Some of you fine folks have been asking us about how we go about making our audio dramas. It's a rather involved process and if you're weird enough to be reading this page, you might be the sort who would find such information interesting. We plan to update the process as we go, so the beginning of the journey is at the bottom of the page; work your way up.

End Game

October 1. Right on schedule the discs and MP3s went on sale. And within 10 minutes people started ordering The Shadow Out of Time. We've had a great time producing it and hope all of you out there in radio-land or Lovecraft-land or whatever-land enjoy the show. Thanks for following us on the journey. And for those who are really into it, the first 30 pages of Innsmouth have made it through assembly edit....

Assembling

September 29. So the discs are back from the factory. They look good; they sound good. The booklets and tray liners are done. The props that produce in-house are done. One other printer is sending us two of the props and then Chief Shipping Dude, Josh will start assembling them. This time we have special downloadable props too and those are getting some polish. We should be ready to release SOOT Wednesday. In the meantime though, it's back to working on the edit of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth".

Manufacturing

September 19. Every time we do a production, we somehow delude ourselves into thinking that once the production is done, we're done. But we're not. The CDs are in production at a factory in New Jersey. Two of the props are being printed by a printer with a Lovecraftian bent in Seattle (ThingMakers - thanks, Lance). The tray liners and booklets are being printed here in Los Angeles. Two of the other props we'll produce in-house. But right now lots of stuff is being made. Around the end of the month, boxes will start arriving and we'll start assembling the actual packages that will go out the door. In the meantime, we are setting up the web pages, the downloads, the review forms and the other infrastructure that we need to get "The Shadow Out of Time" from us to you.

Audio Complete

September 15. So once we got all of the pieces together, we mixed the show and tested it out on a bunch of different speaker systems (cars, ipods, households, theater speakers, etc...). We did a little last minute tweaking and finally proclaimed it done. Then we take the final pure audio and apply the Mythophone effect to it. That gives the show a tinny old-time-radio quality at the beginning and the end; we lessen the effect during the middle of the show so it sounds good. Once that's done, we finally output the audio, burn a master CD and send the CD and the cover art off to our replication facility in New Jersey. They'll make a glass master and press our CDs for us and print the artwork on the disc surface. They should be back in two weeks. Now it's onward to finishing up the printed materials and props that will go in the jewel case.

Putting it Together

September 10. Troy has been working to add music. Contrary to the belief of some, not all of our music and effects are purely digital. In the photo at right you'll see Troy Nies using his didjeridoo to create some Yithian music. If it doesn't look like a recording studio, that's because Troy is recording in the ambulance garage in Kildeer, ND. He's an EMT and has discovered the garage where the ambulance and fire trucks are parked has pretty good acoustics.

We're also working away on the collection of props that will go into The Shadow Out of Time CD. Due to the international nature of the story, we've had many friends in various corners of the globe assisting us. We take a moment to offer our thanks to Peter Lang, David Munro, Björn Flink, Johan Forsberg, Peder Fredland Fuchs, Peter Möller, Björn Lindström and the staff of a certain Scandinavian library that's doubtless received a bunch of really weird requests this week. Clearly Uppsala really is the Miskatonic of Scandinavia.

September 7. We've finished inserting sound effects and working on the preliminary mix. We sent a version of the show to our composer Troy, both with temporary music and without. This weekend he's been sending us bits of music so we can drop the temporary music out and replace it with the original music composed for this show. We've got Chris Horvath on board creating a special effect to go with some of the Peaselee-as-Yithian moments, and some additional fixes and trimming this week. A replicated CD needs to be 78 minutes or less for reliable replication. Right now we're about 20 seconds over that limit, so we'll be judiciously chopping dead air and any extraneous lines we happen to meet.

Sound Effects

August 29. Once the show has been assembled into the right sequence and all the best takes have been selected, we go back through the show to add in sound effects. We select them from our own libraries or license them from online sources. As we insert the sound effects, we also clean up the edits, set the levels of volume on the different tracks, adjust the panning (what sounds come in the right and left stereo channels). We also use the computer to create different acoustic spaces (e.g. a lecture hall or a ship's radio room). We'll put in some temporary music to help Troy see what we have in mind as he writes the real music. It's a pretty slow process, but we should be done in another week.

