What types of multimedia do you want?
Primarily, we want audio and video (which can also include animation and simulations). Examples of audio include EIC or guest editor introductions, article sidebars (author expansions), interviews, and roundtables. Examples of video include interviews, how-to tutorials, and conference/tradeshow clips. We also welcome links to blogs and other relevant materials.
If you’re helming a special issue, examples of multimedia might include an audio introduction by the guest editors, audio/video/PowerPoint slides from authors, a link to an author blog for feedback, comments, and ongoing discussion, audio sidebars for each article, and so on. The best time to supply such materials is, of course, “as soon as possible.” Failing that, we’d like to get them no later than at the start of the editing cycle (that is, when staff editors have contacted authors with a brief introduction and text editorial schedule).
What does a “perfect” multimedia submission look like for the Transactions department?
If we can get it, we want raw footage—ideally, you’ll give us everything, meaning the A roll (the main action/talking) and the B roll (any background/scenery-establishing shots) edited and cut together (if you can’t do that, you’ll provide a script for us, telling us exactly which minutes of which files to splice together), any voiceovers (if required) already done and recorded, and signed appearance releases for anyone appearing in the video or audio file.
Editorially, we’re looking for something short, relevant, interesting, high in quality, appealing to a broad audience (it can “stand alone” somewhat), and that comes across as natural and organic instead of stiff and news anchor-y. You’ll want to use proper audio and video equipment if you can get it, not your cell phone.
Strangely enough, audio is key, even for videos—you’ll want to use a microphone and move your interviewee to a quiet, carpeted room. You’ll also want to check the sound levels and make sure your recording doesn’t come off as tinny or accidentally picks up a lot of random background noise. For video, shirts matter! Solid colors are best—avoid white.
Here are a couple of resources for video shooting: “Video Interview Shooting Techniques” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9EmbqNWJZ0) and “Interview Techniques: Producing Video Podcasts” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWRvRP MNavw).
But keep in mind that multimedia/video content can include animation and simulations, not just interviews.
What formats do you prefer for video and audio files?
For audio, we want the raw audio so that we can edit it if need be—for PCs, this means the .wav format; for Apple, .aif or .aiff. These are the CD-quality file types produced on each machine. For video, we want .mov, .avi, or .dv formats. We don’t have the equipment to handle tape-to-digital conversions. If you’re thinking of sending an .mp3 file (audio), note that it must be the ready-to-post, finished product (including any musical interludes). Manipulating .mp3 files doesn’t yield good audio quality so only send in the .mp3 if it’s absolutely ready to go.
How long should my files be?
Generally, shorter is better—audio files can go a bit longer because people tend to download them for listening on the go (still, 20 minutes or less is a good rule of thumb). To be compelling, videos must be much shorter—5 minutes max, preferably 2 minutes, if possible.
Do I need to prepare a script?
In a word, yes. Scripting or at least outlining your video or audio product in advance is a very helpful way of keeping it focused and sounding professional. In fact, the more tightly scripted it is, the better. Avoid loosely outlined material if you can because it often manifests itself in rambling or panicky pauses. If you plan on interviewing people, it’s a good idea to share questions in advance so that all parties know what to expect.
What exactly can the multimedia team do for me? Do you have a “menu” of offerings?
Unfortunately, we aren’t staffed as a professional multimedia production house—we don’t have actors capable of doing voice-overs or huge editing bays that can fix video or audio files that started from a place of bad quality (recorded in a loud room, inappropriate noise levels, bit-mappy video zooms). But we do have a dedicated, smart, friendly group of people who will work with you every step of the way. Here are some of the things that team can do for you (see Computing Now for some examples; http://www.computer.org/portal/web/computingnow):
• For audio,
– Insert musical intros and outros
– Following a transcript, insert markers into audio files, so that users can “skip” from question to question
– Apply filters to remove *some* of the background noise and/or boost vocal levels, but note that this is not a panacea (these filters can sometimes have the opposite effect, making the vocals boom out in an almost uncomfortable way)
– With your guidance, break up your podcast into more digestible segments—especially if it’s reaching past the 20-minute guideline
– Help you set up a release schedule for your podcast series (if you’re doing a one-off audio file, this isn’t all that important, but if you’re wanting to set up a regularly scheduled program, our team can help you grow it)
– If time permits, help trim out any “uhs” and “ahs” (this is where scripting helps—but bear in mind that you don’t want to remove ALL your personality, and a natural-sounding interaction between people almost always sounds better than something overly stiff)
– “Cut up” files into smaller segments—we sometimes reuse or repurpose our content
• For video,
– Insert text to identify the speakers
– Insert musical intros and outros
– With your guidance, typically from some sort of script or outline, splice together bits from several different files to create a seamless final file (note, however, that we can’t guarantee rush turnaround, and taking on projects like this is subject to the material passing a vetting process to determine if the quality and content are acceptable)
– Add your own prerecorded voice-over to the specific video segment you want to add it to
Although we don’t have the resources to help with software/hardware set up for those who want to get into heavy-duty audio/video recording, we can recommend some products that can help on your end.
