Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

December 1, 2013

I Have 3 Lawn Mowers and 5 Mics

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings, Negotiating, Recording, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 12:54 pm

Scattered in the storage area behind the garage are three (yes, I said 3) lawn mowers. Two gas mowers and an electric mower. None of them work. Well, one can be coaxed into mowing, if you know the secret sequence of events that involves lots of starter fluid sprayed in the spark plug socket and the carburetor in just the right order. Only one person knows how to do that.

I should probably get rid of all three of them and get one that works right the first time you yank on the starter.

I have two weed whackers. One is gas powered and I don’t think that one works. The battery operated whacker works, but not for very long on a charge. That one I got on Craig’s List.

I had a couple of loppers to cut the branches off the fig tree every year in August when the figs have turned to mush and are dropping off the tree faster than they can be picked. Can’t find any of them at the moment. Did have some yard guys working on landscaping a couple months ago, so perhaps the loppers are off lopping somewhere else.

I don’t even want to admit how many hand pruners I had lying around the yard – rusting because I forget where I leave them. I can’t seem to find but one of them at the moment.  And my large slip-joint pliers have gone missing. But screwdrivers! I have a million of them. Of course, when you need the phillips head screwdriver, all you can find are flat head.

What does this have to do with the price of eggs? Or with voiceover work?

Wait – I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

Come to think of it, I also have a lot of mics – Two matching AKG 3000s, an AKG 1000, 2 matching ADK Hamburgs and an EV RE20. Not very expensive mics, but mics that I tried and liked. And then found something else I liked better that was still inside my $ threshold of pain. And just the other day, I was down at the audio store where I found most of my mics looking at yet another one because they are/were going out of business and had some good deals.

I guess it says something about how I approach my life and work. I’m curious to know how things work. I have a lot of interests. I make quick decisions – sometimes. (Sometimes I never make a decision.) I like to be in control. I’m a perfectionist, yet sometimes a random perfectionist. I am never nervous – when I am prepared. Scared silly – when I am not.

And I’m thrifty – sort of. When you end up with multiple “bargain” items that don’t necessarily function the way they were intended (or as they did at some point in time), thrifty turns into a waste of time and money. But when they do work, it means redundancy.

Back in 1996, I hand-coded my first website – before WYSIWYG interfaces were invented. I wanted to know how to do it. And the cost to have someone create a website was high because it was new, so I balked at forking over the cash and figured it out for myself. This was a good thing. I still retain basic html knowledge and can go in and fix balky WYSIWYG interfaces.

I am a frequent beta-tester of software and websites. The control and curiosity part of me surfaces here. This started back in the days of CP/MDOS and dot prompt computers that simply didn’t do what I wanted them to do. As a video scriptwriter at the time, I wanted to write two-column scripts and keep the left and right sides lined up. I sure knew what I wanted to do, but technology simply hadn’t caught up. And this desire hasn’t changed. We always want our toys to do more than they do. Actually, I think I have reached the limit on what I want my TV remote to do (and I’m getting close with the phone too!).

How does all this affect my work?

When it comes to the actual recording part of my job, my curiosity and perfectionism come into play. No matter the script, I can find something interesting to connect with. Even when reading endless lists of the names addresses and phone numbers of dentists, eye doctors and lawyers, I find a way to keep it fresh. Guessing how many more listings in AZ before it moves into CA. Trying to read the next prompt while I am finishing the current prompt without making a mistake.

And files don’t leave my computer without a thorough quality check – which results in minimum redos – but adds to the time I spend on each project. Depending on the project and how much of a perfectionist I am – could be a little, could be a lot. (Self-directing means second guessing. I make far fewer “mistakes” when I am in a directed session because I have an audience to “perform” to!)

Here is where my thrifty side shows its face. I spend a lot of time trying to find the least expensive solution. And because I am so connected on the internet, I have been able to find some truly great bargains over the years on technology that has improved my bottom line. Finding a used Musicam Prima through the precursor to the VO-BB for example. The upside to this is that I usually have backup when things get goofy.

Because of my interest in all things software or Internet related, I have been on the first wave as a Beta Tester. This has been helpful in getting software that actually helps streamline and improve my workflow. It has been helpful in reducing subscription costs to several casting websites.

My random perfectionism rears its head in this department. My marketing efforts in the past were much more organized and now – not so much. But it is always somewhere in the forefront of my mind. And far far away from sales – which is another subject entirely and not something I like to do.

