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 Ashley Eaton's Platform Speech

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Number of posts : 19
Age : 51
Location : Apex, North Carolina
Humor : ?
Registration date : 2009-09-12

PostSubject: Ashley Eaton's Platform Speech   Mon Jan 25, 2010 11:44 pm

The lights dim, the crowd hushes, the curtains go up and…the production begins an actor steps onto the stage and like that, the play Romeo and Juliet has begun. What the audience hasn’t seen is all the months of work that have gone into this effort. The choreographers, musicians, technicians, directors and many others have worked endless hours to make this play a success. Just like with stage performances, radio dramas have huge amounts of time put into making them the best and highest quality they can be. An example of a high quality radio drama is the popular Christian one Adventures in Odyssey. Today I want to bring you behind the scenes and show you the complicated process that goes into making it. There are three major parts in the process of creating this radio drama. They are writing the script, recording with the actors, and post-production, also known as sound design.

Writing the script is the first part of the process.

It begins with a meeting of the writing staff where they toss around ideas. Some of those ideas can be pretty wild. The characters might be fighting against an evil company trying to brainwash people or there might be a competition between two characters to determine the best listener. Things aren’t always serious at these meetings. On one occasion when the Odyssey writing staff was brainstorming and eating snacks, the group tossed around a balloon in an unspoken game of “don’t let the balloon touch the ground. They were tossing around an idea and a balloon when the balloon began to fall down in the middle of the table. One of the writers dived onto the table to saved the balloon. At a later date when he was being interviewed, he related this story and at the end he stated “I lost our snacks, but I saved the balloon.”

At these meetings new episodes and story arcs are discussed and charted out. After the meetings, a writer will write out the entire show. He or she will then present the original draft to the entire staff including the sound designers (in case they are worried about different sound effects) the executive producer, directors and the rest of the writers. Each member of the Odyssey team will take a part and they will all read it through. At the end there is a “long” silence… The writer becomes nervous… Then, the room suddenly comes alive with suggestions, comments, questions and critiques. The writer will make these changes, (or at least as many of them as he remembers) and will once again pass the script to the team. Any final concerns are voiced and then…the script is ready. It begins with a meeting, it ends with an episode.

Recording the show that has been written is the next step in the process.

A few times a year actors from all over the country and sometimes outside the United States will coordinate their schedules to record the shows, usually six to eight shows at a time. With some radio dramas they record one show in the morning and one show in the afternoon. Why does it take this long for actors to record a twenty minute show? Well, each scene and line is recorded several times purpose of which will be discussed later. The majority of these actors work in an area of acting called voice-over. They voice the lines of cartoon characters, so they are able to perform in radio drama extremely well. Some of the shows that these actors have worked on include Dumbo’s Circus, Whinne the Pooh, The Land Before Time, and Totally Spies. Many of them also do television. One actor voices America’s Funniest Home Videos and another is the voice of NBC. These actors are professionals. However, things don’t always go smoothly.

Once, at the end of a particularly expensive recording session, the executive producer handed the whole set of recorded disks to a new-be sound designer. He was trying to please, it was after all, his first few days on the job. He said, “Sure! I’ll take them,” trying to make a good impression.

“Oh, and can you drop off my car at the rental agency?”Added the producer.

“Sure! No problem!”

He went to the parking lot and he couldn’t figure out which car was the one he had to drop off! So, he thought, “Whichever GM opens when I put the key into its trunk, that’s my car.” He went up to the first GM and it opened for him. He thought, “that was easy!” He took all of the tapes, placed them in the trunk, threw his jacket on top, and went to go grab some lunch. When he returned to the parking lot, he couldn’t find the car with the master tapes. He had put them in the wrong car!

“Okay, I’ll do the smart thing this time. I’ll look at the license plate number that’s on the keys.” He found the right car about ten spaces down. He dropped the car off at the rental agency and was on the airplane heading home ten minutes into the flight when he remembered, “I took the car back to Thrifty, but Focus on the Family rented the car from Avis!” And to make matters worse, he had given the keys to a sixteen year old kid.

He thought, “Oh no! I’m going to have to report that there is a stolen car!” When he got off of the plane he found out that the rental car agency had realized his mistake and returned the car to Avis. So one problem was taken care of, but the master tapes were still missing. How big a deal was it that these tapes were missing? Well, the same thing was running through this sound designers mind as he began to calculate the cost of bringing in everyone, renting the studio, and coordinating schedules. There were fourteen actors and one of them was from England! He mused, “I might just need to declare personal bankruptcy…”

He called the hotel’s security numerous times but they didn’t have the master tapes. The next morning he called Focus on the Family’s travel agent who immediately began to call all the rental agencies that were in Burbank, where the recordings had taken place. One rental place she called answered, “There is a package at the back here. No idea what it is though”.

Becky, the travel agent asked, “Can you check it?” Sure enough it was the tapes with his jacket thrown over it. They got the master tapes and that was this sound designers introduction to the wonderful world of Odyssey recording.

Before these shows air the final and perhaps most difficult stage must take place, post production.

The sound guys take over from here. They take all of the recorded sound tracks and get them ready to air. First they listen to each voice track that was recorded. The multiple recordings of the same lines are used here. The sound designer will listen to each line from these takes and select the one he deems best. He can even take parts of a line and edit them together. They may like the beginning of a line from take three but the ending from take seven. These two parts will be spliced together for the best sounding line possible. Next, they add in the background noise. For example, if the characters are at a gas station in the drama, the sound designer will add in the sound of people pumping their gas, some people chatting in the distance, a few birds in the air and who knows maybe even a train passing by. After that, they’ll also build in sound effects like a car door opening. This is a very creative step because often either, the real thing doesn’t sound quite right or the material is uncommon and expensive. Once, a sound guy had to create the sound of a golf club. This is often thought of as being a loud swooshing sound. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite do that. This poor sound designer was out of luck until he found… a switch. He picked it up tried it out. It was perfect! Another time, the sound desired was too costly. He needed to make the sound of cheesecake dropping on the floor, and as he put it “I was rightly going to spend twenty-five dollars on a cheesecake. Even, if I did there was no guarantee it would sound right.” Instead, he tried an old stand-by, oatmeal. Placing it in water, he soaked it overnight. In the morning he got it out and dropped it on the floor. It sounded perfect, and it cost far less than a real cheesecake would have.

The final step the sound designers go through is what is called mixing. This is where all of the volumes are set the proper level otherwise, the characters voices couldn’t be heard. The steam engine, birds and dropping cheesecake drown them out. After all this has been completed, the episode is ready and can now be aired. Without this vital part of the production process, a radio drama would not sound realistic. For instance one would not be able to tell whether people had just entered the room since the door couldn’t be heard. Also, if someone got into and drove a car without the car doors opening, the key in the ignition, and the sound of the motor running it would not be known they were in a car much less driving one. Without the sound effects it is impossible to tell if, or what is happening and there is no distance perception. Sound design is truly an important step in making a radio drama.

In the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey there are many difficult steps that come before the finished product.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, an episode for a radio drama is not an overnight process. It takes time, a group of devoted people and a lot of creativity and talent. Each person is needed to perform a different part of the process. The people who participate in the writing and directing, the people who record and create sound effects, and the actors who make the characters come alive are all experts at what they do. Their hard work is what makes Adventures in Odyssey a high quality, well-written, well-acted, and well-produced radio drama. Perhaps next time instead of merely listening to a radio drama, you’ll think more about all the hours that went into making it.
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