Just to give some background about my experience in audio drama: I do co-produce GreenStream Studio's Shadows and Daylight a Christian mystery show; co-produce The Jimmy, Sam & Tommy Show a comedy show; am the General Manager of The Audio Drama Alliance an audio drama collaborative collective; and I have written, acted in, done sound design for, and directed episodes of KMap Studios The Ceiling Fan Podcast.
I am not someone who has been in this genre for as long as some of my colleagues, but I have been at this for 12 years now and like to think I know a thing or two about it. So enjoy my tips! Let me know if you have any of your own in the comments!
First off, my apologies to anyone who I advised to doing each scene in a separate project file. Bad advice. It ended up driving me crazy over the long haul, as I had to keep re-opening and re-exporting old projects if I wanted to update a small change in my master project. DON'T DO IT! Start in one program, in one project file, and finish there. If you want to try new software, don't do so until you have finished the current project. It's often easier to start from scratch in a new software than it is to try and work with something you made in another project or software.
Limit, limit, limit.
That goes both for using a limiter plug in, and for a philosophy. Just because you have a million plug ins and toys, doesn't mean you should use them. Set a limit, stay within it. For more on this thought process, check our Graham Cochrane's free eBook called “The #1 Rule of Home Recording” http://therecordingrevolution.com/blog/ (to download it fill in your email on the side bar and click download).
Mix your dialogue to sound like your characters are inside the ambient/environmental noises, not on top of them. So you will want your voices to stick out just a bit more than your background noises for clarity, but not too much or it will sound like they are sitting on top of the ambience instead of inside it.
Don't mix to sound realistic. Mix to tell the story in the clearest way possible.
I have often used an example of the swing set scene in one of my favourite episodes of Adventures in Odyssey titled, "The Big Deal". In the scene Whit and Aubrey (who is by the way one of my favourite AIO characters) are swinging on the swings and their voices go up and down in volume as they approach and move away from the listener. This was a great effect, but they over did it. It was realistic, but the quiet parts got just past the lower end of the listener's comfort zone (in my opinion). The solution? Keep the volume going up and down, but don't make the ratio between the highest point of volume and the lowest point so extreme. It's all about making the story clear, realism is only a happy accident sometimes. Really people don't listen to audio dramas or watch movies for realism but more often for escapism from reality. Don't confuse them by adding too much reality into your sound design.
Keep checking back and forth between your mix, and the mix of a professional audio drama you respect. I recommend using either Adventures in Odyssey or anything from Focus on the Family Radio Theatre as your reference. There are other audio dramas out there you may be more familiar with, but in my experience, not many of them have quite the quality of the two I just mentioned. There's no sense copying the mix styles of shows that don't sound professional. So be choosy with your reference material. It's okay if your favourite show isn't top notch, but just be sure not to use it as a reference if that's the case.
Import an episode of a high quality show into your project, and then mute it when editing your show. Periodically un-mute it to listen and compare it to your show.
As a behind the scenes fact, I used the episode “Box of Miracles” from Adventures in Odyssey's Nova Com saga, as my reference mix in the Shadows and Daylight episode “An Eye for An Eye”.
You've probably been in one of these situations. Maybe you don't have the money for sound proofing and the egg carton trick you keep hearing about just isn't working. Maybe you're on a family vacation but need to record voice over in a hotel room or an echo-y office. What do you do? My tip: use a dynamic microphone. Without getting into a lot of the technicalities, there are two common types of microphones in use today: condensers and dynamics. Condensers are those funny looking (often silver) fancy mics you see voice over people and singers use in behind the scenes in-studio footage. These mics pick up tonnes of rich detail and are very nice quality. In studio at GreenStreams, this is most often what I use.
What about you? Have you ever done audio drama or audio editing/mixing? What are your tips? Share them in the comments below! Feel free to ask me for more details on anything I mentioned in this post. :D Happy audio adventures!
In Christ Jesus our Lord,