Postponing Challenger Deep… Again

Six months or so ago, I had to make the difficult decision to postpone Not Even Dust‘s Season One, Challenger Deep Descent, and it’s really upsetting to have to do it again. I held off on announcing a new date until I was sure I had a schedule I could manage, but due to around a month of illness and on-going fatigue, as well as some serious creative burn out, I’m having to delay the series again. I’m going to refrain committing to any new release dates again for the time being. For the time being, this will not impact the release schedule for Spirit Box Radio.

As I know many of my audience worry about my wellbeing, I feel compelled to let you all know that I’m alright, I’m safe, and I just need some down time. As many of you know, I run Hanging Sloth Studios by myself, and though I have the support and kindness of my friends, without whom I couldn’t manage to do what I do, the majority of the workload falls to me, and it is a lot of work. The past few months have been incredibly stressful for a number of reasons, and with illness on top of that, I haven’t been able work as effectively as usual, and often not at all.

Thank you all for being understanding, and I hope that whatever you’re doing today, you can find a few moments to do something nice for yourself.

Pippin xxx


Here’s what writing an episode of Spirit Box Radio looks like…

If you’ve ever wondered how episodes of Spirit Box Radio are written, here’s a little overview of that process!! If you like this, I can also write up a similar breakdown of the sound design process!

Most, but not all, episodes are born in the ‘Episodes’ section of the Show Bible. The Show Bible is a document of epic proportions – 50k in length and growing every day – which contains all the essential information about the show, from the continuously evolving methods I use to edit different character voices as I learn more and more about audio editing and production, right to ‘sketches’ of the episodes for all three series of the show. There is also a large section called ‘Ideas and Notes’, where I’ll write freeform dialogue between characters and keep track of themes and ideas to try and keep them consistent. These are all numbered, and referenced in a seperate spreadsheet I have of all the characters with significant and/or speaking roles in the show.

Show Outline

The grandaddy of the the plans in the Show Outline, where I go over all of the main ideas I want to be talking about in the show and roughly mark out the outline of the shape of each season. The first draft of the Show Outline was very messy and rough, but subsequent versions are broken down into Season-by-Season chunks, all talking from a multi-series perspective so as to place the ideas of the show along a three-series-long arc.

Season Outline

Season Outlines take those ideas for the shapes of the series from the Show Outline and refine them further from a beginning-to-end-perspective. I’m a goal-oriented writer, which means my story ideas tend to come from a very ‘the end’ kind of place, and the stories that lead up to that ending are all about serving that ending. Quite often the ending itself changes a lot over the planning and writing process for me, but that’s the great thing about a plan! Once you have it, you can change it if you need to. What a plan does, however, is provide you with a framework for understanding what bits of a story you have, and what bits you still need to make.

The three seasons of Spirit Box Radio are quite deliberately split into two halves. There are lots of reasons why and one of them is that it gives you a very specific kind of shape to be working from. A season with a mid-season break has a part one which has it’s own escalation of tension and climax, which comes at the mid-point of the season-long escalation, where the story might otherwise sag a little.

Beyond splitting the plan into Parts 1 & 2, I typically also break episodes into ‘Blocks’. This is partly practical; I can refer in conversations with my guest writers to where it falls in a specific block of episodes, and where that block fits in the story as a whole, and it also makes splitting up the episodes for sending out scripts to my actors a lot more straight forward. Part 1 of Season 1, for example, was broken into three blocks; episodes 1.1-1.7; 1.8-1.13; 1.14-1.20. I won’t go into detail about how this effects the structure of the episodes themselves, but it’s usually about building characters up to making a certain decision, or following a certain subplot more closely before pulling away.

Episode Sketch

A ‘sketch’ is a very brief summary of what needs to happen in that specific episode. This can be concrete, like ‘find [x] item’, or vague, like ‘establish that Character A has Trait Y’. Sometimes I’ll make a note to include a specific sound or character beat, or I’ll reference a noted scene from the ‘Ideas and Notes’ i think would fit in there. It’s usually at the sketch summary stage that I figure out whether or not there will be other characters in a specific episode. The sketches for almost all of the episodes in Season One were written between August and October 2020.

Episode Plan

This stage takes those necessary elements from the sketch and fleshes them out into a coherent story. The key thing about podcast episodes is that they have to be able to be entertaining on their own, minute by minute, as well as serving the whole series (I talked a lot more about this in the last episode of Hanging with the Sloths on Patreon which is only £2/equivalent pcm to access if you’re interested!!)

