Archive for the ‘ Production Jobs ’ Category

Sample Image of the  ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

Sample Image of the
ZamPlayer, used elsewhere on this site.

What if the voice style a producer is listening for is actually Segment Number Five in my sixty-second Demo? What if the producer stops listening after Segment Number Three? Is a problem. …for BOTH of us!

Not anymore.

Enter VoiceZam, a new type of audio player created by my friend, Bob Merkel, and now in use on It allows listeners to zero in on just the part of any demo they want, without having to play the demos in their original order. Like iTunes, it can start at Segment One and play through, or start anywhere else and skip around and/or repeat or go back, INSTANTLY. Short Segments or the whole demo can be downloaded just as easily.

The player is set at one default (changeable by you)…in my case: Commercial. But the drop-down menu reveals all the other demos on offer, from Narration to Character to Audiobooks and E-Learning. VoiceZam’s player lets me upload as many different categories as I want to show off, but lets the listener pick and choose ONLY what he/or/she is listening for.

Added bonus: I can label each Segment in each demo just the way I want, so as to better match the type of voice being searched for. And updating & swapping out segments is so easy, even I can do it.

Once you get the hang of the player, it’s tempting to click around and see what other “buried treasure” you might have missed listening the old fashioned way. That’s just what I’m hoping my potential clients will do.

Best of all, the player is built to play instantly on any device….well…any desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, dumbphone, or Dick Tracy Wrist Radio. Bob still isn’t sure it’ll show up on your old-style digital watch, though. There’s more to say about the player, but it’s being said much better on the website. Don’t even get me started on the feature that lets you track who’s listening in, and for which segments, and for how long!!!

On a personal note: Bob is a delight to work with, taking hands-on ownership of any question, any potential problem. In my own case, he even went into his software “baby” and created a player skin color to match my website theme…and later created a catagory in the drop-down so I could also show off my Audio Production skills to potential clients. Not only that, but recently, he took note of numerous complaints about the cost of the service. Did he do a Steve Jobs and say “take it or leave it”? No. He did a “Bob Merkel”, and cut the cost in half.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of customer response a “warm & friendly voice” talent appreciates.

— over and out —

…a Ghost of Christmas Past.

I didn’t send out cards this year.  It reduced holiday stress, but still…I felt a little guilty.

So, as I’ve met and made so many new friends since this little audio skit was created five years ago, I figured I’d take advantage of technological advances and share with you a film noir version of the muchly over-done “Christmas Carol”…this time, starring Sam Scrooge.

My thanks to Wendy Zier for joining the voice cast.   And, as Scrooge would say, “A Happy Humbug to you all!”  (…seriously, the only way I’ve made it through this year is with the help of friends such as you.  And for that, I am truly grateful.)

— over and out —

Knowing When (Not) To Say “No”.

If there’s anything better than being invited back for another creative animated tv spot by a great creative team:  it’s being asked to add a little something that wasn’t in the original script…and watching it take off!

In a spot recorded this summer and readied for air in the fall, the folks at Lawrence & Schiller    continued their Telly Award and Addy Award winning media campaign for Taco John’s.  My old coot farmer, who raises all the exotic-flavored chickens featured in those Baja Boneless Wings, has been coerced into being a retro DJ for his flock, who want to do…what else(?)…the Chicken Dance.

“I hate the Chicken Dance…” – used with permission

Originally, my character was just in the one TV spot, a treat in itself.  But after the demo tracks were done, I got the question:  “If we did some funny lyrics for the Chicken Dance, could the farmer sing them?”

I can’t read music, and can only carry a tune if the bucket’s big enough.  But rather than be all humble and shy and say “no”, I figured what the heck.

It actually worked out great.  My audition track had the creative team giggling (for all the right reasons).  On the day of recording the actual spots I was told they’d decided to go beyond the Radio :60 the lyrics were originally intended for…and use the character bit as a singing tag in all the spots in the campaign:  Radio and TV!  What a rush!  (…and what it did for the session fee wasn’t bad either!)

I haven’t heard the full sing radio version, but you can sample the fun of the tv spot in the video above.  Thanks to the Creative Coop at the agency, and for my Family Flock at Sunspots for putting us together in the first place.

…remember this the next time you’re tempted to tell a client you can’t do something.

— over and out —

New Dog…Old Trick

Animating a moving mouth over live-action animal footage is nothing new. There was a popular series of theatrical shorts in the 30s based on the concept. It’s still fun, though!
My thanks to Rod and Nancy Rich at MonkeyBravo for thinking of me when it came time to record the voices (and for including my friend Wendy Zier as the other pooch).
After the “dog-eat-dog” drama of recent weeks, I thought it might be good to lighten the mood!

— over and out —

T’is the Season…

Yes, it’s been the season when those emails and phone calls you thought were going to mean new business…simply meant it was a client from last year needing your tax ID number.

…but there are bright sides to consider.

