Olympic suburbs audio slideshow

Public to name Olympic suburbs

Here’s a good audio slideshow from the BBC on the plans for the areas around the Olympic stadium and what they will look like.

There is a voiceover, rather than Q and A, done by Duncan Innes, from the Olympic Park Legacy Company. The images are a mixture of shots of the state of the areas now and artistic impressions of what the suburbs will look like.

The slideshow is done particularly well because they match what Innes is saying to the images with great precision e.g. when he says one area will be very close to the cycling facilities, we are on an artist’s impression of the velodrome and cycling track etc. A couple of seconds later, Innes says it will be close to the station – and we get a close up shot of Stratford station.

Timing is clearly everything – and just as important here as it is with voiceovers for video footage. I get the impression the voiceover was recorded first then the images were timed to fit.


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What makes a good audio slideshow?

Having dabbled in making a couple of audio slideshows, we felt it was high time to collate some of what we’ve learnt along the way, and investigate how we could have improved our efforts further.

The central question which has pervaded our forays into this medium is, of course, why the audio slideshow? Because we’re not hi-tech enough for video? No. Because audio slideshows are much quicker to produce and are therefore the lazy person’s video? Hours of getting to grips with complicated editing processes in the computer labs says not. Because audio slideshows are the thinking person’s video? Now we’re getting warmer…

As soon as we started investigating the best slideshows out there it became apparent that this was a highly effective, contemplative medium that, like all of the best forms of journalism, could open someone’s eyes up to thinking about a topic in a different way. Whereas video has become a very common place medium, used to convey the facts of what is happening in the world in a very practical, perfunctory way, a slideshow elevates the subject matter to a slightly different status. In this way, creating a slideshow is a bit like portraying something in a photographic exhibition. ‘Here is something worth examining more closely, and contemplating in a more personal, more creative way,’ both an art exhibition and audio slideshow says. As Joe Weiss, creator of Soundslides (a rapid production tool for still image and audio web presentations), says when interviewed by Poynter’s Pat Walters:

for me, I do think … there’s a deliberateness in the editing [of still images], there’s a deliberateness in the visuals.

Indeed, audio slideshows are a great way of providing a little background to art exhibitions. I recently came across this great piece by the Guardian which sets children’s laureate Anthony Browne’s voice to some illustrations from this year’s Booktrust best new illustrators award. They are also great for drawing people’s attention to understated stories or issues, that the viewer might otherwise have overlooked, not realising the subtle interest to be drawn from them. A great example of this is The New York Times’ One in 8 Million series which each tell the personal story of a New York character’s life. I watched a really fascinating one on a wedding wardrober and his thoughts on the art and importance of male grooming.

In the words of Benjamin Chesterton, of audio slideshow specialists Duck Rabbit, audio slideshows are both a new language and a very old one. I agree; there’s a beautiful simplicity to this technique that really allows a certain story to be told in a clear and arresting way. I feel audio slideshows are real testament to the ‘less is more’ theory- a viewer is much more liekly to tune out if they feel bamboozled by stimulus overload.

The real beauty of the slideshow, several experts agree, is the way they make the viewer think for themselves. Again Chesterton encapsulates this better than I could:

with moving video, the viewer’s 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.

This is all very well, but how does one best arrest their viewer with a poignant and well-paced slideshow? Well, lots of practice is obviously key- it’s a lot about developing an eye and ear for what works. But here are some dos and don’ts compiled from my own experiments and those more well-versed in this field:


– source around 8-10 images per minute says Paul Kerley, also of Duck Rabbit fame, and the BBC’s slideshow guru

– have a clear relationship between what’s being heard and seen

– tell a story- even if it’s an interesting interview that you’re illustrating, be sure to edit it in such a way that there’s a thread running throughout that builds to a satisfying conclusion. If in doubt, remember the golden rules of GCSE story writing: have a beginning, middle and end.

– consider including captions underneath the images to specify exactly what’s going on. A contentious point this- some people say this is too confusing as the viewer won’t be able to read and listen simultaneously. If you do include captions, don’t just state the obvious and describe what the viewer can clearly see is happening in the slideshow.

– include background sound or ease the viewer in with an atmospheric sound which will set the scene nicely.

– do include a picture of the person who is narrating if they are relevant to the story being told.

– record a minute of the room you are recording in so that you can use the sound to add natural space between edits. VERY important this.

– include a good opening image to grab the viewer.


use too many photos- as discussed above, the whole point is that the viewer gets to contemplate each one for a decnt length of time and notice things they would miss in a video.

– use too few images as your slideshow will start to feel long and drawn-out and like it’s not really going anywhere.

– include any awkward transitions that distract the viewer from a poignant point being made. Don’t make transitions mid-thought but do use them to really emphasise that an important point is being. Think of the change as equivalent to the ‘clunk’ moment after a well-crafted drop-intro in written articles

– allow any background sound to drown out the narration.

– don’t use music or images you don’t have permission to use. Make sure music is royalty-free and only use your own images or those with creative commons on Flickr for example. Even then you must credit the photographer. Another good tip if you find a image you’re dying to use on Flickr, is to drop the owner a friendly email or Tweet- often they’ll be happy to let you use the image for some nice exposure of their work.

– have the subjects introduce themselves- you wouldn’t start a written article like this an expect to keep people hooked now would you?

– make you’re slideshows longer than 3 or 4 minutes.

Hope these are helpful. Let me know if you have any more top tips for us.


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Briton in Libya – BBC Radio 4’s Today online audio clips

British Libyan ‘willing to die for country’s freedom’

The above link is to the Today programme page on the BBC website. It’s categorised as news and available to listen to via one click from the Watch/Listen section on the News homepage – so you don’t have to type in Radio 4, Today programme to get to this audio package.

