Thursday, June 9, 2022

How's your audio editing?

 If you record from a home studio, one of the basic, but very necessary skills you must master is audio editing. Digital audio recording software includes audio editing functions; compression, de-essing, EQ, etc. As any experienced voice over talent can tell you, the time consuming part of doing voice overs is the audio editing. After you record, you'll be sitting down and going through the audio to eliminate any unwanted sounds...heavy breaths, mouth clicks, distracting popped p's, takes you recorded but do not want to use in the final recording, etc.

I actually like the editing process and handle that myself here in my studio. Some voice artists will job the editing out to an audio editor and pay them accordingly so they can move on to the next voice over. If you record e Learning projects, like I often do, you'll be editing the audio and then separating and labeling the audio files per your clients specs indicated on the script. It can be a time burn and it's definitely a task that you want to stay focused on. No mental zoning out. Sometimes, while editing, you'll hear mistakes you made when voicing the script that you missed when you recorded. You may have to go back in your booth and re-record the sentence with the same pace and tone as the original recording so it can seamlessly be cut in when editing. It's called a "pickup." I have recorded many aviation training scripts where it's easy to make a mental mistake. For instance, the script says "attitude" instead of "altitude," which you mistakenly said when recording. Attention to detail is a must. 

I went to a voice over coach to record a few corporate narration scripts and have her give me constructive input. She herself is an accomplished voice talent as well as a coach and has a very polished voice and delivery. But when she sat down to edit my audio for playback, she said she hated audio editing. Frankly, she looked a bit nervous as she moved the mouse cursor to the audio edit she wanted to make. I'm not sure why she so disliked editing as the audio editing function allows you to click back and try the edit again to your liking. It's "non-destructive" in nature. If you're just starting out, your editing speed will increase with practice and experience. 

One thing's for sure. Having good audio editing skills is a big asset in speeding up your turnaround time. I often have customers/clients who say, "John, thanks for the fast turnaround."

If you're just beginning your voice over career and want more help, a good book I bought off Amazon years ago is "Voice Actor's Guide to Home Recording" by Jeffrey Fisher and voice over legend Harlan Hogan. It's written with a humorous style and is loaded with instructional information about audio editing and way beyond.  They do a great job breaking it all down. It will serve as a good in-studio reference manual. Money well spent.

Friday, May 20, 2022

The angry golfer and an $18 beer

 (UPDATE to this story: Tiger Woods withdrew from the tournament after the 3rd round due to ongoing issues with his sore right leg as a result of the horrible car accident back in February of last year. He was 12 over par after the 3rd round and tied for last place).

One of the golf majors (PGA Championship) is happening this weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As usual, there are plenty of headlines, especially since Tiger Woods is playing and trying to make the weekend cut. The Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa is a real beast. Good luck Tiger and all the others hoping to win the oversized trophy, and a big, fat paycheck, along with the money endorsements that come with it.

On the lighter side of things, golf sensation Justin Thomas had a few things to say the other day about the on-course menu items for the fans during a press conference. He said there was much chatter in the locker room about the sky high price of a can of Michelob Ultra for $18 (a tall boy) and the $16 salad. He went on to say the fans deserved better. And to think the famous pimento cheese sandwiches at The Masters sell for around $1.50. What a bargain!

My Dad taught me to play golf at a very early age. He would always have golf on TV on Sundays after church. I thought it was dreadful and boring to watch. That is, until he invited me one weekend afternoon to join him to play my very first round of golf. I was very fidgety and nervous on the first tee as Dad showed me how to grip the club and stand toward the ball. (Commonly referred to as "addressing the ball" for you non-golfers). At my "big moment of truth," I swung the club back and then down toward the ball and I think it rolled maybe 20 yards or so off the tee and down the fairway- a major disappointment. The ball never became airborne. I "chopped" my way toward the golf green and quickly realized it is a very difficult game. But through it all, I got hooked, and would eventually go on to become a pretty accomplished junior golfer in high school. Dad taught me proper golf course etiquette such as not talking while someone is putting, or being ready to hit your ball when it's your turn, so as not to slow the pace of play. On my high school team, there were several golf club throwers and angry players when things didn't go right. I was never one of those. While I wanted to play well, it was never that big a deal to me. Even the best have their off days. Playing with an angry golfer can be quite annoying. When witnessing a temper tantrum over the years (some from my own relatives) I have often wanted to say, "I don't know why you're SO upset, you're not that good a golfer."  But then, sound judgement prevails. I keep my mouth shut. Golf clubs can serve as lethal weapons indeed. Especially in the hands of an angry golfer.

