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Cars whooshing. Sirens blaring. Frogs croaking. Sounds instantly conjure up mental images and help set the scene of any scenario. They also help establish the pace for a production and fill in the ambiance. That's why good audio is so crucial to storytelling projects.
Welcome to the latest installment of the CNN iReport boot camp roundtable discussions, which will focus on collecting great audio in the field and the best ways to use it in your work.
Kastenbaum will join the roundtable chat to share his audio know-how and talk about some of the audio-only submissions we received as part of our audio guessing game, which was a challenge to use only sound to tell where you are. Take a listen and see if you can identify the sounds.
If you're new to the roundtable, here's how it works: We'll open comments at 3:00 p.m. ET and you can post your questions and comments at the bottom of this post.
You can participate in this discussion even if you didn't submit an audio clip. Take a look at this CNN.com story and slideshow, which conveniently package tips that Steve gave us. And, share your expertise and any great stories you've got from getting audio in the field. (Bonus points: Come prepared with great audio examples you've found.)
This session will be focused on the questions for Steve, so if you have any comments about CNN iReport, you can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can't wait to get started with the roundtable!
Hi guys! Welcome to the roundtable. Steve is right here with us -- from New York -- and he's going to take your questions. We'll be talking about collecting audio in the field and sound quality and all sorts of great things. So hope you'll want to join us.
Hi, should I repost the question I asked in my email to you, nsaidi?
Hi everyone! Hi Steve and Nicole!
Hello folks. I'm Steve Kastenbaum, a national correspondent for CNN Radio based in New York. Thanks for joining us. So let's talk about sound.
hi guys! so excited to hear about audio.
Go ahead and ask, Paula.
Hi all! It was so fun listening to everyone's mystery audio submissions this week.
I have done audio editing on a PC for years, using Adobe Audition. I now have an iMac, and I find most audio programs are for musicians (MIDI, etc.) Can you suggest a multi-track audio editor primarily for editing and mixing audio?
This was an interesting part of the workshop.
Hi all, I'm only here for a couple of minutes as I have to be somewhere at 4pm.
Those audio submissions you guys sent were great! I hope you enjoyed doing the assignment and making the guesses.
I wanted you to know that Steve is on the CNN.com homepage right now. Check out his audio story linked from the piece (there's a player at the bottom):
Odd to talk about sound. … in text. ;-)
I do have a quick question. My camcorders do not give me the option of using an external mic. I try to get as close as possible to the subject and pay attention to the ambiant sounds going on around me.. Anything else I can do?
Hi radi0j0hn. I'm very familiar with Adobe Audition. We use it at CNN Radio and I've been working with it for over many years. I'm not familiar with audio programs for iMac. Currently, I use a PC based laptop. There are some great features in Audition that enable you to enhance your audio project whatever it may be.
If you guys didn't see, we spoke to Steve and he shared some tips on audio production here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/IREPORT/09/17/audio.bootcamp.irpt/index.html
Here's the link to our audio project:
My question is this: What techniques does CNN use to massage sound before it goes to broadcast?
I take a lot of photographs at the beach of surfers. Sometimes I use a point and shoot to make some videos. The sound of the wind is very clear in those recordings. How do you limit such background noises when using equipment with technical limitations?
Thanks LensLord. Really good ambient noise, or as we call it - nat sound, can greatly enhance your reports.
Steve, what are those programs for PC that offer good audio editing tools? I am currently only using WMM and am looking for a good editing program to invest in...?
@radi0j0hn I LOVE ProTools for a Mac. That's what I'd recommend if you can get your hands on it. You can also always use Audacity, which is a free downloadable program - it only does the basics, but then, I usually only need the basics.
@radi0j0hn On the Mac, you can check out Final Cut Express or Pro/Studio's sound editors. Audacity is a free audio editor. We like SoundStudio for editing sound as well.
I must admit that I know Audition (1.5) inside and out. It does what I need it to do and every radio station in my area still uses it for basic production. I've tired the later versions, and keep going back to it. Even works on a netbook!
One tip I would add is look for a "non-destructive" editing system (which means that the editing does not destroy the sound quality as you go). You keep access to the original.
mcintron - great question. While your camcorder may not have an input for an external mic, most cameras do have a jack for headphones. Wearing headphones while you're taping will enbable you to get a clear picture of what your audio will sound like in the final product. When you listen while you're recording, you'll know whether you need to move away from an overpowering sound or closer to the action.
