Unit 4: Levels

This Unit is about audio. It involves learning a little about audio production and making some audio media.

Listen to examples of audio storytelling to think about how radio is effective, beginning with This American Life, a radio show and podcast which consists of new shows throughout the year and which you can listen to here.

You may have heard of Serial, which debuted in October 2014, a 12 part nonfiction podcast that tells the story of a murder that took place in 1999 in Baltimore, Maryland. You can listen to all 12 episodes here and it is highly recommended listening. It is the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads at Apples’ iTunes store.

Introduction to Audio Techniques

Some things to notice when listening to audio are the pacing (think of the equivalent of paragraphs in sound), the use of music, sound effects, ambient/environmental sounds, the introduction of radio ‘bumpers’ to remind us of the show, introduction and exits. Of key importance is trying to hear the layering of sounds, of how audio can create a sense of place by being more than just a recording, but a deliberate stacking of audio.

Ds106 took out elements of an hour long episode of RadioLab, a 2007 show called Detective Stories, and uploaded a shorter version to Soundcloud, where the comments indicate how some of these are used in the show. See if you can pick these out in this example and then in other audio you listen to this unit.

Listening to Stories

One of the best ways to understand how audio can be used to create stories is to listen to some great examples.

Pay very close attention to not only the stories told but how they are constructed in audio format. Take the time to focus on listening, not just in the background of being on your computer.

Listen to one episode from these series:

This American Life “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always”.

Radio Lab “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience”.

The Truth “Movies for your ears”.

 Sound Effects Story

Here are a couple of resources for audio production work.

Audacity is opensource (free) audio editing software. Besides having many useful tools, a key feature is its ability for multitrack editing, so you can layer your sounds. You can download it here. Make sure that you download and install the plugin needed to save your Audacity sounds as mp3 files.

Create an account on Freesounds, a site for creative commons licensed sound effects.

Time to do an audio assignment. Create a Sound Effects Story. This is a challenge to tell a short story (no longer than 60 seconds) using nothing but sound effects. Upload it to SoundCloud and make sure you embed your audio in your assignment post.

Share this audio work as a blog post, and tag it according to the instructions on the assignment page. The tags are important – the two tags for the Sound Effects Story are AudioAssignments and AudioAssignments70— these tags enable ds106 to list your blog post as an example completed for that assignment on the assignment page – ‘making is connecting’.

Daily Creates

Complete at least three daily creates this Unit and post them on your blog.

Summary of Unit 4

During this Unit you should have:

Listened to  some examples of radio/podcast series to think about how to tell stories using audio

Created and account at Freesounds and if needed, downloaded Audacity

Completed the Sound Effects Story audio assignment blog post

Completed at least three Daily Creates and documented them as blog posts.



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