James Larvin

Post 1 – Group Allocation (02/02/2018)

This week we were given our roles, allocated groups and given the script we would be working with. On the morning we read through the first page of all the scripts so those who had not already done so could get to know the seven different scripts. I already had looked through the scripts so I had an idea of which I would like to work with. The scripts have been written by master’s students at a London university on a scriptwriting course. On the whole I thought they were good as we were informed that most of the writers hadn’t written for radio before.

When it came to allocating roles, I had an interest in becoming a studio manager. A studio manager is responsible for technical delivery of the production, runs the recording and editing sessions and is responsible for sourcing props and sound effects. I’m quite a technical person so I thought this role suited me best and I’m also a competent editor. What I haven’t done before and aim to learn through this module is record in a large studio where the aim is to create a specific space in the mind of the listener through sound.

I was surprised that when it came to showing our interest as a group in team roles that there was a shortage of studio managers, this did however mean that I was given the position of studio manager. I was then also assigned to a group with a producer, director, script editor and production co-ordinator. In the group we were asked which three scripts we were most interested in producing. As I had already read them I was able to contribute to the decision of us been allocated the drama titled “Coffinated”, my primary choice. I look forward to working with my team next week and will read the script thoroughly this week.

Post 2 – Pre-Production (09/02/2018)

This week we gathered and had a first read of the script together. We went through it and highlighted a few areas where changes may have to be made in order for it to sound right as a radio drama. As studio manager I was considering the different locations in the script, the specific sfx needed and props needed for the recording. In the pre-production stage it is not my role to intervein too much,  however I did give my thouhts on the logistics of elements of the production.

It has been confirmed that we will have a three-hour slot two week from now to record our audio for the drama. Over the next week I need to consider sourcing sound effects, recording atmos tacks and sourcing props for out test recording next Friday morning. I am working with the team to pick three scenes that are set in different locations for the test recording. This will hopefully allow me to work to develop the setup of the studio and location of the microphone in relation to the actors and props. I want to come out of the test recording confident for the real recording the week after as we only have three hours to record the full drama.

Post 3 – Pre-Production (16/02/2018)

This week we had another team meeting at the beginning of the week to discus and finalise the script. During this meeting my focus was to ensure that technically everything was achievable in terms of the recording and editing process. I also heavily focused on how the script would sound when recorded as apposing to on a script. On the whole the script was ok but there were a few small changes to the script, not in terms of copy, but in terms of the sound.

On Friday morning we had the opportunity to record a few test scenes in the studio. This was a very important test for me as studio manager so that I could find they best ways to record out three scenes. I wanted to find the best way to record the coffin scenes and café scenes. For the coffin scene we experimented with different mic and acoustic setups. After testing mono and stereo mic setups in a voice over booth and using baffle boards I agreed with the best sound with the director.

Next, we experimented with the café scene which was simple to setup although we did realise that we would need props and extras for this scene. Technically I was happy with the setup and recording process, I also realised the importance of a clear labelling system for the audio recorded. It was a great chance to uses the studio and different microphones in a way that I have never have before.

For next week clear communication between the actors and the director is essential and something that needs to be clearly established form the outset. I need to work with the production manager and director to agree on a clear shoot schedule. I will also need to source props for next week and also gather sfx that we will not be able to create in the studio.

Post 4 – Recording (23/02/2018)

This week it was our turn to record out radio drama and as the studio manger it was the week where it was my chance to showcase my ability. We were allocated three hours with the actors to record our drama so was important we were efficient in the use of our time. This is why I worked with the production manager and director to draw up a very clear recording schedule.

It was decided that for time and practicality reasons that the drama would be recorded out of sequence so all scenes set in a set location would be recorded together. We also made sure that during the recording of each location the actors recorded all their lines with other character’s together so that time was not spent getting actors in the studio for just one line.

When the morning group has finished in the studios we had an hour before the actors were booked to set-up the studio. I had thought of a plan to set up the scenes as much as we could before hand and then we could make quick and simple changes like moving screens to change the acoustic environment into a café. I had also brought in and sourced props for scenes which needed to be set up.

Once all was tested it was noticed that the room air-conditioning was very loud but I was instated by a staff member that nothing could be done about this so it will have to be managed in post-production. By the time we were all set up the rest of the team had completed a read though with the actors. Before the recording we had taken extra care to ensure everyone clearly knew what role they would be taking during the recording. I worked with Clare to ensure we had a spreadsheet that she could take notes of each take from myself and the director, Fay. This will speed up the editing process and ensure we use the best takes.

The mixer desk has had some changes from the test week but I was able to quickly adjust this. Also, there was an intermittent issue with one of the microphones but this was beyond our control. It was noticed that on one of the stereo microphone there was an issue one of the channels but after running some quick diagnostic test it was agreed with the technician that this would have to be fixed in post-production.