What ho, what ho, everyone
Sounds like this roundtable is going well.
So iReporters I'm curious to hear from you - what did you think about our assignment this week?
And which sounds most surprised, delighted you?
I need to go, folks. Thanks Steve, for doing this. I'll check the answers to my questions and the rest of the blog when I get back later this evening. :)
Steve / Rachel - I know that photographers have gotten themselves into trouble with too much image adjustment (manipulation?). What constitutes "too much" with audio. Where would someone cross the line and CNN or anyone else not want to use it?
@PaulaGibson and @TommyBahamas -- Great questions. We're going to answer shortly.
Steve says in a highly produced piece we select segments of natural sound and try not to alter anything to affect the editorial content of the story. Try to keep it as true to the original as possible.
@radi0j0hn . I used Sound Studio. … It is easy, multi-track, and about $80. I also use Audacity.
Has anybody besides me gotten the "Blue Icicle?" It's a USB interface from Blue Mics that lets you plug in any XLR mic and it has a volume control. Great when you do not need a mixer. Looks like a white plastic cigar tube.
Great tip, Steve, thanks. I'll try the headphones! Gotta run. Bye!
@dmi2 In general, anything that distorts the editorial meaning of your sound in any way shouldn't be done. E.G., no editing out parts of quotations, adding in background sound that wasn't there, etc. I'm sure Steve has more specific guidance he can offer, since he's really the expert.
I'm using Sound Stdio on the iMac now, LensLord and I have not tried ProTools. Audacity is pretty good and the price (free) is right!
TommyBahama - When we are working on a report that has a lot of production elements to it for a long form radio piece, we often choose segments of nat sound that best illustrate the main point of the story. However, there is very little wiggle room for manipulation because we have to be conscious of the editorial content. Remaining accurate in our story telling is always the primary goal. So we never alter sound. We stay true to the original.
I'm glad @dmi2 asked that question. I wondered too. Thanks @rachel18!
I have a question. How do you record audio from the headphone jack or the charge jack on an iPhone I've been trying for months now. And I have had no success. I want to record guitar and piano stuff. And I've bought lot of cables to try it with and I still can't get anything from the guitar. All you can hear is still the sounds in the room. Can anyone tell me what I'm doing wrong?
@radi0j0hn Yeah, we used those in college. It's a great tool to have on hand.
@rachel8. Makes sense for news pieces of course. Would adjusting volume / frequency levels and overall sound quality be OK? Like adjusting black point/white point levels in an image?
How does one adjust the level when you have two completely different sound clips, and they are not equal in intensity or whatever it is that makes one sound weaker.
Can you recommend a microphone that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Something for those of us who love doing iReports and want to improve the quality but aren't able to afford to spend several hundred on a professional directional mic? Thanks!
Here's what a blue icicle looks like. Plug an XLR mic into your computer via USB.
Steve, what is your opinion on the large number of small hand-held recorders that save to SD cards? They are all over the place, usually with built-in mics.
PaulaGibson - If you are using an external mic, try putting a wind screen on the microphone. It will dramtically cut down on the ambient wind noise. I've had many a street interview ruined because of strong winds when I didn't have a wind screen handy.
On the other hand, strong wind can really illustrate a story well, especially when reporting on a storm.
I used my iPhone internal microphone and the Voice Memo app to record my sound clip. The file format is .m4a which none of my editing programs would recognize. So... I had to go find a program that would convert the .m4a to a .wav file.
What program would you recommend to convert both audio and video file formats?
And do you know if there is a way to save an audio file as a .wav file on the iPhone?
@alisonv -- Steve says go with a brand name vs. no-name brand in the case of inexpensive mics. I just bought a karaoke mic and it works pretty good. Steve adds that most stores will let you try out a mic before you buy.
Johnnycolt, I have one questions about your most recent audio report......did you flush? LOL
@Soraida I went to an electronics store and picked up an $11 adapter that lets you plug a mic into your iPhone's headphone jack (it's designed to do both things). Many other devices are set up this way. Ask your local store if they can supply one. Then it just takes over where the built-in mic would have worked.
