Friday, September 30, 2022

Set up your You Tube channel (It's a good idea for business!)

 There are many ways to promote your voice over business. I'm on Linked In, have my own website with my voice over demos and customer testimonials, email marketing, and this blog, to name a few.

My You Tube channel allows me to showcase work I have done for others needing a pro voice over for their videos. It's a great way to show your versatility. The channel is free. You can log in once you set up your account and rearrange your videos. Mine begins with a voice over I did for a San Antonio engineering firm. From there, I picked other videos that show another style of read from me. 

Here's a list of some of the video types I have on my You Tube channel...

A video showcasing a pressure washer (They wanted a "gritty, masculine" voice for this.) 

One about a Palm Beach golf resort. I used a very quiet voice for this one. Relaxing feel. ("Shhhhhh...somebody's putting!")

A TV commercial for "Think Like a Cat." One of four I voiced that aired on Game Show Network. Amusing voice. Light and happy. Fun

A mysterious book trailer voice over

A  narration I did for "In Pursuit of Passion," an inspirational TV series

A learning voice over for a video about plagiarism ("Salami Slicing")

An auto TV spot for a Texas dealership

An episode I voiced for "Grand Theft Auto." This one is mob/guns/drugs/shoot 'em up

A playful video voice over for a kid's charity

And a number of other videos with my voice; about 25 I recorded  voice over for.

The whole goal is to show you're versatile and not a "One Note Johnny."

And don't forget to freshen up your YT channel from time to time. It shows you're working.

Here's a link to my You Tube channel. You'll see and hear the videos I have listed up above.



Monday, September 26, 2022

Common Errors with Word Usage. ("I told you you were saying it wrong!")

 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. I know I have.

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 machine

“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.

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.

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. Recently, 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.

                                                             


                         

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? If you say unwanted mouth clicks and such, you can still hear those with phones off and read the sentence again. Or they can be removed in editing. 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.



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!

                                                                  



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

"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!" And an Orson Welles unhinged rant

 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.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Another handy guide for your voice over toolbox

 As you record scripts for clients from your home studio, you may come across a proper name or foreign word that you can't find on You Tube for pronunciation help. A favorite audio pronunciation site I've been using for years is called "Forvo." There are many pronunciation guides online, but what I like about this one is you'll have many "real world folks" saying the word for comparison. As mentioned in another post on this blog, never go on just one person's pronunciation. Listen for multiple ones to make sure you'll be able to record it correctly and save time. 

Now, there are exceptions that you may encounter that can lead to frustration and confusion. I recently voiced a video narration for a large Mexican supermarket called "Chedraui." It's a very popular chain and they're expanding into the U.S. Ever heard of them? Me neither. So, I went online to check, and many of the pronunciations were being said in "mother tongue." Frankly, it was hard to understand, as the pronunciation varied. Many times it comes down to how the client wants it said. I found out Chedraui is a family name that goes way back in the supermarket's history. I went on You Tube and searched Chedraui videos and heard no less than 3 or 4 ways people were saying the name. So, checking with the person you're recording for and asking how they want the word pronounced may well be the way to go. Of course, if you're out of your home studio and being directed in a recording session, the director/producer should certainly be able to tell you on the spot how they want it said.

Forvo is quite extensive and useful--most of the time. And I find they often have pronunciations that other sites do not. Check them out here. Then bookmark them. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

A cool piece on the late VO legend Don LaFontaine (The movie trailer guy)

 I miss seeing Don LaFontaine on funny TV commercials and recording movie trailers as only he could. I didn't know him personally but heard he was extremely generous in helping others with career advice.  Here's a video of him talking about his rise to international fame as a movie trailer superstar, and how as a kid, his voice just changed one day to a deep "growl".This clip has over 5 million views on You Tube! A fun watch. Don's great sense of humor comes through loud and clear.



Friday, November 19, 2021

Cable cars and more (plus a handy tip)

 If you're visiting San Francisco, Powell and Market Streets is a good location to drop by. It's a beehive of activity. Our rapid transit service (BART) is centrally located here. 

