Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gallifrey 20

Ooo...Registration for Gallifrey 20 is up and running. Early registration for the low low price of $40.00 is good until May 15.

And they already have confirmed guests, including Time Team favorite Paul Cornell.

We'll definitely be there.

Will you?

Now playing: Ben Taylor - Nothing I Can Do
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Getting More Dangerous By The Second

Well, I took the plunge and opened up a LJ account for the Audio Time Team

For those of you that hang out on LJ a lot this gives you the chance to follow along. All the major posts will be posted there as well, but I hope I'd see our loyal 15 still post here. You guys were our first.

Two Bennys and a Colin

Good afternoon my fine loyal 15. We celebrate our Benny sandwich with the Colin Baker meat with pizza and the latest anniversary beer from Shiner, Shiner 99. Tim enjoys this more than Shiner Black while I'm in the middle regarding this Munich style offering.

We drop The Secret of Cassandra into the player and immediately hear Benny telling people that her friends call her Benny. Which is a good thing since it's a Bernice Summerfield play. Would suck if friends call her Margaret. The joy at seeing the first Adrian Salmon cover is tempered by the sadness that Toby Richards is back doing sound and music design. You might remember we weren't too thrilled with his work on Dragon's Wrath.

Me: I hate it when I get shot out of the water when I fall asleep on my yacht and miss the warship warning me.

Benny whines and moans about probably dying alone and unloved on a deserted island.

Angelie: Shut up.

Me: Well, it's looks like Toby at least passed the ocean portion of sound design school.

Tim: They must've spanked him really hard after Dragon's Wrath.

We get the beginning of a title when Benny wakes up and learns the name of the ship is Cassandra. Benny apparently only drinks gin at certain times of the day as we get a little joke about what a yardarm is. Brennan tries to take control of the ship but gets shot down by the ship.

Angelie: Never try to override the system.

Tim: She (Brennan) is like that guy in the Horror of Fang Rock that caused the ship to ground ashore.

There's a more than pregnant pause as we move scenes to the apparently pivotal eating dinner portion of the audio. For like a minute we hear nothing but sounds of the three of them eating.

Angelie: Gee, there's three of us eating and we don't make that much noise.

All of a sudden the dinner party becomes the missing scene from Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? between Benny teasing Brennan about poisoning the wine and Brennan freaking out like Britney Spears trying to decide if she should go into the courtroom or not.

The sound goes all funny when Brennan talks with her prisoner. I guess it's supposed to show she's in a different part of the ship but it sounds like she's in a metal box and makes it hard to hear the dialogue.

Me: Benny's on sarcastic factor 10 as she recounts all the horribly things going on.

Tim: She likes to do that though. I enjoy when she runs through all the crap that happens to her. I'd do the same but not enough happens to me.

The background music as Colley gives us backstory over plot and the ship being named Cassandra sounds like they're in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe about to see King Friday. Sound design continues to be a bit dodgy as Cassandra helps Benny spring Sheen out of jail.

Me: Um...shouldn't decks of ships have water on them? Isn't that like saying it's cold in an ice hockey rink? Seriously, is that a lawnmower in the background on the ship.

Things go all pear shaped when the guy that Benny rescued turns out to be someone that really doesn't need to be rescued. We all laugh as Colley and Sheen think Benny won't be any problem.

Angelie: Trouble should really be her middle name.

Brennan continues to freak out as Benny tries to get her out of Colley's quarters.

Angelie: It sounds like she's going into labor.

Benny tried to get Brennan to focus on her and not Sheen.

Angelie: See, now Benny's her coach.

The Edward Albee stuff continues as everyone turns out to be various shades of grey. More exposition as we learn about Sheen's true nature and the real reason for Colley helping Sheen. And we get more questionable sound design.

Angelie: Are there seals by the ship?

Tim: Someone is turning a squeaky knob.

We learn that he is a she as we get the real title with Sheen revealing he's Cassandra. Colley talks about how Cassandra couldn't be possible of creating destructive weapons.

Me: Well, she also didn't have a penis before the war started. All I can imagine now is
Tim Curry ala' Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Tim: So, when does Sheen go on Oprah?

Angelie: (singing) I know all there is to know about the crying game.

Cassandra the computer transfers the Cassandra now Sheen construct into her system.

Me: See, this would've been the perfect audio to have
kd Lang sing the theme song.

