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May 03, 2011

Cipher Complex

Get a gander at this great clip of a game I gabbed on, as a guard, grunter, and groaner. Got it? Good.



Cipher Complex isn't a fully developed game; in fact, it unfortunately didn't make its way into full production. This clip is a vertical slice, or a gameplay demo for the early development stage. I did my work under the direction of the fabulous DB Cooper.

Even though this title didn't see store shelves, I'm still thrilled to be in the company of great voice talents like Anthony Mendez (Cipher), Philip Banks (bad guy General Kim), and DB, who appropriately voices Mission Control. Kevin Genus also gets guard and grunt duty here.

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March 31, 2011

That's Easy For *You* To Say.

This segment from Wednesday's The Rachel Maddow Show serves to remind that, even (especially?) for those of us who talk for a living, some words and names are more problematic than others:


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


I have to say, it's oddly comforting to know that I'm not alone in my regionally-specific social requirement to willfully mispronounce certain names and places: In Austin alone, "Manchaca" is "man-shack" and "Guadalupe" is "gwad-a-loop" (yes, even those who speak Spanish properly are compelled to use the "incorrect" but more common forms). I have fond memories of a novice newsman at a radio station getting his hand figuratively slapped over saying "Bexar County" just as it appears --- which is incorrect, as Bexar is properly said "Bay-er".

Rachel, I thoroughly and completely feel your pain regarding "procurement". I can say it easily and quickly now, but that's because it once gave me the same fits, prompting me to practice it over and over again until it sounded natural. (Yes, folks, this is what voiceover performers do. All of us have the occupational hazard of our own collection of a few relatively basic English words that mangle our tongues and make us sound like we're still learning the language.)

I use the Merriam-Webster pronunciation guide myself quite a bit; it's not only a lifesaver for tricky "everyday" words, but the handy "Medical" tab seems tailor-made for those of us who do a lot of medical narration.

(Voice talents --- and anyone else interested --- here's the link to the Voice of America pronunciation guide.)

RELATED POST: Y'all are Fixin' to Git an Education.

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March 15, 2011

PSA - Red Cross Japanese Tsunami/Earthquake Relief


Broadcasters / media producers / webmasters: Here's a free Red Cross - Japan tsunami/quake relief PSA from Peter O'Connell.

From the audioconnell site:

The American Red Cross is now taking donations on behalf of the Japanese Red Cross – helping those people impacted by the earthquake in Japan and the subsequent tsunami in the Pacific.

This PSA, written and produced by audio’connell Voice Over Talent from content taken directly from the American Red Cross web site, is available here from audio’connell Voice Over Talent for free download and general public use at no charge by any media outlet wishing to rebroadcast this audio clip only in its entirety.

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March 12, 2011

Getting Inside the Script


When presented with a VO script, it doesn't have to be Shakespeare to warrant bringing your best acting skills to the table. In my article Getting Started in Voiceovers, I pointed out: "Whether it's a ketchup commercial, an instructional tech video, or an animated Pixar blockbuster, the skills you need to bring to the mic are those of an actor."

Dan O'Day shares this clip of Christine Coyle demonstrating just what I referred to, teaching the kind of text analysis skills needed to get inside any script. (My friend Bob Souer is one of the participants.)

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March 08, 2011

New Tools (And a Warning Label)


Having quick access to handy tools is a must for any profession, no less so for VO artists. Voice talent J. Christopher Dunn has compiled a list of Five Must-Have Online Gizmos for Your Voice-over Toolbox that you'll want to check out.

I'm no lawyer (and I won't even play one here), but I would like to add a caveat regarding item # 4, "Save the Video". It's true that services like the one mentioned can grab online video, giving you the flexibility to post it to your site/blog/YouTube etc. However, just because you can grab it doesn't mean you should. Moreover, one shouldn't assume that a client's lack of response equals a "yes" when requesting a copy of the finished item. There is some debate about this; YouTube's own user agreement essentially states that once a video is uploaded, that clip is fair game for anyone's use. However, many of the content providers have legal decrees stating quite clearly the opposite. Unless you want to be potentially caught in a legal crossfire, your best move is to stick with content for which your client has given you the go-ahead.

Okay, enough finger-wagging. Go check out the toolbox and enjoy.

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February 20, 2011

Getting Started: Another Take



Wondering what it takes to get started on the right path to a career in voiceovers?

I've gotten a lot of nice feedback on my article about getting one's feet wet in the voiceover biz. Voice actor Smith Harrison has written his own superb piece on the subject of getting started in voiceovers, so I recommend you add it to your reading list if you're interested in laying the groundwork.

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February 14, 2011

VO Scam Alert: Update

Voice talent Dave Courvoisier recently alerted the voiceover community about a scam artist, one who's been reportedly soliciting radio imaging liners and not paying for the work. Here's an update on the matter.

I had a minor exchange with this person last year. Ultimately, he didn't actually scam me out of anything (except the time taken to respond to his e-mail inquiries and provide a rate quote), but his behavior was suspicious to say the least. He contacted me requesting a quote for fully-produced liners to be used on his radio program; I gave him the quote and made it clear that partial payment up front would be required before any work was done. No reply. I followed up a month later asking if he was still interested. He replied saying he'd sent payment, which I knew was false (if for no other reason than a month had passed with no word from him). The reply was complete silence when I asked him to provide some kind of confirmation of the payment.

Dave's report seems to confirm that this guy is not to be trusted. This sort of thing is precisely the reason why, with some exceptions, several voice artists (myself included) request at least a partial payment up front for new clients.

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January 08, 2011

Publicity, Pipes, and Perilous Thinking

So much has been written about Ted Williams in the last few days that this entry certainly appears late to the party. But, hey, this is still a voiceover blog, and the formerly-homeless baritone's story continues to unfold and gain steam.

Paul Strikwerda has written a piece on Williams sufficiently insightful and thought-provoking (and ultimately about far more than the man himself) to warrant a more dignified label than “blog post”, and I won't be attempting to top his efforts here. Nevertheless, here are a few thoughts.