                                                                           


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

To sit or stand. That is thee question

 If you visit any of the many voice over forums online, you'll see conversations about whether to sit or stand as you are recording a voice over. We've all read articles about how unhealthy it is to sit for prolonged periods of time. But beyond that, I believe standing as you record has some solid advantages. However, as always, there are exceptions. If you are narrating an audio book or a lengthy e Learning module, you are more than likely going to sit. But for commercial work, I think standing is the way to go, especially if the copy is quite energized. Sitting while recording an uptempo car commercial would likely hamper you. You need to stand to put some motion into the read with your body. Lately, I've decided to stand in my booth. I do a lot of sitting editing the audio after recording.

 Bottom line-there is no right or wrong way. Whatever allows you to give your best performance.

Here's a link to a good article on CNN.com about standing desks.

Monday, April 18, 2022

"Of Naysayers. Haters. Gaslighters. Energy Vampires"

I read a book once where the author said, "Seeing people for who they REALLY are is one of the most valuable and profitable things you can do in life."

Naysayers. Haters. Gaslighters. Energy vampires.

There's no avoiding them. They pop up at work, school, a rude ("I hate my job") cashier at your local convenience store, a friend, church services, sports events, family gatherings, competitive singing TV shows ... you name it. Thank goodness there are proven methods you can use to banish them forever, or at least minimize the irritation they bring into your otherwise generally pleasant day.

Recently, in a phone chit chat with a  friend, I mentioned another friend of mine in her mid 70's, has become a certified, undeniable, energy vampire. She has two moods---grumpy and grumpier. I LOVE the term...energy vampire... as I have encountered a number of them over the years, and it seems like such a good description. Just in case you're out of the loop, an energy vampire is defined as:

"Friends, family members or coworkers who literally zap your emotional energy."

(Break out the garlic and sharp, wooden stakes).

According to Psych Central, energy vampires tend to be emotionally immature, self-centered and lack empathy. 

The million dollar question is "How do you deal with energy vampires who suck you of your energy?"

Some suggestions are: hang out in groups of three or more, stick to light topics when chatting, lend an ear, reduce contact, and cut them out of your life. 

A retired friend I've known for years is a "triple play threat." An energy vampire, naysayer, and hater. (Other than that, she's a great gal!) Sometimes the phone rings,  I see her name on caller ID, and I just can't answer the phone. One afternoon, I was "treated" to her ear shattering, 1000 decibel screech about how awful Kelly Clarkson dresses on her afternoon TV talk show. I let her rant for a bit, then told her she can always change the channel. "Just grab that little black thing we call a 'remote,' and change the channel." What an idea! Nope. That flies right over her head. I'm positive she enjoys the hating way too much.  Another time, it was about Good Morning America's host, former football player, Michael Strahan, and how much she hates the gap in his front teeth. I informed her that some viewers like the gap, and some don't, as I heard him say one morning on the show. That launched another shout down on the phone, to which I tried to change the subject quickly---"WOW. How about this great weather we're having!" Or, "How about those Warriors and Steph Curry. They kicked butt last night!" That was met with a typical, monotone, Debbie Downer from her, "I don't watch men's basketball John." OKKKK! Sour pusses will be sour pusses, I guess. Just trying to elevate the conversation.

I had a few naysayers when I told them I was going to go to radio/broadcast school to learn to become a deejay, at the age of 18. "Oh really? (sarcastic chuckle), let us know how THAT works out." In a way, that kind of drove me. "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Those types of discouraging comments can put a bit of a chip on your shoulder. But it turned out to be good. I had a very satisfying on-air career for 20+ years in places like West Palm Beach, Charlotte, Akron-Canton, Miami, Joplin ("Oh no! Another tornado!") and met many recording artists and celebrities; most of them very nice to talk to. I also worked alongside some very talented people and learned a lot. Meeting the often outspoken station listeners was cool too. "You guys play too many commercials and you play the same songs over and over!"