During the recording I recorded each take individually on Adobe Audition running on the studio PC, alongside recoding a backup of the whole session on a rack mounted Marantz. The filing system I used was to identify the scene first, then the lines and then the take. I did this so that wen I opened the folder when editing, although recorded out of order, the files would upper in order. For example, scene 3, lines 28 to 31, take 3 would be saved as S3 L28-31 T3. When reviewing the audio after the session this system has worked very well.

The recording session went very well, we managed to complete the session in two and a half hours which considering I was concerned about the time was of great relief. I must state that we did not rush through the recording to get it finished, we allowed our actors breaks for refreshments and did up to five takes of scenes, our planning meant that we were very efficient in using our studio time.

Having time on our side meant we were able to experiment with microphones and try multiple takes such as walking up and away from the microphone. It also allowed us to recorded and try spot effects. For the café scenes we were had a cast of eight extras sorted by the production manager who were able to interact with the props I had provided. We experimented with where the tables were places and also the uses of plates, trays, cutlery and water.

I am very pleased with the production team who all worked well on the day. I’m also thankful to the great actors that gave up time for us and provided us with great performances. Also, some thanks must be extended to Naiara and Tim for setting up and maintaining the studio and our lecture Jeremy for his continued support as we discover the world of radio drama production. Next week I will work with Fay the director to create the first cut by Friday afternoon.

Post 5 – Editing (02/03/2018)

This Friday was planned to be our first day editing the audio that we had recorded the week pervious. Due to the weather the university cancelled all teaching, however the campus was still open so I was able to get in to begin the edit. During this process I will be working closely with the director and the rest of the team will be able to have an input on the edit.

The first process was creating a secession in Adobe Audition and taking the audio we had recorded, finding the take we want to use and then add it into the sequence. Thanks to a member of the team taking notes from myself and the director during the recording process, I was able to quickly locate the best take. Also, my labelling of the audio during the recording process meant that within half an hour we had all the takes we wanted into the session.

The next process was to source the audio that we could not record on the day such as a car crash. This process took much longer than I thought as the quality of many of the effects was too poor to use. The audio was used from a range of free audio websites, my favourite been freesound.org. I worked through the script with the director to ensure we found all the effects we needed from walking on gravel to the sound of a coffee machine.

When I had all the elements needed I began editing a rough cut. The rough cut will not have effects applied to the actors and the sound effects will be rough round the edges. The purpose of this edit is to find what works, ensure we have all the elements and the flow of the drama works. I was only able to do this for the first few scenes this week due to the circumstances but will pick up on the rough edit next week with the aim to have the first rough edit done by next Friday lunchtime.

Post 6 – Editing (09/03/2018)

This week was the second week of editing out radio drama and a lot of progress has been made. By the end of the day we had a rough cut and I had a clear list of improvements to be made. An issue that we did however have this week was there were no studios available to edit in and no quite spaces. When making fine adjustments in the edit a loud room with lots of chatter makes it very difficult to focus on the editing. This meant that I could not sit with the director and we could both work together as effectively as the week before.

Over the next week I one of my main tasks will be to clean up the audio we recorded. The sound of the air-condition in the studio we recorded in is frustratingly high. I am however trying a new plug-in that was recommended to me called ‘sound soap’, it should help clean up the audio. I will then work on sharping the edit and experiment with different filters to get the sound of inside a coffin just right.

Post 7 – Delivery (16/03/2018)

This week was the final week I had to edit the radio drama, I spent part of the week editing independently and then on Friday I spent some time with the group making adding last minuet finishes. One of the main aims of the week was to clean up the audio so that the very noticeable room noise and aircon was not as prominent. Once I had developed the best technique to reduce the background noise it process of cleaning up the audio took about an hour. It took around two hours of experimenting with different noise reduction prosses to find the best settings. I was really pleased with the results and you can no longer hear any aircon or background noise.
I also spent a lot of the week mastering my edit and replacing any sound effects or atoms I did not think was good enough quality. I also made a few changes from feedback the group had suggested from the previous week. I wanted to take an edit I was happy with for the team on Friday morning for feedback. Also, on Friday I wanted the rest of my team to give feedback on some pre-sets of the coffin effect.

When it came to Friday morning I ensured I was in early so our group had a studio where we could listen back together as a group. When most members of the group arrived, we listened through to the whole piece and wrote notes on areas that could be improved. We then discussed these notes and I made the appropriate changes. The afternoon was dedicated to fine tuning the effect that would be applied to sound like the voices were coming from of inside the coffin. I had already spent around fifteen hours on editing and sourcing audio so it was nice to have some relatively fresh ears to give feedback. I take attention to detail very seriously so some in the group who were not used to long edits did become disengaged with the process, but I wasn’t going to let my high standards slip.

Upon reflection on the  process I have learned an awful lot from this module and for a first attempt at a radio drama I am very pleased with the process of production and the final result. As a group I feel we were all very passionate and worked well together. Towards the end of the end of the process the passion did dwindle from some but I was motivated to produce the best piece possible from the audio we had. I have enjoyed my role as the studio manager as it has played to some of my strengths whilst also challenging me in new areas.

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