Audio Slideshows – Human Interest Storytelling

Online teaching takes many shapes and isn’t always conventional in form. One of the more compelling online pedagogical approaches is digital storytelling that combines audiovisual elements and focuses on a human interest story. A well-known medium for digital storytelling is the audio slideshow. Audio slideshows have been around for some time and have been used successfully by reporters and online issues of newspapers and journals.

I recently accompanied our department’s photographer on a story that seemed to be a solid fit for an audio slideshow. Our objective was to distill a “day in the life” of a group of laborers, referred to as “Hoedads,” who spend much of their day traversing difficult terrain in remote areas of Oregon in order to plant saplings. The “office” of the typical Oregonian Hoedad is expansive and oftentimes stunning–lending itself to the visual medium. Their work can be characterized as much by the sounds of their singing, banter and tools as it can by their weather-worn faces. We felt the audio slideshow format would help us highlight these compelling images and couple them with audio accompaniment. While a layer of narrative can be  added to provide context, some of most powerful stories are those that utilize the ambient sounds and highlight the most salient moments of the event with an appropriate photo. In the example below, the “Bagging Up” section is an example of story without narration.

Hoedad Audio Slideshow

The Basics

Audio slideshows combine high quality photographs with “on-the-ground” synchronized audio. The typical audio slideshows display photographs for 7  to 15 seconds (shorter or longer when needed) and often include audio narrative and ambient sounds that help the viewer identify locale and the slideshow character’s mood, activity, and circumstances. The rate of pacing and the integration of audiovisual elements draw the viewer’s attention to significant and discrete moments in the narrative. The overall quality of audio slideshows generally hinges on several elements: appropriate photographs, high-quality audio, a compelling and appropriate narrative, and accessibility, and usability of the end product.

This medium can be used to tell various types of stories, but as mentioned, is best suited for human interest stories. Examples of how audio slideshows have been used to tell such stories can be found in many different online versions of newspapers and journals. Some compelling examples come from the New York Times.

New York Times: One in eight million

New York Times: Choosing to Stay, Fighting to Rebuild (Rebuilding in Haiti)

Other current and potential Extension uses of this tool could include:

•    Oral history projects
•    Short autobiographies
•    Brief narratives about a significant location or occurrence
•    Stories of individuals overcoming hardship
•    Interesting and relatively unknown jobs or industries that highlight individuals (i.e. Hoedad story)

Software Used

For slideshow: Soundslides Plus, SoundForge or other audio editing tools
For website: Dreamweaver, Fireworks, CSS, HTML and some Flash

Hardware Used

SLR digital camera, high-end flash card microphone, shotgun microphone with windscreen for long-range audio, computer with sufficient speed to process editing tasks.

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5 Comments Already, Leave Yours Too

Virginia Morgan on 21 July, 2010 at 9:57 am #

I really like this way of telling a story and your Hoedad example is beautifully done. Thanks for sharing it as well as telling us how to create audio slideshows.

Tod Ramon on 16 August, 2010 at 8:25 am #

Thanks for giving us an insight into these audio slideshows. What a great medium to reach peoples emotions on email and web especially with such important issues such as the current floods in Pakistan or any kind of emotional human event, big or small. It humanizes and augments simple photographs.

John Milferd on 16 August, 2010 at 8:32 am #

Thanks for this full information And giving instruction of how to create audio slideshow and also this nice hooedad picture…Great blogs!GOD BLESS!!!


[…] Audio Slideshows — Human Interest Storytelling: This how-to article by Chris Labelle focuses on the making of an audio slideshow about a “‘day in the life’ of a group of laborers, referred to as ‘Hoedads,’ who spend much of their day traversing difficult terrain in remote areas of Oregon in order to plant saplings.” LaBelle notes that “the ‘office’ of the typical Oregonian Hoedad is expansive and oftentimes stunning — lending itself to the visual medium.” […]

Ronen on 24 November, 2010 at 7:40 pm #

Very in-depth and well articulated. I’d be interested in seeing how this method can be in used in different applications.

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