A man, a martini, and a lot of microphones.: September 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Anime Auction to Aid Injured Boy
This was originally posted over at the Funimation Update and I've been following it for the past few days, since it's gotten such interest from the anime crowd. Being acquainted with more than a few of the folks involved, I couldn't help but to post it here:
An online charity auction is being held to benefit a Minnesota family who has experienced a sudden and tragic event. Seven-year-old Ian Hoy was struck by a car when crossing the street and sustained serious injuries and brain trauma. Though he has made drastic improvement and is recovering, Ian has to re-learn just about everything. Of course, this situation has created significant financial strain on the family. The Hoys are close friends of Tiffany Grant (Asuka in Evangelion) so many people in the industry have taken notice of the family’s situation. The article over at Anime News Network goes into more detail, but I wanted to help pass along the word.
From my own experience, I can tell you that soundproofing a pre-existing residential structure is problematic and expensive at best, downright impossible given most circumstances. You can do a lot to absorb and diffuse the sound, but true soundproofing requires DCID or ANSI style requirements to the room, and frankly there comes a time when even yours truly has to question the cost-benefit ratio (or in my case, the "would they lock me up for doing this..." ratio).
William takes a smarter approach IMO by assuming that the voice talent already has a setup and begins by addressing those items which can be removed from your recording chain that might be causing you to have a lower quality output than you should be, given the quality of equipment you're using (aka. "noise").
From an audio forensic perspective, I'm a huge fan of eliminating as much unnecessary interference from the chain as possible. This article looks like the first step in addressing such issues.
For those who are interested, the full article can be found here.
Are you a social networking butterfly..? Just watch out for the spider's web.
There have been a LOT of blog posts this past year about social networking, particularly of the online sort (while it's not social networking per se, Dave Courvosier just posted a nice blog article of a similar nature regarding Google Is Your Resume). It's an important tool that people use within many industries, including the Voice Over community. Even I have references to my profiles on several online networking sites in the links section of my Website. In the "Age of Information", social networking sites have become a valuable resource for those who can't always be where the action is.
That's a good thing.
Unfortunately, there's a flip side to that equation, and it's one that most voice over professionals don't think about too often. Social networking is definitely a potent tool when used responsibly. However, it's also very easy to put yourself in a position where you're giving out too much information about yourself.
Since we're talking about the information which you put out there, let me take a second to explain a bit more about myself and why I've got the point of view that I do. You see, I've worked as an information security professional for well over a decade, specializing in finding new and unique ways to get past those things which other people feel are secure. While I am also a professional voice actor, the experience, training, and mindset which you develop over the years doing a job like like mine give you a bit of a different viewpoint on things.
So while I hate to be "that guy", I've made more than a decent living in my life by looking for vulnerabilities in systems, showing proof-of-concept on how to exploit those vulnerabilities, and using techniques (often refered to as "social engineering") to get information from the least secure items within any organization's security architecture (i.e., people) so that organizations and individuals can better protect those items which they consider to be most valuable (FWIW: check out the term "White Hat", for those who've gotten nervous at this point, lol).
Think about it. Most voice over professionals I know have at least a LinkedIn and a Facebook account. A lot of us also have Twitter accounts. So I want you to put on your "black hat" for a second and think like an attacker or a scam artist. I'm not going to name names, but I'm using a well-known voice actor in Philadelphia as my target (with their permission, of course). I used Google to check out my target and learned that not only did they have a Website, but also accounts on Facebook, LiveJournal, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Not surprisingly, all of the pages with these services (save for LinkedIn) gave me enough info to know the stuff you'd normally find out about a voice talent:
...needless to say, my "target" was more than a little shocked at all the data that was freely available.
If you've ever been to
Gearslutz (which I feel is one of the top sites for those who are interested in the art and science of recording), you already know of the several cases where studios have been robbed, and in the investigation afterward it was learned that social media played a large role in the intruder's recon of the studio.
Now, I'm not trying to scare the bejesus out of anyone, but too often we don't think about the potential consequences when we put our information online (for those who want to know just how far down the rabbit hole you can go, I recommend a bootcamp with SANS; it's a good portion of their Incident Handling and Security Essentials courses). These unintended consequences can have major ramifications upon both our personal, and professional lifes.
