Ray Girard ~ Voice Artist​

Eleven
     Wheel                       VO INFO TO GO
           Drive
        b l o g                       

   An unrestrained visual stack of verbiage, that aims to ease the angst of voiceover artists, by dealing with physical, electronic or psychological issues, through honest, real-life experience and dubious humour.​​

No-one mentions:
HEADPHONE​​
pressure

Oct.04, 2017
 

Headphones (earphones, cans, ears) are a very important part of any studio, or of any serious listening as well.  Roughly speaking, it's like having a high-end, expensive speaker system.... for only a small fraction of the cost.  'Cans' let you hear things that otherwise just don't get through the ambiant noise.  Good, studio-class phones can be had for under $300.00 in 2017.  I currently use the Sennheiser 280 Pro's in my voice over work.
Many confusing specs appear on the boxes and if you are serious about your audio work, you will understand the important ones.  BUT.....one important detail is 99.9% of the time never even mentioned:  the pressure that the headphone cups exert on your ears.  I am talking about the TACTILE PRESSURE MEASUREMENT of the heaphone speaker units against the ears.  How can this not be an issue?  It comes into play in two areas.
Just like a microphone having ' proximity effect',  the harder the headphones push upon your ears the more the bass is evident.  Put your cans on and play something through them...... now, slowly ease them outwardly away from your ears and notice the dramatic effect within only a few millimeters.  Can you see that loose-fitting phones have a different balance of highs to lows, than a firm-fitting pair?  Sure, ... this can be adjusted a little by repositioning them or trying to un-tension them by bending, ...but shouldn't there be a calibration method to compensate this?  With all the details in set-up for speakers, you'd think this would be concidered too.
My second point is comfort.  Try those new headphones on for more than a few seconds before you buy.  Some become tedious in a short time.  Some transmit a VERY distracting and irritating sound through their cord while wearing.  After a while, you could become exhausted and cranky with this intermittent interference.  Be aware, friends.  Rock on!
Give each piece of equipment their own place.  Make sure it’s within reach, if you use it on and off, …or placed so it is easy to grab on your way in to your studio. If equipment seems to move around and you have to move it back into place, consider finding a way to anchour it, using Velcro stickers or bands, a shallow wooden frame to set it in (eg.: with a USB interface). Remember that some equipment can be mounted 90% to the normal position, and that others that don’t need a lot of tweeking, can be mounted under table-tops or in drawers, out of the way.  Keep in mind their venting requirements.  Some units will overheat in an enclosed space.

    Home Studio set-up:
    THINGS
    you might have forgotten

    Oct.05, 2017
     

    Attach wires out of the way.  This is a real hassell, but an even bigger hassel to keep catching your foot or hand, or sliding keyboard on them.  Tape does a great job for most.  Keep power cords away from most other cords, to cut down on the possibility of passing noise into your system.  Many cords for periodic use (like one to charge your phone) can be made accessible with stick-on cable holders, taped-on twist-ties, or even tape holding bent paperclips.  These can be hidden away under edges or on posts. Also, don’t make any cords so tight that any little touch will stress them.  Frazzled or stretched wires cause all kinds of intermittent havoc.
    Keep your lighting such that you don’t have to move anything to get light onto it, …like a keyboard. Mount a small light just above your keyboard, or shine it across it so moving your eyes from the computer screen to the keyboard won’t demand seconds to allow your eyes to adjust. My studio is fairly dark, having a sound panel over the window, so the computer screen is the brightest object in the room (including myself). I read off my  screen for voice over, so I need that, ...but everything else can be dimly lit.
    Phones, walkie-talkies (and Tesla coils) should be kept at least 10 feet away from your recording equipment.  Electrical interference and social media interference, better known as SMI (jk), may result.  
    Make your VO cockpit serious.  Move all the non-related stuff (eg.: paper, pencil box, junk, coffee warmers, wine glasses, lava-lamps, model cars, gaming crap, etc., etc.) out of there.  Some objects ...reverberate due to the power of your voice and you don't need the added artifacts in your waveform.  My Steinberg UR interface metal housing... rings... with certain vocal frequencies and I have to keep a cupcake on it to stop that.  Be aware!