Whilst I’m making my episode plan, I’ll look back at the sketches for the episode I’m working on and those before and after it, and refer to the series outline where I can, to make sure I’m keeping a handle not just on the individual pacing of the episode, but the pacing of the show overall.

I like to have Episode Plans done by about a month before I need to have a script finished.

The Script Itself

Spirit Box Radio scripts are either agonising or happen in the blink of an eye. I do not have a set approach to how I write an episode. Sometimes the plans come with sections of dialogue written months before and I’ll drape the rest of the episode around those moments and see where I end up. If there is a character other than Sam in an episode, I’ll typically attempt to write that section of the script before the rest, so that I’ll definitely have it locked by the time I need to send it to the actors. 

Any script that is for other actors (i.e. not me) has to have notes, direction, and additional information included to help the actors give their best performance. That’s difficult sometimes because I guard my show secrets closely, so it’s often a game of working out how much I can tell an actor without including spoilers for later important plot points unless absolutely necessary, and how to supplement gaps in their information. I’ll usually compare a character to a character from something else as a shorthand for performance.

This means there are two versions of every script which needs to be seen by people who aren’t me. My scripts, which I call the master scripts, have all my audio cues, breaks for drinking water in recording sessions, character notes that are Top Secret, sound scaping ideas, specific sounds I’ll need to use at different moments, and specific audio cues. As I get better at sound design, my version of the script only gets messier and messier to look at. Sometimes, when I’m writing scripts, I’ll actually even start with sound design notes now!!

Script Locking

This is the point at which a script can no longer be changed. Scripts with other characters in them have to be locked before scripts for just Sam, because they need to go out to actors and I need to ensure that I have time to go back and ask them to redo things if necessary, and also to make sure they have proper time to rehearse and organise read-throughs as they’d like to. That means sometimes sections of an episode are locked way before other sections are even written. This can be challenging as a writer because sometimes I’ll come back to a section which I know still needs work, and find I’m extremely limited in what I can do because I’ve already sent an actor a script to record from – sometimes for later episodes, I’ll have the lines from otheres already recorded and ready to go before I finalise some of Sam’s lines for a specific episode.

Sam is recorded a minimum of three weeks before an episode is due to air, and I’ll record in 3-episode stints, usually. I like to have the scripts locked a week before I record so I have time to read them through at my own pace, but sometimes I won’t manage to have them locked until three days out. On one hateful occasion, I threw out an entire script after I’d recorded an episode and re-recorded the whole thing the day before airing. I do not recommend doing this and whilst I am much happier with the result it was an agonising experience because once I’d rewritten and re-recorded that episode I then had to edit it before it was due for release, a process which takes about six hours minimum. I was making tweaks until 20 minutes before the episode went live. Do not recommend.


Speaking of editing, the final stage of writing an episode actually happens in the cutting room. Sometimes episodes are simply Too Long. Sometimes stuff that worked on paper just don’t work in audio. Sometimes I can’t say a word correctly for the life of me and have to cut a whole sentence to cover it over. More rarely, but still often enough an occurence it bears mentioning, I’ll realise in the editing process that a conversation is better in a different order than the one given in the script, and pull and move around the dialogue to adjust the flow. Sometimes I’ll move sections about a bit to accomodate similar problems with narrative flow.

Annnnd that’s it! That’s what the process looks like!


The Shiny New Voice Actor’s Guide to Microphones & Recording at Home by Hanging Sloth Studios

First things first, we must begin with the recording space!

Working on the assumption that you do not have a sound-treated room available, the following advice might be useful!

You want somewhere quiet, with as little background noise as you can manage. You also want somewhere that doesn’t echo. To test for echoes, sit or stand where you’re planning to record and clap your hands. It’s a bright sound so any echoes should be pretty obvious.

Draw any blinds and/or curtains to minimise the sound coming in from outside and bouncing off the glass.

If your quiet spot has an echo, all is not lost. Grab some blankets, duvets, cushions, and hang them onto available surfaces. Drapey is good. Heavy, soft coats work well too, and cottony clothes on hangers. 

PRO-TIP: Record into a closet. You will still need a microphone, the people of Narnia cannot help you there, but if you have a closet or wardrobe you can either comfortably get in or record towards, that will effectively dampen sound with minimal fussing about.

Here’s what we do NOW at Hanging Sloth Studios:

I record into a corner of the room into which I have pinned a wool scarf, with three drawing pins. Next to the corner is a window, which has books in front of it at the bottom. The window is hung with a noise-cancelling curtain I got for £20 on amazon. The wall without the window has a bookcase on it rammed with books and a fleece blanket.

