As more and more folks begin again taking to the sky, they'll be moving through airports to get to their destination on time. In the background, they're likely to hear a female voice making all kinds of announcements to travelers. She does it in such a nice way and has to have one of the best jobs in the world! Literally. Her voice can be heard in over 200 airports globally. She records the announcements from her cozy home studio. Through good luck and timing, she landed this unique job many years ago. Imagine introducing yourself at a party and someone asks you, "So what do you do for a living?" You reply,"I make airport announcements. I LOVE working from home and the pay's pretty good too." CBS News did a cool feature on her. It's brief and fun. Take a look. She has a great laugh to boot.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Friday, July 16, 2021
Let me say upfront, I'm dedicating this blog post to the late, great, worldwide traveling TV chef superstar Anthony Bourdain, who ate just about every food known to man, including goose intestines. Yikes! By the way, I miss his wit and unique way of telling a story on camera. I suspect a lot of people do. He was wildly successful.
I'm guessing we all have some foods on our "enjoy eating list" that others just don't understand. I was reminded of this when I saw someone on You Tube making a liverwurst sandwich with onions. My mouth was watering as that's one of my favorite sandwiches of all time. Yet there are many who wouldn't take a bite of it in a million years. If you've had a liverwurst sandwich, you know it has a very unusual odor; one that many may not appreciate in close quarters. Give me a liverwurst and onion on rye and I'm in heaven. I was thinking about attending "Liverwurst Anonymous" classes, but I love the stuff just way too much. I'm not giving it up!
I have a sister who has teased me over the years about "those stinky sardines you and Mom use to eat right out of the can. GROSS!" I'll admit, they are an acquired taste and not everyone's cup of tea. But sardines on a saltine or eaten right off the plate is OK by me. And the health benefits of sardines are off the charts. There are some really good brands in the supermarket. One of my favorites is the King Oscar brand. Many come with olive oil, mustard sauce, tomato and the like. I've always figured the olive oil was good for my voice. You know, keeping it nice and lubricated for my next voice over job. Yep, bring on the sardines!
Another food Mom and I enjoyed eating on a hot Summer day in Ohio was limburger cheese. It has a very strong, distinct odor that my sister once referred to as smelling like "dirty tennis shoes." I say, "Some people have no taste!" Limburger on rye bread with a bit of onions=priceless, to my tastebuds. I know many folks who love cheese of all kinds, but just say "No!" to limburger. I guess everyone draws the "food eating line" somewhere.
I was watching TV the other day and a national commercial came on for Kraft macaroni and cheese. The mother is chasing her little daughter around the house with something on her fork (probably a vegetable) saying, "Just ONE more bite." The girl yells back at Mom, "No!" It was being played as she hated what Mom was trying to force feed her to eat. Cut to the next scene and the child and Mom are seated at the table where the girl is happily eating Kraft macaroni and cheese. All was now right in her world. It made me chuckle as I was raised in a middle class family, and as a kid, you ate what Mom put on your plate with no complaints. Dad made sure of that. "Finish what you have on your plate or you're not leaving the table." And the thought of my Mom chasing me around the house to eat a food I didn't like, well, let's just say you'd have a better chance of hitting the Powerball jackpot than seeing that scenario in our house at dinner time.
What about you? What's your favorite food that seemingly no one else can stand? Do you sneak down to the kitchen at 3 AM when everyone's snoring to enjoy your guilty pleasure? Any shame creeping out from the fridge? Enquiring minds want to know!
I will remind you. If you're going in to do a voice over session after eating limburger cheese, sardines or the like, it goes without saying, make sure you gargle and brush your teeth really well before heading out. Unless you want to get some very disapproving looks from the audio engineer or director. If you smell like walking limburger cheese, they may not invite you back again. But then again, they may ask you to bring them a limburger cheese sandwich to share at the next recording session. Not everybody hates limburger.
Thursday, July 8, 2021
Those just jumping into doing voice overs may long for agent representation thinking it will lead to great jobs falling in their lap. Odds are, it won't. Which leads to the question, "Do I need a voice over agent to succeed in the competitive voice over field?" The rather vague answer is "It all depends." You say, "Depends on what?" It depends on what kind of voice over you are pursuing and what your goals are; where you want to go. There are many voice actors making a good living without an agent. They may be thriving in non union corporate narration or learning voice over. Or perhaps are in demand for audio book narration. On the other hand, if you're looking to land a national TV commercial , you're more than likely going to need an agent. Why? Because capable agents can get you in the door for an audition and hopefully a sweet voice over gig. Also, they have access to casting/audition notices early in the process. They have connections. But remember this: An agent can't land you the job. That's on you and your audition. There is no magic wand. Having an agent is no guarantee of future success in the VO industry. And getting an agent to bring you onboard can be very frustrating. They may already have a voice talent that sounds similar to you. They have a roster of voice talents they represent and handle. They don't need you at this time. Or,they're just not that impressed with your demo. And when you approach an agent and are lucky enough to present your demo for representation consideration, it's got to be good. Really good. Like the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." I would say concentrate on your marketing and letting people know you're available and studio equipped at home. Don't get caught up on the fact that you don't have an agent. Remember, they're not magicians. Much of your success will depend on YOU.
Thursday, June 3, 2021
There are lots of folks teaching the various niches of voice over. One of the most qualified is animation voice legend-Pat Fraley. Over the years, he's voiced thousands of cartoons. Years ago, I ordered his cassette course (remember those?) and was beyond impressed. Now, if you have a sincere desire to explore with Pat, you might be thinking, "But I live in Minneapolis and he's in LA!" Good news. He has home study courses as well as remote teaching/coaching over the Internet. Here's a short, cool interview with Pat running through a few of his voices. It runs about 8 minutes.
