It’s Booth Gear, Baby!

When you stand or sit in your recording area (whatever your booth may be), are the tools you need at arm’s-length away? I’m almost positive your copy or music stand has at least one item you use every time you record. Maybe a pencil? A stopwatch? A good luck Beanie Baby? Almost everybody has something. At the very least a script.

The accumulation of booth gear doesn’t necessarily reveal the type of person you’ve become. It’s not a reflection of what makes you, you. Instead, it’s what makes you comfortable so you can do an excellent job recording and impress the heck out of your clients who will shower you with repeat work. It’s all important stuff.

This picture is a snapshot I took of what’s on the music stand in my booth. (click to enlarge)


Big Office Clip
– It’s a simple and efficient headphone hanger. However, since it’s two wires doing the job, the clip has destroyed the padded head cushion covering. There are better choices, like this from Sweetwater- K&M 16080 Headphone and Cable Hook.. (Also check out the K&M 16020 Drink Holder.)

Headphones – I’m using my Sennheiser HD 280 Pros less for self-directed projects but find them necessary for remote booth direction. They spend most of the time on my editing desk.

iPad – Going green is a good choice to reduce printer/paper usage. Printed scripts in the booth are becoming more rare with each passing year. Apple’s iPad (or similar tablet) is the way to go. Mine is an iPad 2, which I bought new in 2011, and with its 9.7-inch display, it’s a good size for reading scripts.

However, while visiting the Apple Store recently, I saw the bigger display of the iPad Pro (12.9-inches), and I think it’d be a sweet upgrade. I would see more of the script on a brighter, crisper display. That’s a win for my eyeballs.

Mighty Bright Light – On those few occasions where I print a script or need to read from an actual book, this light is fantastic for its brightness and adjustability. Since I purchased mine, Mighty Bright has created new, brighter versions that appear to take up less space.

In Your Face iPhone Holder – Phone-patched sessions have become more common and the In Your Face iPhone Holder is a handy place to mount my phone.

Carpet Sample – A music stand is nothing but a flat piece of sheet metal on a pipe. The flat surface can produce unwanted sound artifacts, which are muted with a carpet sample.

Make a trip to your local carpet retailer and ask if they have any samples they’d let you take off their hands. Just make sure it’s clean and a color you can live with. And while you’re there, introduce yourself as the person to call for everything VO.

Pencil – This is a carry over from when I was working with paper scripts. I got in the habit of having it in my hand and feel naked when I don’t. It’s handy for gesticulation. Not so good for marking up copy on an iPad.

Dog Clicker – Marking the waveform with a clearly defined click is indispensable during audio editing. I use it to mark mistakes (1 click), takes (2 clicks), and self-guided booth tantrums (countless).

Cork – For the times when I can’t convince my mouth to cooperate, and articulation seems more like fantasy than reality, I rely on my cork. Pop it in. Read the script. Pop it out. Magically, my mouth takes notice and articulation improves.

Bath Towel – When I slapped my carpet sample on my music stand, I quickly saw it was on the small side. Sooo…  a bath towel covers the entire stand. It’ provides a bit of contrast and color plus keeps the carpet in place. I know it’s a stretch, but it sounds good, doesn’t’ it?

Do I use all the items every time I’m in session? Nope. One or two items come in handy. The rest are on standby waiting for their chance to be helpful.

Do you have things on your stand (or in your booth) that help you get through a session? What’s the one or two items that make what you do easier? I’d like to hear about them, so leave your comments below.

© 2017 J. Christopher Dunn

6 Questions to Ask Mr. Google!

MrGoogle2The Google search box begs me to type in a question whenever I pop open a browser. The code-smiths of Google have spent years creating and refining their cornerstone service. Of the search engines available, Google is by far the most robust and powerful answer retriever available.

Google made search non-geeky by allowing the use of simple phrases. That’s helpful to me when I’m working in my studio; I’d rather reserve my brain power for creativeness behind the mic. Here are a few tools I use regularly that you should try.

Say WHAT?!