The room has carpet and a plush little rug, and I record with my heavy dressing gown on with the hood up, with the mic as into the corner as is comfortable. that way, the curtain, the scarf, the bookcase and my hood dampen the sound pretty effectively and minimise extra noise we don’t want.

Compare Spirit Box Radio audio quality up to episode fifteen and the audio quality of Clockwork Bird. The EXACT SAME mic set up was used, I just recorded in a better space.

That said, let’s move on to that most crucial bit of kit: The Microphone.

Find the Mic for You

With enough work, any mic can be decent, but as a rule of thumb:

1. Steer away from laptop mics because they can pick up internal mechanism sounds.

2. Earbud mics generally suck, especially when they’re in your ears. They’re just too far from your face. You need to get up in the mic’s personal space.

3. With phone mics, get it as close to your face as possible, again. Right up in there. Don’t lick it, though. Just get it very close to your face.

HOWEVER, it is worth investing in a better microphone if you want to be doing Voice Acting or audio recording work regularly.

Before we get into specifics, I would say if you don’t have access to a sound treated space, opt for a dynamic microphone not a condenser microphone. It’s alright if you don’t know what that means, just look out for the first one in listings and ignore ones that are the second. Dynamic mics are better at cancelling out extra background noise. Condenser mics are very sensitive and temperamental and I wouldn’t suggest using them unless you can afford to soundproof your space pretty extensively.

First you want to ask yourself these questions:

1. What device do you record on? (Phone, laptop, etc…)

2. Do you want the mic to be good for things besides Voice Acting? (recording music, live streaming, etc…)

3. What is your budget?

You don’t need to have an absolute answer to all of these, but having at least a vague idea of an aanswer to these questions in mind will help you make the right choice about the kind of microphone you want to be using.


– If your budget is LOW, consider a budget button mic like this one. Button mics, or lapel mics, are the little teeny mics you’ve seen clipped onto people’s collars and shirt closures in YouTube Videos and on the news. I used this exact one to record two EPs. It’s better than built-in mics by miles, but firmly in the ‘better than nothing’ box.
– If your budget is MEDIUM, consider a mid-price button mic like this one. This is a swankier, more hard-wearing version of the one above. Rode are world-class in their microphones and this little baby mic is hard-wearing, versatile and gives surprisingly good sound.


For this, you have to ask yourself another question. How much tech can you really stand to have in your space, and what level of effort are you willing to put in for better audio?

Option One: USB Mic

If you want as little tech as possible for space reasons or anything else, and you want a low-effort experience, you should opt for a USB mic.

Here are some options:
LOW budget. 
MEDIUM budget.
HIGH budget.

Note: Not all of these mics come with a stand. Depending on where you’re recording, you’ll need either; a desk stand, which is a lil tripod and just hangs out on your desk; a fix-on boom arm (this is what we use) which fixes onto the edge of a desk or shelf and can be easily adjusted; or a full mic stand, which stands on its own and is adjustable to a variety of heights.

What sort of stand you need depends on a few things, like whether you prefer to record sitting or standing, how much storage space you have, and what your recording space is like.

Also note: Not all mic stand clips fit all mics. The clip is the bit of the stand that actually holds the mic. Some mics come with their own; it will list that in the details. Otherwise you can get a universal mic shock mount which will work for almost all mics.

Option Two: XLR Mic

If you’re more comfortable with tech, or you’re looking for a longer-lasting, more versatile mic, you might want to look into a mic with an XLR cable connection. This is the kind we’ve always used at Hanging Sloth Studios. Here are some suggestions:

LOW budget. (the mic Clockwork Bird was recorded on!)
MEDIUM budget.
HIGH budget. (the mic we have now)

As well as needing stands and clips, XLR mics need an XLR Cable of appropriate length, and a way to plug the XLR into your laptop. This last bit of kit is called an audio-interface, and comes with its own set of cables, and this is the bit of the XLR set up that makes it so much more costly in terms of space AND money, in a lot of cases.

For audio interfaces, I cannot recommend the Behringer UMC2 Mini highly enough. It’s cheap, it’s great at what it does, and it isn’t bad looking. It’s a bit fragile so if you’re going to be carrying it around a bunch, you’ll need to be careful with it, but otherwise, it’s a brilliant piece of kit. I used it with my original mic for Clockwork Bird, and I use it still with my Rode Procaster and it still does the job.