As for the haters who are often insecure and get enjoyment out of trying to marginalize your success by knocking you down a peg or two, ignoring them or removing them from your life, is a very useful option. I have an attention seeking brother-in-law who for some reason likes to play the hater card on me; childish, verbal attacks. Jealousy comes to mind; a very common hater trait. We rarely see each other, but at family funerals. My technique? Simple... I ignore. The contrived drama that is thrown my way goes in one ear and out the other. And this is coming from a man of supposed high intellect who is a director at an institute of a well known university! Go figure. 

 Backhanded/patronizing comments are definitely a part of the hater toolbox. A sassy co-worker in the coffee break room who says, "Hey (fill in the name), NICE shoes! Where'd you get them, Pay Less?" Wouldn't you just love to stick a bagel in her yapper.

Wanna bring your haters out of the woodwork? As in by the dozens? Hit the Powerball jackpot.  As the old Bachman Turner Overdrive song lyric goes, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!" People you thought were your friends/family will be seething with jealousy. Not your fault the lottery Gods showered their good luck down on you! By the way, as I write this post, the current jackpot stands at $450 million ; worthy of at least a one ticket purchase. Yep, I'm on that lottery playing train: "If it's meant to be, it's meant to be. All you need is one ticket."

This post is getting long, so I'll skip a lengthy chat about the gaslighters. You probably know what challenges they present. If you don't, Google the term. I can tell you from experience to watch out for the "tag team" husband and wife gaslighters. They love to work together with a plan, and have it down to a science. Bullies. Two against one.

As you go up the ladder in your profession of choice, these kinds of sad and sorry people will try to take cheap shots at your success and bring you down. March on. Ignore. Smile. Your daily success will be your victory. Land that next voice-over job. When you do, celebrate a bit. You deserve it! Oh, and tell Debbie Downer to take a hike.

                                                                   


                                    


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

"I'm not Oprah, but here's my voice-over 'book club' recommendation"

 As I'm sure you've noticed, there are a ton of how-to voice-over books out there. Yesterday, I was doing some tidying up in my storage room and found a copy of "Voice over. Voice actor. What It's Like Behind The Mic." It was stuffed in the bottom of a cardboard box under a table. I had forgotten I bought a copy some years ago on Amazon. It's written by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt--a very talented husband and wife team who are A Listers in the animation voice-over world. What I love about this book is their sense of humor and its easy to understand advice and information about all things voice-over. This book will answer many questions you may have.

In it you'll find:

Ins and Outs of auditioning

Voice warm-ups

Tips for reading copy

How to stand out

How to market yourself--demo production

Agents (Their mindset and getting one)

Union vs. Non-Union work

What to expect when you land a voice-over job

The book is mainly geared toward beginners- intermediate, and it's a solid read.

I highly recommend. You can grab a copy on Amazon. It's 5 star rated by readers and has been updated.

Trends and business practices change quickly in the voice-over world.

                                                             


                         

Sunday, March 20, 2022

"Heavens to murgatroyd!" The Maury Show has been cancelled.

 Well, I'll be! After 31 years, the Maury Show has been cancelled; they're pulling the plug. Somebody hand me a tissue. How many DNA/paternity cases ("Sam is NOT the father!') can they show? I can think of a million other things I'd rather watch or do than Maury with all that false, made for TV drama; like go clean my shower stall. But this IS America; the home of the lowest common denominator, daytime TV sludge that poses as entertainment and "must see/guilty pleasure TV." 

Obviously, Maury had a big following. Since the show has been cancelled, I'm sure another show is in the works to grab those lost souls who got their daily dose of theatrics. What will they do? Many viewers have undoubtedly thought-- "My life was a shambles until I watched the Maury Show and saw all those crazy people onstage pathetically trying to sop up their 15 minutes of fame."  