    Stuff that
    works:
    FOR
    me

    Oct.12, 2017
     

    You step into your studio, turn everything on, and you realize that the only thing not energized… is YOU.  Maybe your lack of success lately is showing itself as fatigue.  Maybe you ate that mouth-watering, mouth-clogging dessert, 30 minutes ago, that you shouldn’t have, and your vocal chords feel like they are coated with axel grease.
     Maybe…, it’s both of the above. 
    Well, I’ve got something for you to try.  From a reputable health-food store or vitamin house, (in Western Canada there is Nature’s Fare) obtain for yourself some Vitamin C powder.  It dissolves easily in water and gives the water a slight asprin-y taste.  (Ya, I know that’s not a word.) If you can handle that taste…it’s kind of like a lemonade without lemons, you will find it cleans up your precious vocal chords wonderfully. 
    The values of vitamin C are numerous and well documented.  You can’t OD on it either, …too much just leaves the body with your ‘used’ water. This is so good for your body that you will start feeling better almost immediately.  I’m not about to guarantee everyone’s reaction but I feel so strongly about this that I will say: ”Try it for awhile”. I start every voicing session with a big glass of water containing two scoops (the scoop is in the jar...usually 2 grams per scoop) of vitamin C, and it refreshes me, scrapes the crap off my voice, and helps with the voice clicks,
    snaps,
    crackles and pops.
    Keep yourself together.  This can be hard on you sometimes, so stay healthy.

    Looking for a
    shoulder:
    COME ON
    in

    Oct.13, 2017
     

    Many of us..........MANY....of us, feel like they're hitting a wall sometimes with getting worthwhile work.  The angst can take its toll.  We start to doubt our talent and soon we're selling our mic on Ebay and giving our sound-proofing blanckets to the homeless guy downtown.  Sometimes it's like crocheting a circus tent:  you know what you're doing but the end seems bleary. 

    What you have to view it all as....is a cycle...a  'comes-and-goes' cycle, that just needs you to pass through it.   Ya' see, if you recognise what it is, you can steer clear or push it out of the way.  Hey, here's where you can use that 'turn-every-problem-into-an-opportunity' idea!  Feeling lousy or have the Blues?....then do those reads that demand such, or lay down those audition clips that ask for this sadness. 
    ​  This VO medium is flourishing, with symposiums, forums, blogs, FB groups and a hundred other sources of inspiration and thought.  Some just might place that foot right where it needs to go.  Take a day off to slay that voice character that has been escaping you.  Listen to someone pro and, instead of making comparisons, take that feature of their voice that you like and make your own. 
     Little steps like this will keep you improving and show yourself that you are moving forward.  Everyone deals with the doldrums, off and on, but getting past them means you are still in the game.
    If you decide NOT to give up, …ever...then you are bound to find success, because those others that quit…leave more room for YOU!


    Need a mic
    upgrade?:
    TRY 
    honesty

    Oct.15, 2017
     

    It's not only the frequency response curve of a microphone that gives it its characteristics.  There are a whole range of factors that come into play.  No, you don't have to study up on these to find a great mic for your voice, but knowledge ...is ALWAYS good.  What you really need is a good pair of 'honest' ears ( and you won't find them on Ebay).  Mic selection, IMHO, is best done by comparison (spellcheck wants to say: 'compaction', but that's not right). 

