THAT’S A WRAP – LESSONS LEARNED

It’s a wrap.

So that’s that – I have finished editing the final episode of Stretched. Time tends to fly, but a quick check on the ‘properties’ tab of the first episode’s script, tells me I first started this project on 25th October 2016. So three months ago. Funny, seems longer.

So in that three months I wrote the episodes, edited them, and then got cracking on the recording. In all, there are twelve voices on Stretched, and I should thank each and every one of them. And I do. In time I will write a little on each of them, perhaps. But some of them are the modest sorts, and so I better check with them.

For now, my thanks go out to them. Hope they liked the end result. And I’m sure at least a couple of them will be back for the next project.

Recording done it was onto the (fun) slog of harvesting sound effects from the road sides and supermarkets around me, and then cutting it all together.

Which is what I finished today.

I learned a lot along the way, about working with people and recording them.

The various scenes were recorded in such varying locations as my spare room, living rooms, a bathroom, an office, a corridor, a meeting room… basically every voice you hear was recorded somewhere different.

This kind of flexibility made bringing all these great voices together a dream. It also made post production a little trickier than I had allowed for.

Differences in audio qualities across performances made matching two voices to one scene a little tricky at times. For instance, the scene near the end of episode two in which Andy gets into a fight in the supermarket.

That scene used three performers:

  1. Me, recording under the somewhat controlled and predictable conditions of my spare room, which is small and has numerous reflections and sound-deadening items to minimise echo. I know how to work that room.
  2. Ruth, who played the poor harassed customer. Ruth was recorded in her own living room, a large square room, carpeted, but with regular straight walls and few reflections and furnishings.
  3. Tim, who was recorded in a kitchen/diner, meaning hard surfaces and next to no sound deadening (soft surfaces, cushions etc) whatsoever.

 

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All were recorded with a Shure SM57 (with pop shield) into a Focusrite interface.

Did I nail it and make you believe all three people were recording at the same time in the same room? Maybe, maybe not, but it sounds a hell of a lot more convincing than the untreated audio did.

I thought I knew a bit about using EQ and reverb before. Turned out I had a lot to learn.

But the biggest lesson I learned was simple: get the recording right at the source. No amount of post-production fiddling will make it sound as good as just getting it right at the start.

So I guess I got lucky a lot! In that scene it worked like this:

Me – I was the focus as the audio was supposed to be coming from my phone mic. So a nice clean and close recording worked well.

Ruth – her character was further away from the phone and so echo was needed. But not too much. Her living room was ideal.

Tim – he is further away again, and we were supposed to be in a supermarket after all, so the slightly hollow ring (along with EQ’ing out a lot of his high-end frequencies) sounded right.

Lucky. And I learned a lot. Hopefully I learned enough that I won’t have to rely on luck so much next time.

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The actual editing itself is something I really enjoy. And I thought I had the hang of it until I put together that supermarket scene.

I got all the voices in order, some sound effects in the background with the volume just about right, not so loud as to be intrusive, not too quiet as to disappear.

And, with a satisfied and smug smile on my face, I hit play.

And it just didn’t work. Not at all. It was stilted and stiff.

I spent so much time switching out one recording for another (I got at least two takes of every line in the whole scrip), but it didn’t help. Because editing is a dark art all of its own. It’s not just about putting the bits in the right order. It’s about timing them so they flow properly, so that each line works following on from the last. This is audio, there’s no visuals to plug gaps. You have to set the pace without music, without action, just with…pacing.

So I started tightening it up – this was an argument after all, a fight, so I started messy-ing things up, Ruth and I talking over each other, with Tim just shouting over the both of us.

Worked much better.

Conversely, the scene near the end of episode 4 (no, I know it’s not released yet), where Audrey and Andy chat in…let’s just say a void… needed a bit more space to breathe. It needed a slower pace, which seems counterintuitive with a force of nature like Audrey, but the scene needed what the scene needed.

So, all told, I’m very happy with the finished result, all four episodes. If you listened to it, thank you. And I’m getting ideas ready for the next project. Surely, this time, I will be the master of all things audio and it will be a complete breeze!

Oh, but this time I need an actual soundtrack. Pffftt, how hard can it be!

 

 

 

 

 

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