Archive for the ‘Voicetrax’ category

Actor, direct thyself

April 30, 2009

A thought-provoking insight in tonight’s first session of a four-week course in self-directing skills…

Approach every script as though you were going to direct another actor’s performance of it.

That makes so darned much sense I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.

After all, how many times have I, as a presenter, reiterated the well-observed point that the best way to master a subject is to prepare to teach that subject to someone else? More times than I can count, much less remember.

It simply follows, then, that one way to gain complete ownership of a piece of copy would be to prepare to direct it.

That single sentence is going to provide a launching pad for my next quantum leap.

If it’s free, I’ll take three (hours)

April 24, 2009

More often than not, you get what you pay for.

This is not one of those stories.

The ever-thoughtful folks at Voicetrax are doing a golden favor for their students this month — offering a selection of one-session group lessons on a variety of voiceover subjects, free of charge. When the schedule of free classes was released, there were two appealing options that fit into my schedule. So, with some counsel from Chuck, Voicetrax’s self-described factotum, I decided to choose the option I hadn’t tried before.

Good call, Chuck.

Last night, a dozen of us placed ourselves in the able hands of Brian Sommer, a Voicetrax-trained actor who today boasts a list of commercial, animation, and video game credits as long as my… well… let’s just say mighty doggoned long. Brian’s specialty is characters — notice that I didn’t say “character voices” (see, Brian — I was paying attention!) — so we launched into a pile of juicy character-rich audition scripts and sides from Brian’s magic bag of tricks. (Silly rabbit — tricks are for voice actors!)

I had the chance to experiment with a pair of fun pieces. In the first, an animation script, I played an evil (is there any other kind?) mad scientist. Brian found me guilty of gnawing a little too much scenery in my first take, so I dialed the broad portrayal back just a touch, picked up the pacing, and made sure I made better connection with my virtual listener the second time through.

Take two was vastly improved, though Brian nudged me about my usual nemesis — worrying about the words rather than simply playing the scene. On the third take, I relaxed a little more, and the character really came together. I love it when that happens.

My second shot in the booth presented me with sides from a Western video game. Here, my character was a charmingly roguish, slightly gonzo Mexican bandito of the sort one might have seen in old Clint Eastwood movies. Ironically, just the night before, my daughter and I were watching the NBA playoffs when a Dos Equis beer commercial came on, starring Jonathan Goldsmith as “the most interesting man in the world.” I can do a pretty fair impression of Goldsmith’s faux-Latin accent — “Stay thirsty, my friends” — which KM thought would form the basis of an effective character for me. I’d spent the rest of the evening tinkering with that voice. So, I started the character Brian assigned with a hefty dose of Mr. Interesting, ladled in A Fistful of Dollars, and built him outward from there.

Not surprisingly, then, Brian’s initial comment after my first take was, “That’s a great character for you.” We both liked the work I’d done in the second and third scenes of the three-scene script, so Brian focused his direction on the first scene, where I didn’t quite nail the balance between the character’s smarmy faux friendliness and his underlying villainy. A tweak here and there, and the whole bit gelled nicely.

In one three-hour class, I came away with two nifty additions to my character repertoire, and several useful tidbits about character acting that I’ll be able to apply dozens of ways. And all for just the price of four gallons of gas. (That’s how much petrol my aging minivan burns on the round-trip Sausalito run.)

I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how easily character work comes to me. It’s diametrically opposed to the kind of things I thought I’d find in my voiceover wheelhouse. Gotta admit, though — I dig leaping outside myself (or perhaps, discovering hidden facets within myself) and letting fly with the myriad people I can be.

The fact that a high percentage of those people are evil or crazy or both? A good subject for psychoanalysis.

Thanks to my mentors at Voicetrax — and especially to Brian — for the freebie. Given all that I learned, and the fun I had, I’d have gladly paid the usual rate. (But… don’t feel compelled to send me an invoice, Chuck.)

The song is ended, but the melody lingers on

April 17, 2009

Sad but true… I now have Friday afternoons free.

As I was preparing this morning for the final session of this six-week workshop, it struck me suddenly how much I was going to miss this weekly gathering, and the people with whom I’ve shared the experience.