Go to his website at pat fraley.com to see all that he has to offer, which goes way beyond just animation. He also has regular course offerings on audio book narration which has been a booming segment of voice over for years now. There's a "free stuff" section you might want to check out. And be sure to click on "demos" to hear Pat's amazing animation demo.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
I live in an older neighborhood here in East Bay San Francisco. I like that each house is different, many of them built long before I moved in eight years ago. A retired friend of mine said she was raised in a Victorian just a few doors down from me. The homes have "personality."
I'm told that many years ago, the state of California was going to build a highway through my neighborhood and came in and bought a number of homes that they planned to demolish to make way for the highway. There was such an uproar from residents that the state finally abandoned plans. The homes sat vacant for years, and many were in a state of disrepair. About four years ago or so, California held auctions on my street to sell them on a "as is" basis, and get this, CASH only. I'd look out my living room window and see cars parked up and down the street, and potential buyers with clipboards in hand ready to place a bid at auction. Now mind you, these houses were going to need a major renovation to get them back to being livable and presentable. But they sold quickly. I'm sure some of the buyers were pro investors looking to flip them for a profit. A lady friend asked one of the new owners what he paid cash for at auction and it was upwards of $500,000 for an abandoned house! The stock market and stock options in the tech world have been VERY good to some folks.
There's a neat, little, family owned convenience store one block over from me, and I sometimes take a break from recording in my studio and walk over there to grab a snack or something to drink. Yesterday, we had a blue ribbon day here in the Bay Area. Super clear skies, just a hint of coolness, no wind, abundant sunshine, and a very comfortable, humidity free, 72 degrees- a perfect Spring day to head over to the store. As I walk along the sidewalk, I'm always impressed with how people keep up their yards and do their gardening. I have absolutely NO green thumb but can appreciate those that do. As I was coming back from the store, I passed by one of my favorite homes along the way with really beautiful flowers growing in the front and side of the house. They looked exceptional with the brilliant California sunshine. On this day, I saw a lady pruning the flowers. I had never seen anyone gardening there before and it was nice to see a face. Not wanting to keep her from her
work pastime, I said a quick hello as I walked by; an elderly lady with a big hat on, gardening gloves, and a friendly smile. I told her I often walk by her home on the way to the store and really admire the flowers she has and the wonderful upkeep. She looked pleased with the compliment and I bid her a good day. As I walked to go back home, I felt glad that I had the opportunity to praise her gardening. And maybe, in some small way, it made her day a bit more enjoyable. As they say, "It's the little things in life."
Thursday, May 20, 2021
So back during my South Florida on air radio days at WIRK, I found out through a contact (a nice lady friend in the know), that the local FOX TV affiliate was going to be producing a LIVE game show with a male and female host, an in-studio audience, and a play at home TV audience. At that time (mid 80's), a number of TV stations were producing a variation of "Blackout Bingo," with some ratings success, and the general manager of our local FOX station decided he wanted to give it a try. My lady friend who worked there in the promotions department said auditions were going to soon be held for the host and hostess. She had heard me on my midday show on the radio and said she thought I should give it a try. So, I went down on the weekend when they were doing in front of the camera auditions and gave it a shot. There were quite a few guys/gals there that Saturday trying out. It was a very brief audition and involved some ad-libbing, something I was pretty comfortable doing on my radio show. I left that day feeling like I gave a pretty solid audition, and was quite surprised when someone called me and said they wanted me to be the new host. "Me?", I thought. "Are you sure you have the right guy?" I had very limited on camera experience other than a few public TV fundraisers I volunteered to do. The female they hired to be my co-host (Sara Premisler) was a local actress who had impressed the general manager of the TV station with some on stage performances he had seen her do. She wasn't "Vanna" and I wasn't "Pat." Far from it. But I enjoyed working with her. It was overall a fun gig to do, and besides, I still had my radio show to fall back on. I learned a lot on the job. When you do TV, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE), is a critic. "Hey John, I was channel surfing last night and saw you in that awful 'Miami Vice' jacket you had on. Where'd you get that?" Truth was, my co-host and I got our on camera wardrobe from a local clothing store who allowed us to wear the clothes for a mention at the end of the program in the rolling credits. (Promotional consideration). So, we had no choice as to what we were wearing. Another time, I was out in a Publix supermarket when a guy recognized me and came over and complained that his wife had auditioned for the hostess role and didn't get it, and was 'SO much better than my co-host.' (I chalked that up to sour grapes). Our show was called "$29,000 Blackout Bingo"- $29,000 being the big prize. No one ever won the jackpot, even though we were pulling for someone to do so. It would have been great publicity. Now get this. We were on at the same time as Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune! No one was going to beat those huge shows with a live, local show like ours. But we managed a bit of a cult following with surprise drop in guests from time to time, like pro wrestler Randy Macho Man Savage and other stars of the WWE. A real, campy hoot. Our show was sponsored by Pepsi and 7-11, where folks could go to pick up their bingo cards and play along with us from home. We had live operators to answer phones when viewers called in with a winning card. Having a live, in studio audience was fun to play off of. Halfway through the show, I would grab a microphone and go down for a little friendly chit chat and giggle. In studio guests enjoyed being on TV. The show didn't last long, and I was actually kind of relieved when the producer told us one Friday evening after a show that they were pulling the plug and cancelling further production.
I enjoyed hosting, for the most part, but the constant critiquing from friends, family, and strangers got old after a while. I was happy to still have my radio show where I spoke to an unseen audience and played music. It was my "cozy safe space" to entertain. And casual dress was always OK. As I found out, when you're on TV, it's like being under a microscope. The way you wear your hair, your "crooked" on camera smile, what you have on, your voice, your on air persona, and on and on. You have to get good at pretty much ignoring it all. Move on. Trust your instincts.Forget about the negative chatter. As they say, "There's no shortage of critics." They're a dime a dozen. Worry too much about what others say and you'll get a bad case of heartburn! That goes for everything in life. Not just a laughable, local, TV game show.
Monday, May 17, 2021
So I was going through my book collection the other evening, and pulled out a book about voice over I bought several years ago. It's called, "Secrets of Voice Over Success" by Joan Baker. And while there are many voice over books on the market, I particularly like this one, as it features some of the top voice over artists in the industry talking about their path from unknown to the A list. Each chapter features a different voice, and the first one, fittingly, is the late movie trailer superstar, Don LaFontaine.
As anyone in this business knows, auditioning is the norm for landing jobs. I was taken by Don's observation about not only auditioning, but rejection. Here's the direct passage.
"No matter how good you may be, you're not going to book every job for which you audition. Sometimes the answer is going to be no. I never let it bother me. I keep in mind that this is a very subjective business. I am certainly not right for every job. As an actor, rejection is the first thing with which you learn to deal. It's not so much rejection as it is a process of elimination. You do it all the time. If you select Burger King over McDonalds, you're not rejecting McDonalds; you simply prefer Burger King. That's the way it is in this business. Don't dwell on it. Move on. Believe me; your career is not over."
This coming from, arguably, the most successful voice over artist of all time. Powerful stuff indeed.
Cool thing is the updated version of the book comes with a CD with demos on it. This is not a book that teaches voice over technique. It's a book with lots of real world advice from the best in the business about how to elevate your career.
The book is a great read. Here's a link.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Now that the pandemic restrictions are easing, if you ever visit the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend you take the ferry from Pier 33 and head out to the infamous Alcatraz. It's a very short ride. I was joined by my sister and brother in law from Ohio when they vacationed here and we went on the walking tour through the prison. The narration and sound effects you hear through the rented headset are really outstanding. The audio tour is optional but you'll be missing a lot if you decline. You'll get an amazing look and listen into the way things used to be for the inmates and guards. It's a bit creepy, but fun. Bring a warm coat! It can be chilly out there, even in the Summer. Travel tip: Get your tickets in advance as the tours book very quickly. Showing up at Pier 33 the day you want to go over to Alcatraz is no guarantee of being able to go that day. You can get ticket information here
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Here's a really terrific guide to word usage that I think is fascinating. Don't be surprised if you find that you have made (or are making), some of these same mistakes.
WARNING: Once you click on one word and explore, you'll want to keep clicking on one word after another. That could take all day! It's a very long list.
“ATM” means “Automated Teller Machine,” so if you say “ATM machine” you are really saying, “Automated Teller Machine machine.”
Thanks given to Paul Brians for posting the lengthy list and sharing. Credit to Nancy P. McKee and George P. Kennedy, who wrote "Correcting Common Errors in Writing," published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing.
Monday, April 26, 2021
As you work in the voice over field, you'll become pretty good at seeing questionable jobs or someone running an ad for a needed voice over who will say things like what you'll read below. (I'm referring here to low budget or no budget jobs you'll often see on Craigslist.) Some of these I find humorous. Some are just plain sad.
"This should only take you 10 minutes to record."
"Easy money. We're paying $20." (For a VO job that should pay $200.)
"You don't have to have professional equipment. You can record on your phone."
"We have nothing to pay you for this job but it COULD lead to future work." (Yes, more non-paid work. Thanks for the heads up.)
" Nothing in the budget for you to record this short script. We're doing this for no pay too because it's a cause we believe in." (I believe in causes too. But they don't put groceries on the table.)
"This is for no compensation but it would be good for your voice over portfolio."
"We're not looking for a real professional for this. Just someone who can do a decent job reading the words on the page."
"If interested, please email us your rates." (I'd be glad to. But I need more specifics from you about the job so I can quote a proper and fair rate according to the type of voice over it is.)
"This is a super simple project..."
This is only a short "red flags" list I've come up with. If you've been in the voice over biz for a while, I'm sure you have some of your own. I've learned to trust my gut.
If you see any of the above in an online ad, RUN. DON'T WALK! Your good judgement will thank you later.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
I was recently reminded about this phenomenon when a friend of mine visited my studio to record a few demo intro tracks. David has a wonderful South African accent and I asked if he wouldn't mind helping me out. He said, "Sure, no problem." After the very brief recording session, he came out of the booth to watch me edit the tracks and hear his takes through my monitors. He noted how it's always strange to hear your recorded voice, because it sounds so different from how we hear ourselves through our heads.
Here's a link to "Why we hate hearing our own voices."
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
OK. OK. I know. These days there's a lot of chatter and gossip about Jim Nantz' new contract with CBS. He's reportedly been making 6.5 million annually. And some so called "sources" say he'll be making 10.5 million per year going forward. Love the guy on NFL football games and his annual Masters coverage. Great voice. Great talent. Always a class act. He deserves every penny. But that's not totally what this blog post is about.
The cat's out of the bag now. And his legion of fans will be seeing him through a whole different light from now on. Somebody spilled the beans. This may come off as a tad gossipy, but I think you REALLY need to know. Well... I wasn't going to say anything but... Ready? OK, here goes...
