Back to Jaw About Odyssey

Recently AIOHQ allowed fans to submit questions to some of the AIO production engineers, Mark Drury, Dave Arnold, Rob Jorgensen, and Duane Harms.  Here are the answers from Dave, Duane, and Mark.  Rob's answers are coming soon.  Thank you to everyone who submitted questions and to the production engineers, for their prompt answers.

OdysseyFan asks, "Do you guys ever disagree on what sound effect or foley to do for a scene?"

Dave Arnold: Not usually, since each show is post produced by one person. The rest of the team listens to it in a playback time, once the mix is finished. We critique it and the production engineer makes his repairs.  But usually, if a note comes down to, "This is the way I'd do it" instead of "That doesn't work", then we leave it alone. (Good question!)

Duane Harms: Sure.  There is often a certain amount of subjective thinking when it comes to producing a show, so what may sound good to me, may not sound good to another one of the producers who has to approve the show.  Sometimes, too, because I hear each scene over and over again during the course of production, I may "get used to" the way an inappropriate sound effect sounds and it's not until someone else hears it and says, "Hey, that effect really doesn't work here" that I realize that it really does have to be replaced.  I personally have trouble making "walk on" and "walk off" footsteps sound good, so Mark and Dave are always telling me to re-record them! Yuck.

Mark Drury: Since we usually work on shows individually, we rarely disagree on a sound effect in the production process.  However, when we do playback on a show (the first time the whole team hears the finished show) occasionally there may be an effect or foley that people think doesn't work, or is too loud, etc., which will be changed.

Anthony F. Strands asks, "Mark and Dave, Why did you guys leave the show? I mean, Dave, why didn't you stick around and direct more shows?"

Dave Arnold: Well, to be honest, after 12 years of working on Odyssey, I just felt like I needed a new challange. I felt like I'd kind of done everything I could do with Odyssey and needed to try something new and different. Radio Theatre has been that for me.

Mark Drury: I, along with Dave, began working on more and more Radio Theater projects, which took me away from working on Odyssey.  The RT projects were just the next logical step production-wise since they were bigger and challenged us more than Odyssey.  I remained as the Production Manager for Odyssey (overseeing the various facets of production) until just recently when Jonathan Crowe assumed that role for Odyssey.  With Radio Theater premiering as a weekly broadcast in January, I am now the production manager for that.  I still have a great love for Odyssey and will continue to be involved, if not directly.

Anna B. asks, "Which episode did you have the most fun producing?"

Dave Arnold: I enjoyed most of the shows I worked on for different reasons. But I always looked for something different in each show. In a Harlow Doyle show, I tried to imagine what his office would be like, and I came up with a pretty strange looking room in my head. One thing in that show that was fun to create was a clock. I thought he'd have a weird clock in his office, something unusual. So I took a cuckoo clock and made it a cow clock instead. (A cow peeks its head out and moos instead of a cuckoo bird.) Stuff like that makes it fun.

Duane Harms: I developed a "love/hate" relationship with the BTV: Thanks show.  I've always like the BTV shows and it was fun to be able to actually produce one (actually I later did another, "BTV: Forgiveness", too).  Usually we try to make the shows sound very realisitic, but with BTV I loved the freedom to be able to use some very unusual effects that were more on the cartoon side of things.  The reason I ended up hating the show was that it took so much time to produce because all of the unusual stuff in it that by the time I was finished, I was totally sick of it and never wanted to hear it again! (Okay, okay, I've since repented of my ways!)

Mark Drury: That's a hard question...there were so many fun ones!   Probably It's a Pokenberry Christmas was my favorite.  As a take-off of It's a Wonderful Life (one of my favorite movies) it was fun recreating and parodying many of the scenes from the movie.

Anna B. asks, "Who is your favorite AIO Family?"

Dave Arnold: The Rathbones. They're just too funny.

Duane Harms: The Barclay family—especially Jimmy when he got a little older.

Mark Drury: Probably the Barclays, but the Rathbones are awfully fun, too.

Anna B. asks, "What kind of AIO Adventure is your favorite?"

Dave Arnold: I like shows that mix character comedy and drama the best personally.

Mark Drury: I tend to like the shows with really clever dialogue/banter between the characters (Eugene/Bernard or Connie/Eugene) and also the dramatic ones where we learn or care about a character more.

What is the most difficult program that you've worked on?

Dave Arnold: Probably Gone..., because we'd just lost Hal Smith. He was a good friend and that show was a labor of love to him.

Duane Harms: The most difficult program I've worked on was The Tower.  A lot of epic crowd scenes that can be very difficult to make sound realisitic.

Mark Drury: Probably a show called The Fundamentals since it involved going out and getting a lot of specific basketball sound effects.  Since the show was about a basketball camp, I had to go to a local high school and get kids to do various things on the basketball court which I recorded.  It was also difficult because the sound a basketball makes when it bounces is a very sharp peak waveform which can overload the tape in a normal cassette.  I had to go through the show on my Digital Audio Workstation (basically a computer version of a multi-track tape recorder) and lower the level of every basketball bounce in the show so it would record properly on cassette!  If that wasn't bad enough, my workstation was acting up at the time and I lost several days of work at one point.