    You want to take a leap up in microphones but you don't want to land in the muck of 'debt'.  You're not Neumann-ready yet, but the string-in-the-tin-can is just not doing it anymore, and you wonder what magic is just around the equipment corner, that will make you sound like the aural god in your head.  Do you want the mic that looks like an antique gas pump?...or a pack of Cancer-sticks?....like a Vulcan spaceship?....or do you fantasize talking into a dildo?  Looks means nothing, of course...just as what you have read about or heard about...means (almost) nothing.  What you have to do is make a real, live comparison among more that three good mics, to see ( 'hear', actually) what suits your voice.  Your tool is unique like a fingerprint.  Your voice-print needs to match the character of the mic and enhance it.  You can do this cheaply and in real time by the old A-B process of elimination.  
    ​When doing this, make sure each mic has the same volume, EQ etc. and are in their FLAT mode.  Listen.  Really listen...while rolling 'r's, humming low & high notes, vocalizing sweeps to see if the mic pumps up any one spot, ...growl and exaggerate 's's, ...whisper and yell. Move around each mic but do it the same in each case.  Try pops and 'T' sounds to notice which one handles them best.  
    Try to use your own headphones in all of this.  Turn the feed into your phones quite loud to detect hiss or noise from each mic.  Again I say...be honest.  You obviously have a favourite among them before you even start, but you can't let that in.  Concentrate on the quality...on what makes your ole raggedy voice sound wonderful.  That...is your mic.  For your voice.  For your finger-print.  Not sure yet?  Try some more.  This is your future, isn't it?  Don't be led a stray (no, not 'ashtray'). Be straight with yourself.  Trust your ears ...because that's what you'll be doing for the following years, when assessing your final read. Telling yourself the truth is difficult, but it sure saves you time getting to where you want to be.
    If I may, […If I may…]   I’d like to say a few […I’d like to say a few…] words on […words on…]

    LATENCY!

    Just about every blog, vlog, webinar, forum and VO FB page…has complaints, arguments and problems, all stemming from latency.  I see a simple way around this, but you’re probably not going to like it.  

    One Gremlin
    I Took On:

    L..L..Latency

    Oct.18, 2017
     

    I started out in Audacity, tried a trial of Audition and CuBase, moved to Reaper and stayed.  I wanted (and thought I NEEDED) my EQ and effects in my ears as I read and layed down my waveform.  Latency reared its ugly head and I fought it valiantly, with wiring, bandwidth, firewalls, networks, channel width, preferred bands, background programs, router firmware, buffer size, vaccines, guns and light-sabers. Nothing got it to where I wanted it: ZERO.
    So…I just let it run free, of its own volition, and switched to that good ole ‘direct feed from my microphone’: Nothing but my voice and whatever tried to get into my waveform. 
    I added what I wanted to the track, and with Reaper (and most other DAWs) the non-destructive road was clear of other traffic.  The latency gremlin was still dancing around my electrons, but I didn’t see or feel it.  
    I actually think this is a better way to record, as you will really get to know your voice and its limitations intimately and accurately.  Come on, folks, this is a GOOD THING to know.  Tack on the effects and EQ later, as you work the waveform for clicks, pops and breaths.  It really makes you deal with your authentic voice; its great qualities and its failings.  Believe it or not, working this way taught me how to use positioning to my advantage with my mic…another real, good thing. 
    Many good to great mics and interfaces out there allow you to hear your voice in real time, right from the mic to your cans, …by-passing the Latency Gremlin, who just LOVES to toy with your head. 
     Of course, not everyone is hasselled by this problem.  Those people know more than I.  But, for those others, if you can stop your fist from punching a satisfying dent in your computer screen, …try a simpler approach…without delay.  
    (‘Without delay’….haha…see what I did there?…haha..*choke*)  

    Another gremlin:
    ​​I Fought
    with 'nothing'