My interaction with The Maury Show was limited to a millisecond, as I channel surfed for something informative and entertaining to watch. Silly me. That's like going to my local butcher shop expecting to find gardening tools. Oh well, there's always the Travel Channel. Oh, wait. My bad. In case you haven't dropped by there lately, the Travel Channel is mainly ghost/paranormal shows, NOT travel/adventure offerings. They DO have some non-ghost/non-bigfoot shows,but that's for very limited time slots.  One show features Ozzy Osbourne and wife Sharon, with producer son Jack, rating paranormal/scary videos from a no frills set with upholstered chairs. Ozzy looks like he's bored to tears and taking a nap, as Sharon teases him to wake up and participate. Another episode, their "behind the scenes" feature, was about how many times Ozzy had to go take a pee during the show's taping because he drank too many cups of coffee. I kid you not. I believe I heard the show has been cancelled after one season, as Ozzy's salty, off-the-cuff language was not acceptable to TV affiliate audiences around the country.

As always, with TV programming, follow the money. Whatever makes the ratings soar. Big ratings= big advertising $$$. That's the way it's always been and always will be. Outrageous behavior is the norm. "How low can they go?"is to be expected. As the old saying goes, "It smells but it sells."

I would say to Maury, "Hey, 31 years hosting a TV show is an amazing feat on daytime TV. Many shows get the axe after one season. Job well done." But I just can't bring myself to offer full-blown congratulations. So, I'll split the difference. "Enjoy your retirement Maury."

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The amazing Morgan Freeman and his voice tip

 So I was online the other day and stumbled on to an interviewer and the incredible Morgan Freeman talking about his big, deep, distinctive, authoritative voice. The interviewer, who was sitting back to the camera and not anyone famous, asked Morgan how he, the interviewer, could get a deeper voice. Morgan said something I have never heard before. He said, "yawn a lot." Yawn... really? He went on to say that yawning is one effective way to RELAX your vocal chords which will give you a deeper, richer pitch to your voice. I had heard about relaxing your vocal chords for effective voice-over, but never heard about using yawning to go deeper with your voice.

 I yawned a lot in junior high school as the teacher lectured on and on with a topic I was zoned out on, my eyes glazed over, but I don't recall my voice getting any deeper. But when Morgan Freeman speaks, people listen. So, I'll definitely take him at his word. Just be careful not to yawn when your other half is speaking to you at the end of his/her day with another all-important, drama filled story from work. Full attention please. Yawn at your own peril.

Then from an article in Time Magazine there's this...

"But there’s something deeper going on with the appeal of Freeman’s voice—literally. In scientific experiments, people consistently perceive low-pitched voices in men as stronger and more physically attractive than male voices with a higher pitch. “It’s not surprising that Morgan Freeman is used for a lot of voiceover work, because his voice is perceived as that of a dominant, strong male figure,” says Casey Klofstad, associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and researcher of how society and biology influence the way we make decisions."

I always have to laugh when I see cheesy ads where the voice seeker puts in their ad, "MUST sound exactly like Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones." And then you see they're offering $20 for the voice-over.  Comedy at its best.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Ditch the headphones...sometimes

Here's a simple way to make your voice-over reads more natural sounding; take your headphones off when you record. The problem with wearing them in your home studio booth is, too often, voice talents get use to listening to their own voice in the headphones as they record.  I've been taking my headphones off for years and have never regretted it. Especially for those jobs where they want a conversational tone, like e Learning. Overloading your ears with sound is not going to be beneficial.

Now, that said, sometimes you must wear them. If you're at a recording session, you'll need to have them on so as to be able to hear input from the director who is outside your booth; usually looking at you through glass. You can turn the volume of the headphones down a bit as you read script.

I know. I know! You like the sound of your own voice flooding through your headphones and into your ears when you record. You're comfortable that way. Let me ask you something. What exactly are you listening for when you put on headphones inside your home studio booth? While you stumble and bumble to come up with a legitimate answer, I would suggest you try an experiment; take your headphones off in your recording booth. If you're in love with the sound of your own voice with your headphones on, you'll probably be uncomfortable for a while. Stay with it! Your reads will benefit. 