Whenever I get a script that has a word I don’t know how to pronounce, my go to helper is Google. The results include entries from several sources including Forvo.com, howjsay.com and others. This comes in handy for audition scripts when the client isn’t available. And, it’s particularly helpful for audiobook production. In the search bar type in…

How do you pronounce [word I’d like pronounced]
(How do you pronounce discombobulated)

At the Tone, the Time is…

I’ve got clients all over the planet and the multiple time zones are difficult to keep straight. A quick way to check current time info is to ask Google. The current time, date, and time zone displays taking the guess work out of calling a client at an appropriate time. Type in…

What time is it in [City] [State] or [Zip Code]
(What time is it in Pie Town NM) 

City and State, Please.

When I’m crafting one-off marketing e-mail to clients, I like to check out what’s going on in their town so I can personalize my message. Google makes getting quick details a snap! I get the basics, including time and current weather, plus points of interest, upcoming events and more. Type in…

[City] [State]
(Poughkeepsie NY)

It’s How Far?

Got a gig at a studio in another town? When your travel expenses include mileage and you need a quick way to calculate the distance, Google is the undisputed source for speed. Type in…

[Starting point] to [Ending point]
(Left Hand WV to West Thumb WY)

Convert this!

With clients all over the globe, I occasionally have one that want’s to pay me in their local currency. Google has a mind for conversion and has no problem returning a value based on the current exchange rate. Type in…

[Amount] [Currency 1] to [Currency 2]
(1500 USD to GBP)

Let Me Google That for You

Could an answer be just a Google search away? You probably know somebody who asks questions that trigger you to think, “Why don’t you just Google it?” To help them see the laziness of their ways, use LMGTFY to create a search and send it for them to use.

This is my fav… http://lmgtfy.com/?q=How+do+I+become+a+voice+talent%3F

 

Those are the ones I use the most, and of course there are many more Google tips and tricks to discover. What is your favorite Google shortcut or tool—one you couldn’t get along without in your studio?

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

podcast largeThe previous two posts (12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss Part 1 and Part 2) focused on podcasts I thought would be interesting for your voiceover business. Listenable, VO goodness easily enjoyed by strapping on a pair of earbuds.

Recommendations you left in the comment section of those posts and other social forums opened my eyes to new content. Most I’d not heard of, so I was eager to give them a listen. I was presently surprised.

Here are the recommendations readers provided, complete with a link to each podcast. I hope find one or two that’ll be perfect additions to your podcast list.

Andy Boyns, suggests The Person Behind the Voice. This podcast is a series of conversational interviews with voice artists and others involved in the voiceover industry. Conversations highlight the many different ways people have advanced in their chosen profession, and serve to remind us when challenging the demons within that others have probably had similar experiences. Andy is the producer of this entertaining series.

 

From Canada, Garnet Williams recommends the podcast he and fellow voice artists Dave McRae and Mike Pongracz produce, called The AmiVOs & Friends “Super-Funtastic-Happy-Hour VOdcast.” The 3 AmiVOs offer entertaining and educational episodes in a delivery that’s informative while laid back. Expect a smorgasbord of news, tips, interviews and humor. Each show offers a 3AmiVO’s Iceberg Tip or Fun Fact!

 

Mike Broderick thinks highly of the 3AmiVOs as well, saying their podcast is “hilarious!” He also highly recommends Love That VoiceOver with Rebecca Michaels. Reader, Justin, also suggests Love That VoiceOver, commenting, “Rebecca interviews folks from all parts of the industry, and I’ve found her interviews with agents and producers to be professionally informative, and her interviews with talent to be inspirational as well as entertaining.”

 

Trisha Beausaert, Voices.com Public Relations Manager, let me know about VoxTalk, which is back from a 5 year hiatus. This podcast is described as valuable programming for both aspiring and professional talents. Each multi-segment episode features guest contributors and covers business, news, technology and many other areas relative to the voiceover profession. The repository of previous episodes contains many gems and is worth investigating.

