So You Wanna Create a Radio Drama?

The (Increasingly) Definitive Resource List for Aspiring Audio Dramaturges

Interested in writing, directing, or producing radio drama? Then, grab a mic and a recorder and get going – nearly everybody in this field is producing it themselves. There are less than a handful of paying gigs for this kind of work out there, and if you want to make it, you better believe you’ll have to earn your stripes producing on your own first.

The fun part about this challenge, however, is that you CAN produce on your own, and create quality audio drama for much less money than you’d think. As a showcase of quality radio drama for over four eight years, Radio Drama Revival has collected this list of resources by top radio drama producers so that you, too, can get your start in radio drama.

Hey, and when you got something to show for it, submit your show to us, okay?

Step 1: The Radio Drama Script

Bean Supper Radio Drama - Feb 2010Writing for radio is very different than other medium. Your tools are limited – voices, sound effects, and music – but your palette is limitless – the human imagination.

A good script is the heart of quality radio drama, in fact, it is the only thing that makes a radio drama worth producing.

Resources:

Step 2: Pre-Production

Begathon 2007 Live Radio DramaOK, you’ve got a hot, killer script in your hands, a blueprint for the next “Sorry, Wrong Number” waiting to happen, and now you want to take it to the next step. As anyone in film will tell you, minutes spent in pre-production will save you hours later. Planning is everything.

Resources:

Casting if you’ve never casted before can be hard. For FinalRune’s early plays, I started putting posters up around at my college, which got a few people through the door… On each subsequent production I knew a bit more about what I wanted from each of the actors, and I also started attending more plays, and being introduced to more actors working professionally, which lead me to be comfortable inviting specific people to be in my shows. Now I even write with a specific person’s voice in mind.

Step 3: Producing the Radio Drama

Here’s the hard part… You’ve got actors in a room, you’ve got a script, now how the heck do you make the thing a radio drama?!

Luckily, this area is rich with resources because nearly any sound-recording article, regardless of being radio drama specific or not, can help you out. There are basically four methods of recording a radio drama:

1 – Recorded in a Studio

Starstruck Audio DramaThe traditional way of recording a radio drama involves actors, one or more microphones, and a device that’s either recording the dialogue or broadcasting it live as you’re saying your lines.

2 – Recorded Live Before an Audience

Mark Time / Ogle Awards 2009You have a bunch of actors on a stage, and they are performing for a live audience, and perhaps a listening audience as well (I’ve never really seen the point in performing a radio play to a live audience without a listening audience, but that’s another story…).

This is perhaps the most complex form of recording, because you need to account for a variety of mics (up to 4 for the performers, 2 or more for sound effects, then you’ve got live music, perhaps, and probably a computer for supplementary sound effects).

3 – Recorded Remotely

Tales from WilliamsvilleThis is a fantastically innovative new production method, whereas producers collaborate with voice actors around the globe who record lines independently and then mix them together in post-production to create the final product. I’ve heard of some groups who do this via live Skype sessions, so that actors can still act “against” each other, though others have voice actors record completely independently.

Here’s a cool presentation by Richard Elen, who presented this talk at OpenTech 2009 on producing “Radio Drama At A Distance” using Skype:

Here are some comments from listeners who have written in to me since this article was originally published.

This is from Elaine:

We make extensive use of yahoogroups as well as Facebook for communication, casting calls, etc. There’s a lot of collaboration acting wise. VAs often work for multiple companies. It’s all volunteer, of course … In general, we also make a lot of use of skype. We don’t normally record lines there but I personally sometimes will get a couple of my actors together to run through a scene and bounce lines and improv off of.

We each have headphones and our mics on and I then have my actors zip up the files and email them over to me. Most people use Adobe Audition (what I also use to mix with), Audacity, or Goldwave to record with. I’ll also use that skype method for the recording of episode commentaries where I get a couple of my actors and we listen to a previously released episode and comment on it much like Hollywood does with DVD movie commentaries.

There’s also an audioauditions@yahoogroups.com group that’s a great resource for VA’s looking to get involved with audiodrama. Most of the companies post casting calls to it as well as their own yahoo groups. Also, another great place that’s a resource and supporter of the audiodrama community is the Sonic Society. Jack Ward and Shannon Hilchie are great about featuring audiodramas from the different companies on the net on their live radio broadcasts.