If you're editing audio, of course, you'll want to have your headphones on to check for unwanted mouth clicks and any other undesirable sounds you can edit out. Sometimes studio monitors will not give you super accurate feedback. With your headphones on while editing, you'll hear things you won't hear on your monitors.

A good set of headphones is a must for any studio. I use Audio-Technica. But there are a ton of different, quality brands out there. Sony, Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser come to mind. Do some research online before buying. Stay away from "cheap" headphones. Not all are created equal. Over the years, I've used Broadcast Supply Worldwide to buy my studio equipment and have been pleased with the price, quality, and on-time delivery. Here's a link to their headphone offerings.



Monday, March 7, 2022

"Pssst! I have something really cool to share with you"

One of my favorite, top tier, A List voice actors is Scott Rummell; a terrific promo and trailer voice. He's a big league talent you've no doubt heard over the years. A Disney voice, Lee Jeans and much more. He also seems like a very generous and nice guy. 

Here's a link to Scott in an L.A. studio recording a new commercial demo. Watch the process. Much to learn from this. It runs about 20 minutes. You'll notice the session was "light and breezy." The guy producing the demos is Chuck Duran of "Demos That Rock Studio" in L.A. 

And here's a link to a really entertaining TED Talk Scott gave where he speaks about how he got started in voice acting. Very enjoyable. I highly recommend you watch it. It's truly inspirational and also runs about 20 minutes. If you've been sitting on the fence about getting into voice acting, maybe this will give you the kick in the pants you need. Even if you're not a voice actor, check it out. The power of persistence comes through loud and clear.

                                                                        



Friday, March 4, 2022

How is your stuff doing these days?

 In my early days of radio broadcasting, I was constantly moving to the next opportunity. U-Haul and I were the best of friends. I usually rented the smallest truck. I made it a rule not to hang on to useless clutter that I would have to senselessly move to my next town. Besides, most of the time when they hired you, they'd want you there in days...not weeks.

Which brings me to the fine art of clutter. Some folks are really good at it. I don't have a lot of that here at my place as I've never been a "things" person. I'm allergic to malls. A few months ago, I went down to my carport storage, unlocked the door for the first time in years, and saw a few big Tupperware containers which I had forgotten I had down there. Much to my surprise, there was a shoe box crammed with cassette tapes of my old radio shows. I took the box out and went back upstairs to my living room where I could see dates on the cassettes; some of them dating back to the mid 80's! Not having a cassette player, I called a friend who had one, and she gladly loaned it to me. Playing the tapes of my early radio shows was kind of weird. Some of my on-air antics were cool; others I was less impressed with. Time gives you a whole different perspective. I even had a recording of a couple of actors who visited my studio for a live, on-air interview from "Greater Tuna," a very funny show featuring Joe Sears and Jaston Williams; a comedic play set in the fictional town of Tuna, Texas, the "third- smallest" town in the state.

After listening, I was going to put the cassettes in a closet, when it occurred to me, I would probably never be listening to them again. All of this was from my past, and it had very little sentimental value to me. I took the entire box, cassettes and all, and threw them in the garbage can for Monday morning pickup. See how easy that was? Something clicked, and it made me feel good. 

I went through my closet and found like new pants and other clothes I will never wear. Off  they went to my neighborhood Goodwill. "Ahhhh...much better now." 

 I was reading a book by one of my favorite British authors, Stuart Wilde, where he speaks about decluttering our lives and making way for the new and the good that's coming to you. I'm a firm believer. Less, not more, is the way to go.    

Some people just can't imagine throwing their useless junk away; they seem attached to it. And I'm not talking about hoarders.  Even though they've never touched it in years, there it sits taking up space and collecting dust.  And God forbid they should have to move. That'll take days to relocate all the stuff they never use. They'll have to rent out that jumbo sized U-Haul you see around town to get all that junk to a new location; and beg family and friends to help them move all that crap stuff into and out of the truck. Insane, I say. Get rid of it already! You'll feel much better. And "lighter." Out with the old...in with the new!

                                                                  



Friday, February 25, 2022

"This ain't no funeral" (What's with the coat and tie?)

 So you are about to head out to your very first recording session as a newbie voice talent, excitement abounds, then it hits you; "What should I wear?" I can't speak for others, but what I've seen at almost every recording session I've done is casual to business casual--without fail. Why is that? I think that COMFORT rules the day in recording studios. Simply put, you want to be comfortable when you're recording. You'll notice the folks who run the recording studio are dressed quite casually. Now, there are limits when it comes to casual dress. I use to work with a guy in radio who was known for his deep sea diving exploits off the air and he'd show up in flip flops, cut offs and a tank top to do his show. OK. No big deal with that. He was on the overnight show and there were few people around. I wouldn't recommend you show up for a recording session with flip flops though. That's a tad too casual. On the other hand, if you show up with a suit coat and tie, you'll be way too formal and look like you're heading to a funeral. And NOBODY wants to work with someone who looks like they're heading to a funeral. For the most part, creative folks tend to lean toward the casual side of dress.

Shifting gears from outside recording sessions to at home ones, the cool thing about recording from a home studio is no one sees how you dress. Well, maybe your kids or other half do, but they could probably care less how you dress while you record just as long as you make lots of money so you can support their fast food habits. 

There's a voice actor who runs a very popular (if not controversial) blog that wrote a book about making a living doing voice overs from a home studio in your pajamas. Who would know? I say"Go for it" if that's your thing. Or, taking it one step further, doing voice overs in your birthday suit! This I wouldn't recommend for a number of reasons. I won't go into that here as we're approaching creep factor X 10. 

So, when heading out to a recording session, think casual NOT funeral formal. You'll fit right in.


Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"The Wonderful World of Water"

OK, just keeping it real. I have a confession to make.  I HATE WATER!

Maybe the all caps is a little too dramatic. I don't really hate water, but I often forget to drink enough of it throughout the day. According to "Culligan Water"...

"The average amount of water you need per day is about 3 liters (13 cups for men) and 2.2 liters  (9 cups for women)" 

No  doubt, it's really important to stay hydrated throughout the day. And as a voice actor, it's especially important to get your recommended amount to keep the vocal cords from drying up or getting hoarse. If you're heading out to record a session, don't forget the bottled water! And start drinking water well before the session. If you're recording in your home studio, same thing applies. Water, water everywhere...

I've long considered water taste to be bland and boring. I know there are a gazillion choices at the store to remedy that. I like to put a little lemon juice in mine to step it up a notch.  Trust me, I'm not dissing  water. It's a wonderful thing when you think about all the ways we use water. I'm grateful. Very. In some parts of the parched world, it's gold. As I write this, I have an annoying, dripping, shower head in my bathroom. I tried a new shower head, and still,drip, drip, drip. Time to make a phone call. Water's been VERY good to plumbers, hasn't it? I was told it's not the shower head that's causing the dripping,it's a seal behind the hot/cold handle that has worn out and needs to be be replaced. My father, a very talented man, once went on a wild rant in our little country house in Ohio when he tried to do some plumbing in the basement and  had a mega meltdown;swearing all kinds of unmentionables because he was having little success making the repair.  No doubt, water can be tricky and has a mind of its own. No thank you. I'll leave the more "involved" plumbing to the pros.  

OK, where were we? 

Here's a cool fact.

"The average person could survive about a month without food. But only a week without water."

As voice actors, it's important we protect our voices. Lose your voice; lose money.

 So, here's to drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated throughout the day.

Gulp, gulp, gulp.Where are my lemon wedges?


Monday, January 31, 2022

Her million dollar voice is SO familiar

If you watch live awards shows you have heard her voice announcing the presenters, guests and such. Her name is Randy Thomas. She began making money with her voice in radio years ago, where women were largely pushed to the side. Men ruled and women played second fiddle. But Randy broke those barriers. If you're a female voice actor, you have Randy to thank, as she kicked in the door for those that followed her.

No doubt, live announcing a huge event like the Oscars with millions watching,would be nerve- racking. But she's got it down; a real pro. 

Here's a link to a very brief piece about her I found online speaking from her home studio. 

                                                                 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Hoarse throat relief in a bottle

 One of the challenges of voicing many scripts is that your voice may decide to get in a funk from time to time. Dryness, raspiness - just plain ol' sore throat. Not being able to deliver projects on time can mean money lost, or worse yet, the loss of a client.

