Individual Soundslides Project

For this assignment, I was tasked with creating a news story that incorporates both visual and audio elements. Then, I compiled my audio and photos into a slideshow presentation using the soundslides program.

I have mixed feelings on working alone versus working with a partner. On the one hand, my partner and I were able to divide the workload between us, so the project wasn’t as time consuming. Also, it helps sometimes to have the creative input of another individual. But on the other hand, I had complete control over the entire project. When Zach and I worked together, I focused on the photographs and he worked with the audio. This made it difficult for our the two parts to sync up. But when I worked alone, I could think about what sort of photos best suited my audio track and vice versa.

The most difficult aspect of the project was the photography. I shot all of my photos at the indoor facility. Unfortunately, the lighting was quite dim at times making it hard to stop the action of people playing soccer. As a result, I did not provide myself with enough photos for the project. Even with adequate light, sports photography isn’t an easy undertaking as you have to be able to anticipate the action.

I also regret my decision to focus on the adult portion of the soccer club and not the youth side. Initially, I figured the adults would provide me with enough material, but that wasn’t the case. Also, I think it would have been easier to photograph kids playing soccer instead of adults.

In addition to a lack of focus on the youth side, I should have captured a female perspective as well. After my project was complete, I realized that all of my subjects were men which is not representative of the entire soccer club.

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Group Soundslides Project Critique

The first project I critiqued was on Trollbeads by Sara Whittle and Megan Elliot. The audio portion of the project was well executed. The transitions were seamless, and I wasn’t distracted by any background noise. The only criticism regards the ambient noise. I don’t see the sound of children relates to the overall theme of the story. Perhaps some noise from the shop that sells the beads could have been used, such as the door chime or customers conversing over their preferred beads.

The photos used for the project were quite relevant. I liked the closeups of the various bracelets, and the photos of the interviewees were strong. The photos synched with the audio for the most part. I only recalled one time when the audio was slightly ahead of the photos.

Even though the content of story has no appeal to me, I can still appreciate the quality of the soundslide. It had a nice flow from one interviewee to the next, and I also appreciated that the captions added to the storytelling by elaborating on the audio content.

The next project I looked at was Jasper Fitzgerald’s story on the UW rodeo team. The audio portion contains two interviewees, the head coach and one of the team members. The audio does a good job of profiling the rodeo team, so I had a general feel for what the team is about.

However, the project lacked some stronger accompanying photos. For example, the head coach speaks for over a minute, but there isn’t a single photo of him. Also, the photo of the team roper has him half inside a horse trailer with his face obscured. Some of the shots of the team in action are well executed, but captions are missing so it’s unclear who is doing what.

Overall, the photographic elements hinder story. There far too random and unexplained. The audio does move along nicely, but it needs stronger photos to create a more cohesive piece.

Lastly, I watched the SAE Haunted House story by Jessica Peck and Andie Knous. The audio portion of this story  was excellent. It begin with the philanthropy chairman giving an overview of the SAE’s haunted house project. Next, SAE members gave their perspective on the event, and it concluded with comments from an attendee. The transitions were smooth and the audio was distraction-free. The comments from all of the interviewees added to the story and helped it progress.

The choice of photos was also excellent and each had an informative caption along with it. The story had a real, natural flow to it with a clear beginning, middle, and end. I thought this project was nearly flawless except for one thing: the amount of time each photo spent on the screen was too short. I had to strain to read each caption before the picture vanished. But other than that, I though the story was fantastic.

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Soundslides Group Project

For this assignment, I was tasked with creating a news story with my partner that incorporated both audio and visual elements. To do this, Zach and I decided to do a feature story on the brewmaster at the Library bar. We recorded an interview with the brewmaster and took relevant photos at the brewery. We also interviewed one of the patrons at the bar. Then, we combined the audio tracks and photos using Soundslides.

I enjoyed working with Zach on the project. Betweeb the two of us, we were able to delegate portions of the work and lighten the load for one another. Zach focused primarily on the audio side of the project while I spent most of my time shooting and editing the photos. We also worked well together in putting together the Soundslide project. We each did about half of the captions for the photos and collaborated on what photos to use and how long to display each for the Soundslide.

The soundslide program itself was very easy to use. Uploading photos and audio could not have been more straightforward. Also, the drag and drop interface made it very simple to arrange the photos in the order we wanted them. The same was true for adjusting the amount of time each photo is displayed.

We did face some difficulties along the way. First of all, the lighting in the Library was less than ample. My camera did have a flash, but it was still difficult trying to capture the images we wanted in the right light. Secondly, I should have had a better idea beforehand what sort of images I wanted to capture. I had to go back to the bar a couple times to collect more photos.

