Posts by: Producer Dan

Editing Episode 9 - More Cable

Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider

Why yes, I would like to borrow your
Zoom H4n Handy Recorder

At the end of last month’s thrilling instalment, you may recall that the heretofore reliable AST technology had undergone catastrophic working-properlyness failure. Episode 8 was eventually rescued by a man on a motorbike, but we couldn’t rely on that happening every time. So, I had to find a way to make sure that we could get safely through Episode 9. For reasons that now escape me, the first step involved inviting Action Dan and Science Brian to my house and feeding them steak and chips.

Seriously – I’ve got to work out what they’re putting in my water.

Becoming Producer Dan

We then ran to Producer Dan and said, “We have no idea how to actually turn all this into reality! Help us!”

– Science Brian

That, in his ‘how it all started’ blog, is how Science Brian described the moment he asked me to get involved in Action Science Theatre. It’s quite charming, in its way – glowing with the enthusiasm of a young Irishman making his way in a strange, faraway land, hope shining in his eyes, alight with the realisation that all his Christmases have come at yearly intervals.

It is, of course, a thin, supermarket-brand, single-ply tissue of lies.*

Editing Episode 8 – This Ain’t No Technological Breakdown…

…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

Editing Episode 7 - Environmentally Sound Effects

A green bin with a pun on the the word 'bin'

Action Dan and Science Brian help out by recycling jokes.

In these days of climate change, peak oil, fracking and Jeremy Clarkson, it behoves us all to do our bit for the environment. And what better way to help make a greener tomorrow than with a little recycling? So, as you listen to Episode 7 of Action Science Theatre, don’t sit there thinking, “I’m sure that sound has been in the past three episodes.” Instead, rejoice in the knowledge that, by recycling sound effects, we at Action Science Theatre are contributing to greener podcasting.

 

Editing Episode 6 - Things that don’t sound like things really sound. Like

Hmm… need to work on my titles.

Anyway, as I discussed in an earlier blog, much of my time in editing Action Science Theatre is spent trying to find or create sound effects that sound as close as possible to the real thing. Sometimes, however, the reverse is true; what you want isn’t anything like the real thing, because the real thing is too nondescript, or simply inaudible. This is where stereotypical auditory cues come in, allowing the creation of what Vincent McInerney* calls ‘mindvisible images’ – instant visualisation of what is meant to be happening. While McInerney is talking about writing rather than sound effects, similar principles apply.

Editing Episode 5 - The Ant: an Introduction

As my regular reader will know, I spend a lot of time in these blogs ranting about the ludicrous sound effects that Science Brian expects me to produce. Anyone who has listened to Episode 5, then, will expect this blog to be no different. Except that… when I first read the script for Solvay-nt Abuse – and saw that I needed to create a giant ant that rumbled, rattled its cage, smashed through the bars, roared, bit a scientist’s arm off, and then proceeded to crash its way through an explicitly marble-floored hotel – I passed straight through ‘ranting’ and emerged on the far side with a sort of cheery determination. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are.

Editing Episode 4 - Layers of Nonsense

Wherever you come near the human race there’s layers and layers of nonsense

That line from Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play, Our Town, pretty much sums up the editing process for an episode of AST. Layers and layers of nonsense. Even a simple scene usually contains three layers:

  1. Dialogue
  2. Sound effects
  3. Background noise

And, just to clarify, Point 3 does not refer to the sound of Action Dan munching his sandwiches in the corner of the recording studio.

Editing Episode 3 – Things That Sound Like Other Things

Science Brian has promised that Episode 3 will have only a few simple sound effects, so I shall look forward to that
My Episode 2 Blog

So, “a few simple sound effects,” is it? Let’s look at that statement, shall we? Firstly, “a”. Can’t argue with that. At the other end we have, “sound effects”, and yes, there were indeed sound effects in Episode 3; can’t fault Science Brian there. But, between these two unarguable bookends, we have the words, “few” and “simple”. This is where the sentence starts to fall apart. If you listen to Episode 3 again (because you’ve listened to it already, yes?) you’ll notice that the 21-minute running time consists of about 3 minutes of dialogue and 18 minutes of sound effects. Give or take.

Editing Episode 2 - The Strumpet's Plague

‘Tis the strumpet’s plague
To beguile many and be beguiled by one

– Othello IV.i

Two bowls of cat food

Essential podcast-editing equipment

Let’s see…what did I learn from Episode 1?

1. Sort out sound effects in advance
2. Throw the cast out earlier
3. Remember to feed the cats
4. Don’t confuse 2 and 3

 

That’s not a lot, really, is it?

 

 

 

Editing Episode 1

It’s about 10 o’clock at night, a tiresome collection of buffoons has just lef… *ahem* the cast has just left my house, the place is a mess, and England are in the process of being knocked out of Euro 2012 on penalties. Time to go to work.

Editing a radio play seems a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. I am faced with a huge collection of dialogue tracks, sound effects and ambient noises; somehow I have to combine them into a coherent whole. This bit of dialogue goes here, this sound effect goes there, this sound effect… doesn’t exist. Ah.