Multimedia apps for journalists
In this week’s edition of II’s summer guest blogger series, Adam Westbrook expands upon a personal post about free applications for multimedia journalists. Included are nine useful multimedia applications to utilize in your next project.
“A small blog article about two months ago proved to be one of the most successful in the five years I’ve been blogging. It listed a dozen or so free applications available on the internet to help multimedia journalists create great pieces.
Well a revision is well overdue; there’s a few of the old ones, which I’ve really enjoyed using, plus many new ones. As always this isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are ones which, to have in your arsenal, give you great potential as a multimedia journalist.
The real ‘eureka’ discovery for me was Vuvox, the media creation engine. It says it wants to help you find â€œyour visual voiceâ€. At it’s most basic, it is a pretty simple (if inflexible) way to create and embed audio slide shows. But it’s real power is in it’s amazing collage creation tool.
Within minutes of editing I was building an interactive landscape packed with photographs, video, audio and interactive buttons, which later became the flagship element on oneweekiniraq.net
A producer with a bit of imagination could easily create some beautiful and accessible pieces with this.
Gimp, if you haven’t heard of it, is pretty much just like Photoshop…and as difficult to understand. Still it’s important to have top end image manipulation â€“ not just for photographs, but for graphics, buttons…in fact, just about anything.
I used this interactive map software to create a map tracking the mysterious disappearance of a woman in Yorkshire, UK, using information from the police investigation. It gave the radio station I work for an instant web highlight to direct listeners too, and it’s been used by other radio stations across the country.
You can use either Google or Microsoft maps, and add as many interactive buttons as necessary. On the downside, you can only link them to text or photographs (which themselves must be stored on photobucket).
I still stick by Jamendo as the place to go to get licence free, quality music for your productions. The quality of the music is high, but it will take a long time to find that perfect piece (my advice: only search for the French musicians!)
There is, however, a challenger in town…
Works in much the same way as Jamendo, utilizing a community of amateur music producers to create a whole array of sounds for multimedia types. The difference is that Humtoo seems to aim itself more at the professional media market, with clients including ITV and Current TV. It also has a forum where producers can request the types of music they want.
Music for broadcast is royalty free…but for everything else, it seems you might have to negotiate.
This open source audio editing software is found in many professional radio stations, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be on the desktop of any multimedia producer working in audio. It’s interface isn’t too dissimilar to Adobe’s Audition kit, but it is not nearly as advanced. It’s best suited to editing and layering simple speech â€“ not designing symphonies.
I haven’t found an easier site to create troublesome HTML tables than Tablizer. If you need a table on your page, all you need to do is copy and paste the numbers from an excel spreadsheet and it’s done. You can also change the colors and the fonts, but other than that the tables are pretty inflexible.
I am still a big fan of Soundcloud, which the radio station I work for has used frequently to bring longer interviews and exclusive audio to listeners. The free version only allows five uploads a month, but they can be of any size, and you can replace recordings all the time.
Soundcloud’s highlight is it’s customizable player, and it’s excellent customer support which helped me when I first started using it.
Like it or not, as a multimedia producer, you are at some point going to have to dip your toes into web design. Up until last month I had basic HTML knowledge, but CSS was a mystery — until I discovered Firebug. It’s a plugin to Mozilla Firefox, which gives you instant access to the HTML and CSS markup for any webpage.
As well as seeing the architecture of any web page you want to emulate, it’s best feature is the ability to fiddle with the CSS code and immediately seeing how it changes the look of the page. It makes CSS a lot easier…and dare I say it, kinda fun.
All of these applications are free for basic accounts, and that opens up multimedia journalism to so many more people, especially new journalists trying to find a voice. If you’re a student journo, you have absolutely no excuse not to set up your own online magazine!”
Adam Westbrook is a multimedia journalist with several years experience in television, radio and online. Currently working as a broadcast journalist for Bauer Media, one of Europeâ€™s largest media companies, Westbrook has more than five years experience on the front line of broadcast news.
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Tags: Adam Westbrook, advice, applications, Audacity, Firebug, free, Gimp, Humtoo, Jamendo, multimedia, software, Soundcloud, Tablizer, Umapper, vuvox