Friday, 11 July 2008

IHT: The Virgins of Albania

© Johan Spanner for The New York Times-All Rights Reserved

Some two weeks ago on the pages of TTP, I was critical of a New York Times slideshow on the Virgins of Albania, and how I was disappointed that the 6 photographs photo essay -erroneously described as multimedia- had no audio, and could not do justice in telling the life stories of these interesting women.

So I was excited to find the International Herald Tribune's audio slideshow on the Albanian Virgins, and initially pleased that the gods had seemingly read my post. But no...they hadn't. The audio slideshow was almost as disappointing as the New York Times' silent photo essay, and such a classic example of how not to produce a multimedia slideshow, that I would use it in my classes of Multimedia Storytelling.

While adding narration to the slideshow was a step in the right direction, it didn't add sufficient depth/texture to the subject matter. The narration is by Dan Bilefsky, the writer of the original article, and he more or less reads it aloud. Yes, there are more photographs in the IHT production than in the NYT one...but the heavy-handed overuse of the Ken Burns effect is irritating and meaningless.

I don't mean to be disparaging to the producers, but a monotonous voice reading off a script, while the slideshow is punctuated by unwarranted Ken Burns effects, is not good multimedia. For one thing, the Ken Burns effect ought to be used sparingly, and used to bring the viewers' focus to something in emphasize a detail, for instance.

The second problem is also easy to fix: I can read the accompanying article which has the facts, so why have the writer narrate what he wrote? Why not have the Albanian Virgins speak instead, and have the writer translate what they said in a voice-over? At least there'd be some dynamism in the piece.

Ah, well...certainly a step in the right direction, but still a waste of a good idea. Third time lucky, NYT/IHT??