I sat in a restaurant the other day and watched a grade-school sized child endure a massive coughing and sneezing fit. By massive, I mean a series of sneezes followed by a volley of gurgle filled coughs and then more sneezing. While I felt sorry for the tyke, all filled with snotty goo, I was happy to leave her behind as I walked out the door into fresh air.
According to Weather.com Cold and Flu Facts, cases increase during the fall and winter months, then taper off in March and April. Homes with children are more susceptible to these seasonal visitors and women have more colds than men. If you’re a 60-something, your chance of having a cold drops considerably, less than once a year on average.
If you work from home in your personal studio, your chances of coming into contact with a cold or flu carrier is lower, significantly lower if you live by yourself. And, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get ill if you live in a cave. Some caves have good ‘coustics!
However, if you are a parental unit with a spouse and kids, your chances are pretty good that you’re going to get exposed to somebody who is beta testing the latest strain of cold or flu. You’ll have what they’re having and you’ll pass it on to your studio.
Your studio is the money maker. Sure, you’ve got the pipes and sound super cool when you’re recording whatever it is that gets producers to write you a check. But, without your studio you’d be reduced to using string and cans or traveling to somebody else’s hood to record.
Think of your studio as a living being, one that you have a symbiotic relationship with. You both rely on each other for survival and just a bit of common sense will help keep your studio free from nasty cold and flu bugs.
With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your studio in healthy, usable shape through the season.
Maintain a Perimeter – Your studio is sacred and should only be accessible by the truly healthy. Reduce the potential of ill-inducing germs getting in your way by limiting or eliminating access to anybody who has symptoms. That includes you. If you’re sick and only working because you “feel” you should, don’t. Take time to repair, stay away from the sickos.
“…give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.”
Clean Equipment – Once a week, give your studio a cleaning. Clean you monitor, wipe down your keyboard and mouse. Use an electronics-friendly cleaner and a soft cloth on your other pieces of gear such as speakers, audio interface and control surfaces. Finally, give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.
“…when I get congested I sound like poo.”
Work Station – Dust makes me sneeze and when I sneeze I get congested and when I get congested I sound like poo. Use a clean cloth and surface cleaner to pick up the week’s accumulation of micro-particles. Your studio will appreciate your hands-on approach to keeping its surfaces clean.
“…stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.”
Studio Area – Stress is more than happy to give cold and flu a hand when it comes to plying their ickiness. Keep stress to a minimum whenever possible. Keeping your area organized and clutter free will reduce stress and even make you feel more on top of your game. With you studio in order, stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.
“…wash your hands first before heading into your studio.”
Wash Your Paws – During my early years in school at Belgrade Elementary, the teachers were constantly reminding me to wash my hands. Not just reminding me actually, but everybody. At the time I thought it was a dumb idea and a big time-waster. There were more interesting things to do.
OK, so, now I get it. Washing hands reduces germs. When you come in from the outside world (that’s any place that’s not your studio) wash your hands first before heading into your studio. If you find yourself hand washing a lot, use cooler water. Hot water strips away oils that keep your hands from getting chapped. Regardless of water temperature, make sure to use a hand soap you like. Maybe a nice vanilla almond or lavender.
“…their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high.”
Garbage Patrol – It’s like washing your hands. Nobody enjoys emptying the garbage can. It’s just one of those things that you have to do. Remember to keep your perimeter up and empty it yourself. While one of your child slaves might have the weekly duty, their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high. Don’t allow them to pollute your space.
“Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in.”
Be polite, Cover Your Pie-hole – You’ve done everything I’ve suggested in this list of paranoia and still managed to get sick. Now you’re taking it easy to recover so you can get back into your pristine studio. Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in. Do what you can to reduce that from happening. When spontaneous histamine triggered expelling occurs, do it into a fresh tissue and then toss the entire mess away. No tissue in sight? Sneeze or cough into your shirt sleeve, at the crook of your elbow.
“…they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.”
Don’t Stick Your Fingers in Your Eyes, Mouth and Nose – This should be obvious. In case it’s not, your hands collect a lot of garbage, hence the hand washing. If you stick a finger or your small one sticks a finger in any of the above mention places, you’ve just released the hounds on your immune system and they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.
