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Audiovisual Cultures 100 – Audio Production with Beau L’Amour automated transcript


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this is audiovisual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and cultural production with me paula blair visit patreon.com forward slash av cultures to find out more and to join the pod well hello it’s great to be with you for another audio visual cultures i’m paula blair and we’re looking mainly today audio production and we might get into some other areas with my very special guest beau lamour i am really excited bo to have you on the show today and you to hear all about your amazing career that you’re having and have had and will continue to have in many different areas um but but i think most uh most prominently in audio drama production um so boa very warm welcome to you thank you very much so how are you doing today are you having a hot one over in la today it’s gonna get there it was it was pretty it was pretty warm here where where i am yesterday about 90. so uh that’s not bad it has to get i grew up in the uh when i was very young i spent a lot of time in the um coachella valley down in palm springs so it takes a lot of heat to make me unhappy okay that’s really cool to know um brilliant well thank you so much for for joining me today and we’ve got quite a big time difference so i’m really grateful for you accommodating that as well um so bo would you be happy to give us a bit of an overview on your work so far your career because you’ve done loads of different things but would you be happy to just give us a few pointers um i started out wanting to be a filmmaker um i went to the california institute of the arts i studied film uh with alexander mckendrick who is a uh uh you know a scotsman and uh was a terrific teacher a bit hard to take personally but he was uh he was an amazing amazing teacher and so he sort of he sort of gave me a grounding in traditional traditional film and i also studied with there with ed emsweller who was actually the man who invented um digital cinema he did the first piece of digital animation ever in the world and um and so uh i got out of cal arts i went to work in the film business i have worked intermittently in the film business over over many years um in the mid-1980s this is a few years after i got out of school uh then i have to back up a little bit my father is uh at least in the united states a very well-known novelist he passed away about 30 years ago but he wrote 90 novels and about 200 short stories and in the mid 1980s when he was still alive uh his publisher bantam books which is now penguin random house started a program of doing audio publishing and dad was always very popular and uh bantam like to kind of practice on things or experiment utilizing his work and his fan base because they always knew they wouldn’t fail too horribly um if they if they went out to those fans they would get a good trial run on whatever they did and so they decided they wanted to start with their audio publishing program um using his material and he was a little bit reticent and they wanted to start small so they wanted to start with short stories and he sort of said well my old short stories are not maybe not my best foot forward and uh what do you think if we created a little more production value than just that and did them like uh like old-time radio drama and they liked that idea and we went through a certain amount of teething problems when they first started off they were just going to take a story and being a publisher they were very literal about their literature and they just wanted to take a story and uh you know take each line from the story and assign a character’s line you know to that character and then any narration was assigned to the narrator and they did a couple of those as sort of a beta test and when my father heard them he wasn’t very happy with it he came to me and he said you know i don’t think they’ve got very good actors and would you go find out go to new york find out what’s going on see if you can get better actors well i went to new york and i found out what was going on and um i realized that the actors were terrific i mean a lot of them are people that you see in movies every day these days you know they were just starting their career in those days doing uh broadway or advertising or whatever and they would come in and do our our shows but what was happening was is the the people who are doing it at the order of of the publisher were just transcribing the story and prose is not drama and so we had to create you know we had to create scripts with scenes that actors could play they could actually dig their teeth into and do their job in prose if you write every line of dialogue it’s incredibly boring um on the other hand in drama you have to have every line of dialogue because the actor sort of stair steps their way into their dramatic performance their their the moments build based on what the lines and the intentions are and so uh i started writing scripts and i went out to ucla and a couple of other theater groups around los angeles and i collected a kind of a cadre of writers and uh we we all started creating audio scripts which none of us really knew how to do we were all film and theater people and and so we we kind of figured it out as we went along and ultimately we did about 60 plus um dramatized audios the early ones we did were about an hour so there were 60 page scripts that ran ran an hour we produced six of those a year for quite a few years and uh then the program slowly started scaling down but as it did i loving to do it produced a few more shows that were uh two and three hours long and were when i we did those especially the early shows we did them in a very kind of old-time radio format so the actors were all there at the same time the show was recorded pretty much in order there was a sound effects man who came in with a whole bunch of great old vintage sort of sound effects props and he had he had this vest that he had all kinds of stuff hanging from and he used coconuts for horse hooves and he was quite good at it they were it was remarkably convincing sometimes and um and all that stuff was recorded all at the same time and then it was cut uh you know quite because a lot of it was on one track you couldn’t do an awful lot of editing and in a scene there might be two or three edits sort of jumping from one take or another that were one was better than another and um and then throughout that program and definitely those last two long shows um i produced some shows with my own group of people on the west coast and we worked very much more like a film and this is more of what we’ll be talking about as we go along um we worked much more like a film production so uh every actor had their own track we did a lot of cutting the sound effects were all done in post-production and generally in the in the field was really you know with the real things and um and so it was much more like doing the uh the post-production on a movie because that’s what we knew how to do and um and so the last show that we did was in 2015. it was called the diamond of giroux and uh i i don’t know that they’ll be um anymore i’ve kind of moved on to other things but i’m more than happy to tell anyone anything i know at any time brilliant that’s amazing thank you yeah it’s really fascinating i was reading on the website to say uh you know that background of um getting started from your father’s work that’s just so fascinating um and either just eventually there becomes a blend when you’re editing so much to the extent that you’re actually becoming a co-author and you how was that experience i mean it must have been a lot to carry personally but also you know um you know professionally what’s that done for you as well do you think well particularly doing this in the audio was just an amazing training ground um and it it allowed me to look at a story and kind of what i i’m an old hot rodder so i say like lift up the hood and see what’s see what’s actually underneath underneath there and you know sometimes a story is uh not necessarily what the audience or the author thinks it is the wonderful thing about pros is that everybody experiences it’s just code you know it’s just letters of the alphabet and everyone experiences it differently um i’ve even caught myself i this is a remarkable thing about reading prose but i’m going to use an example about script writing