Sample Audio Documentary Project

This is a project in which you may work alone or with a partner. If you work with a partner you will need to document who did what. In either case, you must braid together AT LEAST TWO DIFFERENT INTERVIEWS into a documentary short of 4-5 minutes. The different interviews can be ANY from the pool of interviews done by students in our class this quarter, including your own. The audio documentary must have a beginning, middle and end. It must thematically link the 2-3 different interviews conducted by one of your classmates for the 1500 Stories project. This assignment has three purposes: 1) to give you a chance to develop and practice your editing and interview analysis skills, 2) to use what we have been learning about in class to identify key themes across different interviews and develop key points about them, and 3) to express those ideas in audio or visual form and share them with a wider audience. Your goal in this documentary is to tell a story about people’s experiences of class and/or class inequality using at least two different interviews. A great overall resource about both the technical and storytelling aspects of radio documentaries can be found at http://transom.org/.

Step 1: Decide which interviews you will use for your documentary.

Use the Catalyst forum of soundbite transcripts to identify at least two interviews to use for your documentary. You could choose to compare and contrast or instead to look for points of overlap and connection. Once you have made this decision, find the folks who did the interviews and get the audio files from them.

Step 2: Learn and take tutorials about how to use Audacity (or whatever other editing software you will use).

If you are doing a radio documentary, you should download the free open-source sound editing software called Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) which is available for both Mac and PCs. (Mac users familiar with Garageband could use that instead—I just won’t be able to help you much). I have posted many links and tutorials about Audacity in the Audio Documentaries box on Catalyst. Also, try asking around in class because your classmates be able to help. Everyone will also need to download the free LAME and FFmpeg library plug-ins in order to work with the most common audio files your phones use; you can find that download here: (http://manual.audacityteam.org/o/man/faq_installation_and_plug_ins.html#ffdown). These will allow you to import and export almost all file types you might be using. Both of these links are also posted on Catalyst.

Step 3: Import or ingest the interview recordings into Audacity.

Once you have gotten comfortable with the software, start a new project in your software and upload all of the recordings you will be using. Be sure to save your project and make backup copies. You will click on “File” and then scroll down to “Import” to import audio. You can find many free tutorials online about how to use Audacity and here are two good starting points: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/Category:Tutorial and http://www.freeaudacitytutorials.com/category/beginner-tutorials/.

Step 4: Look for the highlights, themes and story.

Read the soundbite transcripts for both interviews and listen to all of the audio recordings. Note what lines stand out to you. What lines link to ideas we have studied in class? What stories captivate your interest? Keep in mind quality considerations—it is crucial that your audience can HEAR your interviewees. It could be the most fascinating line ever but if we can’t hear it, you can’t use it. Make notations of minute markers for all of the juiciest sound bites or most interesting audio footage you will want to use. You will have WAY more footage than you need so you are looking to fill your 4-5 minutes only with the gems. Before you start editing, discuss what you think the beginning, middle and end should be. What is the story you want to tell in the documentary as a whole? What is the point you want to make about your interviews? What is sociologically interesting about them? What themes unites them? Consider how the 2-3 interviews will be woven together in your documentary. Your documentary should have an opening hook, such as a short, juicy quote from one of the interviews that captures a major theme you will focus on. The documentary should also have a thesis of some kind. One helpful approach to organizing the material as you listen is to think in terms of having 3 “paragraphs,” in the documentary, each with its own theme. Then you would weave together quotes from both interviews that parallel each other in some way on that same theme in each of the “paragraphs.”

Step 5: Edit a rough cut of the audio or radio documentary.

Using your notes from Step 4, assemble the highlights of your material into a rough cut of the documentary. Keep in mind that you cannot go over 5 minutes for your final audio documentary and leave at least 30-90 seconds for voiceover.

Step 6: Write and record your voiceover/narration.

Here is a useful link for writing audio narration: http://www.radionz.co.nz/assets/cms_uploads/000/000/016/Scripting_for_the_Radio_Documentary.pdf. You must use narration near the beginning and near the end. The audience will need to understand at every moment who is speaking and why. Your narration script will provide context, provide short cuts in someone’s story, introduce the speakers, and can be used to help you make your main points more clear. The narration must make clear WHO we will be hearing, what they do, and WHY we should care about what they have to say. Your narration will set up the story of the documentary and give us a way to understand how the 2-3 interviews relate to one another. You must mention the full names of the interviewees at least 3 times during the documentary. Also, if you are working with a partner, you should decide who will record the narration based on whose voice sounds best when recorded and who can read smoothly and with feeling. Practice the narration before you start recording. Record multiple takes of the narration so that you can edit the strongest elements into the documentary.

Step 7: Choose music for the documentary.

DO NOT VIOLATE COPYRIGHT PROTECTION. You may not use copyrighted music without a license. For this documentary, you must use music that falls under the Creative Commons 3.0 non-commercial license—which means that as long as you give attribution/credit to the musician in your end credits, you may use the music in your documentary. You can find this music at Creative Commons CCmixter (http://search.creativecommons.org/). You can put key words into the search bar for either the genre of music you might want or for the tone of the music (eg. sad, inspiring, etc.) and then you must click CCMixter in order to ensure that you are getting Creative Commons licensed music.

Step 8: Edit a final cut of the radio documentary.

This cut should be polished. It should include the names of each of your interviewees and must thank by full name those who conducted the interviews. It should have a title and end credits. Your end credits should include credits for your music as well as who did what in the production of the documentary. This cut will include your narration and music. The documentary must fall into the time limit of 4-5 minutes. Your project will be docked two full letter grades if you go over the 5 minute time limit or under the 3 minute time minimum. Make sure that you listen to it carefully before exporting the file. Unmute all tracks, make sure there is no dead air, and be sure to equalize the volume across all segments.

Step 9: Export your audio project into an MP3 or M4A file.

Your audio documentary isn’t complete until you export it. Your audio recording should be exported as an M4A or MP3 file. Label the file your lastnamefirstname_documentary.m4a (or mp3). If you worked with a partner, be sure to include the both names label/file name for your documentary. For example, if I were turning in a documentary, it would be labeled: myhrejen_documentary.m4a. YOU CANNOT SUBMIT AN .AUP FILE—YOU MUST EXPORT. The .aup file is a project file that will only work on the computer where the project folder lives. The project is not complete until you have exported it into an audio file.

Step 10: E-mail your audio file to {the teacher by due date}.

You will then e-mail me this as an attachment (or get it to me electronically through Dropbox or Google docs or some other way). Your assignment is not complete until you have received a confirmation e-mail from me that verifies that I have successfully downloaded it and tested that the audio is working. You can submit your documentary to the 1500 Stories project either by emailing it to jennifermyhre@1500stories.org or by uploading it to the 1500 Stories Dropbox folder.

This assignment is worth {you choose}% of your total grade in {your class}. We will be listening to some of the documentaries in class and some may be chosen or edited to go up on the 1500 Stories website. See the attached grading rubric to understand how your documentary will be evaluated for a grade.

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