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Tutorial: Multimedia journalism - Building a multimedia slideshow with "Soundslides"

Hey together,
Obviously I am also captured by the idea of combining photographs and sound, ambient sound and the voice of my subjects, into a multimedia story. There is a lot of work and thinking and planing and work in front of me but I recently tried out Joe Weiss’ great tool (Mac and PC) called “”http://www.soundslides.com/" target="_blank">Soundslides“.
It’s an easy to use and very effective way to produce a multimedia story. However it’s not a editing tool, it’s a production tool so the images and sound have to be prepared beforehand.
”http://www.journalofaphotographer.com/workflow_tutorials/tutorial_multimedia_journalism_building_a_multimedia_slideshow_with_soundslides.php" target="_blank">
I wrote a little tutorial on how to use “Soundslides” and thought that some of you might be interested in it. You can read it here.
Hope that helps for the first steps… :-)

by [a former member] at 2006-08-30 00:43:40 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) New York City , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

Oh and I think I want to write a similar tutorial on how to gather audio somewhen soon…

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2006 00:08 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
cool stuff

by Alexander F. Yuan | 30 Aug 2006 01:08 | Beijing, China | | Report spam→
Thanks Martin. All good stuff. Love the work you do with Magnum in motion.

by Bruce Meyer | 30 Aug 2006 03:08 | Tokyo, Japan | | Report spam→
thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with this tool.

by Frederic de Laminne | 30 Aug 2006 07:08 | Namur, Belgium | | Report spam→
Thank you.

Thank you very much. This is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

by j | 30 Aug 2006 09:08 | Antwerp, home again, Belgium | | Report spam→
For gathering audio, you’ll find a lot at www.transom.org:http://www.transom.org/ .

by David Gross | 30 Aug 2006 13:08 | Istanbul, Turkey | | Report spam→
As very well explained by Martin, Soundslides is really excellent to produce multimedia photo stories…it hinges on the audio length…so the longer the audio track, the more images one needs (or one just extends the viewing time of each image). i think it’s also available for PC now.

here’s White Shadows, a short piece of the widows of vrindavan, one of my recent efforts. Putting it togther with Soundslides was quite easy.


by [former member] | 30 Aug 2006 15:08 (ed. Aug 30 2006) | New York, United States | | Report spam→
I’ve been waiting for about 7 years for the technology and culture of the web, publications and the general populace to all fall into place for this kind of thing to come of age. I think that especially since newspaper and editorial magazine readership is down they need to get their web content serious rather than a cheap imitation of the print version. Multimedia stories, when done well, will possibly save a lot of these publications.

I’ve had 3 published so far and have 4 more in the wings.


Yeah, SoundSlides is a very easy tool to use. It’s not at all perfect but it works. I edit my sound first as if it’s a radio story in my office studio on Cubase SX3 recorded on my Hi-MD recorder and pro microphones. I have a duplicate set-up on my laptop when I need to do these on location. I always record the ambient sound in stereo because it makes a huge difference in the sense of space. Scene transitions in audio are more important than with images so that’s a big thing for me so my stories often have 12+ stereo tracks that are edited and cross faded into the final stereo track that runs with the photographs.

What I have found is that many of the photographers trying to do this kind of work are often very good photographers but have no idea about using sound to tell a story. The sound often seems to be an afterthought rather than a crucial element. A friend of mine used to be a national news producer for ABC in New York. She was curious about this multimedia thing that I was talking about and she was wondering if it was as good as sound and moving pictures to tell the story. She said, after looking at my multimedia work, that the sound is the engine that moves the story along while the photos are the deep content. She now thinks that this method is better at story telling than video because you have to absorb what is in the photos rather than the video just passing by.

A big pitfall with multimedia stories is the ability to cram 8,000 photos into 19 minutes of boring and pointless audio. Keeping a tight edit of the sound and photos is critical. I’ve seen many multimedia stories where there are loads of redundant photos that we are staring at for way to long as the crummy audio keeps going along for ever.

Another friend of mine, Eric, is a news producer for National Public Radio and he says that you can keep an audience engaged for only so long and 3 minutes is often pushing the limit except for NPR and BBC listeners who are used to longer stories. My goal is to keep most of my stories in the 2:30 range and he agrees that it’s a good time length to aim for. Long form radio stories may take 15 minutes but that’s totally different than the web audience. Heck most people are used to 30 second stories on the TV so 4 minutes can seem like forever on the web. Try this: look at your watch for exactly one minute without looking away. Takes forever huh?

