Category: Multimedia

Memorial Library Tackling 2 Projects: A Tunnel and A Faculty Development Center

The Memorial Library at Minnesota State University, Mankato is making significant changes this year. This summer construction will begin on a new Faculty Development Center in the Educational Resource Center, ERC. And planning has already commenced on a tunnel connecting the library and the Centennial Student Union, CSU.

Funding for both projects will not fall entirely on the library. The library is, however, funding part of both projects.

The Faculty Development Center

Planning and preparation for the new Faculty Development Center began over a year ago. The center’s future location in the Memorial Library’s ERC means the ERC’s storage area and service desk must be relocated. In addition, the Center for Children’s and Young Adult Books, a non-circulating collection, will be phased out during the next academic year.

Part of the preparation for the center included finding homes for hundreds of 16 millimeter films. All total, the library found new homes for 500 titles in 8 different places.

“It is a hassle for us to move out and get rid of stuff, but it wasn’t stuff we were using,” Leslie Peterson, assistant to the dean of the library, said. “The positives outweigh the negatives.”

One of the positives of the project is that the construction will also include improvements to the ERC. Three significant improvements will be made to the ERC.

  • a new service desk
  • a new work space
  • a new study room

The ERC will only be closed for three weeks following the end of the second summer session. This time will allow the construction crew unlimited time and access to the ERC.

“For three weeks, they can do anything they want,” Barb Bergman, the ERC Coordinator, said. “If they need to (they can) just go crazy.”

The Faculty Development Center and ERC will be open at the start of the new term in August. The new space will provide faculty members a space with multiple offices and a conference room.

Faculty members will be able to exchange ideas in a central location on campus. Other benefits the space will provide faculty members include:

  • a space to elicit support
  • a space to encourage interaction
  • a space to encourage discussion

Unfortunately, the ERC will lose a significant portion of its space to make room for the faculty center. Still, Bergman and Peterson both agree the project triggered improvements to the ERC. Improvements they agree would not have been discussed without this new construction project.

“The Faculty Development Center is a catalyst for change,” Leslie Peterson said.

The Tunnel

A tunnel connecting the Centennial Student Union and Memorial Library is the newest project the Memorial Library has committed to funding.

As part of President Davenport’s challenge to create ‘Big Ideas,’ he granted $420,000 in funding to the project. The library will contribute $400,000 and the CSU $300,000 to fund the approximate $1.22 million project.

“It is a good project,” Laurie Woodward, the director of the CSU, said. “I think it will be an easy project.”

Woodward and Joan Roca, the dean of library services, have been talking about the possible connection for a few years. The connection will finally cement a strong partnership between two facilities committed to serving MSU students.

Before committing to funding the project, Woodward elicited the advice of the CSU board and student government. Both groups were tremendously positive about the connection.

One of the biggest reasons the two groups were excited about the project was because of the location of the tunnel’s connection to the CSU. The two groups are hoping the tunnel’s connection downstairs will provide more traffic to the Maverick Bullpen.

The project is still in its early stages. While planning and preparation began in March, construction will not commence until April 2013.

And while the project will likely have little effect on the CSU’s operations, the Memorial Library is a different story. The front yard of the library’s single entrance will be ripped apart.

Part of this front yard includes the Tim Smith Memorial Park. This park honors Tim Smith, who worked as a MSU librarian and assistant professor. Unfortunately, the park will have to be relocated to accommodate the construction of the tunnel.

Any construction at the library is difficult because the facility must always stay open for its employees.

“The library is like a moving car that we are trying to change the tire on,” Leslie Peterson said.

Still, both Peterson and Woodward believe students will be happy for the connection during the cold, Minnesota winters.

The tunnel will be handicap accessible. And in the initial plan the space was also to include a studying area with:

  • a skylight
  • electrical outlets
  • chairs
  • tables

If everything runs smoothly, the proposed opening date of the tunnel is September 2013.

For a more detailed outline of both construction projects, review my timeline. And do not forget to voice your opinion in the poll!


A Lesson in Audio Editing

Audio Editing Basics from Professor Mindy McAdams

For any audio editing beginner, Professor Mindy McAdams’s tutorial “Getting Started in Audio Editing” is definitely a tremendously useful tool. The short video tutorial provides simple step by step basics in audio editing.

In the tutorial, users specfically learn how to edit audio files using Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source program that allows users to record and edit sounds.

The free editing program is relatively simple. It uses most of the same buttons as the standard camcorder including: play, record, pause and  stop.

