Saturday, March 11, 2006

Making a Radio Program

Hi everyone. All is well here in Los Angeles (or L-A) as everyone here seems to say.

After Kristin told me about the big award for the foundation's last radio program, I decided I needed to learn a bit more about how Kristin and Rima "mix" a radio program.

On Friday, Kristin helped me understand the process.

First, she and other journalists record sound in the field and interview many people. This is what she and Keith were doing on our trip to Doha and Dubai.

Second, Kristin and others on her team start working on a script. The script is the written version of the radio program. Remember the photo of me with Kristin and her friend David in New York City? That was when David was reading his parts of the script. Kristin and all of the other journalists working on the program also read their portions of the script.

Third, Kristin and the other journalists edit the actual audio that they gathered in the field so it matches the written script. Remember when I was in the foundation's studio in Muscatine a few weeks ago? Kristin was working on editing the script audio. There are many, many pieces of audio that make up a radio program. It is Kristin's job to listen to all of the pieces in Muscatine and then she sends them over the Web to Rima. Kristin also brings all of the pieces of audio...or "bites" with her on a back-up computer. I think this is very smart. That way if something doesn't work on Rima's computer then Kristin should be able to find the audio on her computer.

WOW! Are you confused? I'm not sure I understand all of these steps. But now I know making a radio program is NOT easy.

I was looking at the full show script yesterday and it is VERY long. She calls it the "master script." It is more than 25 pages! And the script Kristin is working with has many different colors and handwritten notes on it. Kristin says this is because sometimes she and Rima have to make changes to the script during the "mix." Kristin sends her notes to Keith and her friends Simon and David every night. THIS is why Kristin always seems to be working every night when we get back to the hotel! Here's what Kristin's "master script" looked like on Friday night. Pretty messy if you ask me!

Once Kristin has done all of the things she needs to do in Iowa, she flies to California to work with Rima. Rima helps Kristin put all of the audio pieces together on the computer in the correct order. Rima uses the same program Kristin does in Muscatine. It is called ProTools. Here you can see me with part of the radio program on Rima's computer.

Kristin says the various pieces of audio are placed onto "tracks." On the computer, each track is a different color. This helps Kristin and Rima stay organized but it sure looks very confusing to me! Kristin and Rima are using several tracks to mix the radio program. Kristin says tracks are like layers of a cake. Each track is separate just like each layer of a big cake is separated with frosting.

Each piece or bite of audio shows up as a rectangle on the tracks. The goal is to connect all of the rectangles together. I told Kristin I think this is like putting my Lego sets together. One piece fits into the next piece. Kristin agreed the mix is similar to building a Lego set.

By the end of the day on Friday, Kristin told me she and Rima had draft versions of roughly 40 minutes of the program. WOW! They must have worked really hard on Wednesday and Thursday while I was playing with Ted and Willa. Tuesday night they had only finished 4 minutes of the program.

When the entire program is done then Rima will put it onto a CD. Kristin then sends the CD to a company that makes many copies of the CD. I hope Kristin will let me have a copy of the final program.

So....that's what I can tell you about making a radio program. I think I am going to have to spend many years in school learning more about radio if I want to have a job like Rima and Kristin.

Oh...I almost forgot. I think I told you Rima helped Kristin with the program that just won the big award. Here you can see me with the CD folder for the winning program, Security Check.

And here you can see me with the "preview" CD folder for the program we are working on now: 24/7: The Rise and Influence of Arab Media.

Kristin says the preview is VERY short sample of the program that is mailed to radio stations so they can get a "taste" of what the final program will sound like. Is it just me or does it seem like that radio people must always be hungry? The words Kristin and Rima use are ones I hear in the kitchen: "bites", "mix", and "taste."

Well all of this is making me hungry so I think I will ask Kristin if we can head to dinner now.

Until next time....