Archive for May 2015

Archive Thursdays: A Notebook’s Journey

2014-09-29 14.54.51This week’s Archive Thursday was originally published on October 30th, 2014.

At Faffcon 6 and 7, I’ve given out small notebooks with my name and tag line written on them. I felt like it was a useful thing to give as a swag item, and it fits in well with my brand (being helpful for your VO things.) They were very popular at Faff 6, and I ran out very quickly. At Faff 7 I had a sponsor table with these items, and handed out many more notebooks, but I quickly discovered something surprising about them and the ones I had handed out last time.

People had stories about their notebooks. They loved to tell me how useful they had been, and all the different things that they were helpful for. Many people had filled theirs at the previous Faffcon with notes. Someone had taken theirs for use as a ‘thoughts in the car’ notebook. A different person kept theirs next to their mic for easy in-session notes. More than one person had had their notebook appropriated by their spouse for different uses.

It was fascinating and wonderful to hear about all the places and uses that my notebooks had been helpful for. You really never do know how much a small thing can ripple into a bigger thing-these were mail order notebooks, and for Faffcon 6 they were very much a last minute idea. I was happy people liked them and took them quickly, but I didn’t really think anything more of it. Hearing all the stories at the next conference brought a huge smile to my face.

So, don’t hesitate to do something for someone else. Try and make your actions and thoughts in the world positive. You never know just how far those ripples will reach.

How Type A Are You?

Type AI’ve always been fascinated how different voice actors are. The number of backgrounds and personality types that end up in this industry are almost endless, and it’s quite interesting to see how they all come together and forge something that’s changing and has changed with time and technology.

But there’s one common trait that I’ve noticed quite broadly across the spectrum of people that I’ve met-a desire to keep things in their own lap. For things to stay close to them, whether an editing project, or a research one, people like to keep things close at hand.

I certainly understand this. For a while, I had an assistant, and I will freely admit that I gave her continual and highly detailed instructions on what I wanted her to do for me. I’d have a hard time sending something out to someone that wasn’t local to me if I didn’t know them well. How could I guarantee what they were going to do? Would they justify my investment in them?

Even though I feel this way, if I needed something like that, I’d do it anyways. Life is risk, business is risk, and being an entrepreneur is dancing on a tightrope in many cases. No one can do all the work on their own. No one SHOULD do all the work on their own, no matter how much you like or want to keep things in your own hands. Why? The one thing that you do that no one can replicate is in your vocal cords. That is the thing you get paid for, and the more time you can spend doing that the more money you will make and the more successful you will be.

Yes, you get more instant money in your pocket when you do everything yourself, and that is an awesome thing, particularly when you first start out, but as my Dad likes to say, “Voiceover is a great way to make money. It’s not a great way to make money quickly.” Starting out is often an investment process, and even if you can only afford a little help at first, every hour you save is another hour you can be voicing. What could you do with that free hour?

Archive Thursdays: Relax and Let Go

f45c2045-ab12-48cd-839c-c518a056e7c6-Relaxation-for-Mind-and-BodyThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally published January 28th, 2013

A bit more than a month ago, I stayed with Melissa Exelberth and Liz de Nesnera while attending the NY VO Mixer. Those two amazing ladies reminded me of an important life lesson while I stayed with them.  When I was with Melissa and Liz I was so excited to go see everyone that I was bouncing all around the house, and both ladies had to calm me down by reminding me that we’d get there when we got there, and I needed to just go with the flow-thus getting me thinking and inspiring this post. It’s important to not worry and fuss about the unimportant things in life. It’s so easy to cause yourself lots of unnecessary stress by focusing on all the little things.

There are many ways that you can control your life and the things that happen to you. But there are things that happen to us which you have no control over. In those situations there is only one thing you can control, which is your reaction to the things that happen. It’s a balance, like anything else in life. Worries and obsessions are something to allow yourself to feel, (Pushing them away can easily make things worse when they come back to bite you later!) and then make the effort to let go of.

Letting go is hard. It’s just as hard as taking control and putting forth the effort to change your life. (Which I’ve written about here) There have been many many studies done on the profound and long term effects that stress has on your body and mind. It can and will damage your health and make it harder for you to accomplish the things that you want to. The two polarites of making an effort to take control and change direction and letting things go sound like they should be mutually exclusive, but they aren’t. Mastering both is the task of a lifetime, but one truly worth striving for. No one can do both perfectly, making mistakes and falling off the wagon is not only expected but understandable.

So the next time you feel yourself knot up with tension, your stomach sour with worry, stop. Just stop. Take a deep breath, and close your eyes. Remember that in the long run, whatever you’re worrying about will probably not seem as important as it does in this moment. Relax your muscles. Take a break from whatever you’re doing, maybe walk around for a few minutes, and let your mind drift. When you step back to work, you’re a lot more likely to come up with a solution or an idea that you were too tense to think of a few minutes ago. Focus on the elements of the situation that you are able to control, not what other people are doing or saying. Do this–or whatever relaxes you–when the worries threaten to take over, and I bet before you know it you’ll find yourself with less worries than before.

Morgan Barnhart starts my interview series next week, talking on Social Media!


gratitudeI’ve written recently about how I’ve gotten a second job in addition to my virtual assistant work. That job has taught me a lot of things, including how out of shape I was-whew!-but one of the most important things I’ve learned is perspective. We who work from home live in a pretty awesome little fishbowl, and it’s really easy to forget how big and how different the world outside is.

I’d forgotten how lucky I am. I had forgotten what it was like to work in an environment that is not only mentally stressful, but physically stressful. There is never enough time, and there is always more to do. Customers are often unhappy, and many times-since I’m not working one on one with them-it’s not something that I did or can control, but I have to handle the fallout. There are good and bad things about this other job of mine, but the ‘real world’ is quite a bit different than I remember it.

It’s often valuable to take a moment and realize how many good things you have in your life. Working like we do has it’s own unique set of challenges, no question, but there’s also a lot of great things about it. I’m glad that I’ve been forced to see things from a different angle, it’s definitely given me a fresh view on my work!

Archive Thursday: Dan Friedman Interview

Dan Logo

This week’s Archive Thursday was originally posted on February 11th, 2013.

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,, 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 here.

And next week I’ll be moving to Jeff Kafer of Springbrook Audio, audiobook narrator and masterer extraordinaire!

A Circle’s Round…

a_circle_is_round_it-66271It has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend…

Sorry if I just got that song stuck in your head. I sang it in Girl Scouts way back when, and it ties in with what I want to write about today.

Friendship. The digital age has brought us all far closer together, and at the same time, much farther apart. These days, who doesn’t have a friend or closer relative that we feel twinges about because we know we should call them, but…? Or more than one? Life requires so much from us some days, not like the raw physical labor of previous generations, necessarily, but crowding every element of our lives so close together that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed, no matter what you do for a living.

But I believe that it’s vital to reach out, to touch base and maintain those connections as much as possible. What makes human beings happy and fulfilled in life is the quality of their connections with others, and it’s amazing how great it can make you feel even just to write to someone you’ve meant to keep in touch with. Just to say, ‘hey, I was thinking about you..’. How often do you hear something like that? Not asking for something, just wanting to connect?

Even if it’s just one email, one facebook message, one voicemail, take the time to reach out this week to someone you’ve meant to keep in touch with. I believe you’ll be surprised at how much positive energy you can bring into your life just by the act of reaching out, and renewing old ties.

Archive Thursday: Zak Miller Interview

ZakmillerThis week’s Archive Thursday was originally published on April 8th, 2013.