(whispering) Jim Nantz is a huge breakfast fan and he likes his toast BURNT! "Charred" would be another word. And he admits to carrying a small, laminated picture in his wallet showing a burnt piece of whole wheat toast so his restaurant server and cook can get it right. I think I read his wife gave him the pic. Ya know, there's nothing worse than living with a grump who's always complaining about a burnt toast fail. And yes, by all means, the server has Jim's permission to take the pic back in the kitchen to show the cook just how burnt he wants it to be. Not a little bit burnt. A whole lot burnt! Apparently, some cooks haven't been burning his toast thoroughly enough. Maybe they were worried about setting off the fire alarms.
Here's an idea, but don't hold me to it. The next televised golf tournament , see if you can catch up to him as he heads to the broadcast tower. No small feat. If you're lucky enough to do that, don't ask him for his autograph. Say loudly for all to hear, "Mr. Nantz. I love your work. Now, can I see your burnt toast picture? I know you take it with you everywhere you go. I read about it on some voice over guy's blog."
Then email me and let me know how that turned out.
Those of us who do voice overs from a home studio (and it's increasing every second) depend heavily on the Internet. Pre-Internet, voice talents would go out to recording studios to do the work. And while being able to record and then send our work to our customers/clients online is a blessing (no rushing in traffic to get to a voice over session), you still have to make sure that the voice work you record makes it to its destination-the producer, director, or individual who hired you. There are many audio delivery services on the Internet that can help you do that. The one I use is Send This File.com which I find to be dependable. And some of them are free... up to a certain point. But putting ONE simple sentence in your emails to your customer or client after you email a link for them to download your voice over works like magic. And here it is. "Please confirm receipt of the voice over." Never assume that your work has gotten to its intended destination. Sometimes, even though you put the confirmation request sentence in your email, some clients will not email back and say something like, "Thanks 'Randy'... audio/voice over received." Make sure that once you send out your work, you follow up promptly. Some voice over talents will have a download option right on their websites, so the customer/client can log in with a password and download their audio. That's a really cool and efficient option for both parties. And as many know, sometimes emails and such default to spam folders. If you're doing business over the Internet, you should be checking your spam folder throughout the day. I like to tell a first-time customer how I will be delivering the voice over to them before I start the job. Some large companies have strict email settings that won't allow incoming emails such as download links. Let your customer/client know the process up front so you won't be having any problems later. It's a simple thing, but it's all about making your recording and delivery service smooth and professional with no entanglements.
Of course, all of the above information applies to those who are not doing a directed session where the producer/director is using ISDN or Source Connect, in real time, to capture the voice over recording on their end.
And some e Learning companies I work with have me upload the audio files to them using FTP-"file transfer protocol" where I log in using FTP software and do an audio upload. Very convenient.
Monday, March 22, 2021
So, a number of years ago, a client of mine gave me a tip that an LA media company was going to be producing some TV spots for the Game Show Network and they were looking for a voice. These were in support of a new TV show called "Think Like a Cat." My client forwarded me the audition information and I sent in a few takes. A gentleman at the LA company emailed me and said they liked my voice for the project, but they weren't looking for a "cat character voice"- just a warm, smiley, friendly sounding guy. So, with that direction in mind, I re-submitted my audition. As most veteran voice over talents know, getting a second chance to audition is like gold. Days later, I heard from LA that they wanted to use me for the commercials. Of course, I was thrilled. They were going to email me the script, then direct me over phone patch from LA, as I recorded in my home studio. After the session, I just emailed them a download link to all the audio and they took it from there in post production. The copy was so well written, it took us maybe 30-40 minutes to record all four commercials. No substitute for good copy! Like much of my work, all four spots ended up on You Tube in addition to playing on the TV-Game Show Network. It was a super fun voice over job and I was very happy with how the commercials came out. Here's one of them.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Capable agents know within seconds after starting to play your demo, whether or not you're a voice talent they want to hear more from, and perhaps represent. Yes, seconds. Every cut on your demo must shine, but the first one will either make them want to hear more, or hit the "stop button." That's why voice actors and demo producers give considerable thought to what the first cut is going to be. And like a good radio aircheck that's used to hire deejays, each cut on your demo should showcase something else you do well. Once you've shown that you do a great soft sell commercial read, or hard sell delivery, there's no need to show that style again.
During my on air days, I wandered into my program director's office. He was looking to hire a new deejay. I saw lots of brown packages spread all over the floor that were mailed in from around the country. Each one contained a radio aircheck-a sort of "best of" clips taken from a deejay's show to allow the hiring program director to hear what the deejay sounds like on the air. I watched as he put the CD (or cassette) in his player, and then pushed the play button. Most of the time, within seconds, the aircheck was being ejected and another put in. To some folks that might seem harsh. But that's the reality of the situation.
So remember, when it comes to voice over demos, give much thought as to the order of your clips. And having a second set of ears to listen, wouldn't be a bad idea. The key is to have someone help you who actually knows the process within the voice over world. The mailman probably wouldn't be a good choice. We love our dedicated mail men and mail women. But just sayin'
Thursday, March 11, 2021
There's so much to be said these days about the iconic game show Jeopardy. The recent passing of host Alex Trebek was a shock to many, even knowing he was battling a vicious form of cancer. Many a fan's tear was shed as Alex opened up about his prognosis and how he intended to fight on.
And now, replacements are being tried out on the show. (A bit more in a moment). Clearly, Alex will be a tough act to follow. I always admired his soft spoken speech, great sense of humor, and how he could tease a player about missing an answer, without being mean or insulting. Alex had much to say off camera about the show he loved hosting so much. Even saying, "Of course I know all the correct answers. They're on a sheet right in front of me!"
His longtime "sidekick" announcer, Johnny Gilbert, is 92 years old and still working. In addition to his announcing duties, he warms up the crowd before show tapings begin. A lot of fans don't know that he live announces the show opening you've heard for many years-"This. Is. Jeopardy!" It's not pre-recorded. Oh, and by the way, it's reported that his current pay is 4 million dollars a year. At 92,or any other age for that matter, that's pretty darn impressive. You know those people who long to retire early? Well, Johnny ain't one of them.