I heard about a terrific product from that great animation voice talent and coach, Pat Fraley, called "Entertainer's Secret." This stuff's been around for some time and professional singers (including Billy Joel and Katy Perry), as well as voice over folks, swear by it. You spray it into your throat or sniff it into your nostrils. It's distributed by a company out of Indiana. The bottle indicates the main ingredient to be Aloe Vera Gel.

I ordered several bottles and keep them handy in my vocal booth.

I know that there are many other tricks of the trade that VO folks use to keep the voice fine tuned such as nasal irrigation with saline solution, but this stuff works for me. And it's not messy. 

Check it out here

"Leave that jewelry at home!"

Pretty much common sense, but if you're going in for a recording session, leave your jewelry at home, or at least put it in your handbag. Loose fitting jewelry can make a bit of noise and  microphones are very sensitive. The producer and audio engineer will not be pleased with you if you bring unwanted sounds to the recording session.  I have a guided meditation I listen to and at some points you can hear the narrator's wrist bracelet in the background. Not good. OK, keeping it short and sweet on this post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

"Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?"

Those just jumping into the voice over world may wonder whether a voice over website is a must. Some may think it costs too much money to have a website. I believe if you DON'T have a website, you're potentially losing money/business. A well thought out website is your online "storefront." If done right, it gives you credibility. It's a place where potential customers can go to listen to your voice demos, read testimonials (powerful), see actual examples of your voice over work through videos you've recorded for, tells folks a bit about your background, answers questions with an FAQ, and contains details about how to reach you.

By the way, it's not expensive to have your website up on the Internet. You generally pay a quarterly dollar amount. The companies who host websites are very competitive. Do some investigating. You might be surprised.

I won't speak for others in the voice over industry, but I will give you my experience with my website. When I decided to leave my on-air radio career hosting a midday show in Charlotte about 15 years ago to go full-time with voice over, I was fortunate to have the help of our radio group webmaster. I told him I needed a "basic" website put together so I could land voice over jobs. He graciously agreed to meet me at the station on a weekend (a good thing--no distractions in the building) and he put the website together, as I looked over his shoulder. At one point he asked me what I wanted to call my website--"John Miles Productions" Or, "John Miles Creative." I suggested we go with "productions" as it was a bit more all inclusive. So, "John Miles Productions" was born. That website gave me confidence to approach people for work. I was able to send out marketing emails to production companies and direct them with a link to my voice demos. Back then, things were a bit different; I would sometimes receive an email or phone call from someone I had just emailed my information to same day. "Good timing John. I have a voice over job you might want to do." None of this would have been possible without a website.

I highly recommend hiring a competent web designer to create your website. Some voice talents like to put their own website together (e.g."WIX"). In my opinion, that's OK, as long as it looks neat and clean and contains the information I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. And by all means, there is no need for flash and tons of bells and whistles. The people who may hire you want TWO things from your website. They want to hear your voice demos, and they want to know how to reach you. Put your contact information (i.e. email and phone number) where it's easy to see. Of course, same thing for your demos. There's always been a lot of talk in the voice over industry as to whether to put a picture of yourself on your website. I've taken the "no picture" route. Some feel it's a good thing to have a picture as people like to see who they're dealing with. I'll leave that debate to others. I don't want people judging me by what I look like. I want them judging me by what I sound like. Some voice talents are in their 70's, or even 80's, and they sound much younger. The great, late, narrator Peter Thomas' career spanned 7 decades! He was 92 when he died and still had narration job offers! (You no doubt heard him on TV many times. A real legend. "Forensic Files" was one of his shows.)

After putting off a much needed voice over website update for way too long, a very talented nephew of mine from Ohio put together a wonderful website for me. He did an outstanding job, and I'm proud to have a website I can send potential customers to where they can hear demos and read about my background. A HUGE thank you to him. I have absolutely no eye for website design, and he took copy I provided and made everything work. 

So, the answer to "Do I need a website to be a competitive voice actor?" I believe is... YES. I know there are voice talents who get work from so called "pay to play" websites like Voice 123 and Voices.com and do not have their own website. They use those sites to upload their voice demos and provide background information. That's fine. I just know from past experience that a personal website is a definite plus. I think that those who ignore it as a very effective marketing tool, do so at their own peril.  A website gives you "presence."