i’ve even caught myself working on movie scripts where i realized that in my imagination a character entered a building that looked one way but when they were exiting in the building it looked a different way in my imagination this isn’t really coming across in the script but i would catch myself doing that and i’ll go oh my gosh you know if i’m doing that with my own work how in the world are different people taking prose writing and interpreting it differently and so the wonderful thing about reading a novel or a short story is you the reader turn it into the ultimate experience for you those characters look and act the way that your subconscious would like them to those locations look the way your subconscious would like them to and as soon as you start taking that stuff more literally so the next step literally would be like an audio drama the step after that would be a movie so in one where you hear it the other one where you hear it and see it and the director and everybody engaged in the production um starts locking down what those imaginary experiences are that changes the story quite a bit for a lot of people and of course successful filmmakers successful directors successful writers in those other areas the reason they’re successful is they find a way of creating the thing that is most palatable to most people when they interpret that experience um and so you know when you lift up the hood on a story it’s um i was working on a a mini series adaptation for one of my dad’s novels that was never made but it i it had been this wonderful adventure story kind of kipling-esque of a young kid in the american west and he eventually goes to europe and then comes home it was a wonderful story but i realized it starts off with his mother abandoning him his mother is a prostitute in the west and she abandons him to sort of seek her fortune in other things she can’t have a kid hanging around okay and he’s he’s fobbed off on this gambler who becomes sort of a pseudo father for him and later it turns out that his his real father has left him some things and by the end of the story the mother who abandoned him is now relatively wealthy and successful and but she’s trying to get this stuff that the father left him from him and the gambler um is a man who’s doesn’t trust anyone and he has only very limited relationships with women and things like this and i i just realized oh my god this is all about the relationship of the women this is all about the impact of all of these different kinds of women on these on these people and um ultimately the young hero meets this woman who’s very very dynamic and a little bit of a tomboy you know she’s exactly the opposite of her kind of of his kind of femme fatale mother and um i don’t think my father ever realized that it was all about sort of looking at all these different incarnations of what a female character could be but that’s what it is and you don’t really have a choice on the first page his mother abandons him okay it’s gonna be about his mother okay you know it’s just that’s it and um and so you when you start taking what’s in a story uh literally and like instead of like looking at the individual characters in the individual sentences if you take the individual individual actions seriously and take them as the code um which is what you have to do in drama um it definitely leads you to think about stories in a different way that’s so fascinating um just those the the machinations of storytelling like um how those how you see how the same story then crosses different media that’s really fascinating when you start to adapt it so it’s really interesting that you’re talking about realizing what the story actually is not just the narrative not just the plot but what the story is and what story is being told but then it’s translating it across you know from a novel to as a teleplay you uh an audio production that sort of thing so you must have tremendous experience now in that adaptation process and um is that something you’d like to talk about a bit as well you know just um absolutely i mean i certainly haven’t done this as much as some you know hopefully you’ll be able to recruit some wonderful executive producer you know for television or something like that and get somebody who’s really had an experience you know had the experience of doing it over and over i’ve written screenplays i’ve produced movies but i mean at a very minimal level and you know what you do have on your hands today with me is somebody who’s thought about it a lot and thought about it very personally because i’m working with my father’s work and so my approach is always one of gotta make this work but also got to be respectful um you know it’s not just another job so there’s a lot to get into there and um you know something we thought we might talk about as well is writing specifically for audio drama and how that differs from writing for say live action television or film or writing for uh new writing for print production you know and that sort of thing so is there are there things that you’ve learned in writing for audio so we we got some hints of some things you know and thinking about sound design and where that might come in and how actors need to speak and maybe interact with each other it’s it’s different um are there any things is there anything there that you think might be quite useful for people i’m not sure because i don’t think there are tremendous differences okay now let me explain that a little bit sure i started out looking at film i started out studying film but i became a relatively good writer doing audios and one of the things that the audios forced me to do was to really really work with the characters and uh work work everything out through characterization and so there is nothing wrong with that in film there is nothing in that that you shouldn’t be doing in film it just audio forced me away from what at the time was a a skill set of visual storytelling and and forced me to go somewhere else so i actually think that the two things are quite complimentary um obviously you you know you want to do as much interaction in character interplay in audio you know as you can and audio always has the problem of portraying action so i’m just gonna i’m gonna back up a little bit we started as i said just a few moments ago transcribing short stories so that meant we started the process even though we changed things very much along the way we started the process using a narrator um there are lots of people who do audio production who think using a narrator is cheating and that the entire story should be played out in in dialogue um i find that to be one of two things either incredibly hard and i have only been able in my own writing i’ve only been able to kind of do it once okay or it’s incredibly bad so you know the dialogue is always trying to tell the audience what they ought to be seeing and that puts an incredible amount of i keep saying incredible but that keeps putting a lot of emphasis on things that are other than the characterization the characters all have this second agenda which is the writer’s agenda which is to tell you what they ought to be seeing i hate the writer’s agenda if you see the writer’s agenda in the writing i think it stinks and um i all i want to do is see that you see what the character wants and that’s it and so the easiest way of doing that is to remove the writer’s agenda completely and just give it to a narrator okay so i have worked with i did one story where none of the scenes had a narrator um but there was a narrator that came on between certain scenes that was kind of like a historian and he kind of kind of got you to the next place where you could experience the next scene or the next series of scenes so he he bridged those gaps and i think there might have been one or two sentences of this is what you’re seeing in that in that whole show and uh that was about as good as i’ve ever done now granted i’m also working with westerns and adventure stories and all kinds of things that have to do with the visual physical physical world so there are plenty of other options in audio you know for different kinds of stories that might be less narrator specific um then i did a show that was a first person narrator and i really liked doing this a lot and so it was kind of a it was kind of a audio noir or you know roma noir story about a guy who gets himself in all kinds of trouble you could kind of see it as a minor alfred hitchcock movie or something like that and