I know a librarian here in the Bay Area who is very bright and has tried out for Jeopardy twice. She told me what a rigorous process it is. Nerve racking comes to mind. No doubt. Lots of folks want to get on the show. I would be a terrible Jeopardy contestant. My recall is fair, but I'm sure I would be too slow clicking in. Not to mention, I'm clueless with many of the categories. Give me a country music question anytime, but don't ask me where Timbuktu is, or the population there!
So, who will follow the great Alex Trebek as the next Jeopardy host? A man or a woman? A big celebrity or former contestant? I talk to a few Jeopardy fans, and they all have their guesses. I remember when Bob Barker retired from "The Price Is Right" after so many years of hosting. Drew Carey was chosen, and that came with considerable pushback by fans who compared him to Bob. I thought then that the worst thing the new host could do was to try to be like Bob Barker. He had his own unique style, look and rhythm with the contestants. From what I've heard, Drew has now been generally accepted and is rolling along doing it his way. I hope the next Jeopardy host takes note.
Tuesday, March 9, 2021
One of the questions that pops up regularly regarding voice over work is should a voice over talent pick a few niches and market that, or should you go for many "slices" of the voice over pie and sell that?
I'm a firm believer in becoming very proficient in several genres of voice over but staying away from trying to be a jack of all trades. You can make a good living specializing. A lot of times, as your career progresses, you can see trends in what type of VO work you're being hired for. Mine tends to be corporate narration and e Learning. Sure, I'll record radio or TV scripts from time to time, but corporate and learning is in my wheelhouse.
I sometimes say that voice over work is like a big rainbow. You have audio book narrations, radio and TV commercials, documentary, explainer videos, e Learning, business videos, on hold messaging, product promos, animation and on and on. Become very good at several pieces of the "rainbow" and market that to producers and creatives.
Certainly, be open to expanding and trying new things. But continue to play to your strengths and focus on what you enjoy recording, as well as what you do best.
The great, late "In a World..." superstar Don LaFontaine made millions voicing primarily movie trailers. But I highly doubt you'd hear him on an on hold message or Power Point presentation. He knew which side his bread was buttered on. Not to mention the huge pay difference.
Monday, March 1, 2021
One of my favorite TV shows is "CBS Sunday Morning"that airs here in the Bay Area at 7 AM on our local affiliate. It runs 90 minutes and features all kinds of interesting people, many in a creative field-writers, singers, artists, entertainers, producers, poets and beyond. Even the occasional voice actor.
What I especially like about the show is the lighter fare. Nothing too heavy-most of the time. I find many of the personalities featured to be quite inspirational. Yesterday, they ran a piece on LeVar Burton, who in addition to his many outstanding acting credits like "Roots," also narrates audio books.
In the same show, Bob Ross, the soft spoken, late artist of public TV fame, was profiled. I had seen him many times on his "Joy of Painting" show teaching painting techniques, but had no idea it was taped in a converted house! The feature said he had to rehearse a painting session so he could get everything finished within the allotted TV time for the viewer. If you are not familiar with Mr. Ross, he had a very calming voice and spoke with a half whisper, as he dabbed the paint on the canvas while giving out instructions. And with that whisper, he drew you in to what he was doing. In a day and age where being loud often comes from our TV's, he was one of a kind. It reminded me that as a voice actor, that half whisper can come in handy for subtle emphasis on copy.
Part of the magic of "CBS Sunday Morning" is that each show contains many segments. So if you're not particularly into one feature, you know that something else will soon be coming on. The last segment is usually a very brief, non-narrated nature/animal piece. I highly recommend it.
By the way, the hostess of the show, Jane Pauley, is married to Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist, Garry Trudeau. He's well known as the creator of the Doonesbury comic strip.
Friday, February 26, 2021
There are already a huge amount of voice over blogs out there. When I decided to jump in with my own over ten years ago , I knew I would want to go beyond just talking about voice over techniques and tales. Living in the Bay Area, there's plenty of other stuff to write about.
This blog is mainly intended for beginner and intermediate voice talents. Seasoned voice actors will know much of what I speak.
One area of everyday conversation I will never write about on here is POLITICS. Like many, I have my viewpoints, but I will not use this blog as a forum for political arguing and hostile chit chat. I'll leave that to others out there.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy and learn some voice over methods through my random writings here and the stories about my "former life"in radio and TV broadcasting. It was great fun for me, and now, recording voice overs suits me just fine. I have some fantastic, longtime clients/customers.You know who you are. THANK YOU!
Good luck to you in your journey. As someone once said, "Life is NOT a dress rehearsal." Live to your fullest right NOW! Nothing is guaranteed going forward.
Feel free to reach out to me directly at email@example.com with a comment or a question.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
So, I was going through some boxes I had in storage here at my place and came across this poem my late Mother gave me many years ago. She was my biggest "cheerleader" and was totally all in when I would call to tell her I had landed a new radio station job. "Wonderful!" she would say with a smile in her voice as I broke the good news.
This poem is special and I wanted to share it with you because the ebb and flow of the voice over business can be unpredictable. One moment, your email is blowing up with jobs to be recorded, and the next it's quiet. (Dare I say "crickets?"). Don't take it personally. It happens to a lot of us who do this work. And there are voice over cycles throughout the year. Not surprisingly, Summers tend to be slow when many are on vacation sticking their toes in the sand. I find that during those down times, throwing myself into marketing my business and reaching out to others is a productive way to go. And remember all those jobs you landed in the past and how good it felt to have a customer/client appreciate your voice over work. If you're slow and doing the right things to promote your business, hang in there! Things will often change. Maybe not on your timetable, but the pendulum will swing back again into a busy cycle. The poem below is called "Don't Quit" by Edgar A. Guest in the 1920's. You may have seen it before. I think it's especially significant during this current pandemic/economy.