A popular saying within my particular voiceover community is that “there is no math in voiceovers.” Well, that turns out not to be true. There is a lot of math. Quoting rates for example. Every project is different. There is no one size fits all here. So a standard rate card is difficult to establish. I have it on my list of things to do – at least something that is close. But no, every time someone comes to me directly, it takes time to come up with a rate. And everyone wants the quote figured in a different way, so even with a “rate” card, it has the ultimately be converted from cost per finished minute to cost per word to cost per project.

Keeping track of hours. Creating invoices. Depositing checks and or balancing the accounts. Taxes. Collections. All of this involves math.

Bottom Line

I muddle through. I have managed to cobble together a successful business – at times highly organized – other times – not so much. In going through the papers of first my aunt, then my father and now my mother, I see that I am not nearly as organized as I should be. But it seems to be working.

One of the lawn mowers made it’s way out to the alley last week and was adopted by an alley elf…so now I only have two lawn mowers. The electric mower is slowing being disassembled using one of my many many screwdrivers and the remaining pair of pliers and will be discretely disposed of in the trash over the next couple of weeks – leaving me with one mower – that works – sort of.

Perhaps I need to do a quick check of Craig’s List…


July 11, 2013

What did I say?

Filed under: Business, Recording — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:10 am

I just saw a blog post from my virtual voiceover friend and prolific blogger,Derek Chappell that made me laugh out loud. Just what kinds of situations do REAL working voiceover talent face as they go about the business of recording a script?

He posted three videos produced by voice actor, Paul J. Kinney, a San Francisco based talent. These are not only extremely well produced pieces, but each is a true reflection of what actually happens in directed voiceover sessions. These clips happen to be in a studio environment where the producer is just on the other side of the glass, but the same thing happens during phone patch sessions and ISDN sessions.

OK, they may be slightly exaggerated. But, I too am “guilty” as charged.



March 21, 2013

Interrup…what the h#%@! was that? Distrac…oooh, look at that!

Filed under: Business, Musings, Recording — connieterwilliger @ 2:19 pm

Today, I am not talking about being distracted by amusing kitty videos on Facebook, although I did see at least one funny video that distracted me so far today.

And I’m not talking about the constant flow of email that comes in that – of course – needs to be handled immediately (even if it DOESN’T).

Nor am I talking about being interrupted by the dog scratching at the door, or the cat sliding across some papers which are now all over the floor and need to be picked up before the dog actually gets in to trample them with dirty paws.

And I am not talking about the frequent helicopter flyovers – both routine (the gas’em up path is over my house) and not-so-routine (the circling helo’s looking for whatever mischief is being sparked by semi-high density housing and a bad economy).

No today it is interruptions of major proportions – but an interruption with a shining light at the end the alley.

Today, the back hoes and diggers are punching through the patched concrete in preparation for laying new concrete and getting the heck OUT of my alley where rotating crews of gas company and water department and contractors have been grinding and digging and filling and repeating for the past three (yes 3!) years.

I managed to sneak in a couple of auditions today while they were on break and will be able to finish a project a bit later on after they leave for the day.  Although my limited booth time was interrupted by two phone calls – one a robo-call. (And people wonder why I am not always my bubbly self when answering the phone…)

Some distractions we can stop. I don’t HAVE to have my Facebook page open all the time. Or my Skype account. I don’t HAVE to check email constantly. Or see what is happening with my peeps on the VO-BB (wait, I do have to do that).

Some interruptions can be reduced. I can turn the ringer off on my phone (a possible problem in that I would likely forget to turn it back up). I can keep the door closed to the cats and train the dog not to scratch.

There is plenty of paperwork to do during those time when I can’t actually record. In fact, I just went through my In Box sorting and filing and found a couple of little things that almost fell through the cracks. And, of course, there is a great big outdoors that would love to spend more time with me.

Interruptions and distractions are a fact of life. But it will be so nice when this work in the alley is finally completed.

July 25, 2012

Does This Mic Make Me Sound Fat?

Filed under: Recording, Technology — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:48 am

There is no one size fits all when it comes to microphones. No one price range that will guarantee that a mic will sound wonderful with your voice. It all “depends.” It depends on your own particular physical characteristics. It depends on the room that you are recording in.

But it is always SUCH a huge topic of discussion with passionate opinions on what mics are BEST. It gets as bad as the PC vs. MAC debate.