The baker’s dozen of us — plus Samantha, of course — became our own little family as we supported and encouraged one another over the past month and a half. I’ve witnessed so much phenomenal growth in each of the other actors in the group, and have come to admire and respect each of them for their unique gifts.

I’ll see most, if not all, of them in other classes as we progress — some as soon as next week — but we’ll never be Sam’s 13 Apprentices again, or join together in this exact configuration.

I’m a touch misty, to tell the truth.

Realizing the occasion, I took my camera with me today to enshrine the moment. The pictures can’t preserve the electricity in the studio, or the raw emotions that we shared as we alternately soared or stumbled in the booth. They certainly don’t capture Samantha’s tough-love, painfully honest but maternal critiques, the hazard of which we each weathered like lobster fishermen braving a New England squall. But when I look at these faces — smiling, reflective, or focused — I’ll remember the 24 hours we spent together, and everything that we learned.

For my final exam, I performed two pieces of copy: an animation script selected for me by another member of the class, and an introspective TV spot that Sirenetta and I had worked on in a recent private lesson. I would never have chosen the animation piece for myself — I still have a hard time envisioning myself doing character voices, even though everyone tells me that’s where the core of my talent lies — but I gave it an earnest whirl.

When Samantha gave my performance her highest score, I couldn’t help asking, “Are you sure?” I’d struggled so miserably over the previous five weeks that it was difficult to accept that I’d done this well. Sam, with characteristic directness, reminded me how frequently I’d complained about my frustration with myself during this workshop. “So, when I finally give you a 3, shut up and take it,” she laughed.

The TV spot wasn’t perfect, but I was nonetheless happy with my read. Sam’s score for this one was, predictably, not quite as lofty, but still good. It also came with compliments and encouragement — I’d taken her direction following the first take and implemented it into the second. All it lacked was confidence, which I probably would have nailed if given a third bite at the apple. Still, coupled with the other piece, it represented my best work of the entire course.

It had taken me six weeks to find it, but the old mojo had returned.

Without exception, everyone in the group delivered her or his best on Finals Day. In several cases, the comparison with the first week’s work represented a quantum leap forward. Some of the newer students, in fact, pulled performances from their inward depths of which I would not have believed them capable. I was overjoyed for them.

For the more experienced of us, the increments of improvement were smaller and subtler, but still vibrantly evident.

Besides which, we gained something beyond our own talents — the connection with others traveling different, yet largely parallel, paths.

When next those paths intersect, we’ll tap into that synergy.

You do me, and I’ll do you

April 13, 2009

We did an interesting exercise last week in my Friday afternoon workshop.

During our first meeting five weeks ago, we were each secretly assigned another participant to “shadow.” For our fifth session, we were to bring a script perfectly suited to the person we have been observing, and perform that script in the booth as we thought that person would — using the qualities we’ve noted in that individual’s vocal and acting style.

My challenge was both easy and remarkably difficult. Easy, in that I’ve shared several other classes with the person I shadowed, and was more familiar with his work going into this exercise than I was with any of the actors in the group. Difficult, not only in that this person’s style is in many respects antithetical to my own, but also in that I like the guy — I was afraid I’d do a lousy job of imitating him, and he’d never speak to me again.

Fortunately for me, however, I’d had a fair amount of practice.

Since my challenging experience in narration class back at the beginning of this year, I’ve been grasping at every hook I can find to help me master what is, for me, a consistently frustrating aspect of VO. Because my natural vocal quality is energetic and expressive, it’s tough for me to dial down to the lower-intensity, more understated tone necessary for effective narration. Watching tons of TV documentaries has helped some, as has my growing appreciation for “vocal colors.” (When I narrate, I have to think “blue”cool, get it?)

As it happens, the actor I’ve been observing for workshop has one of the “bluest” voices I know. A couple of months ago, I discovered that modeling his thoughtful, measured, laid-back delivery helped me find my narrative voice. So, even before this exercise, I’d been imitating him for some time in my daily workouts.

I chose a piece of narration copy for the exercise. And what do you know — the read that came out of my “impression” might have been the best work I’ve done in weeks.

After class, I had a chance to catch up with my unsuspecting “model” and let him know how much practicing his delivery has helped me grow as a narrator. I think he was more than a little stunned. This was also my opportunity to let him know how much development I’ve noticed in his work over the almost-year that we’ve been in classes and workshops together. He really has come a long way from the first time I heard him read.

