Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Post-Production

 Alla Bartoshchuk's amazing artwork for Markheim.

This month, Chatterbox will be releasing two diametrically opposite shows. The first, Markheim, is already available for streaming and download from our website. The second, our live performance of The Bremen Town Musicians, will be posted later in the month.

The differences are numerous. One show is dark and serious; one is light and fun. One was recorded in an intimate studio setting; one was recorded live, with audience interaction. And one of them definitely does not feature the song "I'm Just a Honkey-Tonk Donkey."

More to the point of today's post, however, The Bremen Town Musicians will be available within a month of its recording, whereas Markheim was recorded in April of 2010, more than a year ago. Why do some of our shows have extended post-production schedules, while others are turned around almost immediately?

It happens for a lot of reasons. One is the recording technique. Our live shows typically don't get much post-production. Everything has to be carefully set up on the front end, and whatever happens during the performance is generally what ends up on the site. (As a perfectionist, some of the flubs in our live shows drive me crazy. [Especially my own.] But it's also part of those shows' charm.) Because a lot of our live shows are mixed down to stereo as we're recording them -- as opposed to studio shows, where we can keep each performance separated onto its own audio track -- we don't have nearly as many editing options.

Now, to be clear, none of our shows get that much editing in post. We don't assemble our shows, e.g. taking lines from three different takes and cobbling them together. No matter the setting, all of our actors are always in the same room with one another, and the interaction you hear is genuine. Still, studio shows leave much more room for polishing. We'll go back and re-record flubbed lines, for instance, and cut out the flub in post. Not so with a live recording, where again, whatever happens -- happens.

That's one reason some shows take longer than others. Additionally, even after they're finished, shows like Markheim sometimes get held back to make room for shows that need to be posted on a schedule. Our Halloween and Christmas offerings are the most obvious examples. On Halloween night, we present our live performance on WKNO-FM. We like to post the performance to the website within a week or so of Halloween, when people are still in the mood for something scary. We also try to turn our Children's Theatre Festival shows around pretty quickly as well, in order to capitalize on the excitement from those who attended. Shows like Markheim (which is, admittedly, set on Christmas Day) are handy because they can be posted at any time of year.

Finally, we're just darn busy. Our intrepid producers rarely finish recording a show before I'm recruiting them to record another. They also have jobs, lives, and gigs with other theaters. (The nerve!) So, projects sometimes get shelved because there's simply no time to work on them.

Since most of our fans don't know what we've got up our sleeves until it shows up on the site, the people who suffer the most from long post-production times are those involved in the shows. I've repeatedly assured our Markheim cast that there was nothing wrong with the show or their performances; the recording didn't require any major surgery. It just necessarily got put on the back burner as we renovated and opened our studio, presented a couple of live shows, and got caught up in the holidays. In the meantime, everyone got older, and some things changed, like Markheim lead actor Randal Cooper relocating to Nashville.

Part of what makes these recordings so powerful for me is that they're a snapshot of a particular moment in time -- a record of the people we were, and the people we were with. I think the Markheim cast will enjoy re-discovering this show and thinking back to the rehearsal and recording process last year. More poignantly, after the loss of wonderful people like Ralph Hatley and Laurie Cook McIntosh, having all these talents on record seems like an incredible gift.

So there's a little peek behind the curtain at the two shows you'll hear from us this June. Regardless of their differences, I sincerely hope you'll enjoy them both.

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