Voiceovers by Gregory Houser
A man, a martini, and a lot of microphones.: May 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Tales from Earthsea" Gets Theatrical Release

Disney recently announced that they will be releasing Goro Miyazaki's Tales from Earthsea (Gedo Senki) on August 13th, 2010. Goro Miyazaki directed this adaptation of Uruslea K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels in 2006, but was delayed due to a non-compete arrangement with the Sci-Fi channel.

As usual, the House of Mouse has put together a celebrity voice over cast, consisting of Timothy Dalton, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, and Mariska Hargitay.

For the VO crowd, you'll notice a strong supporting cast. Particularly, Suzanne Blakeslee, Kathryn Cressida, Pat Fraley, Jess Harnell, Tara Platt, and Kevin Michael Richardson.

Personally, I'm not the biggest fan of this particular title, but an "average" title from Studio Ghibli is usually better than "good" titles put out by most other studios. That says a lot to me, which is why I've managed to watch this title more than once. Additionally, this is Goro's debut film as a director, and if this is any indication I look forward to his future efforts with anticipation.

Hat tip to the folks at Cartoon Brew for the news.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

The Power of One's Voice

Here in Philadelphia, we've heard a lot of powerful voices. You've got the impassioned speeches of the American Revolution, some of the most famous theatres in the country (FYI: Philly has the oldest theatre in the country), and a remarkably rich history of music and broadcasting).

We're pretty aware of the power that one's voice can have.

As a voice actor, as any voice actor can tell you, the use of one's voice can bring a power to the words that often doesn't exist on paper, at least not on their own. Now I recently said that it's not just about the voice, and I stand behind that comment. Turns out that I was more right than I knew.

There's a report that just came out from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B stating something that I've been saying for a while. There is an inherent power with what we choose to do with our speech that can affect those around us. Most voice artists out there should know this by now, but if not, the study found that the affect of a mother's voice has the same chemical and emotional affect on a child as if they had made physical contact.

Think about that for a second. As far as the subjects in the study were concerned, merely hearing the voice of a concerned parent had the same affect on them as if they had been physically comforted.

That's pretty powerful stuff if you ask me. I've always used mental imagery to help determine my choices with copy. This included the usual who, what, where, when, why, etc. One of the most important for me has always been "to whom am I speaking", and I know from experience the affect it can have on my delivery. However, I never once thought that there was the potential to have so profound an affect as to actually alter one's biological chemistry with nothing more than the power of my speech.

A good synopsis of the study can be found here for those who are interested in learning a bit more.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Free Comic Book Day Commercial by Kevin Smith

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a comic book geek.

I've got boxes and boxes of comics in my house, ranging from selected silver and golden age comics to stuff from a few years ago (sorry, but the mainstream titles stopped appealing to me when the storylines turned more into merchandising than, oh say, an actual story). Yes, they're bagged (mylar) and organized, like any good comic book fan should do.

Why is this important? It isn't... I just felt the need to get it off my chest.

However, on May 7th, 2010, it was Free Comic Book Day. For those who don't know what it is, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is the first Saturday in the month of May when comic book shops give away comic books for free. Now obviously you're not going to go in and get a Detective Comics #27 from them for free, but it's a nice way to show your support for the industry by stopping by your local comic book shop and maybe picking up a couple of extras... since you're already there for the free stuff.

Now since May 7th has come and gone, you're just going to have to wait till next year. However, the organizers of FCBD put together a simple, yet amusing commerical with Kevin Smith behind the voice over. It's pretty apparent that the production quality is low, but I found it amusing none the less.

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It's not about the voice!

I don't know how many times I've heard the ole, "people say I have a really nice voice, maybe I should get into voice over..." I don't think that there's a single voice actor out there doesn't have a few stories to tell in this regard.

It's part of the game.