    Oct.23, 2017
     

     I think, us voice over people, experience a good handful of excitement, or at least…anticipation, when we are about to enter our ‘recording studio’ area.  I say ‘area’ because it can be just that…a space, a sectioned-off part of a room, or simply a closet which we have to set up each time we use it for making waveforms.  **I know you expect a ‘but’ here, so here it is…..
    BUT, there certainly are days when Life starts to crowd us with tasks, jobs and work that are less than fun.  Sometimes a bad day at the office or a unproductive effort laying down that difficult read can leave us with some trepidation about how good we are, or how much of a hassel this VO industry is.  Face it, some days we just don’t want to get back in front of that mic. Personally, I’ve had very few of these, but they are difficult when they happen.  Suddenly, changing your car’s oil looks like a meaningful chore, …or cleaning behind the stove just might have some adventure to it (Oh, that’s where my ___ got to!).
    Deep down, you know your talent is just as staggering as it was last week, and that you’re only a month or two away from taking VO to a new level. It’s just that ..today.. you don’t view it as a welcome endeavour.  
    Here’s what works for me:  Go and do one of those tasks that need doing.  Direct your mind in a totally different direction to refresh it, …then (are you ready for the mind-blowing secret???)…..DO NOTHING!  That’s right….sit down somewhere and do absolutely nothing.  Think about whatever you want…just don’t do anything too physical.  Stay there and experience nothing!  You have to do this until the feeling of boredom hits.  You have to find that decisive moment when your brain cells all get together and threaten to strike if you don’t get up and DO SOMETHING. 
    ​​Now…think of walking into your studio space.  How does it feel?  If you find it’s still a negative, sit longer.  Tell your brain that your body won’t be allowed to budge until you’re ready to ‘slay that dragon’, and find the fun you know is still there.  Be strong about this, and your psyche will eventually straighten everything out.  You will be back vibrating your vocal chords, being a winner again, and charging right through that angst.  
    You need that empty segment of Time, to be able to see through the ‘fog of disenchantment’…that occasionally forms around our ‘frontal lobe’.
    Do this.  See if it works for you.

    Sometimes it doesn’t…so I just grab a beer and watch a sci-fi short film on Comcast.     

    More Traffic=
    $​​More Money$

    Oct.24, 2017
     

    ​​
    *SIX SOLID STEPS ON HOW TO INCREASE
    TRAFFIC TO YOUR SITE
    AND $$$ INTO YOUR POCKET*   

    First:
     Wait until late at night, preferrably after The Late Show, then put up DETOUR signs and roadblocks on neighbouring streets, pointing to your street.  
    Second:  
    Make 'Clothing Optional'  signs and place at all entrances to your street, and create a strategic pile of underwear on your front lawn.
    ​Third:
    To ensure that those visitors stay longer on your site, keep a cage full of puppies in full sight of passers by.  Kittens or alpacas may also be used.
    WARNING: Experience has shown me that spiders, rats and sea cucumbers should not be used.
    Fourth:
    To promote real spending, be sure to mention to folks that they are trespassing on your property and unless a donation is made, you will prosecute.
    Fifth:
    ​In case of Police intervention, claim you don't speak English.  Also, do not keep any Magic Markers anywhere on your property.
    Sixth:
    To increase traffic even further, make a website... (but I have no idea how to do that).

    The Work Part:
    ​​OF MY
    work

    Oct.25, 2017
     

    “I just want to work.  Is that too much to ask?”
    “Just give me a mic and some cans, an interface and a DAW…and just let me crank it out!”
    “I don’t want to self-promote, merchandise, wave my flag.”
    (hmmmm…my own flag.  Now there’s an idea.  A bad one though).
    “I don’t even wanna email people who already get too many emails.  Somebody else can do all this.”
    ​Ya, I’ve heard this many times.  We still have to do it, because THIS IS A BUSINESS SO WE HAVE TO WORK THE BUSINESS END TOO!  Blah-blah-blah.
    Here’s some things I do in my delightfully misguided way:

    I web-search for production houses and any description thereof; audio production, video production, audio engineers, gaming houses, TV stations, radio, steamfitters and Tiny Houses.  (OK, not the last two, but you get my point)  After composing a list so I don’t duplicate them, I cold email them.  
    I have two versions of my verbiage:
    one if I can find an email address on their website, where I can attach my voice reels,
     and one if I can’t because I have to fill out one of their forms on their site which don’t allow attachments.  Some reply, most don’t because they are important and we’re not.  Some don’t even exist anymore. One had a 60 character limit. Holy crap…. what can one get across in 60…so I sent a graphic with much more than 60 characters.  (They probably have black-listed me by now, but I thought that was a clever move.  What do I know?)
    ​Pssssst!!! Don't pass this on, but P2P sites usually give the client's name.  It's easy to make a list to visit later.
    ​​I send each one out separately, without BBing.  I want them to think they are the only ones I’ve approached.  Hey, I’ll probably get an automated reply anyways so no real deception here.
     
