Movies For Your Mind: Creating an Audio Drama Soundscape

Stylized image of audio tracks on a computer screen.

In the first episode of our audio drama podcast “The Adventures of Captain Radio,” our heroes step into a noisy bar, exchange ray gun blasts with a couple of disgruntled aliens, and witness the opening of a time portal. If we were making a movie, we’d have to scout locations, build sets, populate these scenes with actors and extras, and invest in costly special effects to do all of that—but in the world of audio storytelling, we instead have to make you believe all of these things are happening using only sound. Here’s how we did it.

Foley Art for Fiction Podcasts

Filmmaking has a long history of using foley artists to add texture and nuance to movies and TV shows through the clever use of sound. Most of the little sounds (rustling leaves, jingling car keys, background chatter in a coffee shop) are not captured on set, but added later, lending realism to the world onscreen.

Sound effects play the same role in a fiction podcast, but they have to carry all the worldbuilding, not just part of it. Sound effects have to do all the work to establish and immerse the listener in the world of the story. Dialogue and music may be the most obvious elements of an audio drama, but it’s the effects and environmental sound design that draw you in. Sounds like footsteps and doors swinging open suggest that our characters are interacting with a larger world and not just floating in a vacuum—they’re an essential tool for audio drama creators.

Anatomy of a Sound Effect

So, let’s break down a couple of the sound effects you hear in “The Adventures of Captain Radio.” As a science fiction show with heavy speculative elements, the design of our soundscapes fall mainly into one of two camps: something familiar and something strange.

For the familiar, the trick is creating a sound your audiences will recognize and can use to anchor the setting. For a scene that required our characters to trudge through a blizzard on an ice moon, I recorded myself making whistling wind noises and looping it so it felt continuous. I tried some classic techniques for mimicking the sound of footsteps in snow, including pressing on a plastic bag full of cornstarch, but it was difficult to make it sound believable. Thankfully, a real life snowstorm came to the rescue and my neighbors got to watch me stomp around in the fresh snow with my recorder. Easy enough.

But getting the background chatter in the bar on Alpha Centauri was a lot more work. To create a realistic environment, I recorded twenty separate tracks of myself mumbling dialogue, shuffling chairs around my dining room, and pouring water into various bottles and glasses. The end result was tedious to assemble, but it made the space our heroes were in feel like a real place. And hopefully, it didn’t call attention to itself, but rather served the needs of the story by fading into the background of the scene.

For sounds in the second camp, the strange and unusual noises like crashing spaceships, howling space whales, and whirling extra-dimensional portals, the task was to find familiar sounds and make them unrecognizable. This is where the tools within my audio editing software, Audacity, came into play. There, I could take recordings of the clothes dryer and a slamming file cabinet drawer and make them sound like a spacecraft hitting a mountain by adding distortions, reverberation, and extra bass to imply something far larger than the real life source. The same process helped transform my puppy’s growls and play barks into the pained vocalizations of a massive interstellar beast.

When it came to making sounds with no analog in the real world, like the portal to the Eleventh Dimension, I had to build it up piece by piece with help from GarageBand instruments (shout-out to church organs and French horns) and many layers of effects, like playing sounds in reverse and adding distortion until it sounded appropriately spacey.

Worldbuilding with Audio

Sound is a powerful storytelling tool. When used correctly and with restraint, it can suggest an entire universe of possibilities and conjure incredible images in the mind of the listener. Our imaginations are so much richer than anything a Hollywood special effects budget could produce.

With nothing more than a microphone and a struck wineglass, I can make you imagine the bells of a hidden monastery. Loose change can become a broken robot. A wet sponge can plunge you into the digestive tract of the mighty leviathan.

So, the next time you put on your headphones to enjoy a fiction podcast, I hope you’ll take a moment to thank the foley artist who brought that world to life — and then I hope you forget all about what’s happening behind the curtain and allow yourself to be swept up by the story.

– Jonny Eberle, writer and co-producer of “The Adventures of Captain Radio.” New episodes coming early 2023.


Don’t forget to vote for “The Adventures of Captain Radio” for the Audio Verse Awards! Voting closes October 30, 2022! Learn more.

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Announcement: Captain Radio Season 2 and the AVAs

We have big news to share about our retrofuturistic science fiction podcast, “The Adventures of Captain Radio.” First, we’re excited to announce that season 2 will be coming in early 2023. We’re polishing off our scripts, rounding out our cast, and will hit the recording booth soon to bring you more adventures with Captain Radio, Andromeda, Ace, and Orion in the distant future.

