Tuesday, 3 May 2011

How did you use media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?

Primarily, I first needed somewhere to collate all my work in one spot, so we decided that Blogspot would proficient in doing so as it allows us to blog and arrange all my research and work in one place; using headings to aid structure each section throughout the ancillary and main tasks.
The initial task was to research and begin  forming ideas on our prospective radio drama, we did this through listening to a variety of radio shows via BBC Iplayer. Whilst listening to ‘The Archers’,  ‘Twlight Zone’, ‘Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy’ and ‘War of the Worlds’, I noted down style ideas, themes/topics and codes and conventions. This allowed us to have everything together when it came to our initial ideas for the radio drama. Within class, we discussed our views on radio dramas, our likes and dislikes and even if we listened to them, however the general consensus came back as a negative so this made us think: how can we produce something that will lure in a younger target audience? What kind of themes and narratives will be deemed acceptable and important to a mor contemporary audience? And, what makes the television dramas as alluring as they are today? So I made sure my findings and analysis of the radio dramas were posted on my, with a poster image to act as a visual aid to the text.
Following our preliminary task, we looked into the history of radio, especially using http://www.irdp.co.uk/ for reference, to gain a wider understanding of the task at hand.

We used Soundtrack Pro, to record in the studio, and edit the radio drama afterward. In the beginning we had issues gettin to grips with the studio, making sure all the settings were right and that the equipment was working, but with a little assistance we rectified our mistakes and got on with things. Editing also posed an issue, to begin with, as the program was alien to us and we found editing tediously slow; yet by the end of our second session, I had managed to allocate and play around with enough tools to be able to sufficiently get the job done. We found issue as initially we had exported the radio drama as the wrong kind of file causing the Soundtrack Pro to take most of a session to load it. Within the first scene, we had the problem of not having enough actors to fulfil the minor roles of Jay and Simon and so decided to record as normal and edit the levels later. The process entailed using the blade tool to place the necessary pieces of text on a second track and applying a special effect; the pitchshifter effect found in EQ. I then played around with the effect as to lower the voices enough that they weren't very recognisable, without too much of an over-autotuned effect occuring. Combined with the addition of a background track and smaller sound effects, like the text message tone made from shortening a 'robotic' sound I found, the scene began to sound more professional and of a much higher quality than just students in a radio booth. In the end, I think the scenes themselves were quite simple to edit and quite fun, however between being finished and being exported it appeared that levels were affected and segments stunted, for example our initial final version had a repeated scene of the telephone call between Lara and Susan.

The internet was mainly used, in regards to research radio dramas and their conventions and aid in development, in regards to stylised models for inspiration. For the ancillary tasks' research I used mainly Google, the BBC network site and The Radio Times website. It was especially hard to find the radio drama posters as they appear so few and far between; personally I have used related images to the products, for example the 'Twilight Zone' Image was promotional for the original television series that was based on the radio show. This lead us to base our ideas and planning of the posters based around what we could find and the influences from both TV and film posters.

For both ancillary texts we used Indesign and Photoshop, which wasn't too hard to get to grips with after learning the basics of both previously in AS Media Studies. However with the opportunity given to make a striking poster for our show, one that was dark and rich in narrative, I had more of a chance to play around to get the desired effects and quality of a marketing standard. In Photoshop, I learnt how to use tools such as the smudge tool, spot healer, patch tool and, mainly, the liquify tool. For example for my main image in my feature, I used the spot healer tool to remove blemishes, the patch tool to remove dark under-eye circles and the liquify tool in order to edit and air brush our figures and fix any pose-issues, i.e. squinted eyes/double chins. Images could be argued as the most important part of a feature as it is the first thing, after the headlines, you notice to draw you into reading the feature; this is why I made sure that the images were all saved at 200dpi in order for the optimum clarity and sharpness available. I think Photoshop is an invaluable learnt tool and I believe I have definitely, vastly improved on my skills. In Indesign, to create our posters, to build them up from outlines and text boxes into the final product.My feature was loosely based on numerous articles and interviews I had read before, both online and in print, and so I used my previous knowledge as inspiration and advice, in regards to layout and tone. As we have previously done a feature in AS Media, I was able to build on my previous knowledge of the use of tools and effects and in product layout.

In regards to research and audience feedback, I posted my poster upon Facebook, in hopes of constructive criticism and aid in ideas of improvement. The information I received was mostly positive with some comments on adjustments and improvements, this was greatly accepted and heeded. However, in regards of responses of our ideal target audience, I only had a handful of responses so I think this review may be non-representative of how others may view my poster. This allowed me to objectively see my work, and evalualate it to a higher standard than my own subjective view. We also held a listening party to asses our radio drama. This allowed us a vast amount of qualitative data on the responses to our product, their likes, dislikes and where improvements could be made. This information was highly important due to it being highly constructive and both reassuring that we were doing the right thing, as well as that changes needed to be made.

