Serial Podcast

Of the all programs Kyla has assigned and displayed to us over the course, none has caught my attention and impressed me more than Sarah Koenig’s Serial Podcast: a 12 part series that explores the mysterious 1999 murder of schoolgirl Hae Min Lee. The podcasts are among the finest investigative journalism I’ve ever experienced – I was really taken a back by how Koenig and her collaborators have made this program so incredibly riveting and innovative. It also exemplifies a new future in radio through the medium of podcast and thus how radio documentary and online culture can be a really effective combination.

Brainstorming – PB4

After learning various lessons on execution, planning and software from the last three briefs: I am genuinely looking forward to Project Brief 4 and am eager to actualise some of the ideas I’ve had for the piece. Essentially, I want to journalistically report on the Male Gaze (a concept that is widely discussed in feminist theory based on male lust and its subsequent empowering and enslaving nature). I want to narrow this down by localising and personalising the concept by interviewing individuals, local organisations and injecting a sonic sense of locality to the piece. I feel confident to enter a more public domain with this piece as my prior works have been in overly-familiar situations chosen with mostly comfort and flexibility in mind. It will be a great opportunity to furthermore practice my journalistic skills as that is my aspiration in life.

Field Production Reflection – Ruby Moves In

For my field production I focused on a big development at Flat 18; a new housemate. Ruby has organised to live there for a month as a sort of trial period to see what living out of home is like. A factor of this is based on her sometimes turbulent situation at home and it has been a fun and cleansing change. The natural domestic sounds that this narrative provided are quite obvious and I knew that the way I organised the piece was imperative to how engaging it could be and thus make it sound less predictable and formulaic.

I positioned each natural sound to how Ruby’s room is mapped out and my bigger goal was to create a sonic floorplan in that sense. I used the aux chord feedback (I don’t know that the technical word for that is!) as a motif; I’ve noticed sonic motifs are heavily used in the listening material and by my peers.

Certain things about this piece were challenging: I didn’t really have enough recorded sounds and wish I collected more as it would have made the final product a little more flexible. It did however enforce a great focus on recording natural sounds – something I’ve looked over in previous briefs in favour of focusing on voice (learning to move away from this though). This project has also developed my skills in finding found recordings and how to manipulate them into strengthening your work. Ideally of course it’s best to record everything yourself but nonetheless it’s a good emergency service. I would also like to be more inventive with field production – think of how natural sounds can be surprising and innovative. Similarly to my studio production, this piece has made me look forward to the next brief as I feel ready to really challenge myself in sonically depicting a new concept and involve all the trial and error lessons I’ve learnt in the last three briefs.

Studio Production Reflection – The Set That Didn’t Happen

For my Studio Production piece I focused on housemate Jade; whose music, insight and expression makes for some interesting sounds and ideas to explore. My plan was to basically document the process of a planned DJ set and deconstruct the journey from Jade’s bedroom creativity to a public space, particularly as Jade is still finding her feet in DJ-ing skills. Unfortunately, Jade was not notified that the equipment would not support her USB and thus night ended up being a bit of a disaster. Nonetheless I still acquired enough material to portray Jade in my intended way and still got what I sonically wanted out of the occasion.

This particular exercise really developed my relationship with Reaper and allowed me to experiment a bit more with skills I learnt at the workshop a few weeks ago. I used a few different FX plug-ins to shape voice and ambience into the piece in a way in which mirrored Jade’s own music (for example echoey and spatial effects). I also combined various  recordings to reinforce the contrast of a public space in the context of Jade’s internalised creativity. I played a lot with volume too and was very cautious of balancing it correctly. There are admittedly a few sound effects I found online that I’ve included that I’ve subtly placed in for texture. I also try to mostly use voice and conversation as more of a backdrop than centrepiece.

Conceptually I was actually inspired by tour documentaries made about musicians: the sequence of rehearsal, travel and performance is I structure I enjoy. Kyla’s gave me some feedback on using music that I kept in mind while piecing it together and also consciously made sure the sounds were diverse and contrasting after various class discussions on “what do we hear?”.

This was quite stressful to make given the circumstances, it’s also hard to count on subjects and have learnt that you have to be quite flexible. Of the five pieces I’ve made for this class this is probably my favourite – I enjoy how it flows. It’s obviously not perfect and there’s a lot of things I’d like to improve on. One of these is introductory narration – I’d like to be able sound more comfortable and coherent. Using narration in this was ultimately an experiment. I’d also like to delve even deeper into the world of plug-ins so I can take my next brief even further. I’m quite a journalistically driven person – it’s my aspiration – so I haven’t really been able to make an abstract piece but would love to explore this side of audio documentary.

