Ultimate Advice For Making Audio Drama | Part 1

It’s part one of the Audio Drama Production Podcast’s 100th Episode. Listen to part two.

What advice would you give yourself before you started making Audio Drama?

That’s the question that’s going to be answered by our fantastic panel of creators from some of the best shows around.

Featuring input from

Edict Zero FIS, Wireless Theatre Company, Radio Drama Revival, The Vienna Jetschko Podcast, Wooden Overcoats, Z-Poc Nation, The Grist Mill, Locke & Key, The Post-Meridian Radio Players, You Are Here, The Bright Sessions, The Truth, Slumberland, The Orphans, Nova Dark, Ohrenkneifer, The Once & Future Nerd, Valenhigh, and Archive 81

And, as always, you can get in touch with the show at podcast@audiodramaproduction.com

Finding & Creating Recording Environments

Unless your entire cast are working remotely, you’re going to need a place to record your Audio Dramas. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer here, and there are a lot of factors that come into play. You’ll have many things to take into consideration regardless of where you plan to set up your ‘studio’, and that’s the purpose of this episode.

Recording at Home

  • You need to decide if you’re purely focused on recording voices, or if you’re working ‘around the mics’
  • If it’s the former, you’ll want sound dampened conditions. This will benefit your audio quality in post-production.
  • Are you setting up a permanent or semi-permanent studio?
  • External walls can be an issue. Is your neighbour a drummer?
  • Windows – do you have a busy road or environment outside?
  • Does the floor creak when you walk around?
  • Internal noise, are you in cupboard with boiler or gas meter?
  • Other noises around the home, like the fridge. Try Ric Viers car keys tip.
  • Equipment – Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, or for multiple actors, M-Audio M-Track 8, SM58 microphones.

Field/Location Recording

The great outsdoors are free to use. Working on location offers a great natural soundscape built in to your recordings.

  • Choose sites with your ears, not your eyes.
  • Take as many provisional sound samples as you can.
  • Roads – look for natural barriers (trees, conifer hedgerows)
  • Site visits – consider midweek and weekend differences.
  • Weather – how exposed are you?
  • Cheap or affordable gear – Zoom H1, ATR3350 lav mics (upgrade to Zoom H4 or recorder with ¼” inputs for more control)

Hiring a Studio or Rehearsal Space

Costs money, but can give session a sense of professionalism. What should you consider?

  • Does it have a deadroom or sound dampened conditions?
  • Does hire include engineer?
  • Does hire include equipment?
  • Is there a band playing in the room next door?
  • Equipment – vocal condenser mics

Other Options

  • School, college, community centre, church

Also mentioned on this episode.

Alien: Out of the Shadows, We’re Alive: Lockdown, Archive 81, The Longest Podcast In The World.

Get your best Audio Drama tips and advice in to podcast@audiodramaproduction.com for inclusion in our 100th episode.

Start Small, But Stay Outside Your Comfort Zone. Lav Mics.

There’s a lot to take in when you start making Audio Drama, and even after you’ve been doing it for a few years. Rather than being discouraged by feeling like you’ve got loads to learn, appreciate that this is a great opportunity to constantly build, improve, and create bigger and better content each time you release something.

It’s a good idea to start small to give yourself a foundation in the very basics of creating Audio Drama. Small casts, small scripts, and basic equipment are all ideal at this stage.

It might be a good idea to find yourself a mentor to help you learn your trade. You can propose a ‘skills exchange’ to someone by offering to write show notes for them, or do some basic editing.

Be sure to consolidate each new thing you learn by practicing and utilising them. With that said, it’s also a good idea to constantly keep at least one foot outside your comfort zone and push your boundaries each time you create a new show.

Have a long term goal in mind, but focus on what you can be doing right now to build towards achieving it. A book mentioned in this episode is The One Thing, which is great for reminding yourself to focus on exactly what it is you need to be doing.

We also mentioned our new recording gear – the ATR-3350 Lav Mics running through the Zoom H5. And the post-apocalyptic board game Dead of Winter got a wee mention too.

As always, you can shout us up at podcast@audiodramaproduction.com

Audio Drama on Audible. Locke & Key

The adaptation of Locke & Key – originally a best-selling graphic novel series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez – into a thirteen and a half hour Audio Drama is one of the most significant developments in the history of our medium.