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Saturday, January 30, 2021
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Working from my home voice over studio and not being a cook (I gladly ditched the cooking utensils a few years ago), I often use the Uber Eats phone app to bring me food when I get busy. I'm generally pleased with the on time delivery and the lighter fare offerings-hamburgers/hot dogs, pizza, Chinese soups, chicken and so forth. Most of it fast food, and no doubt, not particularly healthy. But it is very convenient.
Recently, I got a bit of a shock when I opened up the Uber Eats app on my phone to order one of my favorite and very simple foods- a kraut hot dog. I was working on a large e Learning narration project with a quick turnaround, and did not have the time to go to Wienerschnitzel to get it. If you're not familiar with Wienerschnitzel, it's fast food offerings times 10. Much to my surprise, for this very simple order, Uber Eats would be charging me over $11. If you use Uber Eats, you're being hit with fee after fee . Service fee, small order fee (If your order is under $15 total, that's another $3 tacked on.) Tax, delivery fee, and here in California, they've recently added a California Drivers Benefits fee ("This helps cover benefits like health insurance and guaranteed earnings for delivery people in your area.") Or so Uber says. And because I like the drivers who are getting their side hustle on to make some extra money, I would be tipping the driver who brings me the food. Anyway, that simple kraut dog with a very regular bun will cost you over $13 (including tip) through Uber Eats. I get that you're going to pay for the convenience of delivery, but somehow paying $13 or more for a kraut dog with no extras other than the kraut on it and a packet of mustard is a "no go" for me. And I know that I always have the option to not buy through Uber Eats. No one has a gun to my head!
Just out of curiosity, I went to an online forum and many are talking about the very large price increases the home food delivery companies are charging. Uber Eats leads the pack. In some cases, according to a recently released study, more than 90 percent of what it would cost to walk in and pick up your order! Undoubtedly, prices have risen substantially due to many folks staying inside at home as a result of the pandemic and ordering food in. I guess it all boils down to whether or not you're going to pay for all those extra add on fees to satisfy your appetite.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
As mentioned in other posts on this blog, pre-pandemic, I enjoy having a nice breakfast in San Francisco on Saturday and then walking through Chinatown and down to Pier 39 where most of the tourists and sea lions hang out. It's a considerable walk from where I start at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market streets. Most of my breakfasts are fairly simple-eggs,hash browns, sausage/bacon, toast and coffee. And while I love a cup of hot coffee first thing before my city walk, it can often wreak havoc when I need to find a public restroom QUICKLY. Recently, I added an app to my phone that is GPS driven that shows me where the closest public restrooms are from where I am, at any given time. A real life saver! Amazing. There's an app for everything. It's tough to find a PUBLIC restroom in the city. Most restrooms are for paying customers only. There use to be a small coffee shop in Chinatown I could count on to be my "saving grace" on my walks. It was the size of a few phone booths, but they DID have a public restroom if you bought a cup of coffee. Too bad it closed a number of years ago due to a lack of business. Bummer.
So, just a heads up. Know where the public restrooms are or get the phone app. As the old Scott McKenzie song says "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair." I say,"Be sure to know where the nearest public restroom is." (Let's get our priorities in order).
Thursday, December 10, 2020
So I have a really wonderful friend who retired well from a metro bus building company right here in San Francisco East Bay. Her name is Diane. She's an independent soul and sometimes brings me unique food dishes that she finds on her shopping trips to Trader Joe's- one of her favorite places to buy groceries.
We chat regularly about the happenings in the news. She has a good sense of
grumpy humor (most of the time) and seems to be enjoying her well deserved retirement. And there's one thing about her that makes me laugh more than anything. And I've told her so. No, it's not the clothes she wears or her hairstyle. Or her sometimes comical takes on what's going on at any given moment around the world. (Don't get her started). No,it's her cell phone voicemail message. Yes! Her strange and funny cell phone message! Here it is, just as she says it... "Hi, it's Diane, I can't get to the phone right now. Call me right back." I asked her, ever so politely in jest one day, to think about what the caller is hearing. I told her, "Hey Diane, I called your number and was told to call you right back. So, I immediately did and got the same message every time. 13 times in a row! I was exhausted." (Insert chuckle here). I suggested she record a simple message like, "Hi, it's Diane. I can't get to the phone right now. Just leave your name, phone number and a brief message and I'll call you back just as soon as possible." That was met with a brief moment of awkward silence on the phone. I took that to mean "mind your own business." Which I gladly did. Truly great friends are hard to come by.
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Sometimes you'll receive a script to record that contains words that can be pronounced several ways. "Data" comes to mind. Some will say it as (da-tuh. "da" as in
"apple") and others as (day-tuh). Or the word "anti." Some will go with (ant-eye) and others as (ant-ee). Both ways are acceptable. One more. "Multi." You'll hear it said as (mull-tee) OR (mull-tie). Neither is wrong. Check with the person you'll be recording for about how they want it said BEFORE you step to the mike. You'll come off as a pro. And that's the goal, right?
Thursday, November 12, 2020
I often see producers wanting a conversational tone in the voice over. One part of that is lowering the volume of your voice. Don't shout at the microphone! It's designed to amplify your voice.
And remember, we speak in phrases. Usually, somewhat deliberately, as we think about how to express our thoughts. When reading copy that calls for a conversational delivery, don't go racing through it without pauses. A road runner approach doesn't work for conversational.