“When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important.”
Stay hydrated – Drinking several ounces of water a day is just part of what we do. It keeps our pipes in working fashion, reduces mouth clicks and keeps our thirst at bay. When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important. Your body uses the water for everything and when you’re sick, it uses more of it.
“Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.”
Feel Better – While you’re recovering, there are a few things you can do to feel better. Hot drinks with honey and lemon are a start. There are some home remedies that suggest adding a shot of your favorite spirits to a cuppa something. While it sounds good on the surface, alcohol is a dehydrator, which will work against your hydration process. I’m a fan of the herbal tea ThroatCoat or something a bit wilder like Bengal Spice or Orange Spice. And, your body will benefit nicely from extra rest and sleep. It’s working hard to get you back in the studio so give it a chance with some time. Also, keep warm and comfortable during recovery. Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.
Start counting down the days until warmer, more humid weather. Mark the first day of spring as the un-congested light at the end of the cold and flu tunnel. Then you and your studio can relax. Until then, can I offer you a vitamin C or zinc tablet?
© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn
Other posts you might find interesting:
You may or may not be a professional voice person but you are somebody who enjoys learning about the biz, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a blog about voiceovers. Now that I have that out of the way, I would like to direct your attention the information below. You’ll find details about VoiceWorld Toronto Conference.
This will be a key opportunity for you to meet like minded people, hear from experts that have been doing the voiceover craft for decades and enjoy the beautiful city of Toronto.
Date: Saturday May 4th, 2013
Time: 8:00 am – 5:30pm
Location: Toronto Hilton Hotel
Prepare to be educated, equipped and empowered
- Audition like a pro — understand the do’s and don’ts of auditioning in person and online.
- Learn the ins and outs of the voice acting business, and what it takes to be a successful voice-over talent.
- Get into business — explore ways to turn your voice acting talent into a business.
About VoiceWorld Toronto
VoiceWorld, the industry’s premier conference, being held in Toronto in 2013, is an immersive experience focused on engaging voice actors from across Canada and the United States. Connect with amazing, influential people who can change your life through courses in artistic development, business and technology preparing you for success in the exciting world of voice acting. A breath of fresh air, VoiceWorld sets out to invigorate and intensify your love for the art of voice acting as never before with an action plan for you to take your business to the next level.
VoiceWorld Toronto Speakers
- Pat Fraley – Man of Four Thousand Voices, CESD Talent Los Angeles
- Elley-Ray Hennessy – Award-winning actress, Director and Producer
- Deb Munro – International Voice-over Talent and Coach
- David Ciccarelli – Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com
- David Goldberg – Owner of Edge Studio
- Dan Lenard – The Home Studio Master
- Sunday Muse – Voice-over Artist, Author and Coach
- Dave McRae – The Voice Mann
- Stephanie Ciccarelli – Author of Voice Acting for Dummies
- Wayne Young – Audio Producer and Mixing Engineer
Early Bird Special ends February 28th!
*Tickets are limited. Purchase your full conference pass by visiting, http://voiceworldtoronto2013.eventbrite.com/
When I was preparing to open the door of my voice-over business, I made a list of all the office goodies I needed. One of the items was a printer, and I had my mind set on a multifunction unit. I thought having print/fax/scan capabilities in one easy to use box would be the most efficient way to go. I made the purchase and printed off into the sunset.
Well, not really. You see, I bought an inkjet version and quickly found that I was going through cartridges faster than a Hummer guzzles a tank of gas. I found myself making my way though reams of paper as well. I had a huge box of printed scripts to recycle every month. It took little time for me to figure out that I needed something more efficient, more green.
I’d read that a number of my voice-over peers had made the migration to iPad for scripts. This appealed to me on several levels. With an iPad, my paper and ink cartridge consumption would be significantly reduced. My office would be more green. Plus, the iPad would be a super-cool buy, satisfying my inner gadget geekness.
I made the purchase, an iPad II/16-Gig. Next, was to load it with software that would make the purchase pay for itself. I needed something to read scripts. I used iOS Pages at first but found that it was missing the ability to handle PDF formatted files.