Also, we ran into some problems with the audio. When we conducted the interview with Mitch, a pump in the brewery was running constantly. At first, it seemed like the noise would be distracting but because it was a constant noise and relevant to the story it worked out.

Our results with the Pete Hegg interview were not as fortuitious. The bar environment in which we interview Pete was quite loud as you might imagine. The audio track contains much more background noise than we would care for. In hindsight, we should have interviewed Pete somewhere else. We could have gone to the restaurant or the front steps. Also, it would have been helpful to hold the recording device closer to Pete.

Trying to capture the entire brewing process in a three minute Soundslide proved to be quite a daunting task. The process takes lots of time and there are many steps, and as I discovered it’s difficult to try and show all of those steps in a such a limited amount of time.

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Story Ideas for Soundslide Group Project

1. Profile of the brewery/brewmaster at the Library Bar

  • I would like to do a feature story on the brewmaster at the Library Bar in Laramie. I want to focus on the brewing process and what the brewery means to the community
  • This story is important because the Library is a successful and popular establishment within the Laramie community. Also, the brewery is an award winner and worthy of news coverage.
  • Three potential sources for the story are the brewmaster, the owner of the Library, and patrons who drink the Library microbrews.

2. The renovated bus service at the University of Wyoming

  • I would like to do a feature story that looks at the recently revamped bus service at UW. New buses have been purchased and the image has been overhauled as well. Also, there is a new route servicing the town of Laramie in addition to the university routes.
  • This is a newsworthy feature because of the impact of the transportation system at UW. Hundreds of thousands of passengers ride the service each year and the service receives millions of dollars in state and federal funding.
  • Three possible sources for the story would be administrative officials who were/are involved in the decision making process for the transit system,  bus drivers, and passengers who use the service.

3. The Wilderness First Aid/CPR Class at UW

  • This Friday, Half Acre Gym is hosting a Wilderness First Aid/CPR class. I would like to do a story covering this event.
  • This is an important story because much of the recreational activities centered offered through the university are related to the outdoors (i.e. backpacking, mountain biking, rock climbing).
  • Three possible sources for the story are the instructors teaching the class, people taking the class, and individuals who participate in wilderness activities and their thoughts on the importance of the class.
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Critique of Classmates’ and My Own Audio Profile

For this post, I will critique Jessica Peck’s and Patrick Pajak’s audio profile along with my own.

Jessica – The audio profile Jessica produced has a crisp sound quality to it. Distractions are not an issue, and all I could hear was the interviewee. My only complaint is regarding some of the cuts. For the most part, Jessica did a good job of masking the parts where she removed her own voice or some other part of the track. But there were a few times when the track goes completely silent (a silence different than the background silence present during the interview) and then begins again.

As far as ambient noise is concerned, I’m not sure what sound Jessica could have put in that is representative of the whole state of Colorado. So I think the track was fine without ambient noise.

Finally, I liked the audio Jessica concluded the track with. It helps tie the profile together by reiterating how the interviewee is closely tied to Colorado.

Patrick – Like Jessica, Patrick has created an audio profile pleasing to the ear and distraction-free. I wasn’t bothered by any background noise, and my focus was on the interviewee the whole time.

I only noticed two points in the track where it was clear that a cut had been made. In both cases, I heard a “click” sound before the interviewee began speaking again.

The content of the profile had a nice flow to it. It wasn’t disjointed or jumping around. The whole two minutes were used wisely.

The only ambient noise that may have helped the track would be the sound of the crowd at a sporting event or possibly a sample sports broadcast since that is the line of work the interviewee is hoping to pursue.

Me – As I mentioned in the previous post, the location of the interview is a make-or-break decision. It’s critical to choose some place with minimal background noise and a location that will produce a natural sound.

For future interviews, I need to make like a boy scout and always be prepared. Especially for the upcoming Soundslide projects, I need to have all my ducks in a row before I begin to interview people who only have so much time to spend with me. To be prepared, I need to, as mentioned above, choose a good location to record, and I must have a strong set of questions for the interview. Those questions must also follow some sort of general theme or idea in sync with idea of the overall story.

Lastly, I think any future stories I work on need to contain some sort of relevant ambient noise. I remember the audio journalism stories I critiqued all used ambient noise, and it added to the richness of the stories.

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Edited Audio Interview

After completing this assignment, I’m now much more comfortable using Audacity. It didn’t take long for me to realize the bread and butter tools of the program. It’s all about three features: cut, copy, and paste. I didn’t have any ambient noise to add to the interview, so those were the only three tools I really needed. I am looking forward to messing around with the fade in/fade out feature for the Soundslide project though.

At times, the project was a bit tedious. Several times, I would listen to the same piece of audio over and over to find the precise spot I wanted to cut out. Also, I listened to the track in its entirety more times than I would have cared to but that seems to be the nature of audio editing.

