It is said that radio is a challenging medium for both the programme producer and its audience. The advent of modern computer softwares and audio mixing techniques has diluted the imaginative human effort that used to be so important in achieving real sound effects. This development is true for many other fronts in modern human life and many of them are unnecessary. Many modern radio studios do not give any scope to manual sound tricks because almost any sound we need is digitally available (pre-recorded) and can be incorporated into a sound track with great authenticity. If one were lucky to work in an old radio-recording studio that has evolved over the past 50 years, the radio programme producer would have many dusty old tools at his/her disposal and if s/he is willing to embrace traditional methods those tools could still be used to great effect.
Examples of traditional spot sound effects include a squeaking wooden door with a rotating lock that makes a clear sound when it closes, a tray filled with sand which can be hit with hand-held boots to mimic the sound generated by soft walking, a tap with a circulating water source, a tumbler, a mug, a ringing telephone, a very small room with acoustic walls that eliminate even traces of echo (bottling) to represent out-door setting, and many other little spot effects that can be done within a studio that generate authentic sounds of things that are otherwise not possible to record in the same place. Spot effects are critically important for the recording of radio dramas. If several characters are involved in a scene and are interacting with one another from different locations with drastically different acoustic properties, then the programme director has to go for spot effects. Going for digitally enhanced insertion of pre-recorded sounds may seem an inexpensive and effective solution in many situations. However, there is nothing comparable to a human voice speaking along with a spot effect that comes closest to the real world setting.
Spot effects are acceptable as long as the programme is fictitious. Any programme that is reporting phenomena from the real world, the programme maker has to record everything wherever they occur. In real world spot sound effects take care of themselves! We don’t know when would the majority of filmmakers really understand the importance of distance and sound in their screenplays. They just don’t appreciate the fact that audio has to be as real as the video. Spot effects apply to not only sound (mostly radio studios) but also light (on stage and in film studios). The audio medium is the best of all media when it comes communicating open-scope, unlimited imagination. Books are limited by their vocabulary and videos are limited because they are expensive and can very easily become unreal. Another important factor that goes in favour of audio medium is the fact that our listening ability can never be as good as our visual strength. We need support with things we are not good at. Our eyes can imaginatively visualize a lot more than what our ears can imaginatively hear or listen to. Hence, any sound included in a programme will be more significant than its visual equivalent. Next time you watch something on a TV or computer screen, try to imagine what it would have sounded like if it were made for a radio. You will soon realize that radio is a challenging medium only for the programme director/producer and if the programme is well made its listeners can have a richer experience than if they were watching a video of the same.