 but can be found for as little as $80 online. Photojournalists at other papers recommend more sophisticated equipment, but the DS2 has excellent sound for the price. The DS2 has four quality settings, and at the HQ Stereo setting at a recording level of about 20, I think you can get good sound. They come with both Macintosh- and Windows-compatible software for downloading the digital files. You can record more than an hour in HQ Stereo mode.

Software Tom Priddy: We use Audacity to edit sound because it’s free, simple and works on Macs and Windows. Becky Tate: We use Garage Band. Garage Band allows you to edit the sound and add background music. You can either add your own music by dragging it into Garage Band or you can choose the pre-made sounds in Garage Band.

     Audacity

Garage Band

Lame

audacity.sourceforge.net

apple.com/ilife/garageband/

lame.sourceforge.net

The latest release of Audacity is 1.3.5 (beta). For all users, Audacity 1.2.6 is a stable release, complete and fully documented. Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing sounds. It is available for Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Use Audacity to: • Record live audio. • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs. • Edit Ogg Vorbis, MP3, WAV or AIFF sound files. • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together. • Change the speed or pitch of a recording. 22 • Communication: Journalism Education Today

Apple advertises Garage Band as software to make music, to audition instruments, even to create your own virtual band. Garage Band ’08, part of the iLife suite is a full-feature audio editor for Macintosh only. Requires Mac OS X v10.4.11 or later on a G4, G5 or Intel processor. • Record live audio. • Convert tapes and records into digital recordings or CDs including fluid transfer to iTunes and podcasts. • Edit AIFF, WAV, AAC, MP3 sound files. • Cut, copy, splice or mix sounds together.

LAME is a high quality MPEG Audio Layer III (MP3) encoder

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Editing the sound

Download WMA file Plug in the digital recorder, locate the WMA files and copy them to your computer. Generally pressing pause on a recorder continues recording in the same file. Stopping the recording ends the current file.

Convert WMA to m4a Garage Band can’t read WMA files so use the shareware software EasyWMA (or similar software) to convert WMA files to m4a or other compatible file types.

Import into Garage Band Drag and drop the converted sound file into Garage Band or other sound-editing software. If you have more than one sound file, drag them all, including the background sound, into Garage Band. The background sound will be audible between speakers and should not overtake the interviews.

Edit the sound files Start editing the sound by cutting out the unnecessary pieces. Split the long single track into smaller pieces that can be reordered. In this case, one long interview was split into pieces by topic then reordered so the interview flowed more smoothly. Then, with the background tracks in place, bring the volume for each track up and down to make the interviews and background sound seem natural and connected. Pay attention not only to volume and sequencing but also to timing. Back in Soundslides, you will time the length of each slide to the audio. Export Export the sound file as an MP3 file. Soundslides can also import AIFF files or WAV files. To test the audio, you can also “Send Song to iTunes” to listen to it within iTunes. Place the file in a folder for import into Soundslides.

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Soundslides step-by-step 1. NEW When starting a new project, click the New button. This creates a folder with various subfolders in which the project elements are saved.

2. LOCATE the appropriate folder containing the JPG (image) file and MP3 (sound) files. All of the images must be in one folder. The length of the sound file determines the length of the show.

3. SORT After importing the slides, sort them and adjust the length of each slide to match the audio.

4. EDIT CAPTIONS Captions in print are usually much longer than those that can be read in 5 seconds in a show. Edit them down.

5. PROJECT INFO Give the project a title and add credits.

6. ADD NAMES It must be clear to the viewer who is speaking. Sometimes putting a name over the photo helps. The name only appears when the show has been compiled.

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