An Audio Slideshow admittedly sounds quite dull. In the words of Adam Westbrook: “It conjures an image of looking at your aunty and uncle’s holiday snaps.” It’s essential, then, to keep in mind that well known Chinese proverb. Never judge a specific journalistic medium by its vaguely formal name.
Adam, the New Media journalist behind studio.fu specialising in online video, social media and blogging, bloody loves a good audio slideshow. In fact, not only has he written some lovely stuff singing its largely unsung praises, but also took the time to chat to us about alternative names, favourite sounds and why an audio slideshow shouldn’t remind you of aunty Beryl.
Sound Party? Multi-sensory showcase? Aural Knees-Up? Adam has collated a range of possible name changes from the alliterative “Sound Show” to the quite posh sounding “Auditory Visuals”, but prefers to keep it simple. “There’s a small movement of journalists, like the guys at DuckRabbit, trying to push the name ‘PhotoFilm’ which I think has a bit more gravitas to it.” Unfortunately, this snappy moniker doesn’t mention the word “audio” which is, as he rightly thinks, quite an important element.
Perhaps we should call it Photo As Well As Audio Film, otherwise known as “Pawaf”. It sounds quite like Pilaf and, just as everyone loves a bit of fragrant rice, everyone should love a bit of photo-audio journalism. Or not. For the time being, it’s probably best to stick to the original. As Adam points out: “A name’s a name and what really matters are the pieces themselves.”
So, what’s so good about the audio slideshow?
They’re about intimate audio and extraordinary images combining with an amazing story. You have to have all three to produce something worth watching.
Yes, but why not video?
You can achieve an intimacy with an audio recorder and SLR that a video camera cannot. They’ll always play second fiddle to video in the public’s eyes just because video is all flashy and fast moving and glamorous. Slideshows are slow, quiet and careful – much more rewarding in the long run.
Any fantastic ones you can recommend?
Maise Crow produces some amazing work such as “Hungry” or the Ne w York Times’s “1 in 8 million“- more than 300 portraits of New Yorkers, all done with slide shows. I think audio slide shows come alive with personal stories, which they can capture in an unobtrusive way.
And any examples of how not to do it?
The worst ones are probably some of the first ones I ever made. This attempt I made on assignment in Iraq is a good example – it’s actually a radio package, rather than a piece of storytelling, with some pictures thrown over the top which is why it doesn’t work at all. Also, you can see how Youtube compresses images so badly you can hardly recognise them.
What’s the hardest thing about creating an audio slide show?
A really good personal audio slideshow requires a relationship with your subject – so you need to spend days with them, without a mic or camera, just gaining their trust. Then, when you do record, they’re far more revealing. Sadly, most people skip over that part.
And finally, what is your favourite sound? Yes, we saved the hard hitting questions for the end.
No one’s ever asked me that before! This will probably come across as pretentious but my favourite sound is probably the opening chord of Fantasia On A Theme by Ralph Vaughan-Williams. It only lasts 3 seconds but sends a shiver down my spine every time.
So there you have it. Goodbye dodgy power point presentations and holiday snaps, hello to a cohesion of intimate imagery and poignant narration. I’m still quite keen on Piwaf though. Might try and spread it about a bit, see if it catches on…