in that case the main character the protagonist or sort of anti-hero character is telling you the story but the way it was written and the way it was played it’s an excuse okay i’m going to tell you this story you really have to understand i’m not a bad guy okay this is this is this is what happened okay and so the narrator is all uh you know basically he’s telling you this story and all the scenes are flashbacks or flash into the thing that he’s telling you and and he’s trying to express himself and explain himself and then we did uh we did a i did another one that was kind of a hybrid and that was like uh a narrator that told you the action that was going on in the story but was often also kind of the historical guy and those sections were kind of in a very sort of 19th century language um and um and then i’ve done just a whole bunch of them that were kind of traditional traditional narrator and you always try and find a voice for the narrator that isn’t just the facts um but so the you know a difference from film is you mess around with a narrator a bit like a novel and in fact i think in a novel a lot of times i probably respect the sort of novelist like my dad who got out of the way of his audience and just gave you it was quite minimalist and not trying to push a bunch of style down your throat the idea was that his voice would disappear into your imagination and um when you’re doing an audio that doesn’t really work all that well and so sometimes having a particular goal for the narrator a particular way that the narrator presents information is important it’s also very important i’m going to jump around a little bit here but it’s also very important for directing narrators because directing narration is awful directing an actor you know you can say you know he’s talking about something else but you can say get her to give you the shoes you know and that’s his subtext and that’s his doable action that’s what he’s trying to do and so the actor’s like oh okay whatever i’m doing i’m trying to get her to give me the shoes um it’s really hard to come up with that kind of stuff for a narrator you know you’re basically saying tell the story well duh the guy knows that having a particular style or like with the first person narrator you know um explain yourself you know make people understand that you’re not a bad guy all right well that helps a lot when you’re working with a narrator so audio can have a little more of a narrator type thing audio might work out more things in scenes that have dialogue than not but they’re still they’re pretty similar i’d say i bring a lot of my audio skills to film and uh you know maybe that’s one of the reasons i haven’t worked in film all that much i don’t know but there you go yeah uh it’s so interesting um hearing your thoughts on on the narrator um and narrative point of view because i think certainly in film even when there is no literal narrator of the film there is an implied narrator in the film itself you know so like you were saying it’s in the visual aspects it’s how a certain scene is framed you know how yeah you know how the actors are blocks or whatever you how it’s lit all of these things can communicate what point of view an implied narrator is coming from and so all of the things that you’re saying there about how to get that into audio production when it’s things you can’t see but you’re trying to put it in the mind’s eye say of the listener that’s really really fascinating so um you know it’d be quite interesting to try and probe that a little bit more if we can if we can dig in it but we might get there through some other ways as well well the first thing that popped into mind just as you were saying that doesn’t have anything to do with my work and i do a film and i was thinking about well so how does that work and the first thing that i thought of was horror movies and horror movies are uh an interesting point of view they they alternate between a voyeurs point of view which is quite pulled back okay so that you know a little more than the characters and then of course if something’s going to scare you you jump into the character’s point of view um but uh that was the only thing that just popped into my mind as you were as you were talking and uh and please ask me some questions yeah no it’s a useful example i think um so i mean i suppose then it’s um as you were saying when you’re trying to get actors to maybe convey it maybe in the way that they say things or the way they’re carrying their voice for example um you know so then you know it’s those directing techniques because you’ve written undirected for quite a few audio productions together and you know that communication with actors you know how do you how do you decide right this is how i want you to set the line or you is there i suppose like with any kind of production is there a is there a dialogue then between you and the actors of you how do they think their character should be and how much autonomy do they have and is it a negotiation between you all or do you have a very set vision you know how does that work when you’re working with them okay so first of all that starts with writing and one of the things one of the things that doing the audios allowed me to learn one of the just incredible gifts in my life was that i could take a script um to in the in the early days i could take a script to new york i could watch 60 or 80 actors audition on scenes from that script and then i and then the script would be produced but watching a whole bunch of different actors play the same scenes was incredibly educational and the first thing that i realized was if you hand a scene to 60 actors and 45 or 50 of them do it poorly it’s not them it’s you and you need to write a better seat okay you need to make their intentions clearer in their actions and their lines you need to make the words more purely appropriate to their character and you need to give them the a logical build from one emotional moment to the next and um and then if you can get 45 or 50 of them to do it you know it’s never going to be your ultimate expectation but if you can get 45 or 50 of them to do it and you’re sitting there going huh okay you know if we printed that if that was if that was what we ended up with i could live with that and then as a writer you did your work so the first thing to do is direct through good writing and um that means the director has to do less and less once i and then you’re and then you’re casting and so the next the next step of directing is is picking who those actors are going to be and i like to pick interesting people luckily you know we’ve always had a wide assortment of people that we could cast i live in los angeles the the last show that we did we cast um you know through the internet which i hadn’t done before and um it was we had 2500 submissions and i mean you know we we ended up reading 400 people and it took a week it was harder than doing the show um and uh i you know i look for actors that have an imagination when you when you watch them doing what they’re doing is like is there some sense that they actually see or feel or imagine in the environment that they’re in um and actors that can work in front of a microphone but they still can use they still use their body they still you see muscles firing you see things like that because this uh an actor organizes a lot i mean unconsciously an actor organizes a lot of their thoughts and their feelings and how they work on the character by how they move and when we’re doing audio there’s almost no blocking and so uh they you you strip away this incredibly valuable way of remembering what you want to do with a scene and knowing what your intention is and things like this the the blocking is a mnemonic for for all that stuff and and so you’re going to force them to work in front of a microphone i like to give them a lot more room to move around than i used to but pretend we’re working just in front of a microphone and so when you see you know when the uh you know when the heroine of the story says no wait and then the idea in the story is that she mounts up her horse and you know you you’re looking at the back of the actress and you see the muscles in her back like twitch and her leg move a little bit and stuff like that it’s like oh yeah that’s the one you want you know it’s like because she’s getting on that horse um you know you look for people that have a very vibrant imagination um i also just tend to look for people who are fun fun to work with because i’m gonna have to work for with them for a day or a week or whatever i’m gonna do and it shouldn’t be boring and it would be nice if you know maybe i was friends with them for some time to come and uh there’s just you know there’s just things like that i tend to look for people who speak multiple languages don’t know why they just tend to be interesting people and they’ve got uh you know like that uh like that wonderful science fiction film that came out a couple years ago where the language like reprograms your sense of time okay

