Tag Archives: podcast

Using voice memo to rescue an interview

Between Christmas and New Year I had the pleasure of chatting with physiotherapist Alastair Greetham about the potential impact of mobile phone use on our health, particularly in relation to my own personal case as a mobile journalist, someone with terrible posture and a recurring need to see an osteopath to offset my symptoms.

I chatted for over an hour with Alastair but only managed to record the first five minutes (damn you, mobile phone and lapel mic) and in an attempt to remember as much as possible about what he said, I recorded this voice memo during the drive home.

So this is a warts and all recording, attempting to recall the interview while driving and trying to remember the way home. No editing has been done – this is 100% authentic panic interview recall. This research forms part of my MA in Online Journalism and focus on mobile journalism, in particular.

You can read the full interview – undertaken as research as part of my MA in Online Journalism – soon, and I’ll also be recording a video session with Alistair to physically show some of the open/closed postural movements I talk about in this audio recording.

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The ‘talking head’

“We need more dynamic content” someone shouts across the office. Okay, there’s no shouting, but content that speaks – literally – is increasingly being used to engage audiences. But why choose video, or even audio, over an online article, for example?

What’s to be got from sticking a camera in someone’s face and asking them questions? Is the visual of a talking head so much more inspiring than their words on a website or in a newspaper?

Well, actually, yes. It does indeed depend on what the person you’re interviewing/talking to has to say. If they’re telling you about an update to the local bus timetable, a two-par filler will do. If an academic expert on conspiracy theories is explaining the different between a conspiracy theory and an actual conspiracy, it’s undoubtedly more engaging to listen/watch the explanation than to read it.

Here’s a couple of examples, all with minimal or no production…

Lisa Mclean on the breast cancer patient she thinks about every day

Jill Reynolds’ interview with her 82-year-old self – a simple but effective idea!

Darren Rose, of Problogger, says the benefits of a talking head video on a blog is four-fold – it creates a personal connection with your readers and a good first impression; it engages with a different kind of person over a written post (brings out the lurkers!); lends itself very well to teaching and learning to allow people to visualise what you’re talking about/explaining. Video and text is an effective combination, he says, and can lead to higher conversions.

But if you have two people talking, two talking heads, flitting between those heads might not work so well and you don’t want to lose your audience to sea sickness. So maybe a podcast? This example is two people, who’ve produced a report on bisexuality, talking about it. There’s no visual element and two taling heads wouldn’t work so well but there’s chemistry between these two, they bounce of each other with no prompting and it makes for an engaging podcats, again with minimal editing.

What do you make of the ‘talking head’?

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Tips for Tuesday: Editing with Audacity (for beginners)

Audacity logoI had a tinkle with Audacity at the weekend, described by Mark S. Luckie as “one of the most popular audio editing tools among journalists” in The Digital Journalist’s Handbook. So, here are some very basic pointers which might prove useful to newbies. In fact, they’ll be applicable to editing using other editing tools too (but the great thing about Audacity is that it’s free)…

1) Do take a look at a mini tutorial before you frustrate the hell out of yourself (like I did) by trying to just get stuck in there. This one by Mindy McAdams is quick, easy to follow and will set you on the straight an narrow without adding any extra frown lines.

2) Do have a listen to your audio all the way through, before you start editing. Make a note of the sections you want to cut and/or keep which will make editing easier when you come to it. When I started out I was keen to rush in and make my finished product asap but you’ll get a better result if you take some time over it and do it properly.

3)  When you’ve cut a clip, check that it’s cut the bit you want. Play it back and make sure you’re happy. Just as you’d proof read an article, audio needs proofing too and sometimes you manage to cut the bit you want to keep or keep the bit you want to cut. Replaying every time you edit something will help. I edited with headphones on because I found it less distracting but don’t be afraid to shut yourself away in a quiet room and crank up the volume.

4)  Practice good housekeeping and keep all your audio files in one place, stored in clearly labeled folders. That way you’ll have easy access to original and edited clips should you ever need to refer to them, and you’re less likely to lose them/accidentally delete them if than if they’re just sitting idle on your desktop. And save your project before you’ve begun, always making sure you’ve got a copy of the original file somewhere. If you make a mistake and want to start over, having the original file is going to prove very useful!

5) That squiggly line in the middle of the screen is called a waveform and I quickly found it easier to edit my audio clips by looking at the waveform and recognising the patterns.

6) Don’t edit out every erm, ah and pause. I tried this and it made my interviewee sound a tad robotic, like I’d edited away all the personality

To find out more about Audacity, check out the forums. To find out more about audio editing, take a look at The Journalist’s Toolkit on audio resources.

