So, you want to know what goes on behind an episode of Tuning in to SciFi TV, eh?
For god’s sake, why?!
It’s terribly boring. Honest.
I mean, on Saturday morning, our “people” pick us up and drive us to the studio, where we are entertained by local comedians and musicians while snacking on the finest fresh fruit and brunch foods to be found anywhere on the planet.
Meanwhile, our staff collects all of the information from the week’s genre shows, industry news, and such. We then each have an unpaid intern tell us what was on the air the previous week, as we just don’t have the time to watch any television ourselves. Of course, our production assistant then delivers the scripts directly from the writer’s room, where our team of six have been working since the early hours of the weekend.
Finally, once the entertainers no longer amuse us, we signal for them to be taken away and we stroll into the recording studio to talk about the week in genre TV. When we’re done, we usually go on some group sail on Wendy’s yacht or play some tennis on one of Kevin’s courts while our team of crack audio engineers and editors crank out the show for you to enjoy.
There. Because you asked, that’s what happens every week.
Why would I lie to you?
Oh, okay… here’s what really goes on behind the scenes.
Yeah, that old song and dance. Well, our common show prep consists of us watching television all week and checking the various news feeds and press release sources for information we think you might like to hear. Beyond that, we all have different habits and practices to get prepared for recording day.
Kevin meticulously prepares a show outline document, carefully inserting every news link he finds during the week as he finds them. Wendy and I tend to just add ours right before we record, much to Kevin’s chagrin. Someone, somewhere, at sometime adds in the episode numbers and titles of the shows that were on the week before. Sometimes magical fairies do that part. (Now I am serious. Honest. Would I lie?)
Our show outline document isn’t so much a script as it is just a list of bullet points. We have an introduction section with a few bullet points to discuss at the top of the show. Then we have the Watercooler section, starting off with the Quick Reviews area listing the shows that were on the previous week. Our votes are not recorded there, so we are all genuinely unaware of the votes of others until we hear them on the show. The list of news and information follows with headlines and web links to stories or press releases. It’s up to each person assigned to “lead” a headline to read it and be able to talk about it with the others. And, finally, we have a very brief Back Porch section of the document that just has a bullet line for each show we plan to discuss back there.
We agree on a recording day and time… it’s usually Saturday afternoon, but that can change from time to time. We meet in the virtual world on TeamSpeak (long story) and chat a bit about life, our podcast, technology, Wendy’s new laptop and why we can barely hear her, food, family, Brent’s choice of meal to eat during recording, thus causing odd delays that have to be edited out later… you know, the usual. (Hey! I’m on the West Coast, so Saturday “afternoon” is lunch time for me!)
Then we each start recording software on our end and synchronize those recordings with a mutual mark that the editor (Hi!) can use later to match up and mix the recordings into one audio track. We record the show as you hear it (well, pretty much… if we have a phone call or other screw up, then we fix that in post production editing). When the main show concludes, we keep recording and do our Last Call segment. The whole time we’re recording, a fourth virtual co-host on a separate computer is recording the call for an emergency backup that we rarely (thankfully) have to use.
When we’re all done, Wendy and Kevin save their recordings and upload them to our crew FTP site, where I grab them and mix them into a combined track that’s used to produce the show.
Careful listeners may have noticed that we usually have one host “lead” the show. That’s the person you hear first on the podcast (well, apart from me giving you the dates of the show before the music starts). Even more careful listeners may have detected that we always seem to know whose turn it is to speak. Well, we plan ahead in that regard. The lead host of each episode will make sure that everyone knows when it’s their turn to speak.
And that’s one of the secrets of our show, I believe. When we first started the show, we would often step on each other and not know who should speak next. With more structure to the speaking, we’re able to think about what we will say next and know just when it’s our turn to speak. The system has worked very well for us, given that we are separated by a continent and can’t see the others’ faces or any body language cues.
When our show was created, we all wanted to maintain a non-scripted and free-flowing style. I think we’ve managed to keep that by not scripting what we’re going to say ahead of time and often being genuinely surprised by what our co-hosts are saying. We don’t regularly discuss shows or news ahead of recording, and even when we can’t help ourselves, it usually doesn’t detract from the spontaneous nature of our recording process.
We’re also not a heavily edited show. With the exception of removing some long pauses caused by the remoteness of our recording locations, what you hear on the podcast is almost always exactly what was said when we recorded. The only exceptions, mentioned above, are cases where there’s an external distraction (phone calls, family members) that necessitate a more significant edit.
The result of all of this is a very natural conversation between three genre fans discussing the last week in genre TV. And that’s really what this show is all about.