languages do uh program different things in your mind and so i kind of look for that although i have no real good explanation for why i like that and um if an actor is a good actor i mean just coming back to one of the earlier things if an actor is a good actor and you see on their resume that they have and of course resumes are padded with all kinds of idiotic stuff but you you see and can’t believe um on their resume that they uh that they have a background in dance or martial arts or or something like that those are also again you wouldn’t think of that for audio necessarily but the thing in my interpretation of it um you you don’t actually go away from the physical because you’re not utilizing it you go deep into the physical because you can’t do as much with it and and so so the next step to directing would be would be getting a good getting a good cast and getting people that when they came in seem to have they seem to understand the character or to actually just be that person um once i’m in the studio uh i don’t talk to now prior to going in the studio i’ll take my script and uh every single line and every single intention in the script i go to the back of the previous page and i write down the doable actions okay so this is sandy meisner acting 101 okay so i studied acting for a long long time i’m a terrible actor it doesn’t mean i don’t i don’t know what the actors are doing and uh i write down you know i think like okay so what is the actor trying to accomplish in the scene okay does that change at some point and then with every line how is that line attempting what exactly is it doing to attempt to get to that goal okay and i write that down and i write down any subtext that i can think of um and i don’t talk to the actor about this but if they start to get lost i can look at that line just track right over and go do this you know like i was saying get her to give you the shoes whatever whatever it is and um uh and then we don’t do any rehearsal or anything like that because things have changed a little bit but after a phono code we were always union productions so after phono code tells you that your rehearsal time costs the same as your recording time and so my feeling is i’m just a raw material guy all i want i want to get as many takes as i can i want to get as many interpretations as i can i do a ton of stuff in the editing room and so my feeling was it we couldn’t afford to do enough rehearsal to make rehearsal worthwhile so my feeling is is we just we go in the studio and we i just let it rip now once in a while the act sometimes the actor will sort of say you know what’s my general background what am i what am i doing i had uh i did one uh show with a really wonderful actor who’s i think he went on to teach at yale or something like that um and you know he said so you know what’s the background of my character and i said well you know i i cast you intentionally like really well this guy so this story takes place during the 1880s but this is an older man who is a who was a mountain man i go you you know um you’re an old hippie you know you’re a transcendentalist you know kind of walden pond guy who went west and lived with the indians and things like this and so you know he’s you but if you look at the generations if you go back and track the history of it there were people like that and they were that same generation in a previous incarnation you know and so in that case i was sort of telling him how i wanted him to approach the character but i was also just saying you know i cast you right you don’t even have to approach the character you are that guy um and uh so sometimes you have a conversation like that uh which is which is useful but a lot of times i won’t you know i won’t talk to them too much about it other than to other than to make them feel better about that kind of stuff if i’ve done my job right and then you know we’ll record a few and a lot of times so i also like writing scenes with three four five six seven characters um this is kind of the super bowl of writing two characters is easy um the more characters up to a point the more characters uh the more productive a scene can be and the more quickly it can move through information so if you have two characters and they have to emotionally stair step to get to a particular emotional point what can happen if you have three characters is one character goes here another character goes here the third character goes here okay and then whoa you’re already up there you know and um and so having a bunch of characters is a riot but it’s it’s hard to manage as a traffic pattern with actors and as a director and everybody’s got to know what they’re doing and when they break in and when they don’t break in and how they manage it so a lot of times we’ll do a couple of takes just to get things settled that’s the rehearsal um then uh i’ll record a few and i’ll give people pointers a little bit oh i want a little more of this i want a little more of that and um and then i generally will stop recording the whole scene say it’s a three four five page scene and i’ll break it into pieces it might be by the page it might be beats the kind or sections that kind of straddle a beat to kind of begin a little bit before a certain moment in the in the scene and end a little bit afterwards so that we can we know we can cut in there and um and i’ll do those smaller pieces and this is important because the in doing audio the actors we generally work through so many pages in a day that you can’t really ask your actors to memorize the script and you know we’ll do 20 pages a day and uh if you’re doing a movie or a television show or something you might be doing anywhere between 2 and 10 pages a day with 10 pages if you’re doing a 10-page day it’s usually a lot of action and nobody has to remember the lines um so uh

will you know they’re constantly looking down at their script and kind of picking that up and so what happens is in editorial you can hear i can hear i look away from each other it’s like that focus characterization just drops okay when they go back to the page so the idea is get enough takes so that the moment they look at the page is different in as many of the different takes as possible so you’ve got that focus for the whole scene but you got to do a bunch of them to get that um and uh and then a lot of times what i’ll do is i’ll go in and if i’m unhappy with an area uh i will change a few words or i’ll try and find words that the actor is more comfortable with um and uh words that have maybe uh an emotional meaning to that actor that that the original didn’t and i didn’t realize it um and i don’t really recognize these things i just i just change them and see if it works and uh and then when i’m really kind of getting the last few things generally what i’ll do is if i’m working with one actor i’ll push the other actor aside and i’ll play that part and when i when i do that i will give a performance that pushes the actor that i’m working with in certain directions and um you know that will steer their their performance to give me various things but i’m just collecting tons and tons and tons of data i don’t know what i want i don’t know you know if i see something show up in the scene that looks particularly good um i will then start once i’ve got the whole thing i will go and i will chase that thing because it’s like i don’t want to give that just because there was a moment of it doesn’t mean i want to give it up if i’ve still got time on the clock for that scene before i start running over time i’ll go chase that particular idea if i can and and try and get some more of that i also look for if you do a lot of takes like this you know so i mean this a lot of takes might be somewhere between uh six for something that’s fairly simple and i mean in a scene that’s got a lot of people and we break it down into a lot of little sections we might go 70 80 80 takes and um they go very it’s not like a taking film