Author Topic: Time breaks in EP stories (was Re: EP376: Shutdown)  (Read 4906 times)

Max e^{i pi}

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on: December 30, 2012, 08:55:49 PM
I'm not done listening to this yet, but thought I'd chime in with this little complaint tidbit.

Here is a little tone that you can use to separate chapters or different time periods in a story.
Or you could go all magical-ly with this one.
Or maybe this one or this one.

So far I like the story, just am finding it difficult to separate story threads.

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Scattercat

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Reply #1 on: December 31, 2012, 06:10:31 AM
I think the issue you're going to run into, even if such a policy is implemented, is the fact that the majority of stories are read by someone outside of EA's immediate employees/adjuncts, which makes enforcement of "section breaks" something of a questionable event.

Speaking personally and quite honestly, I have almost never had a problem sorting out what happens when.  If nothing else, context clues are a big part of that.  (For instance, in "Shutdown," if anyone else is present, it's in the past, because the present is taking place in a hellhole death-zone where the protagonist dies every ten minutes.)  I think it's good to make sure you have a nice long pause between sections (as I have encountered readers who just bull right on through and it takes me a few seconds to detect this and readjust my interpretation), but I feel like tones or chimes would be distracting at best.



Max e^{i pi}

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Reply #2 on: December 31, 2012, 08:22:34 AM
Speaking personally and quite honestly, I have almost never had a problem sorting out what happens when.  If nothing else, context clues are a big part of that.  (For instance, in "Shutdown," if anyone else is present, it's in the past, because the present is taking place in a hellhole death-zone where the protagonist dies every ten minutes.)
Except for that last shutdown where I thought maybe she had shutdown, and one of the others had brought her back to the ship and they had revived her in sickbay. A perfectly legitimate interpretation for nearly a full minute. Threw me off more than the first one, which was pretty bad too, since I didn't know what was happening yet.

I think the issue you're going to run into, even if such a policy is implemented, is the fact that the majority of stories are read by someone outside of EA's immediate employees/adjuncts, which makes enforcement of "section breaks" something of a questionable event.

At some point in the production cycle the editors get the audio files? Supposedly someone processes the files in post-production and makes sure that the sound is even, that there are no outside intrusions? At this stage that same someone can simply insert 3 seconds of dead air or a chime or a tone or something.

I think it's good to make sure you have a nice long pause between sections (as I have encountered readers who just bull right on through and it takes me a few seconds to detect this and readjust my interpretation), but I feel like tones or chimes would be distracting at best.

In the radio plays of H2G2 they often use audio cues to help the listener parse the audio input.
One such scene comes to mind, the Book is telling us about the universe. It's pretty much the same thing that appeared on a cereal box.... anyway. The Book is reading bullet points. How does one read bullet points? Each bullet point is preceded by a one second chime. It sounds perfectly natural and not annoying or distracting at all

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Scattercat

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Reply #3 on: December 31, 2012, 06:13:00 PM
Mat already does a lot of work, just weaving the various pieces (intro, outro, feedback) into a coherent file.  Combing the story to insert section breaks would add a lot of time. 

I used tones to separate lines I read for a relatively brief part in a podcast, and that took me almost twenty minutes (four times the length of the sound files themselves), what with scanning for the right section, adding the sound, relistening to make sure it wasn't too much or too little dead space on either side, tweaking and adjusting the various channels to keep everything in alignment.  I'm sure it would get easier with practice, but I just want to make clear that this is not necessarily a small thing you're asking for on top of the other work already involved in a mostly volunteer position.

If this is a widespread problem for most listeners, that would be one thing, but it seems instead to be a vocal minority that has trouble.  (And only with certain stories, which might make it more a function of the readers in question than anything else, c.f. previous comments about the variety of unaffiliated individuals involved.)



matweller

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Reply #4 on: January 02, 2013, 07:02:01 PM
It's not something to which we are oblivious. I almost always pause when I see we have a story with time/scene jumps and wonder how best to handle it. Usually I settle on less interference and just add a longer pause between and I'll gladly admit that I should have done a better job of that with this story.

The problem with tones is finding one that is easily understandable and as broadly applicable as possible and I haven't yet found one I like for that purpose. Plus, our general mandate is to use as few FX as possible in any story.  I assume this is to make it as if you were attending a reading in a bookstore or library or something. There's always the argument of the line between a reading and a production -- How much is too much? When do we start to venture from a reading and venture into a radio play? How much can we do without messing with our release frequency? etc.

Regardless, I agree it should have been handled better in this story and I'll aim to do better in the future. :)

As with everything, everyone can please feel free to contact me directly with concerns and suggestions through an IM here, an email (matweller@gmail.com), though twitter (@mat_weller), or telepathy if you're particularly adept.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #5 on: January 04, 2013, 10:03:42 PM
The first time I read for Pseudopod, back when Ben was editing, he explicitly asked for longer silences between some sections (or maybe even added them in himself, after I submitted the recording), so I think it'd be reasonable for the editors to include that as part of the reading guidelines, especially for new readers.