Soraida: Let me make sure I understand your question. You are trying to copy recorded audio FROM the iPod to something else? Or do you want to record live music INTO the iPod?
@JOHNNYCOLT you're in trouble!
@dmi2 Adjusting levels is probably about the only alteration you can make to your sound that we'll be okay with. But again, make sure you're not altering the editorial purpose of the audio. Like, say you're recording a speech and there are protesters. You couldn't adjust the levels to make the protesters sound louder than they actually were - that would be changing the editorial content of the piece and absolutely not okay. AND, it's always better to try to record at the proper levels than to go back and change them later in your editor.
haha, nice one @KCRep. You beat us all to the punch!
@SKastenbaum: L'm not sure if my point and shoot has an external mic plug, so I will have to look and see. Thanks for the info. :-)
PattyE - I've tried a program on the iphone called VC Audio Pro - it used to be called poddio. It records in wav (and maybe mp3 too) and has a pretty good editor on board too.
@KCRep LOLOLOLOL oohhh boy.
@KCRep - ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzing!
zoom hand held is a great audio device
@JOHNNYCOLT Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you're feeling better.
Hey Tyler! He's one of us!
KCREP the answer is right there on the audio
I didn't listen to the whole thing lol...
Alisobnv: There are a bunch of low cost Chinese Knock offs of well known designs out there. SOME are OK. Are you looking for a "performance mic" that can be hand-held, or a studio mic that must be on a stand? Performance mics isolate handling noise, studio ones do not.
when you are in the field - running fast and loose
if you do an interview with someone jump in your car
with them - if you want to get less back ground noise
dmi2 - Your question speaks to editorial content. When adjusting ambient noise, you have to be very careful not to change it in a way that alters the content and facts of the story for the listener. For example, if you were at an event where President Obama was speaking and you had a seperate audio track of the audience's responses. Changing the volume level can alter the impression of the audience's responses to Obama's remarks. You wouldn't want to do that. Anytime you adjust the sound in post production, you should always ask yourself am I changing the editorial aspect of the story by doing this?
@rachel8 - Understood, thanks. And fortunately not a problem here either!
hi everyone, good morning from the philippines. i'm late, busy taking photo of moon and jupiter
For these boot camps, CNN should consider doing them using Citrix's "Go to Meeting/Webinar" It's web base and has audio!!!
In my audio clip, a greeting of soldiers who just arrived from Iraq, I found that the cheering crowd around me was loud and clear, but the commanding officer who addressed the crowd was not loud enough. Would it be ok to increase the volume in the sections where he is speaking and decrease the crowd cheering parts to even out the volume levels? It's document 494382.
You usually can't go wrong with Shure equipment...just be sure that if you buy from eBay/Craigslist/private party that the equipment is not Chinese counterfeit equipment.
KCRep their would something wrong with you if you did
@PaulaGibson Audio roundtable discussions would be so cool. We'll definitely look into that!
TommyBahama - Use a sound editor, a multi-track audio production program. As mentioned earlier, Adobe Audition is a versatile audio editing program. There are many others out there. Some basic audio editing programs are free to download.
@PattyE What I usually do is e-mail the audio file straight from the voice notes app on my iPhone. There's really not many easier ways. You have to sync audio out, no doubt because of the whole music piracy problem. Arrrrh!
Oops! Looks like you answered my question in your reponse to dmi2! Sorry, I missed it while I was typing...
@radi0j0hn I'm trying to record live audio to the iPhone. And I want to do it without using a microphone. Because I have a loud bird that always sings along to my playing but I want to record my playing without hearing him in it. But I can't find anything. I know sonoma wireworks created the Guitar jack hear recently for the four track app I use. But it's about $200 and I don't really want to spend that music money on something that is just for on the fly recording or in the living room kind of stuff with out have to do pc studio recording.
tascam dr-80 24 bit/96khz recorder - simple to use
small fits in a shirt pocket so u do not
have to stick in someone face....
costs half as much as the zoom
remember if your using sound of camera to slate
all your gear together
Can anyone recommend a reasonably prices small mic that can take high volume (think concert level) and is reasonbly priced? Also, my recorder only has line level input, not mic level, so how about a minature preamp?
