New Radio Drama

Discussion in 'Radio' started by MikeKardec, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Here's a couple of scenes from the show I'm hoping to complete this year. This is a tentative mix and we are still waiting for the music to be written.

    The title is The Diamond of Jeru and the story takes place in Sarawak in 1955. Sarawak was/is on the north coast of Borneo and at the time was a recently acquired British colony.

    I have to give a Thank You to everyone at TFL ... a fair amount of the research that went into our sound effects props either came from this site or was inspired by discussions here. We always like to try getting an effect from the real thing from the right era if we can!

    http://www.thediamondofjeruaudio.com/AudioFiles/TheDiamondOfJeru-Scene11Fedora.mp3

    http://www.thediamondofjeruaudio.com/AudioFiles/TheDiamondOfJeru-Scene16Fedora.mp3

    The cast members you are listening to are Joel Bryant, Traci Dinwiddie, Michael Ng, and Time Winters. The narrator is Joe Morton.

    KellyHowardPaul8.jpg TraciTimeJoelBeau8.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2014
  2. The Reno Kid

    The Reno Kid A-List Customer

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    I like it. I wish there was more of this sort of thing on the radio today. I've thought about doing something similar but using period production values.
     
  3. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    We did a number sort of "old style" ... then started shying away from it whenever the subject matter seemed to require a different approach. I started thinking my old work was a bit too cartoony and working on tape was slow and limiting. Always tempted to try it again but we were also doing a lot of Westerns ... and Westerns combined with anything shtick or campy or hokey is just BAAAD!

    That is not to say that this project behaves as if it is "unaware" of the tropes of the Adventure genre. Riding the line between realistic and suspenseful and amusing and traditional was both difficult and a lot of fun.

    I also just like using all the high tech goodies and going into the field to record tanks and thunderstorms and canoes in big rivers. That's where I get my adventure!
     
  4. The Reno Kid

    The Reno Kid A-List Customer

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    I've seen or listened to several instances of groups trying to do 30s-40s radio productions in which the results were very bad. In most cases, they seemed unable to approach the material unselfconsciously. If handled poorly, this sort of thing can be painful to watch (or listen to). However, if it is done well, it can be a rare treat.
     
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Nicely done.

    My biggest gripe with modern radio drama, aside from the tendency to play it as camp -- a concept I would like to see brutally eradicated from the face of the earth -- is that there's usually too many microphones. In the Era, most dramatic programs used one mic with the actors grouped around it, rather than each actor having his or her own mic. The sound-effects table would have a second mic, and a third mic for the musicians, but that was usually it.

    I think that the one-mic approach forces a more intimate performance from the actors -- they're physically interacting with the other performers instead of standing off their own space, and this forces them into a mindset where their lines grow out of this interaction, rather than simply being read on cue.

    A lot of modern directors blow this off by saying, "oh, we need to keep the live audience in mind, and the actors need to be facing them." No they don't. In the Era, live audiences were simply there to observe the proceedings, and it was very common for performers to keep their backs to the audience while on mic, depending on how many people were in the scene and the whim of the director. When a live audience is more important than the audience listening at home, it ceases to be radio drama. Ideally, radio drama should be performed with no live audience at all.
     
  6. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    I've worked single mic style in the past. We even had the actors "ride their own volume" by moving nearer and farther from the single mic. In an old style mono show you could do a fair number of effects in real time if your performers are buttoned up. I like the technical ability to control the performances so I like to let them each have their own mic (up to four) but I try to get them as close as I can to each other and maintain some isolation. If the scene is really intimate I put the intimate parties on one mic for that scene.

    The biggest drawbacks to getting performances like in theater or film is the lack of memorization, that's when an actor REALLY figures out how to play a scene and commits to it, and the lack of blocking. I try to move them around as much as possible (to the horror of some of my old "stay on mic at all costs" colleagues) but it doesn't help create a performance like real blocking. There used to be a director from Bolivia (where I guess Radio Drama survived longer than other places) who did some shows here in LA where he blocked everyone in the recording studio like a play and then used a "live TV"-like boom mic to chase them around. But boy o boy did THAT take rehearsal! He did took Eugene O'Neal plays to radio back in the '80s.

    These days the actors really don't know how to do the old style radio effects but they are usually better actors or they just don't bring any radio baggage with them. It's a trade off. Union regs didn't let me rehearse for less than the "on mic" rate so we just recorded everything, did a lot of takes, did a lot of experimenting and then spent a lot of time cutting it together. Obviously, that doesn't work at all with a studio audience!

    Reno - you should just try something and see how you like it. I have to say I have a BLAST doing these. It's sort of a hobby that pays for itself in my case but if I could actually make money at it I'd never want to do anything else. We get pretty fancy with it but there is very little you can't do with your computer these days.

    Here's "The Head" a Neumann Binaural microphone ... we are experimenting with a layer of binaurel (a technique that sort of allows you to hear 360 degrees) for our ambiance and mosquitoes.

    The Head.jpg
     
  7. The Wolf

    The Wolf Call Me a Cab

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    2,153
    Location:
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    Nice job. Thanks for the clips.
    Did the see the filmed version with Billy Zane?

    Sincerely,
    The Wolf
     
  8. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Irving Reis of the Columbia Workshop was doing experiments like this in 1936. He used parabolic mics to pick up the lines as the actors moved around the stage, and the results weren't too good -- using stage-trained actors in stagey techniques produced a stagey style of acting. If anything the experiments proved that stage acting techniques are no good for radio, and that stage actors and radio actors weren't interchangeable. Acting for radio requires pretty much abandoning stage and film technique and starting over from scratch.