Fred Greenhalgh
Fred Greenhalgh – FinalRune Productions

One of the main players in this project is Mr Fred Greenhalgh of FinalRune ProductionsThe Cleansed, and Radio Drama Revival fame. On this episode Fred joins us to talk about how it all came about, who was involved, and what it’s like to record all that audio in the field with only a two week window.

Locke & Key is FREE until November 4, 2015

Elsewhere, October 31st is Audio Drama Day, and there’s a dedicated ADD website over at audiodramaday.com – on there you can find out what everyone else is up to as well as share details of your own plans or Halloween Audio Drama releases.

And last but not least, we want to thank our Patreon patrons – the Knights of the Pledge – for your continued support. The show wouldn’t exist without you and we really do appreciate every single dollar donated to us!

Enjoy the episode, and please get in touch with us at podcast@audiodramaproduction.com, we always love to hear from you.

Audio Drama A to Z

A = Anthology or Serial?

What kind of series would you like to make? Doing a serial with ongoing story arcs and characters will give your listeners that extra reason to come back for more. But if you’re the type of person who comes up with five different story ideas a day, maybe the anthology is the route for you. For more discussion on this topic check out our episode ‘Should I make a serial or anthology series?’

 

B = Balancing/Blending in

Your story is going to be told entirely by a collection of different sounds. You might have an actor recording lines her a bedroom in San Diego, whilst another records his in a basement in Madrid. You might have recorded some sound effects in your kitchen, and have others from a professional stock library.AtoZ

The point is that these must all be balanced and blended together in a way that they become one performance. Take time to make sure nothing jars the listener – if something sounds odd or alien to your mix, you need to sort it or replace it.

 

C = Characters

Write each character with a lot of thought. Who are they? What do they want? Why do they want it? And what stands in their way?

Make your characters real people, not one-dimensional caricatures who only serve the purpose of furthering a particular plot aim. Explore their lives, their feelings, their interactions. Build relationships and conflicts. And treat ‘minor’ characters with respect – they may work well enough that you want to build future stories around them and their own lives.

 

D = DAW

A Digital Audio Workstation is the software you’ll use to build your Audio Drama. There are several great options out there when it comes to choosing one. Audacity is free and can get you started, but if you think you’re going to stick at audio production you will eventually find it quite limiting. Reaper and Audition are two popular DAWs in the Audio Drama production space. Our advice is to pick one and stick with it, better to master one than be reasonable with three or four.

 

E = Editing

Contrary to popular belief, making Audio Drama isn’t all flash cars, champagne, and pool parties. Expect to find yourself hunched over a computer screen for hours on end, carefully crafting the tiniest nuances into your soundscape that literally no one is even going to notice – but at the same time you break out in a cold sweat at the thought of leaving them out.

 

F = Final Mix

This term is a misnomer in Audio Drama. Nothing is ever really finished. You will always listen back and hear missed opportunities. “Why did I not include the sound of a curtain blowing in the open window across the street?”. Get used to this.

When you think you are finished though, you need to listen to your show in as many different ways as possible. Yes it sounds great through your fancy headphones, but does it still work through the laptop speakers, car speakers, or cheap earbuds? I know it’s sacrilege that people will consume your masterpiece this way but that’s just the harsh reality of the world we live in.

Never do your final listen sitting at the computer staring at the multitrack, if you do this you are ‘listening with your eyes’. Take your show for a walk, literally. Go out with the earbuds in, and if you notice something missing, or a bit too low/loud, or maybe a piece of dialogue just isn’t hitting the right beat, go back home and adjust it.

 

G = Genre

What kind of world do you want to live in? The beauty of Audio Drama is that it is completely limitless, you can set your show anywhere. Build fantasy kingdoms, sprawling space stations, decaying post-apocalyptic cities, or set a comedy show in the living room of your own house.

We often use this quote from our interview with Dirk Maggs, but it sums up the freedom of this medium wonderfully.

“You can do so much more in audio, you can go anywhere. Use your imagination; go from the top of Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. Travel to new worlds. Go inside someone’s head… go inside and live in their head…you can go microscopic…you can go cosmic.