    Not wanting to sound negative…, I DO get a few ‘very human’ replies which really add some glow to my day. ​
    ​​So… you see, I do do the brain-numbing part of the job.  I do promote myself, throwing my name and my website out there into the ring.  I do the grunt-work because I am the only grunt here and I love to work, …but the work I love is the voicing; the creative effort to nuance every second.  With thanks to my 25 year radio announcer (DJ) career, I experience a phenomenon which many do, where Time seems to slow down and you find yourself thinking things during your read, like: ‘that difficult word is coming up so calm down and just roll into it’…or…’should I push that phrase harder or just pause before it?’  Time slows down to where you are making finite, micro-second decisions while you are voicing and you really feel like you are sculpting the words and phrases… into a well-presented piece of waveform.  THIS is what I WANT  to do all day…………NOT emailing folks who are too quick at hitting ‘DELETE’. 

    ​​ART…. is creating something of worth: be it visually beautiful or filled with emotion and honesty. It doesn't have to matter to anyone...
    ​but YOU.

    I’m always on the lookout for ways of changing something frustrating, difficult or sad, …into a positive.  It’s a little game I play with myself.  I know…I know… sounds like I have too much time on my hands, and that is.. the Truth.​​
    But why and how I have this extra Time, is the subject of another blog; this one deals in what I wrote in the first sentence above.
     
    “An ample example please, Sir!”

    When You Say:
    "NO PROBLEM"

    mean it!


    Nov. 10, 2017

    ​My VO studio is as simple as it gets.  I wanted it this way to try to keep from my usual going-overboard with a new interest.  My VO experience is long, but engineers usually did all the audio stuff up until recently, so doing it on my own is like taking out a new boat.  (I’m a sailor, so that ‘means’ something.) All I want is a clean, clear, quiet waveform but even with my Aston Origin to Steinberg UR12 to Reaper to Sennheiser HD 280 Pros, I am still getting a noticable ‘hisssssss’.  It isn’t just room noise either.

    Running my mic at 90% and my headphones at 100% on my interface, in order to get a decent, non-screaming volume in my cans, I get the ‘pushing-the-amps-too-far’ hiss.  If I could back off either, the signal would be a lot cleaner.

    The point of this blog is that I have purposefully tried to turn the quest for a better end result… into a positive journey, that doesn’t raise my diastolic, my stress level or my bad colesteral. I have borrowed, rented and stolen (I haven’t stolen, but I needed a third thing there) different pieces of equipment, from different music stores.  I have burned gas and driven kilomiles, bugged friends and storeworkers and even bystanders, in my efforts to solve this.  It could all have been a monumental hassel, but I turned it around into a search for learning… a knowledge gathering trip… and a war on my ignorance.  I vowed not to be defeated by this sometimes gigantic foe, and it did seem like that after the first few failures to lessen my noise.  What I did was turn it into an enjoyable visit with store folks who actually seemed to want to solve my problem.  I turned it into an endeavour to educate myself in this area of VO.  

    I love learning, and this may be why I do this.  There is nothing noble or prestigeous here.  It is just an effort to not let something defeat me.  My difficulty with this problem was customized and molded into another form; one which drove me on with fun, comraderie, moments of understanding and clarity, time spent studying, lots of laughter, and a real purpose.  Visiting Long & McQuade, and the whole drive to reverse my problem, became something I looked forward to instead of trying to avoid.

    I do this with as many Life ‘tribulations’ as I can, and being posed near the last few bites of my cake, I have bested many difficulties this way.  The old “See Problems as Opportunities” line is too easily dismissed, but it is true and really does enhance your years….AND….here’s the great part:  It gets easier every time. Pretty soon, YOU are the one surging ahead, while the others can’t get past that mountain of defeatism.
     
