Do’s and don’ts for slideshows

Having graded 25 students’ Soundslides today, I have a few pointers to offer for anyone producing an audio slideshow:

DO:

  1. Have clear relationships between what we hear and what we see. If the event planner is talking about making the decorations, for example, show the decorations.
  2. Tell a story. Don’t just slap on an interview in which someone explains something.
  3. Provide context. Why are these people doing this, or what’s the purpose of the event?
  4. In an early caption, tell us exactly where we are (including the state, please!) and the exact date (including the year, please!).
  5. Write captions that provide additional information. Do not tell us what we can see in the photo (if we can see it, you don’t need to tell us).
  6. In captions, identify each person in the photo with first and last name, and some other information, such as where they live, their occupation, or (for students) their major.

DON’T:

  1. Begin with an ID ( “I’m Mary Jones, and I’m a finance major”); this is completely boring. It fails to spark any interest in your story.
  2. Allow the background sound to drown out the interview.
  3. Use natural sound out of context — for example, a car horn blowing when we see no cars and no street.
  4. Show objects, walls, signs — unless there is a person (or a person’s hand, etc.) in the photo too.
  5. Combine audio and photos in a way that misleads (for example, we hear one person singing while we see a photo of a different person singing).
  6. Repeat the same lengthy information in multiple captions.

For more audio slideshow tips, see RGMP 11: Tell a good story with images and sound.

17 Comments on “Do’s and don’ts for slideshows

  1. “Write captions that provide additional information. Do not tell us what we can see in the photo (if we can see it, you don’t need to tell us).”

    That isn’t necessarily true for all of the potential audience though is it? We use audio description in TV and ‘alt text’ on the web to convey additional information about things that can be ‘seen’. Why shouldn’t a student be concerned about accessibility in this instance?

  2. I don’t think the text in audio slideshows is accessible. If it described the photo and was being read to you by a screen reader, you could not be listening to the audio at the same time.

  3. “Show objects, walls, signs — unless there is a person (or a person’s hand, etc.) in the photo too.”

    I think this depends on the audio story you’re telling doesn’t it?

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  6. @Omar Khalifa – In general, a shot with no people, no hands, fingers, feet, is a dead shot. Dead as in lifeless.

  7. “Tell a story. Don’t just slap on an interview in which someone explains something.”

    Are slideshows really only good for telling stories? Isn’t it also a tool to visualize audible content?
    Case: I had an audio interview with an architect who was explaining a planned building. I shot sequences of photos of him while he was talking – he made very expressive gestures. I think it could be a nice idea to combine the photos of the interview with the photos of the building to the audio of the interview – which wouldn’t be a story but just an interview.

  8. @Joachim – I like your idea. It sounds like it has great emotion. But in the editing, you can build it as a story. You wouldn’t want it to be flat throughout, would you?

    Hook the audience. Build to a conclusion. Tie it off with a bow. Result: Better than “just an interview.”

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