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January 17 2012


Gil Scott-Heron: The Last Holiday - audio slideshow | Books | guardian.co.uk

Good example of Soundslides. Very good photo research here - you can see how the producers took great care to match the images to exactly what the narration is talking about. The book being discussed is Gil Scott-Heron's memoir. Historic photos include many of MLK, Stevie Wonder, Jesse Jackson.

February 27 2011


Producing Audio Slideshows with Final Cut Pro

One of a Kind in the World Museum

In 2005, Joe Weiss released Soundslides, a killer audio slideshow production program that helped transition many newspaper photojournalists into the world of online multimedia. Audio slideshows soon flooded newspaper websites. Its simple interface and even simpler learning curve proved a perfect match for anyone wanting to add an audio narrative to their online picture stories.

But times have changed. Many of those same photojournalists moved on to add video to their storytelling toolboxes. As they began to master video editing programs like Apple’s Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro, it seemed like no brainer to use them to produce audioslide shows.  I cannot say building an audio slide show is easier with a video editing program, but it does afford you some added features that are hard, if not impossible, to replicate in Soundslides.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned when making an audio slideshow using Apple’s Final Cut Pro:

  • Soundslides is great at taking all the tedious production out of the process. It grabs all your photos in a file and automatically sizes them for the web. When producing in a video editor, you have to do all this image prep yourself. But it’s not too bad if you create a Photoshop action to automate the process.  I create a one-click action to reduce the image dpi to 72 and size to each photo to a width of 2500 pixels. This size makes the images large enough to use motion on later if needed.
  • Before you start to edit, it is important to set up your timeline as an HD project. It makes the photos look so much better, even after you compress the hell out of them later for the web. I generally pick Apple Intermediate Codec 720p30 from the “Easy Setup” menu. I think progressive timelines without the interlacing work best for photos. I’ve even used the XDCAM 1080p30 setting with great results.
  • As I assemble my story, I tend to build as I go. I start editing at the beginning with audio, then layer on my photos. I use the voiceover tool in Final Cut Pro to record my script narrative direct to the timeline. This is just how I do it. There are many ways to edit. You may like to have the whole project storyboarded out before you start your edit. Do whatever works best for you.
  • I really try to scale up each photo to fill my Canvas viewer. This looks so much better than having black bars showing above and below the image.
  • One of the nice things about producing audio slideshows in a video editor is the ability to display multiple photos at once in the Canvas viewer. This solves the vertical photo issue of trying fill a horizontal space with a vertical rectangle. I like to fade in my vertical photos on the far left or right of my frame then fade in another image to fill the rest of the frame. Click image below to see and example of using multiple photos in one window.


Mount St. Helens comes to town

  • In Soundslides the default is to add a cross-fade to every image. I see a trend away from this as more people edit in video programs.  Most of the time I just use quick cut between photos. It took me awhile to break the cross fade habit, but now I see how much better a show flows without all that cross fading. It also makes it easier to edit to a beat in the audio.
  • I tend to edit an audio slide show like I edit a video story. I try to use sequences of images that help move the story through time and place. I try to mix up the photo selection by using a mix of wide, medium and tight shots just like I do with video.
  • Use motion on photos with caution. Most of the time, slower is better. You don’t want to make the viewer seasick. Try not to zigzag all over the place. Use motion on a photo to reveal or isolate something that pertains to the story. I like to put a very slow pull or push on a photo that is almost not noticeable. It adds just a little kick to a static photo. One last suggestion on using motion with photos; If you are pulling out on a photo and your next image has motion too, make that one zoom in; otherwise it makes the viewer feel like they are heading through a tunnel.
  • Finally, the other added benefit of producing audio slide shows in a video editor is that it brings all your multimedia under one player for your website. If your video player has embed ability, it makes it easier for viewers to share your story and make it go viral.

July 29 2010




Tags: soundslides

February 26 2010


Interview with a multimedia photojournalist

David Berman is a multimedia photojournalist who works as a photographer at Northcliffe’s Surrey Mirror. I asked him some questions about his role which I thought I would post here. But first, a showreel of his work…

“I started making Soundslides at the Croydon Advertiser at the back end of ‘06, and kept presenting both on- and off-diary assignments as Soundslides and, later, video. There is still some interest locally at the paper for me to do multimedia stuff but only if it doesn’t ‘get in the way of proper work’.

“What is a multimedia photojournalist? A photographer who is unafraid of learning new skills and technologies. A photographer who is passionate about telling stories, shooting compelling images be it still or video. I look at it as an opportunity to get back to being a story teller not just a space filler for the print edition. I shoot, I edit and I publish.

“Why are photographers good VJ’s? The best of us can see a frame and fill it with vibrancy, compose it well and create the story visually. The words, the interview? It’s not so hard. All my life as a stills shooter I’ve basically interviewed people on every assignment. I now just need to structure more and record peoples answers. Of course I still have a lot to learn, but I think that the snappers who are either refusing to learn new skills or allowing themselves to be sidelined to remain one trick ponies, just shooting stills, are failing to plan for the future. My multimedia productions can play across the web, TV or iPhone, they will look good on iPad. I shoot HD on a proper video camera with pro sound capture and can broadcast live video from the scene and do a piece to camera.

“As a multimedia photojournalist I shoot stills or video or both. I am a good communicator. I can empathise with the man who cleans the drains and I can walk tall before the Queen. In short, the MM PJ could be one of the most powerful tools in the newspaper’s arsenal and should be encouraged to take part in the development of the organisation.

“Reporters and Flip cams are great for breaking news but I believe to fully engage readers you need to have a gold standard for those other stories. Shot well, lit well and presented as well as TV does.

“It used to be the case that the audience would watch badly made web video but I no longer think this is the case. The more local news websites deliver poor audio and video the less the advertiser will wish to be involved. Make the downtime of the phojo work for the ad dept. It’s exactly what I am planning at the moment.

“I am able to train others and would be happy to do that but – and this is the big but – there needs to be a desire to move to the web. My old Chief Ian Carter has seen the way forward with his move to the Kent Messenger. Their web video is pretty good. I’m not sure on their stats but I know the site is compelling.

“Look at the Argus in Brighton. Jo Wadsworth, an old colleague of mine from the Ad, is doing great stuff with their site but the video content is poor considering the quality of some of their staff photographers.

“It isn’t easy to find this new place as a MM photojournalist after all, who the hell are we?”

January 21 2010


Mastering Multimedia useful tips roundup

Many of may old posts that deal with tips about how to do video storytelling and audio slideshows get linked on a lot of blogs used by college professors who teach digital media classes. Most of these posts are buried amongst my pontifications about the changes facing the newspaper industry. So for anyone interested,  here is a roundup of my best multimedia suggestions and useful tip posts in one place…

How to make your audio slideshows better

Great audio starts in the field

How best to approach a video story

Sequencing: The foundation of video storytelling

How to make your video editing easier

Get creative with your video camera

Opening your video: How not to lose viewers

Random Final Cut tip: Lower thirds titles

What we can learn from TV new shooters

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