Even though it’s radio, I think this 6 min or so clip is a really good example to aim for. There is a one-line summary with more details below the clip – using the well known name Lord Goldsmith to entice users to press play.

Within the clip itself, there is a clear introduction to the current situation in Libya and the first interviewee, Rashed, a Briton fighting for the rebels, which ends in a question. Then the interviewee goes straight into answering this question. There is background noise of men talking which gives the clip a sense of place without making the answer difficult to hear.

The next voice we hear is the journalist Kevin Connolly in Libya asking – “do your Mum and Dad know you are here?” This provides a good soundbite – “I’ve come here for Libya.” There are some pauses in Rashed’s answers but Connolly never speaks over him. The interviewee Rashed, does start to interrupt him on some more controversial questions such as – “But defending yourself might mean you have to kill someone?” Connolly finishes his sentences but then gives way to his interviewee.

They wrap the interviewee up on a soundbite too: “we see nothing but victory” which the presenter neatly repeats to segue into his next section on the government. He again asks an open question (of himself, for the listeners to think about). He then introduces the second interviewee, Lord Goldsmith, who is in the Westminster studio.

The questions and answers now are much longer and much more complex than the simple, one-idea questions asked of Rashed. As with most political interviews, there is more interrupting which listeners will be used to. The clip ends on one of Lord Goldsmith’s answers.


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Spice up your (Audio) life

We’ve focussed on things a budding audio journalist needs, but there are always things a budding audio journalist definitely does not need in any way.

Why bother with below-par laptop speakers when you can get a kick out of these utterly bizarre excerpts from the Book of Mental? Thanks to PC Mag, here are some of the weirdest speakers on the market:

Care for some Rave with your audio? The internal tube light on these 2W speakers flashes in red, green or blue.

Mental Rating: 2/5 (due to usefulness at house parties)

More info here

It’s USB powered and designed for fragrances. No, really. Plug it in an set your senses alight.

Mental Rating: 5/5 (buy some Oust)

More info here











Ever wanted your speakers to contain ice cold beer? WELL NOW THEY CAN. Enjoy the sounds of the summer while you snake an ice-cold brewski.

Mental Rating: 1/5 (because it’s a great idea)

More info here

…And they did. Yep. Who needs headphones when you can have sound emanating from your undergarments?

Mental Rating: 5/5 (what’s wrong with earphones?!)

More info here


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Radiohead as you’ve never heard them before…

Fresh from a hectic fortnight of producing a magazine, us Audio Journalists were in need of a bit of light relief to get us motivated and inspired by audio journalism. Nothing could have done the job better than the Guardian’s rebuttal to Radiohead deciding, not content with being rated at 73 in Rolling Stone’s ‘The Greatest Artists of All Time’ poll, to publish a newspaper.

Lending a certain air of epic-music-making to the track, this is the audio slideshow at its finest… Rusbridger on keyboard brightened my day up no end. Enjoy!


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Ethical Audio

Editing an interview for an audio slideshow is a tricky skill. In fact, getting the words to match the images is the least of your worries, especially when the narration is someone candidly, and so more poignantly, discussing the topic you’ve chosen.

Do not fear. Outlined below, thanks to The Journalist’s Toolkit, is a list of ethical do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when collating and viewing your soundbites:

Firstly, the golden rule is to never change the meaning of what the interviewee said. This obviously applies to all journalism, but can still be overlooked in the face of a tight deadline and a wealth of photos to coordinate.

The Do’s

  • It’s okay to cut out verbal stalling. Ums, ers, “can I go back and say that in a less slurred fashion” and “ooh this a great packet of crisps” can all go. Unless the slideshow is about crisps, of course.
  • Extraneous words can be edited out. In candid speech people tend to overuse words such as “like” and “kind of” and “you know” which can slow down the audio.
  • Au revoir to reiterations. As people think, they repeat sentences and this is often unnecessary. Make sure this doesn’t result in a jarring final edit, as it requires some skill to do well.
  • Subordinate clauses should also only be attempted by editing whizzes. It can usually result in a weird jumpy edit making the interviewee sound somewhat robotic and/or mental.
  • Always identify the speaker if it’s an interview piece. Either through captions or actually within the audio.
  • It sounds obvious, but let the interviewee know beforehand that they have to answer fully. So not “yes, I thought it was brilliant actually…” but “yes, I thought the Walkers foray into condiment flavoured crisps was brilliant actually…”

Summary of Do’s: You CAN edit anything that smooths out the interview and tightens the soundbite.


  • Never tell the interviewee or narrator what to say. It’s unethical to force opinions on anyone.
  • Don’t forget to make sure the interviewee or narrator gives full permission for their audio to be used. Written and signed.
  • You cannot dub other questions in other than the ones you asked. This is often used on pirate radio interviews and is bad practice. Even if the wording is slightly altered, it could change the semantics of the person’s response. Similarly you can’t use someone’s narration out of context with the one given by you in the recording.
  • Avoid re-asks unless the interviewee chokes on a question and cannot answer it.
  • Do not change location. Different background levels will sound bizarre.

So there you have it. Follow these guidelines and you can guarantee yourself a better soundbite, and a distinct lack of being sued.

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Filed under Audio editing, Interviews, Uncategorized

UCU Strike at City University

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) at City are striking both today and on this Thursday the 24th March to demand reform on their pension schemes as well as highlighting the thousands of jobs already lost from the university sector.

Click below to hear  Rory Fitzgerald, vice-president of City University’s UCU committee speaking from the picket line outside City’s social science building.


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