Johnnycolt....thanks, it's good to know there's nothing wrong with me, at least, I'll take your word for it.
this audio bootcamp is lot of fun.
@PattyE as far as file formats go, WAV is nice but you can always convert files with sound editors and file uploaders. So the format you get from the phone usually works.
radi0j0hn - I have one large capacity SD card in each of my recording devices. But at the end of the day, I wind up transfering all of my audio to my PC or laptop.
@Sherbien thanks for participating! Glad you enjoyed it.
Steve, can you comment on using consistent gear? I've found that I get better results when I listen using the same monitors and/or headphones. Jumping to different setups can make you think something sounds bad, when it really is the headphones, etc that have changed.
I was wondering if you could tell me how I did with my boot camp sound assignment
Just to "second" what Steve has said... using headphones in the field is a simple, and good idea. I think recording audio without headphones is kind of like taking pictures without looking through the lens.
Steve - Great, makes sense. I know there was some discussion about background noises and their interference in our submitted clips, so that really helps thinking about how adjustments could become editorial and alter the perception of the listener. Are your rules more relaxed for non news stories - "highly produced" pieces?
TYSON when am i not in trouble with you guys _ ha
Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know we're working on answers to your questions. Please be patient and we'll try to get them all answered.
PattyE - I listened to your piece and I thought the crowd sounded great. But as you mentioned, you were too far away from the person speaking for your recording device to pick up what was being said. Getting as close to the person speaking is key in a setting like that. However, one trick of the trade is to take advantage of a public address system if one is being used. You pick up usable audio by standing near an amplified speaker while still recording the sound of the audience's reactions.
I thought this was a fun assignment. I tried to post the link to get feedback on my report but it would not post.
@nsaidi - I don't have any specific audio editors, and tried to use WMM, but it wouldn't recognize the file format. I downloaded a couple shareware programs, but they all drop an "audio watermark" onto the sound bite unless you buy the pro version. Guess it's time to upgrade my software!
mac users do not overlook Garage band
i use - protools & logic & ableton when making music
i use final cut for video/sound
many ireport posts have done on Garage band
These bootcamp assignment have been great fun, and this audio assignment has been extremely fun because of all the interaction between iReporters. I loved it. Thanks Staff!!
PattyE are u mac or PC
radi0j0hn - Using the same gear consistantly makes a world of difference. The more you use it, the more you'll understand how it's going to behave in different audio settings. Knowing your equipment backwards and forwards before you go out into the field is a must, too. You don't want to be fiddling around with something while the story is unfolding before you.
Hey pizza man, sorry about the inability to post links. That's an anti-spam measure.
Please post your DOC number (from your iReport's URL) and we'll take a look.
I'm hunting down pizza man's right now.
This is also a signal that we want to move into talking about your audio submissions.
Thanks for the tip on VC Audio Pro for the 'Touch!!!
Steve - Great suggestiong. And now I am laughing, because I WAS standing right next to one of the speakers, but moved because they were playing military marches at the beginning of the ceremony, and it was too loud in my ears... I should have gone back to that spot after the ceremony started! Thanks for your input! :-)
thanks nsaidi for the email reminder. i try to mimmic animals on my last audio ireport and joyfulgypsy finds it irritating esp the cat meowing. :)
but the most important thing i learned is that audio makes you imagine lots of things. it'll make you imagine the atmosphere of the place, the faces / reaction of people and lot more... it's not like reading a descriptive novel that will descrive every single detail of the scene, in audio you have to listen carefully to feel the scene....
can't wait for the other assignment.
@nsaidi Hi Nicole I sent you an e-mail with the link to my report. I can't seem to get my post on here when I add the link. Thanks
OK, here's the link to thepizzaman's iReport: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-493702
this was fun but was tough for me.
i was in the hospital with kidney problems.
i was on IV s all day long and had to drink
crazy amounts of water..... i didnt think i was going
to be able to participate not being able to leave my room.
they say some of the best ideas come in the middle of the night
I just made another shot of espresso with the machine I recorded. mmmmmm...good.
@JOHNNYCOLT - PC.
Thanks @JOHNNYCOLT -- yours was one of the most popular in terms of shares. It was high-quality in terms of knowing what it was.
um....wow, You don't know of any audio applications for iMac, really? Mac based tools ARE the forefront of audio editing/design. Like Digital Performer, Sonar, Audio Logic etc....Midi is a feature in all of these but hardly a 'given' that all pro musicians are midi based.