I tried several PDF readers (too many to list!) before finally arriving on what I believe to be the ultimate PDF tool, Foxit Mobile PDF by Foxit Corporation. It allows me to view and easily navigate PDFs, plus it has a number of ways to annotate or markup the text. I can bookmark, highlight text in multiple colors, type notes for phonetics, write direction notes, strike text and more.
Foxit Mobile PDF is perfect for the audiobooks I produce. Figure 1 shows my markups for a recently produced audiobook. I wrote in chapter numbers, typed in audiobook specific replacement text, and highlighted sections for pickups. The screenshot also shows the app’s toolbar, document navigation slider on the right, and page view and page number in the lower right.
The slide panel in figure 2 reveals 4 useful tools that allow me to navigate to a specific bookmark, review the chapters or outline of a document, see my annotations and search for text.
The one drawback to using an iPad for scripts is that markups during a directed session are a bit cumbersome, but it’s still doable. It’s not as easy for me to write in a quick note or strike words on the tablet’s surface as it is to do it with pencil and paper. I’ve caught myself a few times going for my pencil. Perhaps the natural thing to do would be to migrate to a stylus.
Foxit Mobile PDF is available for a limited time at no charge from the App Store.
I’m sure there are other PDF readers/annotators that you have used and I’d like to hear about them. Since I’m interested in trying out a stylus, I’m open to suggestions. Also, what are the things you’ve done to make your studio more green?
Figure 1 shows the markups made during the production of Marc Allen’s Amazon.com best seller, “How to Quiet Your Mind: Relax and Silence The Voice of Your Mind, Today!“, published by Empowerment Nation. Audiobook availability pending Audible.com review and approval.
First, let met point out that books are not dead! While mobile devices like the iPad and Kindle have reshaped the publishing landscape, books are still useful. They offer a wealth of information that’s just a page turn away, whether it be digital or physical. While I can dive into the Internet and search for answers, I also like having a book written by a knowledgable expert that’s within easy reach.
The reference library for my voice-over business ranges from setting up a home studio to marketing my services. The books I’m sharing with you are what I think are some of the best available for people investigating, starting up on, or successfully working in the voice acting or voice-over business.
James Alburger has earned eleven Emmy Awards, Omni Intermedia Awards, and Silver Microphone Awards for his work as a director and audio producer. He has over 35-years of experience as a performer and in the recording studio. James has condensed his success into a book that every person interested in a voice acting career should read. “The Art of Voice Acting” features chapters that include a business overview, working with copy, auditioning and studio stories. The book includes a CD of demos from top voice-over artists along with exercises to help prepare your body, mind and mouth for optimal performance.
This was the first book I bought for my voice-over reference library. The duo of Hogan and Fisher do an amazing job of explaining what’s needed to set up a home studio that’s suitable for recording. They cover hardware, software, production techniques and more. Both authors have had fascinating careers and you get a glimpse of that along with all their helpful information. This book will help get your brain wrapped around the basics of working from a home studio.
There is something for everyone in this book. Yuri and Tara explain the art of voice-over in a casual but very knowledgeable approach. They draw from a number of years of combined experience with clients that include Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Dell, McDonald’s and Budweiser. The book includes a great chapter on warming up your body and vocal path before you audition or perform. I’ve adopted this into my daily routine.
The approach of this book is to train like an athlete. Long time veteran Janet Wilcox breaks down the process into understanding the rules of the game, training, preparing to compete, and discovering your game or what you’re good at. Janet has done a great job of making what can be ambiguous in the career path of voice actor more understandable. The included CD features exercises and interviews with top voice-over talent.
This book is a must read to get insight from the top voice-over pros. Each chapter is written by a professional who candidly shares their life as a voice actor. You’ll discover how Jim Dale, the voice of all the Harry Potter books, was in the right place at the right time. Each chapter ends with an industry secret, based on the experiences of the chapter writer. A CD is included, which features the demos used by the book’s contributors to get voice-over work. The tragedy of Alzheimer’s struck home when Joan’s Father was silenced by the disease. Proceeds from the book go to The Alzheimer’s Association.