Good radio drama, good audio drama, is ‘go and make a world’, go and paint a picture in sound, which makes the imagination create huge fascinating pictures… even huge fascinating pictures of tiny things. If it’s a man locked in a cell for twenty years, and you are just with him in that cell, you can still explore everything about the human condition, and you can do it with colour, and texture, and light.

And you’re just working in sound.”

 

H = Hosting

Unless you’re reading this in 2004 you’re probably going to want to release your Audio Dramas free as a podcast series. Incidentally, if you’re thinking of charging for your shows, have a read of this post.

But back to podcasting; a good podcast series needs a good media host behind it. We recommend hosting your shows on Libsyn (use coupon code ADPP for a months free hosting with them). For more information on this, have a listen to ‘Where to host your show’ with Dave Jackson.

 

I = Interaction

When you’ve been putting out shows for a while you will start to build a fanbase. In that fanbase will be listeners who will actually take the time to get in touch with you, to say hello, and to thank you for entertaining them.

Make sure you take time to interact with these listeners. Ask them if they make a show themselves, and if you can have a listen to it. Find out more about each listener and become friends with them. You will start small, so take the opportunity to build these relationships while you can. This will create a loyal band of listeners who will share and promote your content for years to come.

 

J = Jargon

Audio production and writing are the two towers of Audio Drama. Both are absolutely bursting with jargon, terms you’ve probably never heard before, terms that sound extremely complex. You won’t learn everything overnight. In fact, you won’t learn everything in five, or even ten years. Don’t try to master everything at once. Pick and choose your battles, work at them, and absorb information in a slow and patient manner.

The internet is full of great tutorials and resources, and there are many excellent books on writing and audio production. Be wary of information overload. Don’t read three books in a row when you’ve yet to take action on a single thing mentioned in the first one. You’ll just be filling up your short term memory with information that will soon be discarded or forgotten. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Update – Check out our new Audio Production Jargon Explained page.

 

K = Kbps, Hz, Bits, & File Types

So anyway, here’s some jargon. Whilst you should record as, or request all your audio material in WAV form, you will want to mix down the final version and release it as an Mp3. This makes it a smaller, more practical size to be downloaded by people all over the world.

When you mix down your finished show as an Mp3 you’ll be asked to set the ‘kilobits per second’ (Kbps) of your file. To put this simply, the higher the rate, the higher the sound quality, but also the bigger the size of the file (remember, people need to download these).

128kbps is considered ‘CD quality’ – you can go higher than that if you like, but we’d advise against going any lower. This is a good level to shoot for if you’re releasing content through a podcast feed. You can always sell or give away copies with higher rates (256 or 320kbps) as premium content too.

When you record audio, your samples have a bit depth. Most DAWs will ask you to choose a bit depth of 16, 24, or 32. You can go up to 32 if you like, but only the most trained ear would notice a difference between that and 24. We find 24 to be totally fine, and it keeps the size of the source material (WAVs) down a bit.

On top of that, you’ll also hear sample rates like 44100Hz and 48000Hz being bandied about. Again, higher means better with these numbers, but shoot for 44100Hz in the recording stages, and with your final mix, for the same size/download reasons we’ve already covered.

 

L = Loudness/Levels

There’s a long running debate in the audio/podcasting community about how loud things should be. The most important thing to keep in mind initially though is how loud your loudest sound is in relation to your quietest. Your levels and loudness should all be in proportion to each other, and work together as a finished piece.

Nobody should ever have to touch the volume button when listening to your show, so if you have a huge explosion, and a scene with two characters whispering, bring them as close together as you can in the mixing stage.

For more information on this, Kbps, and more, check out ‘Loudness, bit rates, and audio production’

 

M = Music

Alongside dialogue and sound effects, music is an integral part of your soundscape, and a powerful storytelling tool. There are some great Creative Commons licensed resources out there that you can use without permission (always check the terms of each license when selecting a track, and remember to credit the composer) but one disadvantage of this is that you’ll hear the same music tracks again and again in different Audio Dramas.

If you want to add that extra dimension of individuality to your story, try hooking up with or hiring a composer who would have the ability to custom score your production. For more on this, check out ‘Composing music for Audio Drama’ and ‘Working with composers’ 

 

N = Narration

Yes you can use a narrator in your show, many great Audio Dramas do. But try to resist relying too heavily on this ‘crutch’ of allowing a disembodied voice to tell the listener things you can create for them using your sound effects, music, and dialogue.

