Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

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.

http://www.vocalimpactmedia.com/SoundStorage.html

http://transom.org/?p=7517

http://recordinghacks.com/2011/02/26/vo-shootout-u87-l36b-cm87-at4047mp/

May 21, 2012

Why Can’t People “Hear” Themselves?

Today it is easier and easier to get feedback on what you are doing. Why don’t people listen? Or perhaps, why – when given good feedback – why don’t people take action to improve what they are doing? Do they simply not hear themselves?

So many people these days have been told by endless “voiceover” coaches that they can make it – all they need is determination – and their signature on the bottom of that check paying for more classes. They stop listening to themselves and never develop their self-evaluation skills.

Most of the forums for voiceover people include critique areas where people can post demos for comments. I’m referring to demos from newbies, not updated demos from people who are making actual money doing voiceovers. You can get honest, yet sometimes highly conflicting advice. And if you follow the subsequent comments to a thread, this advice is often rejected by the person seeking the advice.

For a fee of $7 per month, you can join VoiceRegistry and do their Weekend Workouts, where actual working top agents and casting people will listen to your submissions and provide individual feedback – which everyone who submits can see as well. Scary thought isn’t it!

But what a great way to develop, not only a thick skin, which you need in this business, but a keen ear on what works and what doesn’t. What the agents/casting people are liking at a certain moment in time. While some of the comments are probably kept pretty tepid (the agent really wants to scream because the submission was so far off the mark, but instead says something “kind”), there is enough information for you to read between the lines and sort the best from the worst. Your own ears should be able to pick this up without their comments, but sometimes you can hone in on why they think one read was superior. And this is valuable information.

The other weekly competition is over at Edge Studio. This one is free and probably because it is free and they are pretty high profile, their contest submissions run in the neighborhood of 200 per weekend. I have been listening to a few of the “winning” entries over the past few weeks and reading the commentary on why submissions didn’t win. Two weeks ago, they decided to record a teleconference discussing a dozen or so of the submissions and why NO ONE was selected to win that week’s competition.

That phone call was filled with people – a few of whom simply didn’t listen to instructions on how to mute their phones. That was distracting for everyone. And another example of people simply not hearing what has been said to them. The meat of the discussion showcased once again how this business is part subjective and part objective. People’s comments were wide ranging and often directly opposite thoughts. While I wouldn’t recommend that David do calls like this on a regular basis, it did inspire me to enter the contest the next week to see if I could make it to the Top Three.

I entered. Twice. With two different anonymous user names and two different styles of delivery. Then, when the competition closed and all bazillion entries were posted for review, I listened to them all. And most of the entries were really so bad it’s – sad? frightening? scary?

Obviously many of the people who entered are wannabe’s and some newbies, but what I want to know is if they thought that what they submitted was good!? While bad audio can be forgiven to a degree for an audition – there are no-cost ways to reduce background noise.  But to leave the TV playing in the background while you are recording something for a contest? Huh? Read the reasons why people didn’t get selected for the Contest ending Friday, May 18th.

Of the 200 or so submissions, I jotted down 14 names, including my two – for a total of 16 – that I thought were worthy of consideration. All of the top three were on my short-list. But listing only the top three may not be enough for people to understand BOTH the subjective nature of this business and get enough information to be able to apply it to their own submissions.

I fessed up to David Goldberg in an email that I had submitted not one, but two entries in the contest that week. We chatted a bit about the process. Apparently, his staff goes through all the submissions and creates a short list that he then listens to, jots down some notes and then picks first, second and third place.

I suggested that it might be even more educational to identify all of the top picks. From there, he could, for the purposes of handing out the weekly prizes assign the winners. But with auditions, it is usually the overall tone and pace and quality that the producer selects, knowing that in the session they can get a take that addresses those little nuances, like hitting a word just a tad stronger or warming up on a phrase. I live for my ISDN sessions (or actual in the studio with live human beings) where I get to actually interact with the director and make them happy!

So, hearing the whole range of what made it to the selects would be a great teaching tool – for those who will listen.

Enough suspense?

I made it to the Top Three with my BonnieK entry. And he told me that my other entry was in the top selects as well. I would have been very very surprised if it had not been. I was sort of expecting to pick up two prizes, but there you go! Another example of the subjective nature of the biz! If you want to hear the other, do a search on the page for KayT.

May 17, 2012

Are You Hopping Mad about Auto Hop?

Filed under: Business, Musings, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:05 pm

So the latest invention in the quest by people to skip the very thing that keeps their TV programs on the air is an ad eraser embedded in new digital video recorders sold by Dish Network. Just turn on Auto Hop and ads automatically vanish. TiVo on steroids.

Here’s an article in the New York Times that goes into more detail.

