Friday, November 1, 2013

Professionalism on Both Sides

A professional voice actor is used to rejection. They might do at least a dozen auditions daily that don't get accepted by potential clients. It's part of the game.

You do your best to interpret the copy and the copy direction, record, edit and submit. After that, as one of my cohorts said "submit and forget". You've done your best, there's no sense dwelling..move on.  If you get a callback, that's super!

However, recently I encountered a different situation. An ad agency liked my audition. They retained me, sent me the copy, which I recorded. There were some issues in my submission; some were my fault (pronunciation of some words) and some were copy revisions. I rerecorded and submitted.  I got an email from the agency saying all was well.

Late that evening I received an email from the agency saying their client wanted a new recording and they wanted to phone patch the session. I immediately responded with an affirmative and told them to I was available in the morning.

I was up and ready to go at the time I specified. No call. Then, maybe two hours later, I saw the exact job/copy I'd been working on posted on a P2P site. When I saw it I sent the agency an email asking if I was no longer a part of the project.  No response.

I can understand that a client might not approve what their ad agency has prepared. Having worked on that side, I've had it happen numerous times. But for the agency to leave a talent hanging, to seek other talent without any notification ("the client decided to go in another direction") smacks of unprofessionalism.

I can take rejection...I get it every day. However, after a few reads, I'd at least expect the common courtesy of an email informing me of their client's decision. To me, that's the professional way to conduct business. 

Maybe I'm just too old school.

Monday, August 12, 2013


There seems like there are tons of websites for aspiring Voice Over artists.  Most promise you big bucks (if you pay them big bucks) or "insider' secrets you could have found on your own if you Googled.

One site that has done a lot for me and some of my friends in the business is and it's attached sister site VoiceRegistry.  This isn't a site for beginners.  This is a site for those that have been at it a bit, have professionally produced demos and a few spots under your belt. 

Through this site some of my friends and me have landed agents as they have a huge data base as part of the site, with contact emails and website URLs.  A key point made by a friend is don't just click on the email address and send away.  The best plan of attack is to click the company's website URL and see what submission process they have (most agents have it listed, along with exact exact submission instructions). That way your email isn't deleted or you're not black-flagged for the inability to follow directions.

One outstanding aspect of Voice Registry is something they call Weekend Workout.  You have to be a paying member ($10 a month or $84 for a year) to participate.  Each Monday afternoon they'll post a few scripts and announce the "guest reviewer" which is always a top agent or producer.  You pick a single script, do your best job recording it and then upload it.  The deadline is the following Thursday at Noon, so you have plenty of time.  Then, the next Monday, there will be a page with all of the submissions and a personalized "review" of each effort. 

The review usually is only a sentence or two...but always some valuable information from the "judge" on what they heard right and/or wrong with your effort.  Solid information to improve your craft from someone truly in the know.  Recently, the site had the judge actually record a personalized review for each participant instead of a typed response.  Pretty cool.

And, while very rare, participating might actually land you an agent.  I've seen past reviews where the "judge" ended their review with "if you're seeking representation....".  And, I'm pleased to know, first hand, a good friend that recently landed with a very prestigious agency by participating.  Sort of like the "being discovered in a drug store" movie star story.  True, it's rare (there is probably 120 or so submission each week) but I know it does happen.

Of course, the reviewer may not volunteer interest but could look you up as the site provides space for you to upload your demo(s), head shot and resume.  You never know.

To me, this site is great and I highly recommend it.  $84 for a year of weekly exposure to the top talent agents and producers is nothing to sneeze at.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

YouTube - Part Deux

In my previous blog, I showed how to add a cue sheet to the beginning of your Voice Over demo video.

I did fail to mention one other annotation you can add.  At the end of your video you can add an annotation to your website, another demo video, etc.  Just slide the annotation box to the end...and enter the correct link (a video link, page link, etc.).

Now, there are a few things you can do to your YouTube channel to enhance your marketing.

First off, in the description of your video place the URL to your website.  It should include the full HTML (  That will make it clickable.