I think it also behooves readers - new or not - to read the forums and get feedback on their readings. I've learned a lot, doing that myself.

One of the things I've experimented with in a couple of my recordings is to add a very slight 'echo' audio effect to flashbacks to make them sound a little hollow and/or dream-like and differentiate them that way. It's kind of the aural equivalent of using italics or some other change of typeface in print.

This only works in a limited number of situations, though. E.g. not if the section breaks are scene changes in a sequential story. Might have worked with "Shutdown", though.


Note: I'm not suggesting Mat (or anyone else, for that matter) should be doing this with submitted readings. Just that I've done so and haven't been unhappy with it, and that it's a potential option for those who are willing to use the technique in the right situation.

As Scattercat pointed out, this sort of thing - like adding the white noise sound effect to Radio Nowhere - adds a hugely disproportionate amount of time to the editing process, which (for me at least) already takes 2-3 times as long as the original - not finished! - recording.

I don't mind doing it myself, especially when it's for the first time and I can learn a new technique, but it's not necessarily for everyone.

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Scattercat

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Reply #6 on: January 04, 2013, 11:27:28 PM
Indeed.  I think *asking* readers to pause longer between sections is fine (and for all I know, we do that already), but we're inevitably going to get people sending us files in which they neglected to do so for one reason or another, and I don't think manually adding silence/tones/whatever is a sustainable practice.  (At least not for volunteers; if we were paying everyone full wages and had interns and everything like a real radio station, then sure, that could just be someone's job.)  I actually think your "audio italics," Wilson, would have been great in "Shutdown," but deciding to do that sort of thing really has to be in the hands of the reader in question.

As I said, this seems to be an intermittent thing that likely results from stories with lots of breaks paired with a reader who doesn't pause long enough making a problem for a subsection of listeners, and as such, I don't think an overhaul of policy or the addition of an extra processing step would be worth the cost in time and resources.  If we had time and resources to spare...



SF.Fangirl

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Reply #7 on: January 20, 2013, 05:29:35 PM
Speaking personally and quite honestly, I have almost never had a problem sorting out what happens when.  If nothing else, context clues are a big part of that.  (For instance, in "Shutdown," if anyone else is present, it's in the past, because the present is taking place in a hellhole death-zone where the protagonist dies every ten minutes.)
Except for that last shutdown where I thought maybe she had shutdown, and one of the others had brought her back to the ship and they had revived her in sickbay. A perfectly legitimate interpretation for nearly a full minute. Threw me off more than the first one, which was pretty bad too, since I didn't know what was happening yet.</quote>

Precisely.  After the shutdown after the "treehouse" when people people waking her up/reviving her I thought we'd just found out it was all a training exercise and/or the main part of the story was just a vision in her head during her death in the training exercise.  The flashback scenes needed something to help differentiate them from present of the story.

I don't consider myself as part of a vocal minority, but I have said that some audio cue is needed in some stories on several occasions.  Not all stories need anything at all, but some do because audio does not easily allow the listener pause, stop, go back.  (Note: I am almost never just sitting there listening with my mp3 player in hand.  I listen while in the car, working out, cooking, doing chores around the house, and even simply going back a few seconds requires some fumbling.)

OTOH because Escape Pod is so well done, I forget that it does not have a professional, paid staff and I never thought adding a little sound or something would be so difficult as described.  I do really just want a story read to me; I'm not looking for a production.  It would be awesome, though, if EP could come up with something for the stories that need it.  Not all do, but afew could use a extra work to work in audio. 



jwbjerk

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Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 03:50:40 PM
Escape pod is awesome, and it is unreasonable to complain too much about something that is produced to large degree by volunteers, but to chime in, this issue is the biggest complaint i have about escape pod, i.e. the biggest problem to understanding/enjoying stories.  Obviously it is not an issue with most stories, but it isn't exactly rare either.



Wilson Fowlie

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Reply #9 on: January 21, 2013, 05:10:41 PM
I have to say - and I've said so over in its main story thread too - that Mat Weller did an excellent job in this respect with the current story (as I write this), Concussion. While the story itself wasn't a huge favourite, I had no trouble following the many scene changes because of the subtle but effective background sounds that Mat added.

Well done!

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham


childoftyranny

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Reply #10 on: April 11, 2013, 01:28:02 PM
I have to say - and I've said so over in its main story thread too - that Mat Weller did an excellent job in this respect with the current story (as I write this), Concussion. While the story itself wasn't a huge favourite, I had no trouble following the many scene changes because of the subtle but effective background sounds that Mat added.

Well done!

Let me second this, considering where Shutdown takes place I'm not sure what the background effect of a metallic forest would be, so I'm not entirely sure the idea is easily applicable but it worked really well in Concussion(and I'm sure took a good amount of work to find the right volume to keep it from being obnoxious).  Although the first time we got the ship klaxon I had to stop my player to ensure if wasn't some weird sound in my work area, open floor plans can create some pretty odd sound cross-overs, the oddest yet was when a small orchestra was performing on the other side of a wall, mildly distracting...