The audio drama “moon graffiti’ by The Truth Podcast
Is a story about what might have happened if the first moon landing was unsuccessful and, Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin died on the moon. It’s a really well done audio drama that is gripping and makes full use of the format. Aside from the writing and acting being excellently executed, there were several audio techniques done that really enhanced the experience.
It starts with the cold open of the the crash, then at 1:14 right after the sound of the crash is heard it cuts to the first part of Nixon’s speech about the crash. The audio for Nixon and the astronauts sounds notably different, the astronauts have the crunchy garbled radio static over their voices, Nixon’s voice doesn’t have that, but it sounds like it was recorded in a room where he was a bit further from the mic. This creates immersion because it resembles how the audio would likely sound if this was a real recording, and makes the audience have to stretch their suspension of disbelief that far to be able to feel like this is real. Background noise of beeps and what not can be heard under the astronauts voices like they are actually in a spaceship.
At 1:42 the intro explaining what’s happening plays giving us the context we need to understand what’s happening after we’ve become engaged from the cold open. There is spooky atmosphere music playing behind the introduction to get the viewer into the mood the piece wants them to be in. At 2:44 the whit noise from the astronaut’s radios begins playing behind the end of the intro right before the drama starts back up making the transition between the two smoother.
At 3:30 there is a click as the astronauts go to put on their helmets its a diegetic sound (meaning its a sound that exists with in the story that the characters can hear) so it builds immersion but it also serves as a transition to the next scene with the astronauts outside. The garble on their voices starts up because they are speaking to each other over their radios now. There is an ominous buzzing in the background that builds atmosphere and also creates a constant sound so that the up and down of the radio sounds aren’t as jarring.
At 4:34 a new background drone starts up, it could be construed as diegetic and it builds the tension in the scene. It is essentially the background music for the scene. At 5:56 it changes to a new sound that is very much non-diegetic (solely for the benefit of the audience not able to be heard by the characters) it is meant to build tension in the scene for the pay off of the “come over here and look at this” line and is a classic suspense move. While a normal listener might not even really notice that it’s there, if you are listening for it it is pretty apparent and can be kind of immersion breaking because up until this point it has been very grounded in a sort of realism. At 8:08 another non-diegetic ‘background music starts and you can hear the booming of the flag trying to be planted. the echoing of the booms is a questionable choice in my opinion, I feel like if you were slamming something into solid rock it would make a duller thud, it kind of sound like they are trying to plant it in some large metal structure.
There is an extended silence at 12:38 (the radio static can still be heard but that’s it) and its so effective for communicating how the astronauts feel, it’s awkward but also deeply sad and lonely and it gives you time to really vividly imagine these two men in their dying moments, it can be tempting with audio storytelling to fill every moment with sound because there are no visuals to keep attention, but sometimes that silence can be really needed to let the audience reflect and think about what’s going on and to sink deeper into the story.
Before 13:16 there is a silence and then Nixon’s speech picks back up. It’s very effective because it lets you know that these men that you’ve connected with and been listening to are dead with out having to explicitly have one of them say “I’m dying” or “he’s dead” you let the audience figure that out for themselves it can be kind of shocking because of its suddenness and it helps them realize they wanted just one more moment with them that they aren’t going to get.
At 15:05 the outro music plays and it’s sad and somber, and then the outro starts giving the credits and that’s it.
It was really well done, and they used the tools at their disposal very well to create a deeply engaging story. I feel like it worked best as a radio drama, it felt almost like the radio equivalent to found footage.