My Personal
FAMILY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
site: fohp.info - file: aftrwrds.htm

After The Interview (β)

The thank-yous, the editing, the production of master copies.

     Your first goal, as project producer, is to move things along in a timely manner. After the interview session has been completed the first thing that the interview subject usually wishes for is to get back into their regular routine. Make that your first priority — tear down the equipment setup promptly and put their furniture back the way you found it if you needed to do any rearranging during setup. (I usually dump everything into my transport tub(s) and worry about sorting it all out and properly storing it once I get home)

     Then, do your thank-yous. If you are going out to dinner, the main round of thank-you's will wait until the desert course is under way.

Remember, you are paying the check. Don't cheap-out and go to Denny's --- unless that is where your interview subject really, really, really, REALLY likes to eat --- my mom & her siblings liked to visit the local Old Country Buffet restaurant out in Okemos. Your mom, or grandma or grandpa might prefer the Cracker Barrel, or Texas Roadhouse, or the Stillwater Grill, or Applebees, or Lou and Harrys, or the Olive Garden, or Arbys, ....

     Be sure to follow up with a written thank-you note once you are home and are preparing to edit the interview. Be sure that they know that you appreciate their indulging you with their time and their stories. Be sure that they are inclined to chat you up with other family members. The success of the overall project will hinge upon early favorable word of mouth recommendations.

     If you haven't done so before, download and install a copy of a good sound file editing program. Although both MAC and PC computers have minimal/simplistic sound file recording & playback programs, you are going to want to have a good program with which to manipulate the mass of raw sound data. My personal choice is a freeware program called AUDACITY (do a Google search — it's easily findable, easy to use & very popular, with lots of online tutorials to assist you with its use) 

     Now, you are ready to get into the editing process & the preparation of the duplication master recording.

Tedious. Time Consuming.
Absolutely Essential to make it all worthwhile.

     The first order of business will be to get the interview copied from the original recording media to your computer's hard disc drive. If you used a digital recorder the process is usually as easy as connecting the recorder to the computer with a USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable and transferring one or more (sound) file(s) to the drive; if the recorder's card media is removeable you can pull the card, insert it into a memory card reader and transfer the data that way. (most memeory card readers connect to the computer through a USB cable)

     If you've been using an audio cassette recorder for your interview recordings you will need to connect the recorder's output jack to the computer's sound card "Line Level" input and "play back" the recording, being sure to record the incoming audio stream in some editable format. If you have made recordings on multiple sides of cassettes you will need to "play back" each side, in sequence. Only then will you be ready for the next phase of the editing process.

Treat your recordings as PRICELESS Heirlooms.
LEAVE NOTHING to chance.

     Once you have torn down your microphone set, packed-up the equipment and come home that recording session can never be duplicated and might never be repeated. You should always treat your audio cassettes or recorder memory cards as the most valuable assets you possess; irreplaceable if anything should happen to them.

ALWAYS — Work on Copies of the Interview, Not the Original Interview

     Before editing the recordings you will need to perform one more very important task — you need to duplicate the original (raw) version of the recordings. This duplicate raw recording file(s) will be what you will actually edit; the initial set of files copied onto your computer will be your fallback position if something goes wrong during the editing process — you will not have been altering the only existing copy of that recording (if you screw up really badly you just erase the duplicate, make another working copy, and restart the editing process). It is a good practice to place the raw master files into a separate folder(/directory) from the editing file's folder(/directory); this will help prevent the raw master files from being edited-upon (or worse).

     And, just to gain further insurance against some unforeseen disaster, you should burn those raw audio files onto a DVD-R disc. If you used a digital recorder that has a removeable memory card, pull it. Now you will have two archival backups of the original files from which you might start over if some worst-case scenario jumps up and bites your computer (lightning; hard drive head crash; mass file deletion; ...). The original, "master" cassette tapes or memory cards, should go into your safe deposit box immediately. Get them out of the house; stored in a vault they won't be lost, stolen, burned, erased, mangled or otherwise rendered unavailable.

Thoughts on the editing process.

     Whereas before, during the interview process, you were always watching the clock to stop recording when the storage media was about to be exhausted or the interview subject was running out of energy. Now, during the editing process, you will ultimately be cutting the interview down to fit onto the distribution media that will be sent to all of the people that will be receiving a copy of the project. This may cause you to edit two or more short audio files into one long file, or break up one long sound file into several (shorter) files. Remember, when using audio compact discs as the distribution media, you may make a 60+ minute disc that is composed of multiple tracks (if there are numerous interruptions of the interviews, those interruptions may serve as natural end-of-track points). With digital editing, it is nothing to cut and paste sound just as easily as it is to cut and paste text in a word processing document.

     With the advent of standardized (compressed) audio file formats (MP3, for example) you may wish to produce a hybrid CD for recipients; one that plays as an audio compact disc in stand-alone CD players but also contains the same sonic information in digital (computer) form. The interview portion of the disc may only be about 50 to 55 minutes long as a CD, but when inserted into a computer's disc drive would also contain those minutes of interview as a downloadable MP3 file that could be transfered into a personal sound device such as an IPod.

     Once you have edited all of your files to a suitable length, with sound levels evened-out, background noise at least somewhat filtered out, you are ready to make one more backup set — this time of the complete set of project files (a DVD-R is a good disc medium to put the project backup onto).

     If you will only be making a dozen or so copies of the master audio disc it will be much more afforable to just burn them on the CD-R/DVD-R burner in the computer; there is usually a disc burner program installed on the computer as part of the purchase that will permit you to take sound files from your computer's hard disc drive and make standard audio compact discs (or the hybrid compact discs mentioned above). When asked, tell the software that you wish to make more than one copy of the disc (you'll be asked "how many"). BE SURE TO [X] CHECK THE 'VERIFY COPIES' OPTION WHEN PERFORMING THE DISC BURNING SETUP; you won't know if the discs are playable until the computer reads back the disc and compares what it finds to the original source material. When you have finished burning all of the discs you will also be asked if you wish to save the project — again, answer "yes" to the query. If someone that was not part of the initial distribution wants their own copy, it is easy to retrieve the project and have all of the setup and layout saved for use in making the additional copy.

     In the event that you need to produce dozens of copies of the disc it may finally be time to have them commercially duplicated. Again, if asked if you would like the project saved onto a DVD-R, say "yes" (assuming that they are not going to demand a credit card charge authorization for an ongoing "project storage fee"). A nice side benefit of having a commercial duplicator churn out the discs — they may also print labeling/artwork onto the discs themselves. Depending upon the cost (setup fee, artwork fee, per-disc printing fee) it may make sense to spend a little more for this added work to be done (a photo of the interview subject, printed onto the back of the CD, is always a nice touch). They can print the name of the subject, the date & place where the interviews took place, track information, who the interviewer was, audio engineering info, etc. (just like a "real" CD that you'd buy in a store). Over time, the "liner notes" that you include with the disc may become an invaluable part of the project itself.


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Distributing Copies of the Interview

    Page last updated
     12-17-2012