Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Tools in Your VO Tool Belt

Long gone are the days when very few actors had studios in their homes. Nowadays, if you don't have some way to record and send high-quality files with minimal notice, you are most likely fighting an uphill battle with your voice over career.

Each time I build a new studio, I'm careful to reassess- insuring I have the latest and greatest technology. Things are changing so quickly, and the possibilities for home studios seem endless!

I remember the first time I heard about something called 'Source Connect'. It was in 2007, and I was given a demo of SC at the VOICE conference in Vegas. I never did pop in that DVD to see what it was all about, but it wasn't long before SC was part of everyone's vocabulary. I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when I decided to purchase the SC plug-in. I hadn't had a single client ask for it, and honestly wasn't sure if it was something I would ever need. However, I've kept one rule throughout my full-time VO career: If I have all the tools I could possibly need hanging from my tool belt, then I'll be ready for any imaginable situation.

(For anyone unaware of what Source Connect is, I borrowed this description directly from their website: Source-Connect enables audio connections between digital audio systems anywhere in the world, allowing direct-to-the-timeline recording with real-time, broadcast-quality audio)

For the first year, I never used it. Not once. Then I moved to Texas unexpectedly and spent a year without ISDN (the horror!). Thankfully, many of the studios I had previously connected to with ISDN were all too happy to switch my sessions over to Source Connect. So there was very little work lost.

Several months ago, I reconnected my ISDN lines and figured SC would once again be put on the back burner. Boy was I wrong! A month or so ago I was contacted by a company in Ireland to record a very long script. During the first hour we connected over ISDN, then they asked if I had Source Connect. Yes, I do! In the end, it saved them a ton of money on international line charges...which obviously made for one happy client.

Then this morning as I was waiting for the 'chirp chirp' of my ISDN line, I received a call on my cell. It was the studio- calling in a panic. Their ISDN lines had just gone down and we were 4 minutes out from the client calling in. The other talent was within driving distance of the studio, so she went in to record her section of the script. However, I was half a country away. Was there any chance I had Source Connect? As a matter of fact...yes! We connected with no issues, and 30 minutes later everyone was happy.

I remember several years ago having to visit my dentist after I broke a tooth eating (of all things) popcorn. An onlay, a root canal, and a full crown later- I was as good as new. Despite being one of the lesser enjoyable experiences of my life- there was one thing that really stuck out during the process. My dentist had just purchased this cool machine that made the crown right in his office using high pressure water to create the tooth shape. It was the latest and greatest, and made my life much easier since I didn't have to wait forever for the crown to be created in another location. Yes, he had spent a small fortune on the machine, but he believed that if he could make his patient's lives easier, then hopefully they would continue to use him- and recommend their friends as well.

The same principal applies to voice over. If your clients know they can rely on you (and your studio) to solve any imaginable issue they could encounter...well, you know the rest of the story.

All of the cool gizmos and gadgets we keep in our studio are there to make our lives, and our clients lives, easier. So staying on top of the technology curve is vital. I honestly look forward to seeing how my studio will look 5, 10, or 50 years from now...and how much easier and more enjoyable my job can become! (Though it is hard to imagine it being any more fun!)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to Blogging!

I've been absent from my blog for some time now (scroll down and you will see my last blog was posted over a year ago). However, I've recently felt inspired to pick it back up again. The main reason? I love my job. I love talking about it, writing about it, and sharing my joy with others. I realize how blessed I am to make a living as a voice actor, and keeping this blog updated is one small way I can hopefully help others reach their voice over goals.

In the past year, I've received hundreds of e-mails from people wanting to get into voice over. Unfortunately, I just haven't had the time to answer all of them. And that really bothers me. I hate leaving questions unanswered, especially when I know I can help! So I've been thinking that this blog might be a way for me to answer many of those questions, in a larger forum, and hopefully reach more people.

My original goal for this blog was to give an honest picture of what it is like to be a full-time voice actor. Hopefully you've learned from my successes and failures, and will continue to do so.

This past year has been quite an adventure! I moved back to Texas and settled into a great new place that I plan to call home for a little while. I knew when I moved that I really wanted to find a good deal on a vocal booth to make setting up my new studio a breeze. I put word out with several of my producer friends, and one of them let me know about a booth that was for sale here in Dallas. After several e-mails and a few months going back and forth on the price, I became the owner of a pristine 3.5 x 5 x 8' double walled Whisper Room! Turns out, finding it was the easy part...moving it was a whole different story!

I wanted to be present when the booth was taken apart so I could see how to put it back together. I went to the studio and spent 3 hours tearing it down. Then, (with the help of some very nice and very strong men) I loaded it into a 10' moving truck and drove it to it's new home. 2 friends helped me lug the heavy pieces up a flight of stairs...and a dear engineer friend helped me put it together. I'd love to say it went off without a hitch, but I'd be lying. My friend Kevin and I were 4 hours in (and almost finished) when the last few pieces would not fit in properly. It turns out we had put the floor in upside down, which meant a complete tear-down and rebuild. 8 hours...and a few swear words later...I had a gorgeous vocal booth :)

The room that I am using is about 12 x 12, so I knew I wanted a large wrap-around desk for my computer, printer, and speakers. I found the perfect desk at Office Depot (I believe it is part of the Christopher Lowell collection). Once the desks were in place, I brought in my file cabinet- a few special pictures...and the studio was basically complete! Since I've moved studios many times in the past, setting up my equipment was no problem at all. For anyone wondering, I use a Neumann TLM103 mic (I have a LAwson L47FET I use at times too), a Focusrite pre, Mackie mixer, Telos Zephyr (ISDN), Samson studio monitors, and Pro Tools 9 on my 27" iMac.

As for ISDN, if you've followed my blog in the past- you know all about my trials and tribulations in previous studios. I'm happy to report that this time there were no issues at all! A local producer friend set me up with all of the people I needed to contact to install my lines, and in under 2 weeks everything was working great!

While moving is never fun, I will say that setting up a new studio always renews my energy for my business. This is, by far, my favorite studio yet...and something must be working right because business has never been better!

So if you are looking at a big move, or a major life change...hang in there. It may take a lot of work, and you may feel discouraged from time to time- but there will be light at the end of that tunnel!!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Look for more regular updates in the future. I plan to tackle some of the many questions I've received recently about breaking into voice over, and establishing a successful business. Not everyone's path will be the same, but hopefully we can learn a lot from each other.