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.