For my final project, I chose to tell the story of public health via Polly Public.

This was one of the ideas that came up over the course of the semester.  I work with clients in the public health field and I know how hard working they are, yet how little the general public knows about the field and what public health actually is.  In comments from fellow posters, the idea of a superhero came up as a way to tell the story.  Thus was born Polly Public.  I came up with a story and filled it out using the “story spine” format.  Briefly:

Once Upon a time, Public Health workers comprise a silent army…

Every day, Polly Public is out there…

But one day, The council of PH met at their headquarters…(this is the EVENT)

Because of that, Polly was scared- could she do this?…

Because of that, She encounters pitfalls along the way…

Because of that, she is resilient…

Until finally, even more join her!…

And ever since then, people begin to practice public health- in their own lives.

The End.

This is how I made this masterpiece:


I decided I wanted some public health images- kids getting vaccinated, healthy food, maybe some bikers wearing helmets (so they don’t crack open their skull if they crash), exercise, clean water. I went to Pixabay since I’ve had great luck there finding good images and found what I needed using a key word search.

Then I went to pixlr and used their collage option to create a five photo collage from my photos. I added a blue border and that was it- easy peasy.


I wanted the message from HQ to sound like a missive from God. I went to SoundJay and downloaded a howling wind sound and also a church choir singing from Freesound to add some “holy” elements. I do not have an especially god-like voice, but I’m all I’ve got (and the vast majority of people working in public health are women so it would make sense that the leader is a woman too), so I recorded the message to Polly and lowered my voice using the pitch tool on audacity to add some “heft”. I then used audacity to combine the tracks. I had to repeat the wind sound several times and also lowered its and the church choir sounds so the voice wouldn’t get lost. I added echo to the last few seconds of my speech as well.  Here’s what my Audacity track looks like:

audacity screengrab

The top is my narration, followed by the howling wind, and then the choir music at the bottom.  I uploaded it to SoundCloud, and then embedded it in the post.


I tried some non-You Tube sources like Vimeo and ended up back at You Tube when I couldn’t find what I had in mind.  I did keyword searches for things like “bikers wearing helmets” “kids getting vaccinated”, etc.  to find my clips.  I ended up with four clips and about 30 minutes of footage.  I downloaded them using  I imported them into Movie Maker Live and used the trim tool to cut them down to size.  I removed all the audio by simply muting the clips.  Then I added some music from the Free Music Archive over it.  I added a title, captions to provide some narration, and then noted my references using the credits tool.  I also added the “Fade” theme to the film.

moviemaker capture

I used the following references to create this page.






Final Thoughts:  Getting the story down and mapping everything out helped a lot.  I developed the story a week ago and made tweaks to it over the next few days (to include up to the last  minute).  I mapped out where I wanted to use media and what I had in mind.  That helped tremendously when it came time to find media as I knew what I was looking for and how it would fit in  (seems obvious, but I did not do this for a few assignments and not surprisingly, was very frustrated!).  I mapped out the effects I wanted to use for sound and video.  All in all, it ended up being fairly painless and not as time consuming as I had feared.  I’m glad that I got to work with Audacity several times prior as I finally felt comfortable with it and only had to look up how to lower my pitch.  Movie Maker was also not as scary given that I had experience with it as well.  All in all, save for perhaps the images, I would not have believed it if I told myself back in March I would make my own audio and video track and post them to a blog!!



Week 5 Summary


My main takeaway this week: working with sound is not as difficult as I thought, but still the most challenging I have found of the differing editing tasks we have done in this course.  I do feel completely at ease in recording, exporting, importing, and loading to SoundCloud, but the editing portion (splicing, fading, etc.) still cause me some angst.  Perhaps its because the visual medium isn’t there, i.e., I don’t know what part of the sound I’m looking at by just looking at the sound wave?

This week also marks the sad milestone of being the first week I did not complete all assignments.  My high school honor society self would be horrified.  Ultimately, I’ve decided to wrap this week up, incomplete, rather than push myself farther and farther behind into the Video editing portion of class.  Here’s what I was able to do:

