Archive for the ‘soundslides’ Category

Final Story Package: Homelessness in Gainesville

Here’s my final story package for Journalists’ Toolkit class, which includes a Soundslides and a map:

Screenshot of Homelessness in Gainesville Package

We had to Make a soundslides about an issue, and put some sort of data, either a Google Map, or a statistical chart made by Fusion Charts, to give some extra information about the subject.

At first I thought I can’t make this package and will lose all my credibility, because the people I initially talked to to help me get in touch with homeless people later didn’t return my calls or emails. I was missing the deadline, while we had about three weeks to work on this story. I started googling keywords related to homelessness and Gainesville, and I found out that there is a clinic in a church called Helping Hands Clinic that offers services to the homeless every Monday at 5pm.

I had 15 minutes to get there. So I drove like crazy to the place. I talked to the people working there and they agreed to let me interview them.

As I moved around the clinic, I started chatting with homeless people there. They were curious why I’m taking photos from the building. I asked them what they think about the clinic. As we were talking, I gradually changed the subject to what they thought about the condition of homeless people in Gainesville, if they have any complaints, and if they have any suggestions on how people like me can help.

People became more interested and talked more. Then I asked some of them if they are willing to help me to make the story. One man, Rick, gave me some good suggestions, but he refused to be interviewed. He said he’s tired of being interviewed by so many papers and students! I said I respect his decision, but gave him my number in case he changed his mind, or he was willing to help me.

I went to downtown plaza after the clinic, where many homeless people spend the night. One woman I met at the clinic said she will be waiting for me to be interviewed in the plaza, and surprisingly she was there. Other homeless people would stop by as I was talking to her, and I chatted with them as well, asked their opinions, and asked them how people like me can help them.

The day after that I went to downtown plaza again, where the Home Van, a mobile service that distributes free food and cloths for the homeless around the town was supposed to be. Surprisingly, I saw Rick there and he said I came to help you, because it’s not safe here and you need someone to show you around.

He later helped me go to the woods and talk to more people. I made friends with some more homeless people. We sat together and ate. I invited Rick for coffee. He knows photography and even gave me some suggestion on setting the ISO of my camera for taking photos at night. He asked me to take my photo at the clinic, and a homeless woman came and sat next to me to be in the photo.

helping hands

I interviewed 12 homeless people and two volunteers working at Helping Hands Clinic, and was left with 3 hours of interview that had to be cut short to two minutes! Well, I spent a lot of time editing the audio, and slept only few hours for three nights to finally come to the present version of the audio.

I wasn’t happy with the lighting of some of the photos, because they were taken at night. As I was reviewing Kobre’s photojournalism book’s chapter on issue stories, I noticed that the majority of photos on that chapter are black and white. I used Real Grain plugin in photoshop (download free trail here) to test how photos turn out in black and white. I realized the photos are much more powerful in black and white.

I am satisfied with the outcome. I think the time I spent was worth it. I owe most of my success to spending time to get to know the homeless people, make friends with them, and LISTEN to them.

So far I have recieved a lot of nice feedback from people who has seen the soundlsides. Now I can’t wait to take my laptop to downtown plaza and show the soundslides to my homeless friends and see what they think about it.


My Second Soundslides

Wild Iris: A Bookstore of One’s Own” is my second Soundsldies. I’m much happier with this one comparing to my first one, specially because I’ve got a new digital SLR camera, which improved the quality of my photos instantly! (It’s a Nikon D40 with 18-135mm lens. These cameras make you a much better photographer, without even needing to learn anything! Of course there is so much to learn to become a good professional photographer, specially a photojournalist.)

I’m happy with the content of the audio. I edited it couple of times and it’s totally different from the version I submitted last week for my audio 2. I removed my stupid narrations and added comments from the customers of the store. (I might lose a grade for not using narrations, but I think this new version is much better than the old one and it is worth it!)

The quality of the audio is not very good though. I couldn’t get a hold of the lab’s audio recorders during the week that I was doing my interviews. It was surprising, because I know there are almost enough recorders in the lab, and some of the students are even using their own recorders. So, I have no idea where the rest of the recorders were! I had to use my MP3 player, which records good quality audio. However, I couldn’t plug in the microphone because of the stupid edge on my MP3 player’s microphone plug-in slot. So I had to use a cable which was narrow enough to get into the MP3 player, but I guess the long cable’s quality was not so good, so the audio is not good!

