The decision to do this project was more out of curiosity
than any real desire to create a fan audio production. I had
written a few fan fiction stories, and was toying with the
idea of developing a fan film. Then I decided to give one
of the fan audio dramas a listen. I'd been listening to Nathan
Butler's Chronoradio for a while, and thought it was entertaining.
But I never actually listened to any of the audio dramas.
So, I checked out Second
Strike. Thought it was pretty good, so I listened to a
few others. It's a mixed bag, but I generally enjoyed them.
I then started to get interested in the idea of doing an
audio drama. I realized that I could convert a fan fiction
I had written several years ago, The
Lost Patrol, which was posted over at TheForce.net
and is featured here.
It was a rather simple, short story about a squad of stormtroopers
who are attacked by a tribe of Tuskens.
The chief reason I chose to do this story was because, basically,
the stormtroopers are all clones. And since they were all
clones, I could provide all the voices and it would have a
logic within the story. That simplified the project immensely.
So, I set out to try and understand what made audio dramas
I scoured the web to find old radio shows. I listened to
episodes of The
Shadow, as well as a variety of other programs. Found
some really great stuff, and they really helped me understand
how radio shows were written and performed.
From there, I translated the short story into a audio script.
That didn't take too long, as I pretty much did it all exactly
the same. However, one of the challenges I had was to communicate
everything via dialogue.
One crutch that I think a LOT of audio dramas use is narration.
They tell you what's going on. I really wanted to stay away
from this. From all the research I did — in other words,
all the old radio shows I listened to — they never used
narration. There was never someone there describing the action
to you. The stories were written to use dialogue to the hilt,
and tell the story through the characters.
I felt this was an important edict to adhere to. As such,
I used very, very little narration. I did use it once, but
even then I was disheartened by it. However, I felt it conveyed
an important element of the story, and I couldn't see any
other way of doing it short of having the character talk to
himself, which would have been silly.
I then set out to find the sound which would make up this
audio experiment. I poked around online to find resources,
and was given a tip that there is a way to extract the sound
files from video games. So, I dug some more, found a program
that could do it, and pulled my sounds chiefly from two separate
Star Wars games — Force
Commander and Dark
These sounds were terrific, especially the Force
Commander sounds, which are the ones predominately featured
in the story.
Of course, the sound effects are only part of the story.
You also need people to help you put it together. So, I set
about casting my little tale.
For that, I posted notices over at TheForce.net
and the Galactic
Senate message boards. I was only really casting two roles,
that of Symon
and the narrator. Both made rather brief appearances in the
story. However, my choice for Symon
was important, since I was considering doing a sequel and
he would play a larger role in that production.
My casting didn't go all that well. Very few people responded,
and those who did were largely great but I didn't feel they
were right for this particular project. I'd always figured
that if this audio drama received a good reception, then I
would do the sequels — which I had already written as
fan fiction. And many of the people who "auditioned"
to be a part of The Lost Patrol
were much better suited for specific roles in the follow ups.
Anyway, when I was looking for someone to play Symon,
I actually approached someone. I'd heard Michael
Haspil's voice in another audio production — Anthology:
The Mob — and knew instantly that he was perfect
He has a deep, strong voice which I felt perfectly blended
with the muscular, towering humanoid.
Next came the narrator. I didn't have anything in particular
in mind, but I honestly hadn't considered a woman. Then, Amy
Ferrell mentioned it on the message boards, and I had
to do it. And, of course, I had to cast her. Hands down, Amy
has the most amazing voice in all of fan audio. Sultry,
smooth. She was just perfect.
The last bits of casting here easy. I played the role of
the stormtroopers — including the chief character, Logan
— while my wife played the role of Lynda
(another role which will become more important in the sequel).
With casting complete and sounds gathered, I set out to put
my opus together.