Frankly, I'm always more than happy to help most folks out as best I can. For the most part, I think most voice actors would say the same (and some... I'm looking at you, anime VAs, can be veritable saints at times). Sure, the VO community is very tight knit, but we're always willing to welcome folks into the fold. It's one of the many great things about this art, and one of the many reasons it's become such a large part of my life.

That said, I remember (and often echo) the words of one of my voice coaches. During our first session together she browbeat me with the words "it's not about the voice". I needed to hear that a LOT of times before I truly figured out what she meant. Once I did, it became part of my response used whenever anyone asked me about voiceover, or voice acting in general.

Turns out that I'm not quite alone in that regard. In a recent blog post I found on Blogging Innovation, Mike Brown talks of a similar approach where "it's not about the voiceover". In his situation, Brown talks about a Marketing Lead who directed that there would be no voice over in a particular piece. Members of his creative team pleaded that a voice over was essential to what they were doing (something I'm sure every voice actor loves to hear), but the Lead was adamant.

What they discovered was that they'd been relying on voice actors to fix their mistakes with the copy. What the Marketing Lead had done was to force a stronger, better performance out of the staff by not having them rely on someone else (i.e., someone outside of their general control) to fix their problems for them.

It's somewhat brilliant if you think about it.

Now for voice actors, we need to take a similar approach. All too often, we begin to rely on something external to help us elevate our work. In a lot of cases, we do the same thing that these marketing people were doing... we're counting on the "voice" to get us through the copy. Well, it's not about the voice. Never has been. Never should be. It's about our creativity, our ability to make a choice related to the copy ,our commitment to the choices we made, etc. In short, it's about all the creative aspects of what we do.

Too often, in my opinion, I hear people talk about "the voice". Brown's posting, and his example, should serve as a good reminder to all of us that it's not about the voice, but what we bring to it, what we bring to the copy, and how we do so, that makes a voiceover worth listening to.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

How to spot a voice over amateur

I'm not quite sure whether to file Paul Strikwerd's blog post, titled "10 Ways to Spot a Voice-Over Amateur" as being humorous or admonitory.

It's one of those posts which you can't help but to chuckle at, groan, and take a little bit of wisdom from. If for no other reason, than the fact that anyone who has ever been on either side of the booth has witnessed at least a few of these telltale signs, this blog post is worth taking a read.

I only wish Paul had added a few comments about regionalisms being used in the wrong context or for the wrong audience (trust me, living in Philadelphia you see/hear less experienced talent do this all the time).

FWIW: Paul was half right about his comment regarding Neumann. They manufacturer a shotgun microphone (the KMR 81), but have never built a ribbon mic.

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Travel article for fellow voice actors

I mentioned in my last posting that VOICE was coming up, in addition to a few other events this summer (I've no clue as to all of them, but Bettye Zoller has some upcoming stuff, Pat Fraley usually has a few workshops in the summer, the NATF has their yearly event, I'm also aware of a few events with the National Association of Broadcasters, probably BangZoom!, SIGGRAPH always seems to attract VO talent, etc.).

Well those are all fine and dandy. But what is the working voice actor going to do if they're trying to audition, meet project deadlines, and the like while they're on the road? Being from Philadelphia, I can tell you that I put more miles on the road for VO than I care to admit (despite being the fifth largest media market, it's simply natural that I've got to put time in other places in order to train, audition, book work, etc.).

Some days, I feel like I'm a Philadelphia-based voice actor who is based anywhere but in Philadelphia, lol.

Well, there's an article put out last year by George Whittam of ElDorado Recording Services that is definitely worth your while, titled The Traveling Voice-Over. In it, George gives a brief, but detailed description and explanation of some of the more common issues which voice actors are going to face on the road, and some of the tools out there which can make your time on the road a bit more productive.

The article is definitely worth the time to read, if for no other reasons than the fact that it gives you new ideas on how to set up your own "VO2Go" kit. I'll admit that there are some items in the article which I disagree with, but that's mainly because I know what my own needs are when I'm on the road (for example, George's recommendation of netbooks is probably good for most folks, but I've yet to use one that I didn't overtax in a few minutes of normal usage... I'm pretty hard on the CPU with some of the stuff I do). That said, it's pretty apparent that this article is designed more as a means of providing options to the traveling voice actor than anything else.