The actual audio editing process, however, is a little more difficult than just understanding Audacity’s tools. To simplify the process McAdams compares many of the steps in the process to working in Microsoft Word.

McAdams identifies two steps users need to know for basic audio editing.

  • Step 1: Deleting audio
  • Step 2: Moving audio

To delete audio simply select the segment you wish to delete and hit the delete button. Users can open the edit menu and choose to undo or redo the delete if needed.

Moving audio involves a few more steps.

  1. Select the segment you wish to move
  2. Click “Cut”
  3. Position the cursor to where you want the segment to move to
  4.  Click “Paste”

As a final tip, McAdams notes users should clean up the file by shortening silent points.

If the user wishes to upload the audio file to a website, users must also export the file as an MP3. For the best audio quality, McAdams urges users to choose 128 kbps.

The most surprising part about this entire editing process was how much easier it was than I had anticipated. McAdams short step by step tutorial made the once intimidating process much easier to understand. By comparing many of the steps to Microsoft Word, I felt a lot more comfortable working in the editing program.

My only complaint about the tutorial was that I wish she discussed more than just the basics. In order to make an effective news audio piece, journalists need to know a little more than just the basics.

Ideally, I would love to learn more about how to insert additional audio clips into an audio piece. Specifically, understanding how to insert music smoothly into an audio piece would be an especially effective tool.

Audio storytelling provides a different and unique alternative to the standard article. With a good understanding of audio editing, journalists can become effective audio storytellers. And journalists that can produce any form of multimedia are better equipped to reach audiences today.

I definitely recommend any journalist with little audio editing experience to check out McAdams’s tutorial.

Analyzing Washington Post’s Multimedia Project “Top Secret America”

Washington Post’s multimedia project “Top Secret America” examines the large buildup of the government’s national security following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The multimedia project was a combined effort of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dana Priest and journalist William Arkin both of the Washington Post. With the help of more than 20 other journalists, the 2-year investigation explores the large and complex world of national security in the United States through a series of articles, photo galleries, videos, maps, an online database and an interactive graphic.

In order to understand the effectiveness of the multimedia components in this piece, it is important to understand how the project utilizes each of the 8 advantages of online journalism outlined in James C. Foust’s book Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web.

The audience specifically benefits because of 3 effective elements of online journalism. Audience control gives the users the power to look at anything and everything included in this huge multimedia package. Time and place access gives users the ability to access everything in the package at any place or time of the day. Finally, immediacy allows the journalists to update, change and correct anything in the piece almost instantly.

Four other advantages of online journalism specifically benefit from the tremendous capabilities the web adheres to projects over traditional media. Nonlinearity allows the news package to utilize no predefined linear order. Users can explore in any order. The project also benefits from the tremendous amount of information that can be stored and easily retrieved on the web. Unlimited space and multimedia capabilities provided by the web allows great depth within the package. The online database, map and interactive graphic specifically allow users to explore the extensive and complex world of Top Secret America.

Lastly, audience participation online provides users a great opportunity to be significantly involved in this news package. There is a submit button at the bottom of the page that allows users to contribute to the ongoing project, and social media allows users to share their ideas with the people directly involved in the project.

“Top Secret America” benefits not only because the package is presented online, but because it contains many multimedia components.

Videos are utilized in various ways throughout the package. One video introduces users to the project. Another video helps users understand how to effectively use the interactive graphic. Within the series of articles, videos explain specific items referenced in the article. The bottom of the page also provides a link to the trailer for a documentary piece by PBS’s Frontline that explores the subject as well.

There are five different photo galleries within this package. Each photo gallery explores different aspects discussed in these articles including the roles of private contractors, the locations of top-secret offices, a community’s counterterrorism activities and anti-deception technologies. These photo galleries effectively provide visual snapshots of Top Secret America.

Maps are also used in various places, but the most effective map in the package allows users to search by zip code or city to find domestic counterterrorism organizations in the user’s area and across the United States. This interactive map provides a detailed profile of local counterterrorism efforts in all 50 states, Washington D.C. and 5 U.S. territories. Users can learn about federal, state and local organizations involved in the area, the work they do and when they began participating.

Another option for finding a detailed profile of counterterrorism efforts in the United States is to utilize the searchable database located at the top of the page. Using the database, users can search for top-secret work by government agencies, companies, places, types of work and by all 50 states, Washington D.C. and 5 U.S. territories. Each search locates the specific profile of that government agency, company, place, type of work or state. Profiles for government organizations and companies reveal the official website, a brief description, top-secret work statistics, types of work, latest headlines, a graphic and a google map all specific to the organization or company.

