Jun 022011

We imagine our visitors are starting to wonder what the heck is going on. Why haven’t we gotten the first Tom Swift audio drama completed and out the door yet? Is the project dead?

Heck no! It’s not dead. In fact, it’s this><close to being done.

We did have a bit of a setback at the beginning of the year, but all-in-all it was a good sort of setback to have: Eric got a new job. Simple as that. The first couple of months involved a lot of travel and training, which were followed by another couple of months with the usual “Oh my gosh I’ll never learn all this stuff” new-job panic. So until just recently, he didn’t have a lot of free time, which left just Mary Jo to do everything relating to Sump Pump Studio.

But things have settled out at the new job now, and we’ve started back to work on getting that last little bit done. All that remains to finish is a handful of sound effects, some incidental music, and the mastering process. We hope you’ll bear with us just a bit longer!

 Posted by at 8:31 pm
Oct 152010

We recently put some audio and video preview clips online, but we’ve been so busy finishing up production on Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle, and preparing for the next two Tom Swift audio dramas, that we forgot to post about the previews!

So belatedly, here you go…

You can find the audio clips here on the SPS site, on The Good Stuff page. The most recent is Sneak Audio Peek #2: Tom’s Encounter in the Rain (Why is it #2, instead of the first or last clip? Well, we’ve been working so hard the past few weeks that we’ve abandoned such trivial concepts as logical order and linearity).

Videos from rehearsals are on our YouTube Channel. The Cow Clip is the sort of thing that happens when you keep actors up way past their bedtimes. But at least we made sure that everyone had warm feet.


 Posted by at 2:24 am
Aug 202010

(Updated August 19, 2010)

We knew this would be a time-consuming task, but even so we underestimated by quite a lot. Part of the reason is that we’re new to this, and so we’re learning the techniques as we go. Part is that we want the end result to be as good as possible. But mostly, it just really does take a long time.

On July 24, I completed the first ‘clipping’ pass, where I took the four recorded microphone tracks and broke them out into tracks for each of the 28 separate characters. Lots of select-copy-paste action, as well as splicing together the best clips from multiple takes.

On August 19, I completed the cleaning pass, in which I removed odd little pops, breath noises, and background sounds. It’s amazing how many of these things you start to hear once your ear is trained. This proved to be extremely detailed and time consuming work…

Act 1 Act 2 Act 3 Act 4
Original recorded length 48 minutes 50 minutes 57 minutes 41 minutes
Time spent on clipping pass 10 hours 10 hours 12 hours 12 hours
Time spent on cleaning pass 25 hours 24 hours 15 hours 10 hours
Length after clipping pass 42 minutes 44 minutes 47 minutes 37 minutes

Yep, the total time editing so far is 118 hours!

A life saver in the cleaning pass was a new tool we added to our arsenal – Izotope RX. This is a pretty amazing piece of software, and well worth the modest price. It lets me remove pops that defy manual clipping and smoothing, restores the cases where a recording went too hot and got clipped, and makes it possible to remove certain kinds of background noises that would have been impossible to fix by hand.


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 Posted by at 12:03 am
Jun 292010

It’s time to clean up the edges of the dialogue; remove paper turning, nose whistling (I’m pointing no fingers), and a few of the little gaffs that are bound to happen. It’s meticulous work, but the process of pulling apart the sound wave like it’s salt water taffy is really cool to see. Cubase, the software, zooms in on the sound wave, allowing for precise tinkering. Instead of hacking away at a whole word, you can zoom in on the exact place where the actor popped his P’s (again, man, not judging).

It starts with the compressed sound wave. One inch contains a lot of information. Every change in pitch and timbre is expressed in a line that rises and dips as it follows our voices.


It looks like something from a movie: Evil’s voice recorded by the savvy computer genius in the lab. An Evil voice that has the tendency to pop his P’s, spiking the meter every time he says “Petroleum”. Check out the sound wave on the right; the section where the wave spikes…


But to eliminate the spike and not take out the whole letter P, Cubase needs to zoom in closer and closer until there is just the sound wave for the word Petroleum, then the syllable Pet, and then the letter P.