After the story broke --- even before the subsequent media reports detailing Williams' less-than-angelic past emerged --- VO artists filled up boatloads of bandwidth with reactions ranging from effusive praise to grapes oh-so-sour. To that latter group, I say: debate over the various aspects of his story is fine. However, regardless of how one feels about his talent or whether he deserves the announcing jobs he's been offered, spending even a moment worrying about any voiceover career other than your own is to get on a speedy treadmill to nowhere.

After Williams was offered an announcing job by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was supposed by some that he'd taken the place of an existing employee, who was probably cast aside callously so that the franchise could garner a share of the growing publicity. I'm confident that, were this the case, ESPN and other sports media outlets would be all over it like the fatigues sported by Williams in that first viral video. So far, I haven't seen any such reports.

For any still concerned that Williams may have unjustly taken (or, if you prefer, been granted) any jobs that might have gone to a “more deserving” VO artist --- ones equipped with an agent, a home studio, lots of C-notes spent on training and coaching --- consider something for a moment. It's already happening. It's been happening. It's going to continue to happen. “It”, of course, is the hiring of voice talents who might just not necessarily be ideal for the job. “It” occurs at all levels of the industry, from small-market radio to multimillion-dollar TV campaigns. These jobs were already being “taken” by others, and not for a moment did it ever mean that there wasn't still work to be had.

I say, hate neither the game nor the player. Embrace both and see what happens.

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October 28, 2010

FaffCon2: Atlanta 2011!

The success of the first FaffCon event in Portland has led to FaffCon 2, coming to Atlanta in 2011. Early registration begins November 1st!

FaffCon is a voiceover "unconference"; instead of being locked in to seminar or workshop content dictated by others, you get to choose what aspect of voiceover work gets discussed/worked on/et cetera. Congrats to FaffCon's organizer, Amy Snively, on the success of the (un)conference!

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October 15, 2010

I'm Not an Octopus

Nor am I running for Senate in Delaware. Jury still out on witch status.

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October 01, 2010

A Top Tip Twofer from Philip Banks

In one fell swoop, international voiceoverist Philip Banks teaches you 1) how not to be a cinematographer AND 2) the elusive, magical secret to getting VO work.

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September 20, 2010

New PSAs for National Voice Over Appreciation Month

Check out all three new PSAs for National Voice Over Appreciation Month! Dave Courvoisier put it together with 16 voice actors, including David Houston, Tricia Basanyi, Linda Ristig, Liz de Nesnera, Lee Gordon, Jody Krangle, Justin S. Barrett, Lindsay Martell, Ken Maxon, Rowell Gormon, Mike Coon, Doug Turkel, Melanie Haynes, and Daniel Wallace. Also included: David Atwood, Mahmoud Taji, Jay Sawyer, Jim Barton, Ken Maxon, Morgan Barnhart, Dan Roberts, Trish Basanyi, Andy Boyns, Bob Souer, Dave Courvoisier, Mike Roberts, Edo Peters, CC Petersen, Jodi Krangle, Ralph Hass, and Michael Schoen.

PSA 1

PSA 2

PSA 3


More info at http://www.nationalvoiceovermonth.com!

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August 04, 2010

Animation Nation: Nailing The VO Audition

(Hat-tip to voice actor Kyle Hebert for the link.)

In this Backstage.com article, award-winning casting director Sarah Noonan and animation voiceover actor Bob Bergen (the voice of hundreds of characters from Porky Pig to Luke Skywalker) offer tips on nailing your animation audition. Required reading for anyone with an interest in cartoon VO!

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July 21, 2010

Edge Studio's Microphone Selector

While there's no substitute for trying out different mics by actually using them, the folks at Edge Studio have come up with a way to help narrow down your options before putting them to the test.

Their Microphone Selector tool lets you compare mics in various price ranges and characteristics. You can select various criteria to pare your choice down from 59 different makes and models.


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April 30, 2010

They Call Me the Working Man

I'm not going to call out anyone by name or dwell on it, nor am I going to go into any great detail about what prompted this post; still, it must be said:

If you're a voice actor who's landed several high-profile gigs, that's great.

If you're proud of the feeling that you've become your own boss in the process, that's good as well.

If you want to use those things to extol the virtues of self-employment to others, more power to you.

However, when you go about that pursuit by maligning everyone who still works a regular job for a regular paycheck --- by labeling them as morons and failures --- then you've crossed the line that separates confidence from arrogance. (That's about as politely as I can put it.)

Not only are some people simply unsuited for a life spent walking the tightrope sans net, they're also undesiring of the accompanying spotlight. The vast majority of people are content to perform the kinds of unglamorous work that keeps the engine of society moving --- cooking meals, repairing roads and bridges, explaining long division to young minds, stabilizing an injured patient, et cetera. Without these people, there'd be very little for ambitious voice-talkers to jabber about in front of a microphone. Denigrating the former reveals a stunning callousness and lack of empathy from the latter.

To recognize the value of those peoples' work is also to realize that true "self-employment" is something of a chimera: it exists as an ideal, and while it can certainly be realized to varying degrees, the truth is that we all have bosses. When I take on the job of voicing a medical narration, I'm the employee of the talent buyer. Sure, I can call myself an "independent contractor", and I'm not going to be listed on the employee rolls of that company's Human Resources department, but the simple fact is that I'm performing a service in exchange for monetary compensation. No matter how you finesse it, that's employment --- and by definition, no employee exists without an employer.

I'm reminded of a line from comedian Stephen Colbert's recent book I Am America (And So Can You): "I won't be satisfied until every American is in the top one percent".

It's a joke. Written by a comedian. Its irony is evident. Yet, it seems there are those who not only sincerely espouse it as a philosophy, but are willing to unapologetically insult those who remain in the ninety-nine percent.

For those of us with aspirations toward independence, escaping the drudgery of the day job can be a great feeling --- and I speak from experience. I remain astonished that anyone who's made that transition can somehow look back with derision and scorn at those who remain in the workaday world. Indeed, we who are possessed of the need to leave that realm should have a healthy respect and admiration for those not so cursed. To have no more complex or far-reaching a desire than to do what's needed to take care of oneself and one's family is not a condition to be mocked or ridiculed.

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April 21, 2010

Voice Actor Voices Activism

Government Employees Insurance Company (doing ...Image via Wikipedia

Didn't expect to see this today:

Sometimes you have a headline that makes the rest of the story superfluous, but here's the background. Actor Lance Baxter, otherwise known as "D.C. Douglas," currently known as the man who informs you how much GEICO can save you on car insurance, left a message last month with FreedomWorks in which he asked the group how many "mentally retarded" people it had on staff and what it would do when a tea partyer "killed someone." On April 14, FreedomWorks put his voicemail online.voices.washingtonpost.com, GEICO voice actor fired after insulting tea parties, Apr 2010

However you feel about the issues raised here, I hope we can all agree that it's a good idea to spell-check your press release. "Achilles heal"?

 

UPDATE: In-depth discussion and commentary here, and that's putting it mildly. It is, as they say, on like Donkey Kong.
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March 24, 2010

Ninny or Ninja. You Choose.

We've all been there. Whether it's an acting audition, a presentation in front of a group of people, or any important task we want to (or have to) accomplish, all of us have confidently stepped forward only to fall firmly on our faces --- although, few of us have done it quite as firmly as actor/stuntman Mark Hicks. Observe:

If you didn't watch the clip, or even if you did, read on. You might know Hicks better by his unintended nickname "Afro Ninja". (I confess that I hadn't seen the astonishingly popular clip until the Current TV piece aired recently.) The great thing about Hicks' audition isn't that it inadvertently led to publicity and an indie film --- though those things certainly aren't bad for him --- it's that after the spectacular face-plant and subsequent crashing stumble, he got up, gave it another shot, and landed the gig. Few could have blamed him if, after the disaster, he'd left the audition while apologizing for wasting everyone's time. Instead, he managed to forget about the mistakes and deliver a performance that earned him the job.

This, naturally, is not to say that every producer or casting director will overlook mistakes of such dangerous magnitude. I'm sure some would have crossed him off the list no matter how superb a second try he turned in. But if he hadn't given it another shot, with all the confidence and skill he could muster, he'd never have known.

Remember this the next time you find yourself going blank or mangling words at an audition. If that guy was able to put that beginning out of his mind and start over, surely you can do the same. Probably without even smacking yourself in the face.

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February 19, 2010

King Lear in a Cupboard

 

 

In this Telegraph story on audiobooks, more compelling than the facts and figures on audiobook sales are the actors' insights into performing for the medium. It's a nice glimpse into the process from a decidedly British point of view, but certainly of value to Yanks and other species of voice talent.

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January 12, 2010

This Bond Thing Just Won't Go Away

Just when I started to think my near-gig experience with the 007 franchise had firmly settled into the archives, a funny thing happened.

Without going into details that can't be revealed (for various official purposes): a good friend of mine and his wife were in London recently on a mini-vacation. There, she met up with a friend who works in the same rather important line of business. The talk somehow turns to my Bond near-gig, and it's learned that the London friend's boss communicates directly with Daniel Craig on a fairly regular basis.

My friend, tongue firmly in cheek, asked that Mr. Craig be informed of his inadvertent burgling of a nifty gig from a poor, hungry actor. While I have no doubt that he delivered the request properly, the way these things go, by the time it gets to Mr. Craig --- if and when it actually does --- he's likely to have been told that some sod named Davis in the city of Houston has invited him to go on a dig.

That would be in keeping with my luck regarding the whole affair.

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November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, VO-BB!

 

 
Happy 5th Birthday to the VO-BB forum, from David Houston Voiceovers!
 

 

 

There aren't enough superlatives to describe what a tremendous online forum the VO-BB is (and nobody likes an overwritten script anyway). Therefore, I'll just ask you to join me in a hearty Congrats and Happy Birthday to the site, born five years ago today.

My pal (and creator & manager of the site) DB Cooper also deserves more thanks and salutations than I can adequately express here. Here's to many more!

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September 30, 2009

DB & Me

My good friend and VO colleague DB Cooper was in town a couple of weeks ago for the Austin Game Developers Conference. We've worked together long-distance, via phone and e-mail, but this was the first time we've actually met up in the "real world". DB and other conference-goers wrapped up the week at Guero's, so I happily crashed the party. With permission, of course.

 

Voiceover artists David Houston and DB Cooper wrap up Austin GDC '09 at a post-conference get-together.
 

 

Earlier in the week, DB shared her expertise for technology company Level 3's Red Couch interview series:

 

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September 12, 2009

The James Bond Audition

Here's the audition that landed me the James Bond videogame gig back in 2007.

(In a nutshell, for those who may be new to this blog: In 2007, I got a gig to be a voice match for an unavailable Daniel Craig in what was to be a Casino Royale video game from Activision. The recording sessions were suddenly put on hold, after which I sat on ice for months before finally learning that Craig had agreed to voice the part after all. By that time, the game had become a tie-in for the following Bond film, Quantum of Solace.)

The audition itself isn't a perfect voice match, but I'm still happy that it was close enough to get the nod.

 

 

(If the Flash player doesn't work, you can download the mp3 here.)

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June 24, 2009

Audiobook Wisdom

Voiceover greats Marc Cashman and Pat Fraley lend their insights on audiobook performance to a new article at Backstage.com. Highly recommended reading!

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June 21, 2009

"Land of the Lost" Audition

 

Land of the Lost (2009)
 

 

This past January, I auditioned for a voice role (Library Skull) in the Will Ferrell movie Land of the Lost. I didn't land the gig --- that honor went to voice actors Adam Behr and Daamen Krall --- but it was fun to give it a go.