I think the affect of my combined products are quite strong as I think they all back eachother quite nicely. I used my blog to present my products and all the research and development; it gave me a platform to upload my mindmaps, scripts, screenshots and soundclips, in order to show my progession in the tasks. Having it all in one orderly place allowed me easier access and roaming when it came to my evaluation in a multi-platform layout, allowing the data to be presented more dynamically, organised and structured and made the whole project far more enjoyable.

Monday, 18 April 2011

How did you use media technologies in the construction and research, planning and evaluation stages?


What have you learnt from your audience feedback?

We held a listening party in order to receive feedback and primarily we received very good feedback, averaging out on an overall seven out of ten, based on 26 votes.

The things most liked about the Radio drama, were the use of sound effects and music, the script and the atmosphere created. It appeared within our other comments that our desired effect from our audience was also reciprocated; in a relatable tone the drama was well presented and had a sense of naturalism to it. On the other hand, we also received comments such as the end scene being slightly uncomfortable to listen to; however, I personally perceive this to be a good reaction as the issue of domestic violence is not a pleasant topic to contend with, so this was intended. The use of  language was brought us as an issue, particularly “vindictive whore”,  and whether it should have been cut out or re-written, yet in contrast to contemporary soaps I don’t think we pushed the boundaries enough to require a watershed. Another comment, about the narrative, was that the acting was a bit stiff in places, but unless we were to get in actors this could not be avoided.

In regards to development, one thing predominantly stuck out; somehow during editing we had managed to include a double scene, where Lara calls Susan. This was our major fall back due to it breaking the tension and atmosphere created by the rest of the piece. Also, the levels need adjusting, in order for certain sound effects and sections of dialogue to be clearer.

On the whole we received very constructive criticism and a vast amount of variety when it came to personal opinions; some said it was too dramatic, others not enough drama, more said it was realistic than not and the odd comment was raised about the characters, how they needed to be developed more and how Jonathon appeared too ‘evil’, yet this wasn’t a standalone episode and the character development would have been done in previous episodes.

All issues raised were contended with and seen to in our second round of editing.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

How effective is the combination of your main product and the ancillary texts?

I think the combination of the radio drama and my ancillary texts was very effective and compliment each other very well, as well as the marketing timetable. I managed to keep the tone and approachability throughout in order to reach and address my target audience and this is reflected in my audience feedback.

The aim is for the poster to be pre-released to create a buzz for the storyline, to reflect and represent it yet without giving too much away. The poster could be placed upon billboards, in newspapers and magazines, majority of which are more likely to be women’s magazines due to being our predominant target audience and publications like Radio Times as it is specified towards the intended audience. The advantage of using a poster to publicise our product is that not only will it reach the audience who already listen to radio dramas, or who may be pre-aware of ‘Pembroke Gardens’ or the types of radio dramas on BBC Radio 7, but it will also have the opportunity to entice new audience members. This is especially reflected in having the poster used as a billboard as the audience is no longer niched it accesses a mass audience. The concept of advertising multi-platform allows a sense of versatility and wider audience interaction.

The feature, itself, is more likely to be published in Radio Times than a women’s magazine due to the tone and register of the text and the interview format. The feature interviews the cast on the way in which the product has interacted with society, the press and the audience. It focuses more on how ‘Pembroke Gardens’ tackles and promotes raising awareness of the issues the product contends with. Adding to the media hype of controversy in a positive spin would be very good publicity for the product, as those who will read the feature who are virginal to ‘Pembroke Gardens’ may find themselves intrigued into what all the hype is and become drawn into the storyline, those who follow soaps may find this feature interesting on the basis that it gives insight on the actors behind the characters and for our regular audience it would indulge their curiosities. The secondary aim of the feature is to get to know the cast better as people, away from the characters they portray. I included within the interview that some of the actors had had previous work that they may be known for; this will also draw in an audience who are familiar with that actor or the texts they have previously worked on. Choosing to include the poster will help, to make both the title of the product and also image, the audience to remember the product or allow those who aren’t very aware get interested.

The episode of ‘Pembroke Gardens’ will follow a week after Radio Times, in order to take advantage of the buzz created in this storyline arc allowing audiences to prepare themselves for it by tuning in until our episode plays. We chose to schedule the show at 5.30pm on the weekdays as this will be when people are driving back from work or during evening meal preparation time; they may see the billboard and tune in or have read the feature earlier and decide to tune in, this holds high effect in the ease of access to the product. The issue with language that was raised as to whether the product should be played after watershed or not was minimised due to having a similar use of language on evening television soaps and because of the timing it would be a show that wouldn’t be played with children as the intended audience.

With a steady and cumulative buzz growing in preparation and about our product, we should have a large enough prospective audience for the product to be a hit, ratings wise.

