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August 18, 2021 in Source Elements
Ken Foster – the self-described Voice of Medium Energy, “natively fluent in both Sarcasm and Professionalism,” is one of those people who really taps into the fun of VoiceOver. He’s been called on by McDonald’s Denny’s and Walmart to get their message across, he’s all over commercials, games, corporate videos, eLearning, TV, audio dramas… in short, if it has to be said, and it has to be said with medium energy, Ken’s your voice.
Peter: ”The Voice of Medium Energy.” Love it! Tell us a little about how you came up with that and how you use it in promoting your work.
Ken: 100% honesty, “Medium Energy” is a title from an album by US comedian Todd Barry, which I enjoy quite a bit.
Peter: Oh! I bought his crowd-work comedy special!
Ken: I’ve always loved the mental picture of “Yeah I’m with this, but I’m also doing it at a sane, manageable level.” I was in a weekend workshop in New York City, led by some prominent persons in the Voiceover world, and I was put on the spot to define my sound, and “Medium Energy” was what tumbled from my brain to my mouth. And it stuck.
Once I started thinking more about it, it made perfect sense for me and my place in the voiceover world. I am too old to get wound up and hyper (and still sound convincingly like myself). So it’s come to mean conversational, casual and calm, but also confident, charismatic and cool — a label that fits, and that stuck.
Peter: I love asking voice actors for weird anecdotes about where they drew inspiration for particular voices. Late night local TV ads and local radio seem to be popular sources of inspiration! Do you have any stories like that?
Ken: I’ve met a lot of people in my life, and a ton of ‘characters.’ Almost every day I draw from that well for auditions or productions, trying to build a new persona. A few inspirations that come to mind are the southern Coca-Cola delivery driver who always spoke with a toothpick in the side of his mouth; the over-confident, under-qualified presentation host at an annual sales meeting; a friend I will just call The Mumbler; local news personalities (“Pukey Buke” for one) and even some family members too close to name here. I will ‘lift’ the characteristics of people I see out in public all the time – especially strange accents or verbal mannerisms. They say everyone’s a critic, but I believe everyone is creative fodder too.
Peter: Love it. So for the gear geeks out there, tell us about your recording setup.
Ken: I’ve got some history in audio-visual toys, and early career work in computers and networking, so this is right in the crosshairs:
My booth is an acoustically-treated Whisper Room, and it contains two regularly-used microphones: Sennheiser MKH-416, and Rode NT1. Those feed my Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Duo interface, into my studio computer (new 2020 M1 Mac mini) both outside the booth. Apple display, mouse, keyboard, headphones (Beyerdynamic DT-770’s) & headphone amp are all inside the booth for working convenience. I record and edit at my studio desk, an On-Stage Stands 3-Shelf Workstation, also in the booth.
Peter: And how has Source Elements helped you in your work?
Ken: Being a Source-Connect user for years has been invaluable in my work. My longest & most frequent voiceover account has done everything via Source-Connect since 2018. The client actually was a bit wary at first about doing anything with a home studio, so the remote engineer & I had to give the impression I was recording in a professional studio (and honestly, I am). And since becoming a Source-Connect user in 2016, I’ve used it with over half my clients as a remote recording solution. As the Covid pandemic began to take hold, being a seasoned Source Connect user and studio gave me a leg up over talents without it, and I definitely saw a bump in bookings and sessions. I was SO happy to learn about the certification program because it allowed me to formally learn the inner workings of the product (back to my tech-y nerdy history). Now, when called upon, I can offer assistance to my peers with confidence (or know when to back away and tell them to contact Source Elements support!).
August 11, 2021 in Source Elements
Nicole Shostak is a multilingual, multitalented VoiceOver artist and actress with an impressive list of onscreen and off-camera credits. On screen, Nicole plays ‘Josie’ in the ABC series Diary of an Uber Driver; she played American ‘Caroline Stewart’ in Home and Away; and appeared in A Place to Call Home for the Seven Network. She also has a flare for comedy and is hilarious in the feature film No Appointment Necessary and Finalist Tropfest Film Identical. We caught up for a little chat.
Peter: [Testing mic, not realising Nicole is on the call yet] Testing. Testing, testing. Oh, wrong channel… Testing, testing, testing, testing. Oh! I say, that’s clever! Testing, testing, testing, testing, testing, testing…
Peter: Oh! Hello! Hey, can you hear me?
Nicole: Yeah, I can hear you!
Peter: Phew! I literally got a new audio interface so I’m using it for the first time and you just caught me.
Nicole: Oh, nice!
Peter: So I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the others we’ve done on the site…
Nicole: I was literally just having a read because yeah I haven’t done that many interviews, so I was just seeing what the vibe was.
Peter: Chill. The vibe is chill. The place to start, I guess, is ‘OMG, you do all the things.’ I’ve been looking at your IMDB page and you obviously have a lot of energy and a lot of talents.
Nicole: I’ve been flipping around a little bit. I’m actually trained to do on-camera work or theatrical work, so the onscreen stuff’s taken a while and then voiceover has been a little thing bubbling in the background for me over the last five to six years. And I have a Green Card so I was going back and forth to America and I was so lucky to get an agent over there. It was just a timing thing where there was a certain agency in LA who were looking for international voices, including Australian. At the time I dind’t have a studio. I did not have a microphone, none of that stuff. And they started sending me so many auditions and tapes.
Peter: And you attended Upright Citizens Brigade classes over there?
Nicole: Yeah! Well, improv is very handy in voiceover acting and in life as well. I also tried out sketch writing, which was hard. It’s a very different beast and I don’t think I was in the head space at the time to be pursuing writing, but it was really interesting to be in that environment and getting into a different head space about how to write sketches and things.
Peter: So there’s always a part in these interviews where basically, because everyone who does this has audio gear of some type kind and is either a geek or just has to know about it for work, I gotta ask: what kind of gear do you have? I guess you had to stock up pretty quickly once you started getting these overseas voiceover gigs.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, it was a process. I started with a USB mic because I was like, ‘Anything’s better than my iPhone, right?’ And it wasn’t until COVID hit that I was like, ‘Well now’s the time to really up my game in terms of getting a designated space. It didn’t have too much, um, interference and getting some, some gear. So I just got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface, and then I got what I’m still working with at the moment, which is a Rode NT1, which is a really great microphone for not a lot of money. And that’s when I also started researching Source-Connect because if I were to book a session in America, how was I going to be able to do it? So my gear’s kind of basic because I hop around a little bit. I was literally just in Queensland three weeks ago doing an onscreen role and I took my gear with me and I was able to set it up in the wardrobe in the quarantine hotel. But my home studio’s fully padded out and then I have the Rose NT1 – which I love, but I’d love to upgrade though, which I’ll probably be doing in the next six months.
Peter: I’m kind of fascinated by how COVID prompted people to upgrade all their gear because there are all these work opportunities that didn’t exist, in place of the ones that are on hold. In the electric guitar industry, Fender sold more guitars last year than they ever have in any year before because people were like, ‘What am I going to do now?’ I’m at home, I’m either going to start learning or I’m going to get better gear or it’s just been a massive gear fest.
Nicole: Yeah. I remember shopping for the gear that I was getting, and I think within a week or two weeks they were sold out those products. I was like, ‘Oh, thank God I bought them at that time.’ Cause I think a lot of agencies were saying to their actors, particularly in Australia, ‘Hey guys, you need to get a home set up if you want to keep working through the pandemic.’ But working on Source-Connect has forced me to be a geek. I have done some editing before that, but it’s definitely opened my mind to the kind of technologies out there that I can use. I use Adobe Creative Cloud a little bit as well for a little bit of editing on the side and that helps with my understanding of editing audio, but I’m by no means an expert. I’m a little bit of like, oh, I know a little bit of this and a little bit of that and you know, seems to work out.
Peter: Being multi-lingual must give you a bit of an advantage in the industry.
