In the field, at the Zoo

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The Tenrec exposes his teeth to the crowd

Not many people can say that their day centered around the Greater Madagascar hedgehog tenrec. Today, Bootcamp students embarked on their first “in the field” assignments at Washington National Zoo. We collected audio, video, and photos from various exhibits in order to create a photo slideshow in Soundslides Plus. Despite the on-and-off rain, heat, and peanut-butter-like humidity, students enjoyed getting their hands dirty, so to speak, and gathering their own material.

Today was also a lesson in storyboard decision making and its execution. I originally wanted to show photos and video of the giant octopus eating because that image was one of the few I remember from my last trip to the D.C. Zoo. However, by the time we arrived, the exhibit had finished the feeding, and we were on to a new subject. After clicking around, soaking in the sounds of squealing children and baboons, we found our story at the small mammal exhibit.

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tenrecs have beady eyes, long whiskers, and large ears because they are noctrunal

The exhibit featured a “meet the mammal” segment held every day at particular times. A zookeeper would bring a little critter out for the public to see up close but not actually touch. This one wasn’t the cutest or craziest of the bunch, but he definitely surprised me.

I got close with the digital recorder while my partner, Kim, took great photos of the tenrec head on, from the side, and with his mouth open. We chose this exhibit for one main reason: simplicity. It was easily packagable, with one main voice, one main event, and one cute animal. We also had access to an excited, captive audience of children who were very willing to talk about their experience. Maria, the zookeeper, handled Gomez, the tenrec, with ease. But stressed to the crowd of children that if agitated, he can stab her with his needleback. After recording the 10 minute speech, interviewing Maria, and asking some children questions, we ran back to campus for editing.

After battling with Soundslide and Audacity for a few hours, I learned the importance of collecting a wide variety of sights and sounds. We got close to the animal, zoomed in on children, and panned on the room. It was difficult to hear because we didn’t bring a microphone, so that’s a lesson I know I’ll remember. I can’t lower the volume of the nat sound and enhance the speaker because they all seem to run together. In the end, I think it was a good first try at an audio slideshow. Simple. Direct. And don’t forget a staple of broadcast–the cute animal to top it off.

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