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ABJ 1st Assessment

Since I was acting as Technical Producer for the Radio Broadcast, my job didn’t begin until all the stories were in.  I knew that whilst the field reporters were going through the hard slog I had it easy, but I also knew that once the stories were in it would mean my stress levels would be going into overdrive.  The reason for this is a program called NewsBoss.

Taken from the NewsBoss website:

“NewsBoss is a capable, easy to use newsroom automation system designed especially for radio news production and presentation.  It’s a complete solution for any radio newsroom, with all the features you need to produce great sounding news.

Designed For Radio from the ground up, NewsBoss offers a superior workflow model.  The collaborative nature of NewsBoss enables simultaneous instant access to all news updates and scripts by every member of the news team, ensuring swift and accurate news delivery during breaking news events.

Flexibility enables NewsBoss to fit your newsroom operation, not the other way around. NewsBoss can be adapted to fit the needs of commercial, national, public and community broadcasters. Work the way you want with NewsBoss to produce quality news every time.”

Now NewsBoss is a pretty simple program to use, but having only met with it once before, I was going in pretty green.  I went into the Labs early on a morning to give myself plenty of time to get used to Newsboss and it took me until 3pm before I actually started getting things to work for me.  Like so much software, there are some finicky things in Newsboss that require the method of “If I do this…this happens.  So if I do this….”

So after spending about 5 hours (embarrassing) I had it down and went about arranging the stories in order, attaching scripts for the presenters attaching the audio files for the stories and inserting the music tracks.

NewsBoss is what most of the main radio news broadcasters use and so its a good feeling to know that I have a firm grasp on what it takes to use this program.  I think it will still take many more moons before I really know the program inside out, but for now I’m happy.

So I’d finally finished, dreams of Hoegaarden beers and maybe a few CC and dry’s as dessert entered my mind, then came word from the Executive Producer that the scripts would have to be edited.  Queue stress levels to climb a notch higher.  I pored through the entire script, amending as I went and finished that night.  As there was still another story waiting to come in, I knew it was going to be an early morning the next day, as the live broadcast was at 10:30am.

Next morning came, the last story came in, uploaded it into NewsBoss and away we went for the live broadcast.  As we were about to go to air, we were notified that there were to be some adverts for some competitions being run at Uni.  As we had our program down to a perfect 30 minutes, this threw a spanner in the works.  For the next five minutes, the Executive Producer and I frantically worked out how were going to cut 2 minutes out of the program to fit in the adverts.  In the end we had to find a clean out point in the middle of a story and shorten the live interview.

So off we went.  I won’t go into details about the show as it will be much better to just listen to how it went and when the broadcast is available, I will upload it here, so stay tuned.

ABJ Radio Broadcast

I’ve realised that I havn’t blogged about my other Journalism unit, Advance Broadcast Journalism, and it is feeling a little left out.  This semester has been a really interesting one, with a lot of exciting assessments.  First up was a radio broadcast.

For the Radio broadcast assessment, we had to work in teams of 4-6 reporters/producers to produce a ½ hour radio program focused on a theme of our choice, with an emphasis on news and current affairs.  The program had to comprise of 30 minutes of current affairs.
We were assigned roles within our teams (presenter, field reporter, news executive producer, interviewer, current affairs reporter/producer, program executive producer, technical producer).  My ultimate aim is to do pieces on my lonesome, so I like to get to know the techy side of producing journalistic pieces.  As such, I chose to be the Technical Producer for our program.
The program was to be a mix of current affairs stories: field interviews; packages; at least one live studio interview and a maximum of 2 music tracks (which could not breach copyright of course!)  Luckily, I have a very talented group of friends and so I was able to use some of their music on the program.   The band is Sista Loops and the Moh Scale – Island Flava and I would upload it, however it would cost me money, and money is something I don’t have a lot of, so you will have to take my word for it.

The program as a whole had to explain issues, deepen knowledge, engage listeners, inform in an entertaining manner and use a range of natural sounds and effects. Wherever possible, the content had to be either in studio or recorded face-to-face in the field – minimising the reliance on phone interviews in the interests of maximising the power of the audio.

Next installment will detail how it all went down.