We're treated to a samba version of the theme as the audio finishes.

Angelie: This would be perfect for
Dancing with the Stars.

Me: Well, this didn't suck like Dragon's Wrath did.

Angelie: No, it didn't. And I stayed awake.

Me: Honestly, the only thing that holds this back is the once again questionable sound design. It's not on the level of Dragon's Wrath, but it's still lacking.

We take a quick break as Tim goes to set his laptop to run a virus scan. Angelie and I both want a karaoke version of Benny's theme. Maybe someone can work on that in time for Gallifrey 20.

After the break we drop in The Marian Conspiracy for the Colin Baker meat portion of this afternoon. We get immediately introduced to Evelyn as she's trying to give a lecture while being interrupted by the Sixth Doctor and his gadget that he can't shut off.

Me: (as the Sixth Doctor) I can't turn it off. It's my microwave.

Evelyn thinks she's got quiet time as she's knitting until The Doctor shows up.

Me: Maybe she's knitting an adipose.

Tim: Only the insufferably English would sing about knitting while they're knitting.

The Doctor takes Evelyn with him to the court of Elizabeth I and she starts to freak out as she's interfering with her ancestor.

Me: Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?

We decide that Dr. Evelyn Smythe, a historian who likes booze, appears to be the main line's answer to Benny, an archaeologist who likes booze.

Tim: But not as sexy. And older. Think Benny but with dentures.

Evelyn strikes out on her own and stumbles upon a pub that's apparently full of ye olde MILF hunters. While Evelyn is getting the locals drunk The Doctor is making his entrance into what he thinks is Elizabeth's court. And finds himself mistaken for an OB/GYN for the supposed Virgin Queen who's knocked up. The episode ends with The Doctor getting ready to deliver Queen Mary's baby and Evelyn about to be killed by the rabble for supposedly supporting the usurper Queen Elizabeth. We take a quick break and talk about our varying opinions on Murray Gold's music for the New Series.

The second episode begins and Evelyn finds that the MILF hunters are also Elizabeth supporters. She heads off to meet the Reverend Thomas and I wonder if he's like John Thomas. The Doctor speaks with Mary.

Tim: I'm disappointed. I thought we were gonna find out that Mary, Queen of Scots escaped and had Elizabeth beheaded. It's just that they showed up early. I'm over complicating the plot in my head.

We listen in on a discussion on the ethics of burning heretics, the main issue being the it's not ethical to burn one if you're the one considered a heretic.

Tim: This may be the best script so far.

Eventually we come upon the sitcom moment as Evelyn teaches the MILF hunters how to make cocoa and shows them her heart pills. Our initial suspicions of Reverend Thomas being a spy is confirmed when he meets with the Frenchy Bishop. The second episode ends with Evelyn going all Marty McFly again.

We take a break to fix my ice cream needs and go to Culver's, a midwestern Dairy Queenesque restaurant that's slowly migrating to Texas. It's not Carvel, but it's good.

Queen Mary's sidekick tried to hook up with The Doctor and we note it would be like Billy Joel and his most recent wife. Evelyn and The Doctor get reunited, just in time for the Frenchy Bishop to accuse them of poisoning the Queen. Apparently Evelyn's got some frilly lacy things in her bag as she won't let the Frenchy Bishop touch them. They outwit Frenchy by letting the Queen take Evelyn's tylenol and then the Queen rewards The Doctor by hooking him up with her sidekick.

Evelyn learns the hard way that you shouldn't open your mouth when you're a historian hanging out in Queen Mary's court.

Me: Guess it wasn't such a good idea.

We all freak out as the third episode ends with Evelyn thinking The Doctor is her ancestor.

Tim: She's way too excited about this.

Before he can protest his role in procreating Evelyn's timeline the two of them get arrested for treason and stuck in the Tower.

Me: Guess this means he won't have time to father Evelyn's ancestor.

Eventually we learn that Evelyn's ancestors are really The Reverend and the Queen's Sidekick.

Me: Ooo....The Queen was cockblocking her.

Tim: At least it's not The Doctor's child.

We learn that it's not so much fun to burn heretics when you're the heretic about to be burned as the MILF hunters contemplate their fate. Then they get rescued by The Doctor and Evelyn. Evelyn collects them and their families like lost puppies and lets The Doctor whisk them away to a Protestant safehaven. Then she thinks of herself as Peabody with her boy Sherman as she insists The Doctor let her continue to travel with him. All ends that ends well as she offers to make him a chocolate cake and he notes that a piece of cake wouldn't go amiss.

