Creating an audio montage from 50+ hours of tape

Source: Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Presidential primaries are a huge deal everywhere, but they garner particular importance in states like New Hampshire, where their early timing positions them as bellwethers of what is to come. 2016 was one of the most contentious and protracted elections cycles yet, and New Hampshire Public Radio wanted to produce as much excellent primary coverage as they could — and make sure their primary night coverage was picked up by other stations across the country that were also following the race closely.

Andrew Parrella, production manager at NHPR, provides production support to all in-house projects, including two daily hourlong programs, the newsroom, and a small fleet of podcasts. He set out to create signature IDs that would air during NHPR’s primary night coverage, branding it as their work regardless of which station aired it. Andrew explained, “We wanted to use the voices of the candidates speaking to New Hampshire voters as part of the signature.”

He also produced short audio montages to help the conversation segue from one issue to another. For example, a segment on foreign policy might include a 45- to 90-second montage of the candidates talking about their positions. For this, he pulled tape of their stump speeches, visits to the station, and conversations with hosts and reporters — much of which had never been aired.

There was far too much tape of each candidate for Andrew to handle on his own, so he turned to Pop Up Archive to help. Andrew consulted with the reporters and producers working on the primary coverage in order to first determine the topics of the montages. Then, he tracked down tape that might be relevant and uploaded it to Pop Up Archive to generate transcripts quickly. With a transcript in hand, he could quickly search to find clips of candidates speaking about the relevant topics and pull potential clips. All in all, Andrew uploaded and sifted through over 50 hours of tape over the course of NHPR’s primary coverage.

“Having the transcript made it much easier to find the audio we needed. Speeches are often 20, 40, sometimes 60 minutes long. By using Pop Up, rather than listening to a whole speech I could grab the transcript and just search for what I needed. That saved me a lot of time in the production of the pieces and helped me focus on the content.”

2016 was the third time that NHPR offered their presidential primary coverage to other stations, and it was picked up by over a dozen other news outlets. Andrew explained, “Each election cycle is different, but we tend to build on the things that worked well last time. I think we will probably try to do this again — with planning, we could be transcribing the audio as it’s captured, rather than retroactively, making the project simpler and faster in the future.”

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team