Second, our show has been nominated for the Audio Verse Awards, which honor the best audio dramas of the past year. Voting for the finalists is now open and we could really use your help. You can vote for “The Adventures of Captain Radio” and help us make it to the next round by going to audioverseawards.net/vote.

The ballot isn’t very mobile-friendly, so you may want to use a desktop or laptop to submit your vote (or you can switch to the desktop view on a mobile device by clicking the “Aa” symbol near the top of the page). On the New Productions category, simply find our show art in the lefthand column and drag it to the right column to rank us as one of your choices. The more shows you rank, the more weight your vote will carry. Voting closes October 30, 2022.

We’re a small, independent production and we couldn’t do it without your support. Thank you for your vote and until next time, keep your eyes on the stars…

Meet the Cast of Captain Radio: Jonny Eberle as Doctor Orban

Every villain thinks they’re the hero of the story, and that’s certainly true of the sinister Doctor Orban, the primary antagonist in season one of “The Adventures of Captain Radio.” Today, we journey to the Throne of Jupiter and come face-to-face with Captain Radio’s most lethal enemy to find out what makes the mad scientist tick.

This week, we’re continuing our series of interviews with the cast and crew of our science fiction audio drama podcast. William McDonald interviews Jonny Eberle about his dual role as the writer/creator of the series and the voice actor playing Doctor Orban. Check out the video to learn about the inspiration behind the show, why Jonny’s always wanted to play a mustache-twirling bad guy, and get a few of the secrets behind the show’s homemade sound effects:

Set in the distant future, “The Adventures of Captain Radio” follows the exploits of the masked hero Captain Radio as he fights the forces of evil. If you like your rocket ships with a side of robots and ray guns, you’ll love this retrofuturistic sci-fi serial. You can find “The Adventures of Captain Radio” wherever you listen to podcasts. Listen to the show now!

Obscure Studios Talks Audio Drama on the Grit City Podcast

This week, you can catch Obscure Studios president Jonny Eberle on The Grit City Podcast! The Grit City Podcast has a simple premise—in every episode, the hosts sit down with Tacoma-based creatives and entrepreneurs over a couple of drinks to learn more about them and their projects.

In this episode, Jonny joins the crew for a hard cider and talks about the inspiration behind the creation of our science fiction audio drama podcast, “The Adventures of Captain Radio,” learning to be his own foley artist, his enduring love for Sherlock Holmes and why he’s drawn to storytelling in the first place, the prospect of artificial intelligence replacing writers, and the good ol’ public domain.

Listen to the episode on The Grit City Podcast website or find the complete conversation below:

“The Adventures of Captain Radio” is a scripted, serialized science fiction audio drama podcast. It’s distributed free through all major podcast players, including Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music; directly via RSS feed; and anywhere fine audio fiction is found. If you like your rocket ships with a side of robots and rayguns, you’ll love this retrofuturistic show. Listen now on obscurestudios.net. You can support the show and help fund future seasons by donating on Ko-Fi or buying merch on TeePublic.

You can learn more about Jonny Eberle and his writing projects outside of Obscure Studios on his personal website: jweberle.com.

Meet the Cast of Captain Radio: DeLano Hays as Ace

It wouldn’t be “The Adventures of Captain Radio” without Ace, our hero’s trusty robotic sidekick who consistently rises above their programming to save the day. As part of our ongoing series of interviews, we’re sitting down with the cast of our sci-fi audio drama podcast. Join us today as we meet DeLano Hays, who provides the voice of Ace. Check out the video below to hear how DeLano took inspiration from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the difficult task of infusing a robot with just the right amount of humanity:

Set in the distant future, “The Adventures of Captain Radio” follows the exploits of the masked hero Captain Radio as he fights the forces of evil. If you like your rocket ships with a side of robots and ray guns, you’ll love this retrofuturistic sci-fi serial. You can find “The Adventures of Captain Radio” wherever you listen to podcasts. Listen to the show now!

Meet the Cast of Captain Radio: William McDonald as Captain Radio

“The Adventures of Captain Radio” is an ensemble story, with every character completing their own arc throughout Season 1, but the glue holding it all together is the lead, Count Xavier of Alpha Centauri—better known to the galaxy as Captain Radio.