Me: Oh, I don't think he's missed a piece of cake in a long time.

Tim: Well, I think it wasn't until the middle of episode three before we started turning to other things. Go Jac Rayner!

Angelie: Is it Benny time again?

Me: Yes.

Angelie: Yes!

Tim's brushing up on his Scrabble skills to one day hope to challenge Lisa at a future Gallifrey and not have the game end with him in the corner crying as we drop The Stone's Lament. We don't have to listen this time to Benny telling people to call her Benny as we push the play button.

Angelie: Now this is what I'm talking about.

I mention this was written by Mike Tucker and we get all excited. Then we notice Toby Richards returning for his third go around at ruining doing sound design. Another first is the introduction of Harry Myers as Adrian Wall, the Kiloran head of construction on the Collection. Toby seems to like the lawnmower background noise as he uses it to show Benny and Adrian are on a spaceship. There's talk of sex and I pause to explain the events of The Squire's Crystal.

Crappy sound design aside Benny gets some alone time with the creepy house owner, Bratheen Traloor, and he shows her his collection.

Me: Of etchings!

He goes on about how he likes to collect beautiful things.

Tim: Like Benny.

Me: So that makes him the Sultan of Brunei?

Things get freaky as Adrian keeps hearing Benny call for him. Benny's not into Furry as she beats the crap out of Adrian when she wakes up to find him looming over her bed.

Angelie: (regarding the rain sound) It's like they're frying bacon.

More bacon is added to the frying pan as we can hardly hear Adrian and Benny talk about what happened the night before.

Tim: I don't know why this reminds me of a PD James novel. Something about being stuck in a mansion with no one around and a rocky beach nearby.

Me: Could the music and sound effects be any more stereotypical for a story involving creepy things happening in a mansion?

Tim: Maybe they're going through the Big Finish back catalog.

Me: There wasn't much of a back catalog at this point.

Tim: I know.

Traloor offers Adrian some coffee and mentions he'll be in the study with Benny.

Tim: Making out with her.

Traloor then asks how long Adrian has known Benny.

Tim: See?

Traloor has a 2001 moment with his house's computer.

Tim: That's like the most mumbly computer I've ever heard.

Benny bemoans her luck of finding men who only think with their knuckles or balls.

Angelie: Yeah!

House then goes all Hal 9000 on Benny and Adrian. Things get super creepy when we get an in-story explanation for Lisa Bowerman voicing House. House starts to moan and the creep factor goes up.

Tim: So when New Order wrote "Bizarre Love Triangle" was it about this?

Traloor tries to convince Benny he's not all that creepy. And fails miserably.

Me: (as Benny) You don't know anything about me. You don't know about my ex-husband who's trapped in another dimension. You don't know about my body having sex with Adrian without me.

Tim: I don't know where Adrian came from but I like him.

Benny tells House what she wants to hear and in doing so pisses off Traloor. Traloor blames his lack of getting Benny into bed on House.

Me: House was the least of the reasons why Benny won't date you.

I can't decide if the change in House's voice is because it's gone hard light hologram or a case of crappy sound design. Creepiness continues as House eventually shows up in a body composed of the bits of Adrian's workers and Traloor's mind merged with hers. The Traloor/House creature says it's love that's caused everything.

Me: I don't think Hallmark makes a card for situations like this.

We all agree with Adrian when he says the conversation Benny is having with Traloor/House isn't going anywhere. Adrian eventually proves that sometimes it's good to think with your knuckles and balls as he managed to destroy Traloor/House.

Me: I liked this story, even if it was a bit too much of Stephen King meeting 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Tim: I enjoyed it for the most part but the dialogue towards the end was a little too much. I think it could've been about ten minutes shorts and I'd have been happy. I guess the reason why the computer was so mumbly in the beginning was to disguise that it was Lisa doing the voice.

Me: I picked up right away that it was Lisa but I just figured that it was for practical reasons as opposed to being story dictated.

I spend a few more minutes filling in Tim and Angelie in the backstory leading up to The Stones Lament, including the plot of The Twilight of the Gods.

Tim: It's ashame that's not an audio. That sounds fun.