Nicole: It helps. I’m not fluent in Russian but I spent three or four months in St Petersburg during my acting training as study abroad. And my background is Polish, but my dad does speak some Russian and grew up speaking Hebrew and Polish, so I had like a real interest in learning about Russia and the Slavic countries. So I went over there and was forced to speak, and I did do language studies a little bit before and after. And it sort of came about when I got the agency in LA that with video games that are looking for a lot of Russian-sounding characters or accents. So they found out that I spoke some Russian and then I ended up putting a sample down of me doing a little speech from something from Chekov. And then I got a role to do an airport announcement for Call Of Duty. So I’m not fluent but I’m still good enough and can read, it takes a little bit of finessing and practicing before I get in front of the mic, which is cool cause it’s a nice workout for me to, to use those skills in that part of my brain. And it’s kind of liberating to speak in another language, especially when you speak so much in English. It sort of makes you feel more playful or confident.
Peter: Tell me about doing Reading Eggs e-learning stuff!
Nicole: That was my sort of early voiceover days and it was really fun. That was like story book telling, you know, Reggie does this and Reggie does that, and it was very light and playful little online segments for kids. That was also around the time I did my first animation job, which was playing a little boy, about eight years old, nine years old in Heidi. And he was a goat herd. I haven’t done much educational stuff since: it’s been more like promo, video game, retail. But I have done audio books recently and that was a new experience for me. It was challenging. It was a lesson in delivering things more slowly because I tended to rush, and reading and speaking and sort of allowing that to go in your brain to process it and then deliver it as a story is definitely a skill and it’s so very different to the retail stuff. You get into the swing of it after a while and you start to enjoy the pace of it because it’s much slower and it’s just a workout for your brain reading for three, four hours.
Peter: How do you maintain your voice for that kind of work?
Nicole: The first audio book I did, I found my posture had a big effect. I had to be constantly moving, not just sitting in one spot or my voice would tire. But the amazing thing with being behind the mic is that you don’t have to push as much. And that’s what I noticed with theater: you’re always projecting your voice, but the audio book stuff, you could definitely make the most of being softer at times and coming closer to the mic and drawing the reader in. But it’s a lot of hot teas and water and dropping the tension, because if you’re tense for three, four hours, it’s going to end up affecting the work. So you have to be mindful of how much tension you’re holding. And I think the listener will pick up on that as well.
Peter: So what have you got going on for the rest of the year?
Nicole: Well I just did that onscreen job and then I have a few voiceover regulars bubbling in Sydney, but things have sort of slowed down in terms of going to the studio. I auditioned for some cool stuff right before the pandemic so I’m still waiting to see which ones might manifest or might not. I am going to the States later in the year in order to keep that segment alive, the video game work and as part of having a Green Card. So I’ll be planning that travel and that’s quite a bit of quite a bit of work, leaving Australia at this point: you have to get an exemption and stuff.
Peter: And a bit of stress, I imagine, Like there’s always in the back of your mind, like, ‘Oh, who’s got it?’
Nicole: It was, yeah. I mean, it was crazy going over there last year. I was there October, November, the time of the election and Halloween, before it got quite bad. So I was fortunate to be there in a time that felt relatively safe. But I think with Source-Connect, it’s just gives you confidence that you’re not missing out on a job wherever you are. If I go over there, I can still record for Australia over there. If I’m here in Australia, I can still be in the mix over there.
Peter: Well that’s nearly our time up. Anything else you’d like to say?
Nicole: Oh yeah I wanted to mention how I actually learned about Source-Connect, and it is going to sound like a bit of a plug, but it’s weird: I did these courses in LA at Real Voice LA maybe one and a half, two years ago when I was over there, and I saw they were doing like a Q&A master class with Robert Marshall and I was like, ‘Maybe I should just join this master class. It’s 20 bucks and I’ll be learning from the guy that designed this stuff.’ So that was like a three hour Q&A that I audited. The guy from Real Voice was just interviewing him. And then it just all flowed from there researching how to do it. So that was, that was definitely a big help!
Peter: Yeah. Thanks so much for your time. This has been fun.
US VO profile: http://www.sbvtalent.com/talent/nicole-shostak
AUS VO profile: http://www.sjmanagement.com.au/actor/Nicole-Shostak/
July 21, 2021 in Source Elements
Voiceover artist Laura Summer has the kind of pop-culture cred that makes we geeks tremble in awe: not only is she the voice of Janine Melnitz in the classic The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, but look at these other credits: Mimi from Hello Kitty, Patamon in Digimon, heck, she was even Drusilla and Minerva on Garfield! You’ve also heard her ADR work in Beverly Hills Cop 3, Problem Child, Shallow Hal and so many more. We caught up for a chat over Zoom after meeting each other on Twitter.
Peter: First of all, I can’t believe I’m talking to Janine Melnitz.
Laura: That was the first cartoon I ever auditioned for! I never would have thought we were going to be talking about it all these years later. I got out of the voiceover part of the business for a long time and I had done a lot of on-camera stuff, but it was like, ‘Audition for this.’ ‘Okay.’ And when I got it, I was talking way more like this, not New York or anything like that. And then the first session, they just said to me, ‘Hey, could you do a New York accent?’ And that’s what happened.
Peter: That seems to be a common story I’m hearing in these interviews: a lot of people seem to start with acting and kind of branch out into voice acting then find they love it: a lot of people still do both at the same time but some ultimately chose voice acting exclusively after a while. But it’s clear to me that voice acting is obviously not just a voice talent, you’re using all of your person to do it, you know?
Laura: Exactly. I mean, you have some of the best actors in animation and video games because you have to be real. You know, as young as I was when I did Janine – and I’d never done it before – I’ve seen the episodes now because they’re running them here and there, and have a YouTube channel. And I had a Twitter account but it was private for years, but when the pandemic started I opened it up and now I’m having a ball with it. So now I’ll watch an episode online with fans, especially for charity events or something. I’ll sign some things and I’ll watch an episode with them or whatever.
Peter: Fun times, fun times! As you said, at the time you wouldn’t have imagined that all these years later we’d still still be talking about these things, but you know, people hold onto stuff, you know; this means something to people.
Laura: Oh yes. I get a lot of stuff from fans, like souvenirs and gifts and Ghostbusters gifts, or there will be like a 35 year old guy who’s watching it with his three-year-old. Once I did a birthday greeting for a kid and I sort of did it as myself, but it became this cross between me Janine and Marilyn Monroe or something like vocally. The guy is in the UK and he said as soon as his son saw me onscreen, he went ‘That’s Janine! ‘Because there is so kind of mish-mash of alter ego or something. I don’t know.
Peter: Every voice actor seems to be some kind of a pack rat who’s always like picking up voices from places: advertisements on local TV back in the day, celebrity voices, family members… What’s something specific that you’ve drawn inspiration from for a voice?
Laura: Well I would say Ghostbusters first with that New York accent. My mother had the thickest New York accent and she never lost it. It wasn’t as extreme as Janine’s but she really spoke like that, so it was a very easy slip for me. I also like films about World War II: they’re all all doing this transatlantic accent that people did back then where it’s not really American, it’s not really British, and I’ve used that.
Peter: Okay so let’s talk about the last year or so and how things have changed because you know, it really has been nuts! I mean, I’ve been teaching guitar from my music room with no students in it, and it takes some adjustment! What has this been like for you?
Laura: A lot of classes. I was doing a lot of ADR post work because you don’t have to audition for that, and I kind of just slipped into that for a lot of years because you just get hired, and I liked that! But since I wasn’t on the audition circuit there has been a shift towards home auditioning and better equipment and all that. And I had to catch up. And then when Source-Connect came, you had to learn how to use it. And technologically I am an infant so I had to take a lot of classes to learn these words. I didn’t even know what an interface was: that was just that thing on the floor with the knobs!
Peter: Yeah, people didn’t need to know all this stuff because you could just show up and do your job brilliantly and go home. Now you have to be an engineer as well.
Laura: Yes! You know, if you go to Warner Brothers or whatever, there’s headphones on the side and they’ll say ‘Suit up,’ you know, and you have to know where to plug the headphones in and how to use the microphone, but that’s very different than doing it from my closet!
Peter: Yeah. Well, that’s another thing that pops up a lot is everyone has converted a closet into a studio. EVERYONE!
Laura: It’s funny, I said to my friend who was directing me recently – because even when I’m working alone it’s good to have direction – ‘I really hate this closet today’ and he goes ‘Why?’ Well, I have to share it! I have to share it with my boyfriend, so I can’t leave the stuff there! I have to break it apart. And so I resent that!