Social networking is a powerful and useful tool, but like most tools it can be misused. The thing to remember is that even as a voice over business, you have to watch what you are doing online. Here are a few tips which I recommend you use to better ensure your privacy:
Watch what you share: It's too easy to give away personal information that can be used or aggregated into a format which enables others to learn more about you than you might be comfortable with. Never put your personal address, or home phone number (mobile phones are a little harder to trace back) on any social networking site. It's a piece of cake to cross-reference information and identify more information about your life than you might be comfortable with.
Assume that once you've put the information online, that anyone can see it: Most people don't realize that you need to restrict access to your profile if you don't want random strangers to see it. The more information you put out there, the more chance there is that something's out there which you didn't want getting out for public consumption. This is also a good reason for those of us who are doing a lot of bookings out of our house to use a mailbox other than our residental mailing address (for billings and also for those social networks and phone directories where your address is collected).
Be Skeptical: The point of social networking is to find people who share your interests and establish a network of friends and business contacts, but don't let your defenses down too easily. These new "friends" are virtual and faceless and you can't completely trust that they are what/who they say they are. In short, on the Internet, nobody knows that you're a dog, and just because someone says they're into the same things you are, doesn't mean it's true (I've read and investigated too many scams where the victim's interest turned out to be the angle used to gain the victim's confidence).
Be Diligent: Knowing that the potential exists for scam artists or other baddies is a real one, keep an eye on your profile and be diligent about who you allow to connect with your profile. For photo sharing sites like Flickr, check out the users who are marking your photos as their Favorites. If some stranger is marking all of the pictures of your 7-year old son as their Favorites, it seems a little creepy and may be cause for concern. Report Suspicious Behavior. If you have reason to believe that someone is scam artist or has malicious intent, report it to the site. The adage "where there's smoke, there's usually fire" is very true. Above all, don't be afraid to communicate about something which raises a red flag. It's better to have a "false positive" (where we think there's a problem and there really isn't), than to have a "false negative" (where we don't think there's a problem when in fact there is). You never find out about the false negatives until it's too late... so keep your "spidey sense" tuned. Bruce Schneier often discusses the concept of personal "threat perception" and it's development with humanity's evolution (trust me, security geeks eat this stuff up). He's right, and when your "gut" is telling you that something's not right, you ought to trust it (while you don't have a "spider sense" per se, your "gut" is usually very accurate at picking up stuff that your conscious mind does not).
I apologize for turning my voice over blog into an post regarding operational security, but with all those who are gung-ho about social networking, it's valuable to recognize the flip side of that coin. The bottom line is that social networking is hugely popular and it is big business. It can be a very lucrative tool for the voice actor, but like all things it requires a bit of common sense and awareness. Like most everything else in life, the more you know, the better prepared you are to handle whatever comes your way.
Since the question of "which microphone should I choose?" is one of the most common questions voice actors ask each other, it's definitely worth reading if you don't already know the answer to the question.
On the side, I think I have an unattributed quote in the article.
“I recommend seatbelts in your armchairs as the creator and cast of “Family Guy” assemble on our stage for a hilarious, irreverent look at themselves, each other, their characters and their spectacularly successful show. This is, quite simply, unlike any Inside the Actors Studio you’ve ever seen.”
Since I'm currently bombarded with a GSSP certification, I was unable to see Monday's broadcast of the interview. However there's going to be re-broadcast on the 20th, which I definitely plan on watching.
That's the first item of interest for all things "Family Guy" related. The second is this... Karl Rove is making a cameo appearance on the show. Details are a bit scant at the present, but that's the thing which makes this show such a hit with the audience; not only does the show go out of its way to be equal opportunity offender of pretty much everyone at some point (much like "South Park"), but they actually get the very people they're lampooning to take part in the comedy.
I can only imagine what MacFarlane and the rest of the writing staff have up their sleeve for Rove, but I'm sure that it'll be completely irreverent and enjoyable.
