And in the fifth week, I created sound.

Prompt: What have you learned from doing the short audio assignment that could be applied to longer, radio-style audio feature work?

Whenever I see examples of new work, my first thought is usually, “Oh wow, I could never make something like that,” or I just begin to imagine gargantuan amounts of work I have to do, pretty much overwhelming myself in the process.

Such was the case last week when learning to audio in class. Reuben showed us the steps, but I still couldn’t quite bridge the gap between what I’d already collected the night before and the polished finished product in front of me. There are just a lot of adjustments and factors that I don’t have control over — or rather, things I don’t think to control for when I am in the moment.

It’s intimidating enough to go out and have to interview someone for any reason, whether you know them or not. Add in a bunch of equipment and very specific parameters on noise and sound, and you have a whole other animal. Remembering not to move too much or talk or “mmhmmm” or shift my feet around or knock the microphone connection is distracting enough, but I also have to engage my subject and listen for good quotes and try to keep the interview going in general. Even when I’m my most pleasant, engaging self with a subject, interviewing is hard and uncomfortable. It’s hard to put into practice all the skills and techniques I’ve learned and be attuned to how everything sounds.

I’m used to interviews being part of the process, not the product. For my next assignment, that will be a big thing I have to focus on. I need to be even more on my game and sure of how I want to lead the conversation so I can project confidence and knowledge to my subject. I noticed that the more absent-minded I felt or the less complete my questions were, the less complete his answers were. In just a spoken interview, I can meander a little and lead a subject back on track by slowing working up to a question or sharing some personal information to warm things up. For audio interviews, this is harder because I’m looking for more precise words; I might be able to paraphrase in text to get at the heart of what someone meant or help connect their ideas, but I can’t do that with sound. It’s a much more “pure” form of an interview, so to speak, because I play much less of an interpreter role as a multimedia reporter than I do as a text reporter.

In short, I need to:

  • Have more straightforward, open questions at the ready
  • Make sure my mic is close enough to my subject without being obtrusive or awkward
  • Gather a better variety of natural sound
  • Learn to affirm and guide an interview without verbal cues
  • Translate my text interview skills to audio interviews — be confident, curious and engaging while still getting appropriate audio material

As cool as it as and as much as I think it adds to the user experience, I’m still trying to get over the inconvenience of carrying, setting up and using extra equipment. However, based on how well I think this first try at audio reporting turned out, I am not dreading round 2 as much as I expected. Inconveniences and discomfort aside, I forget how much I really enjoy radio-style journalism, and it’s fun to be able to learn to create that.