Here you have a  very popular cable car turnaround, some places to grab a quick bite, a major shopping mall (with public restrooms= hard to find in SF), hotels, and lots of  tourist activity. Often you'll see a street musician playing here or a highly energized, toe-tapping dancer entertaining the crowds waiting to hop on a cable car. It's a great place to people watch. There's usually a sidewalk hot dog vendor here. Don't know what it is, but hot dogs, to me, always taste better eaten outdoors. "I'll have a kraut dog to go! Thank you very much sir!"

The lines at Powell and Market at the cable car turnaround can be very l-o-n-g. Tourists come to San Francisco and their vacation is not complete unless they ride on a cable car. Here's a tip: If you walk up Powell a bit, you'll see some cable car street signs up the line where you can hop on. The operators of the cable car usually leave a little space for a few pickups along the way. It'll save you a very long wait in line back at Powell and Market streets. Not guaranteed, but worth the try. And if you're traveling with a group of five or ten, there's not going to be enough room to hop on. This is for one to two folks max.

A little bit further up Powell is Union Square. Almost always there's something going on at the plaza. In winter, an ice skating rink! For folks who live in the snowy areas, an ice skating rink is no big deal. But here in the Bay Area, it's a fun experience for many, especially around Christmas time.

The city has installed some very contemporary benches along part of the Powell sidewalk where you can take a break and watch the cable cars come and go.

On a visit to have breakfast and walk through Chinatown on a Saturday, I spotted this new piece of artwork on Powell.

                                                                       



    

Friday, August 13, 2021

The importance of having a good recording space

For many voice-over artists, especially new ones, dealing with unwanted sound reflections off of walls and surfaces, as well as outside noise, is a common challenge. You can have an expensive microphone, but if you're not in a good recording environment, your voice-overs are going to suffer. It's sad to see so many new/unaware voice-over folks having their auditions or work rejected not necessarily because of how they voiced the copy, but because of negative sound related issues. You don't have to build an exceptional recording studio, but get into a space where you're not going to have your voice-overs sound like they were recorded in an echoing cave or tiled bathroom floor.  You Tube videos are full of awful audio; hum, hiss, a way off mike voice, distorted audio, "cheap microphone sound" with lots of sibilance-you name it. 

Foam, sound blankets, and baffles are just some things that can be used to improve the sound quality of your  voice-overs. Do some research on Google about this or go to You Tube and do a search about setting up a solid recording space before going out and spending a lot of money. And don't forget that large walk in closet that you might have could be a very good option to record in! You'd be amazed at some of the adequate, but not eye appealing recording spaces, voice actors use at home. Remember, the people who are hiring you to record don't see your recording space. They just want good, clean audio that adds value to their production. And check with headphones on to make sure your computer fan isn't heard in the background of your recording. If it IS, create some space between your laptop and the microphone.

Friday, July 16, 2021

"Ewwww! How can you eat that stuff?"

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, May 27, 2021

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood to stop and smell the roses

 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."


                                                                    



Monday, April 26, 2021

Voice over "red flags"

 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.

                                                                   



Monday, March 22, 2021

How well do you know cats? Test your furry feline knowledge.

 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

Psssssst. You've got seconds to impress.

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'


Monday, March 1, 2021

CBS Sunday Morning with Jane Pauley

 

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

This blog has NO agenda!

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 john@johnmilesproductions.com with a comment or a question. 


Thursday, December 10, 2020

A funny voicemail message

 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

"Which way would you like it?"

 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

"Make it conversational"

 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

Grand Theft Auto Vice City the Untold Story

On a recent Sunday, I was looking through Craigslist ads and spotted one wanting a voice over for one of the most successful video games of all time-"Grand Theft Auto". I immediately emailed a reply and the producer emailed back with some copy for me to do a quick audition. He liked what he heard and hired me as the narrator. He puts together these types of videos and parks them on You Tube and gets thousands of views.  The one I voiced is about 80's crime and drugs. WARNING: This video is violent. So,  it's up to you.  Here's a link to the video I narrated. It runs about 13 minutes.




