Audio Editing for multi-media storytelling
The following detailed notes on the editorial process developed in the context of a multi-media workshops for learners at Market Photo Workshop Johannesburg (March 2011):
Audio editing in the context of literacy
The first steps outside with recorder, headphones and microphone can be an “eye”-opener to one’s environment. The first process of listening back over speakers to just-made recordings – and especially to recordings of one’s own voice – can cause an awakening. What takes place is a sudden awareness to observation as a source of knowledge, followed by a critical awareness to the means and possibilities of representation, as well as the power in the hands of an author, editor or producer – usually followed by the wish to gain active skills and access.
No less is involved here than a desire to “read & write” in one’s own language, or in other word, to find a voice and have a say. The “I & EAR” training programme guides participants step by step through this process while gaining the editing and production skills, and the practical understanding of shaping a language through which “I” can articulate and produce “the world” around me. The process is a creative route to literacy through “active listening” which can involve text and writing as much as audio and visual recordings.
The audio editing process
The editorial process followed in the training involves producing a “production palette“ of ordered, sorted, named and archived narrative minimal units from the collected raw footage data of sound. In audio terms it involves a process of “clipping“, that is taking apart a dense narrative unity of, for example, a 60mins interview to its primary narrative elements, phrases of up to 30sec. and/ or much smaller. The process of producing and archiving clips is an analysis of audio data through intense listening and editorial negotiations.
The process of clipping in audio editing could also be described as “taking a picture” of a certain excerpt of a narrative continuity. The framing “viewfinder” in this case is a 30sec. duration; pressing the shutter-release is equivalent to making two cuts: “top ‘n tail”, finding the precise beginning & end points of the clip. The precise framing of an image and the precise clipping of audio are a literary or narrative device; framing and clipping are an authored editorial process based on an editor’s memory, research & experience in correspondence with an act of intense listening, which produces meaning. One clip or one frame/ picture & its making tell a story already. An underlying message always being: “this is what I have heard; this is what I have seen” at a given time & place; i.e., authored seeing, authored hearing. What unfolds in & through editing practice is a creative analysis through multiple steps of articulation towards the editorial production of a story.
Following this process of analysis or “taking-apart” are procedures of sorting, ordering, naming, listing & arching which aim to achieve a production palette or archive towards assembling a story. It is followed by choosing and sequencing, or in audio terms, play-listing; a procedure of an authored editorial evaluation and synthesis in sound, images and text.
To finalize the process of evaluation and synthesis, an experienced editor would then choose the most suitable software-tool through which to assemble the basic narrative units and produce the story. In many further layers of fine-tuning e.g. adjusting volume, transitions, colour etc., an editor will then listen back & review “the story” framed and assembled in a certain software. What is taking place is a procedure of critically assessing the resulting story against the research questions, which lead to the initial data collection of footage sound & images.
The process also offers a possibility to critically assess a number of differing “stories”, or perspectives on “the same” story: the story an editor might have had in mind when going out in to “the field”, the story the editor thought he/ she heard or saw, the story the interviewee might have thought he/ she told, the story that can be seen or heard in the collected raw data etc. In the training course, the software tools are given; the finalizing process is tutored, guided, collectively assessed and discussed in the group.
“I have chosen and developed this particular editorial process for the training because it offers opportunities of re-discovering literacy while learning and practicing multi-media. It involves participants in exploring a creative process, which includes the research, analysis, evaluation and synthesis of articulated text. Audio editing is learning by listening; it is a practice of “writing” in sound and spoken word audio, which can expand and enhance the participants’ communicative skills. Such a practice helps to unravel “Literacy” as the inherently multi-medial capacity of human beings to communicate,” states the facilitator Claudia Wegener.