Peter: I guess the next big thing is when conventions come back and you must get invited to a lot of those, right?
Laura: I do but I always turned them down except if it was like a friend, like I would do the Comic-Con in San Diego for a director or something like that. I didn’t think it was my thing, but now that I’ve engaged with the fans, like in meeting you on Twitter, it’s really fun. And I did a couple of signings from home this year to see what that would be like, just where they send me stuff. And I thought, well, this isn’t bad. I don’t know if that’s the business for me, you know and people do make it a business. And a lot of people have sent me artwork this year that I can use, because when you do go to conventions, they really like something original. And I’m part of the Digimon franchise also, which is anime. So they’re very different, anime and animation cons. So I’m going to Scotland in a year. I was supposed to go to last year but it got canceled three times. It’s a one-day Ghostbusters event and I thought, well, that’d be good. I’ll do one day and see how I feel, you know, and it’s limited to like 500 people. I can’t handle 5,000 people.
Peter: I mean, it seems like for a lot of creative people, we’re not necessarily wired to do that kind of stuff. You know, public-facing, people coming at you all day… I’m an introvert, get me on a stage and I’m suddenly a rock God, but get me in a room with people and I close right down.
Laura: Oh yeah. I think I’m much better with a bunch of people in a room now then when I have done it in the past because I just didn’t get the game. I just didn’t understand. Well, you’re there to be entertaining when you’re on a panel and I got very shy when I did it years ago, and I didn’t …it felt like bragging, you know?
Peter: Well thank you so much for the chat. It’s been really fun to talk with you.
Laura: You too Peter! Thank you!
Peter: You’re very welcome.
Laura: Bye. Have a good day!
July 2, 2021 in Source Elements
Peter: There’s so much we can talk about but the place I thought we’d start is you have a very cool YouTube channel with lots of very helpful tips: you go into everything from networking to whether you should work for free and all that kind of stuff. And I don’t mean this to sound as mean or skeptical as it does, but what qualifies you to give this advice?
Adam: Well, you know what, it’s funny about that question. I think by and large people who do what we do, like audio nerds, musicians, we get in our heads and a lot of us think we’re either God’s gift to earth or we’re not worth anything,. right. It’s kind of one of those two things. And honestly, I’ve always thought like if you’ve been in audio for 20 seconds or 20 years, you’ve got something to teach and you’ve got something to learn. Just because you haven’t been doing a long time, doesn’t mean you don’t have good ideas. Now what qualifies me? I don’t know, I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I’ve learned a couple of things!
I’m certainly not an expert, but I love to teach and I love to learn, and I think you get both by doing both. So that was the impetus for the channel. Locally a few years back I started to look around and I noticed there’s this funny thing where people in audio, we work in studios and it’s just four walls and no people, and you forget that there’s other people in your area who do the same thing. And sometimes we all get so busy with our work that we’re not talking to each other. So we get in these silos. But what we do have is the internet. We get on forums and groups and things like this. And for whatever reason, we’re sort of apt to like take somebody’s word for gospel that we’ve never met because they’re on the internet and they can write a cool post.
But when you start to talk to people around your area, for whatever reason, like I live in a small market, I live in Albany, New York. I’m not in New York or Chicago or London, some huge market. And there’s this mentality where it’s like, well, if you’re here, you must not be very good or you don’t know anything. But that guy that I saw on the internet, he knows what he’s talking about, or she knows what she’s talking about because it’s on the internet. So I started this local group here on a whim. I had an idea and 30 minutes later I wrote an email to 200 people in the area who were touching audio. And we got together here at the studio about a month later and there’s over a hundred people in attendance. And the whole idea was that it was doesn’t matter if you’ve been here 20 seconds or 20 years, you’ve got something to learn and something to teach, and understand that there’s people in your area who also have not necessarily the same passions as you, but have something valuable to offer. We can learn from each other and pick each other up.
So that was really cool. And then there was lockdown and then I was like, well, that’s not really the place now to meet up, so I ventured into YouTube, like people tend to do.
Peter: See, your channel is great because you seem like a natural communicator, and this kind of thing is like, whether it’s audio engineering or for guitar players or whoever, you always need someone saying like, “Dude, check this out.” You know, my standard thing I’ve mentioned in a few interviews is, no-one who wasn’t there at the time discovered Hendrix on their own. They always discover Hendrix because someone said “Dude, you’ve got to hear this guy.” And it’s the same with all this stuff. You know, “Dude, you haven’t tried sidechain compressing your bass yet?” We get to talking and this helpful stuff comes out.
Adam: And how cool is the feeling when you get to be the one who’s like, “I was able to introduce Hendrix to that dude”? I enjoy it and it’s not like “Oh I know more than you.” It’s like, “I got to give you something that I got really excited about. And if I felt that way, I know you feel that way too.” That makes me feel good.
Peter: So for those reading this, tell them a bit more about the kind of content they can expect on your channel.
Adam: Well, the focus of the channel is really to help people build and grow a career in audio. And I say audio broadly, intentionally, because I think there’s so much out there, there’s many ways to make a living and to have fun. It isn’t strictly music or film, and I know those are like the gateway drug, so to speak for people to get into the studio and start working in audio.
Adam: For some people that’s kind of it, that’s where they start and that’s where they end and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think that’s fantastic. But that doesn’t work as a career for everyone, right? I mean, there’s not a one size fits all, but there’s still people who are really good at the music thing, but maybe just aren’t really great at cultivating the business. Or maybe if they’re just able to do a little bit, a few other things in audio to supplement their income. Well then they don’t have to have that part-time job waiting tables or doing whatever nine-to-five thing that they really hate. And they can focus their passion on audio and on music and whatever other thing there is. So part of the channel is actually just showing all of those different places in which you can create a career, still have fun, being creative, engaging with people, doing some compelling work, whether that’s film music, voiceover, podcasting, it could be in branding marketing. It could be, you know, right now AI is huge and VR is huge immersive storytelling. I did work for Google years back for the whole Siri thing. My point is, there’s noise around us everywhere and there’s always somebody behind making that noise and they usually get paid to do that noise. So yeah, it’s just kind of just creating a channel and a place where people can go and get an idea and realise that of all the people in the world telling them that there might not be a future for them in music or an audio – because there’s plenty of those people – there’s at least one place. I know there’s more, but at least there’s one place that can be like, ‘No, shut all that stuff off, get the positive energy around you and realise that this is really the best time ever to work in this field because there’s so much opportunity.’
Peter: Another thing that comes up in these interviews a lot is that, well, COVID sucks, but it’s also brought together kinds of collaboration that people just weren’t trying yet. And now they’re forced to, and you know, that’s something that’s cool about Source is that, you know, Source-Connect is already there! The tools didn’t need to be developed to enable this stuff or to catch up because of lockdowns: it’s like it was already here waiting for you.
Adam: Yeah. For me, I’ve been using Source-Elements products for a while, so for me it was just a little bit of education for the people on the other side, for clients who weren’t aware, to get them kind of up to speed. And then as soon as you do that, I mean …I was down for maybe a week-ish after lockdown happened and then I was immediately taking phone calls from people that I hadn’t heard from in forever going, “Hey, remember we were talking about that thing? I’ve got all this time, can we do that now?” And I was like, “Well, I can’t see you, but yeah, we can totally do it, let me show you how,” and, you know, enter Source-Connect and bam, instant connection and collaboration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8lm4SmyHrI
And that right there, for people who had worked with me or hadn’t worked with me, that right there was huge as far as trust goes in in me and what I can do, and for me in my business. I think that goes so far, as far as creating a client and a customer for life. When they see that you just solved this huge problem and they can actually continue their business, you’re a hero really. I mean, I didn’t do anything other than just know about this product and connect us, but to clients that is huge.
Peter: So what kind of projects have you used Source-Connect on?
Adam: I’m quite literally using it right now for Bellator MMA as we speak. I’m actually literally recording a voiceover for Mohegan Sun Connecticut which will air tomorrow night. I’m on their core crew. I used to travel with them as their ProTools operator, but once again, when things hit the fan they got the bulk of the crew back together, but they’re just looking for any answers and how they can pare down the crew without firing people. And my position was one of few that we’ve figured out a way to make it happen remotely. So I’m remoting in a computer and using Source-Connect to monitor from my room in my truck. We went all over the country before COVID, and I can still do that.
