Category Archives: Equipment

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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Ten tips for recording audio

Ten things to think about before you record any audio and whilst the recording is going on. These also apply when recording video footage where you will use the audio..

1. Brief your interviewees so they know what to expect

2. Choose your location carefully: background noises can ruin your interview

3. BUT  can also get across a particular place if done right so experiment

4. Record any interesting sounds that you might use later to switch between interviewees/ show that time has moved on

5. With intros and voiceovers (which can be recorded later) make sure you set the scene

6. INCLUDE THE QUESTION IN YOUR ANSWER IF YOU ARE GOING TO EDIT YOURSELF OUT

7. Get used to not interrupting – this is harder than it sounds

8. Don’t try to trick the listener with subtle editing. There’s nothing wrong with a few ‘um’s from your interviewee. If they are listening to your clip on headphones, they’re more likely to hear if you’ve edited the audio.

9. Get an external mic/spoffle to reduce the ‘pop’ of talking

10. A digital dictaphone is best, but if you’re stuck with nothing else your smartphone will probably do.

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Filed under Audio editing, Equipment, Uncategorized

Hello, Audacity

I keep hearing about Audacity so I thought I’d put up some links as a quick introduction for any audio-fans who, like me, have never used it. As ever, if you have any tips to help with future experiments in audio editing let us know.

Audacity is a free audio recorder and editor – find the site here and download the software for free. For audio journalists the most useful tools on Audacity are that you can: record live audio, edit MP3 files, cut and copy sounds, fade the volume up or down and remove static/hiss/hum and other background noises. It runs on Mac OS X, Window and GNU/Linux.

Audacity is opensource – their latest version is 1.3.12 and they also have a Wiki page where users can post and read tutorials, tips and troubleshooting help. These include everything from How to set up an ad hoc recording studio to  Making Ringtones. Also highlighted is the very thorough The Audacity To Podcast– a regular audio podcast about audio podcasting (with a focus on using Audacity).

I don’t think we’re quite up to removing noise and recording more than one podcast host so let’s take a step back.

After my success being talked through making an audio slideshow on iMovie by a kind American on YouTube, I thought I’d find a simple and straightforward tutorial for Audacity. The most obvious starting point would be to make podcast-grade audio material so here’s six minutes on how to do just that.

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Filed under Equipment, Podcasts

How to make an audio slideshow using iPhone voice memo and iMovie

Phew. Ok I just made an audio slideshow – I think, I hope.

Let’s begin at the beginning. I took some audio footage of a salon catwalk show at London Fashion Week last week. It was the Craig Lawrence A/W 2011 show which took place in Somerset House’s Portico Rooms on Saturday 19th February (9-11am). This designer is known for his craftmanship with knitwear so they chose to forego music and instead have a member of Lawrence’s team describe the materials and techniques used in each piece. My images are from Craig Lawrence’s Designer Profile on the London Fashion Week website.

I recorded the footage with my iPhone 4 using Voice Memos which comes as standard and can be found in ‘Utilities’. I have cut down the audio to seven looks (Looks Two to Eight) to avoid it getting boring for anyone not in love with knitwear. One minor fault already is that I only decided to start recording after I realised their strategy – half way through Look One.

After browsing through some posts I saw that publications often use Final Cut Pro to produce audio slideshows. Since I don’t have this software, I used iMovie which is also recommended. I didn’t flail into the audio slideshow unknown blindly though – I used an instruction video on vimeo.com to guide me – How to make an Audio Slideshow on iMovie – what a way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

If you are really impatient – here are the most important bits:

1. Open up iMovie. Save your images into a folder or onto your desktop and drag them into the project box. Single click to drag images and re-order them. Hovering over the images acts as rewinding and fast-forwarding whereas pressing the space bar is ‘Play’.

2. Drag your audio into the project box. When dragging it in you can choose which frame to start the audio on, and slide it around. Your audio will only run to the total length of your photos so double click on each image to change the number of seconds it stays on screen.You will have to listen to your audio a few times and note down the place each time you want to switch images – bear in mind any transitions you might put in too when matching your images to the audio (see point 6)

3. The toolbar below the preview pane has some useful tricks. The microphone is to record live voiceovers as you watch the images. If you add voiceovers, any music audio that you have already added with helpfully fade out.I didn’t have to record a voiceover because my original audio was just that.

4. The crop tool is also essential – images are set to the Ken Burns effect which zooms in on the image. However as my images were all models – i.e. portrait shots – I chose to click on Crop then choose Fit in order for the whole image to be seen. This means I have black bars at either side of my images but this can’t be helped when you’re using portrait shots.

5. The ‘T’ is for titles. Choose the title type you want, drag it to (usually) before your first frame where it will ask you to choose a background. I went for Pixie Dust because I couldn’t resist with the Industrial background. To change your text, click on the blue bar above the title frame and then type in the preview pane on the right hand side. Pixie Dust was one of the titles with locked in fonts so I couldn’t change the font but sometimes you can.

6. The rectangle cut into triangles is the Transitions button. Click on this to view different transitions you can use between images. I chose Cube and Fade To Black at alternates because I felt some of the others were too flashy for my material. I double clicked on these transitions once I’d placed them and lengthened them for 0.4seconds to 1second each – this is subjective of course.

