The world has this problem, where all of the stories being told are about heterosexual, white, cis men. I’m not going to get statistical on you, because I’m sure you’ve seen it before. The podcasting community is where you find the people who are changing that.
Radio, and by extension audio fiction, is described by Dr. Guy Starkey as a ‘friend who is telling me what I cannot see’. However, when it comes to making immersive sound design, a different definition is needed. It is not a matter of simply leading a listener by the hand and describing the things he sees, it is to instead to create an accessible version of someone else's reality; someone else’s understanding of the world, one that is immersive, textured and real. Therefore, the description of immersive sound design might be a ‘friend who lets me wear their brain as a hat.’ In this article I will attempt to unpack how I make immersive sound design with my handy dandy step by step guide to turning a brain into a hat.
When one is fortunate enough to attend a banquet, one is given to certain expectations. The meal is to be rich and delicious, well-balanced so that each course does not erase the tastes of the other, but instead enhances them. An amuse-bouche inflames the palate without satiating it, a lighter soup or salad leads into a heavy, meaty main course. And of course, there’s the promise of dessert at the end, one final sweet treat to send you home full and content.
If you were to have talked to me a bit over a year ago and asked me about podcasts, I would have just shrugged and said that one of my friends was really into them and that would have been the extent of my knowledge. I really only thought of podcasts as information streams, since that is what my friend listened to. They were simply an audio medium to learn stuff from.
I started listening to podcasts about five years ago, back when I was a tiny high schooler. I started in the most stereotypical way: listening to Welcome to Night Vale. I quickly fell in love, listening to it with my mom as we painted my room bright purple. I even got to go to one of their live shows (I still have the t-shirt). But I never strayed past Night Vale’s borders. I didn’t really feel the need to.
“A rising tide lifts all ships.”
I have heard this phrase hundreds of times since I have become involved in the audio drama community. It is repeated as we celebrate successes, as we strategize, as we mentor others. But what does it mean and why is the idea behind it so important to so many audio drama creators?
“YOU KNOW WHAT, LET’S MAKE A DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS PODCAST,” I announced, tipsy at a corporate happy hour at the rundown Irish pub, Jack Doyle’s. The job I was working, which gave me two whiskey gingers for my trouble, was a drag, but at least I worked with two guys who loved D&D just as much as I did. And I had a friend who I had roped into another game, so why not? Sure, I had never run a full-fledged campaign before, or never ran my own podcast, or even really knew what I was doing. But it sounded fun and I really wanted to put a Danny-Zuko-style talking gargoyle on a microphone.