Topic: How long?

I usually keep my projects fairly short - under two minutes, usually closer to one minute. I think it is in keeping wih the subject matter I've been working with (quick hit, deadline driven stuff). If I had a really complelling subject and good sound and visuals, I'd go longer if I felt it was worth it... but I'd like to know how long a Soundslide is too long? What do you think your audience wants to see? Will tolerate? Expects?

Frankly, the first thing I look at as I pull up an audio slideshow is that little time indicator, if it is there. And if it is pushing into three minutes or longer, I don't have a very positive reaction. I know I am not being very open to the project, but that's my honest reaction. I've been surprised with longer shows being very good, but often they tend to drag. Then again, even good shows test my patience at the several minute mark. Is it me?

Bill Bretzger
Wilmington, Del.


Re: How long?

Younger audiences expect shorter pieces overall. If you core audience is 20-30 keep it at about 1min or 1:20. If the piece is longer or needs to be longer, try and chapterize it into several soundslides pieces that are about a minute each. You can get younger audience to watch 10min pieces but only if the get to click something every minute or so.


Re: How long?

Is there really a formula though for length? I mean, if the images and the audio are compelling enough, people will watch it right? There are some subject matters that are best limited on the time factor, but if we continue to add to the ADHD effects of media, soon we'll be posting 30 second bits, like a TV commercial. Maybe I'm wrong, and I'm not trying to be a jerk here, I just remember when imagery was viewed and studied. Now it's all about how fast you can get everything presented and explained in a few seconds or maybe a short couple minutes.

I'll be the first to admit that some of my productions have been a bit on the long side. I've been having the problem of having audio that I don't feel I want to give up and then struggle to not use "filler" images that bring the quality or impact of the production down. At least with Soundslides the presentation doesn't take a century to load, which I think has more of an impact on the viewer than the length of the show.

What do you guys think?



Re: How long?

I wouldn't think of attention span in an ADHD way, but more of the viewer making a decision about his/her attention as an investment. They've only got so much time, and how they invest it is our concern.

At the paper's site, the news value of the story was always one of the top factors with regards to the editorial decisions about length.

How important is this story to the audience? How much time does this story deserve?

So an audio slide show on say, a weekend fishing festival, would end by 1:30 no matter if it was the best fishing audio and images ever captured. That's because we needed to be respectful of the viewer's time.

Now if your audience happens to be exclusively fishing aficionados, then I'd say go nuts with the fishing story.

On larger work, like some of the projects I worked on while I was at MSNBC.com, we invested much more time.  We expected the viewer to match that investment because the issue had a direct connection to them or were in-depth topics of national or international interest. (eg. Aging in America, Urban Warfare, etc.)

But we also did quick 30 second pieces on bombs blowing up in Baghdad that day, because that was the news of the day.

Certainly the quality of the storytelling can extend the audience's attention while viewing, but their finger is on the mouse. If your story isn't directly connected to their lives, you better make the most of the time they're giving you.



Re: How long?

This may elicit an adverse response, but I think it's worth it to lay it on the line.

Less than 1:00 is just "show and tell."  OK, you have some photos, obviously there's narration, but this is a long sound bite.

More than 3:30 is self-indulgence.  God knows.  It could change the world.  Cut it and help see that it does.

2:00 of great photos and compelling writing/narration endures in the mind of the audience.

3:30 better feel like 2:00 to work.

Just my thoughts...your mileage may vary.


Re: How long?

I think that 2:30-4:00 is long enough to tell a good story but not belabor the point. I'm working on a long form a/v story that is too big for a single show so we are going to be doing it in installments. This may take 3-5 chapters to finish and that's ok because not many people are going to sit through a 15 minute slideshow but will watch 4 shows that are each 3:30.


Re: How long?

I know this post is long past the time of the discussion, but I don't get here often (or often enough).

When I'm making a Soundslides piece, I use this rule of thumb:

(Number of photos) X 5 sec. = Approximate length of piece.

Some photos can sustain visual interest for a longer time, but most cannot. 

Then, I edit the audio to the approximate length, tweak the timeline for photos and see how it looks.

Example here:


Dave Bullard
News Director
570WSYR.com, Syracuse, NY