Chapter 9 was originally The Musical Chapter, it was greatly overhauled in the early chapter re-writes. I have to say that I’m happy for the change – as I’ve mentioned previously I’m rather self-conscious about my lack of singing ability and so having an entire musical chapter was a nightmare for me. I believe it came through in the voice work as well, I think I sounded rather awkward. The original is still listed in the Table of Contents if you’d like to hear it, because I don’t think information should be destroyed just because it’s embarrassing in retrospect. But really, it’s not good.
The one saving grace was that The Ghostbusters Theme was chosen – it’s already fairly ridiculous. On a technical level it was a perfect choice as well. The 80s synthesizer sound made it ideal for vamping (since it was far too short in its original state to fill all the time needed for narration). With large chunks that were identical in sound it was easy enough to cut & splice that even a noob with less than 80 hours of sound editing experience could make it loop endlessly at several points. It helped that I was talking over the music too, which made disguising the cuts easier. It was probably the best possible song to work with. Thank goodness for small mercies.
SPOILER NOTE! This production note contains spoilers for Chapter 7. Do not read it if you haven’t read or listened to Chapter 7 in it’s entirety yet, and you care about that sort of thing.
Seriously, big spoiler.
Before we get to what everyone’s waiting for, I just wanted to say how much I love Harry’s “This Is Why Science Is Awesome” speech. It’s damned inspirational, one of the great pieces of pro-science propaganda. There’s even a short video of it. This is what makes humanity great.
And in stark contrast to that – the rape-threat scene. Obviously this story was never intended for young audiences, but this cemented that into place. It was during this chapter that I decided I had to follow this series to its end. Half of it was Harry’s incredible speech, and half of it is the pure emotional shock of hearing an 11-year-old boy casually say he plans to rape a 10-year-old girl. It had an immediate physical effect on me, and the after-effects lingered for the rest of the day. The fact that it came so out of the blue in such an unexpected setting… it was damned effective.
There are a lot of minor characters in HPMoR, and I generally have a hard time keeping their voices distinct in my mind. Thus, for a few of them I’ve used very exaggerated distinct voices. This helps me remember who sounds like what, helps differentiate the characters when there’s just one person voicing them all, and is a lot more fun for me. (OK, I’ll admit it, the fact that it’s fun for me is probably the main reason I do it) For Ron I chose Keanu Reeves ala Point Break. The somewhat-dim surfer guy that only talked from the back of his throat seemed perfect, and I often start Ron lines with a warm-up of “Woah! Via con dios.” (I have stock phrases for most characters that I repeat when I need to get in-voice)
I find the Platform 9 & 3/4ths ambient sounds very soothing, I could listen to it all day. Unfortunately I’ve lost the links to the original sound files, so I cannot properly credit them. :/ I think the primary track was an outdoor market somewhere in Germany, with the train sounds overlaid.
Originally, this was the first episode that had a voice other than my own.
I tend not to put too much trust in the promises of others. Humans are flakey – they get bored or tired, or something important comes up. Sometimes they die. I knew this would be a long project, and I didn’t want to have to rely on anyone else to complete it. But as I was working on this episode I was talking with my friend Drake Walker, and complaining about my lack of vocal range. There had already been two old men in the previous two weeks, and I didn’t have a third “old man” voice to use for Dumbledore. In retrospect this doesn’t matter – the extras are forgettable and would soon be forgotten. But I didn’t know that yet, and I was frustrated. While I was trying out a new old-man-voice on him, Drake suggested that he voice Dumbledore.
Drake has been my friend since middle school. He knows more about me than anyone else alive, and I trust him more than anyone else I know. In addition to that, he has a good stage presence and a rich voice. So I weighed this for a moment and asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this – it would stretch well over a year and some weeks could require a lot of time in front of the microphone. He jumped at it, and I agreed.
It was one of the best things to happen to the podcast. I still didn’t trust offers from anyone whom I didn’t know in person, but it opened me up to the possibility of collaboration with others. Eventually I opened up enough to accept lines from complete strangers (more on that when we get to the first of those episodes), and even soliciting for voice acting help.
Those who listened to this chapter when it first aired will notice I removed the “Dark Harry Theme”. Most people would recognize it as the T-1000 Theme from Terminator 2 – a low menacing swell, somewhat industrial in sound. While I feel it’s of an appropriate mood, I’m not really sure it’s needed. And it becomes harder and harder to incorporate it as Harry rotates into dark mode in the later chapters. I dropped it later on, so I’m taking it out now as I go along updating these.
This episode contains the first of numerous musical bits. I was terrified by this because I’m well aware of the fact that I can’t sing worth a damn. Fortunately I quickly realized that I could overlay the original music track to mask my own singing. This has saved me (at least partially) on many occasions since then. You’ll also notice Harry’s voice suddenly dips to a very un-11-year-old level when he’s singing. I’m bad enough in my natural tone, I couldn’t possibly carry a tune while pitching my voice high, and so I refused to try. The world’s eardrums are slightly safer as a result.
This episode marked my first created sound effect. I wanted something to punctuate the gold pile spilling, but couldn’t find anything that sounded right. I took a “dropped doubloon” sound and repeated it several times with slight time offsets to get something semi-acceptable. It’s not terribly impressive, but it marked a psychological switch for me – from mouth-piece to becoming actively involved.
One of my favorite parts of this episode was adding the door bell whenever someone crossed Madam Malkin’s shop threshold. It was inspired by the “Life Serial” episode of Buffy, which started almost every loop in the magic shop with the door hitting it’s bells as it was opened. It wasn’t in the original text, I just thought it would be a lot of fun to do. As the podcast progresses I start adding a lot of things to audio episodes just for the simple pleasure of “this will be fun for me.” I dunno if it makes them more enjoyable for the listener, but it certainly makes it a lot easier to get through the hours of post-production work. :)
The door is described as propped open, but I didn’t see why that would stop a magic bell with the magic equivalent of a laser-trip. That’s also why the bell sounds the same every time, and interrupts itself when two people leave in quick succession (well, that and technical limitations).
In the original recording when I did Draco’s voice I put on a sneer to (hopefully) make him sound more like an arrogant prat. This creates a lot of problems whenever you say a word with a strong “fi” sound in it (like “fish”). It comes out kinda whistley and wet (try it). To combat this I eventually morphed into simply pulling my upper lip back tightly, baring my upper teeth in a sort of aggressive grin. I slow down my speech to indicate a calm mastery of the local peasants. All this together makes for a feeling of absolutely predatory ownership. I can’t get into this pose without a feeling of sweet evil joy underlying every sentence. As such, Draco has become one of my favorite characters to voice. :)