Now, click your name at the top left corner of your channel page.  Now in the top center you'll see the word "About".  Click that and now you can add:
  • A description of your site
  • Add a link to your webpage
  • Add links up to 4 other social media (sorry, LinkedIn isn't there)
Once you hit complete, all of those links will appear on the header (oh yeah, don't forget to personalize your channel with artwork.  No need to add your picture, as Google/YouTube will do that automatically.  YouTube has instructions as to sizing and uploading your Channel header artwork.

Now your Video channel has all your links as well.  I'm certain doing so will enhance your SEO. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Voice Over Video Demos - Get A Cue

I wrote recently about the importance of having a video demo.  Recently I discovered a little trick you can use with YouTube to put a cue sheet at the beginning of your video.  This allows a prospective client to jump right to a specific point in your video.   The only drawback is once they jump, the cues disappear so they would then have to manually move the marker back to the beginning.

Here's what it looks like at the beginning of my video:

The potential client would then click onto one of the product names and it'll jump right to that portion of your demo.

Here's how I did it:

1.  Edit your video to add about 15 seconds to the beginning of your video.  It can be blank or use a title card as I did.  NOTE:  YouTube only gives you two choices for the text - black or white - so choose your background accordingly.  (NOTE:  While you're editing, jot down the start time in the video of each'll make things easier for you later)

2.  Upload your new Video but mark it "Private" for the time being to allow you to edit.  Soon, YouTube will email you a link to the video and go there.  Now (this is important) click "Video Manager" that's located on the bottom right.  Now you'll see all your videos.  Click the name of the video you just'll take you to it again.  Copy that URL because you're going to need it later.

3.  When you open the video, you'll see some icons under the play time bar.  Arrow over to the "Voice Bubble +" (Annotations) and click.

4.  Now click "Add Annotation" and select "Note".

5.  Type in the Product Name (keep it short)

6.  Now you'll see a box pop up below your video screen and see a box below your video.  That's the new cue you're starting to create.  Now to the right you see "Start" and "Stop".  Set the Start at 0:00:00:0 and the end at 0:00:15:00.

7.  Click the  Link checkbox and, to the right,  you'll see a drop down box.  Click the down arrow and select "Playlist"

8.  Paste the URL to this same video (remember I told you to copy it?)

9.  Now you see a place that says "start linked video at"  Now, I happened to jot down the times of the place each "Product" started on my video when I was editing (that's the best option as you can be a bit more exact).  But, if you don't you can slide that little circle on the play bar to the right to get the start time.  Enter that start time (it's Hour:Minutes:Seconds:10thSecond).

10.  Last step for this Cue is to place the Copy for it on your screen.
You see in the upper right of the picture above the box that says "A Cue".  Just slide it down to a position you want on your title/cue page.

That's it.  As you see I had 9 products, so I went back up to the top, clicked "Add Annotation" again and added the next.  Scrub, rinse, repeat.

Once you're done adding all, click Publish at the top right of the page.  Now go to your Video Manager and make your new "Cues" Video Public.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Make a Video Demo

Recently I read about how video was making more of an impact in voice over.
So, obviously being behind the times, I thought about making a video with my demo as the soundtrack.

I say "behind the times" because after my project was completed, I found a ton of voice over pros had already done the same thing. So much for being "cutting edge".

I use Windows, so I chose to use the free Windows Movie Maker. It has a great deal of effects, relatively easy learning curve and makes it easy to upload to YouTube. I chose YouTube as my "host" primarily because, as best as I could determine, its playable on any browser.

I completed my video (with a lot of trial and error) and uploaded it to YouTube. A few minutes later YouTube sent me an email telling me my video was ready. You'll see a "share" button and a lot of options. Since I wanted to put it on my website, I selected "embed" and up popped the HTML code. You can (as I did) change the size of the video to fit the space you have allotted on your site.

In my opinion the video, if it's not overloaded with too many effects (making it too busy), can "hold" the listener/viewer longer as their mind is occupied with both sound and sight.

Under my video, I still have an html5 audio player for those who might want to use it. Also there is a link to allow the potential customer to download the demo mp3. I think this is very important as I can't think of a potential client wanting to download a video.

I honestly think a "video demo" is a great way to make your demo "come alive" for potential clients. You can do it for free, host it for free (via YouTube) and add that little extra that might capture a new client.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Can I Hear You Now?

I'll admit I am very hard of hearing.  I lost almost all my highs with a combination of years of wearing headphones while a DJ and a later illness that zapped whatever highs I could still hear.