This week, we’re continuing our series of interviews with the cast and crew of our science fiction audio drama podcast. Today, writer and director Jonny Eberle chats with voice actor William McDonald, who anchors the podcast with his performance as Captain Radio. Check out the video here to learn about Will’s creative process and the surprising inspiration for the character’s distinctive voice:

Set in the distant future, “The Adventures of Captain Radio” follows the exploits of the masked hero Captain Radio as he fights the forces of evil. If you like your rocket ships with a side of robots and ray guns, you’ll love this retrofuturistic sci-fi serial. You can find “The Adventures of Captain Radio” wherever you listen to podcasts. Listen to the show now!

Binge the Entire First Season of Our Sci-Fi Podcast Now

Is there anything better than settling into the weekend with some quality fiction to binge? Our exciting new science fiction audio drama, The Adventures of Captain Radio, recently wrapped up its explosive first season, and writer Jonny Eberle shared that he’s hard at work on season 2. That makes right now the perfect time to binge the first season, so you can be caught up when the continuing adventures of the heroic Captain Radio return to your podcast feed.

Season one tells a self-contained story over the course of six 20-minute episodes, so you can easily enjoy it in an afternoon. You can listen wherever you enjoy podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music, or right here on our website. We believe in making audio fiction accessible to everyone, so we’ve also made transcripts available for each episode. If you like what you hear, we hope you’ll share it with a friend.

So here’s to canceling plans, ignoring your to-do list, and leaving the chores for another day. Thanks for listening!

New Episode: The Adventures of Captain Radio – Monks of the Dark Adaptation

Brace for impact! Chapter 3 of our podcast, The Adventures of Captain Radio, is now available to stream on your favorite podcast app! Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and more. If you enjoy your rocketships with a side of robots and ray guns, we think you’ll enjoy the show. We’re a small, independent production studio—we’re not part of a large network and we don’t have a huge advertising budget—so if you want to support us, please subscribe and leave us a rating and review. That will help other people discover Captain Radio. You can also buy us a coffee on Ko-Fi. Thanks for listening!

Chapter 3: Monks of the Dark Adaptation

Captain Radio seeks answers from a mysterious order of clerics.

The Adventures of Captain Radio is a production of Obscure Studios written, edited, and produced by Jonny Eberle with production assistance from Will McDonald. Starring Will McDonald, Scott Kennedy, DeLano Hays, Rob Peters, Bailey Cunningham, and special guest Ted Fahy.

First Listen: New Podcast Coming Soon from Obscure Studios

We didn’t set out to make a podcast, but these things happen when you least expect them. What started out as a throwaway gag movie title in a video we made a decade ago found new life in the dark days of the pandemic. Now, over a year after Jonny started writing the first script for Captain Radio and the Mutant Mole People from the Eleventh Dimension, we’re nearly ready to share it with the world.

The Adventures of Captain Radio is set in the distant future. Over the course of a six-episode series, we join Captain Radio, a masked vigilante fighting the forces of evil, his trusty robotic sidekick Ace, and interstellar criminal Orion as they travel across the stars to rescue Andromeda from the clutches of a mad scientist, outwit deadly space sirens, seek the mysteries of a reclusive order of monks, and race to stop a conspiracy to destroy the known universe. The show is fun and campy—and every episode ends with a cliffhanger in the style of the great radio dramas of the 1930s and ’40s.

New episodes will start beaming to your earbuds in early 2022, but you can listen to a trailer for the season right now wherever you enjoy your favorite podcasts. Just search “The Adventures of Captain Radio” in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, and other fine purveyors of audio drama. If you like what you hear, do us a favor and subscribe to the feed. That way, you’ll be notified when the first episode drops. Once we’re in the swing of things, we also hope you’ll leave us a rating and review, and share it with your friends.

This podcast has been a labor of love. In addition to being produced by Jonny Eberle and Will McDonald, our talented main cast includes Will McDonald, Rob Peters, DeLano Hays, Scott Kennedy, Abigail Stokley, Jonny Eberle, and Bailey Cunningham. Tami King designed our gorgeous logo (coming soon to some merch near you), and Bailey Cunningham composed our theme music. We’re so thankful for everyone who’s contributed their time to make this a reality.

Now, without further ado, check out the brand new trailer for our first-ever podcast, The Adventures of Captain Radio: