Unplugged and Loved It!

abstract ship in seaDuring the first part of June, I traveled with family and friends to celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary. We took an Alaska cruise for seven-days and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, ports of call; amazing food and entertainment; and each other’s company. It was a relaxing and restful experience.

While preparing for the trip, I though seriously about what gadgets I should take and how I would maintain my business connections while away from my studio. Should I pack my laptop or could I get by with my iPad or maybe even my iPhone and my trusty travel mic? Where would I record on a huge cruise ship that had a constant rumble from the engines? What was the price of satellite wifi to remain connected while on board? Should I accept calls at sea? How much gear should I take?

The cruise was supposed to be a relaxing, fun time with the focus on my friend’s wedding anniversary. After giving this considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that I would unplug. Yup. Totally disconnect. The stress of where to record, how to maintain contact, and run my business onboard seemed, well, silly.  Risky? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The first thing I did was contact my clients with an e-mail letting them know well in advance that I was unplugging for seven-days and to contact me with any recording needs before then. I received many responses telling me to enjoy myself. Clients with voiceover needs contacted me immediately to set up session time. They were open to work with my schedule. I love my clients!

Time off was spectacular. I got to know my travel companions better. Spent time engaged with people face to face instead of gadget to gadget. Slept better than I had in a very long time. And felt like I had gobs of extra time on my hands.

Being unplugged is not overrated but does have some drawbacks. Since auditioning is the primary way I get hired, I missed out on a few of opportunities. Yes, it was a risk I considered and a price I paid.

One thing I’ll remember next time I unplug is to set up an e-mail auto response to let people know that I’m OOF (out of facility) and when I’ll be back. This will let prospective clients know that I’m not slow or ignoring them and existing clients who missed my unplugged e-mail that I’ll take care of their questions and needs soon after I arrive back home.

You know, everybody is SOOOO connected to everything. We spend a number of hours each day touching those connections to make sure we’re remembered. During the process we filter a significant amount of noise, content that just doesn’t fit a current agenda. It’s mentally exhausting. Unplugging and leaving the gadgets behind is a type of therapy. It was a little scary at first for me and by the end of the voyage, I was recharged and ready to plug back in.

Your experience may vary.

Other posts you might find interesting:

VoiceWorld Toronto, It’s a Voice Conference

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.

VoiceWorld Toronto Conference

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

10 Reasons To Attend VoiceWorld Toronto

Early Bird Special ends February 28th!

*Tickets are limited. Purchase your full conference pass by visiting, http://voiceworldtoronto2013.eventbrite.com/

Voice World Toronto
Join us in Toronto for the voice acting conference of the year on Saturday May 4th, 2013.
VoiceWorld

Find Your Voice-Over Answers in These Five Amazing Books

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.

“The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition “The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition

James R. Alburger

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

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.

“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home ... and on the Road”“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home …and on the Road”

Harlan HoganJeffrey P. Fisher

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

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.

“Voice-Over Voice Actor”“Voice-Over Voice Actor”

Yuri LowenthalTara Platt

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

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.

“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”

Janet Wilcox

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

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.

“Secrets of Voice-over Success”“Secrets of Voice-over Success”

Joan Baker

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

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?

Three Part Voiceover Practice Method that’s Close to Perfection

An athlete practices daily to train for competition. Without practice, the chances of success are greatly reduced. It’s important to teach the body how to move or react to situation so it can do so automatically without having to put much thought into it.

Like an athlete, voice actors should train. Doing so will increase the chance for successful auditions. An hour a day can make the difference between missing the mark or landing the job. Practice will not make you perfect; it will make you closer to perfect.

I start each morning with a warm up that includes body, facial, breathing and vocal areas. After I’ve warmed my body and vocal path and hydrated myself, I start my practice workout.

1. Cold Read

My job as a voice actor is to clearly read aloud my client’s scripts and add my vocal color. So, to improve my ability to read aloud I start my practice session with a 15-minute cold read. I subscribe to a number of magazines, ranging from AFAR to Wired, and each morning I read aloud from one of them. It’s a great workout as I’m challenged to read unfamiliar words and names, strange phrases, words that are written for the eye and not necessarily for the ear and there’s an educational element as well. I record these readings so I can monitor my improvement by comparing how I read a couple of months ago to today. I’m happy to announce that I’ve improved. You should too.

2. Stretch the Range

My voice acting coach, Veronica Weikel, starts each session by having me create as many character voices as I can from the multiple line script she’s given me. I love this so much that I’ve incorporated it into my practice and it’s become my favorite part. The sheet has six sentences that lend themselves well to creative interpretation. Here’s an example:

  • Enjoy a walk on the beach with your favorite super hero and experience your childhood fantasy.
  • Popular? No, I’m not popular. I just act like I am.
  • About 10 years ago, your sister developed the desire for bigger purses. Now, she just carries around a suitcase.
  • With that type of attitude you’d think it was easy being a nude circus clown.
  • Night after night, it’s the same thing. “Igor, get another body from the cemetery.” Sheesh!
  • Winning would be easier if you showed up for practice. The coached is not happy.

For each line, I come up with three different character voices and change pace, cadence, emotion and word emphasis for each one. Like the cold read, I record this and play it back as soon as I’m done. I’m happily amazed by the voices that come out of me.

3. Audition Rehearsal

The final stage of my practice session is to workout with some scripts. I’ve collected a number of them from jobs I’ve done, auditions, and from Edge Studio’s script repository. I randomly select three from my stack and treat each one as an audition. I mark up the script, record three takes with a slate and then listen to the play back. This will train your ear: you’ll begin to notice right away what worked in your read and what bombed. You might have a great idea how the script should be read in your head, but can you get it out the vocal path? This will help to improve that process.

Now that I’ve finished my warmup and workout, I’m ready to take on the day. I’m in the mindset to audition and feel confident that I’m doing a better at my craft today than I did yesterday. Practice can’t make you perfect, but it can make you a better voice artist.

The Angry Click and 7 Must Have Items for Your Home Studio

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.

1. Pencils

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!

2. Water

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.

6. Printer

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?