I did some personal research through using Facebook polls for audience feed back, for both individual texts and combined. In regards to my poster, I had a positive consensus, noting how the poster was effective in promoting the storyline, although the models used should have been older. The feature proved to have done well also, those who replied like the layout, said it looked like a real feature and that the text was engaging. Those who didn’t agree, noted on the similarities in photographs and didn’t like the use of the red in the pull-quote.

In what way does you media product use, developer challenge forms and conventions of real media products?

Through our research and development of research ideas we covered many different types of products and the different facets of BBC radio that produces them. This information inspired our ideas and pushed them to a production par. Most of all, the concept of ‘The Archers’ appealed to us most, the idea of a serial drama, the reflection within radio of shows that we are most familiar on the television  and how it is translated to a radio production. We wanted to influence our drama with what we’re most familiar with, to ensure the codes and conventions of drama are met; products like ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Desperate Housewives’, where the location aides define the regularities of the realism and also allows the rupturing of ‘normality’ to bore narrative storylines, give us the guidelines to work from. ‘Eastenders’, like ‘Desperate Housewives’ has a regular setting yet has irregular events in order to be capturing and dramatic.  We also looked at the ways radio dramas are constructed, the use of sound to encapsulate a location and the events going on within it, how to substitute the lack of visual aid to define the mise-en-scene, the ways in which non-diegetic sound create mood and the lack of any sound creates suspense.

As sound is our only medium, we must pay closer attention to its use. In order to construct a setting, we must fill every void within it to ensure that the location is set and our characters are exposed, we must think outside the box; for example, if we are to set a scene in a cafĂ© in Edinburgh, not only must ensure the relative sound effects are used, quiet background chatter, clanking of spoons, perhaps a coffee machine in the background, however to maintain the location we may introduce a minor character, like a waitress, with the accent and perhaps the major characters if they’re native will have the accents too. In ‘The Twilight Zone’ the episode we listened to was set upon a submarine, so throughout there was an intermittent creaking from the pressure of the water against the hull of the ship, because of this the illusion of being upon the boat was maintained.  In our radio drama, we tried to maintain this kind of level of attention to detail, for example in the second scene when Gary enters the Windsor household; we have added footsteps on a wooden floor, a slight echo to his voice and some soft background music for effect. This gave the effect of a larger, older, more classic style London town house which, in turn, connotes wealth; this then further explains the character and gives us further implied information on them.

Every detail counts in maintaining the surroundings, and we must maintain clarity in what is going on. From the action of picking up the phone to popping open a bottle of pills, we realised how many individual sounds were needed to sustain the narrative. This posed a couple of issues whilst writing the script, eluding to re-writing sections to fit radio and not to fit television; during the creation and coming together of the narrative we all planned through and envisioned how things would work out and that was the problem, we had planned out all these ideas and scenes only to realise that they wouldn’t translate to radio very well. For example, at one point the murder weapon was going to be a knife instead of a gun, yet we realised the only real way to signify a knife on air would be through the script and, for the kind of scene we were planning, that would only slow the pace of the scene.

The use of background music aides to set the mood and atmosphere; although ‘The Archers’ didn’t use background music, the episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ did, and successfully too, in order to procure the sense that the character really was going a bit crazy. Within our radio drama, we chose our music carefully; we decided that the music for this episode should have a darker edge to it, for example the backing music ‘Beautiful Tension’, we chose this to be Jonathon’s theme track for it too was dark and misleading, appearing initially to be relaxed and then building into a crescendo.

As much as the use of sound is vital, so is the lack of it. Within ‘War Of The Worlds’ silence was used for tension and suspense, to aid the sense of fear and forlorn. Within Pembroke Gardens, we used the silence to transition between scenes, to use silence as nothingness, and at the end of the drama after Lara is shot, for shock factor and surprise especially as there was a build up with the music before as well.

[clip of Waroftheworlds]

Our characters help define the narrative. Having characters of varying social background within our radio drama advocated special attention directed to accents; generalisation is necessary when it comes to certain media products and much like the old Ealing studio films, it is sometimes necessary to have a clear indication of who the characters are, based on their accent. Within ‘Pembroke Gardens’ this is quite clear, Gary’s friends are quite clearly of a lower class to that of Jonathon, Lara and Susan; the accent differences highlight this but not as much as the sociolect that really emphasizes the difference in socio-economic background. Jay says in the opening lines that he “got bang-bang from a proper milf, last night”, this denotes his sense of class due to the use of slang and simplified lexis and imperfect English denoting C2DE background. Jonathon for example, appears to be ‘clearly’ educated, he uses polysyllabic lexis and has a good control over his vocabulary and more of an AB background, for example “You’re detestful, and the only reason I took you, was out of pity”.

