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Confessions of an accidental shipper
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Below are the 3 most recent journal entries recorded in tahwail's LiveJournal:

Saturday, July 11th, 2009
11:52 pm
You wait 2 years for a great episode of Torchwood, and then 5 come along at once.

I sometimes think that Sci Fi fandom is more similar to sports fandom than you'd imagine. Why otherwise did I carry on giving Torchwood "just one more chance" despite the first season angering me so much with its poor writing, uninspired acting, badly thought out plots, and unconvincing deus-ex-machina resolutions.

I gave up just before Random Shoes (and didn't watch that episode till a year or so later, despite rumours that it was less crap than previous episodes) but for some reason picked up again for season 2. After a promising opener in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it proceeded in an acceptable mediocre way, with occasional "good" episodes like Reset, and a typically stupid finale.

So you'll forgive me for being unconvinced by the rumours that the miniseries Children of Earth was actually going to be good. After all, in the meantime RTD had already proved that when given the chance to write a long and epic finale, the execrable Jo****y's End, he is capable of churning out a bucket of self-indulgent, badly thought out, rubbish. (My reaction to this also backs up my sports-fan analogy - I spent the next two weeks thoroughly depressed, as if "my team" had played badly.)

Davies followed his it by the Next Doctor (some good ideas, ultimately a let down, but a fairly inoffensive one) and the Planet of the Dead (just shit).

But the trailers for Torchwood looked good and, um, I'm a Sci Fi fan, and apparently a masochist, so I watched the first part. And it was good. But RTD had written good episodes just before JE - Midnight and Turn Left - better even than Moffatt's disappointing offerings for the season... perhaps he was lulling us into a false sense of security?

Well, Torchwood, Children of Earth was good. It kept up the momentum, it kept up the quality of writing, acting, and direction. It played with complex and challenging ideas, ethical problems, shades of grey.

OK, it's not perfect, but it's just good enough to make you want to suspend disbelief rather than spend your time picking holes in the plot/character motivations. It also doesn't worry about tying up all the plot strands at the end, and that's great. The baddies don't all get their come-uppance, and in fact some of the morally questionable politicians/civil servants are going to do very well out of this.

I'm loving the section of moronic fandom suggesting that the ending should be changed, because killing off some characters made them cry, and the heroes' actions weren't quite noble enough. You could write a version of CoE where nobody got hurt, the villains were all roundly defeated, and a shining Jack on a White Charger showed how morally pure he was before whisking the faithful Ianto off to some romantic retreat. And it would be comforting kitsch, mindless pap for simpletons, the same kind of unchallenging nonsense that the first 2 seasons of the supposedly "adult" show couldn't see past.

I think we got the better deal with the actual program.

So... what's next? Even if Torchwood is never shown again, I think we've won something precious and worthwhile. If you want a swansong, then this is a good one. Otherwise, there are a few options, but here's what I hope will happen:


  • Jack shouldn't come back. He already gave good reasons not to, and it'll mean we can stop focusing on his godlike, anti-Doctorlike, or other semi-mystical properties, and carry on with the gritty human-scaled stuff.
  • I'd like Gwen to carry on, but it might make sense for her to go, and completely reboot the series - she was always the "human" point of view character, and maybe she won't work well as the new boss, for example.
  • I think I'd also rather not have Micky Smith or Martha there. Actually, I think Martha might prefer not to be there, given how her character was so underused for the 2 eps after Reset.
  • New staff could well include Lois, of course, but possibly also Johnson and Dekker: Torchwood is morally ambiguous, so let's have the murdering, conniving baddies there too.
  • I originally thought Alice could join the team. Then I thought it'd be impossible. But actually, having a member (or leader?) of Torchwood who thoroughly hates Jack, could be interesting.
  • What is the point of Torchwood though, as a government agency? We already knew we had UNIT, but now we know that there are other teams - Johnson's and Dekker's who clearly ran rings around them for wet-ops and technological expertised for much of the series. Perhaps Torchwood will have to go underground, and become effectively a terrorist organization.

That's enough speculation. Either way, (and I never thought I'd say this), I'm actually looking forward to hearing about the next season, if it runs.

Also, if I ever meet RTD, I promise I will give him a great big snog for CoE. Just before I punch him in the nose for J*****y's End.

Current Mood: confused

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007
1:44 pm
Recording an audiobook
Perhaps I've been listening to too many Doctor Who audios, the CDs given away on the front of the Radio Times a couple of months ago, David Tennant himself reading The Feast of the Drowned and the Stone Rose, and of course the Big Finish radio series on BBC7, but I suddenly had a yearning to produce my fan novel, Michela's Door as an audiobook.