The internet audiodrama community is alive and kicking and we’re always looking to welcome anyone interested.

We have most of the contact information of the people who are making this stuff happen. Contact us if you want to get hooked up.

We also got this feedback from Fiona:

You asked for links to resources on making audio dramas remotely. I’m sure there are many other resources, but some that spring to mind are:

Rob Paterson’s Audio Dojo – particularly Episode 4 – Making Satellite Audio Drama
http://kungfuactiontheatre.com/?cat=14

Julie Hoverson’s Tone Didactic – an audio blog on aspects of satellite audio drama
http://nineteennocturne.libsyn.com/

There is a lot of discussion on and tips on remote recording on the Audio Drama Talk Forums:
http://www.audiodramatalk.com/index.php

Jeffrey Bridges of Pendant Productions has written an in-depth account of his group’s process, stage by stage at his blog here:
http://mrpendant.blogspot.com/2008/04/life-of-pendant-show.html

I wrote a beginner’s guide to voice acting for satellite productions in Radioplay Magazine episode 4
http://radioplaycontests.com/mag/ and there are several other articles in other issues on the subject of satellite audio by producers.

4 – Recorded on Location

Mad Horse OTR Project - Fall 2009Ahhh, now here’s adventure. Instead of recording in the confines of a studio, why not let the world BECOME your studio? That’s the principle of field recording – taking gear, and actors, with you somewhere and record your drama as if it were happening in that real-world situation.

Step 4: Post-Production

The Cleansed - PrologueOK!!! Now you have a bunch of audio tracks, now it’s time to turn them into an actual audio drama. This requires you learning a post-production tool – Audacity, Reaper, Audition and ProTools all come to mind – and getting comfortable with how to turn your work into a broadcast-ready WAV or MP3 file (let’s not talk about .AAC, okay?)

  • AUDACITY Skillz – The name is goofy, but this is a straightforward guide to using the free program Audacity to create a multitrack audio production
  • TRANSOM has a nice guide on post-production using Reaper
  • The best guide I could find for Pro Tools is this guide to sound editing for Film – article idea, baby!
  • Oh, here’s one – Voice Editing with Pro Tools – for the defunct “Free” version, but the principles are still sound

For the life of me I couldn’t find any good guides to using Adobe Audition for dramatized work. To be honest, I use it for everything (including production of Radio Drama Revival) even though I have Pro Tools 8, Adobe Audition is way faster at most things and Version 3 is very intuitive. I’ll write that article, too, and be back to you with it…

This section to expand as I dig up more articles on sound effects, sound design, etc…

Step 5: Releasing it to the World

OK! You got a brilliant, produced piece!  Here’s what to do next

Keeping the Revival Going

Did I overlook something? Have questions?  Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments and as we start talking maybe we’ll start building a new text, you and me.

  • Scott B

    Field recording is definitely the way to go if you have the equipment. Everything I hear done on location seems much more alive. Great site you have here btw! Keep up the good work.

  • Raymhensley

    I just wanna say that radio plays are awesome. I expect it to be big in the US (again) soon. Not just in Japan. They love this stuff there.

  • Need information

    Great set of info, do you have a resource where you can setup a section on just working with the AFTRA?  

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  • http://www.facebook.com/soleimani.hossein Hossein Soleimani

    nice…

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.croom Lauren Croom

    You should set up a section for Voice Over actors and how they can partner with directors and vice versa. I am a VO actor who grew up listening to radio drama and would love to participate, the question becomes how does one tap into this market?

  • finalrune

    Hi Lauren,

    This is a fantastic idea – and maybe something I’ll add in the future to RDR… hmmm a simple forum? Could be done!

    A great resource now is AudioDramaTalk (http://audiodramatalk.com/) which provides a good forum for meeting and sharing with audio drama producers, writers, and fans

    - Fred

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.germain007 David Germain

    HI there, I’m producing a radio drama myself and I thought I’d see who else out there in the internets were doing the same! I can’t wait to get into the stories on your site, I’m trying to raise some cash via kickstarter for the production I’m working on now, here’s the link http://kck.st/ZBuzJ3 Perhaps your site might be interested in the project once its completed? Keep up the good work, Dave Germain