I wear "open-fit" hearing aids.  These sit on top of your ear, with a little tube carrying the sound inserted into the ear canal.  For the most part, they work perfectly.  Until yesterday, when I was in a studio session and found headphones and hearing aids don't mix.

I was excited about this session.  It was a mini-seminar with one of the top "promo" agents in the business.  This is a field I really feel I can excel and was eager to "show my stuff".  But, aside from my nervousness and inexperience in this environment (which contributed highly), my failed hearing failed me.

When recording a promo, the music bed and "sound bites" of characters are already laid out.  Your job as a VO person, is to drop in a word or sentence or two in the appropriate. Here is one from the great Ernie Anderson from the early 80's as an example:  

Timing is crucial.  As well as emoting emotion, excitement, etc.  And, judging from my own personal as well as a dozen of my peers attending, it's not a single take proposition.   You listen for a specific "cue" to trigger when to say the copy...a cue that can be a spoken sentence, a sound effect or a piece of music.  Here's a (somewhat profane) video of Ernie doing just trial and error. (Start at about 1:30 into the video).

My issue (it's produced differently now) was I couldn't hear the bed.  I tried taking out my hearing aids and wearing the headphones and I got a mish-mosh of sound which didn't allow me to hear to all important cues.  My next few "auditions" I tried with the headphones over my aids, which resulted in feedback and distortion.  So, once again I couldn't pick up the cues. The engineer tried to help, but time was of the essence and we couldn't dwell on my individual issue with others waiting their turn. It was the most frustrating day I've every spent. And, extremely disappointing.

I'm now focused on a solution.  First stop will be my audiologist.  Maybe there is a setting on my aids that can be programmed to reduce the feedback.  Second is a headphone trial. I'm going to head to professional audio stores and test various sets until I can find one that can reproduce sound without feedback and distortion.  Third, I want to reach out to the agent and see if I can't give it a second show I can do it.

I wanted this day to go perfect....and fell flat on my face. But I'm resolved to make whatever corrections I need to make this aspect of the voice over industry a solid part of my portfolio.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Whoas of P2P Sites

I'm a member of a few P2P sites.  Some are good, some I have to wonder about after a few months.

First, while I've always been fascinated with automation of websites, it gets frustrating to receive "invitations" to work my voice is not at all suited.  I recently received an invitation to audition for a spot calling for a "natural sounding Spanish accent".  I have trouble ordering at Taco Bell!  And no where in my voice profile is the word Spanish mentioned.  My only worries is that the site's automation will now categorize my deletion of the audition as a "doesn't play nice" and slows down the auditions it send to me.

One site annoys me in that their email states "you've been invited" yet it's automated and hundred of others also got that same invitation.  Not exactly an exclusive, that's for sure.  That same site also made a big deal about curtailing "talent" from uploading their generic demo when the client specifically has asked for a custom demo.  Yet, at least a dozen times yesterday, it was apparent some "talent" did exactly that.  I happened to be on the site when a new job appeared.  Less than 30 seconds later 4 "auditions" had been uploaded.  I wish I could record, edit and upload that fast.

I really understand budgets. I had a long career on the "other side of the mic" in advertising so I know all about number crunching, etc.  But I really don't get clients that submit a"job" that is far below even "discount" Voiceover site levels.  Asking for a 15 minute read "that sounds like Morgan Freeman" with a budget of less than $200 is, in my opinion, ridiculous.  I blame that, in part, to the P2P sites not taking the time to educate the client.  True, clients have budgets and they have to stick to them.  But, P2P sites, you need to address this, somehow.  Honestly, I think it would do both the client and the talent justice if set fees were established and that's it.  A rate card with a bit of flexibility for the client but doesn't "rob" the talent.  Yes, that might scare away a few potential clients that want to leave on the cheap...but in the long run the site will be known as delivering quality product at reasonable pricing. 

OK, done ranting.  Have a great day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Little Accounting Help

As a voice over artist, I'm basically a one person business. The worst part of running a business, for me, is accounting.

I have a pretty good handle on Quicken Home and Business. I prefer using that as it's compatible with Turbo Tax (I haven't gotten to the stage of hiring an accountant). I can also do "splits" as I have a dedicated room I use exclusively as my studio/office. Thus, a percentage of my home costs equal to the percentage my studio is of my home square footage is deductible.