In my last brief I was marked down for not appearing to understand the concept and I hope I’ve been able to a hit a little closer to it this time, I do really enjoy making these pieces even though sound design isn’t something I’m particularly good at or have a background in. This brief has made me look forward to the next one.

Project Brief 2 – Flat 18

For Project Brief 2 I decided to focus on ‘Flat 18’, the home of my three friends Jade, Jasper and Shannon. I have a unique relationship with their home as it is in the same building as the apartment I grew up in and currently still live in. Subsequently I was wanting to focus on the way three young adults navigate personal space and coexistence: an idea enhanced by their unique dynamic as a three. I was inspired by several of the readings Kyla had provided us; Serial in particular has got me so obsessed – I love the way Sarah Koenig uses narration. It’s also just generally executed brilliantly. Similarly despite the fact that I actually didn’t enjoy the documentary itself, I liked the way that the documentary of obesity Kyla showed played with conversation and multiple participants.

For my narration, I decided to make a hybrid of conversation, written narration, ambient effects and allusions to my presence through the participants. I definitely struggled a little bit with refining a concept for narration and thus think the final product is a little messy. This was partly intentional as I wanted to also do a ‘behind the scenes’ like formula with it. In the future I think I’ll try and refine the written narration a bit better as it sounds quite rigid – which is exemplified in the contrast between that and my conversational tone.

For my participants, I was really happy that I was able to piece together a strong concept and flow of narrative. This was something I’d learnt from the last brief – not to stick it all together, allow it to flow and embrace gaps. I was fortunate to be able to use Jade’s amazingly ambient music as a soundtrack which allowed me to explore new tones with conversation and interviewing. At first I felt that the song was too dark to use and made the tone of the piece too depressing, however after deeper analysis I concluded that ‘Untitled 03’ (as Jade has so ambiguously titled it) has a very meditative and spacial vibe to it which I think really enhanced the piece. I also felt comfortable reaching out of the conventionally chronological order of the interviews and discussion and have thus pieced it together into something more cohesive.

I do enjoy the rawness of my work and generally think I’ve achieved certain goals I had with it, however I would like to really focus on editing and production techniques next time so I can take it to another level and really refine the portfolio as a whole.


Project Brief 1 – Pat of Six

For Project Brief 1 I had the honour of interviewing Patrick, a very charismatic character who was extremely generous as a subject in what accumulated as 45 minutes of audio footage. While in the future I hope to have a more direct plan, I let the results of the interview dictate the direction I went structurally and in developing a somewhat narrative. I actually purchased sound effects from a site ‘Audio Jungle’ to embed to texture and context into the work, a cost I can now learn to avoid with more forward sonic planning.

We recorded in one of the Building 9 studios which provided pretty clear and pure sound however there were some issues with popping – perhaps a result of how close the microphone was placed. I’ve also learnt from listening to the finished product with headphones (something I didn’t do during the editing products) to listen more clearly for unintended snippets of my voice.

I edited this piece with Reaper which I found generally quite easy however I’m more appealed to idea of using pro-tools as it seems to be used more professionally and be a more sophisticated software. I also hope to find better sources of sound effect and music as I continue to be hesitant about involving musical elements due to copyright restrictions. This is an anxiety I will have to overcome and will require greater research and commitment.

Kyla provided some interesting feedback such as spacing out the editing more and not try and condense the recording together too much. I understood what she meant after listening to Bea’s piece which included some interesting use of sonic interludes that enabled a much more atmospheric and thematically stronger and spaced out product.

Conclusively, I feel more ambitious for my next endeavour particularly after hearing the work of my peers which admittedly made me feel quite amateur in comparison. I believe more preparation in what I want to convey in my work will help for improvement.

Reading – ‘Your Ears Are a Portal to Another World’

Virginia Madsen’s essay on the development of the radio documentary provided some interesting perspectives and context on what I’m learning to be quite a diverse and complex medium. I was particularly interested in the historical periods in which ‘the radio documentary’ flourished: briefly during WW2 and then re-emerging in the 1960s. Furthermore, the examples of programs that uncovered corners of the earth (from obscure countries to working class communities) and supplying voice to the unheard is a rather inspiring notion.