You might have thought that actually finishing it (I've completed 12 chapters, which is the first of three parts) might have been a higher priority, but apparently not.  I installed Audacity, a free audio editor which has a reputation for being relatively easy to use, yet powerful enough to actually get stuff done - this is ideal, because I don't have any plans to become a sound engineer, I just want to be able to get things done without too much faffing.

After a bit of tweaking, I was able to get something recorded:

  •     the microphone level was set to 0 by default
  •     audio recording was set to mono, which produced a terrible noise
  •     the bit rate was set too low, I reset it to 96000

I did the first demo, mixing in the sound of a mix from Whomix, the Jah  Humphreys Dub Explosion, which I thought would go really well with an audio book.  I asked Tardy, a big Who audio fan for comments, and he agreed that, er, yes, I speak far too fast (this isn't a surprise.  I do.  Always have done).

I followed another suggestion of his, to split the recording into chunks.  This has several advantages: if you need to rerecord one bit, it's far easier, and because you are stopping and starting, it's easier to slow yourself down (I tend to find that the longer I read, the more I forget to slow down.)  I managed to get down from >200 wpm to <190 wpm, still rather fast, but a big improvement.

I then found that my poor old laptop didn't like dealing with all these tracks, if I tried to play the mix the hard disk would start thrashing.  I guessed that the file size (about 780Mb in total) had to be stored in memory all at the same time and it was unhappy.

I started to record again at a lower bitrate: 44100 was too low (it produced distorted recordings), but a rate of 48000 seems to be fine.

Doing little tracks is great, you can work on one at a time: if you substitute, then you have to faff a little getting all the subsequent tracks aligned properly (there is a shortcut in the Project menu to make this a bit easier, though I'm still finding it a bit clumsy).  Also, it's easier to tell how long they are:  I have a spreadsheet open where I calculate my words-per-minute rate.  I'm aiming for 180, but I'll re-record if I get over 185 for any one chunk.

Actually, most chunks have been rerecorded several times.  There might be a click I couldn't get rid of, I might mumble a word, or my mouth might be too dry, or too full of saliva.

I've also found that by reading out loud, I've found lots of tweaks to make to the story text itself: places where I've repeated the same word in quick succession, or where it's impossible to keep the flow with the words I used, or where I realise that a sentence doesn't really make sense the way it's written.  I'd recommend reading your work out loud (ideally recording it so you can hear it back again) even if you're not planning to create an audiobook, just for the additional insight you get into how to improve it.

I've discovered that if you have *too many* audio tracks, the program will thrash to a halt when you try to playback.  I think it's because it has to mix them all together before it can play: given that they are mainly offset in sequence, there are usually no more than 2 tracks that could be playing at any one time, so I'd have hoped that it would optimize this a bit.  But apparently not.  For my reading of chapter 6, which I'd split into about 20 chunks, I went through again, running "Quick Mix" on 2-3 chunks to join them together again.

Another disadvantage of chunks:  when you play them together, you realise that there are differences in the sound quality between them.  Given that I've not been playing with the recording settings in the mean time, this  is probably because of

  •     dryness of mouth, how much I've been talking by that point in the day
  •     how close the microphone (on a flexible arm) ended up to my mouth

I think that there's not much I can do about this now: I don't think that rerecording everything makes sense, after all, if I'm doing it in chunks, how would I know that it wouldn't happen again?  Maybe I'd need more than one version of each chunk and then choose the ones that work best.

I imagine that a trained audio engineer would be able to filter these chunks in some way to minimize the difference in sound quality (or handle the recording so as to minimize these differences).

Audacity by default doesn't know how to export to MP3.  I exported to OGG and then used ffmpeg to convert to MP3, but that was producing quite a low quality file.  I tried exporting to a WAV file (which is lossless) and converting that, but this time the quality was worse, with a strange distorted echo.

In the end, I pointed Audacity at the right libmame libraries, and the export to MP3 is fine, though, annoyingly, it asks for the ID3 tags every time you run the export, rather than remembering them.

Recording an audiobook is not hard, but it takes a little bit of faffing and quite a lot of time.  I think that to produce just under 11 minutes of finished audio it has taken me about 7 hours of recording, editing, rewriting, and assorted faffing.  Obviously, in that time I've learnt a lot about the process, and about how to use Audacity.  From reading some information about professional audio book recording, I believe that a team made of "Voice talent", producer, and sound engineer would take about that many man-hours to do about an hour of recording.  Hopefully I will get the next 10 minutes done slightly quicker...

Current Mood: accomplished
Tuesday, March 27th, 2007
5:48 pm
The obligatory hello post
I saw that a lot of Doctor Who fanfic authors post to LJ, so I thought I'd try it out...

I've been posting a rather long fic at http://www.whofic.com/viewstory.php?sid=9164 since December 2006, and I finally posted the last chapter of Part I.  Comments welcome!

Current Mood: embarrassed
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