1. How did you get involved in audio production?
In my late teens and early twenties I made my living as a carpenter.  When I moved to Augusta Georgia after they put a moratorium on construction in the Florida Keys, there were no substantial paying jobs in the carpenter field.  As I was looking in the newspaper want ads the next thing below “Carpenter” was DJ.  Here is the funny part- Everyone always said that I had a good voice ~haha true story~ so I called to see what the deal was.  They told me they were a new radio station that had not gone on the air yet and they needed DJs.  They told me to send in an “air check tape” and a resume.  I called a buddy of mine that was in radio in Atlanta and asked what an “air check tape” was and he filled me in saying just read the area briefs in the local paper into a tape machine.  I dug out a cassette recorder that my father had since the sixties and went into my spare room and the end result was I scored the midday air slot on WCHZ 95.1!  A week before the station went live the production guy flaked and they came to me and said they would pay me five hundred more a year to be the production director, and I took the gig!  I had no idea what I was doing and the owner knew this to be the case.  He flew a friend in from New York that worked as production director at Z100 to teach me.  Four days of 16 hour work days and I made my first commercial.  It was for a horse show at the Aiken Square Mall in South Carolina.  I will never forget that spot!  All sound design was foley! Which came first, the production or the voicing?  I guess it would be voicing, but they kind of hit at the same time.

2. Where did the name 50 to 1 studios come from?

In May of ’09 I played the long shot in the Kentucky Derby.  Mind that Bird number 8.  I put a fist full of money down on a hunch that I was given a sign from above.  My nephew was staying at my house, and when he was closing the gate a lady drove by and flipped him off when he waived at her.  He came into the house and said in his 7 year old voice, “some lady flipped me the bird!”.  When the call sheet for the Derby came out the next day “Mind that Bird” was a 50 to 1 long shot.  Needless to say, I was the only one at the pay window after the race!  They had a police escort bring me to my car, and that was enough money to fund my studio equipment.  I had seen the writing on the wall at the studio that I ran and knew I had to have my ducks in a row.  Thankfully my passion for horses and sense of humor lead me in the right direction!

3. Tell us about how you race yourself editing.

While working at a studio that did a ton of long form I got bored.  My mother always told me as a kid, if there is a chore you don’t want to do, make game of it!  So, I decided to make a game of editing boring long forms by taking time to edit out pick ups and breaths, mouth noise and such for the first minute of the piece.  Then I would start playing the audio from the start, go to my last edit point, and listen to the piece as I edited by sight down the edit desk.  The game was to see if I could beat the cursor to the end and have a clean edit.  Most times I won, sometimes, depending on the talent, and how on point I was while recording after pick ups, the machine won.

4. Although you haven’t updated there in a while, were did you get the idea for voice actor-isms?

Voice Actorisms came about when I stumbled upon “Bro-isms” from Neil Patrick Harris.   I figured most people in the field could relate and it may bring a smile to someones day.  I have been lax on updating them because they were tied to a part of my life that does not exist any longer, and it is still just a bit to raw on the emotion side to be able to put my mind back in that space.  I hope one day to work past that, but for now, no one can steal the idea! haha

5. Surfing is a big thing for you, how did you get involved with that?

I grew up in Miami and I idolized my older brother.  He surfed all the time! If there were no waves, he was on a skateboard ramp somewhere.  I didn’t really know what it meant to feel the ocean, or the light that surfing can bring to your soul.  I just wanted to do everything he did since he was my hero.  We moved to Spain in ’79 and we had heard of Biaritz France being an awesome surf spot. ( back then, surfing hadn’t hit Europe yet and surfing was still a subculture rather than the mainstream sport you see today) My brother had read about it in Surfer Magazine and somehow got my parents to take us there for the weekend.  It was May, cold and no one was even on the beach. We had a camper van, and stayed right in the car park of the beach.  Tom and I got up early and he told me that “today is the day you learn to surf!”  He then put on his wetsuit, grabbed his board and paddled out.  I didn’t have a wet suit, and will never forget the gripping cold of the North Atlantic in May.  I was wearing a pair of gym shorts (no baggies back then) and a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt.  After an hour or so my brother called me out to the line up.  I swam out, got on the board, a set came in and he pushed me into my first wave.  I stood up and went straight down the line and felt like I had found Heaven.  When I looked back at the beach to see if my mom had seen my epic ride, there was a line of school kids standing on the break wall clapping and laughing at the spectacle of these two Americans playing on a board in the freezing water!  They had no idea what surfing was, and really I didn’t either until that day.  Just like a junkie, I am still searching or that feeling of the first high of riding waves!  There is nothing like paddling off the continent and leaving society behind while focusing on nothing but what is ten feet in front of you.  All the worlds troubles just leave you mind, and it is really only in that minute that I feel alive!

