Stay Safe on Bonfire Night is an audio slideshow podcast, which aims to promote firework safety through an educational interview with Clare Hesselwood of the West-Yorkshire Fire Service.
In order to produce an effective and professional audio slideshow I’ll be utilising some of the features available in Adobe After Effects, such as titles, transitions and in-frame panning.
I want to make sure that my slideshow is unique, memorable and clearly linked to the audio, which it illustrates. There are a few methods and techniques I’ve used to do this. For example, the intro and outro feature video shot at the Roundhay park firework display. To the best of my ability I have synced the exploding fireworks to the firework sound effects I have used to give a seamless join between what the viewer sees and hears. The artistic choice to use out of focus video creates a visually appealing ‘bokeh’ effect with the fireworks, whilst ensuring that the visuals do not distract from the title and credits.
The font I have used throughout is professional and fitting with the overall tone of the podcast. Further to this, I have used a slow fade in / out transition on the text.
I was keen to embrace techniques, which would add visual interest, but was mindful not to overuse these and cheapen the final product. In-frame panning is one method in particular that adds a lot to my slideshow. It draws the viewer into the image and guides the eye to points of interest adding an almost videoesque quality to a static image. It was important, however, to keep the panning speed very slow as otherwise the technique loses its effect.
Overall, I feel that by utilising transitions, titles and effects, I have managed to take my audio slideshow to the next level. By applying these techniques sensibly I have been able to maintain a professional feel without the effects becoming overpowering and distracting. I’m very happy with the final product and feel that I have learnt a lot in its conception and production.
Adobe After Effects is the program we will be using to create the slideshow element of our audio slideshow podcasts. As I have previously used many of the Adobe creative suite products, including Adobe Premiere Pro, I am looking forward to using After Effects for the first time and learning what it can do in comparison to Adobe’s other similar programs.
It looks and feels very similar to Premiere Pro, but I have already started to notice some substantial differences. After Effects seems very much catered to special effects and 3D work, whereas Premiere Pro is a video editing program. Initially, I had major newbie issues with playback in AE, but found out that was just because the program must render every frame before it can play, something which works very differently in PP. A couple of really interesting tutorial websites, which are going to be a great help in learning the ropes in After Effects are Video Copilot and Creative Cow.
Despite the initial difficulties which I encountered with After Effects, I am happy that with a bit of work I will be able to take my images and video footage and turn them into a professional audio slideshow.
Last night was Bonfire Night, so to get material for my podcast, I took a dictaphone and camera to the public firework and bonfire display at Roundhay Park. As well as taking still images at the event, I also captured some video footage with the intention of utilising it as the intro and outro of my podcast. After the public display, myself and a few friends headed home with a couple of packets of sparklers. I created some more images, candid and constructed, which I intend to use in my slideshow. Particularly of note are the sparkler-drawn numbers 1-5, which I will be using to bullet point the top five ways to stay safe.
Over the weekend, I managed to record my part of the interview, which, hopefully, will not need to be changed after I have recorded the actual interview. I did this with the intention of saving myself time when I do have the interview recorded.
I have been in constant contact with the Fire Service via email over the weekend, and finally managed to arrange a meeting for this afternoon with Clare Hesselwood at Leeds fire station.
Update: The interview went very well and Clare answered all of my questions fully. With the benefit of hindsight, I have now learnt that in a recorded interview situation it is important to let the interviewee answer the question on their own and come to a stop before making any audible sound myself. This is because if you (the interviewer) speak in agreement it can be detrimental to the recording. Similarly, I have also learnt that it is best to let the interviewee answer the question fully with their train of thought, rather than ushering them in a certain direction. By doing this, I feel I will gain the best and most honest answer from a journalistic perspective.
Editing the audio has been a long process for such a short podcast. I have managed to cut down seven minutes of interview to less than two minutes. I have even made sure to cut out pauses, “erms” and other unnecessary artefacts to make the podcast as concise and pleasant to listen to as possible. During editing, I found that I was unhappy with the quality of the audio from Roundhay Park for a number of reasons (background music, crowd noise, clipping, etc), so I have downloaded free firework sound effects from the web and have used them in stead. I decided to let these run throughout the entire podcast as I felt it added more aural interest and gave the feeling that the interview could have been recorded at a firework display. To ensure that the audio did not become lost amongst the sound effects, I decided to pan my own voice moreso to the right channel, and Clare’s to the left. Whenever the speech switches between Clare and myself, the fireworks pan to the opposite channel, making good use of the stereo editing techniques we have learnt.
To add depth to the voice, I have used various editing techniques in Adobe Audition, such as De-Hiss, Noise Reduction, Parametric EQ (tweaking high and low), Loudness, Compression and Normalising.
I have recently been in contact with the West Yorkshire Fire Service about gaining an interview for my podcast. As we are in the build-up to Bonfire Night, the member of staff who deals with meetings like this is extremely busy and unable to help with my request until next week. I have found this pretty frustrating, but at the same time I understand why she is so busy at this time of year. Obviously, it is important to educate people on firework and bonfire safety in the run up to Bonfire Night and this is exactly why I chose to make my podcast on the subject.
At this point, my idea is to record a short interview around the topics of fire safety: injuries, dangers, tips to stay safe, etc. I will spend some time this week formulating my interview questions, which the Fire Service have requested in preparation for the meeting.