Finding my voice
My first challenge was figuring out what program to use in
order to create my grand audio yarn. I toyed around with Quicktime
Pro, but didn't like the workflow. I also got a piece
of software called, WaveLab.
It wasn't bad, but again, just didn't like the workflow.
You see, I'm a filmmaker. I'm used to working with video
clips on a timeline. That's a process I fine very intuitive.
Looking back, I probably should have given those two programs
more time, but I wanted to work with something I was more
So, I turned to Final
Now, this is a beautiful program. I love everything about
it. And while it's not really meant for audio editing, I liked
working with the timeline and building the audio drama with
blocks instead of cut and pasting audio clips.
I think if I do decide to create a second audio drama, then
I'll most likely use a program better suited for audio. But,
this worked great for my first attempt. My chief concern was
simply to get the project done, and I didn't want to bog myself
down by learning new software.
Anyway, I transferred all the sound files I'd needed onto
the Mac. I also did my voice recording on the Mac. It's built
in microphone performed waaaay better than the crappy mic
I have on my PC. Heck, I'd even gotten a new mic for it, but
there was still a lot of noise. The mic in the Mac delivered
really clean sound. I think there were times I should have
gotten a little closer to it when I was recording, but it
was still really soft, quiet sound that I was really pleased
Anyway, I proceeded to get my dialogue done. Now, this was
a challenge, because I was doing the voice for four different
characters — each of whom were talking to one another.
I wanted it to sound natural, but my chief concern was that
you — the listener — wouldn't get confused as
to who was talking.
So, I read through the script and figured out how to read
the dialogue for each character. For example, with the Sarge,
I made my voice sort of gruff. He was the only character that
I chose to alter my voice a little, because I felt that he
would be the oldest, more seasoned character. As such, his
voice has been roughened from yelling and such in combat.
With the other characters, I simply read each person differently.
was the jovial one, the guy who bucked the norm. TK768
was whiny, while Logan
was very calm and unemotional. I wasn't sure how each voice
would come off, but after I started piecing them together
they did seem like separate individuals. At least, to me.
So, I was satisfied with how they came out. I'm not sure I
did the greatest job with some of my performances, not so
much as a whole but a line reading here and there. Still,
overall, I was pleased.
Once I had all my dialogue recorded, I started putting them
together on the timeline. Once I had a very basic assemblage,
I proceeded to get the recordings done from my actors.
Now, I started this project back in November 2003. I procrastinated
a while before finally getting to my actors. First, I went
I understood that some other audio drama creators recorded
the dialogue themselves so the actor would know how to read
the lines. I didn't want to do this initially, so I simply
sent him an e-mail and described how the lines should be read.
Basically, I didn't want to tell the actor how to read them,
but give him a sense of the character and what I was looking
for. However, when I got the recorded lines back — aside
from the fact that he had a cold and sounded stuffy —
it was all wrong. Not bad, just not what I wanted. It was
too angry, and while I wanted anger, I needed it to be subtler.
So, I procrastinated again and went back to working on the
At this point, I began working at getting the sound effects
set in. I wanted to take care of the opening scene. There,
I'd experiment with sound, footsteps, background sound.
I layered in the Tatooine wind, which was going to be the
only constant throughout the entire drama. I then had to play
with the dialogue in order to get that unique stormtrooper
sound. I had several clips of stormtrooper dialogue, all of
which included the clicks at the beginning and end of every
stormtrooper line. I trimmed those off and added them to each
line of dialogue that required it.
Then, I had to make adjustments to the dialogue itself to
make it sound metallic and filtered. I looked online for a
solution, and found it. Basically, it's the same trick one
would use to make a person sound as if his voice is coming
through a telephone. For the most part, you just lower the
bass, and your done. I'd explain in more detail, but the audio
filters are elaborate with Final
Cut Pro and don't really carry over well into other programs.