Monday, May 4, 2020

Slower is better for on hold messages

So no joke,over the years I have voiced hundreds and hundreds of on hold messages. It's a different style of read. Go a bit slower with your pace so the caller can take in all the information. When you are recording the on hold script and come upon the company's phone number, hours of operation, and address, slow it down. You don't want to go too fast in these sections. All in all, it's a slower voice over than say a TV commercial or radio spot where things move fast .
Remember, when recording on hold messages, slower is better! 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Seller beware on Craigslist!

It's been quite the week here in my studio. I have a decent collection of voice over books that I'm looking to hand down to an aspiring voice actor. They're all in very good shape and on Craigslist under the "For Sale" books section. Last night around midnight, I was in bed and received a text message wanting to know if the books were still available. I replied they were and not hearing back from the individual, I went back to sleep. Next morning, I received another text saying he wanted to buy them and would pay me with a money order  PLUS pay me an extra $40 for them and he needed my name and address. I had been through a similar thing on Craigslist and a huge red flag went up on this.  I texted back and told him to stop trying to scam people. He disappeared. I'm in the Bay Area and his phone number was from New Jersey. In my ad, I specifically stated "Cash Only" and "Must pick up at my place." A variation of this scam involves a bogus check he or she gives you that you can deposit at your bank's ATM, but the bank will discover it's a fraud and you will be on the hook to make good on it.

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.

Avoiding Scams

Deal locally, face-to-face —follow this one rule and avoid 99% of scam attempts.
  • Do not provide payment to anyone you have not met in person.
  • Beware offers involving shipping - deal with locals you can meet in person.
  • Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) - anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
  • Don't accept cashier/certified checks or money orders - banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
  • Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a "guarantee".
  • Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
  • Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing "deal" may not exist.
  • Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
  • "craigslist voicemails" - Any message asking you to access or check "craigslist voicemails" or "craigslist voice messages" is fraudulent - no such service exists.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The voice of Porky Pig and Bob Bergen

I love the story of how the current voice of Porky Pig got the job. Of course, years ago the great master of cartoon voices, Mel Blanc, did the voice of Porky  and a ton of others. Go on You Tube and search his name and there are plenty of videos of his TV appearances. You'll be amazed. Now, about Bob Bergen. At age 14, he "cold called" Mel Blanc's house and secretly taped the conversation with Mr. Blanc.  The first thing Mel asked Bob was, "How did you get my number?" Bob was seeking out advice and Mel was kind enough to help him. Rather than me give you the specifics, you can hear this conversation on Bob's website, "BobBergen.com." Click on where it says, "Cool Clips." By the way, Bob said on a voice over forum board I frequent that every year he has to audition again to be the ongoing voice of Porky.  I'm sure it's a treasured job. One more thing, Bob's one of the nicest guys in the business. Always giving on spot advice to other voice actors and helping when  he can. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"I'm living on the air at WKRP in.....Mansfield, Ohio"

The start of my radio career wasn't exactly like the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," but it had a few wacky/odd moments. (None like the famous WKRP "turkeys dropped from high above" episode. A must see on You Tube!)

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 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 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

My love affair with... (wait for it!)...You Tube

As an avid music lover, when I'm not recording voice overs or marketing my business, I'm often on You Tube playing songs I haven't heard in years. Songs you rarely hear on the radio anymore but may have been a big part of the soundtrack of your life. Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" comes to mind. It's one of those songs that never gets old no matter how many times I have heard it. I also like to read the comments below the video post of the song. It's cool to see what people are thinking with their likes or dislikes comments.

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

Perhaps my most favorite voice over job...ever

I was tipped off by a good client of many years that his company was filming at locations around the world for a new, inspirational TV show called "In Pursuit of Passion." And, much to my delight, the lady who was hosting the show (Tracy) was looking for someone to narrate it. So, I emailed her and told her of my interest. She agreed to email me a script for a short audition. I did not see any film of the show beforehand so I was a bit in the dark as to the energy needed on the narration. I went with a slightly upbeat take and emailed her a link to download the MP3 audition. She got back to me and said it was a bit too cheery and upbeat. With that direction in mind ( for which I was very grateful), I recorded a second audition and sent that to her. I was happy to receive an email from her saying the second take was solid and we would go with that. There was a total of six episodes to be narrated from places like Africa and Greece. It was a fun but somewhat challenging narration as the scripts contained quite a few proper names. And of course, those needed to be said correctly. I was often able to go to Forvo.com for pronunciations. (One of my favorite sites). I was delighted when she sent me a link to see the completed episodes. The show airs in select markets here and abroad.