Next month will be The Extinction Event and The Skymines of Karthos from the Benny range and The Genocide Machine from the main Who line.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

For The Audiophile In Your Life

Ah, my first post done on my sweet new Toshiba laptop, Joseph. (Yes, I am that pathetic for those of you who are probably right in your thought as to where the name comes from.)

For those of you that won't want to read me nattering on about my love of all things soundwise I will say that the main Team will get together this Sunday to listen to The Marian Conspiracy from the main Who range and from the Benny range we'll be doing The Secret of Cassandra and The Stones Lament. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but you might've noticed a little widget that says "Chat with Daphnekowalski". If I feel adventurous enough and if any of our loyal 15 feel the same I might have my chat client open as we're doing our thing. Think of it as a chance to join the Team in a virtual capacity. Listen along, comment, and if you want I might include your witty comment in the official entry.

With the pimping done now all of you who just want to read me wax poetic about sound design can start reading. If you read the post regarding Dragon's Wrath from the last full Team session you might remember that we were all so horribly traumatized by the sound design in that audio that I said I might pop in Crystal of Cantus since that didn't suck. I followed through with that promise and later on the evening I listened to that one again.

My friends will tell you I'm a bit of an audiophile/audio snob. As background, for me at least the Time Team sessions are a departure from the norm because I normally listen to the audios with headphones. I either use my Sony dynamic stereo model MDR-V600 or Sony dynamic stereo professional model MDR-7506. I own a 20+ year old functioning turntable with the $100+ needle. My jury rigged 5.1 setup in my living room uses Bose bookshelf speakers. I refuse to buy an iPod until I can find an earlier model that will allow me to drop the Rockbox firmware on it, therby allowing me to listen to the various bits in my music library that are in the flac format. When I do burn audio onto one of my two mp3 players I normally do it at 320kbps.

Crystal of Cantus succeeds on every level of sound design that Dragon's Wrath so spectacularly failed on. As was talked about in the entry for Dragon's Wrath the sound editor couldn't even master the basic concept of making sure two people sound like they're having a conversation in the same room. While the story for Cantus is simply put, brilliant, what really brings me back to it is that just about every time I listen to it I hear something new.

And this is where the paragraph where I talk about my toys comes into play. I've listened to that audio on just about every system/option I have that allows me to play a CD. These include the CD player in my old desktop, my JVC DVD player, the Creative ZenV mp3 player, and even the old school Pioneer laserdisc player. (Yeah, I've got that too. Drop me a line if you know a place where I don't have to sell my first born to get some laserdiscs.)

Cantus is so layered and complex that I find a new reason to get all giggly about it the first time I play it in a new player. Especially the moments where you're moving from one scene to another are just an acoustic treasure. At this point you're probably going, "Oh come on, Redo. Any monkey can fade up one sound and fade down another in a scene transition." As a monkey that used to do a bit of audio/sound work when I was in college and right when I first graduated (sound forge) it's not as easy as it sounds. (no pun intended) You have to resist the temptation to fill every empty space with sound. You don't want your background elements to overpower the audio and at the same time you of course want your audience to get some semblance of atmosphere to help place your characters in context with their surroundings. Take a listen to Dragon's Wrath if you think I'm full of it.

What ultimately prompted the desire to do a post like this was that I was listening to Crystal of Cantus on the Creative ZenV using plain jane RCA ear buds. Normally I don't use the ear buds because I've yet to find a pair that don't hurt my ears in a couple of hours, but I thought it would look a bit silly if I had the huge headphones attached to the itty bitty mp3 player. Without spoiling the story itself I get to the point where Benny and Jason get split up. As our heroes are encountering the horror in the hospital ward we subtly shift to the perspective of a character that's watching them via monitors. We're shifting from one character's horror at discovering what's going on and for the first time that I can remember I catch that on the audio side the transition is being by not only changing how the character's voices sound but the character watching is humming a tune that sadistically fits the situation. (Blimey! That might win run-on sentence of the year.)

Again, it's rather subtle and I probably wouldn't have caught it if hadn't already listened to this audio over twenty times. It's indicative about what I love so much about this release from Big Finish though. I thought I had heard all the little audio tidbits that there were to be heard, but I was pleasantly proven wrong. And ultimately that's why this audio always ranks in my top 5 of all time.

Now playing: Ben Taylor - Someday Soon
via FoxyTunes