they go very fast i mean everybody ends one and they start another sometimes they’ll just go to the cast i’ll just go go for three we’re just going to roll we’re going to roll right through and you’re just going to finish it and as soon as you want to start again just start again and the the gold that i’m looking for is if i’ve got different versions of the take and it’s good to start with this kind of calmer one but end with this heightened one okay getting the piece that allows me to jump from interpretation to interpretation you know i don’t always get it exactly where i want it but getting it somewhere in there is suit that’s just wonderful when that happens because then i then i have this huge range of stuff that i can activate rather than being locked in in one interpretation um so there that’s wow i’ll shut up for a minute now that’s fascinating um i uh i’m i’m really into uh certain animations and i love watching videos of the voice actors playing their characters because they really do become their character so often you know it’s so cool watching that um so yeah i definitely get where you’re coming from i imagine there must be studies of that where the kineticism and the body actually does come through the voice you know it really must stay so that’s really cool to hear your experience of witnessing that as a director and a writer i’ll give you an example in that area if you’d like sure um uh in an early show that i directed um i had a guy who was going into a building and uh he was supposed to walk up onto the stair of the building and there’s a guy he knows there and he he’s going to walk in the building his motivation to get into the building he walks past the guy and as he walks past the guy who turns to him he goes jim okay and goes in just ign kind of curt acknowledgement oh my god we started recording that it was just like jim jim jim jim and i mean it was it was endless and we never got what we were looking for and finally in desperation i took the actor and i just moved him back about four steps and i just said walk past the microphone and when you get to the microphone just turn to the microphone nod and say jim okay and then keep going okay and bam one take perfect okay so the movement clarified it i also had you know i worked with a wonderful young actor a few years ago who had started out as a dancer and um his performances were kind of dull until he came on to the thing he just he would just like jump up and down in between takes and he which and he wasn’t it wasn’t even movement that had anything to do with the performance he just would kind of jump up and down and sort of dance around and do stuff and then he’d settle down at the microphone and it was great um so the lack of motion in audio is often a problem there was a there was i believe it was a vividly uh uh bolivian director um about 30 or 40 years ago who came to the united states and did some work with lucasfilm but but radio drama work with lucasfilm and he’d done an awful lot of radio in bolivia and he blocked everything like a play and he had big like those big old dolly mounted microphones that would carry the uh that would you know follow the actors around like they were in a movie and um i don’t know that listening to that stuff my memory of that stuff isn’t like oh my gosh those performances were exceptional but it was it was another way of working things out that i think worked very well i think that all brings us really nicely onto thinking about the technology behind all of this and those sorts of techniques where the microphones are almost being used a bit more like cameras or a bit more like um how microphones would follow the actors on the camera in in movie making as well um and i imagine that today it’s much easier to do repeated takes because you’ve got the digital technology and you can do it fairly endlessly whereas before maybe on tape but it’s not just so easy i imagine very similar to how i film it’s not just so easy to do endless texts yeah expensive yeah so um so i was wondering is it because i mean we we got in touch really because i had seen a post of yours on the audio drama hub on facebook and um and a shout out to jack bowman who has been on the podcast before he’s an audio drama producer here in the uk and he he introduced me to that group as well and so that’s why i’ve been seeing all your amazing posts about this and you posted about you know actually innovating certain technologies you know and and coming up with things to solve problems um so i was i’m really very interested to hear more about that you know so it’s not that you’ve been actually developing stories and storytelling and all of those sorts of methods but actually the technology to produce them as well and i’d love to hear more about that if you’re happy too oh yeah i have to say i’m i’m fantastically lucky in that uh i i’m pretty good with the theory of things but not so good with the practice and so i i have um a producer editor who is amazing at figuring out ways of executing the crazy ideas that i come up with and i had he’s passed away a few years ago but i had this wonderful wonderful engineer which you i believe you saw the post on and um and he could just not only was he terrific at regarding things but he could just build devices that i imagined or i needed to have so the particular thing that we were talking about i have to give you a little bit of background so i like working in stereo i like doing as much with the stereo space as i possibly can and um one of the hardest things was to figure you know do i want to block factors around in the stereo space and then somehow block the production or the creation of sound effects in some way that tracks them and when you put all of the stuff in the same recording will like line up and sound like it’s at the same spot this is a nightmare okay and uh very difficult to do and of course the more you utilize the stereo space the more difficult it is and i like to get really clean dialogue tracks i like to not worry about anything but the voices when i’m in the studio that’s the only thing i want to deal with and so uh i ended up you know i record all my voices mono but on individual tracks they can be panned around the stereo proscenium um and placed with both panning and uh you know so panning and volume um and uh and a little bit of reverb to create you know are they further back are they closer to you things like that um but then how to make the sound effects follow them and so i was talking to howard our engineer and there’s some kind of a joke it’s only funny to engineers and i don’t really understand it but they would make this joke about a monophonic pan pot okay meaning some somehow that you would pan something from left to right in mono which of course you can’t do and he i had heard him say that a couple of times and i was like howard um we’ve worked with ms technology which i’ll explain explain in a second and i want you to i want you to build me a monophonic pan-pod and and so he did and

he drove away wow in utah and about three months later he came back with this device okay so this is the panner and over here we’ve got one of the one of the knobs is the volume which you know basically does your in and out and this does your back and forth and okay now i’ll explain how this thing works and we don’t use that any longer that’s old tape analog technology we’ve got our own version in digital in the digital world now so we record our sound effects in a technique that is called ms okay for mid side and in this particular interpretation you have a the mid mic is a cardioid or hypercardioid mic that basically records forward and then you use a figure eight mic which is not a stereo mic but it has a positively and negatively phased lobe that go out to the sides okay and when you interface the mid plus the side and the mid minus the side okay you get left and right in fact almost every microphone that’s out there that allows you to switch how wide the pattern is is an ms is secretly an ms microphone with a switch that either adds more side or subtracts side and um and thus it gives you a narrower view you know for you know not so much side or a wide view for a lot of side and a lot of ms microphones are intended to be decoded at you know into left right stereo at the moment that you’re recording well the thing that i realized i’m not unique in this i’m just cut off from other people in the audio business and so i i feel like these things are my own idea because they are but i’m sure they’re not very unique um uh i’d sort of say well why do code in the field why why decode that at all until the last moment that you have to um just keep it mid-side and then as you turn up and down the side channel you get more or less environment so you can choose the size of the space sort of that you’re not the side of space that you’re in you know it doesn’t make it sound it does make it sound bigger it uh