A few of those requests actually remind me of some pretty great jobs…and some pretty great paychecks from some pretty great client friends.

And so it was I somehow had the presence of mind to attach the following note to one such friend who required a W-9 from me:

“Thanks for making this necessary!”

— over and out —

     …even if it’s an accident.  But take credit for it anyway!

     In a recent flurry of comments on Paul Strikwerda’s facebook post about low-balling your voice0ver rates, I wrote the following “instant wise saying”:

 ‎…just because you’re doing something you love doesn’t mean you have to do it just for the love of it.

      Another friend, Andrew Swingler, immediately chimed in, asking if he could use it.

      Of course, I said “yes”.  I’d be tempted to register it as a trademark, except for the nagging fear I’ve lifted it from someone else without remembering it!

     But meanwhile, if it makes me sound wise and venerable…I’ll go with it!

— over and out —

     I’ve done it before, but never to this extent, or in this particular way.

     ‘Ready for your close-up?  I’m Mr. DeMille.  (If you’re too young to get the reference, watch “Sunset Boulevard”)

RG (in blue shirt) directs Paul Garrett. It's ironic that at one point I was directing Paul to use his hands less. Look whose hands are blurred in this shot!!!

     This weekend I worked with a group of very talented actors on the first in a series of web-training videos for Firehorse Films…as a Director!

Today’s lesson:  expanding your income by being able to offer new services to established clients!

     Mind you, the mastermind behind the whole project was Firehorse’s Jean-Paul Dame (pronounced dam-MAY…I don’t know how to use the accent key).  But Jean-Paul and I have worked on various audio and video projects over the years.  Sometimes I’ve been his on-camera talent.  Sometimes he’s recorded me or another VO talent at my studio.

     During one session a few years ago, JP was trying to get a particular read from one of my talented VO friends.  After several takes failed to bring the desired result, I suggested something-or-other to help the talent get the idea of what he was being asked to convey.  Next take:  nailed it.  From that time on, JP declared I had a new talent:  I speak Jean-Paul-ese!

     It’s come in handy several times since, with him specifically bringing recording work to me so he can fall back on my ability to know what he wants, and “translate” it into something the actor can then use.  May sound strange, but it works.

     When this current video project came along, naturally I auditioned.  But the age, gender, and ethnicity requirements of the final script meant I was just not right for any of the parts.  Jean-Paul brought me in to direct the actors, freeing him up to concentrate on technical issues, and keeping performances consistent for smoother editing later (saving him and his client time and money in both instances).  Even I was a little skeptical I was bringing much value to the project.  JP is no slouch director himself.  But not only did he declare my input of value, the sentiment was echoed by his clients more than a few times.  Bottom line:  they got what they wanted on-camera…faster and more efficiently…through my “adapted” talent behind the camera.

     So…looks like I’ll be directing talent in a lot more of these.  And it will actually be much more lucrative for me, since it would be unrealistic to expect I’d show up as a character in project after project.  But, as it appears now, my behind-the-scenes work will allow me to be a part of the rest of the series!   …keeping fingers crossed on that.

     Meanwhile, as you can see from the photo, I’ll be “acting” vicariously through the professionals who are in front of the camera.

     …and it still feels good, knowing I’m filling a creative need with some part of my imagination!

     What other part of your own creativity might you be using to the benefit of your current clients…and yourself?

— over and out —

A Small Part of A Larger Effort

This week I received news from my friend and client Rick Gregory at Bluestone Media that our ongoing work for Susan B. Komen for the Cure and its online breast cancer awareness program got some major recognition.  Here’s the quote:

Our mobile site won…Best in show for the entire mobile site and a Silver award for the Breast Cancer 101 tool…The W³ Awards honors creative excellence on the web, and recognizes the creative and marketing professionals behind award winning sites, videos and marketing programs. Simply put, the W³ is the first major web competition to be accessible to the biggest agencies, the smallest firms, and everyone in between. Small firms are as likely to win as Fortune 500 companies and international agencies.

 The W³ is sanctioned and judged by the International Academy of the Visual Arts, an invitation-only body consisting of top-tier professionals from a “Who’s Who” of acclaimed media, interactive, advertising, and marketing firms. IAVA members include executives from organizations such as AvatarLabs, Big Spaceship, Block Media, Conde Nast, Coach, Disney, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Estee Lauder, Fry Hammond Barr, Microsoft, MTV Networks, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Victoria’s Secret, Wired, Yahoo! and many others.

Rick’s team at Bluestone creates the interactive material for the Komen websites, and for several years he has had me record and edit the voicetracks with talent, Nancy Stolfo-Corti and Yasmin Wurts Metivier.

As someone who’s lost a family member to breast cancer, it’s good to be part of such a project.  And it’s even better to see that work recognized for excellence.

— over and out —

Using the Space Between My Ears

Video producer friend Rod Rich once implored me to keep asking him for help (free or barter production), because every time he agreed to help me, paying work started coming in and he’d have to put me off for awhile.  (Note:  he always came through for me anyway!)