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, July 8, 2019

"You want to be paid for your voice over? Don't be ridiculous!"

If you go to Craigslist and look under "Gigs" and then "Creative" category, you will often see
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

My 20 foot commute from bed to studio

No doubt, working from home has its advantages. Living in the Bay Area, the traffic can be beyond awful. Years ago, voice over talents needed to head out to recording studios to voice projects, now we can work from our home studios thanks to the Internet. So, sitting in traffic jams is a thing of the past. Plus, when clients/customers come calling with rush or urgent requests, we can quickly access our home studios and turn voice overs around in no time at all. If I had a dollar for every time a client or customer said they appreciated my very fast turnaround, I'd be a very wealthy man. For all its advantages, working from home has some caveats. There can be distractions. Working alone, it's important to "self police" your work before sending it out. Stay in the moment. Focus. Allow yourself some mini breaks if you're working on long projects such as e Learning or audio books.  Working from home means no more boring conference room meetings with a bunch of overly talkative sleepy heads. (I will give one former boss credit. He always ordered pizzas in during our meetings.) Rejoice in the fact that you're able to make a living from home and ditch the honking horns and road rage incidents. And water cooler talk was never really that interesting anyway.

 OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fame can be a fickle thing!

Mid 1980's. I'm hanging in the front reception area at country music station WIRK in West Palm Beach after my midday show. Rhonda was a fun, sassy, thirty something, African American receptionist who answered the phones and gave listeners their prizes when they came in. It's a blistering hot South Florida day when the door swings open and in come two dudes with tank tops on, flip flops, cut offs. One of them approaches Rhonda and says "I'm here to tape an interview with Terry Slane." Terry was our morning deejay and program director. I immediately notice it's country music superstar Roy Clark. And back then he was on TV... a lot. Hee Haw, commercials, TV concerts playing his electric guitar to perfection. So, Rhonda says, "Your name?" He says, "Roy Clark." She gets on her phone and calls Terry. "Hey Terry, there's a Roy... um... er... ahhh... I'm sorry sir, what's your last name again?" He pointedly says, "Clark." "Terry, a Roy Clark is here to see you." She then hangs up the phone and tells Roy that Terry is on his way up. Terry comes up and shakes Roy's hand and the other dude's hand and off they go. I chime in, "Rhonda, that's Roy Clark! How could you not recognize Roy Clark!?" She loudly says, '' I don't listen to this country music crap, John. I'm a Rhythm and Blues girl!" I fell down laughing. Later, I thought, no matter how famous you think you are, to some people you're not famous at all! The man with him was his brother in law and they were out fishing at Lake Okeechobee before coming in to do the interview.


Friday, April 19, 2019

Sibilance. Ugh!

Without a doubt, sibilance is one of the most annoying things to deal with in the audio world.  In short, it's a harshness to the ear upon voice over playback. Most often it's a sizzling "s" sound.  Of course, this is not wanted and needs to be "tamed" either during recording or in editing afterward.  Some people's voice can naturally be more sibilant than others. And the position of the mouth to the microphone can cause excessive sibilance. Too close can cause problems. Instead of speaking directly into the mic, position it at a 45 degree angle from your mouth. Experiment a bit with different microphone positions. Also, be wary of very inexpensive (cheap) microphones that can cause lots of sibilance.

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

A mighty Craigslist ad

Back when  I was moving from radio guy to voice over guy, I was planting "seeds" to find new business/clients. I have found that emailing people and companies who need voice over to be somewhat effective. Forget about spamming and just shooting out emails all over the place. Try to find a name on the website, so you can personalize the email. Keep it brief!

