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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ikki Tousen: Xtreme Xecutor now available on DVD and Blu Ray

It's time.

Time for you to watch me get the snot beaten out of me in the fourth season of Ikki Tousen.

Big thanks to Jonathan Klein for letting me be a part of this.  It was an absolute blast!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cool Beans!!!

Every once in a while you stumble across something, doesn't have to be big, doesn't have to be small, but something that gets your attention and reminds you that you're on the right track.

Today I found one.  And then I remembered another.  Cool stuff, and I'll be honest in that I love the nerd cred.

That said, does it change anything for me?  Nope.  In life it's not about the destination, it's the journey which defines us.  In any career you need to approach things as they were a marathon instead of a sprint.

I can use all the platitudes and self-motivational catchphrases I want to but it comes down to this - it's a small acknowledgement of what's been accomplished in an area of voice over which I do not normally get to perform.  One step.

...and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

About Damn Time!!! June Foray wins an Emmy!

If there's one thing that gets me, it's the lack of love (or so it seems) that the industry has for voice actors.

Bob Bergen makes a very strong viewpoint on this, and frankly I'm inclined to agree with it.

So it gives me great pleasure when I hear about the entertainment industry recognizes one of our own.  It doesn't happen often enough from outside of the VO ranks, so when it does I think it's worth lauding.

Voice over legend June Foray took home her first Emmy for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for her performance as Mrs. Cauldron in "The Garfield Show" on Cartoon Network.  This is one role in Ms. Foray's prolific voice over career (she's still rocking the mic at 94 years young), and to me this is an award that's been long overdue to her.

Congrats June!!!  For those who are interested, there's more info here.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quick Review of a Few Ribbon Microphones

First off, there aren't a lot of things out there which get my attention more than new technologies and microphones (there's a reason for the name of the blog... you'll find all three in the studio).  So when I stumble across an article reviewing a few microphones, you have my attention.  Ribbon mics?  Oh hell yes!!!

So it was great aplomb that I stumbled across this article from Sonic Scoop.  It's a bit of an engineer's guide to their favorite ribbon mics.  It doesn't take the point of view from a VO side, but it doesn't take much to figure out how an enterprising voice talent can put one of these to use in their own work (the Coles has been a mainstay of British VO for decades).

Overall, it's about as good an into into modern ribbons that you'll find in about one page of text, but in reality it's rather limited (seriously, how much info can you relate about microphones in a single page?), and some of the choices aren't even produced any more (though the SF-1 is still readily available).  Of course, no discussion of ribbon microphones would be complete without mentioning Wes Dooley and his work at AEA.

But if you've been thinking about using a ribbon mic, this article is a good place to start.

PS: IMO, any list fails without mention of this little beauty below (or the original microphone that it's based upon).

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Friday, June 4, 2010

VOICE 2010, Day 1 (Part 2)

(...continued from previous post)

Next up, I headed off to Liz de Nesnera ‘s presentation on “Talking Telephony”. I don’t get many jobs for that type of voice over, but I know that telephony-based voiceovers are some of most ubiquitous out there, and for people like Liz, it’s a way of life.

This was a sleeper of a panel for me. Before the hate mail starts rolling in, I mean a sleeper, not a snoozer. I wasn’t expecting to get a lot out of this panel, but I was still drawn to learn more about it. I have often said that I’ve learned the most when I didn’t think there was much to learn… this held true for Liz’s panel. Yeah, the technical stuff was pretty easy for me, and not too much was new there (although I can see some great uses for Word2Wav, especially with some of the industrials I have to do). However, the actual voice acting, general schema, etc. related to things such as IVR, voice prompts, and the like were completely new to me and a total 180 from what I expected. Add to that the approach that Liz defined, the marketing techniques she identified, and the simple (yet effective) methods of finding clients (either via direct contact, or by finding production houses which specialize in telephony VO) made this panel a very educational and entertaining one for me.

After the 11AM panel, I headed down to the exhibit hall and toured through the place to see what was being offered. Popped by the Voice Over Extra booth, and greeted John Florian. One of the big things that hit me during VOICE so far was the number of great people whom I met and converse with on a regular basis, but rarely get to see in person. If there’s one thing I do like about VOICE, it’s the ability to meet and catch up with so many people in the industry that I wouldn’t normally get to see otherwise. Unfortunatley, I’m digressing though…

John was nice enough to let me use some space at his booth to set up some gear and get a few roving interviews to share with others. First off was John himself, who was gracious enough to take some time away from what he was doing to give me a few minutes of his time to test out the recording chain. Unfortunately, I only had time for one more interview before the next panel, and I was lucky enough to get Pete Rofe’ to agree to join me for what turned into a monster interview (but a really good one, as Peter’s insights into voice over and acting in general are spot on). Once I get a chance to upload the clips, I’ll share them via the blog (and John was very kind to host the clips as well). I can’t promise the best quality due to the environment, but for those who wanted to attend, but couldn’t or weren’t sure that VOICE was for them, I think these clips will be a great way to see just what you’re missing.

