Crown of Thorns Pod'rama

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Podfic
Title: Crown of Thorns Pod'rama
Podfic Artist(s): CrownOfThornsPodrama
Cover Artist: various
Date(s): January 26, 2020 – December 24, 2020
Length: audio drama 36:47:12, bonus audio material 17:18:13
File: 83 separate files, MP3 and WAV, from multiple download and streaming locations, plus additional bonus content
Based On: Crown of Thorns (The Walls, the Wainscot, and the Mouse) 'Verse
Author: irisbleufic
Fandom: Good_Omens
External Links: Archive of Our Own, Internet Archive, Anchor.FM, Spotify, Soundcloud
Full work cover of Crown of Thorns Pod'rama

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Crown of Thorns Pod'rama is a dramatised, full-cast recording, or multivoice podfic, of irisbleufic’s Crown of Thorns (The Walls, the Wainscot, and the Mouse) ‘Verse[1], a 275,000 word “Book Omens” fanfiction inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 novel Good Omens. This collaborative fan production involved over 60 people in total, and took about fifteen months to organise and complete. The runtime of the audio drama is 36:47:12, plus an additional 17:18:13 of bonus material, for a total of 54:05:25 of audio content.

The project was conceived, organised, and produced by Literarion, who began soliciting participants via social media and in various Discord communities in October 2019. Podfixx, Literarion and CompassRose voice the narrator, Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively.

Compared to many other collaborative podfic projects, the Crown of Thorns Pod'rama stands out for its scope but also for its process (podficcer auditions, collaborative editing, involvement of the fic's writer as a consultant, commitment to documenting the production process) and for its production values (the work include a large number of graphics and an original musical score.)

About The Story

Crown of Thorns is a collection of short stories set after the events of the book, with the common thread of following Aziraphale and Crowley's lives in the aftermath of the not-Apocalypse, as well as the people that they meet when trying to carve out a place for themselves in the human world. It features both canon characters and original characters, including themes such as love (and the emotional risks the main characters are willing to take in order to still love those around them), family and found family, friendship, mortality, humanity, passage of time, and the spectrum of morality.

Pre-Production

Project Inception

In their interview with LenaLawlipop, Literarion talked about their motivation for the project and its initial organisation:

I thought for this one, it's not good enough to just have a podfic. You want a good podfic, you wanted consistency. And the consistency was really the bit that made me think, OK, so you'll just need to recruit a small army to do this. And so I did.
When I started thinking about doing Crown of Thorns, that must have been sometime August, September 2019. And I just started by very slowly working through the script and sort of picking out which of the characters appear in which of the chapters. That was that's where I was. And then I found or met, NotBreadPudding, who is sort of my right hand in most the Crown of Thorns stuff, who was like, oh yeah, let's do this together. So I shared a word document and we just did it together. And then I met AJ, who wrote Crown of Thorns, on Twitter, of all places. And, exactly, I met AJ and I told I told them that, you know, this would be an amazing story to podfic, la, la, la and sort of outlined the vague idea, and they were on board with it. And then a couple of weeks later, they decided to publicly own the story, which they hadn't done before. So I was in the cinema, on my way back, and suddenly I had a mini-explosion of notifications from Twitter on my phone. I was like oh, okay, we need to do something about this.
The time from the first idea to getting the team together was maybe a month. And then from getting the team together to starting the casting was probably two months, just because we put a lot of planning into that before we even got to the point where we started it. We set up all of the social media, Twitter, Tumblr, whatever else there might be, Instagram, which I personally don't even know like, I’ve never used it.

And, you know, put together a list of all the people who had done podfic in Good Omens. That's a list of, what, 150 people? And then go through and find contact details for all of them because, you know, we wanted to get the community involved. So at that point, it was already way beyond something that I could have ever done on my own or I could have done. It would just have taken years instead of weeks.

Most of the internal working of the project took place on a dedicated discord server.

Casting

Unusually for multivoice podfics, participants who wanted a speaking role were invited to submit auditions, and were cast by Literarion and a team of directors including the author, irisbleufic. Irisbleufic also served as a consultant and advisor to the project as a whole.

41 voice actors from all over the world were cast in the speaking parts, including Podfixx as the narrator, Literarion as Aziraphale, and CompassRose as Crowley. Irisbleufic made guest vocal appearances as themself and in minor roles in several chapters.

About the process of casting, Literarion said[2]:

So I kind of always assumed that I would-I created the whole team because I wanted this podfic to exist. And I kind of always assumed that I would end up as narrator. [...] It's recording at least a solid hour every week. Week in and week out for the entire year. It's just a lot of work. And I just, not that I wouldn't have trusted anybody else with doing it. That wasn't the problem. I just didn't assume that anybody else would want to do that. [...]

