…oh no, this is the road to hell
– Road to Hell (Chris Rea)
Now that I come to think about it, the lyrics of Chris Rea’s maudlin masterpiece are a fairly accurate description of an AST recording session at the best of times.
And I’m underneath the streetlights, but the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
But recording of Episode 8 was hellish in ways that went way beyond the usual Producer Dan grumbling…
And the perverted fear of violence chokes the smile on every face
Common sense is ringing out the bells
We were about half-an-hour into the recording of Episode 8 when I noticed a strange noise. Quite faint, but definitely there. Now, you may reasonably ask, how did I manage to pick out one strange noise amid the tangled morass of strange noises and even stranger accents that make up the typical AST episode? Over the course of the previous seven episodes I’ve managed to train myself to tune out all the extraneous nonsense that comes with AST – the cast talking, Action Dan and Science Brian doing anything at all, and so on – and focus on what’s important, viz. making sure there is nothing on the recording that shouldn’t be.* And this time, there was. A strange chirruping noise, which we eventually determined was hard-drive noise from the digital recorder. Hmmm…
There followed about 30 minutes of frantic running up and down stairs, rummaging through cupboards, unboxing of old equipment and powering up of ancient laptops. And swearing. Mainly swearing, actually, as I went through every backup plan I could think of. All to no avail.
And all the roads jam up with credit, and there’s nothing you can do
It’s all just bits of paper, flying away from you
Fortunately, help was at hand in the shape of cast member (and international best-selling children’s author) Mark A. Pritchard. Leaping onto his motorbike and roaring off into the setting Oxfordshire sun, Mark was dispatched to produce a more reliable back-up device than anything I had managed to come up with. An hour or so later, we were finally ready to… study the instruction manual to make the thing work. And then we were finally ready to… phone up the cast members who had gone home because they had better things to do than sit around and wait. And then we were finally… well, anyway, we got there in the end. Hopefully you don’t feel that Episode 8 has suffered in any way from its traumatic birth.
This ain’t no upwardly mobile freeway,
Oh no, this is the road to hell
And onto the answer to last month’s Question with a Really Disappointing Answer™. I asked:
What is the most commonly re-used sound effect in Action Science Theatre?
The answer: the almost-but-not-quite inaudible sound of a ‘small room’ that accompanies all those scenes that take place in small, otherwise empty rooms. Disappointing, huh?
*Whether “the cast talking, Action Dan and Science Brian doing anything at all, and so on” belong in this category is left as an exercise for the diligent pupil.