Streamlining the Mortified production process

A participant in a Mortified stage show. Source: Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Teen angst. Embarrassing moments. Cringe-worthy choices. These experiences are the bread and butter of Mortified, the stage show and podcast that encourages ordinary people to “share the shame” of their childhood writing.

Dave Nadelberg founded Mortified in 2002, and today runs it alongside his producing partner, Neil Katcher. Together they help produce stage shows in 20 cities across the United States and the world — and transform a curated selection of those stories into three monthly podcasts. They use Pop Up Archive to automatically transcribe and tag tape in the editing process.

“Pop Up Archive is a really good service for indie-budgeted productions that want to have transcripts. It provides a beginning. You still need humans to fix imperfections, but when we have clean audio, Pop Up Archives transcripts are very close to accurate,” says Dave. Prior to using Pop Up Archive, audio would be transcribed either by Mortified producers, interns, or using a human transcription service. Ultimately, the time demands of the former and the financial costs of the latter became prohibitive. With Pop Up Archive, Mortified can get affordable, quick turnaround for transcripts.

Once the Mortified team has a transcript from Pop Up Archive, they take a pass for any necessary corrections. Then it goes into a Google document so that multiple people can share it and start visually marking it up to select their favorite bits and make an initial stab at edits. Timestamps are extremely helpful in this process.

“The accuracy surprised the hell out of me,” says Dave. “I call Pop Up Archive ‘The Robot’ because I feel like it’s Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons that helps our production stay tidy.”

Pop Up Archive added so much to Mortified’s efficiency in producing their podcast, that for their upcoming TV miniseries (coming in mid 2017), they began using the service for video production as well. The Mortified miniseries is comprised of five hour-long episodes, and includes a variety of different audio sources, including clean, in-studio interviews, outdoor man-on-the-street interview, and stage performances. There are also some documentary segments that use archival tape. Mortified uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe all of their footage during post-production for each episode.

“Our big bottlenecks are accuracy and recording ability. So as The Robot gets smarter and smarter, that gets better and better for us,” Dave says.

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team