Adobe Audition is a toy, is this for real sound concerns or just hobbyist, just wow.
Sound really matters folks and the tools to manipulate are representative in price, free = crap always has, still does.
Go hang out on a forum like gearslutz or something, ask questions, get answere from active music recording engineers.
pizzaman, we can see your link by clicking on your name. I guess right, right?
@thepizzaman Can you tell us about your piece? And I do mean "piece." Steve will get to it.
Well said Sherbien. It's "theater of the mind."
parkerea - There so many different products on the market now from companies large and small. My advice would be to go to a good music store or audio equipment store with a knowledgable staff. Any good sales person will allow you to try out different models and help you figure out what is the perfect piece of equipment for you in your price range. And the price range can be dramatic. But cheap doesn't necessarily mean poor quality.
Hello everyone! I'm here. No audio clip but I'm here to learn. Loved your short sound bite about the audio recording Steve.
if anybody wants to talk audio in the future
@nsaidi THANK YOU Nicole
@iShane -- Hey, thanks for the tips. Please share your knowledge by all means. Let's of course remember that the main focus of this discussion is on how you can get better audio with ordinary, consumer-level equipment. CNN can get as fancy as its heart desires, but a regular person needs to take advantage of what they have.
I'd go to a music store or music department as opposed to Radio Shack or some other sales oriented store for audio recording gear. Most of the sales people at places like Guitar Center, Best Buy music store, etc. are VERY knowledgeable about the gear where some of the other places just SELL. The difference is the music stores usually hire musicians for sales jobs, or audio engineers, and they know their stuff.
thepizzaman - I listened to it again. I think you were making pizza, but what's that beeping? It sounds like an alarm clock going off.
I'd echo what @ljmagnuson says from a consumer's point of view. I found audio equipment to be hard to find in some stores, but it's easier in others.
Hi @ChrisMorrow! Welcome.
thanks tylermoody. typo on the spelling of describe.
Hey everyone, post your Doc #'s and we'll take a look.
I was at my pizza shop making pizzas. I recorded when the timer went off to tell me the pizza was done. Then I took the pizza out of the oven with a pizza peal. Then I put thepizza in a pizza box and it was cut with a pizza cutter.
Hey guys! Jumping in too.
I always get great advice from my local Guitar Center. Most of the guys who work there are playing in bands, and live, eat and breathe that stuff! And they LOVE to talk about it!
@gregreesehd -- Welcome! We were just talking about your piece before the discussion.
IShane, perhaps I wasn't clear in my question. I am trying to avoid an audio editor that caters to musicians. Macs excel in that area. But plain old audio editing, as with Audition is a whole different animal. And I can assure you it is not a "toy." I have produced nationally syndicated broadcasts with it and countless commercial ads.
If you have some time, listen to the CNN Radio Reports piece I filed on the state of the opposition movement in Iran. Nicole posted a link in the discussion further up. I used nat sound of protestors in the piece as well as some quick bites from pro-reform demonstrators here in New York edited together. You'll get an idea of how I use nat sound in my day to day work.
DOC-493894 Recorded at....?
DOC-493896 Audio Challange
DOC-493897 Just a friendly exchange...
Hey, we have 10 minutes left in this discussion. I'm going to post a few links to some ones that caught my eye, or ear rather:
From LensLord: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-493283
Listen to the sense of space it gives you.
Where am i? :)
thepizzaman - Ah, that makes sense now. I definitely heard all those other things... the removal of the pie from the oven, cutting the pie, placing it in a box. But I wasn't certain what the beeping was. Now I know.
Hey Steve, can you tell us about capturing audio in the field? What's it like, and how do you isolate the sounds you want from the sounds you don't?
The music stores were the first thing I thought for audio gear. I'm a musician myself (voice+guitar) and very picky about audio. Most musicians are, want good sound ... and this can translate to voice audio recording as well, like for IReports. I use a camcorder with an external mic. The OLDER Sonys and Panasonics seem to have mic jacks but the newer ones lack them except the more expensive ones. And Hello Henry Hanks. I remember you from the Gustov Levee video story.
