NPR journalists talk audio slide shows

Few will argue with the statement that NPR journalists know how to use audio, so it’s no surprise that when they’re producing audio slide shows, they focus on sounds before pictures.

Producer Andrea Hsu has worked on multiple projects and developed her own technique.

“I took photos of everything and then figured out what fit where with my audio,” said Hsu.  “I sometimes hear something while I’m recording audio and then take a picture.”

NPR senior producer Rolando Arrieta says that slide shows work best when the reporter and the interview subject have specific roles.

“You want person who you interview to tell the story – get them to sell the story,” Arrieta said.  “You are the moderator guiding the audience through the story – pulling the cuts/actualities that you think may work the best.”

Arrieta also says reporters need to be thinking about the finished product while they’re still in the field.

“Have the sense that you’re editing the recording while you’re recording – (mentally) process the tape while you’re recording it,” Arrieta said.

He stressed the use of good equipment, recommending a couple of different microphone options.

  • Shotgun mic –Audio Technica AT385
  • Handheld mic — Electro-Voice

And, of course, Arrieta said headphones are a must.

“You can have the fanciest mic and recorder, and if you’re not monitoring audio, you’re headed down the wrong path right away,” Said Arrieta.

Arrieta and Hsu say they use a separate audio recorder and a separate camera, rather than relying on a single device.  Though they used to use Soundslides software to produce their audio slideshows, they didn’t like the lack of control they had with the audio, so they now use Final Cut Pro.

When it comes to producing the piece, Hsu says short is better and recommends a length of no more than 2:30.

Here’s a breakdown of how to shoot the photos for any audio slideshow.  It’s based on one produced and published at NPR.