About sarahmcasey

Senior Marketing Major with a Certificate in Public and Professional Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

How-to Make your Vocals Clear

One of the issues I have been running into is how to make my grandmother’s soft voice sound more clear throughout her interview and make it less difficult for my listener’s to hear her story.  After removing some of the background noise, and playing with the gain, I still felt like I could do more.  Yet creating my own Equalization seemed daunting.  Luckily, I found an eHow from an Audio Engineer who explained the two basic areas to focus on and why making these simple, subtle changes to the Hertz in your audio clear up the sound.

Like I said, it’s pretty simple.  Give it a try:

Step 1:  Select the region of audio you want to apply the effect to (highlight it):

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Step 2:  Go to Effect>>Equalization (EQ) and select:

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Step 3:  Removing Lower Frequencies (helps remove room tone):

After selecting Equalization, you should have a dialog box appear that looks like the one below.  What you want to do now is 1. Hit “Flatten”, and 2. Select “Draw Curves”.  The first area to focus on is lower frequencies—they aren’t often heard in the spoken word so removing them helps with that un-identifiable background noise.

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We want to Roll-off below 100 Hz.  This is done by placing your cursor on the line at 100 Hz, clicking to make a marker, then dragging the line around 60 Hz all the way down.  This will roll-off any frequency below 100 Hz but not cut-off, which would make your piece sound choppy.

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Step 4:  Soften Higher Frequencies:

What does sneak up in audio recordings, especially for softer, female voices, is high frequencies.  These can sound kind of sharp (as mine did), but can be softened.  Moving to the second area of focus, switch your view of the frequency field to “Graphic EQ”.  We will move up to 5000-6000 Hz which is the “sweet spot” of vocals.  Move the slider at the bottom for these two frequencies up to about 6 db.

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And that’s it!  You can preview your changes before saving them if you’d like.  What you will notice is a clearer recording.  If your piece needs a bit more, there are also preset EQ’s in the dialog box that you can play around with, or get brave and make your own!

Hope this helps!  Happy editing!

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What makes the self?

I chose to analyze the second podcast, Who am I?—not only because of the extraordinary melding of sounds, audio bits, music, and misc. other digital elements that made it such a wonderful 56 minutes of listening, but for the strong personal connection I felt to the subject matter.  One a particular story, within the broader story line, was told by a mother and daughter of a life changing event they experienced, the mother’s near death of a brain aneurysm.

The peculiar thing about aneurysms is there is no moment where the symptoms you are experiencing send off a signal in yours or someone else brain that say: “this is an aneurysm.”  Rather, they lead you astray, make you think it is something harmless, a headache that will wear off.  No, it is an aneurysm.  If you try and sleep it off, it will kill you.  My ability to tell you all of this say something about the broader story line of the podcast which is the human’s ability to story tell as part of understanding the ‘self.’  I tell you all of this because my mother also had a brain aneurysm.  And here, I began to connect deeply to the story being told because the things she described about her mother, reminded me so much of the things my mother had also gone through.

That connection aside, I felt this podcast was very well constructed, leaving the listener to wonder just which parts were pre-constructed and which were parts of the creative process that just kind of fell into place.  It was clear that many methods of storytelling were being utilized to construct the production.

At first, I wondered just how many different sound bites and sound effects would play into a 56 min podcast because it seemed to be a tool they were utilizing frequently.  Then, as the individual stories and interviews began, the sounds got fewer, more specific, and the narration got greater.

Early on, Jad I believe recalls a story he had been told about the ancient Egyptians view of the center of the ‘self’.  He describes that they finally found it and decided to dissect it, all the while you hear a beating heart in the background.  Then he announces that they were disappointed to find it was a pump.  As listeners we know they thought that the heart is what was being referred to.  But he never tells us that.  Here, sound effects were utilized to tell an essential piece of the story.

Then begins the story of “mirror powers” this time with Robert recalling a story he had been told that relates to the subject of the podcast.  Again, playing with sound effects, as he described the morphing software that was utilized in this experiment, clips of bill Clinton’s voice and then his own voice repeating the same sentence are overlaid while they describe that the overlay in the experiment was with visual images.  The use of this sound effect helped, as a listener, to visualize what was taking place since the real experiment was all visual.

Then, the use of interviews and personal storytelling as another method of narration began.  The day my mother’s head exploded, the story I personally connect to, consisted mostly of the daughter and mother telling the same story, seemingly separate, yet at times together, about the series of events that took place.  Providing the audience with different pieces of the “puzzle” that makes up the self of both daughter and mother as a result of this event, the two narrators weave a more cohesive story.

The podcast continues on, layering interviews, with actual stories being told, a few more sound effects, bits of music, and just straight narration from Jad and Robert during introductions to each new piece of the podcast.  Together, all of these elements meld to form a cohesive, yet interesting podcast that teach a lesson in what has been done to understand what makes the “self” so unique.  All the while, these methods of telling the story are also very unique.

It is hard to tell just when the scripting ends and the on-the-spot interpretation begin as Jad and Robert sound so at ease with each other throughout the entire podcast.