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

Haters gonna hate and the Golden State Warriors

One thing's for sure, if you're living and breathing, you have people that will go negative towards you. For. No. Apparent. Reason. Sometimes supposed friends. A family member. Your jealous brother in-law "Tim." A person you hardly know. Haters. There's no shortage of them. They create false drama to make you look bad. Inside, they feel inferior and want to knock you down a peg or two. If you start to talk about your success stories or wins, they have fingers in their ears. Volumes have been written about how to deal with the haters in your life. A common conclusion is to create distance between yourself and the hater. 

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

My Burt Reynolds interview

The recent passing of Burt Reynolds put me in a very reflective mood. 1985-1986 were especially exciting years for me as an on air talent. I was on WIRK, a heritage country music station doing a midday show. Burt's people at his ranch in Jupiter, Florida approached our management team with the idea of building a broadcast studio in his gift/souvenir store, and  relaying the signal back to our main station, and then out across the South Florida airwaves.  I was in the right place at the right time. My daily routine consisted of driving to the main radio station in the morning, picking up commercial and music logs for that day, then driving twenty some miles up the Florida turnpike to the ranch studio to do my show. I interviewed lots of recording artists as well as celebrities-many of them friends of Burt's. One time, he showed up at the studio to do an interview with me and you would never have known you were talking to a very big movie star.  He was very real and gracious with his time. Here's a postcard I held on to through the years from his gift store. R.I.P. Burt. And thanks for being so kind.


Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco-a great place to be! (and play)

I consider myself very fortunate to live and voice here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Such diversity, things to do, wonderful weather (OK, it can be downright chilly in the city during the Summer so bring a jacket or a sweater), and I've met some fantastic folks at recording sessions who also do voice overs for a living-voice overs for a living, not a hobby. I'm up and at 'em every morning at 5AM PST and my day generally wraps at 2PM PST. But when it's time to close down the studio for the day, I'm out the door to enjoy all that this area has to offer. Golf is one of my favorite things to do and for the last nine months or so I've been coaching a twenty something, very talented basketball star. His natural ability has allowed him to quickly become a good golfer and I'm amazed how far he hits the ball. And the coaching aspect works wonders for me too at the end of a busy day.

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

e Learning!

Newbies to the VO industry are often surprised to learn that around 90% of all voice over work is
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!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Award winning film I voiced

A few years back, I was called upon by producer Donald L. Vasicek to voice a very somber narration for "The Sand Creek Massacre." Don emailed me a few days ago telling me it had won numerous prestigious awards and is being distributed in North America and Asia. It has played at festivals in all states and recently was catalogued in the Smithsonian Institution. Needless to say, I was thrilled and very proud to be part of this. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some videos I voiced for a German agency

The Internet has opened up many doorways for me and other voice talents. Going global with my voice overs has been very satisfying. I recently voiced a series of videos for Conrad Caine, a very large, international agency headquartered in Munich. Here's a link to one of the videos.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 10 Most Irritating Phrases List

I'm posting this on a Sunday morning with "Meet the Press" on in the background. Once again, I cringe throughout the broadcast as politician after politician (and commentator) keeps saying "At the end of the day..." Is there some law that I missed that says on any nationally televised political show the phrase "At the end of the day" must be said at least 100 times? It got me to thinking, so I Googled "10 Most Irritating Phrases" and lo and behold, "At the end of the day"claimed the top spot according to an Oxford survey. Here's a link to the list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering my friend Ed McCarthy of CNN radio

What a shock I got the other day. Having some down time between voice over jobs, I Googled the name of a friend I use to work with at WIRK in West Palm Beach, Florida. Don't know why, but I had him on my mind and was curious if he was still in the business. Like me, Ed had traveled around the country from station to station and landed a great job at CNN radio in the mid 80's. Back when he worked at WIRK, he was our news director. But he was also more than that to me. He was my golfing buddy, one of the funniest people I've ever met, a darn good broadcaster, and every year he would invite his co-workers from the radio station to come by his apartment for out of this world corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. A real character with a huge laugh. When I did my Google search, it indicated he had passed away back in 2009 at a hospital in Georgia. We had not been in touch for a very long time-I continued my career in radio and then voice over, and he became a national radio correspondent at CNN Atlanta.