The person who has been shadowing me chose an animation character script for her exercise. She’s mentioned to me on prior occasions that she thinks animation might be my niche, so when I learned that I had been her observation subject, I wasn’t surprised by her selection. It was hilarious to hear my boisterous delivery rumbling out in her angelic, childlike voice, but she made it work — I knew immediately upon listening to her read that I was the one she was imitating.

What did surprise me was the evaluation my observer gave after a month of monitoring my voice. She described my vocal quality using words like “emotional,” “sensitive,” and “vulnerable” — characteristics that I would never in a million years have associated with myself. (Even more surprising was Samantha‘s follow-up comment: “That’s exactly how I hear you, too.”)

I’ve always envisioned myself as the aloof, detached, intellectual type. But I guess I don’t sound that way to others.

I hope that’s a good thing.

Next week, I’ll get my chance to perform the animation script my observer chose for me. I’ll try to do it justice.

I’ll also be interested to see how the person I’ve been shadowing presents the copy I selected for him. I suspect that he’ll give it a better read than I did. Which, I guess, is kind of the point.

Private dancer

April 10, 2009

Today’s private coaching session with Sirenetta touched off several new flashes in the old chandelier.

We began the hour talking about some of my recent challenges. As Sirenetta rightly pointed out, confidence is the key. Once I trust myself enough not to overthink and overwork every word of copy, I’ll be better off.

Toward that end, I walked into the booth with pristine, unmarked scripts and tried to just let things fly. The technique seemed to work — although I didn’t hit anything perfectly on the first take, I managed to get to a place of relative quality within just a couple of attempts. Sirenetta’s customarily pointed and incisive directing helped.

We worked through a pair of similar scripts designed to bring out my conversational, “regular guy” side. In both cases, I started the process bigger and broader than necessary, and needed to work backward to find a more believable note. When I got there, I was pleased with the end results, albeit frustrated that it still takes me longer than I’d like to find the sweet spot. But, as I reminded myself, it’s the final take that matters. I’ll probably choose one of these two pieces for my “final exam” in next week’s Friday afternoon workshop.

Next, we played with a character script for a TV spot. Once again, I found the character work easier to hit from the start. Maybe I’m just more comfortable working at greater distance from my own perceived self. A therapist would probably have a field day with that revelation.

Last on the docket was a spot that involved an internal monologue. Once Sirenetta pointed out that I could treat the monologue as though it was the audible half of a dialogue, this came together rather well.

What I took away:

  • Confidence is good.
  • Instinct trumps intellect.
  • Frame a monologue by envisioning it as a response to an unheard question.
  • I’m still crippling myself with literal-think, but I’m improving.
  • Let the copy sell itself.
  • Less is still more. Except when it isn’t. And I still have trouble knowing which is which.

Overall, a step forward. I’ll gladly take every one of those that I can get.

New morning, new day

April 3, 2009

I had an infinitely better Friday this week than last.

Today’s VO workshop was busy, busy, busy. I had six — count ’em, six — opportunities in the booth today, and while I don’t know that any of the six displayed my finest work, all of them flowed more easily and less painfully than anything I did seven days ago.

I even got one “strongest read in the group” from Samantha, albeit on a piece of copy on which she described our collective work with adjectives including “horrible” and “atrocious.” So I’m sure exactly how much of a compliment that was.

More importantly, though, I regained much of my customary ease in front of the microphone. I still found myself fighting my copy a few times, but today these were minor skirmishes as opposed to the pitched battles of recent weeks. As I listened to my playbacks, I never felt like cringing. I wasn’t pounding myself on the back with self-admiration, but I wasn’t kicking myself in the groin either.

Progress is progress.

A few excerpts from today’s “notes to self”:

  • Remember that in commercial reads, even an angry character needs to be likable. I struggle to find the happy medium between a sufficiently strong emotional choice, and one that pushes the envelope too far.
  • Even when my “levels” were off, I liked the choices I made today. A couple of times, my choice didn’t work as well as it might have due to poor execution. But I’m still glad that I made the specific choice.
  • Relax, relax, relax. The words are less important than the performance. Let go, and let God.
  • As much as I enjoy hearing — and frequently, learning from — the work of my peers, I’m glad that I do what I do. I’m learning to love my instrument, which is a major step forward for me.