Anyhoo, I’m very excited about the multimedia work that I’m doing and how it very well may bring the photo essay/story back from the depths of limbo.

by Jonathan Castner | 30 Aug 2006 17:08 | Denver, United States | | Report spam→
Jonathan, that was all very interesting, and the emphasis you place on sound certainly pays off in the soundtracks you are making: the use of nice clear “oral history” over a base of ambient sound that is mixed just right really does make a difference. Extremely well done. But while I agree that a web based story probably oughtnt to go on for too long as a general principle, I still think the content is what has to determine that and not some arbitrary limit based on a viewer’s putative attention span. I had no problem viewing all of Chris Anderson’s absorbing and overwhelming story; the experience annihilated all sense of time, as all good stories always do. The sound has to be accorded its due as a crucial element in the overall product, but I dont want it dictating the length or pacing of my stories, as Tewfic seems to indicate is the case with Soundslides.

Now, without getting into private details, Jonathan, you say that you have published 3 stories so far: can you fill us in more on how this works? Did they approach you to make the story in this form from the beginning, or did you pitch the idea to them? Are you finding that the fees you charge (and how do you determine them?) are compensating you for the extra work involved in producing these stories? How is the licensing structured? Are you finding that many magazines are interested in following suit, actively developing their sites, or instead havent a clue what you are on about? Reason I ask is that every thread on this theme inevitably produces a post that asks whether the stuff is marketable. Clearly you are saying it is, hence my questions. Also one last point: I was a bit puzzled by the Mary Kay piece. Was that done for Mary Kay? I ask, with all due respect, because it didnt strike me as a journalistic piece but instead a promotional piece for Mary Kay, which is just fine but then that brings up another set of questions: are corporate clients now primed for this approach? Because that indeed would provide a nice means of earning some money.

by Jon Anderson | 30 Aug 2006 19:08 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Jon…as Joe Weiss (the creator of Soundslides) puts it: “The length is completely dependent on the length of the audio. The audio track IS the time track.”…so in essence, one has to edit the audio track and then fit the number of images to it. for a photographer, this sounds like putting the cart before the horse…but to be honest, i didn’t find it inconvenient. i’m told that the optimum length for a presentation is 40 images…but again, that’s dependent on the audio track…the viewing time for each image depends on its complexity, but generally-speaking, i felt that 4 seconds per image was right.


by [former member] | 30 Aug 2006 19:08 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Jon. What I’ve been doing is essentially getting my multimedia chops together and building a portfolio before I pitch the big guys. I approached one of my local clients and told them that I wanted to start doing these kind of stories for them. They loved my proposal as none of their people have the equipment or experience to do this kind of work. I was put in touch with their web people to work out that end of things.

As for payment, I am charging them for photography and writing: two invoices.

The Mary Kay piece was actually the first multimedia story that I ever did. I got SoundSlides the day before. I was assigned to do the photos for a business profile and realized that it was a good situation to put my hand to the multimedia thing. Business profiles are often very boring visually but this was interactive and made for good visuals as well as sound – not just an interview and portrait. I contacted my client and told them that I was going to put together a web show on it in addition. They said “go for it”. I contacted the subject and made sure that I could be there early to get things together. I headed out with my recorder, microphones and cameras. After the shoot and ambient sound capture I did the interview. Then I headed home, put it together and uploaded it to the clients website which already had a folder waiting for me.

The other two were pitched well ahead of time as I would a standard story idea. In both cases they were pitched as “exclusive web content that you can promote in the printed version”. The Warped Tour was done on deadline (midnight) at the end of a 15 hour day.

The County Fair was an ongoing project that combined print and web. The Fair goes on for 11 days. The idea was to have one portrait with caption each day in the print version while the web show was updated every two days with more portraits, sound and interviews. Again, it pointed people to the webpage for things that they can’t get in the print version.

Actually the sound does in a large way dictate the pacing of the story. If you need to make a visual transition the sound has to make a transition as well. This is where the combined editing of the sound and photos gets tricky. When you are shooting the story you need to keep in mind the needs of the sound and when capturing the sound you need to keep in mind photos that support what you are hearing.