And then we got an audition from Podfixx. And honestly, the moment I saw that application come in, that audition come in, it was like, OK, so I'll just step back, step back at this point. [...] She wanted the job. She got the job. It's pretty simple. And that wasn't like- we had a board of directors to make the casting decisions. That was seven people in the end. And that wasn't a shadow of a doubt about who would be the narration after we had heard the auditions.

CompassRose said:

LENA: Right. So you wanted to participate, like from the first time you heard about it?

COMPASSROSE: Oh, I didn't think I was good enough.

LENA: Oh really!

COMPASSROSE: I agonized about whether I was going to sign up or not. The whole audition process for some reason and I mean, I'm an actor. But yes, auditioning does paralyze me. So I was like, oh, yeah, no, there'd be way better people I shouldn't even sign up for this. [...] And then I thought about it again. I was like, oh, this seems like a lot of work. And I dithered about it again. And then I finally did sign up for it.

Full cast

from production credits[3]

Production team

from production credits

Editing and production

Because the project used voice actors from all over the world, with vastly different recording equipment, the objective of the editing process was to get all the actors sounding as consistent as possible. Recording, editing and production were all done in the free, open-source audio editing application Audacity. The audio editing and beta listening team assembling the recordings were coordinated by UnholyCrowley as head editor.

Before recording began, a team of volunteers edited document copies of each chapter to produce scripts, colour-coded by each character’s lines. These scripts were used as reference throughout the recording and editing process.

The voice actors all followed the same procedures of initial cleanup for their raw recordings, editing out mistakes and doing basic noise reduction and normalisation processing. They also used Audacity’s labelling function to mark each line.

The chapter editor then took the chapter script, Podfixx’s narration track, and all of the voice actor tracks from that specific chapter, and used Audacity to edit them together. Working on the narration track, the editor would find each character’s dialogue line and substitute it with the voice actor’s version of the same line, editing vocal levels and removing any stray clicks and breaths along the way. Since Podfixx read the entire chapter, including all character dialogue, her reading was sometimes used as backup when a one-liner character didn’t get cast or an actor dropped out of the project.

Once the dialogue editing was done for the whole chapter, the editor would add in the transition music at scene breaks or changes of location, as well as the intro and outro music relevant for the chapter. The chapter was then sent to the head editor.

The head editor’s responsibility was mainly to do a last sweep over the editing to ensure consistency (since each editor on the team had their own style of editing). During this step, the head editor would go over chapter audio with a “fine toothed comb”, ensuring that the rhythm and flow of the chapter and characters sounded natural to a listener, as though overhearing a conversation. Once all these tweaks were made, the head editor ran final audio processing: compression (for crispness), and normalisation (to level all the tracks at a similar volume/amplification), and exported the chapter to publication-ready MP3 and WAV files. Before publication, the final file was reviewed by a beta listener to make sure nothing was missed.

Posting schedule

The posting schedule, along with many other details of project planning, was established by Literarion before the project started, and involved one chapter or more (depending on length) released per week starting on January 26, 2020, and finishing with the final chapter release and epilogue, in seven parts from December 18 to 24, 2020.

Music

Sand and water and night, with a lantern standing at the edge of the waves, and the Crown of Thorns title mark across the top, with the words Nuitarie: Music inspired by the Good Omens fanfiction written by irisbleufic across the bottom.

The pod'rama’s original musical score was composed and performed by Nuitarie. Nuitarie’s soundtrack was given its own “story” on Archive of Our Own,[4] and can be heard in full on Bandcamp.[5]

Of the composition process, Nuitarie said, during their interview with Lena Lawlipop[6]:

For Crown of Thorns, I remember having a conversation very early on with (irisbleufic) that they wanted to have acoustic instruments mainly, and that they enjoyed the piano and the cello and the guitar. And so I decided that most of the soundtrack for the podcast was going to feature these instruments, these string instruments. So the piano is always somewhere, and the cello […] and to accompany the cello, there’s a third instrument […] called the nyckelharpa. And it’s a Swedish instrument that looks like the lovechild of a hurdy gurdy and a cello. It’s very weird, but it has a lovely sound […] And so those are the three main instruments that I used throughout the soundtrack. And it’s a bit of a constraint, but it’s nice to have a constraint when you are creating.

Artwork

A book cover with the words Crown of Thorns: The Pod'rama Zine across the top, with a digital illustration of Aziraphale and Crowley on the seashore.

