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 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
Writing 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.
- Writing for Audio Theatre – a splendid essay by Roger Gregg
- Tony Palermo’s Towards a Radio Drama 101 – not about radio drama writing, specifically, but an invaluable resource about learning the craft for the first time
- Tony Palermo’s Radio Drama Script template for MS Word. I use this to this day.
- Tim Crook’s Principles of Writing Radio Drama
- BBC Writer’s Room Guidelines
- Yuri Rasovsky on the audio drama text
- If you’re interested in re-making an old time radio show there are plenty available: http://www.genericradio.com/
Step 2: Pre-Production
OK, 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.
- The late master Yuri Rasovsky penned the Well Tempered Audio Dramatist, the single most valuable resource I can think of for this aspect of the art – covering everything from why you need a production assistant, what you should look for in casting, and even some tips on directing actors.
- Tony Palermo also has a nice resource on starting a radio drama troupe
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
The 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.
- Yuri Ravosky’s WTAD has a nice section on studio production
- Charlie Potter’s essay on The Role of The Director in Radio is a nice take on what you should be doing on-set
- Kc Wayland of We’re Alive (the best zombie audio drama created, ever) talks about his approach to getting a ‘movie’ sound in studio
2 – Recorded Live Before an Audience
You 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).
- Tony Palermo’s Radio Drama Live On-Stage has a brilliant write-up of the overall process
- Of course, you’re going to need sounds, lots of sounds! Tony Palermo also has some great articles on creating sound effects props – as does Roger Gregg
3 – Recorded Remotely
This 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 [email protected] 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
Julie Hoverson’s Tone Didactic – an audio blog on aspects of satellite audio drama
There is a lot of discussion on and tips on remote recording on the Audio Drama Talk Forums:
Jeffrey Bridges of Pendant Productions has written an in-depth account of his group’s process, stage by stage at his blog here:
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
Ahhh, 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.
- FinalRune Productions has a nice guide on field recording on the cheap
- Remote Recording Survival Guide by Tom Lopez of ZBS
- Transom Tools has lots of good reviews of field recording gear on the market
- AIR has a nice guide on How to Mic a Field Interview which has a lot in common with how you’d mic actors
- Vermont Folk Life Center also has a excellent resource list of field recording gear. They bash the Zoom-line of inexpensive field recorders, but I still like ‘em
- Rode has some nice videos on doing location recording – aimed at fans of their (excellent) mics
Step 4: Post-Production
OK!!! 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…
- From the “Giggles” section, here Paeter of Spirit Blade shows us how to create a “Dragon” using post production software
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
- Go introduce yourself on AudioDramaTalk.com
- Acquaint yourself with this podcast as well as The Sonic Society
- Build your own, easily Googley indexed WordPress page, podcast your show with PowerPress and promote it using SEO and social media
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.