The Role of The Director in Radio
All Radio Theater recording sessions require a good deal of planning so they run smoothly and efficiently. Whether on location or in the studio, the director needs to take an active role in deciding the mode of production.
Some projects may see the director also serving as producer, while others may have two or more people producing the show. In any case, right from the start, the director must participate in, and approve of, the studio set-up, stereo or mono recording, and all the other details involved in the pre and post production.
Among the details the director must oversee are:
- Checking and preparing the studio for both the physical space needed for the actors, foley crew, and musicians if any, as well as checking on, and deciding upon, the different types of equipment needed for the session.
- Organizing the talent, foley artists and the script.
- Setting up the layout of the studio for recording.
It is very important that the director be aware of the physical needs of his/her different crews. Putting a drum kit or foley table in the same room as the actors can cause lots of mixing problem later on.The director also chooses what type of mics and recording devices will be used. This in turn affects other details like what type of tape stock to use and how much tape is needed for an entire session. And it is all of these choices which affect the final decision about which studio to hire.
Another important area the director needs to oversee is organization of the talent and script. If a show is being produced live, coordinating the different elements may seem easier because everyone rehearses together. If however, the show is being taped then it is especially important that the director first decide on the session's running order and then rehearse with everyone.
It's also necessary to give the foley crew the script as early as possible. This allows them to collect the items they need and also gives them time to plan their load-in and lay-out for the session. While it's a good idea to have your foley crew chief at an early run through, they don't need to be at all rehearsals since they will be in the studio for every take and re-take.
Actors' time should be used efficiently so that no one is waiting hours to deliver a line, especially if you are paying him or her! Running out of order not only minimizes the time they spend but can also give some actors the privacy they need to perform very emotional scenes or can help better maintain energy levels within the cast. Doing all the 'happy scenes' first means your actors aren't dropping back and forth from one emotion to the next and possibly loosing their characters in the process.
When choosing a studio the director needs to be aware of size and limitations. Is there an Iso Booth (isolation booth) for the foley crew? Does it have baffles and gobos to create separate actor's settings? What type of vocal mics do they use? What kind of sight lines are there between the director and the performers? What about the waiting room, is it comfortable? Are there fold back, headphones and an intercom set-up so actors hear themselves, sound effects and you?
This leads to another important decision, should the sound effects be recorded at the same time as the actors? If so, on separate tracks or as part of the vocal mix? I like to be able to fine-tune relative levels between each of the elements in post so I prefer to do studio recordings on multiple tracks.
Stereo or mono production will also affect your time and how you use and set up the studio. Try to make sure you have someone else taking notes and keeping track of takes.
Above all, make sure you keep clearly communicating your needs to the studio and the engineer. The more they know about your set up and final product the more they will be able to help you achieve your goals.
Charles Potter has directed over 60 fully dramatized Louis L'Amour cowboy stories for Bantam, Doubleday and Dell Audio as well as audio drama in the US and abroad. Potter is a member of The National Audio Theatre Festivals.