With Android, I found a nice app called Cashbook. It's compatible with Quicken for expense tracking, etc. Thus, if I drop some cash on something on the road, I can enter it. Another plus is the mileage tracker. IRS wants some sort of log for business related miles. This app can do it a couple of ways; you can enter start and stop mileage with an explanation or you can just let it use the GPS to record it. Pretty cool. The app can be set so it uploads Quicken files to a cloud for download at tax time.

So, if you're using Quicken, take a look at Cashbook.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Great Microphone!

I had great service from an Audio Technica 2035 microphone. It might not rank up there with Neumann, but it worked well with my voice. But, I thought a "move up" might be warranted.

I tried the Rode NT1A, but for some reason, even though it's fairly highly regarded, I just seemed to have problems getting it to work right. No idea why. But, as many VO folks will tell you - "what's good for some people might not be right for you".

I had read stellar reviews about the CAD Equitek E100S . Even though it's been out for a few years, it's just starting to get "discovered" in my industry. The U.S.A. made mic got some great ink at recent conventions and in blogs. One top new demo company even now includes it in their mic "stable".

Intrigued, I searched online to see what it cost. Most places sell it for about $500. A few sites had it listed for about $100 less. However, in calling around, it looks like it's backordered at a lot of places. One quoted a CAD email that set the backorder at about 30 days. Another site had adjusted their page from 2 weeks to 30 days within an hour that I had looked.  Obviously the recent spike in publicity has the folks at CAD happy.

I lucked into getting my hands on one for far below even the lowest price I saw on the internet. Gotta love distress sales! (I swore to secrecy..and, no, they have no more). It arrived in it's wooden case (yes, a beautiful wood case). I couldn't wait to plug it in and give it a whirl.

In a word, it's fantastic. A very quiet mic, I had very little background noise. I have a somewhat deep voice but it didn't over-push it as the Rode does. And it also did a great job capturing the highs, an issue I had with the other two mics. So, in my final mixdown, there wasn't much EQing required. Granted, not a real technical just made my voice sound great with little software "help".

The CAD Equitek E100S is built with a low profile shock mount. It has adjustments for padding and roll off but I haven't had to use either of them. And it comes with a two warranty.

If you have the opportunity to test one, do it. Granted, not every mic is perfect for every voice, but you definitely should give it a shot.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Adobe Restructing Their Software

I use Adobe Audition 100% of the time in recording.  Since the days of "Cool Edit", which Adobe bought out years ago, I've grown comfortable with the layout, etc.

Today, Adobe announced they're going to sell software subscriptions versus the old "burn it on a DVD and package it" merchandising.  In one way, it makes sense for Adobe as it pretty much puts the software pirates out of business. I think no matter what "safeguards" they had tried to use before just plain didn't work.  Usually within a day or so the latest version was on Pirate Bay and other torrent sites.

At first I was pretty distressed as the cost of the cloud is around $600 a year.  And, since the only Adobe product I use is Audition, it was a bitter pill to try to swallow.  After all, you can buy the latest copy (CS6) for about $330 retail.

It wasn't until I started to dig a bit did I discover Adobe's full Creative Cloud pricing plan.  I found out for people like me, we can buy access to a single product for $20 a month.  At $240 a year, I don't think that's too much to have a constantly upgraded version of my software of choice. 

The Adobe program starts in June.  I'm going to investigate what, if any, improvements are in store for Audition.  If I see some significant changes, then I'll jump at the program and join their Creative Cloud.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

I'll start off by admitting I'm no website guru. I know very little about HTML coding, style sheets and all the rest of the stuff it takes to make a website properly work. 

For voice over pros, your website is today's version of the demo CD. In this digital age most producers, agencies and recording studios don't want a a physical CD of your best work. They want a digital file they can easily listen to and, perhaps, store on their computer for easy reference. A physical CD, in most minds, is nothing more than a coaster to prevent their Starbucks latte from leaving a ring on their desk. 

I'm not going to dwell on actual website design because, as I said, I'm no coding genius. And my site is definitely not an award winner. Your site needs to look professional but don't dwell on fancy graphics or effects. Prospective clients aren't there to hire a web designer. You need to make sure your demos are easily found and, most importantly, they "play".

