Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The way it ought to work

I'm on vacation this week, kicking back at a lake in the beautiful hills of Arkansas, with my wife and the five children in our extended family. But I didn't want the blog to go neglected too long ...

On my last assignment before vacation, I covered a celebration U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, who is still active at age 100. Judge Brown is quite a character and still well respected withing the judiciary. But our coverage, when it extended to the web, worked like we'd all been hoping it would, and maybe, that the multimedia bug is starting to spread around the newsroom.

I've received some e-mails since I started this blog about work flow, and it's something everyone has been struggling over trying to conquer. One reason, I believe, is because some of us jumped right on multimedia and embraced it. Others still aren't quite so sure. That left a few people doing much of the work. But the slide show on Judge Brown shows that all we really need is a little communication and encouragement.

That morning, I got with Bo Rader of our photo department and began talking about options for the web component of this story. We agreed that a crowd of invited guests talking about the celebrated judge might not make exciting video. But we decided I'd pick up some audio, and we'd see what kind of pictures we were able to get with an eye on a slide show.

Jeff Tuttle, our photographer, was wary the quality of photos once he arrived in a courtroom, where more than 150 people sat listening to people talk. But by the end of the afternoon, he was more excited, because Judge Brown had been so animated throughout the event. The federal court system had taken care of the audio problems, providing a plug-in box for my recorder. I was just glad I'd brought an XLR connection.

Jeff processed the pictures, I edited a minute of audio, and Bo put everything together, coming over to show it to me on his laptop as I finished up the story. I did the audio first, so I knew what was going to be in the slide show. That way, I knew I didn't need to put that in the story. I also selected audio that I thought showed the judge's personality and sense of humor it a way that wouldn't come through the printed page.

We worked as a team, saved time and it came together pretty well on deadline, I thought. At least, most of us made it home in time for dinner.

I'm still of the mind that reporters ought to be the ones collecting and editing audio. I was willing to ditch it if we didn't end up with enough pictures for a slide show. But that should be the decision of the photo department. Edit the audio, drop an MP3 into a shared folder, and see if they can pull together photos to fit. Bo said after he got the audio clip and photos, it took him about "five seconds" to put it all together.

That's the way it ought to work.

Now, there's a lake and a boat waiting ...


  1. Roy --

    Thius applies for most HP digital cameras and many Casio digital cameras -- after you take your photo, if you keep the shutter button depressed, the camera automatically begins recording audio. This audio file (.wav) is actually imbedded into the exif metadata of the .jpeg file -- so the ambient audio and the image now travel together -- and "audio-photo.

    My company has developed technology that recognizes these audio/photo combination files and makes it possible to have the associated audio play while the image is viewed online. We also have technology that allows these audio-photo combinations to be output as audio-photos.
    I'd be happy to demo all of this for you if you'd like.
    I can also make a physical, bound, heirloom quality audio-photo book from the story you did on the judge if you wish. Simply touch the audio icon printed on the page next to the image and the acciciated audio plays.