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To start off my ‘techie’ interviews I decided to start with one of the first engineer types that I ever met, the fabulous Dan Friedman. Dan impressed me immediately with his knowledge, skill, and personable way of explaining things I didn’t understand. He is deservedly one of the ‘go-to’ guys in the production end of audio. He and I had a great conversation, and touched upon his latest service-demo production! I hope you enjoy reading as much as I did!
1. How did you get started on the production side of audio?
First, thank you so much for this opportunity Karen. I’m so grateful to be able to share some of my experiences with your readers.
As far as what got me started in the type of audio production I mostly do today (early on in my career, I had been apprenticing in some music studios), that began while I was still working in radio. Besides working as an audio engineer and promotions manager, I began co-hosting the local music show. The show was pre-produced and played over the air on a DAT tape. During the week, I would find all the music and put the show together… then it would air on Sunday nights.
Although the gear is archaic by today’s standards, it was a great opportunity to work on the digital editing equipment at the radio station. I had already graduated from recording school, but having a computer in your home was still a little out of reach for many people… especially someone who worked in radio. For a couple of years, even after I did get a computer, audio recording and editing software still had very limited capabilities. Anything that wasn’t limited, required significant investments in hardware and software, which is why only radio stations and professional recording studios could afford it.
2. What led you into voice acting?
I left radio and began working as a studio manager for a company that specialized in telephony. If it could be heard on a phone, we would produce it. There I met several voice actors who became good friends and early mentors. Paul Armbruster was one of those voice talents. He taught a workshop several times a year, so I decided to take classes with him. At the time, his class served me best by introducing me to the terminology of voiceover and the technical aspects of a script. The class also introduced me to the “art” of voice acting as opposed to just announcing. Thanks to his class, I became a much better producer and director almost immediately.
It took several years of listening to voice actors everyday as a producer and director, as well as practicing scripts myself, before I did my first paid job as a voiceover talent. I truly love voice acting and, now that I’ve been doing it for several years, I understand the “acting” portion a whole lot more than I did when I first got started.
3. How did you get in to doing demo production?
Demo production, including directing talent and discovering what they do best has been a natural part of what I have been doing as a producer at ProComm Studios. I was already directing talent and mixing commercials, corporate AV, e-learning and really just about everything else voiceover related as part of my job, so making demos is just another aspect to that.
4. How do you feel your experience could help talent get the best demo?
I’ve heard (probably) thousands of demos over the years and have produced hundreds. I listen to what is out there, and to every demo that is sent to me (even the ones I can barely make it through), and pay close attention to the deliveries and production elements. I think the fact that I’ve worked in music production has also been very helpful because I treat demo production like producing a song. It should grab the listener, take them on a little journey and even with changes in emotion, tempo and tone, hold their attention throughout.
Believe it or not, working in radio has also proven to be very helpful. Radio taught me a great deal about the attention span of the listener and how quickly they will change the station or turn the dial if they don’t like what they hear. This is great information because you want a demo to always be one step ahead of the listener. The demo should change, before the listener has the opportunity to change it… in other words, before they get bored with it, turn it off and move on to the next one.
5. Have you found that many talent could use a ‘tune up’ and aren’t aware of it?
Experienced talents often know their strengths and weaknesses. New people can be all over the place, because they are still finding their way. But, no matter where a talent is in their career, they will always have an area in which they can improve. For some, that area may be marketing or record keeping. For others it’s working on deliveries and script interpretation. Some talents need extensive coaching, especially early on in their career. More experienced talent need minor tweaks throughout their careers. Many of those tweaks happen during actual sessions.
I work with some very successful talent who go to many coaching sessions and seminars but overall, their deliveries remain the same. So, this tells me they already know what to do and the coaching sessions serve them better by keeping them inspired and on their toes. Even though they may not be getting much out of the actual instruction anymore, there is tremendous value in the inspiration. You have to be in the right headspace to effectively deliver.
Newer talents need instruction and training. Understanding parallel construction and implied comparison (as just two examples) is essential if you want to be able to properly deliver those elements in a script. While there are people with natural ability and great ears who are able to deliver those elements somewhat intuitively, they can get caught floundering during those times when they miss the mark and someone tries to communicate that to them. In any profession, if you don’t have the foundation of education or the vocabulary… its very difficult to comprehend where you may be going wrong and harder for someone else to explain the reasons to you.
6. Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you again for this opportunity Karen. For those who are interested, I published a book called SOUND ADVICE – Voiceover From an Audio Engineer’s Perspective which can be found at my website, Sound4VO.com, where I also write all kinds of helpful articles about voiceover and things which may be of interest to voice talent.
As a post script, if you know anyone who you think would fit in to my ‘techie’ interview series please email me at [email protected] Also, you can check out last week’s interview with Morgan Barhart of SociableBoost.com here.
And next week I’ll be moving to Jeff Kafer of Springbrook Audio, audiobook narrator and masterer extraordinaire!