At this juncture, I’ll take all of the steps forward that I can get.

I took positive note of how much easier it is to work when I’m well-rested physically. Last weekend came at the end of a stressful and exhausting stretch of days. Today, I stepped into the booth armed with a solid night of sleep. A world of difference.

I can’t yet say that my mojo is back, but I can hear its footsteps. And for a change, they’re getting louder.

13 again

March 28, 2009

In the third week of a six-week Friday afternoon VO workshop, I hit the wall.

Whenever I have a weekly class, there’s always one week where my frustration with my progress — or, more accurately, my self-perceived lack of progress — escalates to the point that I drive home quivering on the precipice of surrender. By the next week, I’ve clambered back onto the bicycle and am once again pedaling furiously.

Yesterday felt even worse than usual. Every bit of work I created seemed forced, trite, tired, or just plain wrong.

The fact that, an hour after that class ended, I started the first session of a two-day seminar didn’t help, either. It just provided me with another three and a half hours in which to be awful.

Fortunately, today was a better day. I didn’t rock anyone’s world — certainly not my own — with the work I did today. But at least I felt capable and competent each time I was in the booth. With the day’s final exercise, a refresher on “vocal colors,” I actually sounded like my old, marginally talented self.

Where was that guy yesterday?

Samantha gave me a stern pep talk after the other students left. Her words, as they inevitably do, put things into clearer perspective. “You’re in your awkward teenager stage right now,” she pointed out. “You’re past the point of being cute on raw potential alone. Now, you’ve got acne and growing pains. And it’s taken you a step backward.”

That observation ignited a light bulb in my chandelier.

It’s like puberty all over again, 35 years later. Only now, it’s not my physical voice that’s changing. It’s my ability to act with my voice that’s undergoing a fundamental — almost hormonal — overhaul.

When I first began studying VO, I could step into the booth with the cheerful abandon of innocence, because I didn’t yet know what to do and not do. I was unencumbered by knowledge. Now, months later, with hundreds of hours of coaching and personal practice time under my belt, I’m wrestling with all of the education and understanding I’ve gained. I drag a zillion things to think about — and worry about — with me every time I face the microphone.

Now, I have to fully internalize everything I’ve learned, so that I can stop thinking about it and start performing.

Knowing what my problem is should help push me toward resolution.

Samantha says that once I reach that breakthrough, nothing will be able to stop me from becoming as great a voice actor as I want to be, and know that I can be.

I would love nothing more than proving her correct.

Game on!

March 23, 2009

Last weekend, I participated in a two-day workshop on voicing video games.

Now, you have to understand — when I was actively playing video games, they rarely included voices. I’m from the era of Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong here. The most sophisticated item in the arcade back then was Dragon’s Lair. (You young whippersnappers can pop over to Wikipedia to see what I’m talking about. And get off my lawn.)

As the dad of a college-age daughter, over the years I’ve played my share of Super Mario World and Aladdin on the old Super Nintendo. More recently, I’ve become familiar with such phenomena as Wii Sports, Major League Baseball 2K8, and even Guitar Hero. (I can’t play the latter to save my life, mind you, but at least I’ve seen it done.)

But confront me with something like, say, World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto, and I’m mystified.

For that reason, I enjoyed getting a feel for what’s new and exciting in the realm of video game voice acting. And, from a practical standpoint for a voice actor living here in the Bay Area, where numerous video game companies are based, it’s important career-wise, too.

Fortunately, I wasn’t (as I feared I might be) the only video game tyro in the workshop. Only three or four of our baker’s dozen considered themselves hardcore gamers. Judging by the comments and questions during the weekend, several other students’ backgrounds in the gaming arena fell short of even my paltry experience.

Our director, the voiceover coordinator for Household Name Electronics Corporation™, a sprightly personality in town for the Game Developers Conference this week, remained patient with (what must have seemed to an expert) our tediously lame inquiries. She provided us with detailed background on the industry, and walked us through the steps of game development, both in general terms and with specific focus on the voiceover piece of what sounds like an enormously complicated process.

