DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #26: Why I’m Not Adventurous…no, I mean why I stick to my specialties in VO. What did you think I meant?

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

The guy featured in the opening clip is an enormously talented (as in he makes seven figures) VO talent by the name of Ben Patrick Johnson. He most certainly does have a great voice, and his talent is enough to justify the money he makes (and, by all accounts, he’s a really nice guy). Here’s the thing, though…this particular audioblog entry is about why I’m not really intimidated by him, nor am I worried about him–because we’re not competing for the same jobs.

The five words that are probably some of the most harmful words to people entering the VO business (or, at the very least, those who are thinkin’ about it) are, “You have a great voice.” I’ve said it many times, and people who have been doing it for much longer than I have said it even more times: it takes much more than a great voice to succeed in this business. So I was inspired to write this audioblog entry when someone was nice enough to give me that “great voice” compliment some time ago after visiting my website and looking at some of the projects I’ve done. My response? “Well, I’m glad you think so, but honestly, I only have a good voice–at best–for the things they use my voice for.”

What do I mean by that? I mean that I only get hired for jobs where my voice and acting ability can add something to a particular VO project–be it credibility, youth, reassurance, excitement, sincerity, what have you. Knowing what your vocal specialty is in this business is a necessity if you intend to compete. For me, that’s the “young, hip, cool” sound. Whenever I get an audition that requests a “deep, gritty, movie trailer voice”…than I won’t even audition for it. ‘Cause that just ain’t my voice (or, to use the metaphor recently employed by my online VO buddy Derek Chappell, it ain’t my make and model). Unless, of course, the client is intentionally looking for a humorously fakey-sounding parody of the typical movie trailer voice style perfected by the late Don LaFontaine, Hal Douglas, and Ben Patrick Johnson…but they usually aren’t.

Weird thing, though…in many ways, this goes against what I was taught in high school and in college, where I was educated in acting. There, they emphasized versatility above all else. They emphasized the ability to adapt to any character whatsoever…anything from a neurotic teenager to a grizzly old man. They wanted you to get inside the character’s head, no matter who the character was. Whether or not you’d realistically be cast in this role in a real-life situation was irrelevant.

As well-intentioned as that may have been (hey, education is about allowing someone to flex their creative muscles and think outside the box), there’s a bit of a disconnect between the art of acting and the business of acting. In the art of acting, we’re supposed to be as versatile an actor as possible so that we can take on as many roles as possible. In the business of acting, though, the most successful actors are the ones who can market themselves effectively by telling all potential clients, “Hey–here’s how you can use me.” Casting nowadays–not just in VO, but in all forms of acting–is typecasting. “Typecasting” used to be an evil word that meant the end of an actor’s career, but now it’s simply a wise business practice.

Discouraged that you can’t do whatever you want in VO? Don’t be. The good thing about this is that I don’t have to worry about the deep-voiced movie trailer guys. Why? Because, as enormously talented as these guys are, their voices sound nothing like mine, and are so far separated from mine that I don’t have to wonder if I’m losing jobs to them. I’m not. The jobs that they’re getting are jobs that I never had any chance of getting, because my specialty is different than theirs. Similarly, they’re not getting jobs that demand voices of the “young, hip, cool” variety. VO is competitive, sure, but you’re never competing against everyone.

VO is a tough job, but there’s one universal benefit–it requires a lot of introspection about what your talents are. Remember, you are enough! Don LaFontaine once said, “The best voice actors I know are the voice actors who understand their relationship with words.” So really, I know that few people talk this way, but if you really want to compliment a voice actor, the best thing you can possibly say is not, “You have a great voice”…but rather, “You really know how to use your voice.”

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DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG Entry #5: Why I Quit…no, I mean why I quit trying to solve this problem I was having with my recordings and enlisted the services of George Whittam. What did you think I meant?

George Whittam, Da Man himself!

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

Okay. First off, if you’re listening to this blog, you’ll notice that the volume is a tad on the low side. Don’t turn up your speakers just yet, though. You’ll see why in a second.

You see, this blog entry is essentially an endorsement of a particular audio genius by the name of George Whittam. Chances are you’ve heard of him if you’ve been in VO for even a little bit. Have you worked with him, though? If not, you should! Especially if you’re having problems with your audio editing program that you can’t seem to get rid of.

He’s most certainly qualified—he has hosted several webinars for Voice-Over Xtra on many audio editing programs, he co-hosts the East-West Audio Body Shop (or “EWABS”) show with Dan Lenard, he constructed several home studios for big-name voice actors, and was the personal recording engineer of Don LaFontaine (aka “The Movie Trailer Guy,” aka “The Voice of God,” aka “The ‘In A World’ Guy,” aka “The Voice Actor Who Made Way, Way, Way More Money Than The Rest Of Us Voice Actors”). George also oversees the Don LaFontaine Voice-Over Lab in Los Angeles. All of this to say…George knows his stuff.

Or so I heard. Recently, though, I had the opportunity to confirm this for myself. I was having some problems with my some of my settings in my Twisted Wave audio editing program. What problems, I can hear my hypothetical listeners and readers asking? Well, you’re listening to them right now. I decided to record this audioblog entry using the problematic settings that I had been using before, to give you an idea of what was fixed. It wasn’t a *irreparable* problem per say, but I found myself getting around this problem with my compression settings by taking my audio back and forth between two different editing programs. To say that it was time-consuming is a huge understatement. Because I never settle for anything short of the best results that I can deliver, I decided that my clients deserved a much faster workflow.

But quite frankly, even if they didn’t, I wanted a faster workflow anyway. So…

I tried relentlessly to figure it out for myself, but I just couldn’t. So I figured…”You know what? I’ll give George a shot.” So, I signed up for a service appointment at his website, eldorec.com, and he solved my problem for me. Quite literally, actually. Using this really cool program called Mikogo, which would allow him to remotely view my computer (and allow me to remotely view his), he took my audio file, fired up Twisted Wave on his end, and made his own custom configurations to make sure that my audio sounded the best it could. Through modifying some of my compression settings and introducing some peak limiter settings—all on his end—he not only got my audio sounding good, but saved all of the new custom settings that he had come up with into a file type that could be imported into my own computer. He emailed that to me, I downloaded it, and bam—I’ve got new preferences that eliminated my problem, so that now my audio sounds like this.

See? Told you not to turn your speakers up.

Through it all, he was so calm and calculating, taking his time to explain to me why he was making his particular settings. Which, mind you, he did not need to take the time to do at all since he just ended up emailing me my new settings anyway.

While I have indeed developed a growing fascination with the more technical side of VO—and gave into that growing fascination by buying Pro Tools to learn on the side—the fact of the matter is, I come from an acting background. I don’t mind the technical stuff, and I’m even growing to love it, but it’s still second to my passion for acting. For George to go into my system so easily, and eliminate my technical problems for me, is a huge load off this actor’s mind.

Here’s another way to put it. Have you ever watched the third Star Wars movie, “Return of the Jedi?” You know that small, weird creature that sits near Jabba the Hutt?

All it does is give this mocking laugh, and he’s utterly annoying because his origins are never explained? Well, that’s pretty much what audio anomalies are. They’re annoying, they’re often hard to explain, they mock you at every turn, and you don’t know why they’re even there. If you hire George, he gets all of the annoying audio anomalies out so that you can just go back to being an actor. Can you really put a price on that? Well, sure, George did, but he deserves every penny of it.