Monthly Archives: June 2007

My, what a big (voice) you have!

You know, everywhere I travel, no matter what kind of CS3/Production Premium material I’m presenting, people are always inquiring about recording voice-overs. Without fail, I’ll have at least 3-5 people (on average) asking about ‘best practices’ for not only capturing the recorded voice, {Is a USB mic plugged into my laptop good enough quality?} but also on how to actually ‘mix’ and ‘master’ the voice so that it sounds, well, like a broadcaster!
Now, I always tell people…there aren’t any special tricks that are suddenly going to make you sound like ‘that movie announcer guy’ (note: for my European and Asian friends, there’s a guy in Hollywood named Don LaFontaine, and he’s responsible for about 90% of all movie trailers and TV sitcom VOs; he’s THAT guy, and you’d know his voice the second you heard it!)
So first, what can’t processing do? Well, for one, you can’t add grit and age if you don’t have it; in other words, if it’s not there to begin with, you’re only going to be wasting time ‘attempting’ to ‘simulate’ a certain sound, and I can honestly say, no one’s really going to go for it. Obviously, you could take up smoking, suck down a pack or two and THEN do your voice overs! Certainly, it’ll give you a bit more ‘rasp’ and a little ‘grit’…but I certainly wouldn’t recommend smoking, and, well, that’s a bit extreme, even for me! (however, I’ve known guys and gals who’ve done it…again, I DON’T recommend this!) Also, if you’ve got a fairly ‘pitchey’ kind of voice, or you tend to speak in a fairly monotone kind of way, processing is not going to add ‘life and personality’ to your voice. That really has to come from within. (read on: it’s all about ‘belief’)
Now, keep in mind that back in the day, to be in radio and broadcast, you had to have PIPES (ie, big voice, big presence). PIPES were the essential characteristic for *any* up-and-coming radio personality. But over the years (largely, since the mid-90s), it became apparent that the (older) dudes with the big voices really just didn’t speak to most people, not anymore. That’s not to say that having good pipes (ie, low, bellowing, mysterious, 70s late-night-disco voice) won’t get you work…it’s just that most radio DJS, and most radio personalities that do commercial Voice Over work are typically ‘regular’ people voices. They sound young (though age is rather subjective, and doesn’t really matter, especially given the subject matter or product), they sound motivated (somestimes, TOO motivated, but high-energy is must), and they DON’T sound like a used car salesman (again, see: 70s late-night-disco-voice man). It’s all about trust, you see…and, for good or bad, the 14-42 year olds just don’t really ‘believe’ or ‘trust’ those old-school pipes anymore. Again, that’s not to say that NO ONE is doing it (there are still a few great classic voices out there, and if you’ve got a legacy, you can keep going), but really, it’s all about BELIEVABILITY and selling YOURSELF (and your naturally-inspiring tones) moreso than putting on a faux-midnight voice and trying to make the ladies swoon (guilty, as charged! I actually have tapes of me doing radio voice-overs at age 12. You WOULD NOT believe your ears. And yes, I was doing 70s late-night-meets-Barry White-voice! llol)
Now…what can good vocal processing do for you? Well, for one, it can make your voice a little bigger, a little louder, and it can even out your (potentially) uneven dynamics…which, right away will make YOUR voice-over sound ten times more professional than your friend who recorded his or hers WITHOUT evening out the dynamics. This is often achieved with a little compression and/or limiiting…but a little goes a long way, and the pay-off is dramatic and 100% professional and broadcast ready. It can also add that needed sparkle and presence, particularly in the mid, and high-mid EQs, just to give you that additional ‘polish’, even if you’re not on an expensive microphone (again, the power of good digital filters….Audition and Soundbooth)
So…now that I’ve given this massive text introduction, I’m sorry to say that I’m having some kind of problem uploading screen shots (which is essential to the next part of this voice-over lesson)…so my blog, though long and wordy, will have to end here for now!! (aww…I make you read all the way through and then don’t give you the goods?? Well, in the words of Elvis Presley, circa 1969 in rehearsals for his Vegas International Hotel premiere, “That’s just the way it is.” 😉
Bare with me, my friends. I hope to get this sorted tomorrow or the next day. Hang in there, and remember…it’s all about selling ‘the belief’. If you believe it, well, your listeners will believe it too…don’t you believe me?? 😉
Believe me! (believe me!), Believe me! (believe me!), I can’t help but love you…but believe me, I’ll never let you down!! (okay…who can name that song?? hint: it’s Elvis, and it’s from the same era/album I just alluded to)
Blog on (and hopefully, with pictures next time, cutting to the chase, sans-narration…here I go again!)
—JL