Here's my original audition if you're interested. (mp3)

 

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May 13, 2009

An Appeal to Voice Overists, by Philip Banks

Don't worry, he doesn't mean you.

On second thought: yes, he does.

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April 30, 2009

Looking and Leaping Into Voiceover

Actress and author Deborah Puette gives an in-depth, first-hand look at taking the plunge into her first VO demo. Her work with producer/voice actor Ed Cunningham is also documented on video. Highly recommended!

(Courtesy of Backstage.com)

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April 15, 2009

Jennifer Hale VO Showcase

My previous post referenced gaming & animation fans who can be more than a little critical of voice actors in those mediums. It's nice, then, to see fans go to the same lengths to recognize excellence in voice acting. A YouTube user compiled this series of clips featuring the exceptional work of voice actor Jennifer Hale:

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April 14, 2009

Still Think Voice Acting is Easy?

 

 

 

You may change your mind after reading this excellent article from gaming site 1up.com

Hardcore gamers are notorious for attacking "bad" voice acting in games; some of the vitriol is deserved, but a sub-par voice performance usually isn't due to a lack of talent. Working videogame actors discuss the challenges presented in this unque genre of VO.

 

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February 25, 2009

In a World of Inexcusable Oversights...


Actor and voiceover artist Don LaFontaine, who created and perfected the art of the movie-trailer voiceover, was inexplicably omitted from the 81st Academy Awards' montage of deceased luminaries.

 

I watched the montage of deceased luminaries on last Sunday's 81st annual Academy Awards, and couldn't put my finger on just what seemed to be missing. When it dawned on me a few moments later, I was stunned; the Academy had omitted the passing of the man who literally invented --- and then perfected --- the art of the movie-trailer voiceover. Don LaFontaine voiced over 5,000 trailers in his long career, and became the standard by which all other trailer voices are measured. He was, quite literally, the voice of the art form celebrated by the Oscars.

It's too late for the Oscar telecast, of course, but I urge you to let the Academy know how you feel about this glaring omission.

UPDATE: There's now a Facebook fan page dedicated to finding 1 million fans who believe Don should be posthumously awarded an honorary Oscar. If you agree, join up and let them know.

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February 22, 2009

Anime Voice Acting 101



Bang Zoom! Entertainment has been running a series of voice acting workshops around the country, answering the eternal question: “how do I become an anime voice actor?”. Anime News Network sat down with workshop teacher Tony Oliver, a longtime voice actor, director and producer, to find out what it's all about.

Link

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February 15, 2009

You Oughtta Be In Voiceovers

Ever been told you should be doing voiceovers? Ever told someone they should be doing voiceovers? Here's a brief but must-read article on the reality behind what the next step actually entails.

UPDATE: A fellow voice talent shared her experiences, in a response to this post in another forum. Here are her thoughts:

 

My reality: $14,000 later with a professional demo and directors, agents and actors telling me I'm competitive and the top student in the working professional classes, agents all told me "I have that niche filled." and "I'm sorry, you're too old to portray children. You can't possibly understand their motivations."

An audiobook startup is happy to use me for character work in exchange for copies of the books and a small mixer board they outgrew. My voice is on another "resume job" display in a museum of coin-op amusements.

I return to working on advancing my day job career with dreams of building a studio of my own to record the antique children's books I've collected.

For everyone who makes it big, how many are working with broken dreams?

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January 28, 2009

Breaking Into Audiobook VO

Scott Brick is arguably the audiobook industry's greatest voice talent working today, making his How to Break Into Narration blog post an absolute treasure. Having all of Scott's insights put into text is reason enough to dive in, but he's gone the extra mile and narrated an audio version of the lesson --- as only he can.

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January 19, 2009

The President's Announcer

 

 

 

 

It becomes available every four years. It offers no pay. It's one of the most exclusive and prestigious voiceover gigs in the world.

For 52 years, Charlie Brotman has served as the president's announcer for the inaugural parade. tomorrow --- Tuesday, January 20th, 2009 ---  Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, at which point Charlie will extend his streak to 10 presidents and 14 parades.

He's had the job long enough to be a little fuzzy on the details of landing it, but even Charlie has to "audition" each time the gig comes up:

 

Brotman isn't sure how he got the announcing gig in the first place, although he believes Eisenhower remembered him as the announcer at Griffith Stadium when the president threw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators in 1956.

By now, one would think that Brotman's selection for the job every four years would be automatic, but he has to break through layers of bureaucracy to make his pitch anew whenever there's a change in administration. Once he had persuaded Obama's workers that he was for real — "I'm sure they Googled me and asked references and that type of thing," Brotman said — they invited him on board and even started asking him for help with the parade script.

 

Here's a salute not only to our new Chief Executive, but to the voice of experience that will help usher him in tomorrow.

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January 17, 2009

Who's That Voice?

 

 

 

 

Even if you're a fan of both fast food and videogames, you've probably never spent much time wondering just what connection exists between Spyro the Dragon and the Taco Bell Chihuahua. For those of you who have, this article will put your mind at ease.

The piece takes popular characters from games and other media, and reveals the voices --- sometimes with surprising results. 

(Hat-tip to voice talent Doug Turkel for mentioning this via Twitter. Thanks!)

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January 14, 2009

Commercial Technique

 

 

 

Backstage.com hosts an excellent article on Honing Your Commercial Technique. Authored by actor and VO artist Heidi Schooler, and featuring advice from top voice actor MJ Lallo, the article highlights four specific skills an actor should take into every audition. 

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January 09, 2009

Pre-Announcement Announcement

 

 
 

 

To be launched soon: Do That Voice! The David Houston Voiceovers Podcast.

It'll be available here and on iTunes. Keep watching!