I'll always remember the great times we had and how I was with him on a par 3 golf course in Florida one afternoon when he made a hole in one and fell down on the grass, laughing his rear end off. He hit the world's biggest slice ball off the tee. And he used a fairway wood to make the hole in one on a VERY short hole. Most average golfers would have used a nine iron. The ball did its usual wicked slice routine and fell in the hole, much to our amazement.

R.I.P friend. Thanks for the laughs and cool memories.





Sunday, November 6, 2011

The free online talking dictionary of English pronunciation- Howjsay

Lately I've been voicing some very technical medical scripts. One of my favorite sites to go to for audio pronunciation is Howjsay. It's pretty thorough. Some of the words I've been voicing are:

Phenylacetylthiocyanate
Tetramethylazodicarboxamide
alkylisothioureas

These kinds of words can be challenging to even an experienced voice talent. Making them roll off the tongue smoothly is key and may require multiple takes until it sounds natural. Long medical words are often several words strung together so you have to kind of break the word down. Like the word "alkylisothioureas" above. (alkyl-isothioureas). Howjsay can be very helpful in actually hearing the word pronounced, or a word within the long word.  Check out the site here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Craigslist, voice over and the lure of "easy money"

Recently I received some interesting emails from voice talents in response to a post I put on Craigslist. Essentially, I was warning newbie, or simply inexperienced voice talents, to be very careful about responding to ads for voice over work. When someone puts in their ad that it's a quick and easy job, I can feel my blood pressure rising. If the craft of voice over is so easy, then why isn't everyone doing it? (Scroll down the blog in a bit and read "So you want to do voice overs?" for a humorous take.) Most of the ads for voice over work on Craigslist are way below industry standards regarding pay and some even offer no pay with the proverbial dangling carrot of possible future work, or copy and credit. Here's an actual ad posted on Craigslist casting for voice talent. Take a look. This was posted under New York Craigslist jobs. I've altered nothing including the misuse of capital letters.

"Director in search of Voice Over Actress for Great looking Short film tomorrow in mid town studio bet 3-5p. The Original actress is unavailable and we want to release this within the month. We are looking for a youthful ( mid 20's ) and sexy voice. We have a great post house ready to let us do a few hours ( which should be more then enough). The movie is 90% done. Only missing V.O and color correction. This is for credit and $50. Please respond with headshot, voice sample and contact info


it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: $50"

Let's break this ad down and look at the specifics.

This voice seeker wants a quality voice but is offering a "whopping" $50 for two hours of time. Also, if all they need is a "youthful, mid 20's, sexy voice," why are they requesting a headshot? The ad says nothing about the actress also being on camera-it simply refers to a voice. BIG red flag. In addition, a nice looking 20 something female should be very wary about going to someone's studio alone. Bad news scenarios are rampant about Craigslist predators.

I understand that inexperienced voice talents might be desperate to land some work, but in my opinion, the majority of Craigslist ads for voice talent need to be reviewed very carefully. In the ad above, they promise "copy and credit." My question to them would be, what makes you think that your copy is something that's going to be so special that I would want to include it on my demo reel or VO resume? Another dangling carrot.

If you're an inexperienced voice talent or someone looking to explore this business, feel free to contact me for some solid input. I'll be happy to assist you. No charge.

In all fairness to Craigslist voice seekers, I have landed a few decent jobs from Craigslist, but those were few and far between.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Have you voiced anything I would know?"

It happened again yesterday at my bank. I had a check come in from a first time client that I was not able to deposit at the ATM so I went inside. I was standing in a very long teller line at Bank of America, when a customer rep asked if anyone had just a direct deposit-no cash back transaction, which mine was. So, she pulled me out of line (Yippeeee!) and we went to a service station where she handled the details. I told her for whatever reason the check was not able to be processed at the outdoor ATM.

