Drawing from the Well

Chapter Four Pulling up the Bucket
Lesson 1 - Viewing, Listening, Logging and Selecting Footage

Setting the Stage:

Reviewing the footage that the students have collected is a crucial step for both moving ahead with their project and evaluating the successes and challenges of their work. There is so much to be learned at this stage of the project: from the understanding of content, to assessing how well students have learned their interviewing techniques, to mastery of equipment and a deeper understanding of what happens between intention and actual results. There is an old adage, "What you video tape (or audio tape), you have to watch (or listen to)." As students become more proficient at their interviewing and recording skills they will understand the meaning of this adage. This next process of reviewing and logging the material is inevitably time consuming. One gains greater appreciation for being efficient and organized when there are hours upon hours of possibly useless material. On the positive side, students will feel a great sense of accomplishment once they have viewed (or listened to) their material and selected elements that will be the building blocks to their new, artistic work.

Note: Historically, Drawing from the Well projects have been centered around audio production. Students have culled through hours of interview recordings, established narration segments, sound effects and music recordings, all based upon the material from their interviews. Ultimately, students have produced their own short radio shows. The end product you choose to do with your class (See "Digging the Well" Lesson 10) may not necessarily include the taped interview footage. However, the usefulness of the taped recordings will be the backbone to the final product your class chooses.

Students will re-immerse themselves in the fruits of their labors. They now have recorded tape that requires review and selection. Students can do this as a group activity, but depending upon scheduling may choose to divide the work among members for complete logging. All material recorded is to be reviewed and considered for the product.


  • The student will analyze information from a taped interview.
  • The student will identify key highlights and choose appropriate material to present or communicate to others in a new way.

NM State Standards: Language Arts I-A (7-1, 2 & 8-1) I-B (7-1, 2, 3, 4 & 8-1) I-C (7-2 & 8-1)

Materials & Resources Needed:

  • Video and/or audio tapes from interview sessions
  • Playback recorders and monitoring systems
  • Stopwatch or counter readings
  • Handout #8 - Guidelines for Listening and Logging (Appendix/Samples and Activities)
  • Handout #9 - Logging Forms (Appendix/Samples and Activities)

The process of listening, logging and selecting highlight segments is best done in concentrated time intervals, so the breadth of the entire interview is held fresh in one's mind. This is often a very time-consuming activity, yet essential for good results. (See Handout #8 in Appendix/Samples and Activities)

Using the Logging Form (Appendix/Samples and Activities): At the top of the page fill in the date of the interview, where it took place and who was in attendance, including participants' roles. You may need to duplicate the form or format a page in the computer with the following headings. Here's an example of how to fill out the Logging Form:

Tape/ Time Description Comments
Counter In/Out Juan Miguel Vigil:  
1/523 In: 23:10 I remember when I went to school at the old Catholic Church, when the nuns were very strict. I don't remember what I had done but I got in trouble and I was taken to Sister Camille, who whipped my hands, and I cried. I had to go home and tell my mother, and she gave me a spanking and said, "Wait till your father comes home." At that time, my father worked in Los Alamos and only came home for the weekends. Well, sure enough, when he got home and heard about the trouble I had caused, well, he spanked me again. So, if three times wasn't enough good comment
about how
students were
may fit with
learning and
respect segment
  Out: 23:41 to teach you, I don't know what would.  

The purpose of logging is threefold:

  1. to identify what is on your tape
  2. to know where a segment exists on the tape so you may easily get back to it
  3. to determine what segments on the tape may be useful for your project

In other words, students need to identify the key highlights from the interview. What you want is to establish a way to relocate segments without having to listen through the whole tape again. It is the prerogative of the teacher and/or the class to choose to transcribe everything that is on the tape or to only transcribe what they think will be significant passages and information for their end projects. Traditionally students have logged only the parts they plan to use.

