05 August, 2010

Week 3 - Getting to grips with editing software

My last week at the Science Radio unit and time for me to try and edit some of the recordings I made a couple of weeks ago. I do some sound editing for my day job but this is a whole other kettle of fish. None of the programs do what I think they should and a lot of this week was spent accidentally deleting things or trying to copy or cut the same section of audio multiple times! This was actually something I'd hoped I'd learn a lot more about but one thing I have learned is that audio recorded "in the field" is really different to that recorded in my lab under carefully controlled conditions.

Having collected audio under four headings while I was at my conference, I ended up editing segments and putting together a story for just one of these headings. One of them as I say was pretty plain to me, even, that it wouldn't really be usable as it wasn't very exciting to listen to. One of them I thought was interesting but what ended up being really useful was having the conversations with producers about whether it could be interesting, what could be interesting about it, and why it might not be really. The Hook, as Cat is also finding out about. I did edit that audio down a bit and passed it over to the Africa Service who might end up using some of it, but I'm not holding my breath.

But constructing the story which we're hoping will go out on Health Check was great - really challenging, really interesting, and slightly frustrating in that I knew more or less exactly how I wanted it to sound but couldn't get it to work - and then what I wanted to say never came out right either!

I had recorded myself asking the questions and the two scientists, plus the young people from the street kids' theatre, and I have to say I'd assumed that the questions I recorded would be used as well. But it doesn't really work out that way, especially when you need to rework things to make a shorter and easier-to-listen-to story. The other thing that hadn't really occurred to me was that if your interviewee says something in quite a long-winded way, or says an important thing, followed by a rambly anecdote, and then finishes off the important thing, you're going to have to summarise what they said. So it takes a lot of the following:

Listening to what you've got
Deciding on the overall story
Working out what you can get from the audio that will tell the story
Working out what else you'll need to add
Writing the links
Working out if what the interviewee said really fits with your link
Working out if you've said anything in the background that is unclear or just plain wrong
And then finally recording the links!

Which of course is a learning curve in itself. I am highly aware of my personal tendency to talk much too fast - and my poor students are too. I tend to panic when confronted with a long piece of prose I have to read and try and read it all in one go. Big mistake! Sloooow down... and put more expression into it... and smile... and write in your pauses...

So this story, which I'll link to when I know when it's going out, has a news trailer that should go out the same day on World Service News, also including me. So if/when that goes out I'll be glued to Listen Again.

Although I was involved with the main programme I've been working on, Material World, this week, I ended up working really hard on the other story and didn't go over for the recording. I had been interviewing one of the amateur scientists for So You Want To Be A Scientist who was getting very relaxed at doing interviews, but was a bit nervous - so I made the production assistant promise to hold her hand!
It is pretty interesting seeing the programme recorded so I will try and get back there when I'm back in London in a few weeks' time - apparently there is a free bus from White City to Broadcasting House.
I also polished off the notes for the two upcoming issues of Material World this week, though (sneak preview) the poor producers then had to contact me to find out where one of the sets of notes was. I could have sworn I had put it in a public drive but you know what happens when you swear you know where something is...

More in a couple of weeks' time when I am back from my sojourn in the day job and am at News Online. So far, this has been one of the most interesting and exciting things I've done recently, and everyone's been really friendly and helpful. Although you end up getting your writing slashed, edited, and critiqued - no-one is nearly as rude as the infamous Reviewer 2.

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