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.

Background noise is an essential part of any audio drama scene. There is no such thing as silence – even empty rooms have their own characteristic sound, and big rooms sound different to little ones. In Brain Training, the background noise consists mainly of the continuous rumble of the doomed train. The fun begins when Michael and Lily reach the end of the train and find themselves balanced on a ledge outside as the train rattles through the countryside. Shortly thereafter, the brakes are applied and the train grinds to a halt.

A screenshot of the editing software

Producer Dan [prəˈdjuːsə dæn] n. A device for turning wiggly lines into podcasts.

So, to the original train rumble were added the sound of a train* passing by, recorded from outside, and a synthesised ‘rushing wind’ noise, followed by the nails-on-blackboard effect of a London Underground train screeching into a station. As the brakes die away, the cacophony is replaced by a serene outdoor track with a few birds tweeting in the distance. Sadly the listener is unable to enjoy this charming pastoral image, as the cast insist on talking all over it. Ah well.


For those of you on tenterhooks** after last month’s quiz, here are the answers:

A set of screwdrivers and an old pair of jeans?

These were used to create the sound of Inspector Weyland-Smith unrolling her lock-picking kit. A set of watchmakers’ screwdrivers – which gave the right tinny/tinkling sound – were repeatedly rolled up in a trouser leg and unrolled until I got a sound I was happy with.

The same old pair of jeans, this time with a carving knife?

To create the sound of a dinosaur tooth chopping through a rope, I attacked my poor old jeans with a carving knife.

Chopping up a carrot?

The thunk of a knife slicing through a carrot and hitting a wooden chopping board was perfect for the sound of a throwing knife hitting a wall. The sound of a throwing knife entering a leg was, of course, our old friend the watermelon.

*Actually a steam train rather than a 1980s British Rail diesel, but who’s counting?
**No, Science Brian, I cannot create the sound of a tenterhook. So don’t ask me.

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1 thought on Editing Episode 4 - Layers of Nonsense

  1. Action Dan

    Mmm… Sandwiches…

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