If you would like some more detailed advice on creating a great audio documentary (and listening to some great examples), you might want to check out the following websites:


Audio Production

The first thing you will notice when you start listening to a lot of audio documentaries is that there is no singular formula to making a great doc—there are lots of different elements within audio documentaries, and the way that you balance those elements really depends on the kind of story you’re telling. Generally, audio documentaries incorporate some or all of the following elements:

• Narration: In an audio documentary, we generally rely on a singular voice to guide us through the experience. The narrator can introduce and interpret events in the audio documentary
• Interviews: Interviews are often the staple of any documentary, particularly an audio documentary. An interview, of course, consists of someone asking questions and someone answering them.
• Existing/archival materials: Lots of stories—particularly stories that deal with some aspect of history—can benefit from using archival materials. These include old recordings of radio shows, home videos, answering machines, television shows, and so on.
• Ambient sounds/noise: Don’t underestimate the necessity of recording the sounds of your surroundings. If you’re interviewing skateboarders, you should probably record the sounds of skateboarding. If you’re interviewing kindergarten students, record the general classroom noise.
• Sound effects: When ambient noise doesn’t quite do the trick to tell your story (or you forgot to record it), sound effects can often fill in. Sounds of feet walking, horns honking, etc. can add another layer of storytelling to your documentary.
• Music: Music can play a vital role in shaping your documentary because it can evoke emotion and set the tone of your piece.

Depending on the story you’re trying to tell, some of these elements might be more or less important. For example, telling a story about a musician or a music-loving community probably means that you’ll incorporate a lot of music. If you’re talking about a community that loves football games, you’ll need to record the ambient crowd noises of a football game.

The most effective documentaries incorporate lots of these elements and interweave them to keep the piece from becoming monotonous; listening to an uncut interview for five minutes can lose your listener’s interest, so break it up with some music or a little narration.