This Is Radio: Daniel Alarcon

April 1st, 2014 | by Andrew Norton | Series:

About This Is Radio: Daniel Alarcon

For the intro to Daniel’s piece, I think approaching things from the perspective of a radio producer helped overcome creative obstacles.

Daniel spoke in his interview (primarily bits we didn’t end up using) about Radio Ambulante being a showcase for Spanish-language stores from around the world, and of the power of being able to hear the differences in regional dialects.

So what came to mind was an audio montage of these different ways of speaking with the visuals as a guide. The producers of Radio Ambulante sent over a file of interviews, identifying where each speaker was from. The montage features the voice of the speaker while visually focusing on their home country as it appears on a spinning globe.

In this sense, the video takes the place that in an audio piece would traditionally be taken by a narrator. Giving us context and letting us know what we’re listening to. And like a narrator, it needs to give just enough information without spelling out too much and taking away from the interview tape.

I think it’s cool looking and an effective way of mirroring what Daniel tries to do with his show. But of course it’s just one way of doing it. I’d love to hear how others would approach this. Let me know in the comments if you thought it was effective or what you would have done.

photo of Daniel Alarcon

Daniel Alarcon. Photo by Chris Wardle

Random Thoughts

  • Pictured here is the standard two camera setup I use to film most of the interviews. Both cameras are filming simultaneously, one with a tight shot, the other with a wider shot. That way, when you want to cut up your interview, you can swap between the tight and the wide shot so your cuts don’t look too jumpy. You can also cover those cuts with b-roll, but having a second angle gives you more options. Just make sure the two cameras are on the same side of the subject (say, both to the left side or right side of them). Otherwise the cuts may look jarring. Footage of your subject’s hand gestures are also good to cover up cuts.
  • Those ARE people on top of the Golden Gate Bridge in the first shot after the title. I didn’t even notice it until the first cut of the video.
  • The globe spinning made a horribly rusty sort of noise. Instead, I used sound found on a website called — a great resource for audio and video producers.
  • You’ll notice in the background of the interview, the studio space is a different color cast than Daniel. That’s because we’re using what’s called a tungsten light to light the interview and the studio behind us had florescent lights. That gives the setting a greenish hue. Different light sources have different color temperatures which translate to different hues. Usually you want to make sure all your light sources are the same, but in the interview I sort of liked the different color in the background; it made Daniel pop out a bit and kept focus on him.
  • We used a camera slider for some of the shots in the studio. As I mentioned before with Roman Mars’ This is Radio episode, I find moderation is key with a slider. But it’s a cheap way to up your production value. And Chris Wardle, who helped with the video in this episode, did a great job I think. Note the shot with the mic stands in the foreground. When using a slider, to maximize the… umm… slidey effect, having things in the foreground helps. You get some nice motion while keeping your subject central.
photo of Andrew Norton

Andrew Norton

About Andrew Norton

Andrew Norton is a multimedia producer who graduated from the Transom Story Workshop on Cape Cod. Before that, he was an editor and staff photographer at a skateboard magazine. He got to travel from the streets of Taiwan to Newfoundland to Tony Hawk’s backyard. Since then his radio stories have aired on dozens of stations across the US, on CBC radio in Canada and on shows like 99% Invisible. He also combines his audio storytelling chops with his photography background to make videos. His previous series, profiling the world’s best skateboard photographers, earned him a Vimeo Staff Pick award.

Andrew lives in Toronto. He’s also very tall (see photo).

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12 Comments on “This Is Radio: Daniel Alarcon”

  • MIchael L says:

    So artful of Andrew to fully develop only one idea: the subtleties of feeling communicated through the distinctive music of each person’s voice. So important that Daniel is talking about “recovering and celebrating the language” of Spanish in an English-dominant world. The globe reminds us how many indigenous languages in the Americas have been dominated by Spanish and Portuguese and are now extinct. Reminds us of this important role for radio!

  • Michael Casey says:

    Andrew (and Transom!) – thank you for this series – artfully done. I am so happy to meet these individuals – and inspired by their desire to tell stories!

  • Can´t wait to see the other interviews. I mean this is just amazing, congratulations con the work. We’re about to do some work for educational video, hopefully we’ll get a government contract. I’m curios about the cameras and lenses you’re using in your shots. In the comments of the Roman Mars productions you mentioned you´re using a close and and a wide angle lenses, which are they? congratulations again on the work!!

    • andrewnortonphoto says:

      Thank you, Javier. Glad you’ve been enjoying the series. Most of the shots are done with a Canon 5D MarkIII and a Canon 7D for a second camera for interviews. But we also used a Canon 5D Mark II. And for most interviews I used the Canon 24-105mm F4 lens for the wide angle shots and a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens for the tighter shots.

      Pictured above is the MarkIII on the left with the 24-105 and on the right is the MarkII with an 85mm 1.8 lens.

      Whatever you go with, I find that Canon lenses (or whatever camera brand you use) are the sharpest.

      Hope that helps!

      • Andrew, thanks again, you’ve been ABSOLUTELY generous with the information. Oh, and one more question if I may:that tungsten light you refer to in this episode, is it the Lowel light One Light Kit that you mentioned on your random thoughts in the Roman Mars?

      • andrewnortonphoto says:

        hmm, it won’t let me reply to your comment below – but yes it’s the same light – the lowel tota light!

  • I echo these sentiments, with each piece you do and the photos turn from black and white to color (nice touch), so too does the magic that happens behind the mic becomes more real. Exciting time to do radio indeed. Thanks!

    • andrewnortonphoto says:

      Thanks! Have to give credit to the awesome people I’m interviewing for a lot of that “magic”. Hope you enjoy the rest, please let us know.

  • Dan says:

    Hi, both of the cameras have microphones mounted on them. Did you also have another source and sync in post, or did you only use the sound from the microphones on the cameras?

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