After snagging those two interviews, I was able to bounce between George Whittam's panel on the Technology of Voiceover and Erik Sheppard's panel on Simple Mistakes that Talent Make. Now for those who don't know George Whittam, he's the guy behind Eldorado Recording Services. Prior to VOICE 2010, I heard one talent who was critiquing the Guests of Honor ask the question "who is George Whittam... I've never heard of him." Well, this is George Whittam, and any guy who can build a studio for the likes of the late Don LaFontaine, Joe Cipriano, and a veritable "who's who" within the voice acting community (not to mention the Don LaFontaine Voiceover Lab) is A-ok in my book. George's panel is always a good one, especially for new talent or those who don't have some kind of recording background. Even gearheads like me can pick up a few things with some of the newer technologies out there which we may have otherwise ignored. For example, I would never have bothered to utilize something like a CEntrance MicPort Pro for my "VO 2 Go" kit if I hadn't read George's reviews of the device.

(Besides, George originally hails from my hometown, West Chester PA. You've got to support the locals :)

Erik Sheppard's panel was also very good, and highlighted mistakes that pretty much any voice actor has made over the course of their career (most of which he probably enocuntered first hand in his position with Voice Talent Productions). I heard more than a few groans and such from folks who'd committed the very same faux pas that Erick discussed. It was a great panel which discussed ways in which voice over talent manage to work themselves out of a job via oversights, snafus, and by not following directions.

That last one is in bold for a reason, because while some items can be overlooked (one of my better clients was landed by a fauz pas on my part which might have seemed fatal at the time, but was turned into a positive experience for the client by the way in which I handled it), an unwillingness to follow client/agent/casting director/director directions is a very quick way to make certain that your demo gets tossed into the "ignore" pile.

The final panel for the afternoon session I attended was Beverley Bremer's panel on "How to Weat 3 Hats". I viewed this as a panel which was really good for beginner and intermediate voice talent, as too often they focus on one aspect of the voice over process (usually the talent). While that's not a bad thing per se, it can quickly lead to a myopic view that causes the talent to lose out on various opportunities. Within the voice over world, the voice actor needs to put themselves in the position of talent, director, and engineer. The talent portion of the presentation is pretty self-explanatory, however the other two are often overlooked by voice talent that is less experienced. Interpretation of what the director wants, and the ability to self-direct are as important as the acting ability according to Bremers, and I wholeheartedly agree. There's an old VO adage which states that your first take needs to be what the specs ask for, but the second should be what you think they actually want. That's self-direction for VO in a nutshell... you need to be able to understand what the copy is really asking for and then to do it.

The final item, Engineering, is a bit of a no-brainer if you have a home studio, but you'd be amazed how often people forget to do a little audio engineering during their auditions. A poorly edited file is a quick way to work yourself out of a booking that would have otherwise been yours. Especially in today's VO market, it's become more and more of a critical skill to have, and one which cannot be ignored.

On that note, I'm going to try and get some rest before Day 2. There's nothing worse than trying to attend these panels when you're batteries need major recharging.

By the end of Beverly's panel, I was pretty well wiped out. That's the thing with VOICE. If you try to hit everything, you're going to be wiped out at the end of the day. It's not a bad thing, but you need to be judicious when it comes to what you choose to attend, because some panels are more intensive than others.



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VOICE 2010, Day 1 (Part 1)

Managed to have a slightly saner wakeup call this morning (6:15AM), which was a most pleasant change from the day before. Got a quick breakfast, showered, shaved, and ready for the day’s activities. First off was the introductory speech by James and Penny, which was similar to what was at VOICE 2008, but thankfully the issues which kept the keynote speaker from appearing did not occur this time.

This year, the opening speaker for VOICE was none other than Pat Fraley. If you haven’t worked with, trained with, or seen a presentation from Pat, then you’re missing out. Without a doubt, Pat is one of the nicest guys in the business, and one most well respected (the man is a VO machine; just check out his imdb page... it's nothing short of astounding). For VOICE he didn’t disappoint, but then again he never does…

Pat opened the convention with the premise of voiceover comedy. As voice over folks, we often bring comedy into what we do, but how often do we actually think about the comedy within the copy? Not as often as you might think. To do this, Pat started to cast for a spot that he wanted to use to kick off the show. He asked for what was nothing less than an unusual character (gruff, Jewish, and 6’9”). If that sounds a bit off, you’re 100% right, but that’s because Pat was setting us all up for his co-host, who was none other than Brad Garrett… hey, I told you that Pat never disappoints.