As for the content, I’m sure it could be much better. But here are the things I thought about while making this Soundslides (keeping Ira Glass recommendations about story telling in mind.)

1- I tried to show why this story matters, by including the customers’ positive comments about the place. (There weren’t any negative comments. People just loved this place!
2- I tried to have a sequence of action, by including the narration of one of the co-owners of the store about when the store was first built and how it has survived so far.
3- I tried to have a climax in the story, which is the opening of the coffee shop.
4- The moment of reflection can be either the fact that this place is the only feminist bookstore survived in Florida, or the survival itself, or the idea behind having a coffee shop. I’m not sure about this part though. I should ask Mindy what Ira Glass exactly means by a “moment of reflection.”

I would really appreciate to hear your feedback about any or all of the things I mentioned above!

Comments on a classmate’s Soundslides

I liked Shifen Xu‘s Soundslides “Live with Umoja” for some reasons, and didn’t like it for some other reasons. It’s a story of friendship and bonding through music. The story starts with introducing the main character and the topic of the story. I like the beginning of the story, because the starting sentence, “My band is called Umoja Orchestra,” is accompanied by the lively music of the band, and a nice overall photo of the band. It has a beat in it, it is forceful, and makes me interested to see the rest of the Soundslides, to figure out what’s interesting or important about this band called Umoja Orchestra.

However, I didn’t notice anything spacial at the rest of the slideshow that would give a climax to the story. Perhaps the idea that a lot of people are joining their band could become a climax, as a success story of the band. But the photos accompanying the audio do not give a sense of importance to the issue. Or perhaps, the idea that these people got to become closer to each other through their music could be considered the climax of the story. But again I don’t think it was forceful enough to convey a turning point.

On the other hand, I liked the ending. It has a sense of conclusion in it. The narrator talks about his overall feeling about his band, about friendship through music, and that “Friendship makes music way better.” The music fades away. The last photo is black and white, showing just the instruments. It gave me the feeling that a performance is finished, everybody is back home, and the instruments are left alone; a sense of ending.

Overall, I’m not sure whether I can call this a story, although there are certain elements of a story in this Soundslides. It has a good beginning and a good ending, it shows some interesting moments, and it tells some background info that can help us build a picture about the band and its history in mind. Perhaps if there was a climax moment in the story, for example the story of a concert, or a certain even that had happened for the band, this could become a more real story.

I liked the use of audio in this Soundslides. The music of the band was used as a sound bed, which made me feel the mood of the band’s work. It’s forceful beginning made me interested in the story, and its fading-away at the end of the story made me feel calm! I just suggest that Shifen turns the volume of the sound bed a bit down when the narrator is talking. It was a bit too loud and annoying at some points of the narration.

On the side note, I had some difficulty to relate this Soundslides to an aspect of campus life. I heard at some point some band members met through college, and I saw a photo of them on campus, but overall I couldn’t relate it to campus life. To me this was more something out of campus. It was more a profile of the band and their personal interactions, rather than an aspect of campus life. Perhaps some narration about how the band’s work affects the members’ school life, or how the band interacts with college students would make it more relevant. Also, it would be nice if there was something mentioned about the band’s practice or concerts on campus, if there were any.

Soundslides: life on UF family housing

My first Soundslides is not a great package, because many of the photos are not very well- exposed or well-composed. But still I’m happy about the final outcome, because I learned a lot and did my best.

After seeing the final outcome, I noticed what additional photos I could take to tell the story better. I also learned a lot about the importance of timing. Due to my lack of time because of a trip, I chose to take photos of my neighbors. This made me a bit shy about knocking at their door constantly to take photos at different settings. I also was struggling with the idea of making the story an aspect of campus life, instead of the profile of a family. In the end I think I could figure out, to some extent, how to overcome that challenge. I asked the subject of my interview lots of questions about her personal life and her life at family housing. I realized that many of the interesting things she said in the interview had to be removed, because they were not really about campus life. Had I included what she said about her personal life not relevant to campus life, then I would end up with a profile story. I tried to include just the parts that were about campus life.

So, here is the first slideshow with audio totally made by me, except for the Flash part which was done thanks to the great platform Soundslides offers us. Click on the image below to see my first work!