Line Up Episode 00 – The Pilot Special

OK, I know, sleevenotes for a podcast that’s basically a quiz is a bit wanky. However this is the first time I’ve done a recorded show, my knowledge of How To Do This is very low, and I thought I’d open up the process a little bit so if and when we do this a bit more regularly you can advise me on ways to make it a bit better. I’m pretty happy with the format, I’m much less happy with the producing – that D in the practical bit of my Media Studies A-Level from almost 15 years ago rearing its ugly head there.

First of all you’ll need to listen to the pilot episode! With thanks to QuizQuizQuiz for providing the material.

The Line Up episode 00 – it’s about 25MB in data and about 27 minutes in length. Link correct as of January 2014.

If I sent you a preview copy, you might want to download this one as it’s a slightly better quality – or at least the speech stereo has been split into two mono tracks, so you should feel a bit less nauseous listening to it through headphones.

OK, notes:

  • The whole thing was recorded basically on one take on Skype. What I discovered after the recording was that whilst contestants Dan and Nathan are OK, I drop out horrendously and have to re-record about 40% of my stuff. This is very noticeable partly because I’m recording those bits directly into Audacity and not through a third-party program so the quality is profoundly better, and partly because I live on a main road and you can hear cars suddenly in half the pick ups. Thanks Cambridge!
  • The sound quality of the speech is pretty poor, I discovered that’s because it all seemed to record at 16,000hz (which is about what a telephone call is done at). The sound effects are all at a crisp 44,100. Why not pretend it’s Stuart Hall laughing down the phone on Jeux Sans Frontieres in the 80s?
  • I used MP3 Skype Recorder to record the conference call, 128-bit and in stereo. The hilarious effect of this is is that in the first mix, I occupy the left stereo channel, Dan and Nathan share the right, but when I re-recorded my stuff, it took up both channels. This sounded weird. I’ve got round that by splitting into two mono channels so at least it’s consistant. If anyone has better ideas for things to use then please let me know, I’m all ears. Unfortunately I do not have the money to “get a Mac.”
  • I was quite surprised to discover the quiz doesn’t begin until seven minutes into the recording. Dan has obviously been a Bother’s Bar regular for years and I’ve known Nathan through Twitter and occasionally poker for a while, but I only really had two or three things to ask of each of them. I have “would the weather forecast be improved if it has a prisoner’s dilemma element?” and “hope Nathan doesn’t mention trumpet” on my script. I had a quick chat with both a few days beforehand. One went rather better than the other, because I had installed some software which messed up all my settings about ten minutes before I was going to call them up.
  • You can thank Chris M Dickson, Iain Weaver and Ronald Stewart for providing the voice of the audience, there. Cory Anotado provided the logo.
  • I’m genuinely riffling a pack of playing cards for hilarious effect. The Machine is a lie, there are no cards going over the floor (a visual aural gag for the radio, there). One person I sent a preview to suggested it’s confusing and I should just be honest – it’s clearly all done by Skype after all. But. But but but. I like the sense of place and I *certainly* like the idea of the machine which truth be told I stole out of a backlot at Pinewood Studios. It was abandoned, the handle was a bit loose and it seemed a bit unloved.
  • No, I have no real issue with telling you the truth readers but I do think the set-up as it stood makes for more interesting radio. Both contestants actually got the questions a week beforehand and I asked them to select the questions for rounds one and two in advance so I could put a basic script together and we could just get on with the recording – people would pick categories on the night, and there would be a recording break between rounds two and three so contestants can sort out their line-ups for the final round. The whole thing took about 35 minutes to record ultimately. So what’s your excuse, The Chase?
  • I had to drop an aural gag I was hoping to do at one point. Do you hear the gaps between the category reveal? I was hoping to put the old National Lottery “bom-bom-bom!”s between each one, but I couldn’t find a decent enough clean version. There was at one point in the back of my mind a joke about ex-lottery drawmaster John Willan coming along to pull the lever and start the machine, “with set of white gloves number 5,” for all you lottery fans out there. Actually if I go down the “truthful” route next time the category reveal might all be in flashback. I think that would be doable.
  • I wasn’t sure how well the quiz would work – I went into it telling the contestants it could be brilliant but it could also be a load of rubbish, that’s the nature of the beast. As it is, it worked pretty well with two decent contestants. The scoring system worked as intended – I went through a few on paper before settling on it (the original plan was 1-5 for each round, but that’s not brilliant because it sets up too much of an opportunity for an early runaway victory and involves all sorts of stopping down for changing line-ups and the like, and really you want to keep it simple) – on the basis of one playthough with two fairly decent contestants it works. There’s a natural and sensible upping of the stakes as the questions get a bit more difficult and it’s very difficult for the game to finish too early – there’s loads of points going on the last few questions but everything ultimately counts. Which I am pleased with. BUT it’s only one game.
  • It’s basically a hand-management game meets a quiz. I am not a quiz person. My general knowledge is OK (or at least my pop cultural biased knowledge is OK, I think I would have won if I was playing) but I have no real interest in rote learning stuff – that’s why I tend to prefer shows which require applied knowledge where the questions are interesting and a bit devious (such as Only Connect, Million Dollar Mind Game et al) to straight quizzes (Mastermind holds no real appeal for me). I’m a game player (and a poor one who doesn’t really get a chance to indulge all that much at that). I’m interested in game mechanics and what makes things tick. And most of all I’m interested in what’s likely to be entertaining. You will have to tell me if the end result is entertaining – I think it’s a fun way to pass the time – as to the mechanics I had recently discovered a hugely entertaining and funny board game site called Shut Up and Sit Down which is not backward in coming forward with reasons some mechanics are good or bad. The one that stuck with me is that games are more fun when they are require interaction with other people which is a self-evident truth it’s easy to forget hence the show’s original tagline “do over others as you would be done by” (which got quietly dropped in the end you’ll note) – everybody is answering questions but everyone is also doing their best to try and trip you up at the same time.
  • The strategy element is bigged up but I accept the reality is you don’t reaaaaallllly have loads to go on so in ordering your all-important final questions you have to take face value difficulty and gut feeling into account probably more than what responses to the previous questions has told you. But if it’s fun then it’s fine. And if you want to pull off audacious bluffs then you still have the tools and ability to be able do so.
  • Questions are only easy, so they say, if you know the answers. And this brings up quite an interesting thing I think I maybe should have explored a little bit more. When I sent the contestants the mail with their assigned 15 questions on, I muddled up the order QuizQuizQuiz sent them to me and didn’t supply the answers – here is the spreadsheet of all the questions I was sent and the grading assigned to each question by QQQ – a lot of the game is about how difficult the firer perceives a question to be. I was a bit surprised for example when Nathan put the Tony the Tiger and Hamburglar questions the way round he did, and then I was even more surprised when Dan missed what I reckoned was a sitter. You might have noticed that. The brief, by the way, was mainly grade three (of five) difficulty throughout with nods to grade two and four and that the stacks must be of about equal general difficulty but with the peaks and troughs in different places between sets. Also the questions should have a popular culture bias. I think they succeeded. Also next time there might be a little more high culture stuff to be a bit more diverse.
  • Eagle-eyed viewers might notice a question on the spreadsheet that didn’t make it to the final game, namely “In a deck of cards, which is the only king not to have a moustache?” that’s because I wanted to shy away from multiple-choice and that’s a bit implictly too multiple choice (it’s the King of Hearts by the way). QQQ supplied me with some possible replacements of which the Chicago one got used as the most interesting (and gut feeling thought was the most difficult, because my gut also thought that set of questions were generally speaking more gettable. A producer’s gut feeling, there, and a big gut it is as well). Sorry Nathan. As it turned out I decided I would use that question as the basis of a rubbish tie-breaker a few hours before recording – the original intention was just to have the person who scored more in the final round be the winner. But that’s rubbish radio and besides it wasn’t necessary in the end.
  • It has been suggested that the players should ask the questions to better get across the idea that the players are in control of them. If we were all in the same room face to face I would have little problem with this. Over Skype I’m a little more reticient, there are hidden dangers it’s difficult to account for such as enunciation, build-up and most of all cheating and reading out the wrong questions. Not that I’d want to accuse anyone of cheating of course. It is something to look into.
  • It’s been suggested that a little shorter would be ideal. If you cut out me going “errr” there’s five minutes off right there.
  • I *think* that’s it. I look forward to hearing your opinions and questions. Don’t hold back, I’ve been dishing it out for years.

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