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Critiquing Your Work (β)

Disaster not avoided.
Interview questions left unanswered.
The recorded voices are less-than-fully intelligible.

     You performed an interview someplace that was a three hour drive away from home; you were rushed to get out the door and on the road; you were rushed to get the equipment set up and the interview finished so that you could get back onto the road and get home before a storm front passes through the area. You realize that you didn't go through a thorough checklist of which recording equipment items would be needed to be packed before leaving home, and that you left something really critical (or at least really useful) behind. It Happens.

     As you begin the editing process you will no doubt come across many things on those recordings that make you cringe — either because they obscure the subject's spoken word or especially because you had anticipated some but not all of those things but had not succeeded in minimizing their impact upon the recordings. It Happens.

     Or, no audio disasters are present, but you become increasingly uncomforable with the sound of your own voice — perhaps it is too hesitant; too rough; too screachy; too something. Score one for the notion that you should stick to producing/recording the project and leave the task of interviewing your subjects to someone else. It Happens.

     The sound is ok; your voice is pleasing; BUT — as the interview goes on, it seems disjointed. It seems like the subject has just said something that begs to be followed-up upon ... but never was. If you had performed all of the duties on this set of recordings, again you see the need for delegating some tasks to others — in this case, letting someone else worry about audio levels and remaining recording media capacity, etc. All of that was just enough of a distraction that you missed (but only noticed way after the fact) obvious cues for followup questions. It Happens.

If you should consider doing another interview,
what should be done better, or differently?

     During all of the various phases of the project you should be writing notes to yourself about what should have happened differently. Then, after the whole things is behind you, sit down with those notes to organize & transcibe them, elaborating on the shorthand descriptions that got scribbled in the heat of the moment during the project.

     If you had already been working from a project checklist, incorporate the new items into it (and then FOLLOW THEM); if not, start using a written checklist to help you keep track of all of the minor details that need to be acted upon (sort of like this website — one big list of things to do, and the order in which they should be done). The checklist should also specify a timeline of events ... what needs to be done when — how many weeks before or after the interview should specific tasks be performed. The more planning and organization you can bring to an interview project the more pleasing the overall result should be. (there are computer applications designed to manage projects and set up timelines; failure to meet a "hard" deadline can delay or eliminate an interview subject from your project for months, maybe years, maybe forever)

     After more than 50 years of recording people I have never made an absolutely perfect recording — there has always been some flaw, perhaps only obvious to me, that has prevented the recording from achieving "perfection." But, I keep trying, and as you get a few recording sessions under your belt, you'll get better at it and be more pleased with your efforts too.

     Relentless advanced planning, better execution of those plans, acquisition of higher-quality recording equipment, more "skilled" helpers to spread the workload (and put a tighter focus on each task), more time to do each phase of a project ... sounds like a major project at your place of work! Just remember to not turn into the "boss from hell" that everyone hates to deal with. If you can strive to always do better-than you have done in the past but accept the limitations of your available resources, you won't burn yourself out with frustrations and abandon the project just as you are starting to get good at it.

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Planning for Future Interviews

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