If you've been paying attention to the news lately (and even if you haven't), then you know that the U.S. government want to get involved with health care. President Obama and his supporters want to reform health care as we know it in this country. In an address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama explained how health insurance reform will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance, coverage for those who don’t, and will lower the cost of health care for our families, our businesses, and our government.
From the perspective of a voice actor, this is a really great opportunity for those who have the time and resources to use their craft to better help those who want to understand what the health care bill actually is, but either can't or don't want to read through the entire bill in order to do so (and I can't say that I blame them). Within the voice over community, there have been loads of postings in the various VO boards, and I can't even get into my FaceBook account anymore without half a dozen invites from people who are either putting the bill into spoken word on their own, or are looking for people to help lend their talents and voices for an audio production regarding the health care bill. Regardless of your politics, this is a very cool event within the voice over community.
Best part, is that it's catching on. The Nashua Telegraph recently published an article regarding this movement within the voice over community, and Politico just put up their own article regarding this as well.
These articles, if nothing else, should serve as a reminder for the rest of us within the voice over community that what we do with our talents is much more than bringing words to life. The potential is there to really provide a conduit of information and education through the work we do, and when the opportunity comes our way, it's one which we ought to be very proud of.
I'm not going to get into the politics of this issue (frankly it's a loaded gun of discussion at the dinner table and has been added to the rather eclectic list of things my family doesn't discuss at the dinner table, including the Muppets, carnivals, horses, and John Tesh... you know, the really controversial stuff).
Edit: and now a third article on the subject from the New York Times. A link to the article can be found here.
Backstage magazine has an interesting article concerning the current state of the economy.
Despite my overwhelming desire to be snarky due to the facts and research done on this article (for example, use of stats during what is normally the weakest time of the year for actors, use of statistics that do not match case examples, and the use of two very troubled industries to correlate the rest of the economic situation), I'm going to take a more positive approach.
I know, I know, the VO actor who is also an infosec professional is going to be jocund in his posting about the economy. Sorry to disappoint, but I am.
Here's the deal, you can be in business, ANY business, unless you recognize the fact that you're going to have lean years, as well as fat years. Barring major calamity, there's about a 15-20 year cycle between recessions. The current economic climate reminds me of the late eighties, which wasn't all that different from spots in the late 60s. My point is that you can't be surprised when these things happen... simply put, the sun can't stay shining forever.
As a voice actor, especially for those who are just starting in the field (and one thing the article and I both agree upon is that there are a LOT of new folks entering the field) you've got to recognize this fact. But above all things you have to remember this one little phrase...
A career, or any long-term endeavor is a marathon, not a sprint. The sooner one recognizes this, the better you can prepare for it. This is where (for the voice actor) diversification, long-term planning (financial and professional) comes into play. Sure, the commercial market for voice acting is many areas is a bit drier than normal, but several sources (and my own experience) state that companies are keeping things more "in-house", by increasing the number of industrial voice overs that are being produced (it seems as though you can't shake a stick without hitting someone who's looking for talent to provide a voice over for a corporate presentation ).
Like most things in life, perception is reality. But if this recession turns out to be anything like the last one, you'll be hearing the stories of people and companies who not only survived this economic downturn, but exceeded everyone's expectations (Google is a great example of one of these). What's going to separate those who succeed from those who don't survive...? Simple. Those who are still around after it's all said and done will be the ones who best utilized the resources available to them and paced themselves long past the point when things are expected to get better...
not much different from long-distance running if you ask me.
So what does Goldman-Sachs have in common with voice over? High fees for high stakes.
There's an article written by Megan McArdle that I recently read in the Atlantic, which likened investment bankers with wedding planners, funeral directors, and movie trailer voice over actors. Regardless of the current economic climate, that's an interesting comparison to make, but it's actually pretty accurate.
The big message that McArdle tries to get across is that if you buy cheap, you usually get cheap. While her message has to do with the finance industry, she is able to relate it to the career of Don LaFonatine, and how many people (who aren't in voice over) might be shocked to learn what he salary was during the peak of Don's career. This is true, as the man made the kind of money that most people can only dream of. However, when you've only got one shot to make the deal, the fees associated with that one shot were negligible with the potential return on investment a client might see.