The first time I did a few lines, and played it back, I got
excited. It sounded great! I was very pleased with the outcome,
and this was the first bit of sound manipulation that actually
My next challenge was a speeder arriving and hovering. The
hovering part was relatively simple, as I had a plethora of
hover sounds. However, the speeder sound was very hard to
come by. Then, when I finally did get it — courtesy
Butler — it's just a flyby. I tried several times
to manipulate the sound in order to make it work in the context
of what I needed, but to no avail. The sound always became
distorted. So, I elected to leave it alone.
Does it sound great? Not really. But it worked for what I
needed it to do — alert the audience that a speeder
had approached. I tried not to get too bogged down in these
little elements, because I did the best I could with it. I
had to move on to other challenges.
And there were plenty.
Crash and Burn
Making an effective crash effect is not that simple. For
the most part, these sounds don't necessarily exist. I mean,
in my case I probably could have pulled sound from The
Phantom Menace, where the pod race provides a lot
of crashing sounds. But, the goal here was to create the major
sound effects myself. Besides, that sound would be waaay too
familiar to people, and I didn't want them filled with images
Phantom Menace race.
I struggled a lot with this part. One of the biggest challenges
I had was the explosion. In fact, I ran into this similar
problem with the explosion of the moisture farm a few moments
earlier in the story.
All the explosion sound effects I used were from Force
Commander. There was a wide variety of them, including
weapon impact explosions, small-medium-large vehicle explosions,
and just generic explosions. The problem, however, was that
all these explosions were rather dry. Each begins and ends
rather abruptly, and don't naturally fade away.
Now, I tried to adjust them with a little echo effect and
so forth, but it still didn't sound right. I just couldn't
get the explosions to have that slow drop off that I really
Now, I did manage to get it a little with the initial explosion
of the moisture farm. That's because I inserted the Death
Star explosion, which has a much softer and longer fade out.
I liked this, because it meant I didn't have to alter the
Personally, the less I had to manipulate the sound the better.
Every manipulation I tried often ruined the effect. As I mentioned
earlier, I created this audio drama with Final
Cut Pro, a digital video editing program that I love using
but isn't optimized for working effectively with audio. I
think the latest version (Final
Cut Pro 4) has a new audio plug in which is supposed to
be great, but I have Final
Cut Pro 3.
Anyway, when I began work on the speeder crash, I tried a
lot of different things to manipulate the sound to give the
effect that the speeder was having mechanical problems. I
think the crash sequence in another audio drama, Rise
of Nobility, is a great example of a crash sequence. However,
the difference between that crash and mine was that it was
a ship flying high above the ground. Mine was a speeder, which
glides only a few feet over the surface. So, I couldn't build
up the crash by raising the pitch of the engines. The problem
wasn't that they were plummeting to the ground, but instead
that they couldn't control the speeder and they were in danger
of crashing into the canyon walls and large boulders.
So, I figured there was one important element to the crash
that was a requirement. Without it, the whole shebang just
The crash had to be short!
Make it too long, and it's just not going to work. Make it
quick, and maybe people will get caught up in the characters
desperate attempt to regain control of the speeder that they'll
forgive the bad sound effects.
Anyway, I had written only a few lines of frantic yelling
and orders, so the time between the sound of the initial surprising
gunshot to the actual crash is pretty brief.
While the crash was something that I just wanted to get done
and over with so I could move on with the story, the bit of
dialogue that follows it is by far my favorite moment in the
audio drama. It's just a very simple tidbit, with TK544
— a.k.a. Logan
— recovering from the crash and trying to see if anyone
else is alive. Those three short lines, with the sound of
the Tatooine wind and the filtered effect of his helmet communicator
are, I think, the highlight of the whole project.
I loved it so much, in fact, I wished I'd done it earlier,
because it would have made a great addition to the trailer.
Did I mentioned that I made a trailer? I may not have.
It was around this time I realized this project was taking
waaay too long to make. There were times I just dragged my
feet, other times work got in the way. But, I was getting
questioned often about how I was progressing and knew I had
to get my butt in gear.