Multimedia Slideshow Photos

Hiring a quality camera for our project, unfortunately, proved to be impossible.  When I went to the equipment office, I was told that we would be better off using our camera phones to take photos, as there were no DSLR cameras that students in Online News could hire.   It was explained that the DSLR cameras could only be hired out by Design students.  This was very disappointing, as this project would rely on the strength of our images.

Luckily one of our team members, Xiyue Cao, had a Nikon D3100, capable of taking high quality images

Xiyue proved to be a very talented photographer, and here is a sample of her work:

As you can see the quality is excellent.  I can’t wait to see what we can do with them for the slideshow.

Multimedia Slideshow Interviews and Audio

The team has completed the picture and sound taking portion of the assignment.  It went really well with a few lessons learned.

We hired M-Audio sound recorders for recording atmosphere and interviews with people.  “The M-Audio MicroTrack II is one of those devices I wish I’d had ten years ago — it’s portable, lightweight, runs on a great-capacity internal battery, and records in great quality, up to 24-bit, 96-kHz. There’s a few issues that I wish would be addressed in a future model, but compared to the original MicroTrack, the MicroTrack II is a great recorder for both working musicians wanting a quick way to record their material, or an audio pro needing a recorder.”  It was incredibly easy to use the recorder, and this helped make the whole process a whole lot easier for everyone.  We got a lot of great sound bites to use and it opens up a whole range of possibilities for our project.

Interviewing Stasia was an interesting process.  She was very welcoming, however, after answering one question it was almost as if she became a bit shy and would ask me to stop recording.  At first I was very confused, as she has been interviewed before, but I quickly realised that her behaviour was that of someone who was embarrassed by the attention she gets for doing work that comes naturally too her.  Stasia does charity work because it is who she is, and she believes that the amazing work she does isn’t anything special, as it is second nature to her.

I ended up giving Amy the M Audio, as Amy and Stasia have known each other for some time, and the result was immediate, with Stasia relaxing around Amy and opening up a lot.  Between serving up generous servings of soup (which was the most amazing soup I have ever tasted), she took quite alot of time to answer questions about her life, how she got into charity work, why she got into work, and what keeps her motivated.

I have been attempting to upload the audio, so once I have figured it out I will show an example.

Multimedia Slideshow: Stasia

I have been speaking for some time about my Online News Project and we decided that we were going to base our project on Stasia Dabrowski.

Stasia Dabrowski was born in the southern mountains of Poland in 1926. During the occupation of Poland in WWII her family’s lives were devastated — she lost everything and was driven into forced labour. After WWII she worked as a nurse and matron before moving to Australia with her husband and young family.

As her qualifications were not recognised in Australia she did voluntary house cleaning and emergency services for the Red Cross, looking after the bedridden and needy. She started cooking and providing essentials for the needy in the late 1970s, the start of the Soup Kitchen.

Stasia is an 85 year old woman who for the last 30 years has run a soup kitchen in Civic, ACT, providing hot soup, bread, drinks, clothes and blankets to the homeless and needy of Canberra.   For nine years she raised the funds herself to purchase ingredients for the soup kitchen.  Nowadays, local businesses provide their excess stock for Stasia to use, but she still gets up early each Thursday and Friday morning to purchase the ingredients, then heads home to spend all morning preparing the soup.  Then in the afternoon she heads into Civic to serve the soup to the needy.

We hope to show people the work she is doing and we think this will be most effective by using a multimedia slide show that consists of using photo slides and a musical backing.

Multimedia Slideshow: Production Ideas

Searching for production ideas for the project has produced a few gems of advice.  There are many ways of editing the footage and/or the still images to produce a multimedia slide show.

Soundslides, an audio slideshow production program that helped transition many newspaper photojournalists into the world of online multimedia. Final Cut Pro, a fantastic program exclusive to Apple, and Adobe Premier Pro, an editing program for PC’s.

For this assessment, Final Cut Pro will be used because for editing purposes I am most familiar with using Final Cut Pro.  I have used it extensively for years now, and it is most certainly the sort of program that you need to learn the ins and outs of to bring out the best in your projects.  I have stumbled upon some excellent advice on using video editors for editing multimedia slide shows and I will suing this advice for our project:

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 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.
  • 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.