it doesn’t really make it react like it’s a different sound but you get a you know you get more of it and then uh if you control the volume of the mid channel you get something that seems closer to you or further away from you and then why not put that mid channel on a pan pod okay and now you can pan it back and forth within the within the scene and why not automate that pan pot so that during the scene or in the old days before automation we could hand move the center so that something can actually move during the scene all right so we can kind of automate all these different all these different movements so we began recording our sound effects in mid-side and leaving them that way bringing them into our post-production and now we can we can record every sound effect we wanted just kind of right in front of the microphone and then we could decide where we were going to place it and how it was going to move and do all these other things in post and um and so

we later i mean just to go on one more level we later changed it to what we call mso technique which is mid-side and

i’ve so microphones here so you would take we use these sennheiser mkh uh microphones and so we have the uh the figure eight microphone okay which we would mount in a holder like this and then we have a cardioid microphone which we would mount you know so that the mid the figure eight does the sides and this does the center all right and then we will put those those will be mounted on a on a tripod to record our effects and then mount it down near the ground so it gets a good acoustic coupling with the ground we would have a uh microphone the advantage of an omni-directional microphone is it records a lot lower frequencies if you think of this in this microphone matrix you think about it as a as part of a speaker this is like the microphone for the subwoofer okay it’s like a special low frequency mic or the mic that’s going to record the lowest frequencies you can record for the subwoofer and so we roll off that low mic at about 300 or less and so it’s just just taking in the the lower stuff and the other microphones handle the other things the first time we experimented with that we did a recording of a land rover driving over a kind of a rough road and we were sitting there in our studio and it was like the thing drew drove through the back wall i mean it was amazing having that just a little bit of extra low frequencies it was terrific you know now we’ve got sound effects that we can move around so when i do um you know we do things like we’ll we do all of our foley in the actual environments we don’t use a fully stage so i’m very i’m very lucky my family has a ranch in southwestern colorado and it has uh it has several old houses on it and each one was built at a different time and each one has different floors and different doors and different banisters and things like this and um and so we’ve got all these different floors we can record and things it’s like having a foley stage but it’s all the actual places in actual acoustic environments you’re not having to fake anything it actually sounds like a room um and it’s kind of isolated from that you know you’re not hearing too many other things and and so uh you know we would go in and we would do when we would do foley which is your you know like your footsteps and all these things that are physical handling of things um to get footsteps we would do we would have what we call a foley series and that would be we would do a walk up to the microphone walk away from the microphone stand in front of the microphone walk in place and there are kind of techniques to do this which i won’t get into that’s really key but um you know there’s ways of making it sound better and better we get little this is so useful in creating great performances little adjustment of the feet like a little scratch or a little creak on a board or something like this same thing with a chair if you’re sitting here my chair will make a little bit of noise um if you get the idea that someone moved in their chair you can add that to the performance like maybe they’re a little uncomfortable or maybe they’re getting ready to get up or something like that super super i mean it can make or break an actor’s performance having those wonderful sound effects and so we would just do these various things in front of our microphone array and and then we could place the stuff where we wanted later now in general we would also do things that were not just like right there in front of the mic if we kind of knew that certain things were going to happen and we would use them in a particular way we weren’t going to paint ourselves into a corner um but uh it was an incredibly productive manner you know now we do now we do it all with automation in a digital audio workstation and um uh it it made things you know in the in the midst of a very laborious process it made things go you know very quickly and um ms has been a has been a godsend to us and we figured out some extra ways of using it so that was you know that was one kind of innovative um innovative thing that we did it’s also fascinating just from my film theory background and i you know i i i so often associate things like proximity with camera and lenses and and all that and it’s just so great to learn more about how that works with sound as well it’s so cool well here’s another thing and this gets i know i talk to people in the in the audio drama business about this and it just seems to put them to sleep but it’s so important and it has a lot to do with what you’re talking about um when you’re doing any kind of a recording it’s incredibly important to understand and i learned all of this from working in the film business it’s incredibly important to understand the size of the venue that you’re working in and um in a in a feature film you’re working in a giant venue and you can play the soundtrack very very loud because you’re you’re filling up a big space but because you can play it very loud that also means you can play things very softly because you have this difference because the top goes up so high you get extra bottom you know the bottom is much lower so you get this extra bottom and that gives you a sense of space and depth that when you are working in a smaller venue like all of our stuff is engineered to play well in a car okay so small and kind of a loud environment so we end up compressing things quite a bit so that you can hear the fainter sounds you know and the louder sounds don’t overwhelm you and so knowing the size of your space is is terribly important and um and then choosing a playback volume when you’re editing and mixing and that reflects that space all right so if you’re going to be working in a relatively small space you don’t have a particularly high playback volume what that forces you to do is take all the lower sounds and mix them up hotter so that you can hear them now you’ve got compression without ever using a compressor you know a lot of times we will edit at higher volume and then mix at lower volume and so we have we have a specific volume that we use when we’re editing 79 db at the editor’s years and then we will mix at 77 or so um for the car and so what ends up happening is the the show has this sense of space and particularly like the diamond of jeru takes place in the jungles of borneo and we went to all kinds of trouble to build these really thick environments i mean we probably spent as much time creating the multi-level ambience as we did doing all the sound effects and it was just glorious while we were editing we went to mix it

