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Star Trek Audio 101 - Or how to make your own Star Trek Audio Show


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#1 Eric Busby

 

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 12:20 AM

I thought it might be interesting for the various audio/radio producers who do fan based Star Trek to start a threat in which we could discuss how we have gone about it and what we use to make our audios. And this may be helpful to anyone else who might want to take a shot at making a Star Trek audio story someday.

Star Trek Audio 101 - Or how to make your own Star Trek Audio/Radio Show.
The chat a few night ago illustrated that there is an interest in how this is done. But it is hard to go into how one might go about it in detail when in a chat room... Here in the forum is another issue. It's a lot easier to go into detales and things like that.

I have been in audio or rather radio for a good number of years. Right out of high school in fact, (Some 20 years ago) I spent time as a radio engineer. I help in the upkeep of the stations equipment and had my own radio show from 12 midnight until the early hours of the morning. I drank a lot of coffee back then..... I did this for about two years until I moved to Maine where I continued to do radio work. But only at a community radio station. Anyways long story short I now live in Oregon. With the internet become faster all the time, a few years ago I thought it might be neat to do an audio series based on Star Trek. This is because I do not have the money to shell out to make a film and build sets and so on. Now back when I started in all of this. You had these vast booth to record in. Lots of dial and switches. But these days there is a lot of software the makes post production something you can do on your computer. Some of these consist of Goldwave, Adobe Audio, Wave Pad, Audacity (Which is free) and so on. (I myself use Cool Edit. Which was bought out by Adobe Audio).
I would recommend using Audacity for first timers which can be found and downloaded here.
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

Its a good means of getting the basic idea of the work involved. If you find that this is something your interested then you can hunt down the other software. Some people buy it..... Other find another method.... But that not my issue. If there is an interest in this, I would be happy to keep the dialogue going on how I have gone about building my audio series The Section 31 Files. What I have learned along the way. What sort of pit falls are out there. And why I prefer to call these unlicensed production instead of Fan Fiction. But that's for another time.

Edited by Eric Busby, 26 March 2007 - 12:22 AM.


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#2 Kirok

 

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 05:58 AM

I greatly appreciate this, Eric! I was hoping we could get something like this going!

Before we get into the techniques of sound engineering itself, Could I ask a favour? I have what I believe to be a neat twist for an audio drama that I would like to write up, but I'm having the devil of a time making the leap from a storyline to a script.

I've written some fan fiction which has been kindly received by those who've read it (thanks Mum!) so I'm quite comfortable with fiction but I rely a lot on description to set the atmosphere, painting word pictures with text that bring the scene to life for the reader in the theatre of their mind.The idea of writing something without such scene setting ... I dunno. I think i have an interesting plot that I can keep rolling along with some good dialogue between interesting characters - the exposition - but what about the background? The scene, the set on which this drama is played out on?

One of the things that Section 31 did well was injecting atmosphere into the drama - tension, danger, calmness. Is it audio cues like music or sound effects? Are there tricks to changing the tone of voices so that they will sound like it is in a cave or a closet or on a ship's bridge? Is it in the Scripting, getting the actors to describe the scene without seeming to? How do you go about setting a scene for an original work like "Far Horizons" which doesn't use the cues that are instantly recognisable to Trek fans as you had in Section 31 (the doors, the transporter...)? I'll load it onto my mp3 player to listen to it over the next week.

Thanks again for kicking this off! Gonna pick ya brains, bud!

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#3 jcjec

 

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 10:57 AM

Thanks for getting this started Eric. I'll likewise contribute what I can.

I got started in radio during my first year in college, working toward getting a degree in broadcasting. Eric's comment about the midnight shift rang extremely familiar, as my first semester was spent doing the 2 - 6 AM shift at our college radio station on Friday and Saturday nights. The experience permanently changed me from a morning person to a night owl (which makes things interesting now that I work as a librarian and need to be up at 6:15 every morning). Anyway, I got my basic knowledge of sound editing and such during that time period, though I changed broadcasting to my minor and took on Journalism as my major (and later went back for my masters in Instructional Technology, but that has little to do with this discussion).

I will say that Matt Hallaron is far more experienced in sound editing than I am, having received his degree in music. It is his brilliance that allows us to sound as good as we do. My specialty is in writing (thus the switch to journalism), which (finally) leads me to the point I was going to make: be sure to have a strong story before you sit down to record. Make sure its well-written and makes sense. Don't be afraid to edit, re-edit and edit again. Even after four different editing sessions, I still found things in the final version that should have been written differently (but that's probably in part to my being my own toughest critic).

As far as editing systems go, we are currently using Soundforge for recording and editing and Matt composes the music using Finale.