Notice Cubase has reduced the sound wave into a line where a section can be removed and the ends fused back together to reconnect the wave. It’s like grafting a plant, or pinching play dough together to make a really long snake that stretches from one end of the table to the other. Kind of. Without all the rolling.


Then the only thing left to do is do it again. And again. And again. Did I write meticulous? I meant tedious. In the nicest possible way. Woe, to suffer for art.

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 Posted by at 2:15 pm
Jun 242010

Studio Sound Treatment

Blink if you want to enter. Cool huh? It’s like a scene from 1001 Arabian Nights: the sumptuous fabrics, the gold fixtures, the dozen intricately hand-woven rugs, and the soft pillows beckoning you to sink into their  lush depths. I can just imagine Scheherazade begging for her life from Shahryar … That is if they lived in a refrigerator box near the dumpster behind the Best Buy.

So this is the recording studio. After a few expensive modification of our basement. Thank goodness it’s summer because we’re using every blanket we own to break up the echo. And almost every extra towel. However, empty linen closet aside (actually it’s more of a cheap cotton closet), what we recorded was pure gold. The actors were awesome! And the sound is great considering the humble surroundings. I think the key for breaking up the sound waves was the Moo slippers in the back.

Now to editing Tom Swift and his Motorcycle. But we’re getting closer and closer. Step by step…

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 Posted by at 9:31 pm
Jun 242010

_MG_5342 color




We have just finished recording

Tom Swift and his Motor-cycle!




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It was fantastic!

The actors all gave amazing performances. Especially considering the long hours! Being that we’re located in the boonies, the trek from the city to country was long, and with everyone’s busy schedule and our desire to have it sound live, like a radio play, we only had a couple days to record. So we pushed deep into the night.



_MG_5340 color


But the story really came to life! As the adaptor of the novel, I know the story inside and out, yet I listened with bated breath, anxious as Tom Swift battled the villains and foiled their evil plot! I was completely enthralled! Now just to tweak and edit, put in sound effects, and compose music. But no pressure.




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 Posted by at 9:22 pm
Apr 122010

phewAnd this is only the beginning.  Tom Swift and his Motor-Cycle has been adapted, on paper at least, and has now been sent to the director for final revisions. Yet true blue fans beware, there have been some subtle changes. Tom is still the earnest young inventor with an intrepid sense of adventure, but I’ve tweaked a few other characters, freshening them up a little bit to better fit in our modern age.

As for the Swifties, there are a few scattered here and there in the narration, but since they were mostly used to describe dialogue, they became annoyingly obvious recaps, clearly reprising the same material, and therefore irritatingly repetitious and vexingly prolix. Or at least I frequently thought so.

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 Posted by at 6:49 pm
Apr 112010

headphones Hooray! The new equipment is in! We’re one step closer to being professionals… Except for that not making money thing.

Regardless, we have the new headphones, headphone amplifier & distributor, and microphones and stands. So the ratio of actors to mics has been reduced. Somewhat. There may be some sharing, but actors are cool about personal space.


stands and mics

 Posted by at 7:39 pm
Apr 112010

I hate my voice, I really do. It’s low and yet still screechy. It hurts my delicate auditory nerves and offends my refined sense of sound.  But who else is going to help test the equipment?

raccooneyes3 The raccoons? Hmmm… A possibility. They are practically roommates. Let them sing for their supper. Those worthless, deadbeat loafers.

But I digress… So far, everything works. I mean there are lights and sounds. Bars move up and down on the screen. A good sign, I think. Now we just have to work on all that, well, other stuff like: sound levels,  tracks, layering, and a bunch of gobbly-gook I don’t understand.

But hey, I’m a writer, not an engineer. I’m giving it all she’s got.

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 Posted by at 5:55 pm