I think that as people get more used to the format they will be willing to sit for longer stories. For now, I’m keeping them shorter. Just because I can enjoy something that goes on for a while doesn’t mean that the average person will. Keeping it around 3 minutes is pretty good as it gives you plenty of time to tell a story without letting it ramble.

by Jonathan Castner | 30 Aug 2006 20:08 (ed. Aug 30 2006) | Denver, United States | | Report spam→
very nice application, Martin. thank you for the tutorial. I’ve downloaded the trial version for mac and it has a sample file called “multi_simple” that shows a navigation that allows you to choose different stories without opening another window on the browser. Do you know how to arrange something like that on flash?

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2006 21:08 | Madrid, Spain | | Report spam→
Jonathan, another superb post, thanks. Btw, Martin, did you link your tutorial to the Resources section? if not you ought to.

The length thing occurred to me only because I am currently working on a multimedia story that would take two forms: there would be a short version for the web, though a bit longer than your optimal 3 minutes, and a much much longer version, possibly 40 minutes, certainly 30, which would be produced in Final Cut Pro and output as a Quicktime movie. This would be made available to educational institutions, aid organizations and the like who are all interested in the issues that that particular story addresses (sugar plantations, Haitian migration, etc). Now that sounds ridiculously long, but I have already experimented with this in a cruder form and people will certainly hold still for it: it is no different from watching a short film. The trick is that this longer version would not be a web presentation; it would be retained or uploaded to the hard drive in any given computer, or projected onto a screen to a group audience. This longer version is part of a documentary distribution initiative originally funded by The Open Society. So I guess what I am saying is that there is potentially a variety of uses for these things and each use has its own requirements. I agree, I think that web presentations need to be somewhat shorter, and also quickly downloadable.

And to reiterate what I said before, it looks like one market for these things would in fact be corporate jobs; if you can convince a client of the value of these things (which shouldnt be too hard, as they all want to market on the web), then you would certainly get a decent fee for the work. well, it is all food for thought. Thanks.

by Jon Anderson | 30 Aug 2006 21:08 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Here’s one I did a while back, when I was pottering about trying to get a slideshow to work on an iPod and came across Soundslides:


I haven’t had much time since to use it since, but have been realising from shooting video (for example) that the whole mutlimedia slidshow thing is (as Jonathan suggests) a whole different ballgame with a different set of skills. It’s not just bolting sound onto pictures. Ken Burns proved you can produce fascinating documentary films just using stills, but the narrative sound has to be compelling too.

The combination of this kind of thing with portable devices like the iPod Video is giving me grounds for optimism about the rebirth of the photo-essay…but ironically, it probably won’t be shot on stills cameras, but will probably leapfrog straight into being shot on a developing generation of Hi-Def video cameras.

Some US newspapers are already taking stills from them – the Decisive Moment will be dead, but it was always a cross between a counter-productive pain in the arse and a myth anyway…

by [former member] | 30 Aug 2006 23:08 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Hmm, sounds like you are doing a short movie rather than a web based multimedia story for an editorial website. Sounds interesting though. Love to see it when you are done.

by Jonathan Castner | 30 Aug 2006 23:08 | Denver, United States | | Report spam→
Jonathan, doing both actually. It will get done when some more funds come in and i can travel around collecting ambient sound and oral histories. right now i am honing my skills and paying close attention to what all you more accomplished types are doing so I can benefit from your example. I have to travel to some pretty out of the way places and it takes money. Also I want to mix in different kinds of sounds and synch them the same way a film does. A quick example: have you seen the opening of Ciudade de Dios? The knife is being honed and the sound of metal on metal is interleaved with the sound of the squawking chicken about to be killed and the image of the knife and chicken flashing on and off the screen. I dont want to make a film exactly, but i want to try and push the envelope a bit and see what we can get away with without losing the emphasis on the still image.

I will probably be the odd man out on this one, but I dont care for video and wont be shooting it. I’ll stick with my stills and my somewhat indecisive moments. Who knows, maybe still cameras will start appearing with features conducive to multimedia storytelling, like a microphone feed direct to some sort of sound cache. I am not entirely convinced that this medium will resurrect story telling, it just doesnt reach people the way that printed material does and the format, though certainly exciting, is just kind of lilliputian in some ways. I am not sure it compels the kind of rapt viewing experience I am after, but I am probably deluded about that. Maybe we are witnessing, along with birth of a new medium, the gradual formation of a new kind of audience and a new kind of “reception”. I grant you, it is all very interesting. Anyway, Jonathan you have really given me lots to think about, thanks.

by Jon Anderson | 30 Aug 2006 23:08 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
I’ve been using SWF ‘n Slide Pro, an alternative to SoundSlides. It allows “Ken Burns Effects,” more control over text and transitions. For what it’s worth, I haven’t found that too useful yet.