And of course we do a lot of ADR here, for which Source-Connect is an absolute must. I haven’t yet used Source-Live though. I intend to very soon. I think that’s got some pretty big advantages, especially when I’m dealing with producers and script supervisors and sound supervisors who can’t always get to a studio now to monitor frame-accurate audio and picture. So we’re doing things like Zoom, which is a huge pain in the butt for them. It’s just a drag. We’re getting the job done because we have to, right? But it’s really not that great. So I’m looking forward to trying out Source-Live there. I do a lot of podcasts especially since lockdown and there’s a lot of products out there that I’ve tried that I really can’t recommend because they’re just shoddy and don’t sound all that great, and customer service is poor. And luckily for the clients that I get, they’re willing to invest in a better product. So I’ve got them on board with Source-Connect and I can just route everybody together here.
Peter: Cool! So tell me your superhero origin story. What got you into this in the first place?
Adam: It was always something in me that I wanted to do. I remember reading a book – I’m pretty sure it was Jurassic Park of all things – when I was like 12 years old and I saw the term ‘audio engineer’ and I was like, ‘That’s a thing?’ And then that was it. That’s just what I wanted to do and I just sort of made it happen. It wasn’t quick, you know? I mean, this was pre-internet and a small town. I grew up in a school of about a hundred kids. Guidance counselors had no clue what I was talking about when I was like, ‘I want to work in a recording studio.’ There, there was only one in town. It wasn’t like nowadays where you can probably find somebody in your circle who knows somebody who knows somebody who worked in a studio or has done something and kind of along the lines of what we do. But where I was back then, there literally wasn’t the ‘somebody who knew somebody.’ No one. [Guidance counselors] literally didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. The closest thing they could figure out was like, ‘You want to be a radio DJ?’ And I was like, ‘Well, this just …you guys aren’t really helping here.’ You know? So that was kind of a tough one.
Peter: Same! I wanted to write for guitar magazines and they were like, ‘Well, there’s the local newspaper. Maybe you could get a job at the local newspaper.’ And it’s like, that’s not really it dude.
Adam: I appreciate them trying but yeah, that was kinda tough, you know? But as people like us do, I picked up a guitar and played in bands and moved around with bands and had that life for a little while, and then eventually I finally started talking to somebody in a studio when I was recording with my band. And I was like, ‘Hey man, how did you learn how to do this?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, well there’s this school called Full Sail in Florida.’ And I had never heard of it. No one told me because again, nobody knew what I was talking about. So a month later I was at school! It was just one of those things where I really wanted to do it and I never let it go. It took a while for me to get there: this was several years after I graduated high school, but I never let that go.
Peter: Anything else you’d like to talk about before we call it a day?
Adam: Sure! So I work in a recording studio, but the studio is under the umbrella of a marketing company called over it. So that studio is called over at studios. The company is called Overit. We’re about 40 to 50 people, and that’s a digital marketing agency. It was started about 30 years ago by a drummer who was on a major record label deal on tour, thinking about his future. So in the mid nineties, he started this company and it’s grown into a multimillion dollar company.
Anyway, long story short, he always wanted a studio and about eight years ago he acquired this huge space. It’s an old converted church from the thirties. And I remember when I first met him, it was kind of funny: a friend of mine was like, ‘Hey, you know, you should know this guy, Dan Dinsmore. I think maybe there’s something there for you.” So I looked up the website and saw his marketing company. And I thought ‘I’m going to email Dan.’ Cause I’m kind of fearless that way. I’m thinking ‘This guy might be worth a job or two a year for me. I can maybe do some of his overflow for some commercial thing or whatever.’ So I wrote an email and was very nice, and I just said ‘Hey, we’d love to chat sometime. It looks like you’re doing great work. I do a lot in the audio space. I can do a lot of editing and mixing for you if there’s ever a time where you’re losing your hat and you just need an extra hand on a project, I can step in and help out.’
So he wrote back, ‘Hey, we should meet.’ So we meet. And again, I thought it was just somebody making websites and occasional videos. So he’s like, ‘Hey, let me take you for a tour.’ So he brings me over to this church, which is just all studs and bare bones? This huge empty place. And he’s like, ‘Alright. So this is where the desk is going to go, back here. This half of the building is going to be where the recording studio is going to go.’ And I’m thinking ‘What? Not what I was expecting to be talking about.’ And he’s like, ‘Consoles here, booth here, the big live room here and couches, lounge, this whole thing.’ And he was said he was going to need somebody to run it. And I was not really prepared for this, this is kind of coming out of left field for me. And so he gets done with the whole tour and I kind of stop him and I go, ‘Thanks for the tour. I’m really sorry you own recording studio.’ He’s like ‘What?’ I’m like, ‘Well you know, they don’t really make money. Like as a brick and mortar they’re really difficult. The overhead is astronomical.’ There’s just so much that goes into it just to get the ball rolling. You need so much money to build it and all those things. Studios in general are really not usually moneymakers which is why half of them shut down.
But what we’ve got going on here is amazing because you shared all this talent and all these resources under one building, and you’ve got shared overhead, and a built-in client infrastructure. There’s storytelling that helps sell service and sell products, and a creative voice that elevates and amplifies branding and brand loyalty and brand awareness and all these things. And it’s just harder to do that when you’re farming that stuff out to a third party. And if you’re buying that service, looking at an agency and trying to get someone to work with, it’s much easier to work with people who are all under one roof rather than hire this person, this agency for this effort and this agency for that campaign and this agency. We’ve got that system in place, so just by having a studio, it already gives extra value to every other service because we’ve got that better chance to get those contracts. And we do.
Peter: Hehehe. Well thanks much for your time. This has been really fun.
Adam: Thank you, Peter. I appreciate it!
June 29, 2021 in Source Elements
June 24, 2021 in Source Elements
Owned and operated by Jamie Mahaffey and Marty Taylor, The Mix Room is a full service, award winning, audio-post completion service conveniently located in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Peter: Hey Jamie! Thanks for agreeing to have a chat!
Jamie: No problem! Where do we start?
Peter: Well I’m trying to make these interviews feel like just a relaxed conversation and what I’ve found is it’s really hard to naturally start a chat when you’re doing it online, so I often start with the fact that pretty much everyone reading this is either a music nut or a performer or a recording professional of some kind, and we all geek about gear. So why don’t you tell me what kind of a setup you run?
Jamie: Well I’m at my home studio today. We have home studios that are essentially a mirror of The Mix Room, so it’s always allowed us to go back and forth. The Mix Room is set up right now with Source Connect Pro, which is kind of our main Source Elements product that we’ve used for, oh geez, five or six years now. And it’s great. Still to this day, that’s the way to do it. If you are streaming or if you’re connecting it. So we invested in Source Connect Pro because of working with a company out of Toronto called Technicolor, this big global post-production firm. Technicolor contacted us to do mixed streaming where the client would be streaming it live off the stage in Toronto with a producer there. And then we had a producer in Vancouver with us who wanted to hear and see full resolution picture and 5.1 playback. And that was the only way to do it, with Source Connect Pro. And we’ve also used Source Live, but not the current version with the in built-in chat and all that cool stuff. But we used that on an animated series. The director was in Los Angeles and it was a very cost-effective little tool.
Peter: How has working remotely changed for you guys in the last year thanks to you-know-what?
Jamie: Well we haven’t had a person in the studio for at least a year, but we’ve never been busier in our entire history!
It’s such a strange dichotomy, isn’t it? Like Fender sold more guitars last year than they ever have before, and it feels weird to see positives come out of such a horrible situation, but then, any positive at a time like this is very much needed.
Yes. I’ve had this very conversation with a lot of people in the post-production world, how of course we were streaming mixes long before COVID anyways, because of long-term contracts with companies in New York and London and all around the place. And we were always going to be streaming the mixes. They flew to Vancouver for the first number of them, the first three or four episodes, just to get the show up on its wheels, and then after that the plan was to just stream for the next two, three years of this contract. So we got into the whole streaming thing heavily, probably about eight months before COVID hit. So that part of it was just dumb luck, you know, that we were experts at it at that point. So in the past year we have mixed probably 85 episodes of television and two features remotely.