In the author's own words, "a moment of reckoning will come when the deal either goes well, or does not; that moment is very hard to anticipate; and if things go wrong, they can be very hard to fix."
How often do we as voice artists have to deal with clients who simply do not want to pay our fees? I know that I've lost count, and I've lost more than a few bookings because I wasn't willing to sell my services as short as a client might want them (we've all got stories about the $1500 dollar project that the client was only willing to pay $100 for). That doesn't matter so much as the message that a professional talent must represent to their clientele and potential clients alike, and that message is that when one shot is all you get, one shot is all you (as a voice talent) need...
Put another way, when a client is concerned that they can't afford your services, your job is to remind them that they can't afford not to have your services.
I've no idea how everybody in the voice over community missed this one, so let me toss it out there for all to find...
There's a really nice article on TampaBay.com with voice actor Tom Kenny, who plays the voice/role of Spongebob Squarepants. This is one of those "should read" kind of articles IMO for anyone who is interested in voice acting, or interested/curious about the people involved in giving life to an animated character...
The article itself is originally about the 10 year anniversary of the Spongebob Squarepants series, but the reporter and Kenny turn the interview into a lot more than that, talking about some of the controversy that the character has stirred up (yes folks, apparently not everyone is a fan of ole' Spongebob), a bit about Kenny's past, and the correlation of how the survival and continued popularity of the show is akin to surviving a terminal illness (you have to read the article for that one, but I had a good chuckle with it).
Here's a link to the article, and I hope you get the same enjoyment out of it that I did. For anyone who has ever made a living off of the same stuff that got you into trouble when you were younger, this is worth the time.
Disney Featurette from "The Princess and the Frog" - Conjuring the Villan
First off, I shamelessly stole this from Bob Souer's blog. This is worth spreading, but I wanted to make sure that credit is given where it is due.
This is the second featurette from Disney's upcoming animation, "The Princess and the Frog" (I'll admit that I have been eagerly anticipating this production since I first heard of it from a friend working on the production... that the team working on this is so fiercely loyal to Walt's original ideas of animation is very heartening to me).
Here's the thing that I want any readers of this blog to note. If you take a ride in the "Way, Wayback Machine", I spoke about how Keith David used a form of SWOT analysis in how he performed. Pay attention to the clips of his character. Mr. David doesn't do anything that we don't already know him for doing... he just lets those parts of his personality which fit the character come out more so than normal. The result is a very believable and enjoyable Villan.
Regardless of the copy in front of you, you have to have some part of YOU that's performing the read. If you don't, then it just doesn't work. This is a pretty fascinating topic to me, and one which I'll visit again in the future.
PS: when I first saw the clip a day or two ago, I was asked to identify the microphone used (some things never change, lol). Based on the clip, it looks like a Brauner to me. Which one is a bit unknown at this time, but based on the shockmount and popfilter, I'd venture to say that it's a VM1 or VM1-KHE if I had to put money down on it.
A brief description of the book nails many of the same comments found in most voice over writings, but depending on how they choose to do it and to whom Lowenthal and Platt choose to make their audience, they might have a new twist on some of the more traditional rote from other books on the subject. In one recent article, they made it very clear that the goal was to take the information that gets passed around at the usual voice actor panels (both Lowenthal and Platt run great panels, BTW), aggregate that information, and then take it to the next step. The following description seems to follow that line of thinking:
A PEEK INTO THE SECRET WORLD OF THE VOICE ACTOR for those curious, daring or obsessed enough to look....This book offers a comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on, and what it's like behind the mic from two working pros. In this book, you will discover: * The ins and outs of auditioning * Vocal warm-ups and exercises * Tips for reading copy to maximum effect * Hints to help you stand out * Keys to marketing yourself: demo to agent to job * What to expect when you book the job! Filled with anecdotes from 20 VO professionals (actors, writers, casting, directors, engineers, agents) the book is a fun and comprehensive look inside voice-over.
The book doesn't come out until November 9th (at present... dates can be moved back or forth, depending on things), and I'm sure that it will do well. For a professional talent, it may or may not be a worthwhile read for $20, but for those in the industry who are of the otaku personality, I expect it to be a "must read".