Thursday, February 26, 2009

My ISDN Journey- for reals ya'll!

I've learned a valuable lesson about spending too long writing a blog...once you are ready to publish, it vanishes to the bottom of the list. Live and learn I guess :)

For anyone hoping to read my blog about my journey with ISDN, please click here- or scroll down the page a bit.

Thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Recession-Proofing a Voice Over Career

Tracy Pattin of recently asked on her blog what voice actors were doing to recession-proof their careers. It's obviously a timely question, and I was happy to share my feelings on the topic.

I am honored that Tracy chose to publish my response to her question on her blog this evening.

If you would like to respond to Tracy's important question, be sure to leave a comment on her blog, as she will be publishing several answers in the weeks ahead.

Make sure to also check out Part I and Part II with my friends Caryn Clark and Bob Souer.

For me, 2009 has kicked off with a bang bringing in some new and exciting work! Already this year, I've recorded projects for Highlights, Raggs, Involution Media, Cartoon Network, Wii, Student Ambassadors, Florida Dept of Health, and more! Will this trend continue? It's impossible to know- what is certain is that I will continue to work hard and provide my clients with the best service I can. By not panicking, and staying consistent with my product- I believe I will continue to succeed. It's important to keep our confidence high and our talents fine tuned. What about you? What are you doing to recession-proof your career? If you prefer to leave your comments here, I am happy to pass them along to Tracy- just be sure to let me know!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

When Life Gives You Bananas...

A couple of months ago, my husband and I decided to become members of BJ's as it was right down the road and we knew that they had some great deals on groceries, etc. As part of their 'thank you for becoming members' gift, we received a very large bunch of bananas.

Unfortunately, this large bunch of bananas was very green. As you may or may not know, green bananas rarely turn a lovely yellow once you get them home- they often go straight to an aged brown. Sadly, this was the case with our bananas.

I've never been someone that could easily throw out food (blame it on the 'starving children' routine we all heard as kids), so I decided to make banana nut bread- which actually tastes better when made with over-ripened bananas. Because of the overabundance of over-ripened bananas I had, I was able to make multiple loaves of bread and freeze a few of them.

Last night I was eating one of the last slices of the last loaf of bread when it occurred to me...if I was able to turn a large bunch of free (but seemingly useless) green bananas into multiple loaves of bread (which we were able to enjoy for two months straight) and I only had to purchase a small bag of pecans to make it happen...what could this mean for my voice over business?

All over the Internet, there are a thousand 'free' ways to get my name out there (Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, etc). Is there a way to add a dash of creativity and effort and turn a little social networking into lucrative opportunities that could be enjoyed for months and years down the road? While I have stumbled into some work just by being 'present' online, I haven't yet made a conscious effort to really use the tools I have at my fingertips.

As I look for new ways to market my business this year, I plan to find different ways to test my 'banana theory'. I know the tools are right here, but it's up to me to find new ways to use them before throwing something that could be great into the trash.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My ISDN Journey

Earlier today, I was speaking with my pal Erik Sheppard. I mentioned that I had tried on multiple occasions to write a blog about my ISDN experiences, but hadn't thus far succeeded. I explained that my journey was so lengthy, exhausting, and borderline traumatic- that even thinking about it brought back bad memories! OK, I'm being just a tad dramatic here- but it was an interesting process! However, Erik reminded me that people might have an opportunity to learn from my journey- and we go! Instead of taking you step by step through the 6 month process of finally having working ISDN, I've decided to just list out a few things that I've learned that might make your own ISDN journey a bit easier.

First, a little of the back story...My ISDN journey began last August when my husband and I made the decision to move from Charlotte, NC to Tampa, FL. It wasn't possible for me to install ISDN in my previous studio due to location and several other factors. So, I had always used a local studio anytime I needed ISDN. However, I knew it was going to be imperative that I set up ISDN in my new studio in order to continue recording several of my regular projects. My journey began August 1st, 2008 and ended February 11th, 2009. I am thrilled to finally be able to say that I have working ISDN in my home studio and I am loving it!

Here are a few of the very valuable things learned from my own journey written with the hope that they may help your journey.

1. Before you spend a single penny, make sure you live in an area that can get ISDN. This is a very old technology that fewer and fewer companies are providing support for. We actually narrowed down our potential new homes based on which ones could get ISDN.

2. It may be necessary for you to be incorporated or an LLC. Residential ISDN is no longer provided in any area that I know of, only business ISDN. Therefore- you must be a business (and be able to prove so) to get it.

3. You are going to need to know a lot about ISDN before you even make your first call. 99% of the people you speak with at the various ISDN providers will have little to no idea what you are talking about when you say you want ISDN BRI. Why is this? Voice actors, radio, and TV stations are the only folks left in the world that use ISDN BRI (according to my contact at Verizon) therefore, there is little reason to train new employees on this technology.

4. Make sure you ask for the business ISDN BRI line and be very specific about what you need. Aren't sure exactly what you need? Then enlist a studio or ISDN expert to help you (such as Digifon). I enlisted the help of my friends at ProComm studios as well as several VO pals that really know their stuff!

