The art of radio dramas has all but died out. Even son, the internet is a great source of old time radio programs like Suspense, X-Minus 1 and Murder at Midnight. Although they are extremely old, some of these programs are brilliantly written. Orson Welle’s The Hitchhiker – the chilling tale of a man pursued by a hitchhiker – is one such example. In the early days of the internet, way before YouTube and even further back than Facebook, writer J. Michael Straczynski produced a radio drama series called ‘City of Dreams’. It begins with the deep voice of a narrator: “You’ve heard rumors of the City of Dreams. Its existence has been officially denied, although unconfirmed reports have placed it beneath the ruins of Machu Pichu in South America. Others say it’s in Arkham, Massachusetts, or hidden in a secret network of tunnels under Moscow. But we’re here to tell you the truth. Do you want to know where the City of Dreams is?” Some of these episodes – particularly the chilling and curiously titled MCSD 00121J – are good examples of how effective this style of storytelling can be..
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a classic radio dramas that you’ll find incredibly witty and engaging.
ASSESSMENT TASK: CREATE A RADIO DRAMA
Come up with a simple idea for a short, two minute science fiction radio drama that you can write and record with a partner. Keep in mind that you only have two actors, so if you’re going to script more than two characters, you’ll probably need to put on some silly voices.
You can use Celtx to write the script for your radio drama.When you launch Celtx, choose the ‘Audio Play’ template. Change the drop down menu below when you want to write a character’s name, dialogue, add a sound effect, voice or music.
If you’re short on inspiration for your science fiction radio drama, here are some ideas to get you going:
• An earthling has a conversation with an extra terrestrial.
• Someone dials the wrong number and has a conversation with a person from the future.
• Two friends walk through a doorway, only to discover themselves in the distant future.
• A household appliance suddenly becomes sentient and starts talking to people.
• Two people flee an alien invasion.
• In the distant future, a band of rebels makes plans to overthrow an oppressive government…until they realise one of them is a traitor.
• Diary of a time traveller.
• The world’s first time traveller, travels back in time to stop…
• A genetically engineered creature escapes from a lab.
• Aboard a spaceship headed towards the sun, something goes terribly, terribly wrong.
• A reconnoissance vessel picks up a distress beacon on a distant, uninhabited planet.
• It’s late at night, you’re walking along the street and a bright light appears above you…
• A world ravaged by nuclear war.
• It’s ten years in the future and you’re one of the few survivors of a terrible virus.
RECORDING YOUR RADIO DRAMA
When you record dialogue for your radio drama, it’s important to have a quiet recording environment. Before you hit record, make sure you eliminate all background noise. Pay particularly attention to things like refrigerators and air conditioners. These appliances can create low level noise that ruins the quality of your audio. When you’re recording, sit about thirty centimetres from the microphone. Be aware that plosive sounds – often created when you say words that begin with ‘p’ or ‘b’ – can cause distortion.
CREATING ATMOSPHERE WITH SOUNDS
When it comes to radio dramas, sound is an important part of the storytelling.
Freesound is collection of creative commons sound effects. You can use these sound effects in your own production completely free of charge. Because the site has a thriving community of contributors there is a wide variety of sound effects that are being updated daily. To download these sound effects, you’ll need to sign up for a free account.
Sound Library is a resource freely available to Australian schools. After installing the free application on your computer, you can download up to fifty sounds per day.
EDITING YOUR RADIO DRAMA
Audacity is a free audio editor that can be used to edit your radio drama.
To practice your editing skills, use the above script and these sound effects to edit a short radio drama. The purpose of this activity is to develop your confidence in audio editing