    The best examples of pure radio acting I can think of both emphasized intimacy: Correll and Gosden in the pre-1943 version of "Amos 'n' Andy" sat at a card table with a single mic between them and no rehearsal at all -- and created an absolutely uncanny sense of people just having a conversation, sometimes simulating five or six people in a scene just by tilting their heads a few inches closer to or away from the mic. And then twenty years later, Jack Webb's "Dragnet", with its technique of deliberate underplaying, again created a sense that these actors weren't performing so much as they were simply existing.

    My view of radio acting is that smaller is always better. The actors shouldn't be thinking of the audience at all -- their entire attention should always be focused on the person they're conversing with in the scene, and if they *must* think of an audience, they should visualize it as one lone person simply overhearing their conversation. The minute they start thinking of themselves in stage terms, they'll fall into stage technique -- which is simply too big for radio.
     
  9. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Mr. Wolf,

    You caught me! I wrote and produced The Diamond of Jeru for USA Network. It's just about the coolest thing in the world to get to rework old material for a new medium and a new time-limit, 90 minutes of TV vs 180 for a Random House Audio production. Audio takes longer to tell the same amount of story but in twice the time there was still some room to explore new themes. Actually, going to Australia and working on the film, living parts of the story even if ever so slightly, opened up new ways of thinking about the story. That and the decade between then and now!

    Lizzie,

    I couldn't agree with you more, any actor who ever thinks of his or her audience while performing is roadkill.

    Here's the longhouse we built and burned in the film ...

    Longhouse build.jpg Longhouse Burn.jpg


    The Audio Version looked like this ...

    Jeru6.jpg

    Definitely smaller but we recorded that sort of thing over and over in many ways.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2014
  10. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

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    Wow! Almost a year later and I'm sitting with the mastering engineer finally wrapping this thing up. Because this sort of production is sort of a paying hobby it has to be done slowly to allow my producer/editor and I to do our other jobs and actually earn a living. But now it is approaching the finish line on a much more serious schedule. We have a release date May 12th (In a bookstore or audio book point of sale near you!) all our music is in and we even have nearly finished cover art.

    Here's the box copy --

    "Deep within the jungles of Borneo flows a legendary river of diamonds …

    An ex-Marine on the run from the nightmares of war. An American scientist and his beautiful wife on a desperate journey to save their marriage. An aging native shaman trying to teach his grandson one last, all important, lesson. All are headed up an uncharted river into a confrontation with a mysterious warlord trapped by a deadly curse.

    The Diamond of Jeru is a tale of love, redemption, heroism, and magic from master storyteller Louis L’Amour. Set in Sarawak in 1955, this full dramatization features an international cast of actors, cleverly crafted sound effects, and a stirring musical score that combine to create a unique audio adventure."



    A little over the top but that's what happens when you go into the advertising zone.
     
  11. Warden

    Warden One Too Many

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    Location:
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    With Edna stuck in bed poorly, I settled down for a quiet night in with the wireless, Listened to this play on BBC Radio 4 Extra. It is a cracking but sad play based on a chaps life through the 20th Century. Do have a listen.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s0fn5
     
  12. Hercule

    Hercule Practically Family

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    Location:
    Western Reserve (Cleveland)
    Fantastic effort, would that more quality radio dramas were being produced. Takes me right back to when I was a kid listening to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater. Remember those old radio earplugs?

    http://www.cbsrmt.com/
     
  13. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,043
    Location:
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    I grew up listening to something like RMT that was on in the late 1960s, probably rebroadcasts of old shows though I don't have a good enough memory to tell.

    We just got our cover art, a beautiful piece by Craig Mullins. I can't show it yet because our contract requires there to be a title treatment on the art for it to be displayed but as soon as I get that from Random House I'll post it.

    Here's some background on the project: http://www.louislamourgreatadventure.com/LiteraryAdventure08-Movie.htm

    We'll spend the whole week mastering ... Mastering is where you take what you did in the studio, make the last tweeks and set it up perfectly within the envelope for your distribution medium, in this case CD and "hi rez" 320kpbs MP3. It's a lot of very technical fiddling, careful listening, and making some very finely honed choices to make it all as good as it can be. You work back through it detail by detail making tiny adjustments … hopefully, the last adjustments you’ll ever make. Then the publisher gets it, they check it and they send it back for fixes if their Quality Control person has a problem anywhere. Then it's out of our hands and off to the duplicator and warehouse for it's May release.

    We’ve been in production, working on this part time, about one week a month, for seven years. I can not wait to finish!
     
  14. MikeKardec

    MikeKardec One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Here are some other photos from when we were recording sound effects.

    IMG_0917.JPG

    Cool boat. Lots of money saved because it's just butt joined pine on the rib structure, I doubt it would stay afloat for three minutes except that it's covered with clear fiberglass. Very light, very strong and best of all ... it sounds like wood. I bought it from an outfit in Canada and I made the sales lady call me on her cell phone in the yard where they stored them and knock on it so I could hear it be for I would buy. They all thought I was crazy but it was worth nothing to me if it didn't sound wooden.

    The motor is a Seagull, built nearly unchanged since the early 1930s and sort of a water going Land Rover, found throughout the British Commonwealth, used by yachtsmen, fishermen, explorers and native peoples all over the Empire. It's so light you can sling it across your back like a rifle and portage from river to river or lake to lake.

    IMG_0069 2.JPG

    A nearly era appropriate Land Rover. Washington State stood in for the rain forests of Borneo.

    PC010016_2.jpg

    That's a Parang or Indonesian machete that my Dad took off of a "pirate" (one of a gang who came aboard his freighter trying to steal ropes or tools one night) in the mid 1920s. We didn't use it for any of the rougher sound effects but the sound of it being drawn from it's wooden scabbard did create an air of verisimilitude.
     

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