The "play" aspect was my Achilles heel when I jumped into this business full-time. I'm a Windows user and admittedly know virtually nothing about iOS (iPads and Macs). So, I didn't realize that the Flash based player I embedded on my site to play my demos wouldn't work for any client using iOS. And, to make matters worse, most "creative types" use Macs or iPads in their work. They followed the link to my site but couldn't play my demos. So my "Hi, my voice will be perfect for you" mass mailing fell, literally, on deaf ears. Just wonderful!

I needed to find a player to embed on my site that worked with all the major web browsers; Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. Making the task even more daunting, the player had to work with all versions. An example of that is Firefox. It wasn't until very recently that Firefox could play .mp3 files. However, you can't depend on every Firefox user to upgrade to the latest version. So the player had to be backward compatible.

I'm certain there are better ways than what worked for me. I found a few cross-platform players that required inserting code, but the web editor I used doesn't seem to allow pasting in Windows for some reason. And the lines of code were rather long to manually type (call me lazy).
Anyway, here's what worked for me. It combines two players in one, so it's compatible with everything tried. I used every Windows browser and had a friend try it on his Mac and iPad.

<object data="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="380" height="27">
<param name="src" value="" />
<param name="FlashVars" value="audioUrl=URL_PATH_TO_THE_MP3_FILE" />
<audio src="URL_PATH_TO_THE_MP3_FILE" controls preload="none" style="width:380px;"></audio>

What this code does is play your demos with the Google Reader MP3 Player, which is Flash based.  However, for browsers that don't/can't use Flash (I see you iOS) is uses HTML5 code called <audio>. Now they can hear you!  

As I said, there are probably more efficient ways or better ways.  But this worked just fine for me.  Now it's on to the studio to make some rockin' new demos.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Put Me In, Coach!

I had a very insightful and informative session with my Voice Over coach yesterday.  And it brought to light that hiring a coach is invaluable.

If you're like me, you have a home studio and crank out quite a few auditions each and every day.  If you're a member of the pay-to-play sites, the extent of your feedback is maybe a green check mark, thumbs up icon or the equally ambiguous "considering", "not likely" or "finalist".  Not much of a critique, especially when you're just starting out or do voice over "on the side". 

Having a coach makes all the difference.  A coach is a mentor.  They are a pro at voice over (if you have the right one) and can listen to your efforts and evaluate both technically and creatively.  And believe me, I've learned that's important in this highly competitive industry. 

Having a coach is hiring an objective ear.  There is NO WAY you can listen to one of your recordings and properly evaluate it.  There is NO WAY a significant other can evaluate it (even if they are in the industry).  A coach, while they do have a vested interest in you and your career, can listen, evaluate and provide you with a constructive critique.  You can't count on a significant other to do the same, that's for sure.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't think I needed a coach.  I've been doing voice-over as a freelancer for years.  But in just one session, I walked out with information of not only how to voice a "spot", but also how to analyze the copy.  Get INTO the copy, feel what the copywriter/client is trying to achieve.  You can't ignore copy direction, but you can give the direction your personal spin.  They may want "Sam Elliott" but your read, with some passion and "feeling", might just make them think "Hey, this is what we want!" Score one for the talent...and a pleased client that will come back for more.

I now realize I need a coach.  I need that direction; that insight only a professional can give.  And, I'm pretty confident that this is going to lead to better things and, importantly, more pleased clients and repeat business.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Clap for the Wolfman

After I wrote the piece on Ernie Anderson, I recalled another episode of naivety on my part back in the '70's.  It involved one of my heroes, Wolfman Jack.

As a teen in high school I used to turn on my transistor late at night to listen to The Wolfman.  At the time he was broadcasting on a 50,000 watt station out of Tijuana, Mexico, XERB.  The station was so powerful The Wolfman could be heard almost anywhere West of the Rockies.  If you recall the movie American Graffiti, the kids were all listening to The Wolfman.  Of course, in the movie they made The Wolfman a local.  But I bet George Lucas, who wrote the film, recalled his teen days listen to The Wolfman howling on his AM radio as I did.