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 previous interviews with Morgan Barhart of here, Dan Friedman here, Jeff Kafer here, Eric Souer here, George Whittam here, Dylan Gamblin here, Louanne Frederikson here, and Dan Lenard here.

Jeff Bowden, a man with more than 40 years worth of experience in media related fields is the subject of my next interview.

Stand up and be counted!

2015-03-21 21.42.47I’ve been using computers since I was a teenager. (My parents wondered why I stopped going outside, but computer games were the answer! Ah, Windows 95…) For all that time, I’ve spent many hours sitting on my behind, and never thought a thing of it. When I started work as a Virtual Assistant, I continued in the same way, creating my work area on the presumption that I would be sitting all the time.

After a while, I noticed that I was sore and uncomfortable, and I certainly wasn’t feeling very good physically. Sitting down all day made me feel lethargic and groggy. I browse a lot of articles linked through Facebook, and one caught my idea about the idea of a standing desk, specifically for something called a geek desk. I absolutely loved this idea, although the price was a little too high for me, so I put it on the back burner of my mind.

A while later, I had gotten frustrated with my sitting situation, and I decided to take measures into my own hands. I had long had a sturdy kitchen table from Ikea, and it struck me that it would make a good base for a possible desk. With some hunting, I found a smallish TV stand that would hold monitor and speakers. Further exploration resulted in the small, two shelf stand that would work with my keyboard whether I was standing or sitting. I got a computer chair mat-I do sit sometimes, when I’m not feeling well, or am sore from some other activity-and a chef mat to stand on.

And that’s how I work! I find that this position is much better for my health-I feel more energetic, and it’s much easier to keep my mind sharp than it was before. One unanticipated side effect was the fact that it’s also too easy to walk away from things, since I don’t have to undergo the extra effort of getting up first! 🙂 It’s not for everyone-although some people take it even farther and put a treadmill underneath and walk while they work-but for many people I think it can have some excellent health benefits, and greater long term affects for the body.


What ever happened to Experts?

expertiseI’ve written many times about the changing nature of our industry, and how it’s important for each voice talent to find their own way, and create a life and work situation that fits them individually-that what works for someone else might not work for you.

But several things have come together recently to make me pause and take the time to draw a parallel point. I read an article a while back called The Death of Expertise, and it’s stuck in my head. Recently, this article has some together with my endless reading of social media and forums to trouble me.

There are lions in our industry that have been working for decades. Some of them are not with the modern era-refusing the acknowledge the changes in the industry-but many of them have risen to the challenge and are still making money and voicing lots of big ticket things that we all see or hear. But despite their wealth of knowledge, sometimes these people are seen as little more than carnival barkers with an opinion.

Obviously, it’s hard to know from words on a screen what’s going on behind the lines. It’s hard to know just how real or true what someone says is. But rather than quickly judging or condemning people, perhaps the wisdom is in trying to find out more about the person. People who seem arrogant or brash online can be kind and unassuming on the phone or in person. Someone who seems to be tooting their own horn from a post that you read might have something really valuable to offer. Other than time, what will it cost you to delay judgement and harsh words? What could it gain?


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