What is the most difficult sound effect that you've worked?

Dave Arnold: Wow. I don't honestly know. Probably creating the Imagination Station adventure in The Time Has Come.

Duane Harms: The most difficult sound effect...hmmm...probably the effects I used in Hide and Seek during the baptism of Jesus scene.  Water effects are difficult so I had to go to a small river behind my house, set up microphones, wade into the water and actually "baptize" a large rock!  The biggest problem was that a small airplane kept flying overhead and I had to keep waiting for it to leave.   (I don't think there were airplanes in Jesus' day!)

Mark Drury: That's a tough one!  There have been so many where a specific sound effect doesn't exist on a CD or where you can go record it, and have have to "build it" using a combination of existing sounds.  None stick in my mind for an Odyssey show, but there were a couple in the Radio Theater production of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" that were challenging.  The roar of Aslan took several days to create since it needed to be fiercer and longer than a normal lion roar.  I combined a polar bear, grizzly bear, tiger, lion, leopard, elephant and a whale to get the final roar.  The stone table cracking in two when Aslan is resurrection was also a toughy.  I used a lightning bolt, cannon shot, cloth rop, plywood tear and earthquake to get the final result.

What is your favorite AIO humorous episode?

Dave Arnold: Either Family Values or Over the Airwaves ("They called me names and hit me in the head!")

Duane Harms: The one with "Rescue 119" and the Star Trek scenes with the "Expendable Crewman"...what was it called? (Hidden in My Heart)

Mark Drury: Hard to nail one down, but probably a Eugene and Connie or Eugene and Bernard show like Suspicious Minds, Naturally, I Assumed..., Room Mates, or It Happened at Four Corners.

What is your favorite AIO action episode?

Dave Arnold: It Happened at Four Corners. Bob Luttrell worked on that show.

Duane Harms: The whole Regis Blackgaard series

Mark Drury: Either A Name, Not a Number or The Search for Whit.

What is your favorite AIO "serious" episode?

Dave Arnold: I always liked the Eugene/Katrina shows.

Duane Harms: Amazing Grace

Mark Drury: Again, can't name just one.  Connie, The Mortal Coil, Where is Thy Sting?, and The Underground Railroad would be at the top of the list.

How would you compare working on Radio Theater to working on AIO?

Dave Arnold: It's a lot more difficult and time consuming. We work on longer series, so it takes much more time to complete one. But its also very challenging and I'm learning a lot, and meeting and working with some very talented people.

Mark Drury: Very similar, except everything is bigger and more challenging.   Because the shows are longer—many in the 2-3 hour range—they take much more time to produce.  Because we often record the actors using seperate tracks for each person with Radio Theater (as opposed to recording everyone to one mixed track), the editing process is much more time-consuming.  The sound effects are more complex (creating different "worlds" like Narnia), the foley is usually more difficult, and because of the different themes and storylines in the shows, the music is more involved and crucial.  A simplistic comparison would be that Odyssey is more of a weekly TV show, where Radio Theater is more of a feature film.

Have you listened to all the past AIO episodes?"

Duane Harms: No—but I've sure listened to a bunch of them!

How many hours from start to finish do you spend working on a single AIO episode?

Dave Arnold: Between 60 and 120 hours, so 1 1/2 - 3 weeks.

Duane Harms: Hours—obviously that depends on the complexity of the show.   Eighty to 120 hours is not out of the question.

Mark Drury: Approximately 80-100 hours.

What sorts of work were you interested in before you started working on AIO?

Duane Harms: I've always enjoyed behind the scenes stuff which is why I was on the the stage crew in high school and college.  Before that, I was a paperboy, a stockboy at a local drugstore, I worked at a cheese plant and during college I was a DJ at a couple of radio stations.  Now, since my work with Odyssey is done part time on a freelance basis, I stay busy doing my full-time work as a production engineer with the "Money Matters" radio program with Larry Burkett in Gainsville, Georgia.

Mark Drury: I wanted to get into motion pictures or video, in a way that wouldn't compromise my faith.

If you could have one wish for the AIO series, what would it be?

Dave Arnold: That it touches the lives of millions of people for many generations to come.

Duane Harms: That it introduce a new, complete family (Mom, Dad, kids, dog, etc.) that we could get to know and love.

Mark Drury: That it continues on as long as God wants it to, while maintaining a high quality standard.

Rob and Duane, "Had you heard of AIO before you started working there?"

Duane Harms: I had heard of AIO and was vaguely familiar with the main characters but I wasn't intimately familiar with everything about the show (I'm still learning!)

Who is your favorite character?

Dave Arnold: Probably Eugene. He's very clever and has loads of character.

Duane Harms: Bart (but don't tell anyone)

Mark Drury: A tough choice, but if I had to pick one, it would be Connie.

How did you feel about playing the voice of Jesus?

Dave Arnold: Awkward. It's still hard for me to listen to. But it was also an honor. If I had it to do today, I'd do it totally differently.