When I upgrade, it will be to a Focusrite Scarlett, but I don’t currently have the budget for it (because I spent the budget on the procaster).

I hope that’s useful! Happy recording!


Meet the Cast of Clockwork Bird! A Chat with Daisy Major

I’ve known Daisy for quite literally all of her life; she’s my younger sister. I can remember her being brought home for the first time, all tiny and with masses of hair. She was subjected to my ‘early work’ as a writer/director as we were growing up, where I’d command her about the place with stuffed toys and Barbie dolls, and in our early collaberations we masterminded huge toy family dramas, ranging from divorce to epic road trips.

We’re now both adults, both set in our own creative fields, and I was extremely excited to ask her to be a part of Clockwork Bird. We sat down on a glorious afternoon, seperated by a couple of hundred miles and across a national border, to talk about collaborating for the first time as adults.

So, introduce yourself. Who are you, in your own words?

Oh god. I’m Daisy Major, I’m an actor and writer from North Wales and co-founder of an as yet unnamed theatre company that started at university. Is that enough, lol?

Yeah, that’s fine! Loool. Okay so. Being a proper actor, you’ve done a bunch of acting before, but nothing really like a podcast, right?


What were your thoughts when I first asked you to be a part of CWB?

I was flattered that you wanted me to be a part of it and excited I guess because it was new and I’ve never played a character like Shelly before so thats always exciting.

Ooh, in what kinds of ways is Shelly different to parts you’ve played before?

Well, I quite often get cast into comedic roles and also having been through youth theatre, and still being in my early 20s a lot of the stuff I go up for and play is teenagers, who obviously have completely different experiences and stories that they’re a part of so Shelly was completely new.

That’s really cool, I’m glad I’ve able to kind of give you an opportunity to do something you’ve not done before. Of all the characters in the podcast, Shelly is the most new, and I had it in my mind as I was writing that I would want you to play her. Do you think you’re like Shelly, or would you respond completely differently to the situation than she does, do you think?

Oh wow, that’s so cool! I didn’t know that! I like to think that I would react in the same way. That if something was wrong I’d play my part to help fix it. And I’m definitely as stubborn as she is about not letting things go.

I can see that, haha! Obviously a lot of the themes are really heavy in this show. Without getting into spoilers, just the situation of having this man, Robin, who has basically been resurrected, it’s calling into question a lot of things about the rights that people have after they die, and what death even really means in a world where people can be kept functionally alive – with their hearts beating, still breathing – way after what would have been possible even just 15 years ago. Has getting into Shelly’s headspace made you think more about those kinds of questions in real life?

No, not really! But I think that’s because I’ve become quite good at compartmentalising it and making sure that a characters headspace remains very different and separate to mine. Me as a person isn’t very good at death or anything like that anyway, I tend to not spend much time thinking about it outside of recording or doing prep and research.

That sounds like a really healthy attitude, to be honest. Is it different when you’re writing stuff, as opposed to just playing a character?

Kind of, because when you’re writing you live in that world for much longer because it all comes from you, whereas when you’re acting its much easier to pack everything into a neat little box. You can close [the box] at the end of a rehearsal or performance or whatever but when you’re writing everything lives in your brain until you’re finished, there’s no way to shut it away.

I certainly find that to be the case. Has it been weird, working on a project that I’ve written?

No, not really but only because we’ve always talked about the stuff you write and we’ve joked about me being in stuff before so whilst I was surprised you asked it wasn’t really completely unexpected.

I’ll fight people if they try to cast anybody else as [a character from a novel I’m currently working on]. Except maybe Indira Varma. I’d allow that.

I would also allow that, how could I not?

What’s been your favourite bit of process of making CWB so far, and has anything been particularly bad or difficult?

I quite liked doing the monologues because it felt like I was doing it kind of Shelly would have been, sat in a room alone with the computer. Nothings been particularly bad or difficult I don’t think? Working with just one person has been an adjustment but not a bad one. The most difficult thing has been when [Gary Major, who plays Dave] wanted to listen back to recordings and I’d much rather not.

Yeah that’s fair, I don’t mind listening to my own voice back but I’ve got pretty used to it at this point. Last of all, if someone asked you if they should listen to Clockwork Bird, what would you tell them?

I’d say absolutely! I think it’s got something for everyone? There’s sci-fi, there’s a touch of crime drama about it. I’d also say that it’s a story about people at its heart and that’s got universal appeal. It’s a story about people dealing with stuff which I don’t think is necessarily outside the realm of possibility.