I spent the majority of my time in the booth playing the antihero of one of the more popular video game series, and loving every second of it. I’ve not yet ceased to be amazed at the myriad voices that boil out of my inner psyche on command — I’d have never supposed that character work would be a strength for me, but I always seem to come up with something interesting and appropriate when given a character to create. I was even more surprised when we watched the actual game in play, to hear how closely my interpretation matched that of the actor who actually voices the role. (He’s better at it, of course. But give me a few more months of practice, and I’ll be nipping at his gladiator-sandaled heels.)

Almost as much fun as bellowing into the microphone was listening to the other actors in the workshop exercising their craft. It’s fascinating how several people can dissect the same few lines of copy and each take the character in different directions. I always wish that I had more imagination in that regard. I tend to be frustratingly literal still. I’m coaxing myself to “play” more. I think I managed that more effectively this weekend that I have on other occasions.

One of the unique aspects of game VO is the creation of incidental sounds — the grunts, howls, squeaks, and barks that spill forth every time a character exerts effort on-screen. Because the particular game we were practicing with is a hack-and-slash actioner, we made up a diverse range of death and injury vocalizations. I now feel confident that I can lose a limb, have my teeth yanked out with pliers, or get my throat slit with the best of them — on mic, anyway. (Kids, do not try this at home. Leave the throes of death to trained professionals.)

After this workshop and the one earlier this month that also included a game-character exercise, games have leaped near the top of the list of projects I’d like to voice. I dig the excitement and challenge.

If you’re a interactive producer looking for a blood-enraged warrior, I’m your huckleberry.

Pat-urday in San Francisco

March 9, 2009

Now that I’ve had a moment to rest and recover, here’s the lowdown on last Saturday’s workshop.

Pat Fraley titled the event Audition Technique Masters, which probably described everyone in the room other than me. Pat invited agent John Erlendson, principal of San Francisco’s JE Talent, to direct one of the two sessions. Sydney Rainin, a local voice artist best known for her work with Macy’s and Safeway, dropped by for an hour of Q&A at midday.

Paranoid that I am, I arrived at the event location, Polarity Post Production, nearly an hour early. I found convenient parking in a lot literally a stone’s throw from the studio. The extra time gave me an opportunity to decompress from the drive, finish my coffee, read a few pages on my Kindle, and arrive promptly feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

We began the morning with the usual get-acquainted round robin. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many of the other 11 participants also study or have studied at Voicetrax. Even though I didn’t know anyone, that commonality made the room feel immediately comfortable. So, for that matter, did Pat, who is every bit as funny and engaging as his reputation (and the audio lessons I’ve downloaded from his site) would suggest. All of the trepidation with which I’d arrived fell away like dandruff.

Our first round in the booth was a brief character piece from an interactive game project. We had several scripts from which to choose. I selected three possibilities, giving myself flexibility in case one or more of my classmates picked the same copy. That proved wise, as one of the first people into the booth went with my first choice, and I observed another student carefully reviewing my second option. That meant I ended up focusing on my third choice. That was fine — I enjoy a challenge.

It’s always fun to hear other people work. Although everyone else in the class outstripped me in experience — most of the others have been pursuing voiceover for several years, and several were working voice pros with agents and actual careers — I didn’t feel intimidated. Once Pat had put a few of my classmates through their paces, I was encouraged to think that I could stand on a reasonably level competitive field with the others. At least, I’d avoid embarrassing myself.

Before my turn in the booth came, we broke for lunch. While we noshed on sandwiches and salad from Il Fornaio (“you deserve a quality lunch,” Pat remarked), John and Sydney joined us to share their insights. I couldn’t think of any questions I wanted to ask, but I enjoyed listening to the responses both of these successful artists offered to others’ inquiries.

After the break, John led us back into the studio to tackle some commercial copy. I really appreciated John’s straightforward, non-technical directing style. As he sent each student into the booth, he asked for three consecutive reads through the copy — basically the same read, without major adjustments in character or interpretation. After the third read, he offered simple direction. What quickly became clear was that by the time the talent had run the copy three times, he or she more often than not had a handle on their basic approach. For there, it was just a matter of refinement. For most, the refinement involved speeding up the tempo of the read so that it flowed naturally.

I had chosen a spot for a well-known amusement park. Since the copy seemed comfortably in my wheelhouse in terms of both vocal character and personality, I didn’t attempt anything fancy. I just focused on delivering the read with the appropriate energy, and keeping my voice within my optimal range.

