Yesterday was the first Audiotheque workshop for 2013, where a group of audio drama enthusiasts met up, despite the snow, to work in the De Montfort University audio recording studios and write, perform and record some short dramas. As this was the second workshop day that we’d run, we had a stronger sense of what we had to do, and so we could introduce the newbies to the pleasure of making audio drama much more quickly.
We started off by breaking into small teams, about half of the group are creative writers and half are media or audio production students. The creative writers are great. They have the ability to develop ideas and get them down on paper without any prevarication or procrastination. To help the creative process along I gave each team two randomly generated words from an app on my phone, then each were dealt an Oblique Strategy from another app on my phone, such as: ‘unsaid’ ‘brother’ and “faced with a choice do both”.
Once we had started to form an idea of the situations and the setting of the dramas, it was possible to hunt out and record some sound effects. Ross Clement did his usual sterling job wandering around the Queens Building with his portable audio recorded collecting various sounds, including the noise of the toilets to simulate a locker room, the sound of bashing metal cabinets to simulate the sound of a car crash, and background room sounds to help layer the mix.
Jurgis, Max and Ross took control of the recording studios. It’s a privilege to be working in such a well resourced set of studios. The quality of the recordings that we can capture is really outstanding. It’s great practice for the audio reduction students to be working against a tight deadline and to be forced to make decisions about mixing and editing in a short space of time. As my colleague Andrew Clay is fond of saying, “this is not about storing knowledge, but using it”.
The next stage was to get in the studio and record the scripts. This is where the real challenge comes in, because I’m certainly no performer or frustrated actor, so we are totally dependent on the people who turn-up and their performance abilities. Luckily we had some very engaged and expressive performers with us on the day. The proof is in the final pieces that have been posted. It’s very important to learn that the impact and resonance for an audio drama doesn’t come from the technology or the studios, but from the person who is able to dramatically perform the words that have been written on the page.
The mix can supplement the performance and give it more impact, if the edit is handled wisely. Too much compression or over-use of effects can detract from the believability of the performance. Knowing when to pull-back on fantasy and when to emphasise reality can only be achieved by careful listening.
We managed to all get together at the end of the day and listen to each groups work. There is some strong work here that deals with some pretty demanding and compelling dramatic issues. I can’t wait to put together another workshop. We might go lo-fi in the next one, and certainly getting away from the studios seems like a potentially invigorating opportunity. Have a listen and tell us what you think by leaving us a message at https://www.facebook.com/audiotheque