I do a lot of educational and training narrations. Using a conversational delivery is spot on.
Here is a link to an online tutorial I voiced having to do with publishing and plagiarism.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Monday, May 4, 2020
Remember, when recording on hold messages, slower is better!
Saturday, December 28, 2019
He was fired 4 times. There's an old saying in radio, "If you haven't been fired a time or two, you ain't doing it right."He got fired from a station once out in Stockton, California not far from me because he said the word "hell" on the air. Can you imagine? That was at the very start of his career before he hit the bigtime in New York. My Dad enjoyed Imus because toward the end of his career he got into frequent political chit chat on his show and would often have well known political figures in the studio. Senator Bob Dole comes to mind. My Dad loved to read about and talk politics. Things often got heated at our house.
Imus could be grouchy, mean, angry, and often funny on his show, but through it all, he was always himself. Listeners knew what to expect when they tuned in. At the height of his career, he was making around 4 million dollars a year. He became a very rich man, but he gave back with his charity work and "Imus Ranch" for children in need. Just recently, I saw him being interviewed on CBS Sunday morning with Jane Pauley and he became quite emotional as he mentioned he had regrets about some things he said or did on air that were hurtful to others. Teary eyed, it was a very rare moment indeed where he showed a side of himself others had never seen. It was like he was reviewing his life and he looked rather frail. He was without a doubt one of a kind and there will never be another Don Imus.
Friday, December 27, 2019
And earlier this week, I responded to a voice over ad for a job out of L.A posted on Craigslist. A few days later, I received a reply from an "Alex" who said he had a $992 voice over job for me and they were making arrangements to find a recording studio near me so I could record there and they could direct from L.A.. There was some other weird wording about "I must be of a good mind" and other strange stuff having nothing to do with voice over. I emailed him back and said I would not be able to do the job because I had seen this scam outlined before on a voice over forum I frequent. There are a lot more details to this particular scam. Just Google "Voice over scam" and you'll see lots of links.
So, just be very careful. There are some low lifes that for some time have been trying to dupe unsuspecting voice over talents. One final thing. When I listed my stuff on Craigslist, there was this information below. A good and timely reminder.
Thursday, October 31, 2019
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Upon graduating from high school in Strongsville, Ohio, I told my Dad I wanted to go to a broadcast school in Cleveland to become a radio deejay. He said, "Son, I don't know about that. It's a dog eat dog business." As usual, he was right. After considerable begging, he agreed and gave me a very reluctant nod of the head to enroll. The cool thing was that the instructors were deejays I heard on the radio in the Cleveland market. One of mine was "The Real Bob James." He was on WGAR, a very popular station at the time. Bob was very funny on air and would go on to co-found the American Comedy Network. It was a comedy service that radio deejays subscribed to for funny material they could use on their radio shows. I listened to Bob on the radio and held him in high regard. In short, I was thrilled to have him as one of my teachers. Upon graduation from the school, I started sending out my demo tape to radio stations around the country. Much to my surprise ( and my Mom and Dad's too), I got a phone call from a radio station in Mansfield, Ohio which was about 45 minutes south of where I grew up. It was a Mom and Pop AM/FM station called WCLW. They had a reputation for paying low wages and hiring guys like me who had zero on air experience but wanted to get in the radio business as a deejay. After a telephone interview, they hired me to do an afternoon show on their low wattage AM station. ("Hello. Is anyone out there?") My Mom and Dad had to have been in a mild state of shock. I actually got a job at a radio station!Thus began my very long and journeyed radio career. Even though at first I was awful on the air, I knew, with dedication, I could improve and work my way up to the better radio stations and actually make a living being on the radio. WCLW was owned by an elderly couple and their daughter Lynn ran it like a drill sergeant. One day, early into my employment there, she told me I was going to do a remote broadcast on an upcoming Sunday afternoon from a pet cemetery! The goal of the broadcast was to get people to buy a burial plot for their beloved pet. I'm thinking, "What in the world am I going to say on air about a pet cemetery of all things?" It would be the very first of many awkward on air assignments she would give me that were very much a "sink or swim"situation that eventually would make me a better broadcaster down the road. Other remote broadcasts would include a ladies clothing store in downtown Mansfield with a bubbly Julia Child- like owner on microphone with me talking about all the wonderful selections to buy. And at another broadcast chatting on air about the love making virtues of a waterbed with the inventor Charlie Hall, who was doing a live appearance at "Aquarius" waterbed store. I had many on air assignments at that first radio station that would force me to ad-lib and be on my toes. It was all quite the crash course and it turned out to be a very good thing in preparing me to work at much bigger stations in the years ahead.
WCLW will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me my start. For that I am truly grateful.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
But from a voice over standpoint, I use You Tube to check proper names that may come up in scripts I'm recording. Or product names that are not necessarily running commercials on radio or TV. I learned early on to check multiple videos for pronunciations of the same word as relying on only one video may not give you the correct pronunciation. In other posts on this blog I have recommended Forvo.com and Howjsay.com as helpful for pronunciations. Often they will not have a pronunciation for a proper name that can be found by doing a search on You Tube. Using You Tube for pronunciations has saved me a lot of time. Just make sure you double check the pronunciation.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
A funny aside. A brother of mine in Ohio called me on a weekend and said he and his lady friend were watching a show on TV and at the end in the credits my name "John Miles" came on screen. He asked if it was me. I scratched my head and told him I didn't think so. After he described a few parts of the episode he watched, it dawned on me it was me! I had recorded the narrations for the episodes the prior year and had sort of forgotten about them. Here's a link to one of the episodes from Africa. I must say, this is in my top 5 of all-time favorite voice over jobs I have done.
