Ah, Cosmos! What a great series. It’s extraordinary. I now wonder why my science teachers over the years never showed one of his documentaries in class. I would’ve stayed awake for that. (I’m kidding!) Seriously, though, if you haven’t seen it, you are missing out.
I recently interviewed Zak Bolender, inquiring about his science journalism major. I used my new recorder during the interview with intentions of learning to successfully edit my audio with the help of Audacity. My original interview was 7:44 minutes long and you can listen to it here.
My goal was to edit the interview down to 2:00 minutes. It wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated. The hardest part was deciphering what segments were the most clear and interesting. I needed to tell the story in less than half the time. In order to do this, I took into consideration a variety of elements, such as ambient noise, smooth transitions and timely pauses. You can listen to the edited interview here:
I learned so much from this experience, and I had fun once I set about chopping out chunks from the interview. I have an all new respect for those professionals who edit audio on a daily basis. I’m sure it gets easier over time, but when I think of broadcast journalists or deejays who formulate brilliant works this way; well, let’s just say, I’m in awe.
In all honesty, I was really intimidated by this project and procrastinated doing it. I spoke with a few classmates and they seemed so flustered with it. I think their approach was all wrong. Instead of taking a 7 min., 44 sec. audio track and forcibly condensing it down to 2:00 minutes, I just recreated a 2:00 minute track from my 7 min., 44 sec. track. This simple approach really worked for me.
I did have some annoying issues with rewinding, so to speak. But, I blame the mouse on my laptop and managed to “select” the right marks after some practice. The zoom tool was a life saver, in my opinion. I really like Audacity and Sound Cloud and intend to continue practicing these skills.
I felt very apprehensive about editing out “um’s” or stammering in this audio. I tried to a few different times, but deleted it because I felt it added some personality, style and a humanistic feel to the conversation. I just kept thinking of the examples I had studied from New York Times One in 8 Million Series and how the way a person speaks can really contribute to their story.
I think that Zak explained himself to me in a way that reflects the concerns of his personal guru, Carl Sagan. Sagan was a brilliant man who successfully shared with the world the sense of awe to be found within scientific understanding. You can hear him thinking about what he wants to say, choosing the right words with such validity that it resonates… even with non-scientists.
I think the biggest surprise of this experience was, once again, realizing how powerful sound really is. An audio story is a very immediate way to tell a story, and after several listens, the point of the interview becomes clear. Other details may be interesting, but they’re not absolutely necessary.
I cannot wait to attempt a similar project. When I do, I intend to extinguish small details like ambient noises, my own trailing questions and other distractions like fidgeting of both the recorder and participants. I also hope to include my own ambient sounds to my tracks and to improve my interviewing skills, in general. 🙂