@nsaidi Cool! Thanks I had fun with this assignment!
Welcome @gregreeshd and @ChrisMorrow
@dmi2 I really enjoyed your carriage ride audio (493896). The basketball game was also quite nice (493897).
what do you think on this one, is it more pingpong or fireworks display: DOC-494084? how about this one DOC-494416 - pizzaman commented that his dog likes this. and this one DOC-494417
The big wheel audio from lenslord conjures up great memories of being a kid and riding one.
@chrismorrow how close did you hold the mic/recorder to the water?
My last comment, and thanks for all the help! Wow, it is AMAZING how much easier and more powerful editing has gotten in the past ten years! I'm sure most of you never had to mark a piece of reel-to-reel tape and cut it diagonally with a razor to splice out something! Ten years ago a 550 MB drive capable of sustained audio recording cost $1,000! Now I can do much of the same on a hand-held device. But thanks to the folks here for stressing that good technique and practices are still required. Bye
Does anyone have any suggestions for my problem?
@nsaidi - Thanks. This was a fun assignment....
@hhanks Thank you sir!
nsaidi - Great question. Whenever I'm out at a story, I'm constantly trying to listen to what's going on around me. Nothing is worse than getting back to the studio to produce a report and realizing that I didn't have the nat sound that would have helped to illustrate the story.
After doing interviews, I'll often walk around the scene of a story for a while with my microphone and recorder in hand taping whatever I'm hearing around me. You never know what you are going catch when you leave the mic open and the recorder going. Sometimes, you wind up with some audio gold as a result.
As far as isolating the sound goes, not staying stationary is key. Moving around enables you to get close to the different sources of audio.
@ChrisMorrow, great sound. It sounded like something nautical, what was it?
@SKastenbaum Thanks for checking it out. I couldn't show the pizza but it was an awesome one.
We're running out of time so I won't be able to listen to all those files before the discussion ends. But I will be sure to check them out.
Hey everyone, we seem to be running out of time. We're going to listen to clips we haven't gotten to and get the feedback to you later. It's 4 p.m. and there seems to be some news brewing in Steve's world.
Thanks all for coming to the roundtable!
I had it 6 feet away.
Thanks for joining the discussion everyone. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, an hour goes by quickly and as we speak, Ahmadinejad is addressing the UN General Assembly. Speaking of recording audio, I have to get back to work. But I look forward to listening to all of your audio submissions and I'll get back to those of you who asked for a review of their sound.
Thanks for showing up for this Steve. Your advice is quite helpful. I'll be putting it to use later. Have a wonderful week.
cya next week!!
Enjoyed your sounds this week - looking forward to some sights next (and um, more sounds).
thank you ireport team for this assignment, can't wait for the next one.
from the philippine magandang umaga (ma-gan-dang uh-ma-ga) (good morning)!!!!
Chrismorrow, you never revealed where you were...do tell
Next up will be video, so stay tuned for next week's CNN iReport boot camp project!
thank you ireport and steve
sorry to have missed you all!
Thanks to the CNN iReport team for providing this excellent forum. Already, I have learned so much! And how exciting to be able to chat with Steve Kastenbaum about our work and get his input! Thanks, Steve, for your comments and thanks to Nicole for coordinating everything and making it all run so smoothly.
I'm really looking forward to the next assignment!
@Soraida To answer your question about taking live audio into the iPhone, I think the internal mic is decent. If you want to attach an external mic you can do that and get more flexibility, but the phone still does a pretty good job. The voice notes app will of course record audio; I'm referring to the app that comes with your phone. You can download other audio recording apps that give you more flexibility with the levels of the audio you take in and other things. In general, though, I think your best bet is to focus your efforts on how you position the phone. What's most important is to have the best audio coming into the phone mic in the first place. My take on that.
I am so sorry I am late. I just got up to have a cuppa and ole smokey bones was hungry, had to feed him a bun, its 3.00 a.m. in the morning. Thought I'd just have a look see at the computer. Enjoyed participating in the boot camp assignment. It was a nice fun way to guess my fellow ireportes stuff of what they were doing and where they were.
opps I am late again may I ask something different why I don´t receive comments directed to my e-mail? thanks and Congratulations for all who got vetted on this amazing assignment thanks