So, how do I feel about that – as a voice talent whose income includes payment for doing announcing for TV Commercials? In some ways, a lot like the chief executive of CBS who wonders how he will produce shows like “CSI” without the support of the advertisers running the commercials. Or maybe a bit like News Corporation who has decided not to run Dish’s DVR ads.

Everyone in the chain is trying to figure out how to snag the eyeballs (and dollars) of the consumers. Consumers who seem to be starting to turn away from paying for cable or satellite and are looking to the Internet. My niece watches TV shows on her laptop whenever and wherever she feels like it. When I do watch TV, it is still from my easy chair in the living room without a DVR, so I tend to see mostly reruns of Bones, Law & Order and NCIS.

I would miss commercials, not only because I get paid to record them, but also because for me they are a source of education and sometimes inspiration. Not that I am a TV junkie, but part of the whole TV watching experience is studying the spots. I realize that the vast majority of the TV watching public probably doesn’t really care for commercials (except during the Super Bowl), but maybe they haven’t really thought about how their TV shows are currently being funded.

The operative word in that last sentence? “Currently.” Everything changes. Eventually.

I wish I had a crystal ball. It would be nice to see what the new business model(s) might be. I’d like to be prepared for when the current one goes away, and with it part of my income.

August 17, 2010

Quality Assurance Meets Absurd Quantity

Filed under: Business, Techniques — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:17 pm

We all need differentiators to help set us apart from the growing army of voiceoverists* so that we end up with our fair share of the sacks of money* waiting to be spent on voiceovers.

(*Inside joke from the VO-BB.com)

One of the things I “sell” is my quality assurance. I spend time making sure that the files I send are as close to perfection as possible. This is fairly easy to do if you have a standard :30 or :60 spot. Couple of minutes to record a couple of takes. A quick couple of minutes to listen and clean up any little blups and boom, the file is out and you are 100% sure that it is ready for your client to drop into their production timeline. Make mistakes with this simple kind of work and you won’t stay in business long.

But much of my work includes vast numbers of files. And if I didn’t have some sort of work flow established and some specialized software, I would not be able to have the confidence that my files are nearly perfect when they leave my studio.

The first hurdle is making sure that you get good clean takes to start with. This takes a keen ear for your own delivery, mouth noises and vowel flutter or other stray noises that creep into the studio. I don’t use headphones anymore when I am self-directing – only when on phone patch or using ISDN – and even then, I try to listen with one ear open. But I can hear that pesky little smacking noise that my mouth makes sometimes when I say a word with an “l” in it.

The second challenge is naming vast numbers of files – sometimes with obscure file names that do not in any way relate to the content of the file in a way that would help you keep track of them. Other times they are at least sequentially numbered – except that the leading zero is left out of a sequence, so the files don’t end up exactly in sequential order according to the brain of the computer doing the sorting. Another time sucker and error prone task is keying in the names of these files one by one.

I am using a new piece of software that helps in these first two steps. Word2WAV lets you record over and over again until you are happy with a take AND saves each previous take as a backup file in another folder. It also automatically names the files with your unique file names or lets you create an accurate sequential numbering system.

While the newest version of W2W includes some editing and punch in capabilities – I find that I switch back to my Adobe Audition for any serious editing that may need to be done. When doing single word files, or short telephony prompts there is not a lot of editing. It is the batch processing that is the next hurdle in the Quality Assurance Process.

Each of my clients has different normalization levels, data and bit rates and file formats, so it is important to keep track of that information so you don’t end up sending out a format or level that is wrong. This not only cuts into your profit, but it puts a crimp in the client’s schedule when you have to redo the work.

I use the batch processing features of Adobe Audition – plus VoxStudio. Both convert sample and bit rates nicely. Audition does a much better job at normalizing a bunch of files. And VoxStudio is great for adding a specified amount of silence to the beginning and end of a file.

Then, after you know the files are clean, in the right format, at the right amplitude and named correctly, you still have to deliver them. Most telephony files are so small in size that it isn’t an issue to send them by email – except that there are so darn many of them. Simple – create a ZIP file and send that. One of my clients wants the files encrypted, so I have a process in place for that as well.

If you are sending wavs or aiffs chances are you will either need to send the files a few at a time through email or use some kind of ftp service. You want to reduce the number of emails going back and forth saying that the client hasn’t received File 23 -34 yet.

And you have to keep backups of what you do. This means some sort of file management system that allows you to quickly find the files you need – if you need to make changes. Clients like it when you are able to make a quick fix easily because you still have the original files close at hand.

Quality Assurance is part of my business plan. And it is something my clients can count on.

January 15, 2010

Can’t get away from it – even in Paradise

Filed under: Auditioning — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:44 pm

Just got back from about a week in Hawaii (the Big Island). My first trip – most of it spent driving around the island stopping at every point of interest. Amazing place.

