Amazon Audio Slideshow

Picture 3

Well, I bit the bullet and just spend the whole day (4:30 am—jetlag wakeup—to 7:30pm and did my audio slide show of my recent Amazon trip in one day.  Believe it or not, that’s a new record.

I’m getting better at the audio stuff (the picture editing takes, um, about 15 minutes. The audio takes anywhere from one day to three months!).

Here’s a list of what I learned from this, my most recent stumble foray into multimedia.

1. I don’t want to be a wildlife photographer. I will hold my buddy and colleague Ralph Lee Hopkins‘ coat while he shoots wildlife (and I have a glass of wine in the other hand), but geez, how can you work with friggin’ creatures that can’t take direction and stand so far away?

2. Folks who can speak well and tell stories succinctly are rare treasures. A good narrator or interviewee can make you or break you in the audio slideshow racket (and I’ve been broken a lot lately).

I hate to resort to doing the VO narration myself or running long text slides (hey, it’s called multimedia. If they wanted to read something, they’d be buying enough of the magazines in the first place so that all of us old dogs wouldn’t have to learn these new tricks!).

Fortunately, I had two gems on this gig. Jorge Davila could be the first naturalist I’ve met who could just as easily make a living doing stand-up comedy. And Expedition Leader Jorge Salas has a voice so rich, he makes James Earl Jones (“This is CNN”) sound like a castrato.

3. Video Sucks. Okay, that may be a little harsh, but honest to god, I had a lot of clips that represented moments I should have been shooting stills or catching audio (Yes, I know I can extract the audio, but it’s a pain), and what can I do with them?  Thankfully, Fotomagico can now handle video along with stills (but alas, not Soundslides Pro yet) so I don’t have to learn  Final Cut (not enough lifetime left for that). But I still haven’t figured out how to integrate the two without having it look clunky and home movie-ish.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think video has its place. In fact, I’m shooting a mainly video gig for my capo di capo, Peggy, later this week. I’ll be documenting an event sponsored by the Jonathan Krist Foundation.

But I just have to shoot it, and one of Peggy’s cadre of video-genius volunteers will put it together in a nice MTV-like presentation for the foundation website on a pro bono basis. Now, I’ve tried to cut a deal with these guys, and while they’re smart enough to realize that I, too, function basically as a non-profit, they also know that I’m nowhere near as worthy a cause!

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. It was nice to have a little and too short chat with you in Newark coming from Lima. Wish, i’ll have been more awake and realized earlier who was sitting a few rows behind me.

    Nice shots!!!

    1. Hi Michel: What are the odds of two travel journalists sitting a row apart! I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep after that redeye! Bob

  2. Bob,
    I just watched your “Along the Amazon” video. You may not want to be a wildlife photographer but you are a story teller. And when a story finds itself in front of your lens, whether it’s animal or human, you can’t help yourself – click, click, click.
    I was moved by your story telling.

    1. Thanks Gary…glad you enjoyed it! Bob

  3. Oh my – I loved that so much and the only criticism I have is it was not long enough. I was sad when it ended and wanted to see / hear more! Thank you so much for sharing it. Gorgeous shots BTW and I so agree on that voice too. 🙂


    1. Hi Mary: Well, that’s a nice criticism! I’m just going by the industry standard that says anything 3 minutes or longer on the web is the rough equivalent to War and Peace! Bob

  4. Bob,
    Thanks for the great slide show! What a trip that must have been. I was really blown away by the color in your images. May I ask what setting(s) you use?

    1. Hi Dana: Everything there, except for the blue and yellow macaws, are out of the camera JPEGs (see my earlier confessional post). For most of the scenics, it’s the Vivid setting on the Nikon D90 and D300s. I may have the saturation up a notch or two too high in my quest for digital Velvia.

      The people stuff is usually just the Standard setting for the JPEG, again with the saturation up a notch or two above normal.

      I had to do some work on the Macaws to deal with the contrast, but I’m loving the time that well exposed JPEGs are saving me. Bob

  5. Wonderful photos Bob and it all comes to life in a slideshow like this. You were right about the expedition leader’s voice… Very deep!

    One small criticism would be that I think the zoom ins on some of the shots appear to be slightly sluggish (not fluent enough and almost look like they are skipping a few pixels at a time). Probably just a software issue.