5. You will need to decide what type of codec you want to use, or if Audio TX is the way you want to go. I chose to use a Telos Zephyr, as that's what I was trained on back in my radio days.

6. Should you buy a new or used codec? It's hard to say. I went the pre-owned route. I purchased a unit on Ebay after asking several questions of the seller. I originally paid $1100- a great price! However, once the codec arrived at my house I discovered it needed $600 in repairs. Yuck! Still, $1700 is a great price for an ISDN codec and it's working great now!

7. Once the line has been installed, you will need to specify a long distance carrier. Here is where things got VERY tricky for me! I went with MCI. They seemed to understand what I needed, and I was given a great rate per minute. Almost immediately, I began experiencing problems with my line dropping out. I can't explain why, but it has something to do with MCI's service. I'm not saying MCI won't work for you- it just didn't work for me. From what I was told, they no longer provide support for data lines. So- I cancelled the service and switched to Sprint. I've been good to go since!

8. Make friends with the person that installs your line, and ask for his/her phone number. A local construction crew accidentally cut my ISDN lines in the middle of one of my first sessions, and I spent 4 days waiting for my provider to find one of the very few people that know how to repair and test ISDN lines. I wrote his number down so I can call him directly in the future!

9. Along those same lines, write down the name and direct number of every competent and helpful person you come across! It's a good safety measure- as you never know when or if you may encounter problems with your lines.

10. Staying on that topic- keep your friends who have ISDN on your speed dial. When the repair tech arrived to work on my lines, my pals Bob Souer, Caryn Clark, Ben Wilson, and Philip Banks were all willing to help me test the lines. A couple of them tested with me several times over several weeks, and I honestly can't thank them enough! In fact, send me an e-mail if you need someone to test your line with you- I'm all about paying it forward!

11. Make sure to ask about all the costs associated with getting your line up and running, and what the provider charges for repairs. I was lucky that I wasn't charged for repairs (since my line was cut), but I was told they typically do. Setting up my ISDN lines cost $275. The monthly fee for me is about $70 for the line, and $5 minimum for long distance. I pay $.07-.10 per minute per line to dial out depending on whether the call is in or out of state. These rates will vary greatly city to city, so be sure to ask what you can expect to pay. You will rarely need to dial out, but it's good to know in advance what those rates will be!

12. Once your lines are working, ask some of your VO friends and studios you work with regularly to give you honest feedback on your overall sound. Philip Banks was able to pick up on a slight ring to my studio I hadn't noticed before. It was minor, but could have become major if a new studio didn't like the way it sounded! I was able to isolate and solve the problem, thanks to Philip's keen hearing! Make sure you are getting the thumbs up from people you know before seeking out new business. As voice actors, we often only get one shot to get it right- so don't waste it!

13. Finally, make sure to ask any questions you have of the codec company, line provider, etc, and keep good notes! Knowledge is indeed power, and the more you know the better your chances of success with ISDN!

I've heard so often in the last few months that ISDN is on it's way out. Perhaps, but I doubt it. If the studios that use ISDN are anything like me...I feel I've spent too much time and too much money to turn my back on ISDN now! However, finding support for ISDN is becoming more difficult- which is why it's good to prepare yourself for the journey. If there are ever any questions I can answer, I will do my best to help...or at least point you in the direction of someone who can.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Back That Thang Up!

I hope you will forgive my lengthy absence from this blog, I've been on that roller coaster known as ISDN. Thankfully, the ride seems to be over and I will soon blog about all the things I've learned over the last few months about setting up home ISDN.

In the meantime, I wanted to blog about a recent experience I had regarding backing up my audio files. I could easily be called paranoid when it comes to backing up computer data. Not only does my computer back itself up to an external drive at 2am every morning, I also save important Pro Tools sessions and finalized mp3's to a second external hard drive. I've always worried that someday a client would return to me needing a very old file, and I wouldn't be able to find it.

Starting this year, I've decided to purchase an external drive to hold all the files for each individual year. That way I know exactly where to go to find old files. I haven't decided yet how long I'll hold on to files- but I'm guessing around 4 years or so.

Now on to the story that prompted this blog. Last week I received an e-mail from a client I had recorded a character voice for last June. It was being used on a DVD animation for a children's product. The product is close to being released and they were making some final edits on the animation.

For some reason, their file of my audio had developed a glitch and they needed me to send a new copy of the original file. It took less than an hour for me to break out my 2007 external drive, plug it in, do a search for the file, and re-upload it to my ftp. Needless to say, the client was very pleased!

The way I see it, a 500GB external drive is around $120. One of these can hold most of my files for the year, and it seems more than worth it to me.

In fact, now that I've added ISDN to my studio, I've decided to record all sessions on my end as well. That way if they accidentally delete theirs, or have any problems- they've always got mine as back up!

As Julia Roberts once said in the movie, 'Pretty Woman'..."I'm a safety girl!" (Although this line was said in a little different context- I think it still works here- hah!)