Creating a radio drama

As a part of this unit, you are required to work in different media forms. We’re going to create a short radio drama establishing the villain that you planned in your short storyboarding sequence.

Podcasting has led to a resurgence in radio dramas. Podcasts like Welcome to Night Vale and The Black Tapes have demonstrated that this classic format is still relevant. Before you get started, you might like to listen to some classic radio dramas to get a feel for the medium and how it works. SuspenseX-Minus 1 and Murder at Midnight are all good places to start. One of the most spine-chilling radio dramas ever created was Orson Welle’s The HitchhikerFor a more contemporary take on the form, check out Michael Straczynski’s City of Dreams. The particularly chilling and curiously titled MCSD 00121J is a good example of how effective this style of storytelling can be. Although radio dramas reached the peak of their popularity in the 1950s, organisations such as the BBC still produce a small number including the dramatisation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel Good Omens and Anansi Boys.

Here are some radio dramas worth listening to:

Planning your radio drama

Use the storyboards that you created as a basis for the introduction of your villain. How will you change the story given that you can’t use visuals? How will you use sound and music to contribute to your story? Start thinking about the sound effects and music you might obtain from various sites to use in your radio drama.

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.

Writing your radio drama

When you write your radio drama, use the script format on Page 235 of Heinemann Media 3e. The format of radio drama scripts is relatively simple. Here is an example of a student who has done a terrific job of writing and formatting their radio drama script.

Recording your radio drama

Technology isn’t a barrier to creating a great radio drama. Assuming you can create a quiet recording environment without much reverb, you should be able to record something pretty terrific. Before recording, it is important to rehearse. Running through the script several times will allow you to become more familiar with the subject matter and means you will make fewer mistakes. As you read, listen for lines that are awkward or difficult to say and rephrase them. At East Doncaster Secondary College, we have podcasting room with a Zoom R16 and three Rode Procaster microphones.

When you are recording in this space, use the following process:

  • You will be using the Zoom R16 and three Rode Procasters to record the script. When you get into the studio turn on the microphones and desk on at the wall.  The display on the Zoom R16 will light up when it is powered up.
  • Press ‘Project’.
  • Then press Enter four times until you have created a new project.
  • Take note of the project number.
  • Press ‘Record’ to arm recording and ‘Play’ to start rolling.
  • Keep your mouth about five to ten centimetres from the microphone.
  • Speak in a clear and expressive voice.
  • Do not rustle any papers while you are recording.
  • When you are done, press the Stop button on the Zoom R16.
  • Remove the memory card and take a copy of your file.
  • Put the memory card back into the device ready for the next group to record.
  • If you are the last group, turn the Zoom R16 off at the power.

Editing your radio drama

We are going to use Adobe Audition to edit our radio dramas.

  1. Creating a new project. Create a new multitrack Adobe Audition document. Choose File > New > Multitrack session.
  2. Choosing a location for your project. Give your project a meaningful name and save it into Scratch HD > USERNAME.
  3. Importing files. Drop your audio files into the Files pane. Keep in mind that all assets, including sound effects and music, will need to be moved from your download folder into your project folder before being dropped into Adobe Audition.
  4. Bounce to new track. Because we recorded to separate tracks, we’ll need to put them together. Drop them into the timeline above each other, lined up with the beginning of the project. They will need to be lined up exactly if this is to work. Select the clips by dragging a section box around them, then choose Multitrack > Bounce New Track > Selected Clips Only. You will get a new clip on a separate track, delete the originals from your timeline and drag it onto the first track.
  5. Cleaning up and amplifying your wave forms. Double click on a file to edit it directly. You might like to start by opening your audio file, deleting any peaks or mistakes at the beginning and end of the clip. You can achieve this by selecting the sound in the timeline and dragging the gain control. Choose Favourites > Normalise to -0.1 dB to amplify the sound.
  6. Editing your voices. When you drop your audio file into the multitrack session, you will need to cut out mistakes and edit the piece together. You can adjust the in and out points of a clip by mousing over thee beginning or end of the track. To cut a clip, select the clip in your multitrack timeline and hold down Command K. Alternatively, press R to select the Razor Selected Clip tool. Dragging clips over each other will crossfade between the two clips.
  7. The Effects Rack. In the Effects Rack, you can add effects to your tracks. If you didn’t do noise reduction, you can add an Adaptive Noise Reduction effect. If you find that your voice is a little sibilant, you might like to add the De-esser.
  8. Essential Sound. The Essential Sound pane provides a number of tools that let you adjust audio. Select your voice recordings, click ‘Dialogue’. From here you can click ‘Loudness’ and ‘Auto-Match’. This will even out the sounds if one person was louder than another. You might like to give your audio more punch by choosing ‘Clarity’ and ‘Dynamics’. Click ‘Repair’ and ‘Reduce Noise’ to remove any hiss that might come from your recording equipment.
  9. Exporting. Choose File > Export > Multitrack Mixdown > Entire Session. Format: MP3 Audio. OK.
  10. Submitting. You need to submit the MP3 file, not the Adobe Audition project file because it contains no audio!

Student work

Here are some examples of radio dramas and their scripts.

Stagebite | Script | YouTube | Jamie Lester and Paul Park

In Your Dreams | Script | YouTube | Elsa Liu and Caylie Tan

The Janitor | Script | YouTube | Reema Chabchaul, Beatrice Chui Theo Papahatzis

The Play | Script |  YouTube | Aarya Hatkhambkar and Jun Yang Mah