 

One of my new Facebook friends, Joseph Bevilacqua, produces The Voice Actor Show podcast, and he recommends that you check it out. In the most recent episode, Joe and his wife Lorie interviewed voice actor Fred Frees, and featured a number of clips of voice acting geniuses from the past several decades. Included in the mix are cuts from several popular radio drams and comedies.

 

It was fun to hear from so many readers who had comments about what I’d recommended and to hear about new podcasts I hadn’t considered. There was one other suggestion and I’m going to use it as the seed for an upcoming blog post.

If I’ve missed a podcast related to voiceover, directly or indirectly, I’d like to hear from you.  Leave a comment below.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Are You Available?

 

12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss (Pt 2)

Previously in part one of 12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss, I introduced you to six podcasts to educate and inspire you about voiceover. I’m amazed at the amount of FREE information available through podcasts and I always feel listening to them is time well spent. I can’t think of another way to get educated passively.

This post continues with the second half of my recommended list.

 

Voice Coaches

mza_6385187628270560378.170x170-75Sometimes this podcast is too short. Warren Garling and Chris Scharling find topics that could use more time. They’re that interesting. They entertain well together and discuss methods to improve your VO business. From insightful interviews with industry professionals to marketing tips, and professional suggestions, each episode is delivered with humor and openness. Make sure to listen to the entire podcast for hilarious outtakes.

 

The Producers Podcast – Voiceover and Radio / Audio Production

mza_8350867020232262915.170x170-75While Ryan Drean’s professional focus is Country Imaging services at TM Studios, 360 Country, he is one guy that has many audio interests. His podcast is a blast to listen to and his easy going approach with the professionals he interviews gets answers and stories seldom heard elsewhere. Ryan talks with producers, voice talent and other audio industry professionals.

 

VO Minute

ps.jqrxbgqm.170x170-75New to the voiceover biz? Been in it for a while? This podcast is just right for you. Host and Voice Actress Allison Moffett provides useful VO tips; suggestions for improving your studio business; tech info and personal experiences in bite sized episodes. Allison’s bubbly, upbeat delivery is fun to listen to and sure to be one of the most positive parts of your day.

 

Voice Acting Mastery: Become a Master Voice Actor in the World of Voice Over

Known for numerous video game credits, Voice Actor, Crispin Freeman is the go to guy when your interest is voice acting in animation and video games. He’s been in the business for close to three decades and has the expertise to answer your most pressing voice acting questions. Interviews with agents, voice actors, and producers are typical of what you’ll find in his biweekly podcast.

 

Voice Over Experts

One of the first podcasts I subscribed to is provided by the folks at Voices.com. I was looking for a repository of stories from industry professionals, people who were successful in what they do. I wasn’t disappointed and found each episode enlightening and educational. What happens when you have too much radio in your sound? Check out this podcast for the answer.

 

Voice Over Marketing Podcast

When your VO business could stand an injection of marketing know-how, John Melley delivers what you’ll be looking for. You love what you do otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, right? Learn to make more money and REALLY love what you do. John has useful information specific to your business that’s easy to access and a pleasure to hear.

 

I’ve received a number of suggestions since I published part 1 of this two part post and will share them with you next time. If you have a favorite podcast that helps you with your voiceover business respond in the comments section with your suggestion.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

 

 

12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss (Pt 1)

podcaste_captureWhen I’m working around the house or have a few moments of free time, one of the things I enjoy is listening to Podcasts. I listen to what I think is an eclectic mix that ranges from The Adam Carolla Show to Protocol Radio to NPR: Pop Culture Happy Hour. I like variety.

Since I’m a voice actor I listen to a number of Podcasts for inspiration and some to help me grow my business. I currently have a dozen I listen to weekly. The producer or host of each one takes on a specific approach to influencing me about voiceover or audio. In no particular order, here are the first 6 of my recommendations.

 

East West Audio Body Shop

mza_5479188260430693820.170x170-75Monday evenings would end miserably without watching this live, streaming vid-cast with hosts Dan Lenard and George Whittam. Their hour long VO-centric show features interviews with celebrities, hardware reviews, information and opinions. LOTS of opinions. If you miss the live stream, you can grab the audio portion through Podcast and listen to what you missed.