It then occurred to me that I could create a trailer, which
would be a simple thing to do, so I could satisfy some people
who were looking forward to hearing the project, and possibly
buy me some time to get it finished.
So, I threw the trailer together in about a half hour. I
wasn't really concerned with explaining the story —
which isn't really that complicated — I simply wanted
to give people an idea of what to expect.
Lots of action, lots of gunfire, lots of angry Tuskens.
Creating the trailer was pretty fun, chiefly because it was
quick and easy. It also gave me an opportunity to utilize
one of my favorite pieces of music by Ennio Marricone —
which I also used at the end of The
Lost Patrol. But, doing the trailer also helped
me with the next complicated part of the project:
The gunfight scene between the stormtroopers and the Tuskens.
Your Bantha or Your Life
Developing the gunfight was probably the one thing about
this project that really had me excited. I wanted to get through
all the other junk just to do the gunfight. Tusken projectile
rifles, stormtrooper blasters. Zipping right to left, left
to right. Cool stuff.
The first challenge I had was to make sure the gunfight was
cool, but at the same time the audience would still here the
limited about of dialogue. But, this proved easier than I
initially thought, because basically the Tuskens were going
to be pretty far off to begin with so I could keep their gunfire
pretty low at first — which is where most of the dialogue
is spoken. Important dialogue, anyway.
The funny thing is, the Tusken gunfire was probably the very
first major complaint I received regarding the story. Not
during the audio production, but at the time I had written
the original fan fiction it was based upon.
When I wrote the fan fiction, I detailed the Tusken guns
as using projectiles — unlike the blasters commonly
seen in Star
Wars. I received a complaint from one of the "proofreaders"
who volunteer with TheForce.net
who disagreed with my logic. He didn't believe that the Tuskens
used projectile weapons.
Now, I actually didn't look it up. I simply based this off
The Phantom Menace, when the Tuskens were taking
popshots at the pod racers. Seemed pretty clear to me that
they were using projectile weapons, since the bullets were
bouncing off the racers. Well, when he challenged me, I immediately
went over to the official site and looked it up.
And they do in fact use projectile weapons.
Anyway, with that little rant over, I got the projectile
weapon sound for the Tusken weapons from Force
Commander. Doing the Tusken stuff was pretty simple, because
there was only one basic sound to choose from. The fun really
came into the Tusken grunts and groans.
I had about 17 different sounds to choose from, which was
fun. They were all very different, and I just played around
with different combinations. At times, I actually tried to
work it that they were having conversations, calling out orders
to one another. One voice I actually kept separate, as he
is the leader and has the harsher, louder barks.
I mixed the gunfire and Tusken "dialogue" in a
separate file. I knew how long I needed it to be, so I just
put it all together and outputted it as a .wav file. Then
brought it into the overall mix, which made it easier to control
the sound and pan levels.
The final challenge was again helped by the creation of the
trailer. I wanted to let the gunfire drip away, leaving only
the intermittent sound of approaching Tuskens as TK768
lay dying and awaiting their fate. I brought the Tuskens back
slowly, and had it build up. I wanted to have it that the
leader Tusken was attacking for hand to hand combat.
This point was also the first use of music in the project.
I intentionally didn't want to use much music, and while I
originally considered using Star
Wars music, I eventually nixed the idea. Basically
because it was just too darn recognizable.
It wouldn't have mattered what I chose to use, it would have
immediately brought forth images of A
New Hope, or Return
of the Jedi, or whatever. I just didn't want that.
So, I elected to use music that I'm sure few people would
The last bit of editing came with the dialogue between Lynda
This was fun, because it's the only portion of the entire
audio drama that I'm not in. Sure, I have two lines, but it
finally introduced two other actors. I really appreciated
this, because at that point I was pretty tired of hearing
my own voice.
Then, another piece of music — again something that
came from my creation of the trailer — and I were done.