Considerations for Tape Counter Readings
Before logging the tape, be sure to rewind the tape to the "head" (beginning) and reset the counter to zero. It is most ideal to work with a counter that reads real time. If that is not possible there are some other solutions. Every tape recorder has a counter that is particular to that recorder. And often, within that recorder there are inconsistencies. This means, if you were to jot down the counter reading of "362," and then fast forward the tape and then rewind back to counter reading of "362," you may not be at the same place. Yet, you should be close and the best you can do is learn about the idiosyncrasies of your own equipment. It helps to use the same tape recorder/player through the process of logging and relocating segments, since the counter reading will be closer than a totally different recorder's counter reading. However, if you do not have consistency nor do you have a recorder/player with a time counter you may wish to apply the following method which we have found to be effective for logging and ultimately re-finding footage on a tape:

The stopwatch, the engineer, the ear and the scribe:
This process is a little tricky, but it definitely fosters teamwork. One person manages the stopwatch, one operates the tape recorder and watches the counter, one is listening for when the tape was stopped and one writes down the description of the segment. Before logging a tape you will want to have the tape rewound all the way to the beginning. Zero the counter and when the tape first rolls start the stopwatch. When there is something you want to either listen to again or mark on your log, the tape engineer, the person with the stopwatch and the person assigned to listen have to cue one another at the same time to stop. Then if the tape is rewound to listen again to a segment, the stopwatch doesn't start up again, until the assigned "listener" cues the "stopwatcher" to continue marking the time. In this system you can't be very accurate with the exact time something is said on tape, yet you'll be in the ballpark. Also, should the stopwatch inadvertently be zeroed or left running, students have the opportunity to go back to their last known segment and begin the watch at zero. This affords the students the pleasure of adding one clocked time, like 22:23 to another time, like 2:39, in order to identify the actual time where a segment exists on tape. This then becomes a great exercise in base 6 addition and subtraction skills.

If all of this is too much, students can transfer segments to a highlights tape. The advantage to this method is it reduces time spent trying to find segments. The disadvantage is the loss in quality of the recording. What needs to be considered is the ultimate use of the audio or video footage. If using digital recording equipment, the loss of quality in a transfer is minimal. Usually, digital recorders/players have real time counters.

Other strategies for logging:
After all the students understand the principles behind logging and listening to the footage, it may be more expedient for one or two students to finish the logging (perhaps get extra credit) and report back to the other students about what segments they found to be of greatest interest.

What to look for in reviewing and critiquing the recordings:

  • Was the interviewee made to feel comfortable?
  • Did students follow up with questions as a result of the interviewee's responses?
  • Were there times when students and the interviewee had a back and forth conversation, rather than just a firing of questions and answers? 65
  • Were there any missed opportunities?
  • Were there questions that could have been further explored?
  • Do you have questions, details or responses that you would like to go back and clarify with the interviewee? What are they?
  • Were there distracting noises, e.g. papers rustling, motor sounds on and off, pencil tapping or microphone cable noises? If yes, strategize how to eliminate these noises before and/or during the interviews.

Choosing key highlights:
Ultimately, as students log their tapes they will be looking for key segments to use in their final product - whether it be text, website, video, audio or performance bound. There is something very instinctual about identifying good sound bites. Often it is not what is said as much as how it is said. Have your class expand upon the following list that helps determine whether a segment from the footage is a key highlight or not:

  • Does it pertain to the essential question?
  • Is it succinct?
  • Is it original and authentic to the person telling it?
  • Is the teller animated or emotional while talking about it?
  • Is there an element of surprise?
  • Is there a reference to a time/event/person in history?
  • Is it specific and have interesting details?
  • Is it humorous or poignant?

While the students are logging their footage it will be helpful to have these questions on a poster or on the board so they can reference these suggestions for discovering what in the trade is called "good tape."

After logging:
Once students complete the listening/viewing and logging of their interview footage they will need to include the highlights from the interviews on a separate paper or, we suggest, on separate index cards. With each "sound bite" on a separate index card students can easily re-order the sound bites in the sequence they ultimately choose for their final project. Use one color for each person interviewed, including the question and response.

Analyze the highlights students have prepared. Conference with the group. Give them feedback on the strengths. Brainstorm creative ways to use their choices. Problem-solve areas of possible improvement and plan for obtaining additional research, materials, and/or information needed to complete the picture.