 

Voice Over Cafe

voice over cafeLooking for a place to kick back, enjoy a virtual bean beverage and hear about talented voice actors? Stop by the Voice Over Cafe. VO Hosts Terry Daniel and Trish Basanyi along with appearances by Tom Dheere, Peter Bishop, Sean Caldwell and Rob Sciglimpaglia have the scoop on current VO happenings. Recent episodes featured an interview with Susan Bennet (the first voice of SIRI) and an in depth chat about IpDTL, an alternative to ISDN.

 

Home Recording Show

Home Recording Show

This weekly podcast covers a lot of home recording ground. While it’s specific to musicians, I find the range of topics fascinating and occasionally they align with what I do in my studio. Microphone suggestions, DAW recommendations, and audio manipulation are often discussed. One of my favorite segments focuses on song remixing. Veteran hosts Ryan Canestro, Jon Tidey and Jesse Zoller have years of combined talent and studio expertise.

 

Talkin Toons with Rob Paulsen

Talkin Toons with Rob PaulsenWhat do Yakko Warner, Pinky, and Dr. Otto Von Scratchansniff have in common? They are characters voiced by Emmy and Annie award winner Rob Paulsen for the Animaniacs cartoon series. Rob brings his craziness, voices and in depth guest interviews to this amazing podcast. If you have even the slightest interest in animation voice acting, this is THE podcast to laugh with.

 

The Sound Advice Voice-Over Podcast

The Sound Advice Voice-Over PodcastIt’s valuable to be aware of multiple perspectives about voiceover. Questions sometimes get the same answer no matter who is asked. What are the benefits of pay to play sites? Is there a valid replacement for ISDN? Who is John Florian and what’s his deal? What’s a slate and how should it be used? Host Kate McClanaghan reveals the answers to questions like these with her unique, cut to the chase insight.

 

Music Radio Creative

Music Radio CreativeNow that you have a smokin’ VO business (or at the very least are on your way to one) it’s time to think about creating your own podcast. Mike and Izabela Russell open the mic and take a deep dive into podcast creation, networking, creating audio apps, Internet radio and more. The advice given and topics covered will inspire you to find ways in which they can be applied to VO.

 

These will get you started and probably wanting more. Come back for part 2 of my Podcast playlist in my next post.

Tell me what your indispensable podcast is and I’ll post all the suggestions in an upcoming post.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Are You Available?

 

15 Unfortunate VO Mistakes to Avoid

oops

There are a number of voiceover successes I’m very proud about from this past year. I don’t want to gush about anything specific, lest I trigger your sensitivity to bragging.

No, instead, I’m going to share a handful of things that made me smack my head in disbelief. These are my “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments, those little slices of time that remind me that I’m human, and not above making bonehead mistakes that make my peers say, “You did what!?”