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December 22, 2008

FNL: Background Report II - Update

If you're not the blinking type, you may have seen me on the most recent episode ("A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall") of Friday Night Lights:

 

David Houston (right) portrays a concerned parent at a school board meeting on TV's 'Friday Night Lights'. (Season 3, Episode 11 - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall")

David Houston (right) portrays a concerned parent at a school board meeting on TV's 'Friday Night Lights'. (Season 3, Episode 11 - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall")

David Houston (right) portrays a concerned parent at a school board meeting on TV's 'Friday Night Lights'. (Season 3, Episode 11 - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall") 

David Houston (right) portrays a concerned parent at a school board meeting on TV's 'Friday Night Lights'. (Season 3, Episode 11 - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall") 

David Houston (right) portrays a concerned parent at a school board meeting on TV's 'Friday Night Lights'. (Season 3, Episode 11 - "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall") 

 

Behind-the-scenes pics here.

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December 16, 2008

The Santa Sessions

A lump? I think the director's getting the entire coal mine this year.

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December 07, 2008

Survey Says, Part 2

John Florian's VO survey has more info. Part 2 is called 172 Ways Voice Actors are Coping With Today’s Economic Conditions. Go forth once more and take a look...

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December 02, 2008

Survey Says...

 

 

 

John Florian at VoiceOverXtra has published the results of their “How’s Business Lately?” survey of voice talents, Conducted in late October 2008, the survey asked participants to compare their current job volume and income with what they experienced at the same time in 2007. 

There's a mixed bag of results, with many reporting an uptick in business but also expressing concerns about the future. Worth a look.

 

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Where It All Began

I fired up the scanner recently to get more of my old photos in digital format. A couple of them stood out; these are the production and on-air studios at KELI-FM radio in San Angelo, where I got my broadcasting feet wet:

 

 

KELI production studio, 1987

 

 

 

KELI on-air studio, 1987

 

 

Both are from 1987. (There! I dated myself.) It turned out to be an ideal place to learn about radio, from broadcasting to production and everything in between. I started out babysitting the semi-automated reel-to-reel machine, moved to doing top-of-the-hour news and weather, and got on the mic as much as possible without skewering the station's easy-listening format. I eventually took on production duties, and wrote ad copy as the Creative Services Director.

I went on to other air talent and production gigs at Top 40 and Country stations, but the above studios hold my fondest radio memories.

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November 29, 2008

Exploring a New Role

Caitlin Sanchez, the new voice of Dora the Explorer, talks about the excitement of the role and the challenges of voice acting.

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November 18, 2008

FNL: No Peanuts or Cracker Jack

Friday Night Lights, last episode for the season. Shoot only lasted about an hour. Inning ends on a pop fly, I tell the players "good job" and "bring it on in." Surely an Emmy awaits.

David Houston on the set of Friday Night Lights

David Houston on the set of Friday Night Lights

Baseball players on the set of Friday Night Lights

Baseball players on the set of Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights

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November 17, 2008

A Peek Inside the Wee Huttie

To call Philip Banks 'one of the top voiceover artists in the UK' is accurate, but probably an understatement. His voice is also heard frequently in the US and other parts of the world, and with good reason. Philip recently shared the results of his new camcorder purchase:

Note how he captures the essence of the copy in one solid take. Philip has pointed out that "performance is king" when it comes to VO; this clip displays a regal talent most of us can only aspire to.

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November 06, 2008

Background Report: Temple Grandin (HBO Films)


It was nice to be "featured". Usually as a background actor, your only "direction" comes from a PA, or maybe the 1st AD.* For this gig, I got to work with Director Mick Jackson. Here are two bits of trivia about Mick Jackson:
  • He firmly and gleefully believes that I should enter a Larry Hagman look-alike contest as soon as possible.
  • He works very quickly. (Well, we were trying not to lose daylight.)
I'm pleased to say that I can work on these shoots without getting star-struck, but I have to admit that it was really odd and pleasing to hear the director say "Claire Danes, this is David Houston. He'll be your car dealer in this scene." Danes never broke character in and out of takes, but was still very polite.

This scene is set in 1973 or so. Sadly, I'm old enough to remember these styles.



David Houston on the set of HBO's Temple Grandin film


David Houston on the set of HBO's Temple Grandin film





David Houston on the set of HBO Fiilms' 'Temple Grandin'





Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting







*for those not in the know:
PA = Production Assistant
1st AD = First Assistant Director

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November 02, 2008

FNL: Background Report II

Mark your calendars.

Friday Night Lights



Thirsty? Well, that's a shame.

Friday Night Lights


You can tell that funds for the Dillon Independent School District go to football, and not the facilities.

Friday Night Lights


I may have some face time in this one. They gave me a very pretty TV wife, then took her away. Kyle Chandler remains a pretty cool guy.

Look for this episode in about a month, if you have DirecTV; sometime next year on NBC if not.


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October 26, 2008

FNL: Report from the Background

I've had a few opportunities in the last year or so to work as an extra on the TV series Friday Night Lights, as much of it shoots here in the Austin area. Couldn't fit it into my schedule on most days, but last Wednesday I decided to get in on the action.

I'd hoped to work as a Coach, but the only slots left for my type and age were for Parents. I showed up at the ersatz home of the Dillon Panthers, ready to shoot a scene where parents rally for their "sons" as they're bused off to an away game.

We waited as Panther cheerleaders engaged in the shoe-polish ritual:

 

 

Panther cheerleaders decorate a car on the set of 'Friday Night Lights'.
 

 

 

It was cloudy most of that morning, until around 11 or so when the sun decided to remind us that it might be October, but central Texas doesn't really see Fall until at least November. Between takes and multiple camera setups, I tried to shield my face from the solar onslaught --- I'd left the sunscreen at home. By the time we were done waving and cheering (mostly in pantomime), I knew without even looking in a mirror that my mug was going to be lobster-red.

Just before the final command of "check the gate" from the 1st AD, things changed a bit:

 

 

Clouds loom over Hermann Field on the set of 'Friday Night Lights'.
 
 

 

Nice timing, cloud cover. Sure, maybe you looked threatening, but you didn't even produce any rain to cool us off.

On an up note, Kyle Chandler ("Coach Taylor") was kind enough to say hi as he hurried to wardrobe. Reports of his being an exceptionally nice guy are confirmed.