Some time ago, voiceover friend extraordinare Melissa Exelberth put out a call for volunteers to help provide recorded material for the blind and visually impaired on a scheduled weekly basis.  This was shortly after the first Faffcon, and I was feeling especially gifted with free help myself.  So I figured this might be a good way to give back.

Gail Starkey at Gatewave was very encouraging.  And she surprised me when, going over possible reading matter for me to record, she mentioned she’d thought of having a weekly hour of old science fiction short stories.  That appealed to my imagination far more than reading articles from Forbes (no offense, Forbes), so I pounced on that.

It’s been 26 weeks, not counting a few re-runs.  “Beyond The Universe” now runs multiple times in their Sunday schedule each week.

And while my choice means I have to spend more time editing and making sure my content fits the exact run-time of Gatewave’s hourly format (I can’t just cut off the end of a story the way a news editor can), it has been very rewarding.

Gail and company let me choose the writers and stories I want to read.  It’s been an excuse to pull out those dusty paperback compilations in my library…and search out free stories online which I remember from recordings of NBC’s series “Dimension X” and “X Minus One” from the 1950s. 

And while it was another instance of taking on more than I could initally handle, the experience (much like my volunteer stage work noted in previous posts) has helped me expand my narrative powers.  It’s fun, it’s good vocal exercise, and I have noted several times it’s helped my delivery on paid narration, e-learning, and commercial reads of late.

Plus, while I’m not in position to know if anyone besides Gail is actually listening, I have hope these readings are transporting someone somewhere into worlds of imagination they’ve been deprived of till now.

Heck, it may eventually be enough to get me into audiobooks before all is said and done (and recorded and edited!).

Gatewave can always use more volunteers, I’m told.

And while I make absolutely no guarantees…I did notice more paid jobs AND their deadlines coming in, shortly after I agreed to give my time away. 

— over and out. —

Not All That Is Scary Is Bad

You know those people who tell you “You need to get out of the studio more…”?  The ones who say, “You need to give yourself a different type of a challenge, break out of your routine…”?  The pesty people with only your best interests at heart who prod you to “get outside your Comfort Zone…”?

Chances are, they’re right.

And if they’ve said these things will improve the quality of what you’re already doing…they’re probably right about that, too.

Last night, for me, was the culmination of weeks of creeping dread.  I don’t get stage fright.  I’m never nervous about being on camera.  And as long as I know my subject, I have no fear of public speaking.  But that’s me, about me.  If I blow something, I can usually ad lib my way out of it easily.  But I do freely admit to a fear of Failure.

Add to that the risk of tripping up a fellow actor (who needs that key word or phrase to do his/her next lines), or a hard-working tech crew (who really has to hear that line delivered where it’s supposed to be in order to have the next light or sound cue ready), or indeed the audience (who shouldn’t have to puzzle out what happened in the story if you suddenly skip over a few pages of the script)………now that’s scary. 

RG and Clint Lienau . Photo by David Watts

Now mind you, none of those things are happening with my current foray back into stage performance (Raleigh Little Theatre’s excellent production of “The Woman In Black”).  At least not to any noticable degree.   So far, the worst we (and our audiences) have had to deal with is a fog machine with a mind of its own.

The show, which opened last night in front of its intended audience, has come together wonderfully, just as director Haskell Fitz-Simmons and everyone else assured me it would.  It has become the fun I had hoped it would be when I hesitantly accepted friend Jack Hall’s prompting to audition, after some 20 years off the “legitimate stage”.  And I’ve made a new friend in Clint Lienau.

But more than that, it has really helped my daily voiceover work.  The first thing I noticed was that the nightly rehearsals and readings, instead of causing further vocal fatigue as I’d feared, actually strengthened my voice and gave me more stamina.  Case in point:  for years my best times to record were late morning/early afternoon.  I could hear my voice “thin out” or grow strained if I had a session late in the afternoon or at night.  But in recent weeks, the addition of show prep has required me to sometimes come back to a voice recording job after three hours of rehearsal, in order to meet a job deadline.  Instead of being too worn out, the voice seemed to actually be stronger.  I also note the experience has refreshed my storytelling abilities and attention to written copy.

Another point:  as wonderful as having my own studio is…my own little world…there is something encouraging and re-affirming about being around other creative people.  That was a great discovery for many who attended the recent Faffcon 3 for voice talent, but even involving yourself in a local group, even one with no direct link to our business, can be absolutely refreshing and recharging.

Getting up on a stage after a long time and trying to remember pages of lines may not be the right thing for you (and if you DO decide to come back to live theatre after that long a time, take my advice and do NOT pick a two-person show to memorize!), but take a look around and find something

Whether or not it puts money in your pocket for the time spent…it’s a great investment in your own emotional well-being.

…even if you DO end up having a ghost, the fear of forgetting your lines, or a rogue fog machine to contend with.

— over and out —