  1. Using an iPad for script reading in place of paper is a smart, efficient move. Attempting to markup text with a pencil on an iPad is neither smart nor efficient.
  2. Listening to the always entertaining “NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour” while reviewing scripts will distract me from catching even the most obvious mistakes.
  3. Rehearsing an audition script while participating in a webinar is a fabulous way to multitask. Note to self: Make sure to mute the microphone when not interacting with the host or other participants. Nobody is interested to hear my practice runs broadcast across the web over the top of a live webinar.
  4. Listening to classical music empowers me to have uber-focus and smooths occasional pre-session jitters. Rocking out to AC/DC or Nazareth before a recording session is great for getting my pulse pounding; nerves rattling; and ends up being the opening act for multiple takes.
  5. Tis a bummer to record an award worthy session only to find out no sound was captured. Headphones are useful to verify that my audio gear is in record mode and not playback.
  6. High winds on Whidbey Island create a bellows effect in my house while recording and treats the diaphragm of my trusty Bluebird like a brown paper bag used for hyperventilation.
  7. Deep cleaning the house gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Vacuuming, de-cluttering and dusting. I like a clean house. The dusting part is great for setting histamines in motion, giving my voice a nasally, plugged up tone, suitable only for decongestant commercials.
  8. A thick, all cotton sweatshirt is not only necessary to keep me warm but also acts as an extra sound absorber in my booth, a former wine cellar. The same cannot be said for shirts made of corduroy.
  9. Contrary to the wishes of one overseas client, no matter how hard I try, I cannot sound “un-American”. My auditions sound like me, and I sound like my auditions.
  10. Comfortable shoes are important for long periods of standing behind the mic. Wearing shoes of various sole or heel heights from one day to the next causes my voice to take on inconsistent characteristics because mic proximity and sweet spot target became victims of my shoe fetish.
  11. Corks from wine bottles are useful in improving articulation for a lazy mouth. Wine that is aged in the bottle can be delicious. Wine aged on the cork is disgusting. A washed cork is a more agreeable experience.
  12. Staying hydrated is super important for me. It ensures that dry mouth is significantly reduced and all the parts inside my mouth are well lubed. My keyboard and mouse are not in need of the same attention. A water bottle left in their proximity is a setup for desktop disaster.
  13. Eating a yummy ham sandwich an hour before a patched session will make me drink 48 ounces of water during the session and cause SEVERE mouth noises. (Sorry Matt!)
  14. Chewing gum assists in getting rid of cotton mouth. However, while building well defined jaw muscles, it has an adverse affect on fluid mouth movement, making most speaking less articulate.
  15. Altoids are a great substitute for gum chewing. Chewing one before entering the booth creates minty fresh breath. It also provides my tongue an opportunity for calisthenics as I attempt to remove the crushed Altoid bits from my teeth. Suck, don’t chew!

You know you have them. Don’t be afraid to share them. What were your “Oh, yeah… I probably shouldn’t do that” moments in 2013?

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away
Task Manage the Goldilocks Way
Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow

Let the Sound Touch You

SoundWave_500x334Since you’re reading this blog you probably have, at the very least, heard about audiobooks. If you’ve been in the voiceover business for any time, you may have had the opportunity to produce a multi-hour audio masterpiece or may have timidly considered doing so.

Many of the same things to keep in mind while recording voiceovers for commercials, web explainer narration, and other short projects will also apply to long form narration. Because you are going to be in the booth awhile, you need endurance, a comfortable chair (if you site while recording) and as always, stay hydrated. Narrators that have done several books could probably add additional items. These are the basics, the commonalities for all voice recording.

Here are a few more suggestions. What I’m about to share with you should not replace practice, perspiration and patience to learn audiobook narration and production. Instead, the following should be used besides what you are already doing. To get the most out of the what follows, It will be necessary for you to set aside some time and use your ears. All you have to do is listen.

Listen to News

Every morning while I’m brewing French Roast and making my oatmeal, I listen to a PodCast of the Global News from BBC World Service. I have my ear on accents and emotions.

The show is typically hosted by somebody from the UK. I like a good Brit accent and I’m rarely disappointed.

Beyond the host, I take note of speech patterns, voice types, and the urgency of people being interviewed or providing actualities. I’m fascinated by accents, so I find it interesting to hear how different nationalities speak English.

The report is peppered with events of all types. Thankfully, I don’t have the life experience of intensely tragic events and can only imagine how I might feel after witnessing a car bomb explosion or other catastrophic happening. I can, however, hear somebody who’s experienced that in person talk about what they saw and express their emotions. I listen for the pauses, the way a person formulates what they say before they say it. Emotions are high.

To counter the doom and gloom, there are stories of happiness. I’m listening for emotions again, cadence and impact. I know how I react when I’m happy, excited or elated. Recognizing how other people react to the same, could allow me to add an element of that in my next audiobook project.

After 30-minutes, you’ll probably come away with something vocally interesting plus a little more knowledgeable about what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Another source of the same type, is the NBC Nightly News Podcast featuring anchor Brian Williams. Again, listen to how people tell a story, specifically folks being interviewed. What is it about the way they speak, or their delivery, that makes what they’er saying authentic?

