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August 27th, 2009

Multimedia of the Month: Try it without the music

Posted by Benjamin Chesterton

Former BBC radio producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White, as the multimedia production team duckrabbit, build high-quality multimedia pieces, provide insights on their blog, and help photographers through multimedia training sessions. Once a month on RESOLVE, Ben and/or David highlight and explain a multimedia piece that breaks a “rule,” uses a new technique, or creatively solves a common problem.
From Paul Fusco's "RFK Funeral Train" project. ©Paul Fusco

From Paul Fusco's "RFK Funeral Train" project. ©Paul Fusco

Click here to see the New York Times multimedia piece, “The Fallen.”

One of the great things about working as a radio documentary/features producer at the BBC Radio is that I was never expected to treat the audience like idiots. Instead, we were encouraged to have a journalistic vision for each program and to see that vision through.

Another thing we were never expected to do was slap music gratuitously over everything. In fact you knew that there were nine million listeners who were ready, willing, and able to rip you to shreds if you bludgeoned the art of radio with such an approach — which is just a long way of saying, “Why on earth are so many multimedia journalists and audio slideshow producers slapping music over everything?” Generally it shows a lack of confidence, either in the production process or the material. Either that or they don’t think the audience can handle something that is stripped down and real.

When we admire great web design we say its “clean.” Here’s my plea: Keep multimedia clean when you have powerful audio, powerful images, and you want your audience to do some thinking. Just like this awesome New York Times-produced piece built on Paul Fusco‘s legendary photos taken from the funeral train carrying the Robert F. Kennedy from New York to Washington.

One Comment

  1. August 27th, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Trent Davol

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…I’ve often been irked by the use of music in multimedia pieces or films where it just doesn’t belong. Does it help complete the story or is it just a method of filling in gaps? If you have a strong story and strong elements, you don’t need to fall back on music. I also believe this highlights another crucial element of multimedia – capturing natural sound around an event is a difficult art but it should be part of your capture. When you stop to listen, there are so many sounds around that can add to a story much more than music can. And the one instance where I think music can be a no-brainer – if there is music being played in the environment and it’s part of the mood.

    Trent Davol

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