In that regard, the article delivers in spades.

If you didn't catch the link to the article above, a direct link can be found here.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

BSW Sale (10% off for Web Orders)

I don't normally shill for companies (unless they're paying me). The ones I usually purchase my recording equipment from can be found here, and I rarely deviate.

However, with the economy as it is, and with VOICE 2010 and a bunch of other stuff looming on the horizon, I know that a lot of fellow voice actors are looking to either upgrade their gear, or to fine those last minute items for their travel kits.

BSW currently has a 10% off sale (minimum order $99) until midnight 5/02/2010 PST (sorry, but I didn't see the e-mail until this morning). Those who are on their mailing list already know about this, but I'm willing to bet that most people don't. If you're looking for that little something and needed an excuse to get it, an extra 10% off couldn't hurt.

The code for the coupon is 057362 (hopefully not a one time usage thing). So if you need something extra this summer, might as well check out the BSW Website and use it.


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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Either way you approach voiceover, you need training

Backstage has a great article on whether voiceover classes are necessary.

It's a great read, and Dale Balestrero has some great insights and explanations relating to why actors need voiceover training (I'm somewhat curious as to why he doesn't make more of a point to mention that voice actors are actors... hence the title; it's a nitpick, but one that I think needs to be made more often). In short, Balestrero points out that one's acting skills are very important to voice over, however, the medium is not the same as more traditional forms of acting. Therefore, it does the actor well to know more about voiceover prior to attempting to make a career out of it.

On that same front, one of the biggest problems I see with new voiceover talent is that they train for voiceover, but not for anything else. Just as I stated earlier, voice actors are actors. It's as plain and simple as that. Regardless of where your specialty lies, if you want to be successful in acting, or in any field for that matter, then you need to know a wide range of skills (which may or may not be directly related to your chosen field) so that you can be a more versatile practitioner.

It is this versatility which allows most people to find new ways to succeed, even if they've already found a thousand ways to previously fail, and for this reason it should be the lifeblood of every actor, regardless of their chosen medium.

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Networking without Looking Desperate

Bill Moyers and voiceover

If you've never listened to, or watched Bill Moyers, you've missed out on some pretty interesting stuff from a host who has the rare talent to captivate his audience with just a few words. Moyers crossed nearly every medium available as an analyst, publisher, TV host, etc. It's hard to find someone in this day and age who represents the ideals of journalism as Bill does.

And after four decades in the news industry, he decided to retire. April 30th, 2010 marked the last night of the Bill Moyers Journal, because in his words, "there are some things left to do that the deadlines and demands of a weekly broadcast don't permit."

You have to admire the man's dedication.

Of all the accolades which Moyers has received, there was a blurb in an article I read on The Daily Beast that caught my attention. It was the correlation which Randy Bean made regarding the writing style Moyers imparted to those who worked with him. Moyers never wanted the writers to use a common style for the copy, but to always imagine the copy being read aloud when they wrote. In the article, she states:

"He taught all of us on his production staff how to write evocatively for the spoken word. Writing voiceover narration is very different from writing for print publication. The ear hears differently than the eye sees.

Plus there are pictures, always pictures, so you work hard to avoid the ever-present "see it, say it" trap. Moyers has impeccable standards when it comes to writing. Listen to one of his commentaries sometime, with your eyes closed. It's lyrical stuff-expressive, deeply felt, personal yet globally relevant, beautifully constructed".

While Moyers wasn't known so much for his voice over, he was known for his commentaries and for his ability to draw you into the story by his ability to use the copy to hit your emotions. The late, great Don LaFontaine simply put it by saying "love the words", and regardless of where you are in your voice over career, I can think of no better advice for those who wish to share the copy they're recording with others, and have it leave a meaningful impression.

The original article can be found here.

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