Where Audiobooks Live

Audible is where most audiobooks become available. The front page of Audible.com has two links to lists that you should check out, Best Sellers and New Releases.

The Top Story Tellers

The Best Sellers list has two options available: Audible – Past 7 Days and The New York Times. I recommend taking a look at both but focus more on the Audible list because it features the top sellers of the Audible.com catalog.

In any given week, the Audible best sellers list represents a variety of genres and narrators. This audiobook buffet allows you to sample a number of successful titles. I recommend starting with the top 10, working your way through from number ten to number one. Listen to each of them.

Pay attention to the delivery of each particular genre. Narrating nonfiction is different from fiction. The tone of a thriller might have a distinct edge. Romantic reads may have a delivery that’s more warm and heartfelt.

How character voices are handled is another area to take notice. Particularly, how women and men deliver the opposite sex’s dialog.

Try to imagine what it is about the book that landed it in the top 10. It might be because the author is recognizable and the print version has had a long life in many literary lists. Maybe the narrator has brought the story to life, lifted with words with emotion, intention, and clarity. In your mind, come up with your own reason for the title’s success. While you could argue that a valid assessment of an audiobook can’t be made in five minutes or less, I counter that you can tell that you like the taste of something with just a sip or a bite, and in most cases you know why.

Typically, top selling books are narrated by established names. Four that come to mind are Maya Angelou (16+ audiobooks), Scott Brick (555+ audiobooks), Jim Dale (33+ audiobooks) and Barbara Rosenblat (246+ audiobooks). While you’re listening to the samples, take note of what you like about the narrator. Does the narrator have a way of keeping you interested with the pace of the read? Do they sound sexy or sleazy when speaking the details of a torrid night with chocolate? Is the delivery over the top, or just right? What can you learn or emulate from those at the top of their game?

The production values are high as well. Most of the top talent are recored with the assistance of an engineer who monitors fidelity, delivery and continuity. You won’t hear noisy rooms, outside elements, or distorted audio. These books are pristine. If you decide to produce audiobooks, this is the quality to strive for.

Schedule some time every week to review the top sellers. Most audio samples are five-minutes or less. Think of it as research and education.

Give an Ear to Newbies

The second list on Audible.com to focus on is New Releases. Here you’ll find samples from multiple genres narrated by talent of varying skill. A number of the narrators on New Releases are folks who are just starting out. It took courage to jump into the audiobook pond, and if being successful is important, they will improve with each book they produce.

When listening, ask yourself if you are good or better than most of the narrators you’re sampling from this list. By your comparison, can you identify how you might improve a particular read? Listen to the production quality. Can you hear room echo or reflections? Do the noises from the surrounding environment seep into the performance? Are the edits clean and does the pace reflect the current mood? Does the narrator suffer from a bout of dry mouth and could stand to be hydrated more? I’m not asking you to be hypercritical, just identify what works and what doesn’t work for you. Take time to listen for ways to improve your own delivery; or, if you haven’t taken the dive off the high board, take some mental notes on how you would narrate and produce your first audiobook.

The Rest of the Story

You will probably find during your listening sessions that one of the audiobooks you previewed caught your attention. It had your interest right up to the abrupt ending of the audio sample. What to do? Buy the complete audiobook. Here you’ll get to enjoy the entire production on your own time. You’ll find it immersive as your mind builds upon what your ears hear. It’s a great form of edutainment. Possible tax deduction? Maybe. Consult your tax adviser for the correct answer.

A final suggestion – if you’ve been considering audiobooks as your voice path, watch Professional Narrator, Sean Pratt’s (188+ audiobooks) YouTube video, “So… You Want to Be an Audiobook Narrator?

Now that you have a few tips to help you with audiobook narration and production, I hope you’re feeling somewhat empowered. Understand that your first book will be tough, but those that follow will become easier. Your next audiobook will be potentially better than the one before.

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Find Your Voice-Over Answers in These Five Amazing Books

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
JewelBeat: A New Royalty Free Music Source
Are You Available?