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

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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