Jump ahead about 5 years or so later and I was a Disc Jockey at WTBO, in Cumberland, Maryland.  The station played all the latest rock hits and I was in the "air chair" every night entertaining.  WTBO was an affiliate of NBC Radio, carrying their five minute national broadcast at the top of the hour.

During that time frame, The Wolfman made major industry headlines by getting hired to do the evening rock show on New York's WNBC.  It was the station's latest effort to dethrone Cousin Brucie, the jock that owned the night-time in the Big Apple.

So, Mr. Naive (me), thought of myself and The Wolfman as both being NBC employees, so to speak.  And, with our station getting ready to kick off a big local contest, who better to "voice" one of our contest promos than the one and only Wolfman Jack.  So, I picked up the station phone one night and called WNBC and asked for The Wolfman.

Wolfman Jack
I really had no idea what to expect.  I talked to one person, told them I wanted The Wolfman to record some copy over the telephone for my station in Western Maryland.  He hemmed and hawed, but eventually passed me onto another guy.  I explained again.  Got the same type of response from this guy.  He put me on hold.  The next voice I heard was my hero, Wolfman Jack!

He asked me what I wanted and I just told him, like we were Disc Jockey fraternity brothers or something.  He listen to my spiel and then said he was a little busy, so if what I wanted him to say was short enough, he would do it.   I scribbled a 10-second or so piece of copy and read it to him.  He said OK (actually "OK, baby") and read it.  I had been recording the conversation and got it all.  But then he told me he didn't like the way he read it and did it again.  Then again.  Four takes in all.  I told him thanks, but I ended up thanking the dial tone as he had already hung up.

I was on cloud nine.  I got to talk to my childhood hero!  And he recorded liners we could air on our station, too.

Well, my fellow WTBO DJs were mighty impressed.  And I was in 7th heaven for weeks.  The problem was the recordings he made for me were on a regular telephone line, so the quality was pretty bad.  We didn't care, we ran them anyway.  Only thing was, our listeners didn't think it really was The Wolfman.  Because of the poor quality they thought we hired someone to do an impression. But I didn't was truly The Wolfman.

Another example of a "big name" not being so big headed to talk to a young fan.  Much older now, I look back fondly at times like these and hope, someday, I'll be able to help some young person along with their dreams.

Sadly Wolfman Jack left us in 1995.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Thank You, Ernie

Quite a few years ago, when I was in the advertising business, I learned how great some of the greats truly are.

Back in the late '80's I didn't have a clue about Unions, scale or even how to book a talent.  I just thought you picked up the phone and and said "hey, can you do this for me?"

We were grand opening a new shopping mall in New Jersey.  A brilliant jingle composer named Dan Milner had produced a piece that was truly wonderful.  It was a bluesy sounding "song" that fit our demographics and the sound of popular music at the time.  After I heard it, I knew there was one voice that would work with it; the "Love Boat guy" from ABC.

I didn't even know the guy's name.  We just knew he did all the promo announcements for the ABC Network including "the Loooove Boat".  So, not knowing any better, I dialed up ABC Network headquarters in New York City to see if I could get a name and contact information.  I got bounced around a bit from department to department until I reached a guy in Production.  After I explained my quest, he said "Oh, Ernie.  Hang on a second."  I heard some blips and static and then I heard a guy say "Production, LA".  The guy in New York had sent me via satellite to ABC Los Angeles.

The late, great Ernie Anderson
I explained again my quest and the guy said, "Oh yeah.  You want Ernie Anderson."  Not knowing the announcers name, I went along with it, "Yeah, that's the guy.  How can I reach him?"  Without any hesitation the ABC Production person gave me a phone number.  I thanked him, hung up and dialed.

The phone rang a couple of times and "the voice" answered himself,  "Hello".  I introduced myself but before I could get into why I was calling Mr. Anderson asked me how I got his home number.  I explained briefly how I had called ABC, etc.  He then asked me why I called. I told him I wanted to use him for 3-30 second spots to air in New York City, each one running one week.  He chuckled and said "Kid, I don't think I can do them.  I have a 3 year waiting list for New York.  And my rate is 4 times scale."

