Radio Broadcast Facilities has drama studios in each of the 9 regions across South Africa to recording drama productions for all 19 radio stations of the SABC.
A drama studio consists of various parts. First and most important is the control room where the drama producer, audio engineer and sound effects engineer works. While the producer is responsible for directing the actors, the audio engineer behind the mixing console is responsible for the quality of audio plus the proper acoustics as required by the drama. The sound effects engineer is responsible to enhance the "theatre of the mind" element while he plays in sound effects like thunder, car doors opening and closing etc. This comes from various digital sources.
In a separate room next to the control room is the green room for the actors. This is where they wait until it is their turn to play their part in the drama. They can hear the progress of the drama over speakers in the green room.
In the main studio part you have various microphones. The main microphone will be the one around which the actors will play out their scripts under the direction of the producers. They will also get cues from the audio engineer or producer as to when certain sound effects are played in and when they can continue with the play. The main studio part is normally an acoustically treated room for optimal sound quality of the drama. In this main studio there are various tables with props which have a microphone set up over it to capture sounds. This will typical be a telephone, pots and pans, cups and saucers with water to simulate the sounds of pouring tea. This normally looks like a big mess but is very precise in its use in a drama.
There are also various small doors and windows mounted in frames to be used as sound effects in enhancing the "theatre of the mind". An age old story from many years ago when the SABC used to be in Commissioner Street in downtown Johannesburg is that the radio drama studio had a specific door of which the hinges were dry and squeaking. This was used in those eerie dramas where the killer slowly opens the creaking door and it creates a lot of suspense. Well the janitor of the building went through all the studios on his normal maintenance rounds and stumbled upon the creaking door in the studio and promptly gave it some oil on those squeaky hinges. Gone was the creaking door sound effect to much frustration of the drama staff.
In yet another studio behind the main studio is a room which is called the “outside acoustic room”. This is where scenes from the play are done which are playing in an outside environment. There is very little echo in this room and resembles the typical sound quality as if the actors where doing a scene in nature. In this room there are various aids to reproduce sounds which you would get. There is a trench of gravel, some slabs of concrete on which to walk to simulate those effects. Then there is also a heap of old magnetic tape from the days when we used to record on tape. This tape is rubbed together to create the sound of walking through grass.
All the above drama studio facilities are what makes Radio Broadcast Facilities such a vital part of the radio broadcast chain.