By Scott Murray
I remember how nervous I was when Season One of The Crimson Files launched last year. Sure, I've been producing podcasts since 2011, and some of those included shows with story elements. However, I had never taken on anything of this magnitude. It took almost all summer to do the casting, scriptwriting, recording and editing. This includes the countless days and hours piecing together dialogue with music and sound effects. With all of that work, the scariest feeling is wondering if people will find the show, listen to it and like it.
Fast forward a year later, and Season One has another month of new downloads as Season Two gets ready to launch. I'm still immersed in a lengthy post-production process (as I write this, I'm editing Episode 3 of 6), but the countdown to the new season is still exciting.
There were some advantages and challenges to writing and producing a new season. One major advantage was familiarity. One of my strengths is writing for voice. When I wrote the first season, I had a general "idea" of how the characters would sound. Now, I know how they sound. Also, I didn't have to spend as much of the story introducing the characters to the audience.
The biggest challenge was making sure I gave people a good reason to come back and stay. I wanted to create a new villain and a new challenge that felt very different or very "next level" from the first season. I knew I needed to make sure the story gave all of the characters a chance to have meaningful moments like they did in the first season. After all, I have to assume people have some favorites outside of the main characters - people like Grandma Jeanie, Doc, Jenna, Donovan, Slick Saucy and Mr. Bill. I feel strongly that this season has achieved all of these important elements.
I envision Season Two taking place a few months after the end of Season One. In that time, The Crimson Crane is an established hero, and The Crimson Files is more popular than ever. As a result, people's lives have changed.
This includes Mr. Bill. Just to intrigue you, I can tell you he has a scene this season involving the Hillbilly Hellcats song, "Hillbillies on Speed."
As with last season, there was a really good ebb-and-flow with how this story came together. Once again, after the writing, casting, recording and editing, it's time for people to return to Fort Henson with us.
After the trip, I would love to hear what you think. But first, I want to thank you for being part of the journey.
By Scott Murray
Whew! Last night I finished an action sequence that I worked on for days. Yes, ONE action sequence. Now, when I say DAYS, I don't mean to say I've worked on it for 10 hours a day. It's more like several days at 2-5 hour intervals.
The sequence involved a city, a building, police, choppers, bad guys and good guys (5 characters + extras). Not to mention, there was explosions, guns and fight sequences.
If I told you this was a film (and you like action stuff), you'd probably be very interested. However, I bet you're wondering how is this going to translate to audio and how to follow it all. The good news is that I am way ahead of you. Here's a breakdown of my answer:
Part of this is somewhat experimental
Have you ever read a book with action sequences and you have trouble following what the author is trying to describe in the scene? I have. It sucks. Listening to the same sequence on audio probably doesn't make it any clearer, but it might help if there were some sound effects involved. However, it's still not a visual representation.
In a fiction podcast, I don't think it would necessarily sound great to have a narrator telling you EVERYTHING that is going on while you hear dialogue, sound effects and music in the same scene. Maybe with the right team, voices and coordination it could work...but I'm doing something unique.
In a lot of ways, the audience lives through Wyatt and Reggie. So, instead of overlaying a different voice to explain what is happening - the characters in the story can do it.
Not everything requires perfect visuals
A fiction podcast is a "theater of the mind" form of media. So, many listeners will automatically be trying to visualize what is happening. I spend hours in post-production adding as many sound elements as possible in order to make that easy. However, there will be times where your imagination jumps to its own conclusion, and that's okay.
If you hear a fight with punches and things breaking, you could imagine any number of things:
Someone fell into a table, furniture, another person
Someone was punched in the face or chest or kicked in the face or leg
Someone had a bottle, plate, glass broken over their head
Any version you choose can be right, and it doesn't hurt the story.
Sounds are helpful
Please know I spend a lot of time infusing as much sound as possible into the show to make it easy to understand what happens. If the Crane is blocking bullets with her wings, you'll hear:
I've been producing audio content ever since I was hired to create radio fundraising content for the Dallas/Fort Worth NPR affiliate in 2007. I've produced mini-stories for radio and podcasts ever since then. This is the first time I've attempted to do this in an episodic audio series featuring episodes that average 25 minutes. However, all of that experience has helped me.
As I wrote every script, I was totally aware of my limitations when it came to producing action sequences for audio. If I didn't think I could present a scene in an effective way, I wouldn't write it out. I only did it if I felt comfortable in how I could present it to the audience.
I'm very anxious for you to hear it all starting August 24th.
By Scott Murray
I've always been a very conceptual and visual person. Anytime I wrote something, it would always be based on the images in my head. Anytime I read something, my brain would attempt to produce a visual representation of it. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, but one major benefit was that I was never limited in the way I could tell stories.
I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and long before I was attempting to make movies with my parents' video camera, I was producing content on audio cassette. I recorded over 50 tapes full of stuff, ranging from 1-2 hour stories to comedy skits. I did this using:
Then I would listen to them for entertainment. I would laugh a lot. While it may sound conceited for me to say I loved my own stuff, it wasn't like that. When the audio played, it triggered images in my head. Those images included different people playing the parts, as well as scenery, action scenes and more. So, my mindset was never that I was listening to my own content. However, I loved making them as much as I did listening to them.
Later on, I got to play these for other people. This included teachers letting me play them in my classes in high school. That was the biggest distribution I ever got. Many (including my parents) probably wondered, "What is the purpose for doing this?"
Well, maybe now we have an aswer.
However, it seems like it all started in my room so many years ago. This is definitely a more sophisticated project, but the story still originated the same way.
It also plays the same way, and I really hope audiences will enjoy this new audio story experience.
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