Monday, September 16, 2019
I learned to enjoy waking up early and starting the day. That motivation has stuck with me to this day. As mentioned in another post on this blog, Dad and I would often play early Sunday morning golf. As in, still kind of dark outside and dew on the grass. My brother and I slept in a bunk bed. I remember Dad coming in early Sunday morning and shaking me and telling me to get up as we were going golfing. It was a special ritual.
And today, as I do voice overs from my home studio, I find mornings to be very special as there is the promise of a new day and the expectation of getting things done and accomplished. Not to mention, it's quiet. And every voice over artist who records can appreciate that. Some of my most productive work has occurred at 4 or 5 AM. But don't worry, if you hire me to do a voice over and you want to listen in as I record, we don't have to go with "crack of dawn" times. I realize early mornings aren't for everyone!
Monday, July 8, 2019
job leads for voice over work. I'm use to it now, but my jaw use to drop open when seeing highly
detailed specs for a voice over job with no pay. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If you do voice overs, it should make you cringe. You've paid good money to buy your recording equipment. You may well have taken voice over lessons which are far from free. Plus voice over seminars/webinars to stay sharp and current. You have ongoing business expenses. Your website updates and maintenance. Yearly taxes. And here is someone on Craigslist offering you nothing for your time, expertise, and skill set. You deserve to be paid! I just had a producer approach me on a Friday afternoon who had received one of my marketing emails and was in a rush frame of mind. He needed a 5 minute long voice over for a high tech, corporate video. I zipped him back a very fair quote to which he said "Sorry. That's too expensive for me. I can pay $100."$100 for 5 minutes of professional voice over for a corporate video is extremely low. Plus it's a high tech narration which will more than likely take extra time to record properly. I thanked him for the "opportunity" and passed on the job. Just out of curiosity, I went to Yelp to check his studio and customer comments. He had quite a few complaints about shoddy work and 1 star ratings. Not good. I'm sure he found someone who is desperate for work who recorded it. We all have choices. But sometimes it's OK to say 'Thanks. But no thanks.' Stay away from the bottom of the barrel jobs. Once word gets around you work for free or on the cheap, it will be very difficult for you to charge a fair rate.
Friday, July 5, 2019
OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!
Thursday, June 27, 2019
Friday, April 19, 2019
In post production, there are what are called de-essers. This is a type of compression application designed specifically to deal with sibilance. Almost every digital audio recording software has some form of de-esser under the effects category. Not all de-essers are created equal. WAVES has just come out with a plug-in called, not surprisingly, "Sibilance." It's gotten good reviews and is sometimes on sale on their website.
Another option to getting rid of annoying sibilance in a recording is to manually drop down the volume (around 4 to 6 db) of those sibilant sounds. When viewing the waveform zoomed in a bit in your audio editor, a sibilant "s" will often look like a small football shape. Just highlight that with your mouse and drop the volume down as mentioned above.
Bottom line, most everyone has some sibilance when they speak. There are ways to deal with it when editing that will greatly improve the quality of your voice overs.
Friday, February 22, 2019
Years back, I wrote a short, free, classified ad on Craigslist about my services. A gentleman emailed me and said his company (an educational one) had a lot of voice over needs. He asked about my rates and turnaround time. That got the ball rolling. To this day, years later, I continue to get quite a bit of work from them, for which I am truly grateful. You never know where the work is going to come from. Once you get the work, be your very best. There's nothing quite like a satisfied client and repeat business, for which you do not have to audition.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the amazing Golden State Warriors. You don't have to visit too many online sports forums to see the depth of "haterism" for the team. Pretty simple to understand. They're just so darned good. Not to mention Steph Curry as one of the greatest of all time. Psssst! I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I'll give QB Tom Brady his due. He, like Steph, is undeniably talented in their respective sports.
So, when you're under attack from a hater, frenemy or enemy, remember the old saying, "The best revenge is massive success." (Frank Sinatra). It works wonders for your frame of mind.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Dolly is such a smart business woman. A large amount of her wealth comes from successful enterprises, including her fun, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee amusement park-"Dollywood." And royalties from songs she has written like"I Will Always Love You."
Back in my former life as a radio deejay, I played tons of Dolly's songs. Always good stuff.
An American treasure. Still going strong at 73.
Congratulations on your long, successful career Dolly! Bravo!
Monday, October 7, 2013
As mentioned in another post, if you're planning on visiting San Francisco, make sure you get your tickets early for things like the Alcatraz tour. Showing up same day is no guarantee you'll be able to go.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
non broadcast stuff-on hold messages, corporate video narration, audio book narration,
website audio, and learning voice overs. Much of my work consists of voicing learning projects. Many of the scripts that come to me are quite lengthy and detailed. After the recording comes the editing. In many cases, you'll be labeling and separating hundreds of files. I totally enjoy this segment of VO as I am helping others to learn. And there's a large amount of learning narration work to be had. Online learning, mobile learning, and e Learning is exploding by the second.
While newcomers to this business may be attracted to the more "glamorous" jobs like TV and radio commercials, overlooking non broadcast voice over can be very costly. The key to voicing learning narrations is to speak naturally, clearly, understand key words or phrases to emphasize,
maintain a pace of speech that's not too fast nor overly slow throughout the learning modules and remembering that learners will need a bit of time to absorb what you're saying. Former radio deejays most often will find learning narrations to be challenging as everything in radio is generally said very fast. Slowing the pace of speech down, but not sounding robotic, takes some practice and self awareness. I aim for a fairly conversational tone.
It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. E learning narrations have been keeping me very busy!