Archive for the ‘Voice acting’ category

A musical interlude while you wait

February 9, 2012

Yes, I know. It’s taking me forever to get the new site up. Mea culpa. It’s coming, I promise.

In the meantime, enjoy a little something I voiced recently. It’s a promotional video for a Bay Area men’s chorus that delivers Singing Valentines.

NIA Creative, an awesome marketing and production company, produced the project.

Fun stuff…

…and if you decide to purchase a Singing Valentine for your beloved, please tell ’em The Mic Guy sent you.

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The Mic Guy at the mic (where else?)

January 31, 2011

Yikes… it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted here. This occasion, however, warrants the resurrection.

On January 19, I recorded my new commercial demo at Voicetrax San Francisco. That’s Samantha Paris, my beloved mentor and coach, in the director’s chair; voice actor and technical wizard supreme Chuck Kourouklis manned the sound board and video equipment.

This video demonstrates two essential facts: (1) Samantha is an amazing director; and (2) I should stick to acting off-camera.

My new demo, however, will be awesome.

Thanks to Samantha and Chuck for a fantastic experience!

Unlearning

August 25, 2009

Take a look at something…

READ

What do you see in the box above? The word READ, yes?

Now here’s a fun exercise: Try NOT to see the word READ there. Try to see a series of four random symbols with no particular meaning. Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Can’t do it, can you? No matter how hard you stare at the writing in that box, it’s always going to say READ to you. Your brain can’t interpret those symbols any other way. The concept of reading is so thoroughly ingrained in your mental processes that when you see something that can be read, you can’t not read it. (Double negative intentional.)

There was a time in your life when this wasn’t the case. If you’re anything like me, that time is practically ancient history. But when you were an infant, you would have looked at that box and not seen a word there, but only unintelligible pictures. You hadn’t yet learned to look at these symbols and interpret them in a narrowly specific way. You hadn’t yet learned to read. But even though that was once true for you personally, you can’t compel your mind to return to that state, as our little exercise just demonstrated.

Once you’ve learned to read, you can’t unlearn.

The point of all of this is that it’s infinitely simpler to train the human mind than it is to overcome training that’s already there. Learning is easy. Unlearning can be nigh onto impossible.

I’ve taught and illustrated this principle in lectures and classes for at least 20 years. I’m just now beginning to understand its effect on my voice acting development.

For nearly a quarter of a century, I’ve been an active public speaker. I’m in front of an audience a minimum of four times each week. I’ve learned to project my voice so that it fills space, whether a classroom or an auditorium, frequently without amplification. Like a stage actor, I’ve become skilled at reaching a listener at the back of the hall with the same nuance heard by someone seated in the front row. After 20-odd years, my “speaker voice” is as much a part of me as my brown eyes or my curly hair.

It’s difficult now to unlearn it.

I’m trying to think more cinematically in my reads. That is, to speak at the conversational volume of actors in an intimate film scene. The actors don’t project. They don’t have to — expensive, technologically brilliant microphones hover inches away, just outside the camera’s focus. Not to mention the fact that much of the dialogue will be looped in a studio, with those same incredible microphones isolated a hand’s breadth from the actors’ lips.

Whenever I’m in the studio, I always have to remind myself not to project to the hall. The mic is right there. It hears me just fine. I have to trust that, and not do what Pat Fraley calls “creating emotion with volume.” In the moment, I have to unlearn my decades of stagecraft.

Listening to, and mimicking, the voiceovers in television commercials is helping. No one ever yells in a TV spot, unless they’re attempting to become the next Billy Mays. TV VO is always intimate, tucked under, and as smooth as glass. That’s the quality I’m working to capture. It’s not easy, but I’m showing signs of progress.

Every day, I learn something that helps me grow into a more proficient and marketable voice actor. Some days, I’m just unlearning the things that hold me back from that goal.

Fat, depressed, and 35… these are my people

August 18, 2009

I got a major chuckle out of this article on MSNBC today:

A new study says the average age of video-game players in the United States is 35, and oh, by the way: They’re overweight and tend to be depressed.

Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and Andrews University analyzed survey data from more than 500 adults in the Seattle-Tacoma area. The subjects ranged in age from 19 to 90, according to the study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The hypothesis was that video-game players have a higher body mass index — the measure of a person’s weight in relation to their height — and “a greater number of poor mental health days” versus nonplayers, said Dr. James B. Weaver III of the CDC’s National Center for Health Marketing. The hypothesis was correct, he said.

As a voice actor who’s eager to work in the interactive industry, it’s good to know how I can relate to the core audience.

I’m at least one-third of the way there.

Internationally speaking…

August 14, 2009

After four weeks of toiling in my dialects and accents workshop, here’s what I’ve discovered:

  • My British accent isn’t too shabby. I did a credible Claude Rains riff for the final exercise. And in Prototypes class last evening, my Hugh Grant takeoff favorably impressed some of my fellow actors, who didn’t even realize that it was me.
  • Two years of high school German 30 years ago? I got nothing now.
  • Two years of living in Greece 35 years ago? Ditto.
  • Never attempt an Italian accent in front of a bona fide Italian.
  • I can do a pretty effective Southern dialect. But I’d rather not.

Accents are definitely not my strong suit, which is exactly the reason I enrolled in this course. But I now have some tools to work with, and some resources to utilize when the situation demands.

More than anything, I need to listen more.

That’s probably good advice for my life outside of voiceover, too.

In the game

August 9, 2009

Confession time…

I kissed a video game, and I liked it.