The Cure for the Common MetaData

I want metadata, particularly where music is concerned. But you know, it never ceases to amaze me how the behind-the-scenes efforts of the content we view is generally over-looked. After all, this is 2007, we’ve got all sorts of groovy ways of acquiring content in a non-packaged distribution kind of way. But…if I download a tune from a popular site (and anyone who knows me already knows that personally, i don’t download Tunes), *and* if I want to know who engineered that tune and where (because I’m nerdy that way), or who produced that tune (because I’m musically geeky that way), or what publishing company handles the performance rights for that tune (’cause I’m a publisher as well), it just isn’t that easy (and generally, much of that data isn’t there anyway). And all this, on material that is supposedly ‘properly’ meta-data tagged from legit sites. (note: you wanna see how much metadata you can put in a file? Check out Bridge CS3 & XMP. Fields upon fields of metadata, all available to you. Fill out those fields, and don’t be shy. Yeah baby, *we’re* looking out for ya!)
Well, I submit to you, Exhibit A, and what I like to call my personal cure for the Common Metadata, and common musical/visual/production curiosity…
Exhibit A – ManualMetaData MkIIIa – CDs and DVDs with Phat Booklets
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
What you see above might shock you…but all of those plastic-encased artifacts came from a store…a magical store called FAME in Amsterdam. I went in, I searched (he he) for hours, I cross-referenced, heck, I even auditioned a few before I decided to keep them, and I dropped a load of Euros. FAME just might be the last great record store in the world (for anyone who cares), and when I got back to my place, I popped one of those old-school artifacts into the CD player, (what the heck is that, daddy?) grabbed my Eye-Viewer & Accessories (See Figure 2…not to be confused with any “iViewer” or anything like that) and began filling my soul with massive amounts of meta-data. Who produced this stuff, who engineered this stuff, who remastered this stuff, what studio transferred, cleaned up, and removed dust and scratches from this material, whether it was widescreen, pan&scan, an HD transfer (and what studios handled all of that). I was replete with MetaData…I was happy…and I did not leave wondering, “Who did this?” And you know what else? It inspired me to seek out other releases by similar studios/producers/directors, in hopes of finding releases of similar quality (or, for that matter, which ones to avoid)
Now, over the years, we’ve had many manual meta-data methods. (nice alliteration)
Figure 2: The EyeViewer with much needed (caffeine) accessories (required for ‘reading’ the metadata…lol)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Old-school MetaData Mk1 – Vinyl, w/gatefold sleeves, etc.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
MetaData MkI was, of course, vinyl, and over the course of 40 years or so, they attempted many ways to present and preserve the “Who did what aspects” of the materials you purchased. Inner sleeves, Gatefold sleeves, back cover printing, all the while trying to showcase who was really responsible for the goods. Vinyl was cool, and when The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper hit stores in June 1967 (40th anniversary this week), we were also treated to ‘lyrical metadata’, right on the back cover. Every word, and who wrote what, (including, producing/engineering credits) displayed right there, for your viewing pleasure. People read it, too. And re-read it. And re-read it.
Now, as the years moved on, and ‘budget’ releases came into play (along with other, less meta-data friendly formats) we started seeing less and less of the ‘who did what’. Gatefolds and elaborate front/back cover prints got expensive, so you were often treated with a track listing, publishing info, and that was it. Heck, lots of releases didn’t even have THE YEAR of release or copyright. Then came 8-tracks and Cassettes. Because of their casings (and lack of usable, printable space for text), early incarnations merely had track listings. Period. Later cassette releases would try to follow suit of the classic LP, with fold-out inserts, again, repeating the glory of years gone by. But this was short lived, and frankly, it was so small, few probably even cared to notice.
And then came the CD. Now, don’t get me wrong. Early CD metadata was non-existent. Shameful, in fact. Save for a few artists in the mid-80s and early 90s (and their associated labels), many early CDs gave you that cheap, throw-away, single-page insert. This included the ‘cover’ of the album on the front, a track list on the back, and nothing else. NOTHING. Early MCA Records CDs were the biggest offenders of this meta-data atrocity. They should have been ashamed…and they were. As by the time the mid-90s rolled around (and CD remastering became the rage, as well as ‘preserving’ the classic sound and contents of the original release) suddenly, metadata was back. All of it. Some, with intriguing tales by the artist of how it all came about. Life was good, those ‘behind’ the glass were happy, and everyone could now know ‘who did what’.
So, what is this rant really about? Well, it’s simply to say that metadata is wickedly important. Not only for tracking and monetization, but also for informing and inspiring those who read it. It was reading about George Martin and Geoff Emerick on the back of Beatles’ records (as well as the names Paul Rothchild and Bruce Botnick on Doors’ albums) that made me want to get into production and engineering…and it gave me people to aspire to be like. (oh…and the sound of the format did too…high-quality sound…but that’s for another blog post)…{subliminal message…FLV rocks…end subliminal message}
Oh, and should you be feeling old-school (and you happen to be in Amsterdam)…check out FAME. It’s truly the last great standing structure for packaged music and video. A dying breed? Yes. A manual meta-data mecca? Absolutely.
Blog on, make metadata, make people smile, and fill out those metadata fields!