For software, consider the following options:
• GarageBand is included on most Mac systems.
• Audacity ((http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) works on PC, Macs, and Linux machines. It’s free and open source.
• More advanced (and expensive) tools include Adobe Audition and Adobe Soundbooth. We don’t recommend buying these software suites unless you’re serious about audio recording. Audacity and GarageBand can take care of most podcasting needs.
• Levelator (http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator) is a free program that does a good job leveling .wav and .aif files. But we only recommend it if you’re interested in delivering a finished podcast to us.
For hardware, you’ll want
• a good USB microphone. We use a MXL Studio One and have had good results.
• headphones to test the final product. We have a couple of pairs of Sennheisers, but don’t invest in expensive headphones unless you’re pursuing production as a hobby/career.
For video editing software, you can use
• iMovie, which is included on most Mac systems. It’s a very lightweight version similar to Final Cut Pro.
• Lightworks for PC users (http://www.lightworksbeta.com/). This is a free program but very, very strong. Again, only consider getting into this software if you want to pursue video production.
• Adobe Premier, which is an advanced editing suite available for Mac and PC.
• Commercial, off-the-shelf software options such as Pinnacle and Corel VideoStudio.
For hardware, consider
• a good low-cost video camera, such as a Flip-like camera or Kodak Zi8.
• a Sony ECM-DS70P condenser stereo microphone or Audio Technica ATR-3350 lavalier/lapel omnidirectional condenser microphone (or similar).
• a desktop tripod and a lightweight tripod for non-hand-held shooting.
• a USB camera for capturing remote interviews over a computer. We use a Logitech Tessar 2.0/3.7 and have had good results.
How exactly do I tape someone? Help!
Even if you don’t have an audio/video department to support you, it’s relatively simple and inexpensive to set yourself up for audio recording (that said, again, please avoid using your cell phone). A microphone with a USB connection is a good investment if you want to record on a regular basis; you can also get an adaptor that will connect any normal vocal microphone to a USB device to plug into a laptop or desktop. As mentioned earlier, some free software applications such as Audacity are available for editing files, and GarageBand provides a good, simple solution for Mac users.
For video, something like a Flip cam (or equivalent, such as the Kodak Zi8) can provide a low-cost, good-quality result. Issues to consider when setting up to film:
– Be careful using public areas because noise can be a problem. Most cameras don’t have an external microphone jack, so you’ll have to use the built-in microphone, which will pick up background noise.
– Look for a simple background, such as a curtain. (Think how you’d feel if you watched this video: Is the shot appealing? Distracting?)
– Set up near a window or light source so that interviewees are facing the light. (If the light source is behind them, their face will be in shadow.)
– If possible, you might want to shoot a few minutes’ worth of establishing shots (a sign with the name of the show, a room full of people, etc.) to include as B roll footage for editing.
Submission Instructions—Where will I post my files?
At the moment, we still encourage people to FTP their files to us at ftp://transMedia@ftp.computer.org (User name: transMedia, Password: media2011), but we’ve found that the really huge files tend to choke up the server. We’re working on that through our own internal IT department. In the meantime, if you experience a problem FTP’ing, you can either post the file on your own FTP site or website (send us the link to download it) or use a third party such as Dropbox.com or box.net. Once your files have been posted, please notify Erica Hardison at email@example.com. Please include in the email, your signed appearance release form (electronic signatures are accepted), and completed Podcast Episode Metadata Template.
Hey, wait a minute—I gathered some multimedia content, why didn’t you post it?
Just as with our print publications, we have editorial standards and guidelines we need to apply to ensure that we’re providing the best possible content to our audience. The emphasis here is on high quality—if something looks amateurish, or if the quality is so bad that viewers can’t see or hear the file, we will exercise the right to not use it. This is why it’s so important to strive for the best possible quality files you can get—it’s somewhat easy to edit text, but if a video or an audio file is horribly recorded, there isn’t much we can do to fix it.
Okay, I’m ready to start a podcast series—now what?
Here are a few things to consider for podcasts:
• How frequently will you have new episodes? Podcasts really need to have a consistent release schedule to keep subscribers and grow the podcast.
• Will there only be one host or will a co-host be used as well? Will other personalities appear on the show?
• David Alan Grier’s The Known World is a great example of ideal podcast format. Instead of launching into a word-for-word reading of his monthly column, he gives a brief introduction to set up the podcast. He also wraps up the podcast with some final thoughts. Neither the intro nor the outro appear in print, but it adds a nice finishing touch and makes it a real Web extra.
– Example podcast format sequence:
• Intro bumper with music: We can provide this; it’s where the title of the podcast is identified and a brief description of what listeners can expect from the podcast. If it’s associated with the Transaction, give the journal name. The bumper can be standard and reused for each episode. The bumper should be standardized and reused for each episode, and staff can work with you to execute it.
• Brief introduction: The background information on the column topic, maybe what didn’t make the final version, an anecdote relating to the column. Overall color.
• Interview from the field or the episode subject: The column or interview.
• Final comments: Similar to the introduction. Wrap it up, summarize, etc. A teaser for the next episode is also good here.
• Outro bumper with music: This is similar to the intro. Credits such as permissions for music are usually here. Mention the title of the podcast and the journal again. Refer listeners back to the Computer Society website for more podcasts. This will be reused for each episode.
What if I’m taping a one-off audio/video file at a conference?
There are some situations in which professionals should be used to help you obtain quality recordings. These would include high-noise situations such as on tradeshow floors and where special recording setups are required (conference organizers are notorious for controlling this, so do your research in advance of your attendance). You’ll also want to make sure that you
1. obtain signed release forms from ANYONE who’s identifiable on the video
2. mention on the recording with everyone present that the conversation is being recorded for possible podcast/broadcast
3. review recordings of takes you want to keep to make sure you got what you wanted
Okay, I think I can do this—any last words of advice?
Choice of a venue for both video and audio recording requires consideration of many factors. If the shoot or recording is to be done at an unfamiliar location, you’ll want to inquire with someone who is familiar with it about the factors listed below.
• Consider using professional assistance for the best quality recording and to allow you and your subject to focus on the content.
• Obtain signed release from venue officials, if necessary.
• When first meeting with someone for the taping, obtain a signed appearance release form immediately.
• Seek a quiet room where the door can be closed and the walls aren’t barren. Carpet or other sound absorbing materials are preferred. Check for echo before setting up.
• Find an area away from air conditioning vents and other sources of noise (electrical panels can also cause interference). Service doors in hotels and conference centers can also be a source of noise if staff suddenly get busy.
• Record one minute of ambient sound in case it is needed in editing.
• Flip-style cameras are great on a tripod, but they don’t handle the motion of a handheld shoot as well as older non-compressing cameras. If you’re going to do a handheld interview, practice by pointing the camera at something for 5 minutes or so, to practice holding a shot with a minimum of motion. Handheld interviews give a certain “life” to interviews, but if you wobble too much, the viewer will get seasick.
• Situate the subject so that he or she isn’t facing solid objects or has a solid object close behind to reflect sound.
• If possible, situate microphones so that they do not have to be held by hand and cables are out of the way.
• Lavalier microphones should be placed so that clothing does not rub against them as the subject moves.
• If there is an interruption in the middle of your session, you don’t always have to start over. Just tell us where it happened, and we can often edit out mistakes.
• Mention at the beginning of every recording what it is and who is in it.
• Keep a log of each recording.
• Test everything. In particular, test the audio and all connectors. It’s very embarrassing to be ready to start and then to find out you’re missing an adapter. Audio levels are crucial, so do a short interview with a test subject and then review it to check the levels and background noise and to make sure there’s no hum.
• If you’re taping a conference call, use Skype (if possible) and ask all callers to be in a quiet location in advance of the call time, with a wired connection (not wireless or cell phone) and no planned interruptions.