 

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July 10, 2008

Helium Happenings

 
 

 
My article on Getting Started in Voiceovers is featured today on Helium's home page. A hat-tip from me to the Helium team.

Also featured are excellent VO articles by Natalie Nicole Gilbert and Doc Phillips. Give those a look while you're there, and take a look at the larger Helium community; it's a terrific resource for articles on just about any topic imaginable.

 

UPDATE (7/11/08): I received a message from a Helium user after yesterday's front-page showing:

 

I read your article on voiceovers (congrats on making the front page of Helium) - you have an excellent writing style, phenomenal understanding of words and their use in the English language, and easily share your knowledge without sounding pompous. Thank you for bringing your talent to Helium.

C.M.Erickson
Coffee sub-channel steward

 

C.M. didn't leave an e-mail address, so I hope it's okay if I offer humble thanks here for those kind words. 

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June 13, 2008

Ouch.

 

 

 

 

Turns out I have more in common with Daniel Craig than just a similar vocal quality:

 

Daniel Craig Injured While Filming Bond 

 

The report states that Craig "sliced the tip off of one of his fingers during the shooting of an action scene". As it happens, years ago I sliced the tip off of one of my fingers during the shaving of an action figure.

"Huh?" You're no doubt asking. Long story short: Once upon a time, customizing action figures was a hobby of mine. An attempt to slice away some excess plastic from one such superhero resulted an errant slip with an Exacto knife. (If you've never had the pleasure, I can guarantee you that a brand-new Exacto blade is sufficiently sharp as to cut flesh without any pain --- at least for a few seconds, after which the pain pretty much leaves no doubt you've been cut. I do not recommend the experience.) 

An ER doc managed to sew the disc-shaped piece of skin back where it belonged, but it would literally be one year before the nerves healed completely.  

I'm sure you'll agree that all this is further proof as to why I'm a perfect substitute for Daniel Craig.

/sarcasm off 

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June 08, 2008

Behind the Scenes: Hulk VO Actors

 

 
 

 

 

IGN pulls back the curtain on voiceover recording sessions for the new Hulk video game (based on the upcoming movie starring Edward Norton):

 

VE3D Video for The Incredible Hulk (PC) - Dev Diary Vid #4 

 

Short but revealing interviews with the actors (including William Hurt, Tim Roth and Liv Tyler) give an insight into the approach taken to performing their characters, and also to the surprises that even experienced film actors encounter when voicing a game --- get ready to grunt and scream for your supper!

In light of some of my recent posts, I think this video only serves to underscore that voice acting is more than just saying one's lines when the red light goes on.

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May 28, 2008

"Overpaid Voice Actors", episode # 48,763

 

Niko Bellic stalks in Grand Theft Auto IV.
 

 

 

With this story all over the news of late...

A Video Game Star and His Less-Than-Stellar Pay

...it was probably due to rear its ugly head again.

By "it", I refer to the deluge of internet commentary that inevitably follows any and all media reports of voice actors seeking residuals for videogame work. It ranges from the stupefyingly uninformed ("You get paid big bucks just to sit there and talk into a mic, so STFU") to the kind of union-bashing, anti-residuals snark that evokes the ghost of mogul Lew Wasserman (who once famously said "When my plumber fixes my toilet, I don't pay him every time I flush the @#%$ thing!"). The first opinion isn't worth wasting keystrokes refuting, and the second I'll address later.

Somewhat more reasoned are the arguments that game programmers don't get royalties, and that because their contribution is at least as vital as the actors, the latter shouldn't keep getting paid after the fact. Yes, I have heard tales of game companies overworking and underpaying its programmers, testers, and developers; and if this is becoming the norm rather than the exception, then that's an inequity that also needs to be addressed. Generally speaking, though, a simple (but key) distinction is often lost in this argument: members of the creative team work on salary, while the voice actor is a freelancer.

Viewed without this information, it's easy to think of our VO actor as being greedy, an unscrupulous sod; trying to squeeze out yet more money from a game, a few bucks at a time, after already sitting on a king's ransom. Mine isn't an unbiased viewpoint, but I'm nonetheless here to tell you that it just ain't so. It's important to remember that sales-based residuals aren't "bonuses" or "extra money", as many people out there seem to think. They're deferred payments against the lifetime value of the work. In other words, when residuals are part of a negotiated contract --- something that's not currently part of SAG and AFTRA's "new media" agreements --- the studio is essentially saying "your work is worth X, but that's too large an amount for us to pay up front. Therefore, we'll pay you a smaller percentage up front, and if the game is a success, then we'll pay you the remainder of that value over time." Film stars like Samuel L. Jackson and Ray Liotta get weekly checks for their movie roles not because their performances are stellar, but because their client (the studio) is on an installment plan. (This is one reason why the studios, long ago, agreed to the royalties system proposed by SAG; it places a risk on the part of the actor --- he stands to lose, say, 80% of the value of his work --- alongside the financial risk incurred by the studio on that project.)

There even exist a few voice actors, some for whom I have great respect, who are of the opinion that Hollick signed the contract, knew what he was getting into, and should stop bumping his gums about the lack of residuals. I'm not saying that wouldn't have been a prudent choice, but let's look at some other issues. Leaving aside the fact that his contract doesn't cover the use of his voice for promotional purposes over the Internet, who are any of us to tell an unknown voice actor to say no to a six-figure payday, even one that isn't currently as equitable as it should be?  As much as I admire those who stick to their principles when it's least convenient --- and they are to be admired --- actors have to eat. (Also, 100 grand is nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn't go as far when you live in NYC or L.A.; and residence in these cities is a near-absolute requirement for an actor to do videogame VO work .)

Another such colleague has opined that voice actors shouldn't receive royalties for games, with the reasoning that gamers don't buy titles based on the quality of the actor's performance. This may be true to a degree --- mitigated in no small part by the willingness of those same gamers to flame bad voice acting in game forums --- but it misses the point by a mile. Again, TV and film actors receive royalties for their work not because of their sheer acting prowess, but because the performing unions fought to ensure that these artists --- regardless of the artist's ability or inability to act his or her way out of a paper bag --- aren't left with an inequitable share of profits. The unions understood well that competition for acting jobs is fierce, to a degree that few other industries and professions can relate to.

