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Best advice for Soundslides

I was asking around recently, among my friends at other j-schools who teach photojournalism. Yes, they are still teaching Soundslides. The No. 1 reason is almost unanimous: It’s a great transition from making stills to making video. I think it also helps — a lot — with teaching storytelling.

Right now I’m in the midst of a four-week module where I teach green young journalism students to tell a story with Soundslides. Fortunately, they’ve just finished four weeks of gathering and editing audio. Unfortunately, most of them have no experience with photojournalism.

Gathering Audio. Part 2: A Practical Guide. Brian Storm and Jim Seida wrote this guide years ago, and I think it’s still the best. I was just re-reading it earlier today, and man, it rocks. It’s 4,000 words, or about 10 pages single-spaced, and I would bet most of my students don’t take the time to read it — even though I assign it every semester. What a pity. It’s like gold.

So I’m blogging it here in case you’ve never read it. Or maybe you read it a long time ago and forgot how great it is.

Which should I work on first, pictures or sound?

That depends. If there’s sound that I think might be gone in a few minutes, I’ll probably break out my MiniDisc and start recording. If the light is perfect but fading, I’ll most likely make pictures first.

There’s no right way to do it, and there’s always a tradeoff. You have to accept the fact that when you are recording, you’ll miss some great images and when you are shooting you’ll miss some wonderful sound. I’ve tried doing both at once, it doesn’t work very well. Getting good sound takes just as much skill, energy and focus as getting good pictures; it’s tough to do both things at the same time.

– Meredith Birkett, Special Projects Multimedia Producer, MSNBC.com

That’s just a taste. Ha, we don’t use MiniDiscs any more (thank God!), but all the advice still fits. There’s lots more, just as good as that bit.

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