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An interview with Roger Stotesbury from video production company Jump Off The Screen…

I had the pleasure of catching up with Roger Stotesbury from Milton Keynes video production company Jump Off The Screen about the ins and outs of video this week – and I got sandwiches and coffee to boot, bonus! More about that coffee later…

Listen to this podcast in which Roger talks about the power of audio, filming in pairs and getting the right shots…

And here’s some more of what he had to say… (note the audio would have been longer if I hadn’t experienced technical problems, i.e the recorder app on the iPhone stopping after 10 minutes, grrr). And if you’re dead keen to find out about that coffee, scroll to the podcast at the bottom of this post.

The power of audio

Roger creates videos but says the audio element is the most important: if you have bad audio you have a bad video and it’s very difficult to ‘touch up’ sound like you can with visuals, he says.

‘A microphone is an important strategy for sound’

“These days any portable camera captures quality footage, including mobile devices, but while why they can perform visually most have tiny microphones so the sound quality isn’t there. A microphone is an important strategy for sound.”

When choosing a camera, he says, it’s less about filming (they all do a great job) and more about their audio capability which you might need to support with extra microphones.

If you miss scenes there are things you can do to fill the gap, but if you miss the audio it’s a disaster.

Pair up

There is so much to do and think about when creating good video so doing it in pairs helps. You can do it yourself, and this can have advantages, such as creating a more intimate atmosphere/interview, but pairs works well to help distribute the workload so mistakes aren’t made. Too many people, however, and it won’t work – and never have more than three involved, says Roger.

Here’s a video Roger shot alone, managing to film and get the interviewees to look at him, just to the side of the camera, at the same time. This takes a bit of manouvring if you have a large camera! He confesses to getting the camera angle slightly wrong with one lady who’s looking up at him, rather than at the level of the camera. “Both me and the camera should be at eye level to get this right,” he says.

Trial and error

Making good videos is all about trying things, and learning from your mistakes.

For example, experimenting with where the interviewee is positioned and who they’re talking to. In one video, Roger tried a “look directly at the camera” approach for main players delivering the key messages and a “look slightly to the side” approach for the other contributors. Here, he’s using a “look at the camera” approach to create a different style of video.

Both are fine but, as a rule, Roger suggests the interviewee looks lightly off camera and not down the lens.

Let the interviewee be in control

Putting the interviewee in control helps make for a better interview, says Roger, even if you’re just letting them think they’re in control.

“Ask them which is their favourite chair and get them to start there; you may have to move them if it doesn’t work but it hands an element of control over to the interviewee and they’re more relaxed if they feel in control.”

Chat to the interviewee before hand to warm them up but don’t discuss the subject of the interview or you risk their best quotes could be lost before you’ve had chance to press record. Ask easy questions first, as a rule, and build up to the more difficult ones.


Roger uses a Sony EX3 but fancies a Canon C300 next. He says any DSLR camera/recorder will do a great job visually as long as you can come up with a fix for sound. “For good video the audio is important, the camera less so. It’s more to do with the questions, access and relationships,” he says.

When it comes to editing, Jump Off The Screen staff use Final Cut Pro but Roger says Apple have “dummed down” the latest version, which is more like an iMove Plus. “For that reason we’ll probably have to move to Adobe Premier or Avid, most likely Adobe which has a very similar interface to Final Cut and is easy to use.”

Loud coffee

Oh, and that coffee we had? Here’s why it’s best not to brew and drink coffee during and audio interview… it’s a tad loud!


Huge thanks to Roger for making the time to speak to me, for the guided tour of the studio – and for the sandwiches and coffee!

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From print to multimedia: some video and audio lessons learned

Here’s a little podcast focusing on my move from print to multimedia, the similarities, the differences and a few lessons learned along the way…


I used the Recorder Pro app on my iPhone to record my podcast and I did it in one take, with rough notes in front of me to help me focus when I lost my trail of thought (the fact the dog was scratching at the door to get in didn’t really help).

I’d usually use AudioBoo for this sort of thing but in the name of experimentation I used Recorder Pro. After a bit of faffing and wondering how on earth I was going to email a 74mb file to myself (huge!) I realised I could sync my phone and computer and download the file direct, simples! I also have the option to record in different formats to reduce file size; this time around I chose wav. And I can email files or email links to files, so lots of options.

Once I’d downloaded the file I imported it into Audacity, played it through and attempted to tidy it up a bit with a few edits.

Getting to grips with Audacity took a while and I had to download the LAME encoder to be able to export as an MP3 files. I lost patience with Audacity, it’s been a while since I last used it, and found it frustrating and not particularly intuitive to use – so tips welcome!

Had I been at work I’d have used Final Cut Express which I find much easier  to ise but I don’t have this installed on my personal laptop. So I decided to sod editing out all the erms and pauses, export the file as an MP3 to make it much smaller and therefore quicker to upload to Soundcloud.

I then exported the file and imported it into SoundCloud with some links..

So, the content’s there but there are too many pauses and erms and I clearly lose my trail of thought when the dog starts scratching at the office door, probably wondering why I’m talking to myself. I’d like to tidy the audio up, make it tighter and shorter, and like my BCU classmate Franzi, it would be cool to add some relevant links to support what I’m saying.

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