Multimedia Slideshow: Inspiration

The subject of a multimedia slide show project was briefly touched upon a few weeks ago.  Since then, I have been glued to duckrabbit.com for inspiration for this project.  All I can say is I hope that I can take something from the amazing short multimedia slides I have seen.  What makes these videos so exciting is the way they can make one feel in just the few minutes that they run.  The fact that anything can be so engaging with only a few minutes to engage with the audience is testament to the power that these incredibly short films possess.

A back story to this multimedia slide show provided from Gerard Prunier’s excellent book on the War in the DRC, “Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe.”:

A fatal combination long primed this vast country for bloodshed. It is wildly rich in gold, diamonds, coltan, uranium, timber, tin and more. At the same time, after 32 years of being stripped bare by the American-backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, it became the largest territory on earth with essentially no functioning ­government.

Then it was as if waves of gasoline were poured onto the tinder. When the Hutu regime that had just carried out the genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsis was overthrown in 1994, well over a million Hutu fled into eastern Congo, then known as Zaire. These included both the génocidaires and their defeated army (the abandoned armored car in Bunia was theirs) as well as hundreds of thousands of Hutu who had not killed anyone but who feared reprisals at the hands of the Tutsis now running Rwanda.

In their militarized refugee camps, the génocidaires rearmed and began staging raids on Rwanda. To try to put a stop to this and install a friendly regime in the huge country next door, Rwanda, along with Congolese rebel allies, invaded its neighbor in 1996 in what is known as the “first war.” Mobutu’s kleptocracy in Kinshasa rapidly crumbled; the dictator fled overseas and died a few months later. Laurent Kabila, a portly veteran of some years as a rebel in the bush and many more as a shady businessman in exile, now found himself leader of a Congo where almost all public services had collapsed. He was not the man to fix them. Stearns gives a vivid anecdotal picture of Kabila as someone far out of his depth, trying to run a government by literally turning his house into the treasury, with thick wads of bills stashed in a toilet ­cubicle.

Kabila soon parted ways with his Rwandan backers. Then came the “second war”: an invasion by Rwanda and its ally Uganda in 1998. They failed to overthrow Kabila, however, because, dangling political favors and lucrative business deals, he enlisted military help from several other countries, principally Angola and Zimbabwe. A few years later he was assassinated and succeeded by his son Joseph. Eventually, a series of shaky peace deals ended much of the fighting.  Like layers of an onion, the Congo war contains wars within wars.  For example, Uganda and Rwanda fell out badly with each other and fought on Congo soil. Each country then backed rival sets of brutal Congolese warlords who sprang up in the country’s lawless, mineral-rich east. And when Rwanda’s Hutu-Tutsi conflict spilled over the border, it fatally inflamed complex, longstanding tensions between Congolese Tutsis and other ethnic groups. This is merely the beginning of the list.

It is undoubtably the horrifying tale that this story tells that has the most impact.  What has happened to these children is abhorrent and to be honest, sickening.  When you read of atrocities such as these, it seems that, most likely as a subconscious measure, the reader separates themselves from what they are reading about.  No one would ever want to experience what these people have gone through, and when one is reading about such acts in the safe clutches of Australian suburbia, it is only natural that one would want to separate themselves from such despair, as it is easy to do so when forced to use imagination to conjure images of these atrocities.

However, it is not so easy to shut oneself out when viewing this multimedia slide show.

The still images as opposed to video, make it feel as if the viewer is catching a moment in time that may have slipped by had it been a video recording, or told through print.  The drawings from the children are so innocent, as all children’s drawings are, however, once the viewer realises what they are seeing is the artistic renderings of what these children have gone through, it really hits home.  The fact that such a colourful image, drawn with crayon in the hands of a child, is actually a picture of  a child remembering what he was forced to do to people is hard to watch, but this could not be conveyed nearly as well through print or video.  The images are so strong and vivid and this, coupled with the emotive music, is what really makes this devastating, but necessary viewing.    If more of these sorts of slide shows were produced, perhaps the world would take notice of the war that is the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, so far killing more than 6 million people.

It is on this style of multimedia slide show that our team will model our project on, and hopefully produce something that will leave its mark as this piece of work has done for us.