A second possibility, quite good, is http://www.slideroll.com/ where you can make your show then download it. You’ll find the quality quite good.

I’m willing to help people create some shows, for my experience and yours. I’m slowly working toward producing more of these things; the greatest trouble is getting a good edit and some decent storytelling. I’m planning on getting a bunch of shows together for a new site, but it’s taking longer than I’d hoped (busy, etc. etc.)

Here’s how to proceed with making a show:

1. Make an edit of pictures the visually flows. Make any title slides, black transitions, etc. and put them into the edit.

2. You can either try to matching the content to the words, which is tricky and often dull.

3. You can let the graphics drive the show, and the script will be more generic. This seems to work better, oddly enough.

4. When writing the script, think ‘radio.’ You’re talking to someone, not explaining something. An old trick is to put a photo of your mom in front of you and talk to it while you record. Assume 10 words = 3 seconds.

Note that using Flash (i.e. SoundSlides, Swf’n’slide, SlideRoll) gives you a much, much smaller file (3-5MB), while Quicktime gives you a massive file. This is due almost entirely to the transition between pictures. Quicktime makes a video frame for each step of a fade, resulting in easily 10 frames per transition, and 20MB files.

Finally, if you do want to make PodCasts, consider the images (if seen on an iPod) will be small. Frankly, no one knows if anyone watches these shows on their iPod. I’d like to find out.

by David Gross | 31 Aug 2006 11:08 | Istanbul, Turkey | | Report spam→
I dont know if people ‘read’ these things on iPods either…all I know is that many of the multimedia things Iv’e been seing on the web – like the Dallas Morning New’s recent excellent Katrina retrospective, could only be seen when I was sitting at my desk. I want to be able to browse this stuff on a bus, plane, tube…it’s just not being done much yet.

I currently download podcasts from iTunes to listen to on an iPod and this is the possible route. Its an embryonic model, but worth pursuing. Video podcasts are already established but for the most part haven’t been explored by photographers.

One of the small ironies is the ‘oldest’ of old school photo-agencies – Magnum – is one of the few entities who have so far explored this new technology to leverage photo-essays to an audience…

by [former member] | 31 Aug 2006 12:08 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
sion: i enjoyed your Afghan slideshow which you provided above…(just looked at it)….some magnificent images, and i liked, visually, the building of this story, including the
long pause in the middle with child/mom and the crescendo of violence and death and, still, the final image, the long history march of winter’s
continued: the jurassic patience of history, elongated and shadow…thanks so much for sharing…bob

by [former member] | 31 Aug 2006 20:08 | Toronto (home sweet), Canada | | Report spam→
Here’s another resource to browse multi-media pieces:

and here a link to my latest – we went MUCH longer than the 3 minutes discussed above:

Definitely a learning experience! The next one is NOT going to be a portrait story, but hopefully something lending itself to more ambient sound and fewer interviews to transcribe/edit. This one turned the tables on me, and I ended up with much more interesting audio than could be supported by visuals. Mostly due to time constraints and trying to do 2 people’s jobs in fairly short sessions for some of the sequences.

I am curious, Jon, as to how you are envisioning your quicktime/longer version. I have gotten lots of feedback from various educational and health institutions inquiring about availablity on cd, and have to explain that you can’t just burn a copy of the on-line essay. Not sure yet how serious I am about pursuing this, which would mean having to hustle up the money to produce a larger version, filling in some gaps, and rethinking the structure. One plus would be to get away from the linear approach and have the opportunity to do more of a chapter/vignettes version. Were you thinking of a movie to be watched as one narrative piece? Then again, dvd technology probably allows for building something with chapters and various resource links, history/background info etc etc. What are the options here? As David pointed out, the distribution in a way determines the format due to file size….

by Katja Heinemann | 02 Sep 2006 19:09 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
I don’t think people should worry too much about length. It’s only too long if it’s boring. It can be too long at 30secs if the content is tedious or of no interest to the viewer.

I saw ‘Once Upon A time in America’ in cinema many years ago and it’s about 4 hours long. The only part of the film that dragged was the intermission. Many of the most popular [not biggest grossing] films are longer than the usual 90/100mins, probably as they had time to tell the story well, rather than quickly shoehorn in some cliches.