What followed was one of the most riotous panels I’ve ever seen in my life. Pat and Brad riffed on pretty much everyone and everything, and frankly, this event was worth the cost of admission alone (for me at least). As Pat, Brad, and a host of volunteers demonstrated throughout the 90+ minute panel, there are a multitude of ways to raise the stakes of the copy to the point of hilarity, and still get the message across. All too often, I think these are things which get overlooked (or can be) in the morass of the process. It reminded me a LOT of improvisation, and the things I’d learned during my time training with the People’s Improv Theatre in NYC.

I'm trying my best not to give anyone eye strain from all the stuff that occurred at VOICE 2010, so I've been breaking these up as best possible. I'll have the second half of the the first day of VOICE 2010 up later tonight.


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VOICE 2010 Red Carpet Reception Photos

Wow... what a night Wednesday night has been! I got to meet a lot of old friends I haven't been able to see in the past few months/years, and got to meet some new ones whom I only knew from our interactions online. Best of all, I got to meet a bunch of new people, whom I might not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.

For those who weren't able to make it.... here are a few pictures of the Red Carpet event that I promised yesterday.

Here's the kickoff to the night's festivities (and to VOICE 2010) with Bobbin Beam and Dave Courvoisier.

Next up, we have James Alburger and Penny Abshire, the organizers for VOICE 2010.

Of course, John Florian from Voice Over Extra can be found with a camera (sorry John... couldn't resist).

The Red Carpet Reception is one of those events that's designed for voice actors to congregate and socialize. As you can see, we had a lot of that going on last night...

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Welcome to VOICE 2010!

Well, I was packed (more or less) and ready to head out to the airport for my flight to Los Angeles sometime around “dark 0-hundred”. Now I love to travel, but the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn to get on to a plane is not quite my idea of a good time. Love heading out to LA to network and learn with some of the best voice over people in the business, but don’t mess with my sleep…

Get to the airport, which was unusually busy at 5:40 AM on a Wednesday, bags checked, and got to play with the folks from TSA (who were surprisingly nonchalant about me waltzing through security with a DSLR kit in one bag and a bunch of recording gear in the other). Hop on the plane and get to enjoy Southwest’s hospitality for the next 7.5 hours.

When I finally landed in LA, I was fortunate enough to arrive about 30 minutes or so early. Good stuff… lets me get more done before the festivities begin. Got to the hotel, checked in (ironically, I’m only about two doors down from the room I was in at VOICE 2008, which was one of the nicer hotel rooms I’d been in over the past two years). Another item of irony (and unexpected pleasure) was to spot the person who was checking into their room right before me. None other than D.B. Cooper, whom I haven’t seen in far too long for my tastes (not only a talented voice actress and Website designer, but D.B. runs one of the larger and more popular forums on the net). After spending some time chatting with D.B., I did something which I probably should have done earlier… eat (save for a bag of peanuts on the flight, and a 100 calorie pack of cheese-its, I’d not had much chance to grab some food). For those who’ve never been to the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza where VOICE is being held, I’ll say two things about it:

1. Very nice hotel that will cater to nearly any need you might have, with a restaurant that is staffed by one of the friendliest groups of people that I’ve met in my travels.
2. If they could figure out a way to charge you a fee for using the air, they probably would.
If you can get past the second item, I highly recommend staying here whenever you’re in Los Angeles.

It seems that my penchant for running into people was in high gear today… as I’m heading out of the restaurant, I run into none other than Ron Levine, the venerable Santa Claus that everyone remembered from VOICE 2008. After helping Ron to settle in a bit, we headed over to the local mall to stretch our legs a bit after spending several hours on our respective flights, and to pick up some supplies to get us through the conference (as much as I do enjoy the hotel we’re at, I’m not crazy enough to pay some of the prices they’re asking for at times). Headed back to the hotel after grabbing some supplies and somehow managed to catch about 30 or so minutes of rest before getting changed and ready for the Red Carpet Reception which kicked off VOICE 2010.

So after getting a bit of rest and changing into something a bit more appropriate than jeans and a wrinkled shirt, I headed down to the Red Carpet Reception. What follows is the stuff that voice actor’s dreams are made of (at least I’d like to think so). Penny Abshire and James Alburger managed to put together an event which literally drew hundreds of voice talent from all over the world. While it was obvious that VOICE 2010 was going to be a smaller event than in years past, it was also apparent that it wouldn’t be for lack of effort. A large contingent from Europe and Japan, not to mention Canada, and at least one person from Turkey were in attendance. Regardless of what happens during the course of this conference, it’s obvious that VOICE has developed an international reach, which is nothing short of impressive in the years since the event first took place. Where else can you meet such amazing talent as Bob Bergen, Pat Fraley, Joe Cipriano, Beau Weaver, Stu Herrera, Bobbin Beam, Dave Courvoisier, and a host of others all under one roof at the same time?