But it is still interesting to listen to the differences (or lack thereof) between the various mics and their price points – and that is why I am forwarding these links.

Poke around on the net and you can probably find more mic shootouts. I am pretty sure there was another comprehensive blind shootout, but I must not be using the right key words. If you know of others, please post a comment and the link.

April 6, 2012

Check the Mute Buttons!

Filed under: Recording — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:15 pm

So, I had a phone patch session recently with a new client. It was a no audition job through one of my agents. Love those. But instead of ISDN, it was a phone patch project using my Gentner.

The client called into my system and he could hear me fine, but to me he sounded like he was calling me from Mars – a tinny little voice way in the background.

My eyes crossed as I tried to figure out what the problem might be. I checked the sketch the engineer left me the last time he was here. But with the client on the line, my stress level was such that I was not going to figure it out. We agreed on a short break to see if I could reach him my engineer. If I couldn’t figure it out, we would use a work around, which is not my preferred way of working.

A couple minutes later, after a quick phone call, everything was working correctly – my client called back in and our session went great from that point.

So, what happened? Cats is what happened. Try as I might, I simply cannot banish the critters from my studio entirely. So at some point, in the process of trying to crawl behind the equipment cabinet to a nice warm spot, my little Lista must have depressed a couple of mute buttons.

Louie reading the VO-BB and getting ready to record

While I can record broadcast quality sound in my home studio, I do so miss the days of going to someone else’s studio and letting them worry over the technical issues. An engineer can see those depressed mute buttons with his eyes closed.

And while I want to THINK that I will remember to check the mute buttons, the next time something like this happens, I can’t say for certain that I will. That’s why I keep the phone number for Pro Sound and Music handy.

October 5, 2011

VO – Just Part of the Total Package

Filed under: Announcements, Recording — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:38 am

Any video production is a team effort and there are times when all of the elements work so well together, you need to show it off.

I did the VO for this spot produced by the Arthur Agency for New Life Weight Loss Center at Herrin Hospital in Ohio. I give it a thumbs up on creative and execution!

September 12, 2011

The Opportunity Generator

Filed under: Musings, Recording — connieterwilliger @ 1:30 pm

I sure hope the gas line installation is going along on schedule and that the construction crews will be done soon (relative term). Right now the steady drone of a power generator is preventing any recording from taking place. I was able to sneak in a couple of auditions this morning. And one very short prompt for a regular customer who had forgotten to include it with his usual weekly order. My agent called with a re-work on a project from June that needs to be recorded tomorrow AM, so I am hoping to get a jump on it early and be finished before they even start work.

The good news is that  this “down” time is not really down time. Simply an opportunity to do some other things! I do have backup recording plan if I should actually need to record something at the same time the crew is working, but so far, I have been able to schedule sessions around the noise. And they don’t work at night! (Although the day we had the power outage, they stayed until dark because they knew that they would be facing the terrible traffic.)

So, while the concrete cutters and trench diggers do their thing, I will clean out my In Box – making sure my Contacts are up to date. I will contact some past clients to say hello. I will sort through the pile of papers that accumulate on the side of my desk. I will review class assignments and do a little lesson planning. I will pick figs and trim branches. I will cook something interesting. I will take my mom shopping for stylish clothes for her new assisted living community. I will volunteer at the local “soup” kitchen.

The bad news? Well, after the gas company is done, the water department comes through the same alley to replace the sewer pipes.

September 6, 2011

Popping Problem? Probably Positional Placement.

Filed under: Recording, Technology — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 8:16 am

Every once in a while I’ll pop a “p” and have to do some editing to fix it, or even a redo, but plosives have not been a real problem for me. It is the sharp “s” that seems to be my biggest issue.

I have learned to hear the worst of my sibilance issues as they come out of my mouth and do a quick adjustment to my articulators (usually tongue placement more than anything else) and the next pass is usually sans-sibilance.

But the popping “p” doesn’t present itself until I listen to the recording. So preventing them from happening in the first place is the best plan of attack.

Dan Friedman, working voice talent and author of the book “Sound Advice,” is a frequent contributor to Procomm’s Voiceover Industry Articles. This one is all about that popping problem that plagues many voice actors.

Microphone Technique for Voice Over Talent

It includes a few pictures too – to help you find the “sweet spot” on your mic. Here’s one of them.

If you have a popping problem, read this article and experiment with your mic placement.

August 31, 2011

Talk about your work around!