you know it just became smaller and more you know less good but that’s where our audience is so that’s what we have to do so it is you know it is important to know the size and space that you’re working in just like if you make a feature film you can present some you can present a scene that’s a great deal darker than you can on television because you know that audience is watching it in the dark you know and so any amount of light will be useful if you think somebody’s going to be watching it in a bright living room you have some other things you have to take into consideration it’s the same it’s the same set of problems and it’s worked out the same you know the same way gosh that’s so cool to learn about thank you um great so uh you mentioned there the diamond of jeru and you’ve worked on quite a lot of ones and i guess i gather that was really quite a massive production for you that one yeah yeah and do you want to do do you want to talk a bit about that one um and any of the other work that you’ve been doing because that was something adapted from your father’s work was yeah well you’re going to love this because it’s written it’s right up all of your your theory alleys

the diamond of drew was written in the late 40s or early 50s by my dad it was a short story um he sent it off to his agent who was not able to sell it it wasn’t particularly good certainly not one of his better efforts and just because he was working on other things when it didn’t sell he threw it in a box and it went in the back of a closet and it didn’t get published and after he died we were putting uh i was putting the book of his short stories together and i thought okay i’ll i’ll stick this in the book of short stories i’m not that happy with it i’m not quite sure what i’m going to do and then the editor got back to me and they’ve done what they call cast off on the page the page count and it wasn’t um the book wasn’t long enough and it wasn’t long enough with the diamond really in there and that was the only reason i’d stuck it i was kind of desperate it’s the only reason i’d stuck it in there as i knew i was a little light and so it came back that it wasn’t you know the book wasn’t long enough and i thought okay that i like that story but it really needs some work so i did what we call in the film business a page one re-write and i thought i’m going to take this 20-page short story i’m going to turn it into an page novella and i’m really going to expand on it and you know and uh turn it into what as much that i can make it into the ultimate version of what my dad was trying to what my dad was trying to accomplish i didn’t know anything about borneo i didn’t know anything about this luckily i ran across somebody who knew a bunch and gave me some research things and i was able to you know i was able to pull something together that worked that worked pretty good first person story uh you know kind of uh people going upriver to a diamond prospecting in in borneo a man and his wife doing it sort of for fun and getting in all kinds of trouble and the hero is the guy who kind of has to go after them and save them and uh so there it gets published book comes out it’s relatively popular um a few years later a friend a friend of mine is on the uh he’s on a plane coming back from morocco where he’s looking for um locations for a kind of a biblical movie with and he’s traveling with an executive at uh usa network and they’re talking and in those days usa seemed to have the idea that what they really wanted to do was uh a couple of movies in every genre and so she told my buddy mike joyce uh she said you know we really want to do kind of an indiana jones sort of classic adventure story and and mike was like well i know where to find that so he got off he got off the plane and he called me up and he goes does your dad have anything and after i thought about it and thought about the kind of budgets that they had available and things like that and i came back and i said well the diamond of jeru is probably the one that is most is most reasonable it doesn’t need an awful lot more than sort of jungle and a little town on their on the river and then the big the big problems are taken care of and um so uh we agreed that that we would try and do that and they bought it and and i’m just gonna i’m gonna keep going with this dramatic story here for a second because it’s something you’ll appreciate um this is what breaking into the movie business actually looks like you hear people talking about their br the way they break in and they’re always like saying well i think this particular you hear these stories here in hollywood it’s like this actor is looking for this kind of story or this kind of stuff and that kind of stuff and it’s always third hand and it’s always like the pile of gold at the end of the rainbow it’s always complete complete idiocy um but in this case they bought the thing in late november the entirety of hollywood shuts down between thanksgiving and about a week after new year’s i mean nothing moves okay um there’s no traffic i’m joking but i mean it’s just like nothing goes on and it was just before that and i thought i want to write this thing but you know every network has got their flavor of the month writers and i wasn’t the flavor of the month writer for anybody and so i thought well i know a couple of other things in may i think in june and july of that year there was going to be a

a writer’s strike possibly an actor strike both contracts were coming up and i thought you know if they don’t get this thing made before summer it’s over it’s not going to happen because things that get delayed in hollywood just die and so they bought the dumb thing right at a tricky critical point maybe they shouldn’t have even been acquiring any new material until they knew what was going to be able to happen so there when they come back they’re going to be desperate for a script or they just wasted the option right so i just went crazy and i wrote this script in like a month and turned it in and they were unhappy that one of their producers they you know as soon as they start as soon as the powers that be start to see power congealing in any place other than themselves they’re not very happy with that and so they weren’t very happy with it but they also realized exactly what i had said that that you know they had this looming deadline all right so that’s what breaking in looks like in hollywood recognizing certain conditions that that make you know make your thing work um that are actual conditions that are that are really legitimate and hard not the rumor that somebody might want something like this anyway um you know by april we were making the movie in australia and um it was a lot of fun it was definitely one of the most i’ve only worked on kind of movies of the week which is kind of like the bargain basement of the movie business and um it was definitely the most creative of all of those experiences and it and it was very hard and it was a lot of it was a lot of fun and it was a lot of different it was also as every movie is incredibly disappointing and all kinds of you know terrible things happened to my script and at the same time my script was turned into this this physical reality that was very exciting and and really wonderful and we got done with it and random house was asking me to do one more audio production and i thought well i’m sick of westerns i’ve done you know 59 58 westerns and i want to do something but i want to have a soundscape that is really distinct and you know i started thinking well the mid 20th century in borneo is pretty distinct and and it’s not what i’ve been doing and so uh i rewrote it again now i’m gonna go back and say a couple other things about this when i wrote that when i took the novella and i turned it into a screenplay i went from the first person of the the guide the guy that goes after the man and woman to uh rescue them and i added a bunch of scenes with the man and woman okay so it expanded to this uh to to cover almost in first-person way or at least more closely this second group of characters when i did the audio um i started realizing start realizing i realized halfway through making the movie that uh the borneo native characters are really fascinating and that i had in many ways kind of neglected them and i wanted to spend more time with them and so when i did the audio the story grew again and included the story of those characters to the point where you actually recognize that everything that everybody’s doing hinged off of a particular moment before any of these people ever arrived in borneo that just had to do with the dayak or native characters and um so uh it the story the story grew and encompassed more points of view each time um of course when we got around to making the audio you know we had all kinds of fun because we got to we hired nate we had native guys who came from borneo we had they we had a bunch of other actors also playing uh characters from borneo and the guys