That’s amazing. Drop some names, tell us what kind of stuff you’ve done.
Jamie: Our main clientele are anime animation companies, animation production companies. So we’ve done shows and are currently doing shows for Netflix delivery and Nickelodeon, and a new Dreamworks show right now – I can’t mention the name but I can say that it’s a new Dreamworks show. We’ve done a lot of Lego Marvel animated shows. So the Avengers, Lego Jurassic World which was a blast, Lego Spider-Man, which was also a blast. And those were all in the last six or eight months. And then there’s a big show called Octonauts, which is a younger show we’ve been doing for quite a while and that’ll run for another two years. There’s a ginormous order of episodes. Uh, and then the Dreamworks show is also started.
Peter: It must be really satisfying to kick back and watch something that you’ve worked on, you know, see the finished product and know that you’re a part of it. I mean, Lego Spider-Man, Jurassic World, those things are huge.
Jamie: Yeah. That’s it, that’s the buzz, you know. That’s always been the buzz for us. And you know, for any of us audio dorks who really get into sound, animation is by far the most fun, not just because of the content – but the content is amazing, the writing is amazing and the voice actors are amazing and everybody’s at the top of their game – but from a sound point of view, it’s art. There is nothing that exists of course, and everything in the entire world has to be created, from a sound point of view. And those are the dream gigs.
Peter: I’ve always wanted to know about this. What does the client provide you with?
Jamie: The show is edited together: picture editors do that work in conjunction with the script writers and all the folks involved in production. Once the show is locked to time, they then send us an an audio export out of their picture edit system, along with a broadcast-quality Quicktime for picture. So those are the two elements that we receive. The audio is basically just dialogue as an AAF file with some temporary sound effects that the editors have put in to help to help sell the cut, because before they lock picture the edit of the episode has to be signed off on by the broadcaster or the streaming company or whoever the client is. So they use some minimal sound effects to help sell the cut, and then we take it from there and do a complete feature film-level sound cut in terms of everything you can imagine: if it moves, it’s got a sound.
Peter: Where do those sounds come from? You must have quite the library, between commercial sounds and Foley.
Jamie: We have a great Foley team who work on the episodes and they do a wonderful job. It’s just such an amazing art, it truly is. Like, they call them Foley artists, and they really are that. It’s a true craft to be able to look at the picture and then come up with the props and all the stuff that’s actually going to create the sound that will make that picture believable.
Peter: Since a tiny, tiny age I was fascinated with this process because my great grandmother used to play violin at the silent movies when she was a teenager. There was a little group of musicians and they would do live sound effects and music.
Jamie: Exactly. So that process for us, we have enormous libraries now at this point after so many years. You sort of build your library as you go. And every show will develop a whole array of custom sounds for that particular show, and they just get added to the master library, so after many years the master libraries are ginormous.
Peter: And I imagine if you’re doing something like say, the Marvel stuff, there might be signature sounds that they would provide you with the sounds for a particular weapon or whatever?
Jamie: That’s exactly what happens. Skywalker Sound sent us a relatively small library of the custom signature sounds for like Iron Man’s jet. The same thing happened for Spider-Man and for Jurassic World, because they such signature things. We would take that library and that was kind of the starting point, but they developed those sounds for feature film playback environments, and for that particular moment of that particular thing at that time, that was a great sound, but they don’t necessarily translate to the small screen, to a television mix, so we would take those sounds as a starting point and then augment them and then build everything around them to sell the scene.
Peter: So you started as a musician. Do you still play? Does The Mix Room handle music?
Jamie: The Mix Room is entirely aTV and film, but we work with a lot of composers of course. They’re all independent guys, and that’s a part of the turnaround process. Generally on an episode of an animated show we’ll have roughly 10 working days from lock from when we get the materials to delivery of a pre-mix, And the composers are working in that same sort of timeframe. So it’s a pretty tight ship. Everybody’s really gotta be on their game or else it just turns into a train wreck.
Peter: And what’s your music history?
Jamie: Music history. Well, I was a big sports kid when I was little and then about 15, I discovered music and girls, of course. And then I never looked back, you know, got into bands and all that fun stuff, and then I hit the road basically from 18 til 26.
Peter: Oh, that’s a hell of an education.
Jamie: Oh yeah. I mean, there’s no better way to hone one your musical chops than to play six nights a week.
Peter: And in situations you can’t control, you know. The amp breaks down, you’ve got to play with a totally different amp you’ve never used before and the sound is totally different, but there are still hundreds of people who need to be entertained.
Jamie: Exactly. My main instrument is drums, but some guitar and I have a basic basic knowledge of piano and the keyboard. If you’re working in studios, that’s the instrument that everybody can sort of relate to. If you’re producing with a singer, you can show them the melody, you know? So it’s a great root instrument.
Peter: Well thanks so much for your time. This has been a really fun chat!
Jamie: Hey, good to meet you, Peter!
June 17, 2021 in Source Elements
As one of the UK’s oldest youth and community music organisations, Community Music offers a diverse programme of courses, live events and professional training. Although lockdowns and social distancing aren’t great for the live events industry, the downtime has allowed Community Music to develop new educational strategies to stay in contact with students. Rebekah caught up with Matt Mars via video chat to discuss how the industry is adapting to a new future.
Rebekah: It’s great to see you again. How has the last couple of months been for you?
Matt: Well, we’ve had to change to groups of seven, so we had to devise a new system because we were limited to seven people in the studio. We had to work out other things for them to do for the rest of the day, which was a challenge, but we did some good stuff.
So we bolted on some extracurricular, but relevant stuff, be it guerrilla business techniques, vocal performance and preparation of voices. So it was quite hectic in terms of the organization in that it was very small on numbers and with small numbers you get a very different vibe, you don’t get the buzz of big numbers. But what we did get was a really great connection with students who were very able to talk quite intimately about that: fears that they had, things that they felt were holding them back in front of a small group, in a room, whereas in a large group, that dynamic doesn’t happen because people are keeping their cards to their chest.
So it was really interesting, different dynamics, new dynamics. And my last day of teaching was on Friday so it’s now finally kind of the delivery phase is complete. So it’s good.
Rebekah: Congratulations. That’s a really interesting outcome. What you said there about the small classrooms and then having a different dynamic, and also that you have to come up with different new concepts to teach to make up for the fact you can’t be teaching all at once in a big classroom; are those things that you think you might carry forward?
Matt: Definitely. I think we can carry forward the small group activity, and one huge lesson of the online experiences that you cannot just map out what you would have done in a classroom to online. That would be repetitive and you lose the attention. So you have to break it up.
I can see that changing the group sizes is a great way of switching things up. And that could happen from one week to the next, where it’s a different format for a couple of weeks, smaller group sizes. So definitely I think that’s something that we can use to make the whole delivery a bit more elastic and fit it to the kind of curve of the development of the learning over the two semesters.
Rebekah: Interesting. So working with this pandemic and the last year, it’s changed a lot. You’ve had these small classrooms and then I understand also you’ve been working remotely with some of the students.
Matt: Absolutely. It was a baptism of fire for a lot of the world entering this new age. And I think because because the option wasn’t there to have an alternative, everyone embraced it. So a lot of barriers to online which had been here – a lot to do with job protection and teachers in physical spaces not wanting to be replaced by someone in a room anywhere in the world replacing you and doing it much cheaper – because you’ve got 2000 people online – and I think all those fears were swept away. And also from the student point of view, there wasn’t any other game in town. So again, if you give the students a choice, ‘You’re paying for this course, how do you feel about it being online?’ That would be a very different game. So I think because we’re thrown into it together, that was one of the really good, positive things about this pandemic, which is that a lot of barriers are broken down. So what it meant was that there was more acceptance, both from a teacher perspective and a student perspective of the new reality, and I commend everybody in just taking that in both hands and doing what could with it.
Rebekah: Was there any previous experience that you or other teachers had had with remote collaboration before the pandemic that may have helped transition
Matt: None whatsoever actually. We had a platform which is a Google workspace, which we were using, which allowed us to have materials in one place. I think that helped because it was a familiar territory. It wasn’t going outside to another service like Zoom. So I think the fact that it was within our kind of education website here on Google web space, that was good.