Here's a link to my new voice over website. It allows me to put everything in ONE place. And it looks professional. It gives the potential customer/client the impression that I'm a pro and ready to go to work. And that's a good thing.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

"This copy stinks!" (A warning for you). And an Orson Welles drop by

 I don't think there's a voice actor who's been around for a while who hasn't received copy from clients/producers that lacks proper punctuation, has misspelled words, or awkward phrasing. 

It's very frustrating for you, as the voice talent, because your goal is to make your read "sparkle." But that little voice inside your head says "I'm never going to be able to make this sound professional. Just too many errors." 

When in a recording session with a client, although tempting, never make fun of or mock the copy. The person directing you may have written it! He or she may not appreciate your on the spot critique. They may think it's a masterpiece.You feel otherwise. Keep it to yourself.

The best thing you can do is to roll with the flow. But you might want to politely say, "Where it says _____, do we want to say_____ ?" Defer to the client. They're paying you. If you're recording from your home studio without direction, you might want to email the client and ask about certain things before you start recording. Sometimes the client is "English second language" and they may be counting on YOU to smooth it out. This is common with overseas companies.

When I lived in Carolina, I use to drive down two times a week to a well known music service company that also produced on hold messages galore. I would sit in a booth for an hour and read message after message as the audio engineer captured my voice over in another room. Almost every session, there was  a piece of copy that would come up that looked like no one had bothered to proofread it. More than a few times,  I had to bite my lip. (And I have broad lips. Ouch!) Sometimes, the audio engineer would chime in with "Let's try it this way..."

Now, because you've read this post this far, I want to share with you an entertaining, old school recording session with the late, great, actor/producer/director/writer Orson Welles of "Citizen Kane" and "War of the Worlds" fame. He was recording a voice over for frozen peas and burgers, and to say that he was critical of the copy would be a huge understatement. Listen to how his anger builds with every mistake, and then he explodes before walking out of the session. It's a true classic. And funny too! Here's the link.

Friday, January 14, 2022

"Let's Get Ready To Rummmble!" (No, this is not about your family's last holiday get together)

 Years ago, I received an email from a gentleman who wanted me to record a TV commercial for him. As I remember, it was for a small/medium sized market. I asked him to email me the copy before I committed to recording it for him. I immediately noticed the copy contained the phrase "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" I had read somewhere that the phrase had been trademarked by boxing announcer extraordinaire, Michael Buffer. If you watch sporting events, you've no doubt heard his over the top announcement at the beginning of a boxing match.  (Pic down below). He gets between $25,000 to $100,000 to say those five words, depending on the match! Yep. How sweet is that? He had the phrase trademarked back in 1992, and since then, it's been used in movies, TV shows, video games, Washington political hearings and beyond. (OK. I made that last part up, but it IS fitting).  In fact, it's estimated he's made $400,000,000 to date off the phrase. He and his company vigorously enforce the legal use of it.  He's actually made more off the licensing than ring announcing. 

Back to that customer who wanted me to say the phrase in his TV commercial. I emailed him back and clued him in. He had no idea it had been trademarked.  We went with some variation of "Let's Get Ready To Rumble!" and all was well.

This reminds me of the Wendy's TV commercial back in the 80's with Clara Peller-the onscreen, feisty, grandma known for her gripe, "Where's the Beef?!" Humorous, to say the least. Back then, the phrase caught wildfire and was being heard and seen everywhere; including on a huge bunch of tee shirts. Wendy's trademarked it back in 1984. I interviewed Clara on my radio show when I was on in West Palm Beach . She and her manager son were in town that weekend for a Senior Olympics event. Clara was extremely hard of hearing, and the story goes that when she was taping a TV commercial, with a few other grandmas standing behind a counter with her, a producer hidden down below tapped her on the ankle to bark those famous words "Where's the Beef?!" right on cue.

Now all you and I have to do is come up with another catchy marketing phrase that everyone wants and trademark it. I'll give you 50 percent. You in?