Audio slide shows with Final Cut Pro

For years, Soundslides has set the standard for audio slide shows, but it’s certainly not the only option. ¬†Andrew Lih, who teaches at USC, says he’s been using Final Cut Pro (FCP) to teach student journalists the same principles. ¬†He recently posted the following on the Facebook page for educators in the Online News Association:

We’re using a 4:3 format (not 16:9) which matches photo aspect ratios better, and also advising on avoiding portrait shots, or keeping them to a minimum. In the past, we’ve found leaving students to their own devices, the arbitrary alternation between landscape (full frame) and portrait (with black bars on sides) is distracting after a dozen shots. We’re exporting to YouTube and embedding that “video” into a page. We’re also giving advice to be restrained with transitions and moves.

Downsides: user-controlled captions and self-pacing not possible if done as a video. Stuck with single resolution of video.

Upsides: Don’t have to teach confounding FTP commands to users and find server space for Soundslides. Build on existing knowledge of video editing tool (FCP) and full control of image keyframes/motion.

What Lih says makes sense — if you’re already using or plan to use Final Cut Pro for video editing, taking this approach eliminates the need for purchasing and learning another piece of software.

Of course, Soundsides also offers an option to create detailed captions, which is possible using titles in FCP, but certainly less elegant.

Curt Chandler, a senior lecturer in multimedia at Penn State, also weighed in on the Facebook discussion, suggesting that it may be easier to teach video if you get the hang of Soundslides first.

Using SoundSlides as the intermediate step seems to reinforce the importance of getting the audio right. For non-photographers framing and sequencing seem to be easier to grasp if we use stills before video. For still photographers, they learn that audio carries the show and they can’t get away with shooting strong visuals and hoping the audio will take care of itself. Broadcast students seem to think SoundSlides is a step backward, but I think they, too, learn framing, sequencing and depth of field better if we make them think with stills. For students with no editing experience SoundSlides is much less intimidating than Final Cut.

Lih provided a great link to a blog post from Colin Mulvany of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., who walks you through the use of FCP for slide shows, and shares one of the pieces he’s produced with the tool.