But in terms of experience, not really. So there was a lot of very last minute trialing of applications and testing. So going back to March 2020, just over a year ago, it was a bit of a cold bath, but again it went much better than we had had expected. We had very basic tools. The big problem was high quality audio. For more seminar based stuff it wasn’t an issue because we didn’t need to be streaming through a third party. So definitely there was a big gap in our understanding and knowledge of the different applications that were out there. And of course in due course that led to a particular conversation that we had.
Rebekah: Did your students drive any of this adoption? Was there a collaboration there? What were they asking for?
Matt: No, the students didn’t ask for anything apart from say, ‘The audio is crap, we can’t hear you.’ This was a bit of a wake up call that the Google tools are brilliant, but they are for conferencing and not for high quality audio streaming.
Rebekah: Yeah, I think that’s something that all the music educators have discovered as a group around the world.
I just want to go back a little bit into your position, where you are and how Community Music came to be. So tell me how you got into the studio. You see, just for people who are reading this and can’t see the video, Matt’s in his studio with a great analog mixer, what is that behind you?
Matt: There’s an AMEK desk and a quarter inch mastering deck.
Rebekah: It’s very comforting.
Matt: Yes. Hardware! Give me hardware! Well, actually, Rebecca I’m in my own personal studio here actually, which is, I’m floating on a canal! In London! This is a 60 square meter space which we converted into a studio space. So yeah, there are ducks and stuff around me. I’m within a stone’s throw of the Metro station here, so it’s a great place …and the natural daylight! So I have my five huge skylights here. Which takes out that sort of claustrophobia of studios. I don’t know. We are all used to being in heavily soundproofed and darkened rooms.
It’s basically a steel box, so it’s a pretty good basis to start with stopping noise from coming in from the outside, apart from the odd crow who is dropping the seafood on the decking!
So this is my studio, but how I got into Community Music, how I met them was I was pointed at the fantastic job of work they do in Community Education.
I’ve been noticed as someone who, when I was a studio engineer and before I became a teacher, I was a performer, a writer, a bandleader, a touring musician, and I also worked in studios. And when I was in a studio – and we are going back to those analog days and, before the first parts of digital multi-track and that kind of thing. And I always felt that my job was partly educational: I had to explain what was then not well known: what the Automatic Double Tracking might be or whatever effects might be possible to my client, my paying client, because how would they know what to ask for if they didn’t have an idea?
And of course this is pre universities about the subject and everything. I often tell my students, ‘I’m here to prevent you from making the same mistakes I made. I can shortcut you a bit on some of the mistakes that I clearly did make in my more trial-and-error kind of training.’ I always felt it was part of my job as a communicator to tell people about what was on offer. So it became fairly natural when I was invited to take part in a training course of Community Music in 2000, which was a two year course: one day a week for two years. And it was designed for practicing professional musicians so that they could fit it in amongst the other work I learned about the theories of teaching, and teaching in groups, which is where all the fun begins as we know, and all the real challenges begin. And it was an amazing experience and led me to start working for the company. The actual company was started in the 80s by the best known British jazz drummer, John Stephens and David Donal who set up this organization basically to teach jazz theory to street kids. And that strand of the work is still part of our work today. So it was a community nonprofit. It was designed to change the world through changing society and using music as the title suggests: community music. As you know, music is one of the unique communal music activities. Music is part of community. So we probably say nowadays it’s part of society – that all societies need music. They use it for the important moments. They mark their most crucial moments with music. It can be solemn. It can be joyful, it can be political, it can have a message. So it was an ethical ethical program set up by these two geniuses with a new idea.
And we’re happy to carry that tradition forward with the programs that now we’re able to fundraise for and put out, which range from eight year olds all the way up to maybe 50 year olds we have on our HD program. So the idea is to have a network of different programs that can feed into different communities, different demographics, different parts of society, but all bring people together as a community and allow progression routes right up to degree level. We often pinch the best students to come on our teaching program and become members of staff. I’d say that almost all our staff have been trained by ourselves, myself included, and the brightest sparks, we obviously keep close as we expand.
Rebekah: It’s good practice for sure. In regards to expanding, that might be a good topic in terms of how – after the pandemic – will remote collaboration be something that seems to be useful to you? Are there questions like if you should think about expanding, if you think about working with people who have moved away or people who are already away that you want to work with?
Matt: Absolutely. We are active in seeking to put forward a program. We already have that teaching course as a fully fledged online offering at the moment. And we are thinking we are acting on making more material available for distance learning. We’re talking to partners about possibilities where we’ve been approached by people who would like to us to basically deliver material for those universities.
Our core remit is for people who cannot normally afford the route to learning. So there is a balance here between what we can do and what is practical. And we have demand for paid courses, still low cost courses, still definitely with an eye to them being great value. And, for example, courses that pay for their delivery and a small amount of profit: I mean, they’re basically covering delivery costs in order to increase and make the program bigger.
But yes. I think we have a balance in terms of those different mediums, but also we’re going to incorporate the distance learning and the ability to access positive people in different parts of the globe to be able to enrich our actual delivery and make new partnerships.
Rebekah: All right. This is like a blended learning I suppose, in that you can work locally and also being enriched by those not near to us. That’s really fascinating. That’s great. You’re answering all my questions before I ask them! I’d like to go back to the comment that it sort of started with teaching jazz theory.
That’s very interesting too in the moment, because working with a few musicians on developing some language that might work for remote performance, it’s is very different than what you could have in the same room.
Matt: You know, by and large, our students are not from the jazz arena. And they’re more self producers or formost producers and writers. For us, I would love to enrich their experience by taking them further with repertoire which was designed by John Stevens called Search and Reflect, which is published and available, which is it’s basically a book of pieces that can be used to refine timekeeping, pitch stability, moderation of volume in an ensemble and also improvisational techniques without prior knowledge of music. So that’s the street part of it in that you don’t have to have gone to conservatoire to get this – because it’s didactic, because you actually do it by physical movement, by sound production, by body percussion, which can then be transferred, translated to instruments at a more advanced level. It is absolutely true that when we deliver this – and we do deliver this as part of our programs – this repertoire is still alive and well with us, we have all our teachers, for example, experience Search and Reflect. It’s true that whenever there have been competent craft musicians, for example in a room of mixed ability some of whom are people who’ve never picked up an instrument before in their life. The people who run for the door in tears are the ones whose apparent confidence in their technique just been overthrown by the fact that kids who’ve never, ever touched a trombone or whatever are doing just as well as they are. So it’s an incredible playfield-leveller and it has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Rebekah: That’s really interesting. I’ll have a look at that. Maybe it’s got some concepts we could take to working remotely together. What you say about people who have studied technique really strongly can often find it difficult to move sideways into another way of making music together. I wonder if there are tools and techniques here we can use to remove the barriers to remote learning to remote collaboration as well.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one way of looking at that, I guess, would be to create structure and then allow freedom between people who may be on the more technical ability tip and people who aren’t, who are more just ear-trained musicians.
Rebekah: Yeah. One of the things that happens a lot with this remote music experience is, you need to be able to recover from failure. So I wonder if that’s part of John Stephen’s research.
Matt: Yes. I think there’s a lot to do with trust. And especially when you’re live in the room, I found that quite difficult: to interject with vocally produced noises in a structured way. But if the structure is clear enough, then it becomes something less personal and then you start contributing to a whole rather than being exposed as an individual contributor. But yes, trust and recovering from failure. What is failure?
Rebekah: Stopping by not continuing.
Matt: Yeah, totally stopping is failure. Do you mean by failure in a session, or failure to commit to go through the program?
Rebekah: No, I guess the music fails in terms of performance when you’re playing with other people you have to stop and say, ‘Oh, I’m not sure where I am right now.’ That, to me, is failure.
Matt: Yes, absolutely. I often think of this and I think of the idea of self-censorship. I frequently experienced this myself. This is where that trusted collaborator can be so beneficial for you because they can educate you that your unintended performance was not a mistake, but it was actually your best work.
And this happens so much. And it happens from top session musicians downwards. If it’s unintended to yourself, that’s a mistake, it’s not what you intended. But in fact, time and time again I’ll say to someone, ‘I’ll take that one again’ and they said, ‘No, no, we keep that. That’s the bit I liked best.’