    Be the one who refuses to be defeated… in voice over, prosperity and Life.  It all adds into Who You Are

    Sometimes, ...in some ways, ...we are our own worst enemies.  I'm sure you've heard this cliché many times.  For me, it's the failure of the Triple 'T's: ......TTT.  I'm too rushed or excited to ' T hink T his T hrough'.  If I had, I wouldn't have gone through a whole 2 months of ​​ WTFITIMW? (A not very well known acronym for 'What The F**k Is That In My Waveform')
    I gotta say here....Isn't it weird that all the unwanted noises in our VO waveforms....are ugly little cretins?  Anyways....., I kept seeing these gargoyle marks and hearing these strange background bumps in my reads, that should not have been there.  My pop-screen should have been catching these and eating them up.  Well, because of TTT failure, I was suffering the holy hell of waveform clean-up, on a large scale, every day.  

    T T T:
    FAILURE

    wtfitimw?


    Nov. 12, 2017

    Let me flesh this out a bit................ 
    My mic is mounted on a small tripod which sits on a pedestal.  It is all insulated with various materials and a bump to the stand does not pass a thump to my mic. The mic cord is carefully positioned too so as not to cause noise.  But  (and here, it should be spelled BUTT) on a visit to the music store I acquired, for free, a little plastic clamp that they were using to hold sales promo ads.  It was shaped in such a way that I thought I could use it to hold my pop screen (which I made). Sure enough, it did the job perfectly....except for the fact that I had clamped it onto the metal end of the XLR cord, where it plugged into the mic.  Looked cool, elegant and functional.

    So now....when my pop screen caught a plosive, a too tight 'T', a crackling 'K', or even a bubbly 'B'.....it transmitted that bump directly through the mic itself.  The thing that is supposed to prevent the problem... caused the problem.  Why?  Because of 'TTT' failure. 
    I didn't Think This Through!!!
    There is this song a friend of mine, Bob Snider, wrote years ago called: "What An Idiot 'E Is".
    I just hope they spelled my name right, at least!

    Might it be possible…just possible…that many of us are using our pop-filters wrong?  Luckily, a fairly substantial radio occupation taught me (forced me) to learn how to voice without popping ‘P’s, blurting out ‘B’s, and crackling my ‘K’s to a great extent.  It is a ninja ability I learned from a guru on top of a mountain, involving rolling the lips in and thrusting the jaw outwards.  I have my green belt in this.​

    'PLOSIVE:
    PREVENTION

    position + or -


    Nov. 25, 2017

    I’m so proficient at it that I still use a pop-screen.  It is a home-made one that still has me apologizing to my wife for a huge hole in her pantyhose. Hey, I thought she wouldn’t notice it if it was in the bum area.  What do I know?

    I wanted to do my own analysis of this audio phenomena, so I spent time doing ‘P’ riddled reads while moving the pop-filter ‘to and fro’ (I’ve never used that descriptor before , in my whole life, and never will again). Surprisingly, it made a world of difference.  From all the folks I’ve talked with, read about and seen pictures of…..pop-screens are placed about an inch from the mic.  My excellent scientific study of this has found it to be erroneous.

    The puff of air from a prominent ‘P’ dissipates as the square of the distance past the filter.  For me, that distance was 3.5 inches. (In Canada, in metric, that’s…..uh……17 meters,…no wait, I’m sure that’s wrong.) Anyways, using this 3.5" distance virtually assures my ‘P’s, ‘B’s, ‘T’s, and ‘K’s all wimp out …before reaching Mr. Mic.  

    WARNING:  Do not feel that increasing this distance, times 2, 3 or 5 times, will add to the safety, as it will only make your mic sound like you got it from a gumball machine (unless you have a shotgun mic).  

    Don’t listen to me (I wouldn’t), …Go experiment, and you will see a possible improvement that costs you nothing.
     
    “Now go get in-front of your mic and record something great.”  {Oh, I’m sorry, …that’s the Booth Junkie’s closing line.}    

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