Behind the Scenes Video

August 27. Following a suggestion from Chris Horvath, the friend and talented musician who helped us with our recording sessions, we shot some behind-the-scenes video footage while we were in the studio. Now we've edited that down to a fun nine-minute glimpse of the production process. You'll be able to see some of the faces behind the voices of Dark Adventure Radio, and get a feel for the prep that goes into the performances. We offer the video at several sizes and formats for your downloading convenience: choose the one that's right for you from the links below!

Large mov

640 x 480

95MB

iPod m4v

480 x 320

62MB

Medium mov

480 x 360

51MB

Small mp4

320 x 240

19MB

Tiny mp4

160 x 120

7MB

The assembly edit is all done and we're inserting sound effects, applying effects such a stereo panning, defining room spaces, etc...


Editing

August 22. After one technical disaster, The Shadow Out of Time is back on track with the assembly edit 80% done. Mr. Leman noted that if you play all of our recorded audio at the same time, the results are very strange. For your enjoyment: the DART Symphony.

August 18. The editing process begins. We've got roughly six hours of recordings, chopped up into about 250 pieces comprising about 4.5Gb of audio files. The first pass through it all is what we call the assembly edit. We take the recordings, find the best performances and put them into the right order using Logic 8 software on a Mac G4. Once that's in place, we'll start finding suitable sound effects to compliment the action. It should take us about a week to get the assembly edit done.


Recording

August 15-16 (video now online). The challenge was to record two full 75 minute radio dramas as efficiently as possible. This meant fifteen actors playing forty-six roles in 160 pages of script. We held one rehearsal to get everyone on the same proverbial page, tune dialects and polish performances. In the end, we had one ten-hour session followed by a five hour session. We managed to make it through both shows in their entirety and had a pretty good time while in the studio. We ended up with Australians, Brits, aboriginals and fish-frogs all doing a splendid job at recreating old time radio drama.

In the past, we've done recording sessions at our theatre, The Banshee. In a great many ways it's not an ideal place to record. We decided this time to bite the proverbial bullet and rent a real studio with a real engineer. We turned to our friend Chris Horvath at Jamnation and knowing that using a real studio and a real engineer would yield us better quality and a more efficient process.


Music

Once we've settled on a show title, we notify Troy Sterling Nies, the HPLHS staff composer, who provided the music for our first two episodes of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre. Troy has a great ear for old time radio music and orchestration and he will dive in thinking about his approach. While some of the music is consisten through the series (e.g. the Dark Adventure theme), each episode contains new musical challenges. In particular, the transitions that lead from one "chapter" of a story to the next demand an appropriate tone shift. Troy's the one doing the dirty work to make those transitions smooth, natural and exciting. In addition to writing and performing music for us and other Hollywood producers, Troy is also an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteer fireman, serving his community in rural North Dakota. He rocks.

Usually Troy will write a few pieces of music of a minute or two in length. Rarely though do we use music of that duration in the shows. So as we begin to edit the show, we often end up chopping Troy's compositions into little pieces and sprinkling them throughout the show. As we get farther along in the edit, we'll send Troy drafts of the edited version and ask him to help us in certain places or he'll make suggestions of his own in certain places. In the end, Troy delivers a beautiful score for the show.

For The Shadow Out of Time, we don't know what Troy will give us. We do know that when he was out in Los Angeles this summer he bought a didgeridoo.


The Inserts

All of our Dark Adventure Radio Theatre releases have come with props to enhance your experience of the story. We plan to maintain that tradition. To do so, we looked at the stories with props in mind, thinking what could we both produce and fold up to fit inside a jewel case. Those of you who bought The Dunwich Horror will know we've quite literally been pushing what can fit in a jewel case.

For Shadow Out of Time we have some excellent items which we're currently preparing, at least one of which involves work on multiple continents. We don't want to spoil the surprise just yet, but some of them come from 1908 and some are in languages other than English. For Innsmouth, we're going even farther, creating props that we really cannot and must not discuss. OK, one of them is being made in India.


Artwork

a prototype of the CD cover
The artwork for our Dark Adventure Radio Theatre series has been provided by Darrell Tutchton. One of the creators of Cthulhu Lives, Darrell is an old friend and has been providing drawings of monsters for many years. He has a Masters degree in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design and now resides in Savannah. Usually we'll discuss a concept via email. Darrell travels a lot and often does illustration work on the floors of his hotel rooms in Korea, Singapore, Tokyo or god knows where. He'll send us some sketches and preliminary work. We'll provide feedback (usually complaining about something) and he'll typically revise the drawing or provide components which may be added to the illustration digitally. Usually each show has illustrations the fold out booklet cover, the jewel case back and the disc front. It was Darrell who first introduced HPL to Sean (who in turn introduced it to Andrew), and he really gets the Lovecraftian world and marries it with the pulp feel of the 1930s.