Adobe Live Amsterdam; 4951 Attendees; ‘Nuff said.

If you build it, they will come…and they did! The CS3 Tour continued to break attendance records in Europe, as we delighted, entertained, and truly provided some ‘wow’ to nearly 5,000 people at the RAI in Amsterdam this past week.
Like Adobe Live Cologne, we had 4 stages with demonstrations running all day. Greg Rewis, Tim Cole and I worked the main stage during the keynote presos with our own Jim Guerard, and continued to showcase the power of CS3 all day, each day.
On the Adobe video side, we were joined by Karl Soule (who showcased OnLocation and Ultra), and Mike Downey showcased the Adobe Media Player and Apollo technologies. Personally, I conducted eleven, 30-minute sessions each day. Doh! Greg was right up there with me. Tim packed ’em in and kept them wanting more. Masochists? Perhaps. In love with evangelizing CS3 and speaking to standing-room crowds? Indeed…and can I get a hallelujah? 😉
Naturally, as I’ve said repeatedly, the team continues to thrive because of the ‘family’ behind it all…and my dear colleagues from Adobe Benelux were all there…Roel-Jan Mouw, Paul van Keeken, Ronald Baart, Ton Fredericks (presenting, and commanding as always…an Adobe legend), Serge Jespers (more fab presos), Jurgen Dirkse and Bert Hagendoorn to name a few, as well as our newest member of the evangelist family, Rufus Deuchler.
Oh, and that’s just the Adobe side. Let’s not forget my other ‘extended’ family from Blue Projects…Johan, Marietje, Victoria, Lilly & Stella…I miss you already. IBC here we come… 😉
With this much love in the room…can you stand it?? YES. And guess what? It’s all true, all real. (note: here I sit, I listening to The Beatles’ LOVE, reminiscing about the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper…ok, that has nothing to do with this blog)
But back to the show…I think what’s truly incredible about this event is that it just keeps getting bigger. And there are still more events. Adobe Live! UK and Adobe Live! France are this week, with Spain and Italy to follow later inthe month.
All in all, a fantastic journey, an amazing tour, and a true showcase of the quality and dedication of the Adobe customers and the Adobe community in general. It was an absolute pleasure to meet and speak with our users from all over Europe, and I look forward to the next opportunity to re-connect and re-inspire.
So, in the words of my favorite fab four: All you need is love…and CS3. 😉
Blog on. (ps…thanks for the pic, Tim!)