Finally, the most effective and memorable multimedia component is the interactive graphic. The graphic is located at the top of the page under the “explore connections” tab. This multimedia component allows users to discover the relationships between government organizations and the types of work being done in Top Secret America. Color coordinated buttons allow users to explore different kinds of top-secret work. Users can also arrange the graphic in three different categories. Overall, the graphic visually showcases the depth and complexity of Top Secret America.

Despite the successfulness of the multimedia components, without effectively linking these components and sharing this story through social media the news package would have been a lot less user-friendly. At the top of the page the user can always access the intro page, read the stories, see the map, explore the connections, find companies and search the data. There is also an index at the bottom of the page that links users to all the articles and photo galleries. In addition, at the top of the page and within each component in the news package, the user can easily share the story through Facebook, Twitter, Email, Yahoo Buzz, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit. Users can like Top Secret America’s Facebook page and follow them on Twitter and use their hashtag #topsecretamerica.

The only real problem I had with the package was it felt a little overwhelming. A lot of information and multimedia components were contained within the news package, and sometimes it was difficult to interpret all of the data contained within the package. I think the package would have most benefitted from a video, similar to the how to video for the interactive graphic, which explained not only how to use each multimedia component, but how to interpret the data contained within each component. Everything would feel a lot less confusing. Still, Dana Priest and William Arkin’s 2-year investigation piece is a comprehensive and visually stunning look into Top Secret America that is definitely worth the read.

A Lesson in Audio Storytelling from Poynter’s News University

Sound is a vital part of today’s journalism. To gain a better understanding of audio storytelling I took the online course Telling Stories with Sound through Poynter’s News University.

Multimedia editor of the New York Times Andrew DeVigal and visiting professor at the University of South Florida Casey Frechette were the course instructors for this lesson.

In order to understand the process start to finish, the course is divided into 4 sections.

  • Overview: discusses why sound matters
  • Planning: discusses how to choose stories well-suited for sound
  • In the Field: covers everything you need to gather audio on location
  • In the Studio: discusses how to bring everything together

As a beginner, I found everything discussed tremendously valuable. The most valuable part, however, was learning the key steps involved in producing an audio story.

The first step is planning. There are 3 steps in the planning process.

  • Choosing the right story: identifying stories with audio potential
  • Researching and prepping: scouting locations and conducting pre-interviews
  • Packing your gear: gathering basic kit items

Next, the journalist heads into the field. Here, the journalist must be able to elicit complete and descriptive answers from the subject.

In the field, the journalist must also collect various sounds. There are 4 types of sound that are effective in telling a story.

  • Interviews
  • Ambient sound (or atmospheric)
  • Natural sound (or sound effects)
  • Voiceovers

The last step in the process is editing the audio clips into a story. Poynter provides a sound mixer activity for the user to practice this final and critical step.

Prior to this course, I never understand the intense amount of preparation and technical expertise involved in audio storytelling. Audio storytellers must worry about a lot more than the average journalist.

When telling a story with sound, a journalist cannot just go out and record anything. The journalist must understand the sound environment and the gear they will use. And they must understand what sounds they need to tell the story.

A good audio piece does not simply contain an interview with a singluar person. Audio pieces should contain ambient sounds to help the listener understand the feel, or mood, of the place. Additionally, natural sounds should be included to mark an action or transition.

Supplemental and instrumental music can also be effective when carefully and fairly used. Supplemental music can bridge sections of a story, convey a particular mood or change the tone of a piece. Instrumental music can signify a recurrent theme.

Unfortunately, because of the popularity of video today audio storytelling is less prevalent. Podcasts are still relatively popular, but for the most part journalistic pieces containing only audio are not that prevalent. The two audio pieces I did find both utilized another multimedia component.

The first audio piece is from the Washington Post website. The science of cherry blossoms utilizes interview clips from Chief Horticulturist Rob DeFeo, natural sound clips of chalk scraping against a board and voiceover narration to successfully illustrate this story. Without the drawing time-lapse animation, however, the piece would be less successful.

I reterived the second audio piece  from the New York Times website. Whit Stillman’s Family Album uses interview clips with  filmmaker Whit Stillman to explain different photographs from his youth. These audio clips excellently complement the photographs by providing additional insight into his childhood.

Both of these clips exemplify why sound matters. Because without sound there would not be a story.

I urge any journalist interested in audio or video to take this free course. The course offers so many great tips regarding interviewing, recording and choosing gear.