Use the vibrant story world to fill gaps with vital story detail, those snippets of background conversation. The TV or radio playing a news broadcast under the conversation of two characters. The trainee or apprentice being told the ins and outs of the company he or she has just joined. There are infinite possibilities here, you just need to get a little creative.

For more on this, check out ‘Should I use narration in my Audio Drama?’ and ‘How do I convey thought in Audio Drama?’

 

O = Opening Scene

If someone is listening to your show, there are hundreds of thousands of other shows that they aren’t listening to. If they get bored, you lose them, and they’re not coming back. You need to give them a good reason to stick around, so make those opening minutes count. Check out ‘Drop your listener into the action’ for an in-depth look at opening scene ‘hooks’.

 

P = Perspective

From who’s perspective are you telling your story? You will need to think carefully about this in the writing stage. Will you follow one character, or will you jump from one to the other? Will your story be linear or will you jump back in time to experience the same event with two or more characters? For more on this, check out ‘Using perspective to tell your story’

 

Q = Quality & Quantity

This is a tough one to master – you want to release good material, and you want to release regular material. You can choose one or the other, but you might find that this limits your growth. Some people simply won’t put up with poor audio quality even though you are hitting a monthly release schedule. On the other hand, you might release a masterpiece every 9 months, but your listeners may get bored waiting on the next episode, and by the time it finally arrives they will have forgotten what happened in the last one.

One solution here is to take as long as you need to have 8-12 episodes in the can to give you a decent enough buffer to be hitting that regular release schedule. This might take a year or two and will require a lot of patience and discipline. Good luck.

 

R = Recording Location – Studio or Field?

Well isn’t this just the million pound question? If you record in a studio (or similar recording environment) – and this applies to working with a remote cast too – you will have the freedom to completely construct and micro-manage your soundscape from scratch. This is especially useful if you need to design the sound of a medieval walled city, or a futuristic space station, and you actually live in a busy urban area with cars driving past and planes flying overhead.

However, if you can find a location that sounds like (not looks like, but sounds like) your story world, and you can get your cast there for a day or two of recording, then this can bring out superb performances in your cast that are hard to replicate in a sterile studio environment. You also have the bonus of that ready-made soundscape underneath your dialogue as actors interact with each other and the world around them.

Be warned though – field recording is not for the faint hearted. Seemingly inconceivable disturbances and interruptions can turn even the most mild-mannered director into the character played by Michael Douglas in the film Falling Down.

For a more in-depth comparison between these two options, check out ‘Recording and equipment’ , ‘Field recording and dialogue improvisation’ , ‘Creating fight scenes’ , ‘Should I record on location?’ , and ‘Do I need expensive equipment?’

Oh, and you can also create a hybrid between the two, like we experimented with in the story Time is Money

 

S = SFX

Sound effects will help paint the picture of your world, whether it’s a simple door creaking, or the sound of Great Cthulhu bursting out of the ocean to bring death to all mankind, you’re going to demonstrate this through sound effects.

Your ‘everyday’ effects – footsteps, door creaks, cups being placed on tables etc – should actually only be noticeable in the listener’s subconscious. If someone suddenly stops halfway through a scene in your drama to think “those footstep sound effects don’t fit right at all” then you have failed in your job.

Where the sound effect was originally recorded comes in to play here too. If you have a gunshot sound effect recorded in an indoor shooting range, it will probably carry quite a distinctive echo sound. Would it be appropriate to use this effect in an outdoor gunfight scene? Probably not. So make sure each effect is completely appropriate for the picture you are trying to paint.

As always with audio, listen to the sound, rather than judge it on it’s title. If Space_Station_Door.wav sounds like a microwave door opening, then it’s a microwave door sound effect. Disregard the written title.

Things don’t always sound like they look either, and in many cases you can make a better sound effect using something other than the real thing. Think of how little sound you get from a real life punch to the face, whereas if you were to hit a leather jacket with a baseball bat that might yield far better results.

For an in-depth look at this subject check out ‘Creating sound effects’

 

T = Time

Time is a finite resource, and it’s one of the few things you can never get back when you’ve used it. Use your time wisely. Don’t think because you’ve spent twelve hours today on your drama that you’ve been productive. Try to work smarter, not harder.