So it’s to do with the reflective subconscious, the things that come out unaided and unbidden from our subconscious, I think, and express themselves in some way that we actually don’t have that much power over. Well, how would we be surprised about that? We know consciousness is so much made up of the unconscious side of our decision-making
Rebekah: Absolutely. Well, one aspect to that as well, I was just writing an article for a magazine, ‘what are some of the benefits of remote learning?’ And to me, one of those is about being comfortable and having trust. ‘I’m in my house, I’m safe here. I’m in a safe place.’ And if I have anxiety of any kind, then remote learning, I think, can also have a lot of benefits for students who need that extra little bit of trust to be able to work. And I’m wondering if you could touch on that subject of remote learning and anxiety.
Matt: I think distance learning has huge potential to cater for people with social anxiety, anxiety and depression, these kinds of things which are so endemic. It’s exactly the case as you say, being in your own environment is huge with training – or it can be, it should be, if it’s managed correctly. But also the transport people, a major challenge for some students is getting on a crowded train and dealing with that. I mean, who hasn’t found that a struggle sometimes? And so removing those two barriers, and then there’s the social discomfort of being in a room with people. But I would say that the use of cameras can feel okay. I don’t think it’s intimidating as intimidating being in the room with someone, but what I’m absolutely sure about is that …and this comes back to our our recent experience of small groups in-house: we’re all masked all day, there’s no masks coming off, new mask in the morning and it goes into bin on the way out. But I get more information from a student or a member of staff from the eyes up in two seconds about how they are, where they are, how their day is going to be, than two hours in a video conference.
Why is that? Well, we’re human beings to do with all that stuff, oxytocin release and all these kinds of things. Our empathy is based on chemicals, chemistry, quite literally; biochemical interrelations between two people through their biomes. And this is scientifically asserted. So I think sometimes the static camera and the grid of different boxes on the screen [eg: on Zoom] I think is a kind of barrier. But I think the more you come into a collaborative space, there needs to be some way where you can switch up the view or switch from the group to the individual or based on voice, more slickly monitoring the kind of movement that we have.
Interestingly, I know there are some technological offerings, highly expensive. This looks like a boom box and you stick it in your conference room and it’s got dozens of cameras and dozens of mics, like a giant Alexa basically, but it’s got several cameras, and it will automatically focus on the person in the room who’s talking and accommodate a screen as well over there. It’s probably quite clunky, but it’s a way of trying to address this. Interestingly, I’ve expanded a little bit with virtual reality. I mean by that, VR environments for my own fun, really, and with an idea to using it in teaching and stuff. Even though the graphics might be very, you know, laughable compared to game quality, even though it’s kind of clunky, the fact that you can just move around with your buttons, the fact that you can choose an angle to watch the screen somehow just gives you a little bit back of that naturalness. I think that’s very interesting.
Rebekah: Yeah. To ask about that representation of ourselves, where we have to go back to the question about, you know, anxiety before the pandemic, I hadn’t live-video-chatted with anybody. Now it seems like everybody, you have to, it’s expected. It’s a very different experience. I would prefer to have an avatar, you know? And so to me, I think that that will be a part of the future where we can really have like in the movie Ready Player One where everyone just makes their own avatar and that’s who they are. And you’re comfortable in your skin.
Matt: Yeah. I mean, I think I have actual mixed feelings about that. I do think that it is the ultimate anonymity in a space. I can see that actually being very useful in say an improvisational music space, for example, that this is your class or it’s your class in a classroom or the other side of the world.
But you don’t know who they are. You can’t judge them. You don’t know if that’s Fred and that’s Sarah, so you have to approach them neutrally, if you like, you can’t make any judgements about them. That could be very interesting. I hadn’t thought of that on the other flip. I think the ability to encourage someone who might feel anxious to have their camera on to begin with in a course, to get to the stage where maybe later in that session, they’ve got their camera on. That is a massive learning curve and they get real props when they put their vulnerability out there. That is a little piece of online curriculum learning which could be life-changing for someone.
Rebekah: One last question for you then I’ll let you go, and I’m sure you’ve spoken about this with your colleagues: How do you think about preparing for the coming years? In terms of this last year having greatly affected how we work together and what technology education means in the new world.
Matt: Looking ahead, I think I kind of touched on this, there are strengths and benefits I want to keep. I want to lose the plague, but I want to keep the strengths and benefits! How’s that? And I definitely think it will transform courses.
Also I mean, we’ve been running in our youth program. COVID isolation. Activities, music related. So even though the isolation of COVID, we were able to gain some funding for some innovative new programs to just put a toe out in the water to see if we could continue any of that youth program online. And there are some specialist uses where there and some limits to it, but it’s definitely a parallel tool that we will not stop using. And there is going to be an explosion – there already has been the start of it – an explosion of new apps and technologies. I’m thinking of these training apps where you can get your training up without anyone seeing your mistakes, just a private little resource that you can use to get yourself stronger in various areas, before you present your kind of newfound strengths to the world. These are going to be very important as well.
Rebekah: I guess also students having more equipment at home now, not relying so much on the central studio, now they’ve got maybe a microphone and a little sound studio, so they’re encouraged to practice more and create more at home.
Matt: Yes. The last answer was for our youth projects. They may have limited resources but you can do a lot, dare I say it, on a phone. Who would have thought it, you can do more and more on the supercomputer in our hands that is a phone these days.
Rebekah: My sister is a growing star in the band lab community on her phone. She doesn’t even have a microphone. It’s amazing what they can do these days.
Matt: In terms of people setting up and getting resources at home I think people who want to have studios will kind of do that. There’s a big difference between people who go for that route and people for whom a laptop is as much as they’re really prepared to go. And we do have these lovely studios in central London there to be used. So a combination of home study and study in facilities is ideal.
Rebekah: Cool. That’s a lot to take in for the coming years. And I’m curious to see how the landscape will change. It’ll be interesting post-plague to see what we keep.
Matt: Yes. A hundred percent. I do think that there’s so much for us to incorporate in our programs and we can make them so much stronger and cater for more people both in-house and at a distance with the right tools.
Learn more about Community Music at https://cmsounds.com
May 31, 2021 in Source Elements
Angelines Santana is a Mexico-born, Los Angeles-based voice actor who has worked in everything from classic anime (Magic Night Rayearth) to audiobooks (The Handmaid’s Tale, Los Detectives Salvajes) and a whole lot of film and radio. Angelines clearly loves her job and the places it takes her, as you’ll read in this transcription of our Zoom chat between Melbourne and LA.
Peter: Hello! How you doing?
Angelines: So nice to meet you! I love Australia!
Peter: Yes! I saw the photo you sent me from when you were in Brisbane.
Angelines: Yes. I had the pleasure of being in Brisbane on a beautiful and unexpected trip. I always wanted to go to Australia, and that was a gig that I got a call for for the next day and before I realized I was on a plane to Australia to work. I didn’t even have time to process it!
Peter: What job was that?
Angelines: I was working as an ear prompter for a star who was doing a commercial campaign for a big telecom company. They needed somebody with acting experience and whatnot. And I knew somebody who somebody, so in 24 hours I was on a plane! And then I got the chance to stay there and play for five days. Beautiful, beautiful place.
Peter: I’m in Melbourne but Brisbane is nice
Angelines: I didn’t have the chance to go to see Melbourne but I did take a train, got lost and ended up in the Gold Coast! I went to the zoo and it was just beautiful.
Peter: Love the Gold Coast. It’s amazing how those work opportunities can pop up from a connection through a connection. There’s no class to teach you how to network. Sometimes you just have a drink with someone at a conference and then they refer you for a job!
Angelines: Exactly. It’s just a matter of time when you’ve been in this industry for so long. Everybody’s always moving, but we all stay in the same circle.
Peter: I’ve been looking at your work online and you seem to do so, so much! How do you define your job?