The original artwork pretty much always goes through some digital enhancements and manipulations. Elements might be added or taken away. The artwork usually comes in two pieces, so a scanned version of the right and left halves of the illustration are joined digitally. Andrew Leman, our Photoshop guru and vintage type expert then lays in typography with the flavor of the pulps of the 1930s.

For The Shadow Out of Time, Darrell provided an illustration of Peaslee fleeing the ruins with a shadowy dream Yithian in the background. We've worked together to add Peaslee's dream city, a polyp in the pit and a few other details to evoke the world of HPL's story.


Auditions/Casting

We're very priviledged to count a large number of professional Los Angeles actors among our friends. Sean and his wife Leslie run Theatre Banshee, a small professional theatre in Burbank, California. As a result we regularly cross paths with many very talented actors who works regularly in film, television and stage. And both Leman and Branney are classically trained actors with Masters degrees in theatre. But to get the right cast and to give everyone a chance, we usually hold auditions. Actors will come in a read scenes from the script. We'll work with them for a little bit and send them on their way. You'll see a lot of recurring names when you look at the casts of HPLHS productions. This is because we begin casting from our talented pool of friends. We regularly bring in new people because, (a) someone we meet might be just right for a role (not just anyone can be Wilbur Whateley) or (b) because a role requires something beyond the grasp of our usual gang . Once we figure out who we want, we call them up and ask them if they want the job.

This round of casting was a particular challenge as we were casting both The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Shadow Out of Time at the same time and looking to use many of the same actors in both shows. Between them, the shows demand a cast that's facile with New England, standard British, Australian, aboriginal Australian, Swedish (including text in Swedish) and of course Innsmouth Fish-Frog dialects.


Re-writing

a snippet from the SOOT script
So once somebody coughs up a first draft (often Branney) he turns it over to the other guy (often Leman) to have a go at it. The second writer will bring ideas of his own, clarify the murky, cut the extraneous, and overall do his best to make the script better. We'll pass a script back and forth a couple of times and usually by the 4th or 5th draft we have something of the right length that we both think will make a good show.

For The Shadow Over Innsmouth, we look some liberties with the end of the story in an attempt to have it end with a bit more of a bang than the original story does. We hope you'll thank us for the changes, not drag us down to Devil Reef.


Writing

The original Astounding Stories cover art
In the begining we set our sights on a story. We're looking for ones that have good dramatic potential and would make for an exciting listening experience. Adapting Lovecraft dramatically is a tricky deal; many of his stories are great, but they're not dramatic or well suited to dramatic formats like movies and radio plays. Once we settle on a story, one of us will go away and try to make a dramatic retelling of the story which will be suited particularly to listening. Our general policy is to keep as much Lovecraft as we can in our Lovecraftian adaptations. If we get too far away from Howard, we'll lose the quality about that writing that attracts fans in the first place.

To bring drama to a Lovecraft story often involves the process of externalizing. Many of HPL's stories are about characters going through intense mental events. Often documents, letters, and diaries play an important part in the story. But at the end of the day, our listeners don't want to hear a story about a guy reading his mail or writing his will; they want stories where thing happen. So, we take liberties with some of the stories to make things as active and dramatic as we can. For example, in the new script for The Shadow Over Innsmouth, we have Olmstead (the narrator) being intereviewed by a federal agent. In the story, Olmstead simply tells what happened to him in Innsmouth. In the radio play, he's divulging information to an agent who is very interested because he...well, we don't want to spoil it for you.

We add characters as need and often bring to life scenes which might be only referred to in passing in the story. For example in The Shadow Out of Time, Peaslee describes his family as being frightened of his post-amnesia personality. We wrote scenes wherein the family actually talks with Peaslee as he's waking up. We experience it with them rather than just having him tell us what happened.

Last, we have to work within the confines of form. We're trying to keep the radio shows under 80 minutes, because that's the most information you can fit on an audio CD. Because a page of script equates to about a minute of the show, we need to keep our scripts under 80 pages. Both The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Out of Time required extensive cutting to get them down to a lenght that will be performable. Often HPL's florid prose suffers greatly in this process. We hope he understands.


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