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A few words about sound

I'm a little bit obsessed with sound.

And not just because I love podcasts. If you've been to any Trap Street shows, you may have noticed that sound design tends to play a pretty big role. The most obvious example is Darkness Comes Alive, our "off-the-grid" audio tour of the Lili Lakich neon art studio. I mean, it was literally an audio tour.

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But Nautapocalypse, our immersive play-in-a-bar about the end of the world, also featured a live radio broadcast and some stylized ad spots for a time travel company (sound-designed by yours truly). And to be honest, my biggest frustration—let's call it a "learning moment"—with Nautapocalypse was the acoustic situation at the Iron Triangle brewery. We'd planned so well, rehearsed so well with our talented actors, only to have the huge echoing cavern of the brewery and some raucous fellows playing cornhole in the corner render half of our lines unhearable.

Obviously, sound is important.

When it came time to produce Season 2 of Cosmic Love earlier this year, I had two options: 1) book a day at a professional sound studio, like I did for Season 1; or 2) set up a sound studio of our own. I chatted with Chad and we decided that Trap Street will definitely keep producing shows with audio elements and maybe even a podcast of our own (more on that later!), so it would be in our best interest to set up a recording space.

Now, when setting up a sound studio, you have to think about two main things. First, you have to block out any unwanted sound from getting in. If you live in a major city like LA, your brain may have learned to tune out all the noise. But there's nothing like trying to record a clean take of audio to remind you just how many sound waves are constantly worming their way into your home: traffic noise, barking dogs, leaf blowers, planes and helicopters. Chad is lucky to live on a quiet street in the Valley, but there's no place in LA that's truly silent.

To mitigate the outdoor noise, we thought about purchasing some "soundproof curtains," but after a little research we realized that our budget wouldn't allow us to purchase anything even resembling true soundproofing. It is a lot easier to block out light than it is to block out sound. So instead, we embarked on a craft project: we picked up some rolls of fiberglass insulation from Home Depot and stuffed it into the windows to block out unwanted sound from outdoors. It was sort of messy, and sort of a pain in the ass, but between that and the natural quiet at Chad's place, we ended up with a pretty good result.

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Second, you have to make sure the sound you want to produce comes out nice and natural. That basically just means enough weird angles and soft stuff in the room to absorb your actors' voices instead of bouncing them into an echo. I sewed a big felt curtain to cover the huge mirror in the room, and we tried to toss as many pillows and blankets and pieces of foam around the place to create an environment where our actors' voices would sound warm, present, and natural.

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I am such a nerd about sound and there's so much more I could say on the subject... this doesn't even touch on our microphones, my editing process (i ❤️ u Adobe Audition), the physics of sound, or our exciting new podcast project! But stay tuned for more nerding out and for news about the upcoming audio adventures from Trap Street.

Amy Thorstenson