who were actually from borneo taught all those guys melee so there’s all kinds of times in the story when they’re talking in melee and so they got like language language school and uh we had all kinds of australian actors and british actors and uh you know it was it was a it was a an accent fest and it was a lot of fun what a story um what journey that one story has had as well it’s amazing like every production format possible yeah yeah but i love that i love that idea that you expanded it and um went in and gave more space to those more native characters and it’s really interesting to see that happening more in general now i think um because uh you know they’ve been so neglected i think just very generally and to to just uh counteract that a bit and give them more space that’s really great to hear um you gave me the web address for all of that so i’m gonna have that in our show notes forever so that people can go and check all of that out because you’ve got really detailed notes on everything it’s a really thorough website for so i really will just encourage yeah a lot of videos a lot of photographs um yeah there’s a lot of material there yeah great so i really urge anybody who’s listening or listening to or watching this go and check that out the diamond of jury it’s really fascinating production story i think um so gosh that’s a lot i feel like i feel like we’re only starting to scratch the surface with everything that we’ve talked about um and i mean i’d really love for for you to come on again sometime and to get into some detail uh on some other things um is there anything that you’re working on at the moment that you would like everybody to know about the thing that’s most exciting that i’m working on at the moment has nothing to do with film or audio um

uh i’m going back into a lot of my dad’s uh materials and i’ve created this program called louis lower series called louis lamour’s lost treasures and so uh we produced um two books uh full of stories that my dad didn’t finish there’s actually a few in there that he did finish but have are unpublished as of today but most of them are are unfinished and i take his notes and his correspondence and other things that i know about what was going on and i try and kind of explain to the reader where this story fit in his career and what he was trying to accomplish what the rest of the story would have been like and uh it’s kind of you know it’s a book for a fan uh of louis lamour to to see all the other kinds of things that he wanted to do in his life because many of these things were genres that he did not uh sell a lot of stories in and things like that um some of them were ideas that he had that were just too weird to you know too wild to sort of actually be able to be something that uh he finished you know the the in any author’s life their most ambitious work is the work they don’t finish because it was too ambitious and uh so there’s a lot of very interesting things in there it’s also uh these books and there’s some other pieces of this which i’ll explain in a second um all of this work is also a pretty good kind of history lesson on uh how writers worked in the paperback book business that you know started just before or during world war ii and it’s still with us but probably hit its peak in the late 80s or early 90s and um so it’s a whole kind of it’s a whole kind of literary era and it’s a it’s a look from the inside from the from an author’s career kind of looking looking out at everything that was going on at that time so the other thing that i’ve done besides these two books of unfinished work is i’ve gone into a bunch of my dad’s older finished novels and done the same thing added this kind of bonus features in the back that talk about the story behind the story what was going on you know i just did one for uh kiowa trail that uh explains that although it never went anywhere as a film that story was actually my dad wrote that for catherine hepburn wow because they had had a long uh kind of acquaintance with one another talking about trying to work in this film and talking about trying to work in that film she even tried to get him involved in writing the sequel to rooster cogburn which was the she did with john wayne in the 70s and um and so they they weren’t close friends but they they knew and respected one another very much and so you know knowing that story is kind of the interesting backstory to kiowa trail and where it came from there’s a another one called caligan which is all about us just driving around the desert looking for the locations you know it’s really it’s really kind of a down and down in the dirt four-wheel drive you know kind of like uh uh investiga location uh expedition um so they’re all different and it’s kind of a almost like a random access uh biography of my father’s um uh professional life it doesn’t go into a lot of personal into a lot of personal details it’s really it’s about the writing it’s about the literary industry and things like that and so that’s the uh i’m hopefully within the next six months or so i’ll kind of wrap that program up i’ve been working on it for about four years and uh and so that’s that’s my my big project for the moment amazing yeah really important to have all that history preserved that’s great fantastic work um bo is there anywhere where people can find more about you on the internet do you have your own website that people can look at i do it’s probably not the greatest thing in the world but bo lamore.com okay where you can go but just also looking around on louisamore.com and all of its associated there’s a whole kind of constellation of blue more websites and you know that’s the kind of stuff that i’ve been doing for the last 35 years you know well before my dad uh my dad passed away you know i was already kind of uh working on all kinds of stuff around the perimeter of his of his career and uh and so you know that you can get a pretty good idea of the things that i’ve done yeah it seems that you’re very much an archivist as well in the history and you’ve got an awful lot of things going on there i’ve had to become this i didn’t really start out life uh you know um start out life looking to be an archivist i’m sort of uh you know i’m sort of a a motorhead that that ended up getting tossed all of this all of this paperwork and um and so uh you know if i’m if i’m not like got the hood up on my car i’ve got the hood up on all the paperwork yeah this has been so informative and yeah i really hope that we can keep in touch and um i’m i’ve so enjoyed learning so much from you about all of this and i look forward to learning more um i think once you when if you get through your dad’s stuff you’ll have so much more to say about all those technologies and to do that history as well because it’s all so important i think and um it’s part of such a big network of so many things you know it’s it’s really amazing everything that you’ve been working on and it’s been such a pleasure talking to you today a pleasure talking to you if i can ever help you with anything that doesn’t have anything to do with me i’m certainly willing to do that too so well i’m a super nervous at all yeah that’s really generous yeah i’m super super nervous at all less total amateur so take any help that’s offered well you’re doing a great job and it’s amazing through people like you the kind of information that’s getting out into the world it’s really it’s really i mean i wish i was 20 years old and trying to learn everything about all the things that i know a little bit about now because i just can’t even imagine how deep i could go if i you just get on the internet and start following all kinds of different podcasts and stuff oh yeah it’s overwhelming but yes it is it’s important i think all of us are contributing to yeah preserving that logging it and keeping it in posterity hopefully so yeah thank you so so much for steph really enjoyed it

this is a cozy people production with me paula blair the music is common ground by airton used under a 3.0 non-commercial creative commons license and is available at ccmixter.org if you’ve enjoyed this episode please give us a good reading subscribe and recommend audiovisual cultures to your friend all of our contact details socials information ways to listen and our mailing list sign up can be found on our website linked in the show notes thank you so much for listening and supporting take care and i’ll catch you next time

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