I apologized for bothering him and, demonstrating my lack of knowledge, asked what scale was and how that translated to actual cost.  He explained scale to me (I think, at the time, it was about $300 for NYC). So he wanted something like $1,200 per spot!  Again I apologized for bothering him, that I wasn't aware how to hire voice talent and, most importantly, I couldn't afford such a cost. He laughed and told me it was no problem.

As I was about to ring off, thanking him for his time, he said "wait a minute, how did you get my home number again?"  I explained my lengthy transcontinental phone adventure as he sort of chuckled in the background.  He stopped me and asked when the spots were supposed to air.  I told him.  He laughed and told me that anyone that spent that amount of time trying to track him down deserved a break.  "I'll do them for scale, have your producer call me and we'll record them this week".  I about died.  I thanked him profusely and hung up.  

Mr. Anderson recorded to the spots in LA at a studio with my friend Dan producing.  They sounded exactly as I envisioned.  But, most importantly, I saw what a gentleman he was.  He could have easily blown me off.  But, instead, he took the time to explain the business to me and did a rookie a favor.  I remain forever indebted to him.

Mr. Anderson passed away in 1997.  In my eyes, he was truly one of the greats.

Note to voice over artists: this is probably not how to behave in a studio..but demonstrates what a perfectionist Ernie truly was.  Very funny (definitely NSFW)

Ernie on Letterman in 1983.

Friday, March 22, 2013


While really not directly about Voice Over, you do have some valuable equipment tied up in your home studio.  Of course, not to mention just your "normal" belongings.  So, especially in tis day and time, you need to do something to protect your stuff.

Some folks go through an alarm company and have their place secured that ay.  No way am I knocking that approach, but sometimes the monthly maintenance cost might be tough to absorb...especially if you're just starting out and money is tight.  So, I sought a way I could keep an eye on my place without monthly fees.

My choice was a wireless webcam.  I figured (maybe wrongly) that if an alarm company monitoring my place got an alarm, they'd call the police.  So, avoiding the middle man, I figured the webcam would do the trick.

I chose a Foscam FI8910W.  It's not top of the line, 720p, etc. In fact, it look as though it's no longer being sold.  But, I wasn't planning on providing any crook that broke into my house with 8x10 portraits.  I just needed something to give me a good image and alert me of someone breaking in.  I picked on up on Amazon for about $64.  They have other, more improved models starting at $70.

What's cool about this camera is it has a built-in motion sensor and alarm software.  It takes a bit to tie it into your wireless network, but if you follow the directions you should be able to set it up in no time.  Once tied to your network, you can go into the camera software and set the times you want the motion detection alarm active, how many seconds between pictures and aim the camera to give you good coverage.  You set it up so that it sends an email to you if there is an alarm (thus, avoiding the middle man).  Accompanying the email are snapshots of whomever created the motion.  I also have it set up so that it also uploads the same pictures to my web server in case I accidentally delete them from my phone.

Using an app for my Android phone, I have it set up that the phone makes a distinctive alert sound whenever it receives an email from the camera (I gave the camera it's own email address).  There are similar apps out there that do the same thing for iPhone.  That way I don't just dismiss an alarm thinking it's just a "normal" email.

With some back-up power supplies (not very expensive) I can insure no one can kill the power to my house and get around the system.  Once set up, your computer doesn't have to be on, just the camera and your router.  If you're delayed or your schedule away from home changes, you can adjust the "alarm active" settings through a secure website (FYI, the camera and web site are only secure if you change the default passwords right off the bat).  As long as your phone is connected to your carrier or WiFi you'll know almost instantaneously someone is in your house.  And you can send the police pictures of the crook.

Maybe not the most secure way of safeguarding your belongings, but for less an $70 you'll have some piece of mind that someone is watching over your place.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Voice Over Lives On...

I saw this story on line this morning.  A very touching story of wife saving her late husband's safety "voice over" announcement on London's subway, the "Tube".

CBS This Morning story

You have to wonder how many voice overs live in perpetuity throughout the world.  Who knows, maybe something you recorded yesterday may be heard for generations to come.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PEDs for Voice Over Pros?

Either I'm getting old(er) or we might need to start checking my fellow professionals for PEDs (performance enhancement drugs).