Angelines: What I been doing lately in Los Angeles and for the past 20-something years is I focus on my voice. I’m an actress and I always worked in theater. I guess out of all of my acting experience, what I love the most is doing theater because I love working with people in front of the audience. There’s nothing like a live audience, but the next best thing that I found was working with my voice. When I came to the States to live, the work that they were offering was dubbing, and it was a lot because this was when HBO started to dub a lot of content. It was fantastic. I did a lot of dubbing from English to Spanish and some movies that were from Spanish into English, when they require an accent, and I love doing that as well. So I see myself as a complete actress, but lately I love working with my voice.
Peter: I see that you do audio books as well. Tell me about the challenges of that.
Angelines: It’s hard. It’s hard doing audiobooks. I like it but it’s very tedious because it takes a lot of focusing, especially when you have a lot of characters in one book and you have to really concentrate, you have to focus, when you are separating your character from the narrator and you get tired.
Peter: How, how long does it take you? I mean, I’m sure it’s not just reading the book start to finish and you’re done.
Angelines: It depends on the book, but one finished finished hour might take two to three hours to record, depending on the inflections. And it depends how tired you are, the clients that you have, or if you misread one word, you know, you have to just retake it again. So it’s elaborated. Dubbing is the same, because when you’re doing a movie in another language, you usually do it little by little. You might do only ten seconds at a time, so imagine you have to do a whole movie, ten seconds then 10 seconds then 10 seconds. You have to be very, very focused on what you’re doing.
Peter: So how do you, how do you use Source-Connect in your work?
Angelines: Especially this year that we have to learn completely how to use it and manage it. I love technology. If you were to tell me twenty-five years ago that I was going to be dubbing from my home studio for movies I would laugh, I would say, “Where did you get that from? Too futuristic form for me, dubbing from home by 2020!” And even before Covid we were trying different platforms, but of course the pandemic came and and everybody was learning how to use Source-Connect. So it’s been awesome. The customer support… I love you guys! I can use Source-Connect for dubbing and radio or TV spots.
Peter: What do you use to record?
Angelines: My microphone is a wonderful Gefell M930, which is like a mix of a Sennheiser and a Neumann. And then I have my Scarlet interface for my computer, and my amazing homemade studio that I love, my booth.
Peter: Tell me about your booth. How did you make it? Almost everyone I’ve talked to has that little booth at home now, whether it’s a spare room, a walk-in closet, a little cottage in the yard…
Angelines: Mine is my closet as well! We turned it into booth. So we happened to have this studio and there was an empty closet so it worked out perfect. We’ve got the sound panels to deaden the sound, and we laid in all the cables to the interface.
Peter: So how did you get started in this industry? I guess it was through the acting and it kind of went from there?
Angelines: Yes, exactly. I started very young in my native Mexico. I’m from Mexico City. So when I came to the States, I saw the market for Spanish speaking announcers and it was sort of organic, like everything. It took time for the ball to get rolling. Back in the 90s you used to find a job in the newspaper and send your tape, you know, label it…
Peter: What were some of the first voice jobs you did?
Angelines: It’s so funny. When I got to LA, I started to dub right away. I started to do HBO content and cartoons that became really popular all over Latin America. And then I did my first radio spot. It was a perfume and it’s so funny because they recorded me we realized that we were on the same commercial!
Peter: That’s amazing!
Angelines: Then I did little campaigns here and there, books and then e-learners, you know, the little computers that talk.That’s something that I liked doing a lot too. I love working for kids because you get to play with your voice characters. It’s a lot of fun because you really get to workshop your skills as an actress and just let your imagination fly like a little kid.
Peter: So what’s next for you?
Angelines: I’m working on a reunion of one of the cartoons that we did 25 years ago that became really popular, Magic Knight Rayearth. We got most of the cast and 90% of the guests back together and to produce a really nice anime-style show which talks a little bit about all us, the work career of dubbing actors, and I’m the hostess. So that, that gets me real excited. And I’m about to direct a dubbing movie and I’m enjoying, I’m enjoying that a lot.
Peter: Ooh, tell me more about that.
Angelines: There is this movie that is called The Last Champion and they’re going to dub it into Spanish here in Los Angeles. And so I’m going to be directing it.
Peter: That’s amazing!
Angelines: Very happy, very pleased. So that’s what I’m working on.
Peter: That all sounds like so much fun.
Angelines: Have you ever been here to Los Angeles?
Peter: I love Los Angeles. I usually go there for the NAMM show every January and I typically spend an extra week or so just hanging around town, catching up with friends. I might go down to San Diego or up to San Francisco for a couple of days, but I love to say on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood so I’m close to the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Comedy Store. I love it. It’s so much fun there!
Angelines: Oh me too! I really love LA. I think it’s a fascinating, full of beauty. The diversity here is amazing. The showbusiness people from all over the world, everybody will end up in Los Angeles. So yeah. I love it. When you come over for NAMM again, make sure that you send me an email so we can catch up!
Peter: Absolutely. Yeah, that’d be great. Well, thanks so much for your time. This has been really fun.
Angelines: Thank you so much as well. I’m so glad we were able to talk. This was Lovely. Thank you.
May 19, 2021 in Source Elements
April 27, 2021 in Source Elements
Peter chats with Aurélien Nancel about the voice-preserving benefits of living in the Canary Islands.
Aurélien Nancel’s voice has been a part of the fabric of French media for over 25 years: first in theatre then in radio, and now as a prominent voice actor with a killer studio setup. In that time he’s gone from 56k modem to optical fibre, from Cool Edit Pro to a state-of-the-art modern studio. Oh and the studio happens to be in paradise.
Peter: I think everyone reading this is a bit of a gear geek, and a lot of us have some sort of home studio whether they’re professional or not. Obviously you’re a pro: what is your studio setup like?
Aurélien: I have a fully soundproofed room dedicated to my voice-over recordings. Many of my colleagues have a voiceover booth. I chose to use a whole voiceover room! More comfortable, spacious and fully equipped with professional equipment: Rode microphone, Focusrite sound card, a powerful PC that can work on my voice-over recordings on 4K video (but usually the videos are sent to me in HD format).
Peter: What’s an average work-day like for you as a voice actor?
Aurélien: As a voiceover artist, I start my day by checking my emails. I handle the most urgent requests first. Then I send out all the quotes requested overnight. I have a very clear and optimised organisation in my work. Then, the type of work depends on the request. I can record eLearnings in the morning, corporate videos in the afternoon, TV commercials and connect with Source-Connect. Not all my days are the same.
Peter: How did you first realise you had the talent for voice acting?
Aurélien: I became aware of my voice and my passion for this profession in 1994 when I started in FM radio. I was a radio host and very quickly, I participated in the editing of commercials spots for the radio station, and for which I also recorded my voice.
Peter: What do you do to take care of your voice?
Aurélien: I am lucky to be able to work well in the voice business. All these years in France allowed me to leave and settle in Spain in the Canary Islands from where I continue to work with all my clients over the world.
Peter: Oh that must be beautiful!
Aurélien: So it is very easy for me to take care of my voice in such a wonderful place! Sun and palm trees every day. It’s like being on vacation and it soothes my mind and my voice. It is true that some periods are harder than others, and my voice can suffer. First, I take a break, I drink water and apple juice… but my voice has been trained for 25 years now…
Peter: Source-Connect must be very useful in the Canary Islands then!
Aurélien: Source Connect is an important working tool for me and has become indispensable! The health crisis has pushed the voiceover industry to turn to us ‘home studio voiceovers’ …I think the term seems to be evolving into Voice Studio… whatever the case, Source-Elements has long known that the future of the audio-visual industry would be digital and on the internet. The market is evolving so fast that some projects need professionals who can react quickly to their work, and that’s what Source-Connect allows me to do. With two clicks of the mouse I can connect to any studio in the world that has Source-Connect. The number of Source-Connect users is gigantic! The connection is of excellent quality. My clients use my voice-over recording services for TV commercials, eLearnings and corporate videos that need my French voice. Source-Connect meets the exacting quality requirements of our industry with proven efficiency.
Peter: Do you have hobbies and interests outside of your work?
Aurélien: Outside of work, my interests are my family, my friends, and the people I see every day in my town (shopkeepers, local businesses) and I also often chat with tourists who come to visit the island.
I also record and produce podcasts ‘Les Histoires Sombres’ with Valerie MARINELLI a good friend and voice-over artist. A new episode is released every Thursday at 5pm (French time), available on all the usual listening platforms [laughing].