Unfortunately, I did not have one of my better cameras with me last night, however, I did manage to take more than a few pictures of people while I was at the event, and I'll be putting up a few once I get a chance to upload them. They’re a little dark, but if you’re reading this I think it will give you a good understanding of just what the folks at VOICE have going on.

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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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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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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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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another Sign of the Zombie Apocaplyse, Perhaps?

I'm not quite sure what to file this one under, but fresh off the heels of Tiger Woods's less than spectacular Nike ad, we get this.

Orson Welles to narrate upcoming animation.

The interesting and exciting part for me is that the narration is considered to be the last professional recording of Welles, and literally sat on a shelf for over twenty-five years. Quite frankly, it was one of those little legends that turned out to be true.

On the other hand, the use of deceased celebrities in new media doesn't often end well. Just ask folks who thought it was a good idea to "resurrect" Orville Redenbacher and produce one of the creepiest commercials I've ever seen. From my own experience, the first national commercial I was ever in used this same technology to bring back Frank Sinatra from the grave for the NBA's "Live it Live" campaign back in 2002. I still shudder a bit whenever I see that one on YouTube. It was definitely a great PR campaign, but it was just a little too eerie for me.

I'm just thankful that Mr. Welles is merely providing a voiceover for the upcoming production.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

On being a bad blogger...

I just read Kara Edward's confession, and nothing personal Kara but I put you to shame (though Kara's posting is definitely worth the read; as usual she makes some very simple and salient points).

It's been forever since I've put up a blog posting. In that time a lot has happened, but most of it would bore you so I'm not going to get into the details right now. The big thing is that I used the time off to do a little research and experimentation with the site. One of the biggies is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Despite the fact that my blog is not directly tied to my website (since it's hosted by Blogger, as opposed to those folks using WordPress or something else hosted on their site), it still affects the SEO of my website so one of the things I've been doing is to chart some progress on what happens when we stop blogging (opposed to someone who blogs at least 3-4 times per week).

I think a lot of people will be surprised with what I found, and also, there's never really been a good clear guide to those starting out just what all this SEO stuff is anyway (at least I've never seen one in relation to voice over, or put in any format other than that of a Web designer or admin). I'm going to use the opportunity to do that as well, since the algorithms can be pretty scary for those who don't have a background with that sort of thing (I can do encryption in my sleep and I had to spend a few hours wrapping my head around all of the different algorithms that each search engine uses).

In the end though, I've got some simple insights and suggestions (some of which are positively dumb for the technically savy amongst us... not everyone is, so I want a level playing field) so that this whole SEO thing is a lot less scary for the beginners, and maybe provide a different spin on things for the "old goats" amongst us.

This isn't all going to be covered in one posting, but starting tomorrow I'm hoping to shine a little more light on the subject.


PS: after my last article in Voice Over Extra, I've been getting a lot of requests for a posting or two relating to two things: passwords, and backups. I'm going to try and keep this blog to no more than two "technical" posts/threads per month, but once I'm through the SEO postings, I'll be doing those. Thanks to everyone who's been asking for help... you've giving me a lot of new material to write about (frankly, I didn't expect so much feedback on the more technical side of my persona). Keep them coming by clicking on the contact link here or on the upper right-hand side of this page.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

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:
  • Demos
  • Partial client list
  • Email
  • Training
  • Formal education

Now here's the stuff I was able to aggregate:

  • Home address (from domain name; pictures on LiveJournal account match Google Street images of address from domain listing) .
  • I know from various postings that my target has children (from LiveJournal).
  • Past tweets tell me the name of the school, and of the target's oldest child (from Twitter).
  • Twitter also gives me the target's phone number.
  • The target's current employer (they also have a day job; LinkedIn provided that info).
  • Current complainTs about employer (aggregated the target's contact email address via Google query) .
  • Vaction plans (Twitter, LiveJournal, and Blog)
    ...and a lot more (via
    Flickr, MySpace, and Xanga).

...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.


-Gregory Houser, CISSP, GCIP, etc.

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How to choose a Voice Over microphone.

Procomm has a great blog post up about Choosing a Voice Over Microphone.

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.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two items of interest for fans of "Family Guy"

For those who've been reading Voice Actors in the News, you know that the main cast of "Family Guy" (Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Mike Henry and Seth Green) were recently interviewed on "Inside the Actor's Studio" this past Monday. As host James Lipton put it:

“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.

Hat tip to Voice Actors in the News for the first article.

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