These are five from my library and I’m always looking for more. What books have you found useful in your career as a voice actor?
Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro doing voice over work in your home studio, there are a few necessities that are valuable to have in order to be productive. Of course you need the basics: a computer, microphone, recording software and a place to be vocal. But, you also need a few support items to help make your recording sessions easier.
First, a story about mouth-clicks and a pencil. During a relatively easy session, I was having difficulties with mouth-clicks. The script was about 30-words with no unusual phonetics or unfamiliar terms. After my first take, I listened to the playback only to discover my read was loaded with mouth-clicks. So, I took a swig of water, ate a bite of green apple and headed back into the booth for a second take. This time, I read the script twice to make sure I had a clean, mouth-click-free recording.
During the playback of my second attempt and to my disappointment, I found that the nasty mouth clicks were still there. This time they were much more numerous than the first take. Not only did there seem to be more, the tiny obnoxious clicks had gotten louder. It was as if they had taken on a life of their own and were mocking my efforts to get rid of them.
After hydrating myself again, I trekked back to the booth for attempt number three. This time I was going to really pay attention to what sounds were emitting from my mouth. With pencil in hand, I began my read. I put emotion in all the right places and enunciated clearly. I was emoting with my entire body, stabbing with my hands for emphasis. And then that’s when I heard them. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Click. Click!!!
I realized to my embarrassment and relief, the clicks were not coming from my perfectly spoken words, but from my pencil. It was a blue Pentel mechanical pencil that I had freshly loaded with new lead. Every time I shook my hand for emphasis, the pencil replied like a miniature baby rattle. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Yes, it was a pencil and not my mouth, thank you very much.
So, now the Pentel sits on my desk and not in the booth. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the thing even though it made me sound ridiculously clicky, it’s been with me since I was a Freshman in high school. Ah, the price of sentimental nostalgia.
And now, my list of seven must have items for your home studio.
Wooden No. 2 pencils work the best. You can woodshed or markup your script at will, and erase when needed. Pens allow you to write but most don’t allow you to erase. And, while mechanical pencils look rather prestigious, they are not worth the trouble. Trust me on this!
H2O is very important in reducing mouth-clicks and keeping your mouth and throat moist while doing voice overs. I have a 32-ounce bottle in my studio that’s refilled at least three times a day. Room temperature is best, cold water somewhat restricts vocal cord movement.
3. Warm Tea
Along with water, warm, caffeine free tea with honey and lemon is a throat saver. I use a variety of blends, each one is tasty and seems to relax and clear my vocal path. One tea specifically marketed as medicinally appropriate for voice actors, is Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat. You can find this in most grocery stores.
4. Green Apples
It’s true. I’ve used them and have found that they do the job of significantly reducing mouth-clicks. One of the first things I do in the morning is slice up a green apple to keep in my studio for the day. It’s easy to chew a piece before a session or audition.
5. Comfortable Work Station
When I’m not in the booth recording, I’m at my desk editing, writing proposals, or replying to client e-mail. An ergonomically adjustable desk and chair will allow you to work more comfortably for longer periods of time. My desk is designed by BioMorph and my chair is a Humanscale. Without them I’m sure that I would not be able to put in the hours I do.
I print a number of scripts everyday. Before I purchased a printer for my studio, I used one that was connected to my home network. My studio is on the second floor and the printer was inconveniently located on the first. Sure, I got my exercise and it gave me an opportunity to get off my butt. Nothing beats having a printer close by. I settled on a multifunction printer from Canon that gives me printing, scanning and faxing capabilities. I suggest going with a laser printer and staying away from ink jets. In the long run laser is cheaper, quieter, has better image quality, stands up to pencil markups better and is not smudged by highlighters.
7. Good Lighting
You need to see what you’re reading in the booth and at your desk. In my booth I have a Mighty Bright Triple L.E.D light clipped to my copy stand. It’s powered by three rechargeable AAA batteries and gives off an incredible amount of light for its size. The adjustable halogen desk lamp that I use lights up my entire work area.
These are the tools I need and use daily in my studio. What are your “must have” items in your studio?