It was rewarding in the end to hear the finished product. After spending so much time cutting the audio, I was glad to see that my efforts hadn’t been in vain.

One of the difficulties I face while working with the audio was creating smooth transitions. I went to great links to make sure it wasn’t glaringly obvious where I made my cuts at. One trick that helped with this was to copy a half second or so of silence from the track and place it after my cuts to simulate a pause if one didn’t already exist.

The most difficult task I faced while editing my interview was deciding what material to keep and what to discard. I needed to be cutthroat in my decision making, and I believed it paid off. I wanted to show that Zach has had a passion for sports since he was a child, and he will probably try to turn his love for sports into a career. I wanted to show a connection between the material at the beginning and end of track.

If given the chance to do the assignment over I would have changed two things. First of all, I would have picked a different location to record. The library study room we chose was quite enough, but the sound quality it produced had an almost echo-like quality to it. I was unable to eliminate the echo using Audacity. Secondly, the beeping produced by the library scanners can be heard at the end of the track. Neither of us were aware of it at the time, and I couldn’t remove it from the track either as it occurred at the same time Zach was speaking.

Lastly, I need to really restrain my own speech while I’m interviewing. I found it difficult to remain silent at times, especially when Zach said something that was funny. In the future, I will make sure to focus more on my non-verbal forms of communication during interviews.

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Raw Audio Interview

Much like photography was for me earlier in the course, I found the interviewing process to be another skill that needs to be practiced and honed. But unlike photography, I’m dependent on another individual in order to produce quality work. Consequently, the interview experience intimidated me slightly. I knew I had only a set amount of time to do it, and Zach isn’t readily available for me to interview whenever I want.

I tried to use my sense of anxiety, however mild, to my advantage though. It helped me to focus and conduct a solid interview in what time I had. I’m fairly satisfied with the results.

However, difficulties did occur. For one, I noticed the beeping noise produced by the library scanner a few times in the track. Neither Zach nor I noticed it during our interviews, but I might be able to eliminate them during the editing phase. Also, the study room we were in had a slight echo to it. Hopefully, I will be able to use one of the features Dr. Brown showed me in class to manipulate the track.

It was also difficult to stay within the allotted time frame. I just made it by the skin of my teeth. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of content to work with for the edit, so I opted to go for the extra thirty seconds.

Lastly, I was tough to know whether or not I had coaxed Zach into saying something truly insightful that someone would want to hear. Next time, I will definitely spend more time on my questions and think about what sort of response they will elicit.

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Listen Carefully: Audio Journalism Critique

The following is a critique of three audio journalism pieces.

The first story is from the New York Times’ “One in 8 Million” series. The piece I chose covers a man named Andrew Baum who is training to become a private investigator. The main focus is on his experiences in the field of surveillance, such as being shot at and driving in reverse as fast as possible.

The story is surprisingly intimate. I began to feel like I knew him personally or that I was reading a journal entry of his. I also enjoyed the seamless mixture of the audio with related photos. The piece is stronger when there is a visual element tied to it. I liked the black and white photos as well. I’m not sure why, but they seem to come off as more classy and sophisticated in black and white. At the end of the story, a short summary paragraph appears and gives me some more background information on Baum and his job. It’s a strong way to finish the piece.

It’s hard to find any faults with the piece. I could say that the lack of narrator weakens the story, but for this a feature such as this a narrator would take away from the story. It isn’t a hard news piece which usually needs a narrator’s direction. The story is a portrait of one man that’s open to interpretation.

The second audio story I listened to was from NPR. The story covers a peanut shortage expected to hit the US this year. The main concern is that a peanut shortage will increase the price of peanut butter. Often news stories leave the audience thinking “how does this affect me?” From the beginning, this story makes strong link between the common person and the peanut shortage by profiling an average American family who eats PB&J’s on a regular basis. This helps create an instant connection between the audience and the story.

The content is trustworthy too. The story consults a USDA economist and a peanut broker which provides the story with credibility. The editing is really solid as well. The transitions are seamless, and the quotes are relevant. The ambient noise captured in the family’s kitchen helps establish a strong atmosphere for the story.

However, I would have liked for the story to have included some ambient noise related to the peanut industry. Maybe some workers harvesting peanuts or sounds from inside a peanut processing plant could have strengthened the story. But the deadline constraints may have made this too difficult to do.

The final story I listened to concerns a photojournalist who shadows two LAPD specialized gang units. The story gives a police officer’s perspective on combating gang-related crime while dealing with budget cuts and other issues. This story by far had the strongest intro. Immediately, my speakers started booming with the sound of a police helicopter and sirens. Then, officers are heard speaking their jargon and chattering on radios.

