COM472: Digital Storytelling / Soundwriting

COM 472
Digital Storytelling / SoundWriting
Fall 2017

Instructor Information

Dr. Steven Hammer
301 Bronstein Hall
office hours: 12-3pm, Tuesday, or by appointment
for appointments:

Catalog Description

Students in this course will critique and create a variety of digital stories through multiple lenses. Topics include 1) the lens of craft (narrative paths, spectatorship, structure); 2) the lens of convergence (trans-media storytelling, immersion, and storytelling via games) ; 3) the lens of social change (first-person narratives, documentaries, and social justice), 4) the lens of aesthetics (style, time, and space).

Learning Objectives

In this course, students will:

• learn and practice rhetorical soundWriting;
• learn and practice the genre conventions of podcasting;
• create quality field and studio recordings;
• develop post-production audio skills (mixing, mastering);
• design, write, and record music with digital/analog tools

Required Materials

• 8GB or higher SD Card compatible with Zoom H4N
• AA Batteries
• Adobe Audition
• Audacity


COM Gear Room Policies & Procedures


Academic Honesty
Please familiarize yourself with the University’s Academic Honesty Policy.

Accessibility and Disability Support
If you have any concerns as we begin–or throughout–the semester in regard to the accessibility of course materials or presentation, please contact me as soon as possible.

In accordance with state and federal laws, the University will make reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. For those who have or think that you may have a disability requiring an accommodation (learning, physical, psychological) should contact Services for Students with Disabilities, Room G10, Bellarmine, 610-660-1774 (voice) or 610-660-1620 (TTY) as early as possible in the semester for additional information and so that an accommodation, if appropriate, can be made in a timely manner. You will be required to provide current (within 3 years) documentation of the disability. For a more detailed explanation of the University’s accommodation process, as well as the programs and services offered to students with disabilities, please see the Student Resources Page. If you have any difficulty accessing the information on-line, please contact Services for Students with Disabilities at the telephone numbers above.

Collaborative Work
This course is highly collaborative in order to simulate professional production situations you may encounter after the semester. Sometimes, part of that experience is frustration, conflict, and/or unequal workloads. If you experience conflicts you are unable to resolve by communicating with one another directly, please contact me.

Attendance (being in class, on time) and participation (engaging with us while you’re in class) are vital to your success in this course. You are allowed two for the semester without penalty, so use them wisely. If you miss three to four classes, your final grade will be lowered by 10%. If you miss five classes, 15%. If you miss six, you will automatically fail the course. If you do miss class, you are responsible for the content you’ve missed (please don’t email to ask me if we did anything in class on the day you missed). If you miss days in which your group requires you, your grade for that project will likely suffer.

Assignments & Evaluation

There are 100 points available to earn this semester. You will have an opportunity to revise all of your assignments once.

Final grades will be determined using the following scale:

A: 94-100; A-: 90-93
B+: 87-89; B: 84-86; B-: 80-83
C+: 77-79; C: 74-76; C-: 70-73
D+: 67-69; D: 64-66; D-: 60-63
F: 0-59

Part One: Podcast Series (50 points)

As a class, you will plan, produce, publish, and promote a podcast series on the topic of your choice. You will form smaller episode groups, comprised of three members, whose responsibilities are as follows:

1. PreProducer
• Coordinate with other episode writers to form a cohesive series (series theme and topics, episode sequence and release schedule, formal continuity (length, music, structure, intro/outro, etc.).
• Lead script writing, audioStoryboarding.
• Coordinate with production and post production.
• Promote series and episodes via social media.
• Take direction from producer and post-producer.

2. Producer
• Lead production team, in charge of equipment and recording quality.
• Coordinate schedules for production days with group members, locations, and other people/organizations.
• Utilize pre-production materials and work with postProducer’s requests to deliver required materials.
• Record, save, and backup audio.
• Take photographs, develop graphics for episode.
• Take direction from pre- and post-producer.

3. PostProducer
• Lead post production: managing, mixing, and mastering audio into final episode.
• Final episode publication in coordination with release schedule and chosen platform.
• Lead revision process.
• Understand and articulate needs with pre- and production.
• Take direction from pre-producer and producer.