Ask yourself some questions, focusing around the fact that just because you can do certain things, does this mean that you should do them?

We’ll look at this a bit more under Your Role, but let’s use recording sound effects as an example. You’ve spent five hours recording some great effects for your story, but could you have paid for some high quality stock effects that were as good as, if not better, than your own material? Five hours not recording sound effects is five hours doing other things. You can get the money you paid back, but you can never get the time back. Work smarter, not harder.

Also, block out time to work on your story. Whether that’s one hour a week or three hours a day, block out that time and say no to everything in that period (emergencies excluding, obviously). Don’t approach a production with the idea that you’ll “just chip away at it” in your spare time – that won’t work, and will just lead you on the path to perennial procrastination.

And never say “I don’t have time”, everyone has exactly the same amount of time. If that TV show you watch every night and don’t even like has to go, then bin it. If you need to get up half an hour early in the morning, or stay up half an hour later at night, then do it. If you want to make Audio Drama then you’ll always find the time.

 

U = Untreated files

If you’re working with a remote cast, they might be some of the most talented and knowledgeable audio folks out there, but avoid letting everyone apply noise-reduction, normalisation, and compression to their lines in advance of you getting your hands on them. It’s your job to make everything consistent, so make doing this yourself a priority. Feel free to use our ‘Audio Drama Satellite Voice Acting Guide’ to make sure your cast are clear on what you’re looking for on this front.

 

V = Voice Actors

You won’t get very far without a cast of voice actors who will become the heroes and villains (and everything inbetween) of your story world. Going down the satellite/remote recording route where actors record and send their lines to you gives you access to a wealth of global talent – but you surrender a lot of the control over audio quality and recording environments. You lose a little of the ‘magic’ of actors performing together too.

Creating a local Audio Drama group removes all of these problems, but if you live in a rural area or can’t find a suitable number of actors then this might not be possible. The beauty of this though is you don’t really have to choose one or the other, you can mix local and remote actors in one story to great effect. Whatever way you choose to find your talent though – be sure to look after them.

 

W = Writing

You can have the best cast, equipment, sound library, composer, and production values in the world, but if you can’t write a good story (or find a good writer) then all of this means absolutely nothing.

On top of writing your story arcs, you need to learn to write dialogue that serves the medium, without being wooden or over expositional. Have a think about how people talk to each other in real life. Record a conversation between two people and transcribe it. How does it look in written form?

Writing for audio is a huge subject in it’s own right, and is impossible to summarise here, but we recommend checking out ‘Telling your story, and making it stand out’ , ‘How to structure your story’ , and ‘Writing dialogue’ for a more detailed look on the many aspects of this subject.

 

X = XLR Cable

Try to avoid direct-to-computer USB microphones. If you’re doing a lot of vocal recording, get yourself a preamp and microphone, which will connect using an XLR cable. But don’t just buy any old XLR cable – like any other piece of equipment, you get what you pay for. Check out this article ‘An XLR Cable is Just a Cable, Right?’ for an in-depth look on this subject.YapStudio

Also, have a look at our Recommended Home Recording Setup for Voice Actors

 

Y = Your role

This comes back to time – your time, and your use of it.

Remember, just because you can do everything, doesn’t mean you should.

Many people want to write their show, act in their show, and produce their show. That’s three big jobs right there, so be aware of the sheer workload you are taking on, and set your expectations accordingly.

If you feel intimidated by the amount of work needed to make an Audio Drama from scratch, hook up with some other like-minded people, or ask to get involved with an established production house.

If you want to focus on producing, then you should find a writer to work with no problem. That isn’t so easy the other way round though, as there aren’t many producers who are not already knee deep in a number of existing projects.

Whatever route you choose, find a small group of good people to work with. Concentrating on one particular area can really allow you to flourish, trying to take on everything yourself can lead to overload and eventually burnout. Remember, this should be fun, and not something that fills you with dread when you open the laptop.

Check out ‘Are you focused’ for more on this subject.