At one point, she asked me what I do for a living. I told her that I do voice overs for TV, some radio, but LOTS of non broadcast stuff for websites, corporate videos, e learning narrations and the like. She then asked me a question I usually get when folks find out what I do for a living- "Have you done anything that I would have heard, or that made you famous?" Of course, I always chuckle inside a bit when I get asked this as it's hard to know what people have heard. I told her that I had voiced four TV spots that aired nationally on the Game Show Network in support of a show called "Think Like a Cat" that she might have seen and heard. (I have one of the spots posted in the video section on this blog.) I went on to tell her that I voice many different genres of voice over, much of it non-broadcast stuff. People are sometimes surprised to hear that roughly 90% of all voice over work is non broadcast-it's a huge part of the VO pie. (Audio book narration has exploded). Those just learning the voice over craft tend to want to gravitate toward the more glamorous stuff like TV commercials and animation voice. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you ignore all the opportunities that abound in non broadcast work, you'll be missing out on a lot.

Another thing I get often is "Oh,that's cool!' "C'mon, do some voices!" I politely decline
and hand out a business card with my website address where my online demos can be heard. Hate to be a party pooper, but...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

So how much do voice actors really make?

So, I was enjoying my morning coffee and newspaper on a Sunday at one of my favorite restaurants here in Castro Valley when I came upon the Parade Magazine insert. This particular issue was billed as their annual "How much do they make ?"survey. I've sometimes had folks ask me if the money is good for doing what I do. My initial response is it depends how accomplished you are, what niche of voice over you excel in (or don't), whether you voice full time or treat it as a hobby, how you structure your rates, whether you're a union or non union voice actor, etc. As you can see, there are lots of variables.

With a natural curiosity to see if this issue of Parade had voice actors listed, I opened the pages to find they did in fact have a listing for voice actors. The voice actress they showed from New York, New York made a "whopping" $10,000! My immediate reaction was this must be a typo. No offense to this woman, but you have to try really hard not to make more than $10,000 per year if you have decent voice acting abilities. I know non union voice actors who are making six figures. And we're not talking about celebrities paid large amounts of money to voice a commercial. We're talking people whose names and faces you would never know. My next thought was, "OK, well this is what this particular voice actress makes per year, and she might be voicing part time, but it is not a true indicator of what the average income of most voice actors is."

So my answer to "How much do voice actors make?" is a lot... and sometimes, not a lot, depending upon many variables. How's that for a vague answer? Like any of these so called salary surveys, you have to take the information with a grain of salt.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shifting gears

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges any voice over talent faces who works alone from a home project studio is being able to make the necessary adjustments throughout the day to give a particular piece of copy the read it needs. My day starts very early, 4-5 AM PST, as I have East Coast clients who come to me on an almost daily basis (Hello Comcast New York/New Jersey!). I tag a fair amount of TV spots and on air promos for them. So, they might come to me needing a very uptempo tag  for a  Monday Night Football sponsorship. Then I'll have something else hit my email that calls for a very deliberate read, such as e learning where the copy needs to be voiced rather slowly, so the learner can digest what's being said. After that, an audition comes in that requires a whole different pace and feel. So, it's important to take a breath between jobs and really try to refocus. It's part of effective self directing. All day long you're shifting vocal gears if you voice a wide variety of scripts. Sometimes just opening up the door and walking outside in between jobs for a moment helps to clear your head for the right read. When you're super busy, it's easy to forget to do this.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The voice of Bart"

The voice of Bart Simpson-Nancy Cartwright
 
In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you were to ask someone who does the voice of Bart, he or she might ask you for clarification. Here, B.A.R.T. stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. And as you wait on the platform for the train to come, you'll hear several voices announcing departure and arrival times. They're actually synthesized voices called, "George and Gracie." The history behind them is kind of fascinating. Read about them and hear a sample of their voices here.

Another suitable answer would be Nancy Cartwright. She's the voice of Bart Simpson. When the series first became a hit, many were surprised that Bart's voice was being done by a woman.

Years ago, Nancy took a big chance, packed up her beat up car in Dayton, Ohio, and headed to California. She was lucky enough to study under the legendary Daws Butler, a master of animation voices. He originated the voices of many famous cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. What an education she got from Mr. Butler. Not to mention landing  the gig of a lifetime. Her book, "My Life as a Ten Year Old Boy" is a fun and informative read.

"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...