For the past several weeks, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Pat Fraley‘s Game World event in San Francisco. Three reasons: (1) I had a blast working with Pat during a previous event; (2) Pat’s guest coach was Darragh O’Farrell of LucasArts, about whose directing I’ve heard excellent reports; and (3) I’ve taken a few classes on interactive game voice acting in recent months, and I’ve yearned for the opportunity to test-drive my new chops.

Yesterday, the big moment rolled around, so off I trekked — jumbo coffee in hand — to the downtown studio where Pat hosts his San Francisco events.

In a word: Cowabunga. (This assumes that you accept “Cowabunga” as a word. Which, since I attended college in Malibu and have played Snoopy onstage, I most certainly do.)

As strange as it sounds from someone who thought he was getting into voiceover to do industrial narration — not to mention to a guy whose video gaming experience dates back to (and more or less ends with) Asteroids and Frogger — I really, really want to voice interactive characters. That burning yen gained fuel under the tutelage of Messrs. Fraley and O’Farrell. (I know. It sounds like an Irish joke waiting for a punch line. You’ll just have to keep waiting.)

Prior to the event, Pat sent out a thick e-file crammed with character sides, from which each student was supposed to select four options. We ended up doing two scripts each, plus participating as examples in a series of excellent technique exercises.

My first audition script was a character from a fantasy game — an avaricious thief. (Yes, a redundancy. Hang with me.) I’ve observed in previous character workshops that I have a knack for evil — or at the very least, duplicitous — roles. This one proved no exception. I felt strong about the acting approach I took, and the specific choices I made with my lines. Best of all, I knew precisely how I wanted to play each scene before I stepped behind the microphone, and when I exited the booth, I was confident that I’d executed my plan. Darragh offered a touch of crisp direction that helped pull it all together. If this were an audition, I’d like my chances.

Round two, as I’d feared, took a slightly harder turn. I’d chosen a character from the same game as my first round selection, but one diametrically opposed to the other in type. I sometimes struggle playing good guys, and I did again here. My first take at my hero was a bit too soft — Pat told me that he sounded “like he eats too much quiche.” In attempting to make the character more vigorously masculine, I cranked in too much force and volume. I knew that was the wrong choice — how often do I have to hear “less is more” before I finally get it? — and Pat promptly reeled me back to a more monochromatic delivery. I should have played the Eastwood card straight out of the box. Oh, well… next time, I’ll remember.

My demonstration exercise taught me how to yell effectively without injuring my voice. I’ll be using that technique a ton, no question. AAAAARRRRRRRGH!

As inevitably happens at a VO workshop, I met some cool new colleagues, enjoyed working alongside some of my favorite fellow actors (Aileen and Brenda, you both rocked, as usual — I’m in awe, seriously), picked up a wealth of handy technical and career-enhancement tips, and benefited from some killer coaching.

By the time 6 p.m. rolled around and Pat sent us on our merry way, my shoes weighed fifty pounds each, but my synapses sizzled with fresh information and my heart soared as though pumped full of helium. I’m itching to spend the next couple of weeks digesting and practicing everything I drank from the Fraley and O’Farrell Fountain of Wisdom. (It’s 100% alcohol-free. Honest.)

Now, I need to go mining for auditions. Need a crafty villain? I’m your huckleberry.

Studied prototypical

August 5, 2009

Given that I’ve been working so much on character acting of late — I’m three-fourths of the way through a class on dialects, and I just wrapped a workshop on acting for animation and video game projects, with another of the latter coming this weekend — I haven’t been working much in my natural voice.

Which is just fine with me.

I’m always intrigued by other people’s perception of my unaltered sound. A while back, one of the directors at a workshop I attended told me that I sound like Seth Rogen. I don’t hear that at all — for one thing, Seth’s speaking voice is a good deal deeper than mine — but since at least one person with good ears hears me that way, I’ve been watching a number of Seth’s movies lately and trying to incorporate cues from his delivery.

In the workshop I took last weekend, the rest of the group was convinced that I’m a vocal ringer for Albert Brooks. That one makes more sense to me — Brooks’s flat, southern California affect is admittedly similar to the one I’ve developed over 30 years as a resident of the Golden State — so again, I’ve been checking out everything from Out of Sight to Finding Nemo to see what I can learn.

My current Thursday evening workshop is built around prototyping — using other actors as models for tonality, rhythm, and character type. The great Thom Pinto assigned me Willem Dafoe as my primary prototype. (Why do I always get the sinister ones?) As anyone who has heard him speak knows, Dafoe has several vocal eccentricities that are uniquely his, and difficult to imitate without his particular instrument. Working at modeling him, however, is helping to ground me in the deeper, more modulated range that appears to be my money voice for straight commercial and narration copy.

For character reads, I’m modeling Paul Giamatti as my primary prototype. Of all the actors I’ve mentioned in this post thus far, Giamatti is the one who sounds the most similar to me in my own ears. Like mine, his voice has both a reedy edge and a darker texture underlying that, creating a sort of indefinable quirkiness in the sound. Giamatti’s voice also reflects an intellectual-intense-yet-insecure quality that resonates with me. I’ve been practicing some of Paul’s short monologues from Sideways, and — for the benefit of contrast — a sampling of his lines as the over-the-top villain in Shoot ‘Em Up. Between the two, I’m fleshing out a couple of strong characters that I’ll be able to draw from again and again.

It’s funny…

…the more I work at becoming someone else, the more I discover of myself.