The audio in the podcast episode “Moon Graffiti” was extremely eerie and well-placed throughout the story. I liked how the speaking sounded like it was coming from different positions and areas. Listening to it with headphones on was effectively immersive. The characters within the story spoke eloquently and solemnly to one another throughout the story. Behind their dialogue was a beautiful ambiance that helped create the mood. It was honestly very emotional, despite just being a hypothetical alternative to history based off of a speech.
While this podcast is a much more modern performance, it held a lot of similar themes to the radio shows I heard during my live tweet-along. The relatively brief length, the ambiance behind the characters’ dialogue, and the subtle descriptions of their actions to help the listener were all parts of the stories I’ve heard this week. This one had better quality and more immersive audio, due to the technological advances since the radio shows were produced, and I’m a huge space fan so I enjoyed the story a great deal. Despite this, however, I think all of the stories had their merits as solely audio-based stories.
Frontier Gentleman used narration heavily in its telling, as each episode was depicted through the eyes of a British reporter, a sort of detached main character peering into others’ lives. Gunsmoke used narration much more sparingly, only to introduce the general idea of the story and get through scene changes or events. “Moon Graffiti”, on the other hand, only used narration at the beginning to set the stage and allowed for the characters to play out the rest of the story. I liked the limited narration a great deal, and I hope to focus my own podcast around a similar set-up.
I participated in Wednesday’s tweet-along, during which we listened to Gunsmoke: Doc Holliday and Frontier Gentleman: Aces and Eights. Tweeting along with others made the podcasts fun and interesting, especially as we pointed out the different audio cues and uses of music.
In my opinion, Gunsmoke was a lot more fun to listen to than Frontier Gentleman. While the transition music felt a little overwhelming (and the dramatic cues every time someone mentioned murder were a bit much for today’s standards), the story was really engaging. I tweeted a lot more during this first show than during the second. And Doc Holliday was just a really cool guy in general. The audio cues, aside from the music, were minimal but well-placed, and most of the time the characters were in nearly noiseless scenes. Most of the sounds consisted of walking and doors opening and closing.
Frontier Gentleman used a lot more audio for background and ambiance, however the narration took away from the story itself a bit (although it does fit with the news reporter of a main character). Calamity Jane was my favorite character, who was also apparently a historical figure as well! She had a lot of spunk and the town respected her for it. The scenes, which took place in a saloon-type setting, had a lot of intricate, moving sounds, from drunken mumbling to cards and poker chips, and even a piano in the background. The detail in this show certainly surpasses Gunsmoke by quite a bit, but I struggled with feeling engaged in it; the main character was hardly more than a narrator, although I suppose that’s more or less the point of the show.
Tweeting along with my classmates on these two shows was a fun experience. I feel more inspired to apply what I’ve learned so far about audio in my own work. If I can make a show sound half as good as Frontier Gentleman, it will be an accomplishment in its own right. You can read the rest of my tweets here, if you like!
Sound in films and media is vital in our understanding of what is happening. A movie soundtrack makes or breaks a film. Sound effects and audio quality have similar importance; if the sound effects are too excessive or abrasive, or if the voice levels and quality differs from one person or scene to the next, people take note. Ensuring that the quality is consistently good is something that should take precedent in media. Music evokes emotion, and it only seems natural that a slow string orchestra should go with a suspenseful scene, or a swelling ensemble should accompany a moment of elation. Similarly, the sound of an actor’s voice has to fit the emotion of the scene or the character falls flat in vital moments. Someone shouldn’t sound bored when they reveal the secrets of the universe.
As far as podcasts and radio shows are concerned, people have nothing more than voices and sounds to understand what is happening. Good, cohesive audio and storytelling is absolutely vital in this case, and it takes a lot of practice to get sound to work well enough for an audience. One consistent error is enough to ruin a whole show for listeners. At the same time, just as Ira Glass explains, the storytelling has to be done well; perfect audio means nothing if the audience can’t make sense of what is happening.
I am a big fan of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale, a fictional, radio show-style podcast featuring a news reporter in a rather peculiar and supernatural town. (I’m woefully behind on the series, unfortunately, but I’ve heard that it’s only gotten better.) This podcast has become a massive success since its pilot episode three or four years ago, and the producers have already announced their creation of another show due to the positive reception from their first one. Thanks to my close following of this show for its first couple years, I am a little more aware of how a podcast goes than I might have been without it. The musical cues are spot-on, the fake commercials are deceitfully persuasive, and the voice acting – especially from the main character – is very impressive. Especially considering the whole show (aside from live performances) is free to the public and runs almost solely on donations and touring. While the audio performances are undoubtedly noteworthy, the story itself is also incredibly well-done. The listener is limited only to what the main character “broadcasts” from his news station, so when he isn’t there, or if something happens that pulls him away, the listener can only guess what is occurring through other sounds and subtle cues in words and voice inflections.
The podcast isn’t directly western-related (although it is based in a town somewhere in the Southwestern part of the United States), but I admire the way it uses audio to tell a story. In my midterm podcast, I would love to get a group together to do a storytelling round of our own. But I’ll continue that thought in another post.