The story also features photos capturing the imagery of the LA crime beat, and they sync up nicely with the audio. The only complaint I have is that no officers are heard from in the story. Although the narrator mentions that the officers weren’t allowed to speak on tape, it seems like he still should have been able to collect some sort of candid statement to get an officers perspective on fighting gangs.

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Intro to Audio Recording and Editing

For this portion of the assignment, I needed to collect ambient noise. The hope is to be able to place the ambient noise within an audio story to help add to the content. The following are my best six tracks of ambient noise:

Spring Creek – The first track I recorded from the waters of Spring Creek just west of Laprele park. This audio could be used in a story related to fishing or some sort of outdoor-oriented feature.

Chopping Celery – This track was taken from kitchen. I liked to cook so I thought I would record myself chopping some veggies. This clip could be used in a story related to healthy eating.

Laramie Lanes – I recorded this track during my league night at Laramie Lanes. This track could be in a story about the start of a new bowling season or to profile a top player.

Basketball at Half Acre – I recorded this clip at the basketball courts in Half Acre Gym. This track could be utilized in an audio story regarding intramural basketball or any story tied to the sport really. It could work well as a track trying to capture a team practicing.

3rd and Grand Traffic – I live on 3rd and Grand, so I was able to walk out my apartment door and start recording. This could be used in story related to new traffic lights or an increase in traffic accidents.

Book and Bean – After some studying in the library, I wondered over to the Book and Bean to get a quick track. This audio clip could be used in a feature story on a new coffee shop or the successes of an established one.

For the next part of the assignment, my goal was to familiarize myself with the free sound editing program Audacity. I started my counting from 1 to 10 and then doing the same on another track only out of order. Using Audacity, I edited the second track to rearrange the numbers in the correct order. Here are the results:

Having absolutely no experience with sounding editing, I was surprised at how easy Audacity was to use. I think I will find working with audio much easier than working with photography. I’ve listened to lots of news radio, so I have a decent idea of what goes into a strong audio journalism piece.

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Photojournalism Critique

The following post is a critique of two of my fellow students’ photojournalism posts.

Megan Elliot – Megan’s feature photo, “Going to Class”, captures a scene that strongly represents life as a college student in Laramie. But it’s a tad impersonal. I’m not sure which of the two people I’m suppose to focus on. It would be nice to see a face as well for a feature shot.  However, the focus is very sharp and the pathway creates a strong leading line through the photo.

My favorite part of “Game”, the sports feature photo, is how the photo captures the imminent collision of the two sets of players. The competitive spirit of the game comes across well. I think cropping could have been utilized. For example, the two heads at the bottom of the pic are distracting as well as the down marker sign on the left. Cropping could have helped place even more emphasis on the players.

“Shooting Pool” and “Magic 8 Ball” both have a definite subject and take advantage of the rule of thirds. Placing the subject on the thirds line helps draw more attention to the subject. The photos also capture the fun of a night out. However, a more interesting composition may have come from shooting right at the table’s edge. This photo could have shown the expression on the subject’s face and possibly eliminate some of the distractions in the background. A date and place are missing from the photos’ captions too.

I like the leading lines in the photos created by the subject. The lines let the viewer know that the subject is about to strike the pool balls.

Finally, I looked at “Cowboys.” This photo does a good job of illustrating the atmosphere at a football game. Nothing is more synonymous with football than cheerleaders. It might have been cool to try to shoot the photo from right up against the fence. This would have created an interesting viewpoint by shooting up at the cheerleaders but having the crowd in the background helps show the atmosphere at the game too. Even though it’s obvious that the photo was taken at War Memorial stadium, the caption still needs a date and place.

Alex Edwards – The first photo I looked at was Alex’s sports feature, “Brown and Gold Spirit.” I like how he caught the flag in motion and the expression on the subject’s face which really shows her spirit. I’m not sure if this really qualifies as a sports feature though. It’s certainly related to a sporting event, but I guess I don’t really know if athletes had to be represented in the picture or not. Also, I think the word “our” in the caption might be out of place. Journalists tend to avoiding using first person plural in photo captions. The colors in the photo are very vibrant though, and the exposure is sharp.

I like the feature photo “Mom, can I touch the chickens.” The little girl’s curiosity and interest in the chickens is very apparent. It might have been cool to see her face too, but I’m not sure there was angle where this could be done and still have the chickens in the picture. The photo also creates a strong relationship between the subject and the background.

Another photo I enjoyed was “Where did the football go?” It’s a good action shot and really captures the moment. The people in the background are sort of distracting, and the football is a little too blurry although this does show the motion. And there is a strong vector created between the subject and the ball. Once again, I think the first person should be avoided in the caption to keep in line with the journalistic approach to the assignment.

Lastly, I looked at “Yummy!” This is an all-around fun photo that does a good job of showing the feelings of the subject. The focus is excellent and the child’s eyes really stand out.

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