Between the Lines Studios produces many podcasts on a variety of topics, albeit nearly all Whedon-related. For the podcast-in-production of “Angel Between the Lines”,they’ve created a new department called “Quality Control,” This is a process which has long been used in fabrics in order to test products before public comsumptioon. They basically do what it says on the tin, their job consists of listening to and evaluating scenes from the simple to the complex, until an entire episode has been completed.
QC is an experiment. It is an effort to streamline the production and alleviate some burden, especially from the producers since it falls in them to make sure everything’s perfect before it is released. However, like any human, they aren’t flawless. It happens to everyone, someone posts something only to realise a tiny little mistake has been overlooked. Nobody is perfect, and our eyes and ears play tricks on our minds.
That’s why extra ears become quite helpful. As with any task too big for one, it is divided into small,manageable portions, so as to not overwhelm the workers and so they can rely on each other.
Like in Editing, QC is divided into three categories: basic,intermediate and advanced. They do similar tasks, but the higher levels perform more complex ones. The scenes they listen to are longer, have been more produced, include more people, etc. The choice of the QCers and the levels they work on depends on previous experiences and skills, such as if the person has done voice work in the past, if they’ve edited, or have any podcasting experience. It is also important to see if the person has particular listening abilities. Everyone has their skills and sharper senses. Those whose ears are their strong points, find their skills of great use in podcasting.
The process is fairly simple. After the script has been written and lines voiced and uploaded, there’s some basic editing to basically put scenes together. At this point the first round of QCers come in. They’re all asked to wear headphones because it is easier to concetrate and the sound is better. It’s not a process to be done while paying attention to something else.
While listening to a scene, they should have a questionnaire and the script to answer simple and rather obvious questions such as whether or not all the lines are present and files are correctly named. It’s incredible how many obvious things are overlooked and therefore it is important to check that they are there.
After these questions have been answered, it’s time to move onto other aspects like the voice and the sound. Lines must be clear and at a decent volume. There can’t be distracting noises in the background, and the voice shouldn’t sound muffled or electric, but natural. In higher levels they must also check the state of sfx and the music. A recommendation when listening is that it mustn’t sound cartoonish,because this is a serious piece, not a comedy. Also, usually less is more. Too much sfx or loud music can ruin a moment. They must add to the atmosphere without being distracting.
It is after this questionnaire that the QCers decide if the piece passes or not and write down notes and suggestions for the actors and editors. If the piece doesn’t pass, it is sent back to the editors with notes. They try to see if it can be done a different way or with another take and if it doesn’t work, it is sent back to the actor to re-record.
Each QCer has a certain degree of flexibility regarding approval or rejection of a piece, but they’re also asked to show some lenience towards the scenes. They can’t all be perfect and it is possible to become overzealous and reject good pieces for tiny errors. One can also be too lax and let flawed pieces through. It can all be very subjective, which is why there is a team, since it is a team effort like the entire podcast.
Since it is on an experimental phase, it isn’t strictly defined and is still subject to change. So far it has turned out to be a rather good idea. This people have become a kind of ‘beta-listener’ for podcasts and are set to become an essential part of the BTL machinery.