Or, put another way, in the form of a rebuttal to Lew Wasserman: your plumber doesn't have to audition for his next job against hundreds of other hopeful wannabe plumbers, hoping against hope that he'll land the gig. Taking it a step farther: If the plumber had fixed the toilet so that it spat out a thousand bucks every time it was flushed, he'd be justified in asking for a percentage of that payout. But I digress.

Bottom line: the percentage of actors who can wrap up one job, then count on another gig being in place the next day, is small. As in single digits.

All this may be moot, however, if SAG and AFTRA are unable to negotiate residuals into their new contracts with the studios and production companies (represented by AMPTP). The TV writers were reasonably successful in their quest, but that's no guarantee. We'll see.

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May 21, 2008

Stifler's Mom and Hot Fuzz

I spent Wednesday playing a cop in this movie ("Ex-Terminators").

9:30 call time. As has been the case on pretty much every film shoot I've been on, this meant finally getting into wardrobe around 10:45. Hurry up and wait, background peons!










The clouds had already broken, sending plenty of sunshine and humidity down on everyone and everything. Okay, please put on these head-to-toe black polyester costumes.









"This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a... car of some sort, heading in the direction of, uh, you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat, hatless." Thus spake Police Chief Clancy Wiggum.







Fellow beat cop Ro Black. Smart, opinionated and funny. You saw her here first.



Ro' Black on the set of Ex-Terminators




Chief of Internal Medicine or the Baddest Police Chief Ever? The name tag reports, you decide.



David Houston on the set of Ex-Terminators


Lots of takes in the not-so-well-air-conditioned church, followed by lots more takes in the less-well-air-conditioned outdoors. Heather Graham was nice to everyone, but seemed not to be feeling well and wasn't necessarily approachable. A cardinal rule of background work is that you don't pester stars while on set, although this rule is often bent.


Ended the day on a good note. Jennifer Coolidge --- aka "Stifler's Mom" in American Pie --- was gregarious and friendly even when she didn't have to be, and after a ten-hour shoot in the aforementioned soupy heat at that. Earlier, after a "CUT" while shooting the processional scene, she playfully chided the director: "Why don't I get to have a husband? Maybe I'll marry this cop", pointing to me. I held up my ringed finger and lamented "Well, I'm kind of taken already." (A nearby co-star didn't miss a beat in replying "You'd be perfect for her, then.")

No, I didn't run off with her, but she was kind enough to pose for a pic.




David Houston with Jennifer Coolidge on the set of Ex-Terminators



We shoot again this Sunday. The fake Police Station will, one hopes, have better climate control. Watch for the update.
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May 07, 2008

'Quantum of Solace' Videogame Site Launched

From MI6:

Activision today officially confirmed the videogame adaptation of the upcoming James Bond film "Quantum of Solace", and launched a teaser website to promote the title.

[The website] gives fans access to some early concept artwork from the locations featured in the game, as well as the opportunity to sign-up to the community to vote on polls and ask the development team questions. This site will serve as the hub of activity for the game and will be updated on a regular basis.

Development studios are confirmed as Eurocom, Treyarch, Beenox and Vicarious Visions. The game will be released this Fall. Treyarch are understood to be heading up development on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles, with Beenox producing the Nintendo Wii version, and Vicarious Visions working on the hand-held platforms. Eurocom are understood to be developing the PC version.

Speaking about Activision's direction with the 007 licence, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick said "Bond is one of the great videogame franchises of all time and that really was a result of GoldenEye 64. I think the key to re-energising the Bond franchise is going to be ultimately the highest possible game quality."

Last November, Activision confirmed a second 007 title was also under development.

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April 25, 2008

Engineered for Success


Since setting up a MySpace page a few years ago, I've pretty much made it a home for VO networking. It's worked pretty well in that regard for me, and I'd like to think that those MySpacers who've come to me for VO advice have found it worthwhile.

I can't take all of that credit, however. A few months back, a gentleman named Chris Doohan left a comment on my page asking for suggestions on breaking into the voiceover biz.

Given that Mr. Doohan is the son of the late, great James "Scotty" Doohan of Star Trek fame, I half-jokingly advised him that he had something of advantage in breaking into show business. Chris seems to have inherited his dad's good looks and upbeat personality, along with at least a fair measure of his talent, so I figured he could certainly make quick inroads if he wished. I then gave him some general information and wished him well.

Turns out I was right. It didn't take long for Chris to get his VO career going, and a more appropriate first gig I can't imagine: he'll be voicing various characters in a new animated Star Trek series produced by NEO f/x and Farragut Films. While it's not an official Paramount production, the series promises to be true to the style of the original animated adventures, and the voice cast is highlighted by Trek alums Tim Russ (Tuvok on Voyager) and Chase Masterson (Leeta on Deep Space Nine):



                                  




So, as I said, I can't take any real credit for Chris' gig. Still, I'm glad he thought highly enough of me to ask for some tips before getting underway.

More info on Starship Farragut, The Animated Episodes here:

NEO f/x and Farragut Films Journey to the Animated Frontier
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March 31, 2008

The VO Industry Has Arrived.

How do I know? Because we're now fodder for The Onion:

 

 


 

Gotta love that our fictional VO guy's name ("David Cavanaugh") is the name of a minor character on the series. (Very minor, actually, since he only appears in a deleted scene.)

 

It's a funny read in any case, but sometimes satire isn't really satire:

 

"It's a daunting task, especially since you can't rely on such actorly tricks as facial expressions and body language," Cavanaugh said. "All I have is my finely tuned instrument and its subtle tones of honesty and vulnerability that envelope the viewers and make them feel safe and informed."

 

 

It's 100% true, even if he's putting it in flowery terms...

