Local Shop Gets Reception Area Bling

Here’s a hat tip to the creatives over at TM Advertising in Dallas.  Jim Walker mentions on their blog that the shop has garnered a fist full of Addy’s, which are kind of the Grammy’s of advertising.

The awards include radio work for Nationwide Insurance.  Congratulations to Hal, Dermot, Stephanie at TM, and also Russel, Amy and Jake at C.U.T. Great work. Also, good casting for the disclaimer reads 🙂

The Voice-Over Whisperer

Tracy Pattin at the Voice Registry has a podcast featuring an interview with voice-over coach extraordinaire Marice Tobias. Marice specializes in taking her students beyond technique and word manipulation.

True Story: About ten years ago I was doing a phone session with Marice and was reading a piece of New Mexico state tourism copy.  She stopped me mid-sentence and asked what had happened to me in New Mexico.

“I love New Mexico,” I said.  I met my wife there, started a radio career, graduated college, have a dear friend there and go back to visit often.

“What else happened?” Marice asked.

Oh, that part of it. The part where I was uprooted from California at age 15 and sent to military school in New Mexico.  I didn’t know a soul. The marching and yelling, homesickness, and the physical hazing part of New Mexico. (My Dad had attended there and thought I should too.)

So 20 years later I’m reading New Mexico copy and Marice senses that there is something wrong in my spirit, something getting in the way, that I don’t even recognize is there.  She’s hearing and feeling it in my read. That’s what makes her the “Voice Whisperer” and a very unique coach and person.  If you ever have a chance to study with her, do it.

When your Voice Doesn’t Work so Good

Back in the day I did on-air for a radio station in Dallas that played really soft music and attracted  large chunks of the 60 plus monied demographic. On the studio line I would take calls from women whose voices were colored and textured by decades of cigarettes and martinis.

Their voices were often lower and rougher than mine and I’m no tenor.  Sunday I sounded like one of them.  Yeah, the dreaded head cold.

So how does the voice actor take care of his instrument?  Especially during cold and flu season?  Two sources of good advice come to mind: The “Ask About Vocal Health” on the Voice-Overs.com forum.  And Bettye Zollar has a series of podcasts on the subject over on Voice Over Xtra.

The doctor has me on some expensive meds and I’m already feeling much better and sounding more like myself again.  No need to find a mink stole and a cigarette holder.  I can even tell my hat from my glove.

Tweety Bird to Land in Dallas

Voice over actor and teacher Bob Bergen plans an advanced animation techniques workshop in Dallas February 28-March 1st 2009.  Bob is a gifted voice actor and the current voice of Porky Pig and Tweety Bird for Looney Toons. He also appears regularly in animated films such as Cars, Shrek, Toy Story and Wall-E.  So, yeah, he’s big-time.

The workshop will be at Cake Mix Recording Visit Bob’s website for sign-up information.  That is all.

Sennheiser 416 Microphone

I’ve actually had the Sennheiser 416 short shotgun microphone in the home studio for about a month now. I recorded a couple of political spots with it in late October. And yeah, I like it. At least for commercials and promos.

It has an upfront “in your face” sound to it that seems to adds some crispness and presence to my voice.  And this is with an absolutely flat dry audio chain. No other processing or EQ is needed, which is why a lot of studio engineers like it.

I still need to experiment with it some as to microphone placement.  A common positioning is to have the shotgun tube in front (duh) and above the talent and pointing down so the tip is on axis with the upper lip.  Distance is a matter of how loud the voice is, I think.

I’ve never had one of those big booming voices, never been a “loud talker” and take the “less is more” approach anyway on most projects.  When I’m at an outside studio I can usually tell if some radio guy has been the last talent before my turn.  The engineer has to bring the microphone back in much closer for me.

So I’ll be playing with the new 416 to find the “sweet spot”, just how big that spot may be (not very) and a good distance for the particular read I’ll be doing.

My other microphones include Beyer-Dynamic ribbons which have a very warm sound and an Oktavamod from Michael Joly which I think compares very favorably with other common voiceover mics such as the  AKG C-414 or  Neumann TLM-103 for much less coin.

The very attributes of the Sennheiser 416 for commercial and promo work are what makes me think of using one of my other mics for long form projects. The question is, will narration of, say training material, recorded with the Sennheiser 416, become a little tiring on the ear ten minutes into the program? I suppose it will depend on the project and the copy. It always does.

The Sennheiser 416 Microphone

It seems odd that a microphone made for film and video location recording would find its way into the voice-over booth but it has.  The Sennheiser 416 is popular on the West Coast but not so much in New York.  One studio in the Dallas area uses it a lot and it is there where I work on one of my biggest accounts.

Engineers like it because of the way it enables voices to “cut through the mix.” It also works well in less than perfect recording environments because of its ability to reject side and rear noise sources. Many actors like the Sennheiser 416 due to a “presence” boost that it seems to have.

However, this microphone also has its detractors. Corey Burton is a long time Hollywood voice actor who absolutely hates this piece of gear and has a rant against it on his website.

I ordered one last week and it should be here any day now. I’ll let you know how it works out in my humble studio.

Physical Movement in Voice Acting-Just do What Works

During my time in the voiceover business I’ve been witness to many different styles of acting before the microphone. I’ve seen actors silently but not so subtley move their entire bodies while doing the read. And I’ve seen the flat dry monotone read done while the actor stands stiff as a statue with hands crammed in pockets.

Looking at session videos on YouTube or Voiceover Universe you also see a variety of hand placements and gestures. Some actors bring energy into the read by waving hands or wagging fingers. Others will clinch a fist against their noggin to help get tension into the material. Ed Grover was famous for clasping his hands on top of his head to help him open up that “sweeping” read he would do for Visa.

If I’m doing a training narration I tend to gesture a lot, talking with my hands in order to help emphasize and draw certain phrases or word groups out of copy that is by it’s nature pretty dry stuff.

While voicing retail copy I try to get a little more energy into the read by rapidly wagging a wrist around behind the mic. I do most of the fast legal reads for Nationwide Insurance radio and for those I stand like a statue with arms up and out and pour  the energy into cramming all those words into the shortest space possible.

On the other hand there are voice actors who prefer not to use overly physical techniques and still bring wonderful life to their scripts through emotional connection to the words.

If you are just starting out, practice and experiment. Get training. Use a coach. Find the techniques that work best for you.

Voiceovers for the local TV station

There are many genres of work for the voice actor. One of them is voicing promos for TV at the local station level. The “Here’s what’s coming up tonight on CBS 11″ kind of thing.

What sort of voice actor does well at this? Producer Robert Dwyer has a few thoughts:

“You want to be voice-over talent? Well, here’s some advice from a guy who hires VO people and what makes them valuable to a 19th market TV station.“

Read the rest here.

The Voice Actor and ISDN

ISDN may seem like old technology but it just flat works real well for the voice actor and those who employ him. ISDN lines and hardware/software codecs allow for  CD quality voice transmission in real time between studios around the globe. Think of it as a microphone with a really really long cord.

Voice actor and TV news guy Dave Courvoisier has written a good article about ISDN here without getting all technical on you. Nice job, Dave.