Went over there for a VO Workshop – Medical Mumbo – with Julie Williams. That was one day in Hilo in the middle of the trip. Decided not to drag my laptop studio with me. Just the BlackBerry for email that mostly informed me of all of the auditions I was missing, as well as the ability to post pics to Facebook. It also rang a couple of times with jobs that needed to be pushed back until I got home. Luckily I was able to push them. Most of the time, when you leave home, you lose money.

But because this was a VO workshop, I did have a chance to do one audition that I just didn’t want to let slide. The “studio” was temporary. The closet with someone holding up a reflecting blanket to block out the sound of the tiled bathroom in the background. So, speaking into a mic nestled in the pants and dresses, I did a couple of takes and sent it off to the agent.

August 7, 2009

Friday is trash day

Filed under: Recording — Tags: , — connieterwilliger @ 12:27 pm

Friday is REALLY noisy around here. And even noisier every other Friday when the Black “trash” AND the Blue “recycle” bins are picked up. Prior to the trash trucks grinding down the alley – are the alley elves who push their shopping carts along looking for bottles and cans to recycle.

Then there is the Volkswagon that comes home at noon everyday down the back alley and idles while the garage door goes up – then revs up and goes into the garage. Add that to the random and scheduled selection of police and news helicopters and my frustration level definitely goes up on Fridays.

But for some reason, during a session, things seem pretty quiet and when something does rumble past in the alley or overhead it is only the smallest of interuptions.

So why do these interuptions bother me so while I am trying to get auditions done on Friday!

July 22, 2009

It’s not even 8AM and the AC is blasting…

Filed under: Musings — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 7:44 am

We’ve been having a heat wave here in San Diego. And most of us in older homes do not have central AC. I do have a tiny old airconditioner that I had someone build into the wall of my studio during the initial rennovation. It manages to cool things down a bit. But of course when it is on, it is impossible to record anything….projects or auditions.

It is also difficult to get to – I have to climb on the counter to reach the knob – which leaves bruises on my upper shins. So I’ve been so reluctant to climb up there that I’ve been letting the projects and auditions pile up a bit – then scrambling up to turn it off.

Amazing how fast the temperature rises! So, during this heat wave, I am wearing natural fibers – as little of them as I can get away with – no makeup – and taking lots of cool showers. I’m revaluating the idea of holding off until I get a bunch of things to record and change the process to – chill it down – turn it off – record a bit – turn it on – edit – and repeat.

This will simply require finding an easier way to get to the AC knob. There’s a perfect step-stool in my closet. If I snag it from there, it just means I won’t be able to reach some of my clothes during this heat wave. Bah – who needs clothes.

July 12, 2009

Adding to the Land Fill

Filed under: Techniques — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 5:57 pm

I just spent about an hour and a half going through about 50 pounds of paper scripts that have been piling up over the past couple of years. While I would probably read a lot of these scripts right off the screen, during the school semester I usually bring in scripts from sessions to show my students what a professional voice talent may see in the course of a week.

Scripts range from very “formal” radio and TV scripts (with logos and official titles to help the radio and TV stations figure out which spot to run when), to a hasty email with a single line.

Normally, if I am going to work in my ISDN studio, I need to print out the script, as there is no monitor tied to a computer. I may do that one day (add a monitor), but frankly I like to mark the script when I am in a “live” session with a producer. There are always suggested changes or words that they want inflected a specific way. And there are usually script changes. The same process holds true with most of my phone patch sessions – with the producer right there on the line, it is sometimes better to be able to make quick marks on the script as you work together to get the “right” read.

If I am working self-directed, or using Word2Wav or Vox Studio, I usually read off the screen. If I feel that I need to change an inflection, I do it on the fly.

Other kinds of scripts arrive as pdf attachments in both horizontal and vertical formats – sometimes with font so small it is impossible to read. If it is a straight script with no images, it can be fairly quickly cut and pasted into a text editor and then manipulated. But if the pdf contains a storyboard with many images and a few words per image, it takes quite a bit of time to bump it up to something readable. And it isn’t just that the font is small, it is that the copy is so broken up that finding the continuity is difficult.

Word or Text documents are more easily manipulated to bump up font size and correct widows and orphans – and tighten up broken continuity.  I receive Excel spreadsheets that need to be converted to tables and then to text for importing into my specialized software (mentioned earlier). PowerPoint presentations are also in the mix – which I usually have been reading off the screen. It is nice to see what it is you are talking about by referring to the image above the notes frame, and printing PowerPoint e-Learning presentations do take a lot of paper! However, since these scripts usually require multiple uniquely named files, it would really be better to find a way to get the notes pages into a Word doc for importing into Word2Wav.

After being sure that I had a notation somewhere of the client, the job, the studio (if one was used – either in person or using ISDN) and the producer, agency or production company, I filled up the giant blue recycle bin about halfway.

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