 

Z = Zoom

Okay, so we’re not sponsored by Zoom (though we do have affiliate links) but we’ve used portable Zoom recorders from day one, and they are pretty much an essential part of the Audio Dramatists kit bag. Whether you are recording dialogue, ambience, or sound effects, they give you a superb studio quality sound, along with being extremely handy and affordable. Aside from that, what else would you have put under Z?zoompole

 

Hope that was useful!

Any questions, comments, or feedback? We’d love to hear from you… hit us up at blog@audiodramaproduction.com

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Audio Drama on Spotify. Changing DAWs, & more on audio storytelling

There was some pretty big news in the podcasting world last week as Libsyn (via their own podcast The Feed) announced that they were partnering with music streaming giants Spotify. By the sounds of it, podcasts will be available on the service by the summer of 2015, which means that you could soon have your own audio drama listed on there, alongside their estimated 70 million users.

Elsewhere, we’re chatting about DAWs. Digital Audio Workstations. Those awkwardly named, but essential pieces of software we use to put our shows together. Which one do you use? Have you ever switched from one to another, and why?

And if you listened to episode 45, you’ll have heard part one of the Sonic Society‘s Jack Ward talking about what makes an audio story. Well you can hear part two in this very episode. Where does your own show fit into Jack’s Octahedron? You’ll find a transcription of this segment at the bottom of the page, and clips heard were from One by OneThe Woman in the BasementBiological Clock, and Escape from New York.

Other shows mentioned on the show were The Once & Future NerdAlba Salix Royal PhysicianHidden Harbor MysteriesThe Table Round, and the Hadron Gospel Hour.

Finally, we’re backing Neil from Twilight Audio Theatre to reach his Kickstarter goal of $650. He’d like to use it to pay his talent, and he’s an all round nice guy, can you lend a hand by making a small contribution? Oh and check out his podcast The Geeking too, there’s some great audio drama related content on there.

Get in touch…

My Unified Theory of the Audio Story

Part 2

By Jack Ward

How is an Audio Story represented? Is there a way to best articulate all the kinds of stories you can have in audio? I’m Jack Ward from the Sonic Society.

JW1Last time I postulated that there are three corners of the Audio Story triangle- Audio Drama based on scripted plays, Audio Narrative based on prose or novel form, and Experimental Audio that takes all kinds of forms, not the least of which are sketches and improvisational audio.

We identified that every audio drama production, company, writers, and producers have ‘neighbourhoods’ or plotted areas that we can- triangulate…as it were and just being able to visualize that brings us to a deeper understanding of the character of a group of stories or a company, and the style of the writer or writers involved.

But as much as I love this model. It’s not complete. Although it covers all the various sources of audio stories it’s kind of flat because it doesn’t look at how story is executed. So I’m standing right here, in the very centre of our massive Audio Triangle- exactly between Drama, Narrative, and Experimental to bring some depth to the story.

So our middle portion is growing… higher and higher until it reaches its own peak.

JW2Our Audio Triangle has become an Audio Pyramid. Because this third dimensional piece. This extra fourth point I like to label, “Intimate”.

Now I understand labels are problematic, and once we rise above everything, we’re in a precarious position of falling. I’m not trying to say that one kind of audio story connects with people, and another does not. What I’m saying is, the higher you are in Intimacy with the Listener, the less you need to build an audio world around them and the more you require the Listener to construct the landscape in their own heads.

Now I know that I depicted the end point of Narrative last time as being that lone voice with no sound effects or music, but that was really to try to help you picture better the difference between script and prose, Drama and Narrative. There really doesn’t need to be sound effects or music in Drama either. When I was a kid there was show on television called “Story Theatre” in which actors- like Alan Alda got together in no costumes, with no props, and no sound effects and acted out fairy-tales. This was one of the most intimate portraits of story because watching you had to imagine- without prompting- the actors riding horses, the trolls and the bridges they lived under. So much is created by the viewer or the listener that there’s almost a direct line from the writer through the voice of the actor to the audience. There’s nearly no intermediary in the way.

It is… for lack of a better word. Intimate. One of the key elements OF the audio story is that it is the MOST intimate of mediums. The cinema and television and even a stage play you witness from a distance and it takes incredible art to bridge that gulf between performance and audience to erase that distance and be immersed in that experience.