Crown of Thorns Pod'rama was designed as a multimedia endeavour from the start, and original fan art was integral to the concept. Artists were solicited along with voice actors in the initial stages of the project, and there was ongoing artist recruitment during the year. Each chapter on AO3 is accompanied by original artwork created by one of 26 different artists, which was also included in all promotional social media posts for the chapter. Other incidental artwork was also created over the course of the project.

Crown of Thorns: The Pod’rama Zine was created by AJfanfic, using the artwork and text excerpts from the chapters that inspired each piece, with a cover illustration by CompassRose. The zine is freely available.[7]

Participating artists

from production credits[8]

Bonus content

An image with the CoT logo at the top followed by a quotation from Good Omens and a birthday wish, next to a graphic of a book spilling out the planets and a background of constellations focusing on Libra.
Earth's Birthday graphic from Crown of Thorns social media

Several significant dates during the 2020 release year, including Gaiman’s and Pratchett’s birthdays, April Fool’s Day, the anniversary of the TV series release, and the canonical “Birthday of the World” in the Good Omens ‘verse, were recognised with art, social media postings, special challenges including a “Draw This In Your Style” event inspired by the many various Good Omens book covers, or special episodes. These were promoted through the project’s social media (tumblr, twitter, instagram).

Other bonus audio content was also created in conjunction with the project. LenaLawlipop planned and conducted interviews in audio or text form with many team members about their fandom history and specific involvement in the project. These interviews and transcripts can be found on AO3. Head editor UnholyCrowley assembled three compilations of bloopers from participants’ voice recordings, covering chapters 1-25, 26-50, and 51-76, which can be found on AO3. A joke edition of Chapter 21, using various text-to-speech accents, with a joke cover, was created for April 1, 2020, and released ahead of the actual content.

Project conclusion

The project as a whole concluded on December 31, 2020, with the release of the art fanzine, LenaLawlipop’s debriefing interview with Literarion[9], and the final blooper compilation.

The planning documents and background material were archived for the use and reference of others who might want to undertake similar projects.[10]

Recs and Reactions

The podrama is exquisitely cast and acted—the voices create a new canon as compelling as any other adaptation of these characters. Professional-grade editing and production, a beautifully evocative score, and original artwork come together in an organizational tour-de-force by Literarion and crew: one of the most impressive fanworks that I have ever encountered. Gesamtkunstfic.
Anne Jamison, The Rec Centre 251[11]
Thank you so much team, for bringing to life my favourite GO fic! The story has soul and magic already, but to hear some of my favourite podficcers (is that a word?) brings a whole other level of awesome to this! I'm very much looking forward to listening along as the chapters arrive! ❤😇😈❤
AO3 Commment on Chapter 1 by Hazelnuttwhike, Jan 2020
Well done one and all. Lovely performance. Thanks for inserting the outtakes into the main body of chapter 2 as it created a smooth listening experience for those who have not previously had the privilege of enjoying the written text.

Mega kudos for the even flow between the narrator and the characters giving the feel of a professionally produced audio program. See you for chapter 5.

AO3 Comment on Chapter 4 by PatPrecieux, Feb 2020
I gotta say, binge-listening to this is quite the experience. Podfixx's voice is so incredibly soothing and I've had the outro stuck in my head for over a day now. It's just a very relaxing experience all around with the bonus that I don't really have to focus on the story since I already know it and can instead simply enjoy everyones acting even if I'm not 100% paying attention all the time which really makes it great to listen to while I'm doing various other things at the same time.

Seriously though, everyone’s done such a great job with the entire thing

AO3 Comment on Chapter 50 by FireflysWriting, Dec 2020

Example graphics from the project

References

  1. ^ [1], The Walls, the Wainscot, and the Mouse ‘Verse on Archive of Our Own
  2. ^ Crown of Thorns Cast Interviews by LenaLawlipop, 2020
  3. ^ [2], Production credits on Archive of Our Own
  4. ^ [3], Soundtrack page on Archive of Our Own
  5. ^ [4], Crown of Thorns: album by Nuitarie on Bandcamp
  6. ^ [5], Lena Lawlipop with Nuitarie, interview
  7. ^ [6], Crown of Thorns Pod'rama Zine on Archive of Our Own
  8. ^ [7], Production credits on Archive of Our Own
  9. ^ [8], Lena Lawlipop with Literarion, project wrap-up interview
  10. ^ [9], Legacy documents page on Archive of Our Own
  11. ^ [10], The Rec Centre newsletter, issue 251
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