The 40 picture guide with Soundslides is more a limitation of the software interface than anything else. A tip for those who are frustrated with the inability to zoom in to timeline when one has lots of pics. Just drag window to to make bigger, push program nearly off screen and drag to make window bigger again.This makes the timeline bigger and easier to use.

by AJP Lawrence | 03 Sep 2006 15:09 (ed. Sep 3 2006) | Sheffield/London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

I liked your show and the music fit well but are you not worried about liscencing issues with whomever
controls the Jimi Hendrix material?

by [former member] | 06 Sep 2006 03:09 | Montreal, Canada | | Report spam→
Mark, I pulled it. I notice people using music all the time for their projects and I wonder wheather or not
people have purchased licenses.

by Paul Treacy | 06 Sep 2006 03:09 | Manhattan, United States | | Report spam→
Perhaps I should just record the sound of a flag or flags flapping away in the wind. That might work.

by Paul Treacy | 06 Sep 2006 03:09 | Manhattan, United States | | Report spam→
thanks martin

by Dominic Bracco II | 06 Sep 2006 04:09 | Austin, Texas, United States | | Report spam→

I’ve asked about this on other forums recently and,apart from those who opt to take their chances,
quite a few who are using these types of multimedia pieces for commercial use or high-visibility self promotion
are buying royalty free (not neccessarily inexpensive,though) music.
If you’re musically inclined,you could try your hand at GarageBand

by [former member] | 06 Sep 2006 04:09 | Montreal, Canada | | Report spam→
Martin kindly posted a link to a piece I did http://www.martinshakeshaft.com/wp-content/strike84/movie/qtmovie.htm whilst I am a big fan of SoundSlides this was done using a ‘Rostrum Camera’, program. I like this method as you can almost dictate how people view an image. It allows you to draw peoples attention to specific areas of the image and to create images within images. The only problem is, that it is very time consuming…. That’s where SoundSlides comes into its own – It’s excellent for putting stories together quickly. Joe has done an great job – I was one of the Beta Testers for the new PC version. There is a SoundSlides version of the same images at http://www.martinshakeshaft.com/wp-content/strike84/av/index.html I would be interested to hear how people think they compare.



by Martin Shakeshaft | 06 Sep 2006 22:09 | Back home, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I’d be interested if anyone had any experience with visual podcasting software like Vizacast or ChapterToolMe…or
anything else as I found those both pretty clunky.

Martin, I’m assuming you made your ‘Strike’ podcast on something like FCP and then exported it as an iPod file?

by [former member] | 07 Sep 2006 02:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I used a ‘rostrum Camera’ progam called Canopus Imaginate Two (PC Only sorry) to animate the individual images. These were then taken into Premier to be fine tuned. The original was for DVD distribution but I converted it for the iPod using QuickTime Pro. It would have been possible to use just Imaginate but Premier was better for editing the sound. I have tried FCP but Imaginate seems to render out a wee bit smoother.



by Martin Shakeshaft | 07 Sep 2006 09:09 | Back home, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Learn from our mistakes: there are ideas in here that have been developed over ten years of trial and error.
For a good turorial, written by photojournalists – for photojournalists, go to http://audio.msnbc.com

by Robert Hood | 07 Sep 2006 12:09 | Seattle, Washington, United States | | Report spam→

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Alexander F. Yuan, Photojournalist Alexander F. Yuan
Beijing , China
Bruce Meyer, Photog/teacher Bruce Meyer
Tokyo , Japan
Frederic de Laminne, Frederic de Laminne
Namur , Belgium
j, j
Antwerp , Belgium
David Gross, Photographer David Gross
Los Gatos , United States ( SJO )
Jonathan Castner, Photojournalist Jonathan Castner
Denver , United States
Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
Katja Heinemann, Photojournalist Katja Heinemann
Brooklyn , United States
AJP Lawrence, Photographer/Graphic Desi AJP Lawrence
Photographer/Graphic Desi
Sheffield/London , United Kingdom
Paul  Treacy, Photographer Paul Treacy
London , United Kingdom ( LGW )
Dominic Bracco II, gringo Dominic Bracco II
Mexico City , Mexico
Martin Shakeshaft, Photojournalist Martin Shakeshaft
Barcelona , Spain
Robert Hood, Director of Multimedia Robert Hood
Director of Multimedia
(it's about faces)
Seattle, Washington , United States ( SEA )


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