Radio’s New Wave (First Class)

On Wednesday afternoon (after an enduring 5 hour break), Kyla’s first studio class commenced. I selected this studio out of intrigue with what the journalistic and narrational possibilities could be through the medium of radio. I felt that this focus would prove the most valuable for me out of the options, and while I’m slightly nervous about what this semester will bring: I am looking forward to producing my own audio-story. Kyla ended the class with a recording of several hospitalised and critically-ill children. The way the story developed through contextualisation and emphasis on child-like innocence and metaphor was pretty masterful, particularly after a rather clumsy familiarisation with the recording equipment.


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For Project Brief 4, titled “Exploring Texts in the Digital Age: Social Media, Self-Identity and Psychoanalytical Criticism”; Zachary, Monaliza and I created an artefact with separate topical sections for each of us to stylistically convey in our chosen format. A collage of the human body made by separate images was our central product with a designated section of the body reflecting our topics. I focused on the societal implications on social media through two comparative column-style pieces titled ‘Why I hate Grindr but think Tinder’s ok’ and ‘#TBT: 90s Media Influence Compared to Now’.

Over 6 weeks my group collectively developed our ideas and vision and through discussion we would evaluate the actuality of our assessment. Personally, the first few weeks were quite confusing for me and I struggled with developing an understanding of what we had to do and the topic provided (which for us was ‘texts’). Zachary certainly led to the way in this period for which I’m glad as he had a really strong conceptual understanding of the task and through his own interest in theories and readings I was able to develop on awareness and personal contention in my area of the project. The first few weeks revolved around a much more general area of research which is exemplified in my annotated bibliography and benefited more in how to later find substantial theory and direction for my articles. After that I felt I had a much stronger idea of the task and thus we were able to have effective meetings and discussions to how the look the project would look and such. We had a Facebook group chat running, in which we could constantly submit new ideas, an example being our recent decision to present it in a book folio-like presentation.

In recent weeks we definitely focused more on developing the aesthetic element of the project and the truly talented Monaliza, who assembled the actual book, did a great job at actualising the sketches and concept. We all made different contributions that are seen through the final product’s motifs such as the foil backdrop Zachary arranged.

I am satisfied with my articles and think they provide strong examples of how social media texts inform and influence the general public. I furthermore think my choice of comparing 90s media influence discourse to now and a comparison between Grindr and Tinder made for a stronger outcome. My main obstacle was getting a full understanding of the task, which I seek to improve next time. In terms of collaboration, my only regret is that we didn’t really get to assemble or curate the artefact together due to logistic complications. This could probably be improved by stronger scheduling however we all have external jobs and commitments that would continuosly interfere. We managed through this though and created something special. I am extremely happy with the outcome as a whole entity and generally think we did really well!


Project Brief 3

For Project Brief 3 I was motivated by one major goal: to be able to present a cohesive product that didn’t make me cringe and weep of embarrassment. Compared to Project Brief 2 this film involved much more planning and vision and thus was greatly superior.

As a journalistically driven person, I opted for an interview formula but wanted it to be curated in a style more focused on the subject and not distracted by the process of interviewing (or in this case, a discussion). Sibha (a close friend of mine) and I accumulated 75 minutes of footage, which presented the first major challenge: condensing into 2 significant minutes. While I had the fortune of having a very charismatic and interesting subject, having to cut 73 minutes of footage was slightly soul-destroying: so many great moments and lines were lost. However I value the important resilience I developed from a brutal editing process: a vital skill in production.

Another issue I had had nothing to do with the actual film, but the file size the high quality camera’s provided (in my case 9.5 gigabytes). This further exemplifies the complications of shooting long footage and taught me that in the future, when efficiency is more necessary, to have a more controlled shooting plan.

While the techniques I’ve implored are basic to a professional or someone who is skilled in film editing, I achieved a lot of new personal ground with this. I was anxious to whether I’d be able to combine images and other videos dubbed over my interview base, which, in my opinion, I executed quite well.

With these skills, I’d like to now progress to more diverse and versatile shooting techniques and feel more capable of constructing different scenarios, especially in terms of taking “the interview” to the next level. I also think my next step is to work with music, I’ve been hesitant due to copyright restrictions and my perfectionist, idealistic view of what a soundtrack should be.

Overall I’m proud of this work and think I have justly portrayed a dear friend and thoroughly enjoyed making this.