    1. Hi Catalin: Yeah, those bumpy zooms are a common complaint in the Soundslide forums. I forget, in between creating shows, that the answer seems to be to use verrrry small, subtle moves. But I forget and put in bigger ones—they seem to work fine on the harddrive, but get sluggish online.
      I might have to go back (in my spare time!) and bring the zoom movements down to make them work smoother. It’s a learning (and forgetting) and re-learning process! Bob

      1. Yeah a lot of times things will look and act differently when they are on the local harddrive as opposed to in a browser online. I had this sort of problem quite often when using Flash for slideshows.

        As you said, we all keep learning 🙂

  6. Hi Bob,
    Great slideshow here. No doubt that the audio provides a better sense of place to the reader (?!). Many great images, and love the kids in school and their counting. Priceless.

    1. Hi Eric: Great to hear from you. Hope things are going well. Those kids in the middle of the Amazon had more English than I do Spanish, that’s for sure!

  7. Bob,

    It’s great. The narration is wonderful, the photos are superb (of course!) and I love the ambient sound. It’s a measure of how good it was that it didn’t seem like 4 minutes. (I agree that stuff on the web much longer than 3 minutes feels like War and Peace, or worse, Heaven’s Gate.)

    On a Nerd Note, I use Final Cut Express for my multimedia, it’s not as complicated as people think (for slide shows, for video it’s a real challenge). One huge advantage to FCE is that you can edit sound right on the timeline, so throw whatever sound you have, .mp3, .wav or .aiff into it and edit away. It’s really easy to link sound directly to still images. Of course FCE doesn’t have the display options (captions, thumbnails etc) that soundslides has.


    1. Jack: Final Cut! You are the man! I bought FCE about a year ago, and it’s still in the box. I keep telling myself it’s because I’m waiting to upgrade my G5 tower to an Intel Mac Pro, but truthfully, I’m just intimidated by the learning curve! And as long as it stays in the box, it can’t hurt me…. Hope you’re well. Bob

  8. Slancha Bob,

    Once again your stuff just floors me Bob. For a guy who doesn’t want to be a wildlife shooter you sure come up with some amazing stuff. I was just thinking how Ralph Lee would feel knowing you do this without a Canon?
    trifolach ar la

    Your Bud

    1. Tim: Ralph has nothing to fear from me, although if they do start putting a bar in the skiffs for the wildlife viewing trips, I might get into it more! Bob

  9. Hi Bob!
    I absolutely loved your Amazon video. Was the guide’s narration done live..or in the studio? Just exceptional.

    1. Hi Dave: We did it on a jungle walk…lagged behind the group one morning. He nailed it all just about on the first take. Quite a guy! Great Expedition Leader too, but I think he could do professional VO on the side! Bob

    1. Nice shot, Arun! Stitched together pano? Or all in one go? Bob

      1. Hey Bob
        It was stitched together in Bridge/PS. So it is a pretty large file with full RES.
        Thanks for taking a look.

  10. Awesome!

  11. Great job. Who needs video when you can produce a story like this! It makes me want to find my old Carousel slide projectors, dissolve control, and reel-to-reel recorder, now that was multimedia the hard way.


    1. Gary: Yes, those multi-projector shows were a real commitment of time and expertise…and god forbid if you had a projector out of alignment! Does make you realize how much easier things are now…not that it helps any! Bob

  12. Are you a pro? honestly, this video is awesome! I love it. And you’re a great storyteller too – or a writer i must say. Just keep on posting good stuffs, love your work!

  13. Love the Amazon video Bob! Great work. Libby and I are planning to do some multimedia work in Africa these next couple months. She just upgraded to a D300s, so we might even try a bit of video blended in…

    1. Hudson: If you don’t feel up to dealing with Final Cut Express or Pro, try either Fotomagico or iMovie 09 for blending video in with the slides. Both will do it, with a much gentler learning curve than FC. Every time I open FCE on my computer, I close it up and say, “later”! Bob

      1. Thanks for the great advice Bob! So far I’ve only gotten as far as installing FC…

        1. HH: You’re a lot more software savvy than I, but when I see that FCE interface, I just want to sit down and have a drink! Or three. BK

  14. Pity you don’t live nearer. I have 10 gallons of Belgian Strong Ale finishing in the basement. We could kick back and forget about FCE with that when I get back! 😉

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