I’ve recently had a chance to indulge in my favourite kind of work - telling stories. As an editor, I don’t get to do too much hands-on content creation, so when an opportunity does present itself, I jump on it.
This happened at a meeting a few weeks back. One of our press officers was working on a big research project grant announcement and there was a consensus that we should do something more than just a press release for this one.
More than a press release
The project is about designing better shelters for refugees around the world. It’s an emotive subject but what’s more, the lead investigator is really passionate about the project. They had a load of great images from their pilot project trip to a refugee camp in Jordan, so an image gallery to support the press release seemed like the obvious thing to do at the very least.
But we wanted to do a bit more than that. I’ve been involved in digital storytelling projects in my past life and I thought that would be something which would really capture the passion and personal voice of the researcher.
Unfortunately, digital storytelling at its purest requires heavy involvement by the person telling the story in the production stage. And time isn’t a luxury many researchers have. But I still wanted to use his own voice and elements from storytelling to make something that would be a bit more personal than a press release.
The end result is something I can’t really comfortably call a ‘digital story’ so I’ve decided to call it a ‘photo story’ instead:
The things that didn’t go to plan
The process of creating this wasn’t as straightforward as one might imagine looking at the final product. There were two little hurdles to jump through.
Firstly, our starting point was a script put together by me and the press officer and edited lightly by the researcher. He felt it was the right tone and style for him and was happy to record it with us. But reading from a script is not as easy as you might think. It takes a surprising amount of time and practice to get it sounding natural and engaging. Something that’s nearly impossible to achieve when recording a script with someone doing it for the first time with less than an hour. So the audio that you can hear is patched together from an impromptu interview after two attempts to read from the script.
Then there’s the quality of the audio. We have a really nice USB condenser mic that captures tone and depth really well. I brought that along and plugged it into my laptop that had Audacity running, selected it as the input mic and off we went. But Audacity has a tiny little bug. If you have Audacity already running when plugging the mic in, it LOOKS like it’s using it but it actually isn’t. And because the interview had been organised in a rush and I’d forgot to bring headphones with me, I couldn’t easily tell that it wasn’t working. So the audio we have is recorded using the inbuilt mic of my Mac. Live and learn.
So with these two little obstacles, the post-production took a bit longer than I’d anticipated which, luckily, coincided with a delay in publishing the press release and we managed to get everything done in time. And despite everything, I’m really happy with the result. As is the press officer and, most importantly, the researcher himself.