“How’d you feel about that?” John asked, after I’d run my three reads.

“Pretty good,” I shrugged.

“I think you’re right in the zone. Pick up the tempo about 20 percent, and I think you’ll be there.”

I read the copy a fourth time, propelling myself along more briskly. When I finished, I glanced toward the booth window.

John said simply, “You’re done.”

Okay — that felt solid. (John thinks my natural speaking voice sounds like Seth Rogen. Who knew?)

When John had finished with the 12 of us, Pat slipped back into the director’s chair to complete the character round. My turn came up quickly, so back into the booth I headed. I could hear my game character, described as a friendly, larger-than life auto-racing promoter, clearly in my creative ear, so I attacked the copy with aggressive abandon.

A little too much abandon, as it turned out. Pat sent his associate into the booth to demonstrate the appropriate volume level — probably one-third as loud as I’d been on my first read.

It took me a couple of experimental runs, but the final time through, I remembered at last not to over-project, while maintaining the character I’d adopted. The resulting read sounded less strident and more authentic. I don’t know whether I’d cast me in that particular role, but I was happy with the choices I’d made. (Pat’s planning to distribute the recordings later this week. We’ll see whether my positivity survives on second listen.)

Pat finished the day with some additional tips. We gathered the class for a group photo, then scattered to the four winds. (It wasn’t windy, especially. I just wanted to say that.)

I drove northward out of The City brimming with enthusiasm. All in all, a terrific day. I can scarcely wait for another opportunity to study with Mr. Fraley. With any luck, that chance will come sooner rather than later.

Little victories

February 23, 2009

This evening, I had my first private coaching session with a new director. I’d heard from others that this director had a reputation for being difficult to please (I’d heard another student comment that he had “worked her over” in a recent session). All trepidation aside, I was looking forward to working with this individual, who has an insider’s perspective on the casting process.

My concerns — and my initial nervousness — proved to be for naught.

The session was fast-paced, exciting, and yes, even fun. And never once did I feel “worked over.” It was as successful an hour as I’ve spent since I began my voiceover journey.

Since we hadn’t worked together before, the director took a few moments at the beginning of the session to talk about my background and interests. Then, we were off to the races.

We worked through six pieces of copy during the hour, under conditions very much like a live audition. The director handed me a script, gave me a minute or so to read through the copy and make a choice about my read, then we slated and recorded. After the read, he’d offer brief comment about things he liked or didn’t like, gave me direction for the next take, and we’d dive in again. A little more direction, and a final take. A couple of times, we didn’t even need a third take to get to the read he wanted.

My customary tendency toward excessive analysis and self-critique evaporated in this environment. I simply didn’t have time. There wasn’t an opportunity for writing an extended breakdown of the scene, a character bio, or answers to my five key questions. I had just long enough to make a decision about what the copy was saying and what approach I wanted to bring to it, and the tape started rolling. (I know, everything’s digital now — no actual tape was involved. You know what I mean.)

I loved this.

For one thing, it felt much more “real world” than sessions where I have far more leisure to address the copy. I know that in most actual audition scenarios, I’ll have just enough time to make a swift, solid choice, and go big with it. So, it was excellent practice under lifelike conditions.

For another, I work better when forced to go with my first impulse. After all, that approach has served me quite effectively on my Jeopardy! appearances over the years. It’s also what I do several times a week in a speaking situation — rely on my preparation and instincts, and not sweat every turn of phrase.

And, to be honest, it’s the way I manage my daily workouts. I open a copy document, find a piece of script to read, look it over in short order, then start recording. Most of the time, I’m more than pleased by the second or third take. And I haven’t burned out my brain pan conducting in-depth analysis. It’s not that I don’t analyze. It’s just that I don’t let myself over-think.

For me, that’s what works.

I felt encouraged by the work I did this evening. I found myself relaxed, confident, and energized throughout the hour, once the initial jangle of nerves passed. I liked the choices I made, the voices I found, and the characters I created on the spot — at least a couple of which were entirely brand new to me, and you’d better believe I’m going to record them before I hit the sack tonight, so that I can firmly ingrain them and pull them out again sometime.

I’ll write more tomorrow about some of the other lessons I learned in tonight’s session.

But for right now, I’d just like to bask in a little momentary victory.