7. To get it onto WordPress when I’d finished. I clicked on Share in the iMovie toolbar and chose YouTube – here you just pop in your YouTube username and password and select the file size etc. Then I inserted the video as usual into WordPress by entering the YouTube URL. Easy.

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Filed under Audio Slideshows, Equipment

The Art of Interviewing for Audio

While I would never want to be without my trustee Dictaphone, there are few things more likely to make me cringe than listening back to my recorded interviews. Who’s that squeaky five-year-old Northerner trying to ask grown-up questions? I always wonder.  In my head, my voice sounds about an octave lower and I’m speaking the Queen’s English.

But worse than this, is the discovery that I sound like a bumbling fool. Asking the same question in about five different verbose ways seems to be one of my special skills. Thank god I’m a print journalist.

But of course not everyone can get away with such interview verbal diarrhoea and those who work in audio journalism, or like me would like to at least become reasonably accomplished in the field, have to learn the art of concise, direct questioning. As any journalist who has ever been given precisely 30 seconds of an important person’s time will attest to, this is also a rather important skill for any journalist.

The trick, if listening to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour has taught me anything, is to make it all sound very easy and relaxed. And not to panic if there’s a silence and  fill it with inane babbling.

This is much easier said than done though. Literally:  saying something is often much more comfortable than leaving a silence. So I thought I would ask someone who has experience staying calm in front of a microphone for some top tips. Steve Peiris hosts the talk show Talk Hamburg in Germany and I pounced upon the poor chap in the City journalism department. The reasons for this interview were three fold: to get some tips from him, to practice my interviewing technique, and to get to grips with editing and embedding a sound file in this blog.

You may find this hard to believe once you’ve listened to the interview,  but I was actually trying to be less bumbly than usual. The difference in the pace and clarity of our two voices provides at least I hope a stark tutorial on how to and how not to do it. Steve hadn’t prepared any of his answers but still managed to achieve a clear, calm delivery.

Have a listen to the master…

The main thing I learnt from this was to prepare written questions beforehand and STICK TO THEM. Obviously this is always quite a good rule of thumb but matters even more here, where a bit more structure to my questions would have vastly improved this impromptu interview. And of course editing questions out is always an option- Steve was such a pro that most of the time he automatically restated the question in his answer (most interviewees might need to be asked to do this). For this to work I would have had to resist umming in agreement with his answers. Again, weirdly easier said than done.

To record the interview I used my Olympus VN-8700PC Dictaphone and then used Adobe Audition to edit it slightly (that’s right, there was even more bumble in there to start with). I then converted the file from a Windows Media Audio file to an MP3 using Switch Sound File Converter downloaded from the internet. Then I converted this to a SoundCloud which could be embedded in this blog.

I struggled particularly with Adobe Audition and couldn’t find any simple tutorials online to help me out. Does anyone know of any?

Stay tuned for my guide to using these programmes… once I’ve properly got to grips with them myself of course…

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Filed under Equipment, Interviews, Radio

Tips from a start out multimedia journalist

Perry

We spoke to audio journalism fanatic Perry Santanachote who has been working as a multimedia journalist for two years in the US. She gives her essential equipment, Do’s and Don’ts and favourite podcasts and slideshows.

How long have you been working in multimedia?
I have been a multimedia journalist for two years.
What equipment do you have – what are your essentials?
For audio I use a Marantz PMD660 with a cardioid microphone and Sony MDR7509 headphones. I always carry a shotgun mic with a dead cat too, just in case the room is noisy or the wind’s blowing. I have a smaller Marantz 620 in my purse at all times. For photos I use a Canon EOS Rebel XTi. And I am addicted to my Sigma 18-50 mm MACRO lens.
A Flip cam is also always in my purse and has come in handy on several occasions.

What can audio journalism do that nothing else can?
Audio journalism encourages imagination like no other medium. In that sense, it’s actually the most visual form of storytelling. Ambient sound has the power to transport listeners and paint a vivid scene in a way that a photo alone can’t. And on the web, audio provides the narrative spine necessary for linear multimedia production.

Do you have any favourite audio journalists or pieces of work?
Do you listen to any podcasts – what are your favourites? 

  • On the Media
  • The Moth
  • Radio Diaries
  • World Vision Report
  • Public Radio Exchange
  • Transom
  • Third Coast International Audio Festival

 

Finally, what are your Do’s and Don’ts for producing audio journalism?
DO transcribe.
DO use short, neutral and open-ended questions.
DO always ask “how” and “why.”
DO know when to shut up and engage with your eyes.
DO wear headphones. Ear buds won’t do.
DON’T ever record in a gymnasium or a hallway.
DON’T forget to pack extra batteries.
DON’T waste time. Pre-interview and tell the interviewee exactly what you need.
DON’T produce a story if the character’s a bore. Ninety-nine percent of a good audio story is a good character.

Check out Perry’s website at http://perrysantanachote.com/

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Filed under Audio Slideshows, Equipment, Interviews, Podcasts