 

For what it's worth, the real "Previously on Lost" VO guy is Andy Geller.

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February 29, 2008

In The Interview Chair - VOD Edition

After several weeks of false starts and reschedules that just couldn't be helped, I finally got together with Terry Daniel and Trish Basanyi as their Voice Overs On Demand Podcast guest. (Here's a direct link to the mp3.)

Honestly, I don't stammer and stutter like that on most days. (Note to self: caffiene is b-b-b-bad for you.) I had a great time nonetheless, and they have my continued thanks for the invite.

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February 05, 2008

Bond Game Update: COD4

MI6 reports that the new Bond game will be based on the same graphics engine used in Call of Duty 4.

What this will mean for me is...actually, I haven't the first clue. I do know that the COD series has some of the most incredible-looking games I've ever seen, and it looks more and more like Bond 22 (VG) will fall into the same category.

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January 28, 2008

We Knew That, but Thanks!

 

 

 

 

The folks at MovieMaker Magazine have named Austin, TX as the #1 city both for making movies and residing in, if you're in the film industry. (It's not half bad even if you're not in the entertainment biz, either.) MMM hasn't quite updated their online edition yet, so here's a link to the story.

Austin's status as a TV & film hotbed has been a not-so-well-kept secret for years, but it's nice to have a measure of "official" recognition.

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WGA Strike Update

Since my last post on the subject, I've done a good job of refraining from any reporting on the status of the WGA strike. This seemed a wise move, given that my optimism at the time proved a mistake. Still, those with their finger on the pulse --- or at least those who talk to people who also talk to those who are close to others with their finger on the pulse --- are reporting positive things from the current informal talks between the WGA (the writers) and the AMPTP (referred to as "producers" in most media reports, although in reality they're the CEOs and moguls of the major studios).

Even if this should prove to be another false alarm, I maintain that the mere fact of informal talks taking place at all is a positive step, given that just a couple of weeks prior, neither side seemed interested in talking. Cautious optimism from here on out.

 

 

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January 07, 2008

Final Week!

We're having a terrific run, but now it's crunch time.

Voting in the Unofficial NBC News Voice-Off ends on Friday, January 11, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. ET. If you haven't done so yet, click here and log a vote for your pal Dave Houston --- yes, that'd be me --- in the comments. Feel free to pick two other voices, but you know they don't love ya like I do. ;)

Once you're done, just do me one more teensy solid and pass this along...
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January 04, 2008

Don LaFontaine on the Mend

You may or may not have heard about Don LaFontaine’s recent health problems. Happy to report that the Voice of God is on the mend and itching to return to work. Thanks to Stephanie with Vox Daily for the update.
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January 02, 2008

Now that your New Year's euphoria has passed...

...you'll have an easier time going here and voting for your pal David Houston --- that'd be me --- to win the Unofficial NBC News Announcer contest. The cool thing is, you get to pick two other voices (so as not to feel guilty if you think my entry sucks.)

You have all year to call in the favor I'll owe ya, but voting ends soon. Snap to it! (Please.)

 

 


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December 26, 2007

Hi, NBC News? You've Got Mail.

Before I got into doing VO full-time, I spent many years as a guitarist and vocalist in rock bands. Of the many musician's jokes I've heard beat to death over the years, one sticks out:

How many guitarists does it take to screw in a light bulb? 12. One to screw in the bulb, and eleven to stand around arguing that they could have done it better. 

The irony is, sometimes at least one of them is right. This was the reaction among tons of VO artists upon hearing film star Michael Douglas' questionable work as the new voice of NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Voiceover artist Peter O'Connell has taken the collective groans of the VO community and set up an absolutely unofficial audition for the job. Judging by the stellar quality of the entries, I'd say NBC would do well to make the auditions official. Head over to Peter's blog and judge for yourself.

In the meantime, here's my humble effort. (MP3)

 

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November 27, 2007

Progress in WGA Strike Talks?

Nothing is certain, of course, but there are reports that talks between the WGA and the producers have quietly resumed; and even if there aren't any major breakthroughs at the moment...at least both sides are talking without rancor. Here's hoping this is the start of a deal both sides can live with.

 


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September 30, 2007

Creating a New Age of VO in Games

Here's a must-listen for anyone involved in recording videogame voiceovers: this presentation by DB Cooper and Pat Fraley at the 2007 Game Developers Conference in Austin. (While it makes me even more disappointed that I wasn't able to attend, I'm gratified to be able to hear this after the fact.) It's geared toward audio directors, but every voice talent who wants to pursue acting in videogames --- and even those who've already done it --- can tap into a goldmine of valuable information.

The official synopsis:
 
"Audio directors have a right to know what to expect from the voice actors that are hired to voice games. The object of this program is to discuss and demonstrate directing techniques actors can easily respond to, scripting that will wring a fuller character from your actor, and audition ideas to ascertain that you’re getting the VO you really need for a part in a game."

Pat and DB are engaging, informative, and highly entertaining. Here's the link. (Scroll down the page a bit for the MP3 file; 70 minutes, 16 MB.)

 

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March 20, 2007

Don't Mess With Bill.

Directing is a skill, just like delivering a tag into a microphone. As with any profession, some are more skilled than others.

Hear this principle in action as William Shatner takes direction in the voiceover studio. (Warning: after the Shatner clip, some NSFW language from the radio progam playing it).

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October 16, 2006

Keri Tombazian, Steve Harris, Al Chalk

Thanks to Dan Nachtrab for the heads-up on this article. The three above-named voiceover artists are profiled at, of all places, CourtTV's website.

All three are hugely successful and sought-after, but the interviews do illustrate that voiceover success is different for each of us. 

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September 28, 2006

'Squidbillies' Recording session

Go into the booth to see and hear this VO recording session from the Cartoon Network - Adult Swim animated show Squidbillies:

http://www.adultswim.com/shows/squidbillies/stuff/recording/index.html 

Nice to see a well-directed session that also encourages improv...

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