You may have noticed me going on about how pleased I am with the wonderful production of ‘Tethered to the Cold and Dying’ recently, be it here or Facebook. I’ve always been curious about how podcasts get put together, especially when it’s as beautiful as this one; the readings are all top-notch, and the effects are…well, amazing. I love it, and can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be to bring a story to life like this. Thankfully Sonny See, the man responsible for putting the production together for the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, has allowed me to reproduce his comments on the process here, so here’s the man himself explaining how it’s done. Anything in [boxed brackets like this] are my own views.
Over to Sonny…
“Well, here is my usual procedure after being assigned, or choosing a story.
Once I have received the audio from those giving voice to the characters in the story, I break all of it down in to manageable pieces. In the case of Tethered, I had something along the lines of 16 or 17 chapters, and so that many different Audacity projects. [Audacity is a free open source digital audio editor and recording application – thank you Wikipedia.]
When given multiple takes, I choose what I feel best suits the story as I am trying to portray it. I have a separate track for each character when possible, and a track or three for sound effects and background music, if any. I create one main folder for the entire production, and separate sub folders for each chapter, sound effects, and music. All of this I save in my Dropbox folder. Doing this allows me to work on the project during lunch at work, using a computer with a Windows 8 operating system. Then I am able to work on the same project at home on my desktop, which runs Windows Vista, and finally, whenever lounging about, using my laptop, running Linux. With Audacity, and Dropbox, I am able to be a little flexible.
Once I have the dialogue tracks in the proper order, I begin to work on timing and pacing of the story, tweaking the dialogue, and slowly adding background noises and sound effects. All of this, of course, takes an inordinate amount of time, and while this is going on, I am agonizing over what sounds to use, what music, if any, to use, and searching the inter-webs for appropriate, inspiring sounds to add to the soundscape. I usually try to get a sound, or set of sounds, for the background ambiance in order to set the scene, then layer on different sounds to add to the feel of the story.
For instance, in the first and subsequent chapters, I found a sound of arctic wind. I used that as the background. I took the sound and used Audacity to change the tempo of different sections, cut some sections out, layered the same sound on top of itself in different places in order to avoid repetition and make it seem more vast and desolate. On top of that, I made the choice to add the sounds of him trudging through the ‘snow’, then the hiss of his suit when he talks, or exerts himself. I added static from his communication device so that mother would sound tinny and far away. [I loved this. In the written text I presented dialogue differently than was usual here with dashes and italics so that it didn’t look like a normal conversation. The sounds Sonny has used reflect this perfectly.]
Sometimes I deliberately leave sounds out in the hope that the listener will hear it anyway. One example of this is when Jack first meets Hugo and he says that he can ‘hear’ Hugo biting in to the crispy skin of the goose. I tried to find an appropriate sound for that but in the end, decided to leave it out and see if anyone else heard it anyway as I seemed to do.
Once I was as satisfied as I was going to be, I had to find a way to connect all the chapters. How to make the transition back and forth between all of the flashbacks and the different scenes. I decided to create my own transitions using a trial version of a program called Absynth. It was at this point that I decided to add the ‘overly subtle’ audio ‘Easter egg’. [I still haven’t figured out what this is yet…] By the way, I have sent, via email, the solution to what that hidden audio is. Perhaps Rish and Big will let everyone know. [Hurray!] Or, maybe they won’t. [Boo.] I will leave it up to them.
After listening to the story in whole or in part far too many times, I came up with the drinking game. [Love this.]
If you have read this far, let me say that I appreciate all of the positive comments about the production. I had fun doing it and was glad to be a part of it.”