Production Week 1
The follow-up to this week mainly involved research and script annotation. I needed to think mainly about 2 things: how a good dark comedy audio should sound, and how this particular audio drama needed to be blocked in terms of sound.
I spent some time listening to other dark comedies to get inspiration, and there were two that particularly jumped out: A Scottish Podcast and Mirth Defect. While some of the acting in A Scottish Podcast isn’t very strong, it serves as a decent example of minimal but effective production. Notably, it is good at transitioning smoothly between scenes, something that can be tricky when taking a minimalist approach. In some cases, background noises are faded in and out, while in others, there is an indicator of a change of location, such as the sound of a car being driven. This can be heard in the Prequel episode. As The Oven Cleaner will need a more simple sonic style, this was really useful for brainstorming.
A particular scene in Mirth Defect served as a great source of inspiration for how to work with smaller individual sounds. The scene in question takes place in a kitchen, and includes sounds like a knife on a cutting board and the rustling of a newspaper. These sounds were recorded to sound cartoonish, slightly off from the real thing. As the scene itself has a bit of an absurdist, Monty Python-esque tone, the sounds suit it very well. The scene runs from 0:37-2:50 in this episode.
Dark comedies need a solid hybrid of, well, “dark” and “comedy”, and therefore needs a balance between sillier sounds and something more realistic. The subtle cartoonishness of Mirth Defect strikes that perfect balance. It is therefore another great source of inspiration for The Oven Cleaner.
Production Week 2
This week was focused on testing out the script blocking in studio, casting, and finding a set. As most of our sounds will be recorded on set and not in studio, the tests focused on the actors voices, and how they would sound when moving about the space. My tested the scenes where one character was either standing further away, was bent down, or behind a door. All of these required careful attention in order to correctly create dimension in the recording.
We decided to record all of our additional sounds on a set (my flat), in order to have more realistic acoustics and easy access to household items. We will be recording these sounds before our day in studio; this will allow us to set up the studio to match the flat’s acoustics as closely as possible.
Production Week 3
On Friday March 9th, my group Backroom Productions had our studio day. Four actors came in, and recorded with us until early afternoon. We were thrilled with their performances, and pleased with their professionalism and openness to different approaches.
Leading up to the day, I made several blocking notes on the script, and took the time to familiarize myself with them. I knew we had little time in the studio, so I needed to have a fairly clear idea of what I’d ask of the actors. Additionally, I worked with our producer, Eliza, to pick the recording order, making it as efficient as possible.
When I first entered the studio, I was incredibly nervous, but did my best to remain focused and professional. As we eased into the recording, and began completing scenes at a good rate, I became more comfortable and confident in my decisions. We managed to finish all of the scenes early, giving us plenty of time to do re-takes and polish things up.
While we did well overall, there are certain things I’d like to improve on in the future. I would definitely like to work on my directions to actors, but I also know this will come from having more confidence during recording sessions. More importantly, I want to utilize the studio and actors more. We recorded the large majority of our sounds on location; they sound good, and I know that we will be able to work with them. That said, there are times where having the actors manipulate objects and move around the studio creates a more natural effect. Because their speech and movement interact with each other directly, the result is more organic.
Production Week 4
Before passing the editing on to Mark (our sound editor), I spent some time annotating the script with sound effects to help make his work go seamlessly. From there, we sat together over a few days and edited.
While some scenes were quite straightforward and required little editing, others needed much more attention. A few of them require a lot of layered sounds; Scene 7, for instance, includes dogs, outdoor sounds from an open door, a shower in the background, and dialogue. We had to make all of these sound natural, while not overwhelming the soundscape. Additionally, we had to make the dogs sound real, which takes some special attention. We varied up the barking patterns, and used panting and rustling sounds to mark their presence throughout the scene.
Sounds like Mike being hit with an iron and flesh being cut, which are key to the plot, also required a lot of time. We layered and modified these sounds to give them some impact in the mix, and we made them a bit cartoonish to add comedy.
Our biggest challenge was blending the dialogue and the sounds; this is due to a background fan in the recording studio. We managed to remove most of it in the end, and used fade ins and outs to smooth out any trickier spots.
Production Week 5
After a few months of work, our group handed in the finalized version of The Oven Cleaner. I went into this project feeling both excited and nervous, having never worked on an audio drama before, let alone directed one. That said, I’m glad I did it; I learned a lot in the end. It challenged my time management skills, my creativity, and my ability to adapt to changing circumstances. I also learned about comedic timing, making sounds interact naturally with dialogue, and telling a compelling story through sound. Thanks to this project, I got to discover an artistic medium that had previously been unfamiliar to me.
Overall, I am happy with the work that myself and my teammates put in. We always planned in advance, and stuck to our schedule. We were creative about how we recorded and edited sounds; nearly every sound effect was made by us (including the iron and the knife sounds) with plenty of attention to detail. Everyone did their jobs really well, and contributed to the project. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we could have used more sounds in the recording studio. That said, we took extra care to match all of the sounds to the actors’ speech and movement patterns.
While I enjoyed this project, I would love to work on a more experimental drama in the future, rather than one that requires a more straightforward and comical soundscape. I’d be interested in seeing how more abstract concepts can be translated into soundscapes.