But audio is best experienced intimately, by which I mean that the images are drawn straight from your imagination. The sounds strike up the story inside your head, and the listener is, in a real way, a co-creator, filling in the elements of the set, sound effects, and atmosphere with colour, texture, and lighting. Even the characters, although hinted at, by their voices and the descriptions in the story emerge entirely from the listener’s mind.

This is why closure is so effective in art, because it allows the experiencer to complete the message.

In my play “One by One”, sound effects and dialogue describes the beginning of a great plague that’ll wipe out all of Halifax.

It’s the acting of Tanja Milojevic that sells the growing fear of the crowd. As her character keeps calling for her boyfriend and then as she runs away in fear, we’re provided just enough in the scene for the listener to understand and complete the picture.

The more intimate the portrayal of the story, the fewer clues the story provides.

Take for example, this clip from the now legendary (did we just dream this series) “Midnight Radio Theatre” by Billy Senese.

Did you feel the simple nature of that scene? It’s intimate. There’s not a lot provided or needed to paint a rich picture of the characters, their relationship and the world that surrounds them. It is in the execution of this scene that brings closure from the minds of listeners.

Here’s another quick example. “Biological Clock” from Ira Gamerman from the Truth Podcast.

While both of those clips are happening in a kind of modern day setting, they don’t have to be. However, it could be fair to say, that the more removed you are from the present setting, the more apt your producer and audio engineer will need to provide clues to better paint the soundscape for the listener.

JW3It would be too simple to suggest that our peak of the Audio Story pyramid- “Intimate” requires little or no sound effects to achieve. I don’t think the answer is that you just eliminate your sound effects to create intimacy in your audio story. But there is a sense of purity that comes with shaving off everything that’s not needed to tell the story, and keep the narrative as clean and clear as possible. Intimate.

This style was found in a lot of Old Time Radio shows because sound effects were live and unless run by a team of people, were executed by a single Special Effects Artist. This was the guy or gal who needed to get rid of the high heeled shoes in time to break open a door before rendering a thunder strike in the air.

Starkly produced and executed audio drama demands a lot of their listeners, but it also provides- in strange way- a very rich soundscape because it lets the listener create it themselves.

But what if your goal is to create a rich and textured soundscape for your listeners?

That sound you’re hearing below us, is our pyramid morphing one last time. We may have one point going up where we’re standing now, but down below, the base of the pyramid, is jutting outwards into its final point. This transforms our pyramid structure into an octahedron or for the nerdy among us, an eight-sided die.

On all eight facets we connect the three points in the middle of “Drama”, “Narrative” and “Experimental” with the final ‘North’ and ‘South’ poles of the audio story being “Intimate” and… “Dynamic”.

What is Dynamic in our now fully three-dimensional audio world?

Dynamically executed audio stories represent the cinematic, and are often described (unfairly I think) as the “modern day audio drama” sensibility. Dynamic audio stories can include multi-layered sound effects representing- what I call the “every blade of grass” group.

Dynamic audio stories cue in the listener, by giving much more texture to scenes. Listeners don’t need to work as hard to get into the story. You don’t have to imagine that sound of the speeding freight car, or the steam-powered lightning gun, the Dynamic story has it produced for you.

Similarly, when a story is executed Dynamically expect to have characters’ positions in the audio to be defined and deliberate. Dynamic audio is especially concerned with perspective and using music to set mood and tone.

When Dirk Maggs tells you that he wants audio drama to be cinematic just like the movies, you can be certain it’s not an accident that his productions are robustly Dynamic.

Some other Dynamic groups include: Epic Audio, Aural Stage Studios, Final Rune Productions, Darker Projects, Wayland Productions and of course again in Broken Sea Audio when either Stevie Farnaby or Bill Hollweg get behind the wheel… Like this scene from “Escape from New York”

Dynamic audio stories can instantly transport listeners to new worlds with 3-D holographic sound structures and a deep understanding of how to use a lot of sound in ways that avoids becoming a cloud of noise, but instead a rich environment. You might think of it this way. An Intimate execution of an Audio Story is like a book. A Dynamic execution of an Audio Story is a film experience in sound.

Again, it’s no accident that Dynamic producers often describe their radio drama as “audio movies”.

So now… you can consider where, in the diamond shaped octahedron of Audio your favourite stories lie. Do Dynamic and Intimate executions of audio stories say something of the writers and production companies who use them? Absolutely.