  • Animal escape!  Getting acclimated with SoundCloud.  I made a SoundCloud account when we first started listening to audio in the first few weeks of class, but this week I was able to get comfortable with uploading, recording and embedding SoundCloud files into my blog posts.  I even ventured out into the main page and found some really cool music too.
  • Sound Effects Story: in this assignment I learned that I should have actually done some listening, viewing and reading on Audacity before just jumping in, because I did not and it almost pushed me to the edge.  Luckily, I have lived to tell the tale.  Finding and downloading the sounds on FreeSound was easy enough as was coming up with the idea.  It was doing this assignment that helped me see how valuable video can be, actually.  I rarely (that is, almost never) watch videos online.  That hilarious video that’s going around on the web?  Haven’t seen it.  I don’t know if it’s an attention span thing or a simple preference for reading, but I find watching video online to be boring and tedious.  HOWEVER- the written tutorials on Audacity just weren’t doing it for me, so in desperation I turned to the video and screencast.  Ah- much easier!  They were so helpful I bet I take to video over text the next time I am looking for help.
  • Audio Assignments: I chose Audio Assignment 942, in which we take a Craigslist “free stuff” ad and make it a spoken word piece complete with background music.  I learned that the “free” section of Craigslist is really just a way for people to try to get sometime very unpleasant things hauled away for free (Clean out my basement! For free!) – clever.  This post got me on better terms with Audacity.  After visiting the aforementioned screencast again I simply used the tools demonstrated to create my own file.  I went to Soundcloud for some music and was able to quickly find what I was looking for.  I even used my 1-month Noun Project membership to download an icon for the Soundcloud file.  Synergy!
  • To Be Storified Example I got some good feedback on my story idea, which was to tell the story of the importance of public health.  Public health is something that when it is working well, we don’t notice it.   So much work goes on behind the scenes by a mostly unassuming type of worker-a potentially fruitful story topic.
  • Comment Roundup: It finally (duh) occurred to me that I could comment on anyone’s blogs I want, not just my blog “team” (which has now shrunk to be just two of us).  The encouragement and pointers I get from commenters is immensely helpful.  I don’t know if I am as helpful especially in the tips department when it comes to commenting on others posts (as I frequently know only as much as, if not less, than the poster does) but I like to think I’m at least encouraging 🙂

What got left out this week was the Chaplin Foley assignment…sorry Charlie.

Week 5 comment round up (belated)


I think I may have found my final project story this week, based upon comments alone.  The comments on my Public Health story idea seemed to coalesce around the idea of a public health super hero-type character- I really appreciated the different layers the commenters added to my original thoughts.

I also learned via comments two things this week:  1) it pays off to actually review the tutorial items posted for us and 2) layering is actually easier than copy + paste in Audacity.

I have been falling down a bit on the job lately when it comes to getting out there and commenting on others’ posts, but the blog I did visit and comment on (the remaining member of my blog “team”) helped me see how to potentially approach the Chaplin Foley assignment (even though I ended up not doing it) as well as potential challenges.  I almost enjoy reading about the challenges as much as I do the final product- it helps me see I’m not the only one with (usually momentary) struggles!


2 Luftballoons…in one post: Sound in Radiolab’s “A Lucky Wind”


Red Balloon

The Radiolab Piece “A Lucky Wind”  alternates between narrative and reporting in four segments:
1. The story of the red balloon;
2. A piece on a UC Berkley professor who studies random acts;
3. An ASU piece who tells us that randomness really isn’t that random; and finally
4. leaving the listener to ponder it all over an example of people who have won the lottery twice.
The narrative forms a “sandwich” for the more reporting-heavy portion of the show. Similar to the other Radiolab piece on the papermaker in New Hampshire we listened to, the piece used editing, cutting between past, present, narrative and exposition, and layering (I counted up to four layers) and music to set the pace and tone.
Anticipation builds before we even hear what we are talking about: at :22 the opening is interspersed with a teenaged girl saying “ok, ok”—you know, that breathless, anticipatory phrase uttered by teenagers everywhere that clue you into the fact they are about to tell you something pretty awesome. The piece itself opens with telling the listener “it’s like a movie” (around 1:10) and then layers the “character” (Laura Buxton 1)introducing herself with very “movie-like” score music. (I feel very inarticulate describing this- it’s hard to write about sound!)
As the story proceeds, music helps divide the paragraphs or the “and then” moments to build tension, which rises throughout the piece, peaking at around 5:40. However, at 6:30, the music suddenly deflates as the other narrator cuts in to disagree with the lead narrator for the piece on the red balloon.
It’s only then do I realize that this is only the opener to a larger show about chance and coincidence—but no matter because I’m tuned in. They threw out the bait and I took it.

The two narrators take a moment to dissect the story themselves and pose the question to the listener- do we live in a world of chance, or is there something else?
At this point the style of music changes to what I think of as “NPR Jazz” to let me know we’re shifting gears and moving forward.
As the story moves forward, I counted three layers going on during the coin flip sequence- a mixture of narrator 1, narrator 2, students’ voices, ambient noise (coins flipping), and finally music. The effect is to lend life to what I imagine was probably in reality a pretty boring experience, actually—100 coin flips. The layers bring a sense of forward movement and tension to the scene such that the two teams—the real coin flippers and the “imaginary coin flip” team seem to be really competing against each other.
Music becomes strong again around 12:30, when they segue into the final portion of the piece. To coincide with the monologue “strange things do happen by chance…”, the music goes “wavy” and reverbs to produce a sense of the otherworldly or unexplainable.
As the professor from ASU talks about the double lottery winners, two effects add to the reporting: one, in a scene (around 15:20) where the professor talks about “zooming in” on an event (like winning the lottery), the music also “zooms in”. The sound is such that I imagined watching just what he was talking about on a TV- zooming way in on a blade of grass under a golf ball.
The double lottery-winner piece also made me laugh when the sounds of elated screaming were layered in to accompany a listing of instances of known winners- as if we were hearing each winner at the moment they hit the jackpot—again!!

PS- the photo that accompanied the Radio lab piece (above) reminded me of another magical story: