The morning session comprised of an introductory talk with Jeremy. We discussed our own personal relationships with audio and drama, followed by learning in a bit more detail, what audio drama actually is as well as reading through the module brief.
In the afternoon we split into groups for a recording exercise. We used the marantz machines to put together a record and pause piece. The idea was to create a mini 3 minute audio drama using the sounds we had readily available to us without needing to edit. My group was Adam, Ozzy and Ryan and we decided between use to record a haunted house scene. We went to a quiet, echoey part of the university campus building and we found a room and a corridor to use. I typed a short script on my phone and made some suggestions as to how we should record it. I said if Ryan held the microphone in his hands throughout the scene, it would place him as our main character. This meant that the listener felt like they were with Ryan’s character the whole way and created a nice depth to our audio. The main thing I took from this exercise is that it matters where you place the actor in relation to the microphone as that dictates where they are in the scene.
In the morning session, we read through a selection of scripts given to us by Jeremy. We took turns acting out the first few pages of each drama. Before lunch, we pulled names from a hat to randomly select group members. I was put into a group with Ryan, Alex Jones and YuTong.
After lunch, we split into our separate groups where we had to choose our top 3 choices in terms of which drama we’d like to work on as well as work together to decide on a group name. My favourite script was ‘Paul’, as I liked the way the main character had an inner monologue running throughout that was spoken to the listener, it felt like ‘Fleabag’. Reading through the first few pages, I could also hear what kind of sounds we could use and how the whole piece could be put together. Our choices came down to Paul, Angel Fish and Skin Walkers. We were given our first choice which was Paul and decided on the name ‘Drama Angels’ for our production team.
Once we had selected the script and our team name, we regrouped to decide on our group roles. I wanted to be director as I pushed to do the Paul script and felt that I had a good idea of how I wanted it to sound at this point. Alex Jones opted to be the producer as it was a role she wanted to explore further. YuTong wanted to be the studio manager, however felt that she didn’t know enough about mixing the desk so decided to be the script editor and production co-ordinator. Ryan opted to be the studio manager as he feels comfortable with using the equipment.
After the session ended, I stayed behind with YuTong to show her how to use Adobe Audition for the post-production process.
Today’s session started with a lecture on studio recording, in terms of how to use the microphone and where to position your actors. Jeremy explained the different positions for recording and what each of them would sound like or represent in the audio drama. We then split into our groups with scripts from previous years and we had to work out how we wanted to use the microphone in the studio and where we wanted to place our actors. Ryan and I read through the script a few times as the actors. I thought that it would work well to have my character central on the mic as she was static and the other character was coming in from outside and moving around the room. Therefore I felt we should have me central on the mic for the main bulk of the scene, Ryan enters and moves around the mic to create the feeling of his character moving around the house and then he comes to the central position when his character takes a seat. Then we agreed that I would walk away from the mic at the end of the scene when my character goes upstairs.
After lunch, we went into the studio to record what we had discussed in the morning. Alex and YuTong found some sound effect clips online to use as the doorbell and fizzing etc, they also managed to find some props to make the sound effects too. Ryan and I stayed in the actor studio, with Alex and YuTong in the recording studio.
What I learned from this is that it is easier to record speech first and add SFX in during the post-production stage, as it speeds up the recording process although it does help to record with props to help the actors.
Today we started practicing how we would record our scripts. We practiced two scenes, 1 and 6. I decided to practice recording scene 1 in the booth as I felt it would have the clearest sound quality for Paul’s v/o’s. I placed Ozzy (as Paul) on the centre of the booth mic, I had Makee (as the woman on the tube) sitting behind him and Alex Irons (as Gareth) standing just outside the booth to sound like he was further away on the street. After recording the first time, it was clear that Makee sitting down made her too quiet to sound like she was sitting next to him on the tube so I asked her to stand up and a bit closer to Ozzy. I also asked Ozzy to stand closer on the mic when reading the v/o and take a small step back when in the scene with the other characters. The placement of Alex Irons worked really well.
When recording scene 6, I decided to try and practice with the studio mic rather than the booth as the scene takes place in a meeting room, whereby it needs to sound more echoey with more space for other actors. We ran through the scene once before realising we needed more actors in the studio to play extras in the meeting, in order to create the right environment for the scene. I found that it worked to have the main characters in the scene, Janet, Paul and Work-experience Sam an equal distance from the mic as they were all central to the scene. Once we added more actors to the meeting, I had them stand behind the main characters so that they sounded spread out across the room as a real meeting room would be.
The main point I took from the session today was that if you are going to have a group of actors being extras in the background of a scene, it doesn’t work to have them mumbling fake words – they have to be saying real words in order for it to sound believable. I also realised that when it comes down to recording the actual thing, it would have to be done in the bigger recording studio rather than the booth because of how many people we would need in each scene.
On this day we had a guest lecture with John Wakefield who played as a selection of audio drama clips, both produced by himself and other production companies. One really good point he made during the lecture was that you don’t have to be a major production company with a big budget in order to make a good audio drama. He demonstrated this by playing us a clip from an audio drama produced by a big network and with famous actors. We noticed that the main thing the central character was supposed to be doing was eating cereal. However, there were no effects or sounds of him actually eating the cereal. John then showed us the process of his current audio drama, whereby he recorded various elements of a scene and edited them together to create something new. For example, he recorded himself stamping on the pavement and layered that over a fight scene in order to make it sound like the characters were jostling on the street. He also showed us useful ways to save our takes and reminded us that it’s important to do two takes of every scene just in case.
After this, we went into the studio to edit some of the clips that John had brought with him. We played around with SFX found online and effects in Audition to create depth to the scene and make it more realistic. We were also taught how to compress the audio so it meets professional standards.
The following Wednesday I met with Alex Jones to discuss our ideas for Paul. I reminded her that the whole premise of the drama is that Paul is recording his day-to-day on a handheld microphone, therefore the v/o’s are going to have to be diegetic to the rest of the audio. We also discussed what sound effects we might need and Alex showed me a recording she took of the tube to Wood Green which is perfect for our drama as that’s where the radio station is set.
This afternoon we had a group meeting to run through all the ideas we have for Paul as the next session will be recording. I sat and went through each of the scenes and made a note of which actors were needed for each scene which then gave us an indication of the order we’d need to record. I found that scene 7 was not only the longest scene in the script but also the one with most actors. So I decided it would be best to record that scene first as it had so many elements and required the most attention to detail. I then worked my way through the list of scenes and prioritsed them in order of which actors were in them. I put them in order of: 7, 6, 2, 4, 5, 3, 1 and 8. Scene 8 being the shortest scene with only 3 lines. We then went through the script one last time to make note of any SFX we still needed to create or collect.
This morning was the recording day for Paul. The actors came into the studio at 9.30am for a table read before we started the recording. Although I was the director, I didn’t feel well enough to be in constant communication with the actors so Alex and I agreed that she was co-direct and I would relay my notes and she would tell them to the actors. We worked together really well during this time, we both agreed on the notes we had so it resulted in really well-crafted audio. My notes included: ensuring the actor who played Paul knew that the character is inherently grumpy, so everything he says has an element of annoyance in it; getting the jammie dodger caller to eat a biscuit whilst recording his lines to add depth to the recording; making sure the actor who played Sophie conveyed enough of the right emotion in her second take. I made the decision about where the actors were stood in relation to the microphone, which worked particularly well for the scenes where we had extras in the background such as the charity collector and Gareth. Alex was feeling a bit stressed as she was keeping us all to time and we were running over with scene 7, however because it was the longest scene – once we perfected it we were able to run smoothly through the others.
For the editing process, YuTong was able to edit scenes 2 & 3. Alex Jones was working on scene 1, so I thought it would be a good idea for her to do 1 and 8, Ryan to do 4 & 5, I would do 6 & 7 and then Alex would collate the scenes in one file and upload it to soundcloud. I had a lot of fun editing 6 & 7, in particular scene 7. I enjoyed it because it was one of the more complicated scenes in the script with multiple elements needed in order for it to come together. For example, I used a channel changing effect in the caller montage to make it feel a little more comedic. I also added a phone call effect onto the callers voices to make it sound more realistic. Overall, I’m really proud of how we worked as a team to make Paul a really good audio drama.