Would someone who grew up with the Spartan use of sound effects and perspective in Old Time Radio or with a deep appreciation for community theatre have a difficulty appreciating Dynamic more than Intimate audio? Similarly, would someone who considers themselves a visual learner and a lover of movies find the “Intimate” portrayal of an Audio Drama bland and uninteresting?

In the ten years of the Sonic Society, there’s been nearly a hundred and fifty contributors of audio shows and most of those in the last five. Can you imagine where they would all fit on those eight sides?

Where would you place Campfire Theater or Dick Dynamo? Certainly many audio production companies have multiple places on the map, but wouldn’t that also find them located a little closer towards the region of “Experimental”?

Icebox Radio for example, depending upon whether they are presenting a live or studio production, or a holiday, or series show would certainly have different places on our octahedron, and knowing Jeffrey Adams, that’s just how he likes it.

Same with companies such as, Misfits, Pendant, and Gypsy who are all cooperative groups with varying genres and concepts.

Still others like Harry Strange, Desert Gems, The Once and Future Nerd, Wormwood, Bell’s in the Batfry, Kung-Fu Action Theatre, and Doctor Floyd through genre or single series would have clear positions on our eight-sided world.

And that’s it. All the points on the Audio Story compass. All aspects of story representation and execution formed together.

The only question that remains is this… Where do you like to make your story, and who do you want to listen to it?

Do I need expensive equipment?

Continuing on with our location recording discussion, John Ballentine of Campfire Radio Theater talks about the making of the brilliant Hungry Hollow

“We used a Zoom recorder, it’s a Zoom H2N, and we actually used the built in microphones, we didn’t use an external microphone to record with. The Zoom is a handy little recorder; it does a lot of things really well, it fits in the palm of your hand, you can take it anywhere.

zoompole

One of the things I thought my main use for it would be was recording sound effects and ambient environments for use in the show. The more I played with it I thought “well this thing sounds pretty good”, I think it sounds more or less as good as my studio mic setup.

So I felt pretty confident about taking it in the field, taking it on location, and trying to record a show with it. We put it on a tripod, took it out in the woods, and that’s how we recorded Hungry Hollow.

We sort of blocked some movement around the Zoom, and sat it on a tripod. We didn’t actually do any movement with the recorder itself, we just kind of kept it stationary and have actors move around it. And we didn’t do a lot of movement, not nearly as much as I really probably would’ve liked to.

We did some very basic blocking, and had an actor positioned off to one side, or another actor positioned more centrally, and then we might have somebody that enters the scene, and they might enter from the far left or far right, then somebody exits the scene and you have that movement.”

We mention previous episodes where even the biggest names in audio production are encouraging learning to use gear correctly before spending money on better, more expensive equipment.

“Technique trumps technology” Ric Viers

“I recommend that they (those just starting out and/or with no budget) go out on location. Take a portable recorder like an H2 or an H4, or the Edirols, or whatever you can get. Take a portable recorder, and play with it. 

Work out how to get the best result, the best balance of voices with background without it being too cattery, or too distant, or too echoey… because, you immediately remove one problem, which is setting your action somewhere atmospheric. You’ve already found that. So as soon as somebody says to me “oh I’d love to do it, but I can’t afford a studio”, I say you don’t need a studio if you have one of these little recorders, and once you’ve got one you can go anywhere, and do pretty much anything.” Dirk Maggs

“Find out what works the best for you. Find out what works the best for the show you’re trying to produce. There is no one way to do things. You do what works best for you, whatever capabilities and resources that you have available to you, that’s what’ll dictate what you can do, and what you can’t do. Field recording is a great approach, if you’ve got the resources and people locally to pull it off, and I highly recommend it… at least try it!” John Ballentine

Elsewhere, we play some clips from recently created audio dramas Time is Money, and The Accident. We talk about Patreon as we received a pledge from talented voice actor Karim Kronfli. We had some feedback on Aftermath. Friend of the show Scott Lamond of Goodpodcasts is in the podcast award finals (we’re going to vote for him, look under ‘PodSafe Music). And there’s an audio drama community on Reddit, brought to you by Audio-Drama.com

And, as ever, you’ll find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as via the old email at podcast@audiodramaproduction.com

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