I belong to a few Voice sites where clients post a job, provide some direction and sample copy.  Doing this full-time, I'm pretty much at my computer all day long.  So I'm pretty aware when a new "job" email hits my inbox.  If I'm not in the middle of recording something, I'll open the email to see what the potential job might be.  Or, sometimes I'm already on the site when a new job is posted.  But, not matter how quickly I open the job offering, there is already at least a half-dozen "submissions".

First, I thought, I'm in Pacific Time and the site is based in the Eastern time zone.  Or, my email is just slow.  Or there are some "insider" deals going on. No matter what, how do these people record a custom demo so fast?  When I see a new job, I'll spend the time to read what the client wants (well, actually I look at the budget first.  If they're offering $100 for a 30 minute read, pass!).  Next, I'll read the copy a time or two to get comfortable with it and try to match my read with the client's direction.  Now onto firing up Audition and recording a few takes.  Next, clean up the recording in Audition then add my slate.  Finally, I upload the file, use my proposal template (making adjustments as warranted) and type in my fee.  I listen to the upload to insure it "took" and hit submit.  Depending on the copy, that whole process might be 20 to 30 minutes.  OK, a tag might be less, but that's my average. 

So how do these speed demons get a demo up in maybe a minute; two minutes tops?  For them to do a quality audition they gotta be on some sort of voice over PED.  Heck, for them to do any kind of audition, they have to be on the voice juice.  Besides that, what's the rush?  Is there a prize for finishing first I missed reading about? 

I read on article recently on regarding the does and don'ts of auditioning. One of them was "do a custom audition".  Aha!  That's what my suspected juicers are doing.  Job gets posted, they just submit their "best" demo.  As a professional, that t's me off.  Not because they're short-changing themselves, but that they're making a bad impression to clients about the industry.  If I'm a client asking for a custom read of copy I worked hard to write and get a submission of some dude doing a horrible "in a world...." impression....well, you see what I mean.  (Of course, what would really trip my trigger would be if they got the gig and my 20-minute effort got flushed down the toilet).

So thank goodness we don't have to call in the Commissioner of Voice Overs  for some PED suspensions.  But we need to call in quality control about these folks that clog up the audition process submitting generic demos.

Recording on Android

I’ve always been a bit envious of Voice Over professionals and their ability to record “on the go” using their IPads.  Being an Android guy, it was frustrating that my tablet couldn’t be used for the same purpose.   However, thanks to some developers in the Netherlands, my frustration has about ended.
A company called eXtream Software Development has released an Android app called USB Audio Recorder Pro.  Having the same frustration I had in Android’s inability to do USB recording, their development team wrote their own drivers and tested them extensively. 

Using this $4.60 app along with equipment from an long (and still growing) list of microphones, interfaces and devices, Android users can now record “on the go” with professional results.  An updated listing of everything that is compatible with the app can be found here:  . You can also read the app reviews as users have posted what equipment they’ve used successfully.

The developers say they are hard at work to put USB integration in another of their apps, Audio Evolution Mobile ($7.49), a multi-track recorder/editor.  Presently, to do editing of a recording you made with the USB Audio Recorder Pro, you have to save the file then reopen it with Audio Evolution for editing.  However, the biggest caveat is you can’t save as an .mp3 file.

I contacted the developer regarding saving as an .mp3.  I didn’t realize was the .mp3 file format is patented.  The developer said he recently received an email from the patent owners are pursuing licensing fees from all apps that utilize this format.  This aggressive stance might also effect IOS apps as well, he conjectured.  In the interim, an Android app that might be able to skirt the issue is a free app called MP3 Media Converter, which actually sends your file to a “cloud”, converts it using licensed “LAME – MP3” software, then transfers the converted file back to your device.
I’ve tried the apps (the developer has free Trial versions so you’re not having to pay until you know it works for you) using my Asus TF300T Android Tablet and an M-Audio Fast Track interface.  While my tablet’s optional keyboard has a full sized USB port, most will have to purchase a USB adapter to be able to plug things into their device’s USB Mini port. I must say the quality was almost as good as my home studio; good enough (in my opinion) for generating audition recordings I might miss out on because I was on the road.  

Yes, things are looking up for us Android folks.  Finally, we can record on the go just like those IPad owners. 

For USB Audio Recorder Pro on the Play Store:  (Note: There is a link on the top of the page for the free trial version).

For the Trial Version of Audio Evolution Mobile on the Play Store: