• Tips for Making Good Audio Slideshows

    By Reuben Stern
    RJI Futures Lab Print & Graphics Editor
    Missouri School of Journalism

    It often helps to think of the audio slideshow as yet another unique type of storytelling medium – a hybrid that falls somewhere between still photography and video.

    The term audio slideshow refers to series of still images arranged to appear on screen in sequential order over the duration of a piece of edited audio.

    The examples linked below demonstrate the flexibility of this medium.

    Creating a good audio slideshow involves several journalistic components:

    • Reporting/gathering the photos and audio
    • Deciding on a storytelling form and/or narrative thread for the piece
    • Selecting photos and audio clips that best convey the story
    • Editing the audio together into a soundtrack
    • Making choices about the order in which the photos appear; the duration of time each photo stays onscreen; and the relationship between what is seen and heard at any given moment. This could be referred to as the “cinematics.”

    Just as certain situations lend themselves particularly well to text or to video, certain types of stories can be particularly well-told using the audio slideshow medium.

    Characteristics of good audio slideshow story ideas:

    • There is activity and/or people doing something observable (e.g., it is not a meeting story).
    • It is visually rich (e.g., lots of color, decoration, contrast, rhythm, motion, scenery, etc.).
    • There are lots of different situations taking place and/or a variety of interesting moments (i.e., not a bunch of different people repeating the same thing).
    • The idea is emotional and/or humorous.
    • It features rich character or personality.

    The key is that both the sights and sounds involved should be interesting and important to the story. There should be enough visual variety that you will be able to have a collection of strong images to fill the time without the images becoming redundant.

    For example, kids playing on a swing may get redundant fast. But a day in the life of kids playing all over, or a day in the life of a park playground might better provide enough visual variety for an entire slideshow.

    Why not use a photo gallery?

    A photo gallery enables the user to click through the photos one by one, and it generally does not contain audio. A photo gallery is good for things like awards ceremony arrival pictures, where users want to stop and stare at each image in their own time, or when the order/timing of the pictures is not important. A photo gallery is also good when the situation does not have good audio possibilities.

    On the other hand, the sounds of an audio slideshow create a multimedia experience that can transport the viewer into the time and place shown in the images. Audio slideshows are plotted out in a cinematic way, meaning the timing and order of the images and sounds can be adjusted to heighten the effect of the storytelling.

    Why not use video?

    Video is great for showing things in motion, and sometimes watching the event just as it unfolded is key. Other times, though, it can be more informative to do without a lot of those frames and spend the same 5 to 10 seconds looking at a specific stop-action image from what happened. Good photojournalism captures these “decisive moments.” So unlike video, a good audio slideshow can extract just the key moments from an event or story and present those  with time to digest each moment, rather than showing everything in motion. It’s like a video boiled down to its essence.

    How many pictures do I need?

    Plan for each photo to be onscreen for about 5 seconds. So, for each minute of slideshow that means about 12 images, give or take. It takes hard work and a lot of moving around while photographing to keep the visuals from becoming redundant.

    Types of audio slideshow presentations

    The audio slideshow medium lends itself to a lot of experimentation with storytelling form. Click on the links below to see examples of several approaches you might consider, depending on the story you are covering.


    The event speaks for itself: Audio from the scene provides the soundtrack with images laid over it. This approach works even better if the sound and images are presented with some kind of narrative thread (e.g., a beginning, middle and end).
    Friday Night Fights by Fareeha Ali and Alicia Schaumburg
    Doctor Doggy by Stephen Bell, Matt Velker, & Steven Welliver

    1 subject, 1 experience: Tell the story of an event through the eyes of one person. Hear that person’s voice narrating. This can also be achieved by going back afterward and having the subject talk about what is in the photos.
    Best in Show by Meghan Krane and Zachary Siebert

    Multiple subjects, 1 experience: Hear from several people involved in a story. This has similarities to a traditional broadcast report except that it lets the people involved do all the talking.
    Marching for Peace by Meghan Krane, Lauren Palandro, Ben Dillon & Jennifer Herseim


    Self-narrated profile: The person talks about himself or herself, while we see related images. This can be a great way to quickly bring a subject to life before our eyes.
    The Hair Wrangler by Samantha Clemens
    Lennie Edwards: A New Future by Ricky Leung

    All-around profile: One person’s story, told by multiple narrators/sources
    Passion for Princesses by Sait Serkan Gurbuz and Meghan Krane
    Hunting for Friendship by Chris Kelleher

    Narrated reflection piece: Reporter describes what was seen and heard or how the reporter felt about the scenes that are laid out in the images.
    Warrior Ink by Tim Wimborne (after the opening reflection part, this example switches to a series of mini self-narrations)

    TV style package: Just like a TV news video story, except the images are stills.
    Life Inside Jasailmer Fort by Sanjoy Majumder

    Process: Follow something through its journey from beginning to end.

    ----------Posted on March 21, 2012 by in 2150, 4804, 4806, 4992, 7802, Help Files

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