Today I continued to work on the audio interview that we recorded two weeks ago. As I struggled to find suitable free audio samples to add into the project, I began searching the web for new sample websites. I eventually found the majority of what I was looking for on SoundBible, SoundJax and Mp3Skull. For example, for our St George’s Park training facility story I found football whistle and crowd noise samples, and to bookend the interview I downloaded a typical radio news show intro/outro sample. Hopefully these samples will add a cheesy and comical, yet professional element to the project.
Later on in the class we went over how to master our final track in a couple of different ways. A master track will usually be produced by a professional studio with high quality monitor speakers. The producer will also alter the sound depending on the media it is destined for, e.g. vinyl, CD, tape, digital, etc. We will be mastering our own tracks as we won’t have the luxury of a professional studio, but I’m confident that I will be able to create a solid finished product with Adobe Audition and the skills I have acquired thus far. Mastering (Effects>Special>Mastering) is a fairly new, quick and easy option offered in Adobe Audition, which also encompasses levels manipulation. ‘Make Room for Vocals’ is an option we could look at implementing to adjust levels and provides a bigger vocal sound whilst mastering the track. I feel, however, that by using the EQ tools on individual tracks, I will be able to come up with a far more professional sounding and sufficiently beefy vocal. As I have mentioned in last week’s blog post, whilst editing the two vocals (my own and that of Phill Brown) from our interview it is important to apply individual adjustments for each person for the best result, so this will be my plan going forward.
Again we looked at the best settings to apply when it comes to mastering our finished tracks for online. Below are the optimum settings for this situation:
Sample Rate: 44100 Hz
Bit Depth: 16bit
Export > Mp3 320kbps – 192kbps
Having recorded and finally transferred our interview onto the computer last week, we are now beginning to edit the audio in Adobe audition with the skills we have been acquiring in the past few weeks. Firstly, I began editing the waveform by taking out unnecessary parts of the conversation, pauses in speech and obvious background noise. I did this either by simply deleting the unwanted parts of the file or by lowering the volume in certain places. Next I took the file into Multitrack mode and split the vocals onto separate tracks, so that my voice was on track 1 and Phill’s voice on track 2. I was then able to use the Parametric Equaliser on each of the voices separately to get the best out of both. As the voices were on different tracks I was also able to correct differences in volume and split them further into the left and right stereo channels to give a stronger impression that one of us was on the left and the other on the right of the listener. By doing this, I think the audio becomes far clearer and easier for the brain to take in and understand.
Feeling fairly happy with how the vocals were sounding, I began to source some music, which could be added around different parts of the interview to flesh the project out a bit more. I chose to download some tracks, which my friends and I had created over the past few years as part of their music production degrees. At this point I’ve not quite decided where they will go, but I’m looking forward to achieving a light-hearted, entertaining result with a professional glow. I’ll be implementing the use of the channels and fading in achieving this.
During today’s session we were required to make a sound recording of a staged interview using a dictaphone. This would provide us with a high quality sound recording, which we could then manipulate using Adobe Audition and the techniques learnt in previous weeks. Phill Brown and myself came up with a number of questions focused on current affairs. We tackled the opening of St George’s Park Football Centre of Excellence, Dr Lee Gray’s studies into social behaviour in lifts, The government’s recent decisions to award and retract the West Coast Main Line to FirstGroup over Virgin, and the abuse accusations being aimed at the late Sir Jimmy Savile.
The recording itself was somewhat of a nightmare. Firstly, it was difficult to find a quiet spot with no passing traffic and little ambient noise. Secondly, we found that actually recording on the device was not quite as straight forward as we had expected, and we ended up with a mere three seconds of actual recorded sound. Having re-recorded the whole interview we then had problems with getting the audio onto the computer, but eventually managing it after trying different combinations of usb cables and borrowed dictaphones. I’m fairly satisfied that these issues were all down to our own technical knowledge, or lack thereof, and we could run the whole thing a lot smoother in the future.
Towards the end of the session we imported our audio into Adobe Audition and began adjusting the sound, clipping unwanted pieces and adjusting the levels. Next week’s session will focus solely on preparing the audio for mix-down through further editing and music before uploading to the web.
Today’s Multiplatform Journalism class was again focused on Adobe audition and the editing techniques which we will need to create a professional sounding podcast. We were required to again download podcasts from the web, but this time use certain techniques to blend music and vocals on multitracks. As I had felt comfortable in the previous week I had actually already started doing this. I began looking for my previous week’s work, but couldn’t find it on the computer system. For some reason my work had been erased or lost due to the stupid system in place on the macs we use. Rubbish. Note to self: bring external memory in future.
I started a new session and again downloaded a couple of different podcasts containing music and vocals. I chose the same ones as I had used last week, but also downloaded a few free music samples from FlashKit. We were tasked with editing the levels, bass and treble through ENCN (EQ, Normalize, Compress, Normalize). We also had a look at some of the effects that can be applied to audio. Phaser, Flanger, Pitch adjustments and Echo were the ones I investigated most. Although I can see uses for these effects, I cannot see them being quite as useful on the vocals in my particular podcast, which will be dealing with quite a serious issue. However, I have no doubt that I will be using the ENCN process on most, if not all of the vocals in my podcast as it adds real depth and clarity to the audio, making it much more enjoyable and professional.