The storyline makes it. We very much like the concept of a serial drama, inspired by ‘The Archers’ with a polylateral narrative in order to be able to focus on several plots at once whilst being able to treat each episode individually. Like with many soaps we deal with many ‘issues’, such as affairs, secrets, cover-ups and, originally, a whodunit narrative. Our major storyline arc came to an end within the episode we made, Lara’s affair with Gary, yet, like a classic serial drama, the twist in the storyline opened up another storyline arc, Jonathon killing Gary and pushing his wife over the edge and the kind of repercussions that will bring. Having an ongoing abusive relationship narrative was quite important; it allows a sense of illuminating the issue to a wider audience and to raise awareness, to let those who can relate to the story (Uses and Gratification;Bulmer and Katz) that they are not alone. We also paid close attention to the pacing of text and also the character involvement as to not confuse or bore the listener.

Advertisement Poster
Although it was difficult to find other examples of radio drama posters; the majority I came across were either of cast shots or of character based situational shots and from this I began looking at these conventions to shape and form my poster. The cast shot I aimed for was to show the audience what the characters looked like and also to back the storyline. It shows how Jonathon is controlling and obsessive, Lara’s need for escape, Susan’s helplessness in her want to help Lara and the authority figure that represents the police, on the edge as a hint of what’s to come. This adheres to codes and conventions of product advertisement, referencing film posters that hint at the story behind the protagonist or that of cast shots.
I think I have used a shot that really has a narrative and says a lot, this, combined with cast names, a tag line and branding, I aimed to replicate that of more traditional advertisement. In order to replicate ideas of creating a tone to the piece I kept my fonts classic and differing my logo and tagline, which appeared highlighted in contrast and more fitting to the tone of the product.

My feature reflected my research made in preparation and thus conforms to the conventions of written features. My layout and use of images is something that is widely used across the board, yet I refrained from using too many, in order not to drown the readers attention. I subscribed to the three columns a page, convention of print and by using a drop capital and removing hyphenation to promote a higher sense of formality and professionalism. The title sustains traditional conventions also by being loud and drawing in attention, being inclusive in text and an interesting tone of interview.

Change of BBC Radio 7 to BBC Radio 4 extra

In April 2011, BBC Radio 7 was re-branded to 'BBC Radio 4 extra' in order to make the station appear more family friendly. After researching their audience, "it emerged that the average age of [our] listeners is 48, which means our target audience is towards the Radio 7 audience correctly defined. Originally the radio station had too many childrens programmes when the average audience is 48, so they could incorperate our radio drama into BBC Radio 4 Extra as they are aiming for more comedy drama so they have changed the stations licience to commit to those changes."

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Magazine Feature


Radio Times appear to focus more on the products they are featuring and the behind the scenes, as well as  any issues that product may produce, than about the cast itself, as is reflected in the examples above. Publications, like Radio Times, have more interactive approach to their features, filled with images and breaks in the text to make it more approachable. They usually use small and semi-standardised text, similar to that of new papers, like the use of  pull-quotes to draw you into reading the feature and drop letters to add to formality. Other codes and conventions include the standardised usage of two or three columns per page of text, having the introductory paragraph in larger/bolder font than the rest of the feature and having the title of the publication and the date at the bottom of every page.

Rough Layouts

First of all I mocked up my layout on Indesign. Looking through the images from the shoot we did, I decided to settle on a cast shot that would contrast my poster, that would show us as actors, not as characters. The image itself needed a bit of a tidy up and edit; after patching, blemish removing and evening out skin tones, I then liquified the image and began editing via the forward warp, pucker and bloat tools; below you can see the differences.

I then placed the images in the appropriate places, ensuring that the content was fitted proportionally, the placing of the poster had me playing around with the size of the image until it fit correctly.

The next part I worked on was the title, 'Everyone's talking about Pembroke Gardens, Radio 7's hit new drama', I decided to use the term "Everyone is talking about" as that is inclusive and also an implicative and suggestive way to drum up more hype. I also added 'Radio Times Exclusive' in a bright box in the top left corner to highlight and show the importance, via a rectangle tooled box and a red swatch. I decided that I wanted to have a pull-quote beneath the introduction, this will pull the audience in further; originally I decided to create a fresh swatch of a less vibrant red, but this was changed later.

Finally with the majority of the layout sorted, with some tweaking, I added my feature in 'Helvetica' font, ensuring that the introductory segment was in bold. I made sure that the interview section of my feature was defined, introductory of who was involved followed by the interviewers questions in bold and that the hyphenation was turned off.

The feature itself was an interview with the cast about the radio drama and their attitudes towards it and the press reaction. This keeps in the tone with the kind of features Radio Times write, they take a subjective view on the product, looking at it's multi-facets instead of looking at it objectively and talking about it.

Final Version

Running date and details
Published in the 7-14th of March edition of Radio Times.\

Adjusted Version