This project is worth a total of 50 points. You will be evaluated in three areas:

10 points: Overall quality of entire series. Audio quality, strength of series theme and episode cohesion, promotion and listenership statistics, attention to podcasting conventions, relevance to target audience, ability of class to work together as a large production team. All members of the class will receive the same score here. We will meet as a class and I will deliver this grade prior to final calculations to give you a chance to strengthen this score. (Hint: expect to make and describe revisions in detail)

10 points: Overall quality of episode. From pre- to post-production, there are many factors that contribute to the final draft of your episode. From story quality to field recording quality to mastering/editing, there are many potential points of breakdown, and this is why you’re working in teams. Episode teams will receive the same grade for this section, and will be evaluated based on the strength of their episode in terms of story, audio quality, mixing, promotion and publication, etc. We will meet as an episode group and I will deliver this grade prior to final calculations to give you a chance to strengthen this score. (Hint: expect to make and describe revisions in detail)

30 points: Individual. Based on your above description and responsibilities, you will receive an individual grade. You will write a 500-word evaluation memo, describing each member’s greatest strengths and weaknesses (including your own), group communication dynamics, labor breakdown, and overall evaluation of your contribution to your episode and the series.


Part Two: Sound Design (50 points)


This project involves creatively REdesigning the sound for a video scene. I will provide you with a video file with no audio, and your job will be to draw from our readings and discussions to reimagine the scene through sound design. You will compose three major types of sound: dialogue, sound effects, and music. You may not sample existing audio for this project unless first approved. You will submit your project with a 1000-word artist statement that articulates, in detail, your vision for the scene, artistic influences, how your choices achieved (or failed to achieve) your vision, how you strategically employed noise, and (most importantly) how your project evolved over time, including revisions you made based on peer and instructor feedback.

To submit: create a GoogleDrive folder, and give it the title “COM 472 Sound Design.” Upload your finished video, your artist statement, and a completed rubric (below) and be sure that they are in that folder. Right-click on the folder, select “share.” Click “Get sharable link” in the top right corner of the dialogue box. Select “Anyone with the link may edit” from the dropdown menu. Select and copy the link. Then, email me with the subject line “COM 472 Sound Design,” and include the link you have just copied.


This project is worth a total of 50 points. You will be evaluated in six areas:

20 points: Artist Statement covers required topics in a thorough, thoughtful, and detailed fashion. Addresses revisions, processes, choices, outcomes.
15 points: Big-picture effectiveness of sound design: does it convey what you meant to convey? Is the final composition balanced, well-mixed, appropriate in scope, and rhetorically effective? Have you reimagined the scene?
5 points: Dialogue: source quality, creativity, mixing, editing.
5 points: Music: source quality, creativity, mixing, editing.
5 points: Sound Effects: source quality, creativity, mixing, editing.

Tentative Schedule

Part One: Podcast Series


Introductions. Begin planning podcast series and decide on bingeSeries.

Read: 10 Years of Podcasting, Story Structure, Writing for Radio
Begin planning podcast series and decide on bingeSeries.
Discuss readings & listenings. What is genre? Podcast analysis
Planning Podcast. Ideas, stories.


LaborDay Break, no class.

Read: Story Ideas, Radio 101
Listen: Binge, pt. 2
Decide/formalize podcast series theme.
Listening discussions. Further genre analysis. Reverse outlining. Form episode groups


Listen: Eric Detweiler, “A Podscast!? Whatever Gave You That Idea?…”
Listen: Rhetoricity Ep. feat. Steph Ceraso
Guest: Dr. Eric Detweiler @ 4pm

Read: Blueprint, How Stories Begin, Checklist
Class meeting day, pitch series concepts, vote. Develop episodes


Read: Active Sound, Production Terminology, Ambience
(Re)Introduction to Audio Recording – Hardware, Techniques

Read: Scoring, Editing with Ears
Audio Editing, Mixing, Mastering in Audition


Read: Workflow
Class meeting day. Series and episode groups. Audience, platform, schedule.

Read: Vocals, Write How You Talk
Interviewing, scheduling, vocals for audio.
Guest: Dr. Trisha Campbell


Read: Intros, Reporting, Field Reporting
Pre-production Meeting Day



FallBreak, no class




Post-production wrap-up


Episodes Due for Critique/Grading

Release day—all revisions due

Part Two: Sound ++ Image


Read: Kyle Stedman, “Making Meaning in Musical Mixes”
Introduction to Sound Design: Sonic Rhetoric, Noise, Music

Film Screening, discussion. TBA


Listen: Soundtrack TBA
Guests: Brooke and Will Blair

Film Screening: La Medusé Rouge, Dir. Michael Wellenreiter


Guest: Michael Wellenreiter

Read: Worldizing, Foley
Sound effects, Foley, and Worldizing


Sound effects, Foley, and Worldizing



Studio/Field Time

Studio/Field Time


Sound Design Due for Critique

Sound Design Due for Critique


Revision Workshop

DEC13-19 final exams (see schedule here): Final Revisions Due. Project Screenings.