Also it’s good.

You can find Daisy on twitter. The first episodes of Clockwork Bird will go live on your favourite podcatcher on Tuesday the 9th of June 2020, and you can listen to the trailer right now.


Clockwork Bird Teaser Trailer: Robin Jaeger is Dead.

Listen to the teaser trailer for Clockwork Bird on acast, pocketcast, and Spotify. We’re experiencing a few COVID-related delays with our distribution, but Clockwork Bird will be available wherever you find your podcasts very soon.


Introducing Our Logo Sloth!

Our Artistic Sloth, Alex, has desgined us our amazing new logo, with our very own, original hanging sloth!

We’re running a poll over on our Twitter to decide what we should call him!

Do they look like a Hector, a Ganymede, or a Eurydice to you? We’re undecided.

Let us know!

Pippin Eira Major


Clockworking Away!

Despite the near-global standstill, things are moving fast here at Hanging Sloth Studios.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the scripts for the first five episodes of Clockwork Bird are in the capable hands our lovely cast, and we should start recording within a fortnight! We want the podcast to be as accessible as possible, so we’ll also be posting transcripts of the episodes here on the Hanging Sloth Studios website for the benefit of people who want to hear our story but are deaf or hard of hearing, and for those who find it helpful to read along whilst they are listening.

We have a patreon set up if you’d like to support us over there. We’ve got loads of great perks for patrons, including behind-the-scenes stuff from Hanging Sloth Studios and live chats with the team. Amounts are in dollars but you can support us from anywhere in the world. Otherwise, keep an eye out for us over on Twitter, or subscribe to the Slothful Blog to keep up to date!

All the best,

Pippin Eira Major


Good and bad news: we are no longer hypothetical.

It seems like just yesterday that we were first discussing making the Clockwork Bird podcast, and that’s because it was yesterday. Well, pretty recently, anyway. Might as well be yesterday, given how elastic time has become over the last couple of months. Point is, it’s been a remarkably snappy turn around from having absolutely no plans to sit down and record a narrative podcast, to having three and a half episodes actually down on paper and an almost full cast list.

We’ve got a contact email for the podcast, a contact email for the studios, and our very own studio twitter. We’ve also set up a patreon so you can drop us a quid or two if you think we’re doing a half-decent job. Donating will mean we’ll be able to make more episodes, more quickly, and will furnish our lovely cast with some livelihood, which is always nice, but especially so during the time of the ‘ronas.

It’s a bit of a funny story, how all of this happened. Some time in September 2019, we started making half-hearted jokes about making a film out of the then-hypothetical Hanging Sloth Studios. At the time, I was using the name perfunctorily as the studios under which my band, Maybe Wednesday, were performing. In reality, the ‘studio’ is a simple audio set up I run out of my bedroom, and the staff are, well, me. And the cats I suppose, but they’re really terrible colleagues to be honest and I don’t know why I put up with them. Not once have they offered to make me a coffee, and they keep attacking my feet whenever I walk past whichever piece of furniture they’ve decided to lurk under.

Every December I produce a ridiculous plan for the year ahead. It works pretty well for me, actually, and it’s ridiculous only in the level of detail I go into with said plans. I know it’s not very rock-and-roll but I have no idea how anyone else gets these things done. Anyway, I – almost arbitrarily – added ‘make a podcast’ to my ‘ideas’ section of my very thorough plan for 2020.

Myself (Pippin), and my housemates, Alex and Jessie, have been talking about making a podcast on and off for a while but with very little seriousness. I workshopped a couple of ideas for non-narrative podcasts but none of them ever really stuck. In the end, the endeavour was more or less abandonned, until late April when it suddenly struck me that I could write a narrative podcast, and maybe that idea would hold a little more water. It turns out that it did. A lot of water, quite quickly, like a super sponge. A very small super sponge, mind.

Anyway. I’m very glad we’ve managed to get even to this stage and I’m really excited about the next couple of weeks, during which I’ll be finishing off the scripts for Episodes 1-5 of Clockwork Bird, or the Modern Icarus, a sci-fi horror podcast about humans, humanity, and hubris, featuring cyborgs, lawsuits, and a very personable Alexa-like assistant called E-Liza.

In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted. As everything with Hanging Sloth Studios, this website is a work in progress, so please bear with us whilst we get our bearings. Or Slothings? No. That’s bad, isn’t it? Oh well, worth a go I suppose.

See you on the flipside,

Pippin Eira Major