I'd completed my first Star
Wars audio drama. Woohoo!
Well, almost done. I still had to output my opus.
Well, the work was done. The voices laid in. The music placed
over. The sound mixed.
The project was complete.
Now, I just had to output it so people could listen to my
masterpiece. Not a problem. I just created the whole thing
Cut Pro and somehow had to get it onto my PC so it could
be encoded as an MP3 and uploaded onto my website.
This is a pretty simple hurdle to leap. I have made attempts
to get my iMac and PC to communicate like good friends for
quite some time. It's been difficult, however. To be honest,
they just don't like one another. I've opened them up, taught
them how to share, even made them go to Starbucks together
and talk it over with a nice, hot latte.
So, I use an FTP program called WS_FTP.
It's a very basic piece of software. I use the free version,
and it does enable me to get files back and forth between
my PC and iMac.
Cut Pro, I outputted by audio opus into a .wav format.
This ensured that I didn't go and lose any audio quality.
I then used by FTP software, pulled the file over to my PC,
then loaded into WaveLab.
is a sweet piece of software. I probably could have utilized
it more when I was doing this project, but unfortunately I
found it a little cumbersome. I figured I'd be better off
working with my trusty FCP.
Perhaps I was wrong, but this didn't stop me from using the
software to convert my large .wav file into a streamlined
.mp3 — FCP
does not work well with that format.
I had some trouble with this initially. The first time the
file couldn't be played with the Windows Media Player. It
was an odd problem, but I suppose it was just a general glitch
more than anything else because when I outputted it the second
time it came out fine. I was really impressed with the quality
of the MP3. While the file size proved dramatically lower,
the sound quality was still great.
Gotta love modern technology.
The End of the Beginning
Well, it's been almost a month and a half since this project
was completed. Looking back on it now I suppose there are
a few things I would have done differently. But, I really
enjoyed making it. It was fun, challenging, and the most elaborate
fan project I've ever been involved with.
What did I get out of it? A better understanding of sound,
for one thing. Over the past few years, I've gotten a bit
of an education on the importance of sound. From different
film projects that I've been a part of, as well as the failing
of my own ears. This project really helped me understand how
important sound is. How it can affect the way in which people
form images in their head. It's such a powerful tool, one
I don't think I completely respected before creating this
I've always loved telling stories. It's one of the defining
factors of who I am. And I am grateful that I created this
audio drama because it fueled and developed that love in more
ways than I expected.
I'll also be honest in that I felt a certain disappointment
when the audio drama wasn't met with as much... enthusiasm...
as I had initially imagined. Not that I expected people to
be crashing my website in an effort to download the file.
But, I kind of thought I would get a reaction. At least more
than I did.
The arrival of The Lost Patrol
was greeted mostly with silence. I got a good batch of downloads
in the first few days, but it dwindled fast. The threads on
Senate and TheForce.net,
and even my own message
board, were pretty quiet. Sure, a few things were posted,
but not much. I did get a few e-mails and comments outside
those venues which were favorable. I think in general people
liked it. But, I don't know, perhaps I was overestimating
the response. I just expected more feedback.
It wasn't that I was expecting a flood of compliments, or
a torrential downpour of "you suck!". Just something.
Ah well. More audio dramas will be coming out soon, and I
look forward to hearing what everyone else will come up with.
I'm still mulling over the idea of continuing the adventures
I may, but just haven't settled in on the decision to go ahead
with the project or not.
When I posted my audio drama online, I fitted it with a special
tracking program to keep tabs on how many people have downloaded
it. As of today - 5/14/03 - the file has been downloaded 78
times since being posted on 4/1/04. (The trailer has been
downloaded 61 times since 2/5/04.)
Is this a lot? I haven't a clue. But, I want to thank all
of you who have downloaded it and listened. I hope you enjoyed
the tale as much as I enjoyed making it.