I would like to take this use of multiple sound elements and multiple methods of storytelling to tell my own story.  It kept things interesting to move from a multitude of digitally created sounds, to musical tidbits behind interviews, to straight, serious conversation.  By appropriately adding these different sound elements to each part of the larger podcast, the story being told was enhanced.  Furthermore, the multiple methods of telling stories, both through straight interviews, third-person storytelling, first-person storytelling, and an interplay of multiple conversation taking place at once, a bigger story unfolded.  While our piece will be much shorter, I think it would be much more exciting to try and play with a few different methods rather than just conducting a few interviews and stringing them together.  My first thought when we began preparing this assignment was:  how can I make an interview that interests me, sound interesting to someone else?  I think I have found my answer.

So with all of these different methods of connecting sound elements and telling a story discovered within this podcast, how many is too many to use in a shorter 5-7 minute audio story?

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Blur Hover Effect

As you may have noticed in my Photo Essay, I chose to place each image in a separate page, as many of you did, and navigate through each page to view the essay.  For my navigation, however, I simply used the photo as the means for advancing to the next page.  This both simplified and created a challenge for me:  on one hand, it kept the stream-lined, simple design I was going for, on the other, it leaves my audience with little understanding of how to advance to the next page.

With that challenge in mind, I set out to find a hover effect that suited my need.  I came across a fantastic website that has all sorts of simple tutorials for both CSS and HTML, as well as other languages, that provides a demo, gives you the CSS and HTML code to copy, and walks-you through the design purpose and techniques for implementing it yourself.  If you’re looking for some help learning something fun, check it out:  http://designshack.net

For me, I found the Blur Effect would work perfectly.  Here is how to implement it:

The blur effect is a fairly simple line of code that when used, creates a blurry view of the image it is applied to when a mouse rolls over it.  So the end result will look something like this:

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To begin, insert a section of code into your CSS titled “.blur img”.  The tutorial advised adding several lines of transition code to tell each browser what to do with this effect since it is a newer effect for CSS5.  Then followed the direction to use this effect only when hovered, as noted in the “.blur img: hover” code.

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Then, go to the HTML sheet with an image you would like to apply the blur effect to and add the class distinction into the code.  The tutorial suggests keeping this section of code within a <div>, if you haven’t done so already.

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And there you have it!  You now get a blury image when hovered to signal your audience that this action will take them forward (in my case).

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Michaelis Boyd

Utilizing the advice of some of my class mates, I also found that Site Inspire was a good starting point to find some creative inspiration for my own website and thought I would share my findings with all of you.

The site of Michaelis Boyd, an architect and restorative general contractor/designer, caught my attention because of how graphic yet simple the homepage appeared.  It is simply a semi-transparent overlay of his initials with an image from his portfolio displayed in the background.  Upon linking directly to the site, I found that there were some interesting features to this opening image as well.  First, it changes with each visit so as to display numerous pieces of his work instead of just one.  Below is an example of one that I landed on.

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Also, once on the landing page, scrolling down eliminates this landing image and reveals the true homepage of the site.  I enjoyed this fun welcome and also the way that the page was formatted.  It begins with a simple navigation pane across the top with section headers of work, about, journal, contact, and a search box.  In the upper left, the most frequently viewed part of a webpage, remained his name.

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Hovering over each of the navigation options reveals further sections that fall under each category to help a visitor arrive at the precise information they are looking for.  Alternatively, it is also possible to navigate to these additional parts of the website by hovering over any of the images listed in a block-style gallery on the remainder of the page.  Each image changes upon each visit as well to highlight one of the firm’s past projects.  While hovering over the image, a transparent green box appears and reveals the title of the project and a few words describing what category it is classified under or what the project focused on.

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In addition to the photographs, the homepage also displayed grey boxes with a green focus word and a short quote about one of the key focuses of the company as they embark on their projects.

I felt this was an excellent method for bringing to life the mission of the company and providing evidence for their work to the audience, potential customers, in a professional, yet appealing manner.  I felt like the site, with its changing homepage was designed just for me and tailored to allow me to chose my preferred method of navigation.  I could either enjoy scrolling through the projects, or search specifically for one that I wanted to see.  The combination of features and navigation capabilities left me feeling capable and well informed without frustration.

The colors of the site, a deep green and light grey were pleasant and complimented the purpose of the firm well.  Those are two colors I would associate with construction and restoration and they are also very pleasing to look at repeatedly, keeping that professional yet simple flow.  The design of the blocked images was also very appealing and continued that professional feel.

These simple, yet professional features are all elements of design I would like to incorporate into my own site.  I feel the layout of projects on the homepage as images that can be hovered over or clicked on for additional details is a very appealing way to display a graphic portfolio without overwhelming the audience.  While I feel the revealing of a new page after beginning on a landing page might be more advanced coding than I will learn in a few short weeks, it is something I would be interested to try and incorporate as I gain experience.

Checkout the site for yourself and learn more: http://michaelisboyd.com/

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Worn, Torn Edges Effect

Like many of you, I also will be integrating old photos alongside new photos for my recovery story.  While I have not yet made the trip home to retrieve all of these photos, I know I will face the challenge of creating an effect that helps to make all of them tell a cohesive story.  With this in mind, I began wondering what the process and end result might be to use a torn-edge effect around the photo in conjunction with the antiquing effects discussed by other tutorials?  I found its actually not that difficult—utilizing a few basic tools and a few layers will create the desired effect.