Filed under: Musings, Recording, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 3:01 pm

Well, as I posted last week, stuff happens.

This week I started hearing a little BobCat driving up and down my alley. And when I poked my head out to see what was going on, I saw the tell-tale signs of upcoming concrete demolition. The road was covered with colorful spray painted arrows and initials detailing the underground path of gas pipes, water and sewer lines.

And a day later the truly irritating sound of a concrete cutter combined with a jack hammer – followed by large back hoes and dump trucks. Even when the concrete cutter wasn’t actually cutting, the generator truck was constantly running in the background.

I trudged down the alley yesterday to find the foreman to ask him what the “schedule” might be. Along the way, I navigated around and over large piles of dirt and was careful not to step in the new trough being gouged out along my side of the alley.

Well, like with so many things in life – there was only the barest suggestion of a schedule. “It depends.” If they run into a problem, they could shut down immediately until someone is able to figure out what to do next. If they don’t run into a problem, then they could just continue to power through from 8:30 to around 5. Lunch break? Again, that depends.

What he did tell me was that it would take 3-4 weeks! And after they are finished laying the new gas lines, the Water Department is going to follow and replace the sewer pipes in a completely different trough requiring another few weeks of concrete cutting and jack-hammering.

Hard to schedule a session in my studio around that.

So, back up plans are in effect. My portable recording gear is set up in an acoustically treated space in the main house (that sounds fancier than it is – trust me). And I have a couple of friends with studios on alert in case a client wants to direct and the construction is simply too crazy.

But for right now, during the daytime while the crews are working, I will be able to use the “inside” location. Everything is networked, so I can save to my regular recording tower, so that works. And I can always start work at around 4 PM when they usually are gone.

Sounds like everything is fine…yeah, right. Either my technical skills are deteriorating, or my stress level has started to affect my brain. I could NOT connect the dots yesterday while scrambling to get a phone patch session ready in my regular studio, and at the same time trying to get the back up system up and running in case there was too much noise.

The MicPort Pro is a very simple device and I have used it many times while traveling. I couldn’t find the cable – and to make matters worse, I was looking for the wrong cable – actually I was trying to use the headphone out jack instead of the mini USB jack and it wasn’t until I was wandering around Frye’s asking someone for a mini-plug to USB cable and finally LOOKING at the MicPort Pro that I realized I was a complete idiot. Left Frye’s with some M&M’s to cover my embarrassment. I was going to resort to using my dbx mini-pre, but somehow the power supply has disappeared.

I was actually able to use the regular studio for an emergency session yesterday around 4PM, but somehow a “pad” button on my new mixer (don’t quiz me on what that is) was depressed when it should not have been and the phone patch was distorted. Why I could hear playback of a QuickTime movie and not of my recording is still a mystery. And then, after I finished the session, why was I unable to record an audition 10 minutes later? Apparently the software had decided to revert back to the computer’s sound card instead of my Gina.

But today, everything seems to finally be working – with a quick troubeshooting trip from the engineer, my regular studio has all it’s ducks in a row again. The back up studio has new foam pads for the Sennheiser 414 – new bungee cables for the Hamburg’s shock mount – and a selection of pre-amps – a Mackie mixer, the MicPort Pro, a Mobile Pre USB (thanks to a fellow VO friend!) and the dbx (if I can find the power supply).

So, I SHOULD be all set for the chaos of the next couple of months. Cross your fingers that I don’t lose any more brain cells, or that the stress level goes down a notch or two.

February 3, 2011

Hey, it’s cold here too!

Filed under: Musings, Recording — connieterwilliger @ 10:35 am

A lot of my clients are snowed in. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to get around in all that snow and ice and just plain cold. It’s been a long time since I had to scrape a windshield. And this week I have had a number of sessions, calls or emails where the subject centered on them wishing they were able to transport themselves to sunny San Diego.

Please know that, while there is not 12 inches of snow on the ground – I did have ice this morning in a shaded area of my backyard – and I am presently sitting in my studio with a turtle neck sweater, a sweatshirt, scarf and gloves. It is pretty chilly here too!

In fact, the temps here in San Diego have been much cooler than normal over the past year or so and I have been thinking about moving somewhere closer to the equator – so that I can actually get in the water for some body surfing. I could work anywhere with a good Internet connection – couldn’t I? Ah – Italy!

OK – fantasy time over, I have to get back to work – there are voiceovers to do and maybe if I stand up in my padded room, the circulation will come back to my fingers.

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