As for Kirok's question, I'd like to expand it myself. I know that Darker Projects and Pendant Productions produce multiple shows beyond Star Trek, and we at TimeWell Electronic Recording Productions (TWERP) are hoping to do the same. In fact, we are currently in negotiations with a writer who has created an original superhero series to produce his work for him. Do DP and Pendant accept outside submissions, and has Kirok thought about hooking up with a group already in existence, or is he hoping to create his own? I know that we at TWERP don't necessarily want to produce multiple Star Trek shows all at the same time, but we are willing to help get original content or other fan-fiction out to the masses.
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#4 Eric Busby

 

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Posted 26 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

Hey Kirok, I hope this answers some of your questions.

Music, sound and acting..... That's what is comes down to in my opinion... Its a juggling act. The music and sound effect are great... But basically this is just the icing on the cake. A lot of what is going on is going to depend on your actors. They are how you set the mood for any scene. Like if there is tension in the air. You can have dark ambient music playing. But the actor also has to reflect that in his dialogue and tone. They have to sound angry or scared.

"Damn it! This isn't working and the ship's gonna blow in ten seconds!" They have to reflect the tension here. They can not sound like they are sitting down to dinner after a long day.

The nice thing about being descriptive in a Star Trek audio is a lot of people know the shows. So they have a good idea of what things already look like. The bridge. The uniforms. What a Klingon, Romulan and Borg look like. So in cases like that I've found you don't really have to focus too much on descriptions unless you bring in something new. Then the rules go out the window... But I will get into that another time.

As for how to make someone sound like they are in a cave or a bridge.... That depends on what kind of software you get. In my case I change the reverb of people's voices so it can reflect where they are. Like adding an echo, or muffling the sound if they are stuffed in a closet.

Edited by Eric Busby, 26 March 2007 - 11:01 AM.


#5 Kirok

 

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 06:06 AM

Do DP and Pendant accept outside submissions, and has Kirok thought about hooking up with a group already in existence, or is he hoping to create his own? I know that we at TWERP don't necessarily want to produce multiple Star Trek shows all at the same time, but we are willing to help get original content or other fan-fiction out to the masses.

I think they both work on the "Pitch" system: if you can give them a strong enough pitch, show that you have a good idea, they'll work to help get your work out there - That was how Kevin Cho was able to continue "Star Trek: Pioneers". You'd have to get more details from Eric and Jeff - I can fully understand that their manpower and resources are not unlimited. What they are free with has been their advice and encouragement, both of which are invaluable!

In my case, yes, I do want to create a new group on this. Not because I have delusions of grandeur, but because it saddens me beyond words that Australia and New Zealand do not have a viable Star Trek fan production group - and only a handful of any other Sci Fi or Fantasy genre! An audio drama group would be perfect for us since the region has a strong tradition in radio drama and the ability to coordinate our production over the internet would be perfect for the distances involved nationally.

Music, sound and acting..... That's what is comes down to in my opinion... Its a juggling act. The music and sound effect are great... But basically this is just the icing on the cake. A lot of what is going on is going to depend on your actors. They are how you set the mood for any scene. Like if there is tension in the air. You can have dark ambient music playing. But the actor also has to reflect that in his dialogue and tone. They have to sound angry or scared.

Good actors, good script, good sound engineering ... got it! Shouldn't be too hard ... <starts sweating> :helpsmilie:

Experience and education - everybody has to start somewhere. Thanks to Eric and Jim for giving us the benefit of yours.

Kirok

PS: Mlaz? You said there were no Trek audio dramas in Dutch? Do you think there would be an audience for getting some Voice Actors to do, say the latest season of Section 31, Defiant or Eras in Dutch? Working under Eric, Jeff and Jim of course! I know that most Dutch people can speak and understand English though. I reckon there would be a large German audience for this - I know that Lee Andrew did an Audio Drama before Andromeda and Tales of the Seventh Fleet have considered doing a german version of their episodes. - K :thumbsup:

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
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#6 Wowbagger

 

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 01:30 AM

Wow! What a great topic!

Eric, something that's always fascinated me about DP is how fluidly you manage to convey the setting without exposition. In television, you can use visuals to show whatever you want, and, in writing, you can make up for that with long descriptive passages showing where doors are and who's going where and making what gestures and so forth. In audio, all those voices and mediums are cut to just one, and, no matter how good your SFX cues are, you'll end up having to do exposition. At DP, do you have a bag of expositionary tricks, (Judah: "Oh, look! My left arm's come off!"), or do you try to write around anything that will require such blatant explication to the audience?

Also, on a more technical note: how do you distort the voice for communication over the intercom or commbadge? Is that just reverb?

Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
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#7 Kirok

 

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 07:13 AM

Eric, something that's always fascinated me about DP is how fluidly you manage to convey the setting without exposition. In television, you can use visuals to show whatever you want, and, in writing, you can make up for that with long descriptive passages showing where doors are and who's going where and making what gestures and so forth. In audio, all those voices and mediums are cut to just one, and, no matter how good your SFX cues are, you'll end up having to do exposition. At DP, do you have a bag of expositionary tricks, (Judah: "Oh, look! My left arm's come off!"), or do you try to write around anything that will require such blatant explication to the audience?

I've got to admit that this is my major stumbling block although I've picked up a few ideas from what Eric has said and the remarks of others during the recent chat. I've found some pretty good articles on the web as well, such as Tim Crook's "Principles of writing radio drama".

Just to go off at a tangent, when I followed that to its home page, Independant Radio Drama Productions, I found a whole heap more articles. One of them was about "The Magical Music Box", a monthly(?) magazine and CD (or tape) that i got for my kids when they were younger - I never realised it, but the daramatised stories thay had in them were really good audio drama! I'll have to listen through a few of them again!

Cheers!

Kirok of L'Stok

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
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#8 Tom

 

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Posted 05 April 2007 - 11:14 AM

I finally got the audio player here installed and are going to be putting up some of these drama's shortly :)

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#9 L.T. James Leeper

 

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Posted 04 February 2008 - 05:28 PM

Cool :)
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#10 Kirok

 

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Posted 12 July 2010 - 07:10 AM

Resurrected this thread to add a link to a great article on how to mix audio dramas in Audacity called "AUDACITY SKILLZ: I HAZ THEM" (I kid thee not!) by R. Francis Smith, the Director of Wonder Woman: Champion of Themyscira. This is a sample of the start of it...

Okay, so, here is how I mix audio dramas in Audacity. (First, I use 1.3. I don't care that it says beta. Anyway.) Quick and dirty and probably boring but here we go.

All of the following examples are from scene 1 of Wonder Woman 50, because I felt like it.

First, a word about file layout: I make a folder for the episode as soon as I get the script. Then I make a subfolder for every scene as soon as I've decided how it splits into scenes. So, for this purpose, I have a WW 50 folder, and a WW 50\scene 1 folder, and so forth. So, from here on out, assume I'm in that folder. Okay.

Step one: As soon as I receive an actor's lines, I'm going to drop those files into the appropriate scene directors, then immediately make single-role projects. In this case, Posted Imagegategirlnihon sends me her Cassie lines for WW 50, and I drop all the ones for scene 1 (remember, she was in several scenes!) into the folder we're interested in (and the others in their appropriate folders, blah blah blah.) Then I open audacity, import her scene 1 lines, and save the project as cassie or whatever. Here's what that looks like:

http://pics.livejour...0192fh/s320x240

Okay, I haven't done a doggone thing here except import the lines and saved it, so there they are. That's step one.

Step two: when I come back to actually start doing some real work...


GO HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE


Its a great overview of what you might call the project management of collating all the individual files that are combined to create the final audio drama. If you want to see some interesting followup discussion on this, join the Pendant Audio Yahoo Group, where you can get all the inside information on the production group itself as well as the occasional thread of more general interest such as this one.

Got to get a copy of the latest Beta of Audacity (its freeware!) to try out the moveable tracks feature this weekend.

Regards

K

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
Kirok of L'Stok - Director of Media ..... "I love deadlines! I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by!" - Douglas Adams

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#11 DHillMSP

 

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 03:08 PM

Resurrected this thread to add a link to a great article on how to mix audio dramas in Audacity called "AUDACITY SKILLZ: I HAZ THEM" (I kid thee not!) by R. Francis Smith, the Director of Wonder Woman: Champion of Themyscira. This is a sample of the start of it...


GO HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE


Its a great overview of what you might call the project management of collating all the individual files that are combined to create the final audio drama. If you want to see some interesting followup discussion on this, join the Pendant Audio Yahoo Group, where you can get all the inside information on the production group itself as well as the occasional thread of more general interest such as this one.

Got to get a copy of the latest Beta of Audacity (its freeware!) to try out the moveable tracks feature this weekend.

Regards

K


It's a pretty good article. Process-wise, it's relatively close to what I do on the shows that I produce or assemble/edit.

I understand the appeal of Audacity (it's free!) - the early episodes that I worked on (HMD 1.02-1.04 and FED 2.03), I used it as a supplement to achieve certain things that Adobe Soundbooth CS4 (which I got as part of the Master Suite - nice having friends with spare copies laying about ;) ) wasn't able to do on its own (stereo-panning of clips and the like). Honestly, not sure I could use it on its own (I think I've gotten used to the Adobe setup). Then again, I suppose it depends on your level of resources available, experience, etc..

I'm now using a professional set of tools (already used for producing ODY 3.00 and FED 2.04) - the difference is night and day (I'd mention which one I'm using, but there's an NDA in place at the moment). A lot of power, a lot of tools in terms of cleanup and effects...I think it's made a big difference in terms of quality (although you can have all the tools in the world - if your actors record badly in terms of quality or content, it's not worth much).
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#12 Kirok

 

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 07:24 PM

Hello David, good to see you posting here! Sadly the cost of resources is the limiting factor in most everything I do! The House of L'Stok never did get painted and the showers are starting to leak! :helpsmilie:


I haven't produced anything in ages and when I did I was lucky enough to be working with VAs who had good mikes and knew how to use them - it made the final edits so much easier. Nowadays I only do the occassional piece for others, so that I'm in the position of a voice actor and my main challenge, in common with most people, is to make the tracks I record as "accoustically null" as I can. Physically I've isolated the mike from the computer to minimise acoustic feedback (nousy old 'puta), I have a foam sock on my mike which, in conjunction with having the mike away from the stream of air from my mouth, minimises pops and I have a sheet of acoustic foam in front of me to minimise echo.

From a sound editor's point of view, would you prefer your VAs to try to clean up the sound files themselves on Audacity (or similar sound editing software) before they send them in or would you prefer the raw sound file - or both?

Sorry I can't chat more, got my publisher's hat on todday!

Cheers

K

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
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#13 DHillMSP

 

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Posted 08 January 2011 - 09:22 PM

Hello David, good to see you posting here! Sadly the cost of resources is the limiting factor in most everything I do! The House of L'Stok never did get painted and the showers are starting to leak! :helpsmilie:


I haven't produced anything in ages and when I did I was lucky enough to be working with VAs who had good mikes and knew how to use them - it made the final edits so much easier. Nowadays I only do the occassional piece for others, so that I'm in the position of a voice actor and my main challenge, in common with most people, is to make the tracks I record as "accoustically null" as I can. Physically I've isolated the mike from the computer to minimise acoustic feedback (nousy old 'puta), I have a foam sock on my mike which, in conjunction with having the mike away from the stream of air from my mouth, minimises pops and I have a sheet of acoustic foam in front of me to minimise echo.

From a sound editor's point of view, would you prefer your VAs to try to clean up the sound files themselves on Audacity (or similar sound editing software) before they send them in or would you prefer the raw sound file - or both?

Sorry I can't chat more, got my publisher's hat on todday!

Cheers

K


Eep!

Glad to be here - decided to see what's going on in the rest of fandom. ;) Plus, with Hidden Frontier switching over to audio productions going forward, I figured I should make sure we're getting the word out. :)

The first thing I always want to tell voice actors is to PLEASE get some sort of pop filter for their microphone. Of anything I have to contend with as an editor/engineer, the bane of my existence is pops and uncalled-for breath sounds (well...that, and the occasional director sending me dialogue recorded on a mobile phone - eep!). Depending on your software, it can be compensated for at least somewhat, but it's much easier to catch it at the source before it's recorded.

Honestly, I prefer to clean up the sound files myself. I suppose if a film director concerns him/herself with the "grain" of the film (for those still using that stuff), an audio director/editor concerns him/herself with the "grain" of the recordings. If I'm doing the cleanup on the dialogue, then I can make sure that the quality and "feel" of each character's dialogue is consistent across the episode. Coming back to the tools being used, in my case, I can probably do it better than they can on top of it all. ;)
David W. Hill
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#14 Kirok

 

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 08:53 AM

For a surprisingly good way of quickly cutting out unwanted background noise I've been using "Effects / Noise Removal" but it does "flatten" the tone considerably. I need to experiment with my setup more.

K

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
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#15 DHillMSP

 

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 12:21 PM

For a surprisingly good way of quickly cutting out unwanted background noise I've been using "Effects / Noise Removal" but it does "flatten" the tone considerably. I need to experiment with my setup more.

K


I think you'll find that similar noise removal effects in sound packages like Audacity (or SoundBooth or the one I'm using right now) will "flatten" or otherwise change the tone a bit - the extent is probably determined by how much noise there is and whatever back-end stuff is being used by the software to determine what is noise and what isn't. :) From my experience, it's usually better to contend with that change as opposed to the noise. ;)
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#16 Kirok

 

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 08:58 AM

I'm going to collect some of my previous <tongue-in-cheek>pearls of wisdom</tongue-in-cheek> here as much for my own reference as anything...

Writing for Audio Dramas

Writing for audio only is a demanding task because of the limitations of not being able to use visual imagery. Vast panaramas of mountains, sinking ships, the details of starships battling, moonlight on snow-laden pines ... you can't see these things on your MP3 player! However a clever combination of music, sound effects and especially dialogue can paint just about any scene in your head ...

[Echoing wind, with the cry of an eagle in the distance. Outdoor ambience to voice] Just look at that view, Tensing! It's no wonder they call this the roof of the world.

[Crash of waves, shrieking gale, creaking of ropes and timbers. Suddenly a crack like a tree being felled. Shouted against wind and rain] Look out! Captain! The foremast has been carried away!

[Climactic Star Wars battle music, laser cannon fire, clicks and beeps. With heavy rasping breathing, helmet voice ambience] The Force is strong with this one!

[Laser cannon fire then explosion . Music changes to Millenium Falcon theme] Yee Ha! Now blow this thing Luke and lets go home!


... I defy anyone to do moonlight on snow-laden pines though!!!

Luckily, the internet is rich with resources for writers to help them achieve these effects.

The BBC has a continuing support of radio drama, accepting submissions from around the world, and one of the best starting points is the excellent BBC World website section - How to write a radio play. And two articles on the BBC Writersroom.

A much loved resource is a script, written by the great British actor-writer, Timothy West titled 'This Gun That I Have in My Right Hand Is Loaded'', intended as a parody of the worst clunky, cliche-ridden radio drama. According to his son, Samuel West, in Fathers and Sons, "it contains some classic radio-speak ('A whisky? That's a strange drink for an attractive auburn-haired girl of 29') and cliches that have since become old friends of the family ('It's not a pretty sight - it's been in the water for some time', 'Come now doctor; blackmail's an ugly word' and the classic 'Is he ... ?' 'I'm afraid so')."

According to this site, it is included in "The Writer's Handbook - Guide to Writing for Stage & Screen" and also in here, "Writing for Stage and Screen (Writer's Handbook Guides)", both by Barry Turner

Other major websites are Audio Theater.com, which has a section on script writing, the National Audio Theatre Festivals has some interesting resources, most noticeably the web site, last updated in 2006, which was the germ of critically acclaimed master, Yuri Rasovsky's book "The Well-tempered Audio Dramatist".

Tony Palermo's very informative, Ruyasonic website has a whole section on writing. Even though I have since moved on to using Celtx, an excellent freeware alternative to costly commercial scriptwriting programs, I would still encourage a novice to study Tony's MSWord script template to see how he uses a script as a director.

Perhaps the largest number of links is in the thread, "Places to Find Articles on How to Write Audio Drama" on the Audio Drama talk forum. Individual articles that I particularly recommend are ...

Principles of writing radio dramaTim Crook (Plus a page of hints from IRDP)
Writing for the Theatre of the Mind Balance Publishing
Writer's Guide to The Doctor Who Audio Dramas Everlasting Films
Approaches to writing for radio drama Angela Turvey
Working as a Radio Writer Michelene Wandor
The Soul Patrol David Koenigsberg

... That should be more advice than anyone could handle! My own advice is the same that I give for anyone wanting to try out any new media: if you are interested, jump in and have a go!

Never, ever, let inexperience stop you from trying something. Write a script and get it critiqued. Submit it to one of the audio production groups to see if they would like to take it up - if they don't accept it, they'll tell you why and what they think could improve it.

If your script doesn't get taken up by anyone and you still don't feel confident producing it yourself (a viable option) then chalk that one up to experience and write another ... and another ... and even more ... until eventually you succeed!

It's called "paying your dues".


I think you'll find that similar noise removal effects in sound packages like Audacity (or SoundBooth or the one I'm using right now) will "flatten" or otherwise change the tone a bit - the extent is probably determined by how much noise there is and whatever back-end stuff is being used by the software to determine what is noise and what isn't. :) From my experience, it's usually better to contend with that change as opposed to the noise. ;)

I'm starting to think that it must be the connection I use between mike and 'puta - I need to spring for either a USB connected mike or go wireless/bluetooth something like that.

K

Latest releases !!! ~ March 11 - HFO Personal Logs 2 ~ March 19 - PD Smith-Tales From the Fleet 01 : Species 571 ~ March 11 - Bruffy-NovaTrek06 : A Tale Of Two Captains, Pt 2 ~
Kirok of L'Stok - Director of Media ..... "I love deadlines! I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by!" - Douglas Adams

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