Viola!  Here it is:

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Seeing as I feel this could be a perfect solution to my dilemma, I will share how to create the “Worn, Torn Edge Effect” in Photoshop.

Part I:  Doing the Prep Work

Step 1:  First, open a photo in Photoshop and create a duplicate of the background.  This can be done by either going to the Layer drop down menu and selecting New—Layer via Copy or by using the keystroke short cut:  Ctrl+J(PC) Command+J(Mac).  You should now have two layers:  background and Layer 1.

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Step 2:  In order to perform the necessary actions of creating the edge-effect, we will need additional canvas space around the edge of the photo.  Working within Layer 1, go up to the Image menu at the top and select Canvas Size.

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This will open a dialogue box (as shown).  Focus your attention on the center portion of this box.  We want to add 100 pixels to the width and the height.  Make this adjustment in the New Size section.

Be sure to select the box next to Relative to let Photoshop know that we want these pixels added around the existing image.  Also select the center box in the Anchor portion to signify that we want these pixels evenly distributed around the border.

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Once you do that, hit OK and your Layer 1 image should look like this:

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Step 3:  Add a Blank Layer Between your Background Layer and Layer 1.  This can be done by having Layer 1 selected in your Layers Side Panel and while holding the Ctrl (or Command) key, selecting the New Layer icon button in the lower right of the screen.

Holding Ctrl (or Command) is important to make sure the blank layer is added between the existing layers.  If you miss this step, you can always move your layer around after it is created.  The Layer should appear titled Layer 2 in the middle of your existing layers.

Step 4:  Now that we have this blank layer, we want to fill it in white.  To do this, go to the edit menu and select Fill.  In the dialogue box, set the fill color to white.

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We are now ready to begin distressing the edge of our photo!

Part II:  Creating the Effect

Step 5:  Select Layer 1 (this is the layer we will be editing) and then select your tool.  For this we will use the Eraser Tool.  Select the Eraser Tool from the tools panel on the left or by hitting E on your keyboard.

Step 6:  We want to use the 100 Rough Round Bristle Brush as our Eraser head.  To select this, click the Brushes panel toggle icon in the top options bar, select the view you prefer for finding the brush style (Large List is recommended), locate the 100 Rough Round Bristle Brush and make your selection.

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Step 7:  Now we can begin creating our initial torn edge effect.  Start in a corner of the image, keeping only about 25-30% of the eraser head over the image with the remainder in that excess canvas space we added around the edge.  Click once and while continuing to hold down the button on your mouse, make short brush strokes over the edge of the picture to start creating your new torn edge.

You will see your new torn edge begin to appear!

As you will see as you begin this process, it will take a few times around to fully eliminate the straight-edge of the image.  Three times should do the trick.  If you feel like you need to go back, you can utilize the Ctrl+Z/Command+Z shortcuts to undo brush strokes and get your desired effect.

Another helpful hint is that you can decrease or increase the size of your brush by pressing the left bracket key ([) to go smaller, or the right bracket key (]) to go larger.  Find what works best for you.

Once you complete this step, your image should be looking something like this:

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Step 8:  Now duplicate this layer, the same way as you did originally (either through the Layer menu or Cntrl+J).  You will now see Layer 1 and Layer 1 Copy.  You can either rename these or just go with the default, whichever works for you.

Now, in order to get the torn-look, turn the top layer (Layer 1 copy) off by hitting the visibility icon (eyeball) to its left.  With this layer hidden, we can now work with the original layer 1.

Step 9:  Working with Layer 1, we will now add a color overlay.  In the Layer Styles tab of the Layers Panel, chose Color Overlay (any of the color filters).  Once added to your Layer (you will see it appear as an effect in the Layers Panel), double click on the effect.

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This will bring up a dialogue box and you will see your photo turn the default color.  For this effect, we want to change the color to a Light Gray.  Do this by clicking on the color swatch and selecting the desired color. Click OK but remain in the Layer Style dialog box.

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Step 10:  Next, we want to add an Inner Glow.  Do this by clicking directly on the words.  This will open an options box.  You want to change the Blend Mode to Multiply, the Color to Black, Opacity to about 10% and Size to 24 px (pixels).

Step 11:  The last layer to add before exiting the Style dialog box is a Drop Shadow.  Do this the same way you added an Inner Glow.  With the Drop Shadow options box lower the Opacity to around 30% and set the Angle to 120 degrees.

Now you have completed editing this layer.  You can hit OK and close out of the dialogue box.  Here is what you should see:

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Step 12:  Now that you have edited Layer 1, turn Layer 1 Copy back on.  You will no longer see any of the grey-shadowed layer we were just working on.  To expose this, and get your finished worn-edge, return to your Eraser brush tool and go back over the edges, this time in Layer 1 copy, and reveal that grey-shadowed edge beneath.

Together, these layers now give you that worn, torn feel.

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