The Rise & Fall of the Long Distance Runner is what is on my mind at the moment, if you will allow me to cobble those words together. The days when there were fewer than ten voice-overs covering the English & Welsh stations from Plymouth to Newcastle and Brighton to Preston, driving over 40,000 miles a year and working in four different major cities in just one day are gone, as are the days when we would voice from ten to over fifty commercials in a session, supplying a full range of soft, medium and hard sells, regional and foreign accents and impressions of the famous.
The respect in which we were held and the value we were able to offer has, sadly, been undermined by ISDN. The personal bond we experienced with many of our producers is largely impossible to maintain in the current "remote" way of working.
Over the last months further changes have come about in the way we are asked to work. Many stations which were reluctant to move away from the "session" philosophy have now broken free. Producers are moving more and more towards a "horses for courses" style of selection: voices seem to be finding themselves increasingly restricted in the styles of work arriving through their fax machines and more specifically linked to specific clients. If you're unlucky enough to land a station's client who's ad. is running six times a day for a month, you tend to miss out on other work. The further down the line we go (no pun intended) the harder it is to develop, let alone maintain a clear relationship with our employers. Let's hope that VOX97 will afford us a chance to get to know each other better. Ed.
EQUITY & THE INTERNET
Equity is currently investigating the additional usage factor in relation to stations which broadcast commercials via the Internet after a producer from a North of England radio station asked the question "What if we pay a voice-over a standard Equity fee for transmission on one of these stations and then they ring back playing merry hell because their ad is on the Internet too?".
The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society takes the view that "adverts are technically illegal if they're broadcast via the 'Net and the people who made them haven't paid for the music."
Radio stations which relay their output in cyberspace are, therefore, clearly liable to pay an additional fee to voice-overs.
Susannah Thompson of Equity says that a collective position is desirable and that Equity is writing to the broadcasters concerned.
Any voice-over making an ad. which will, subsequently, be relayed via the Internet should contact Equity for advice.
YOU ONLY PAY ONCE - 2
Sounds Visual, in Devizes, has produced the second in it's YOPO "Music To Voice Over" range. Take 2 has twelve more tracks on offer than Take 1 and provides a far higher number of metric length tracks than the first CD. Take 2 has a total of eighty-one tracks providing a good, cross-section of music styles and strengths - from classical and corporate to folk and dance, - and offers tremendous value for money.
As with YOPO's other CDs, the music is free of MCPS licensing and dubbing fees. The purchase price allows the buyer a non-exclusive license to use the music throughout the world., in any and all media.
Anyone new to YOPO who is interested should contact Jonathan Slatter, or Kate, at Sounds Visual at email@example.com
THOUGHTS FROM ACROSS THE POND
By Chris White
Probably the worst part of doing voice overs is working with some of my colleagues. The ones who constantly tell you how great they are.
Recently, I was sitting in a studio, killing time, waiting for new copy, making small talk with the other talent in the spot. This guy has a great set of pipes and an opinion of himself that couldn't be any higher.
Within a very few minutes he starts bragging about the spots he's done lately, and the fact that he has a part in the local production of what he refers to as "The Scottish Play." He even pronounces it with the quotation marks.
If you are working in the Old Vic or someplace like that, then OK. But we are too far down on the acting food chain to take on airs. At this point, the new copy finally arrives and we begin working. But I couldn't help wondering if a guy who calls 'Macbeth' 'The Scottish Play' didn't feel that this spot was somewhat beneath him. The commercial was about lawn care products and we were playing the parts of time-released fertiliser pellets.
A problem that we run into when working with people from the theatre is that they are often unfamiliar with the basics of voice overs. I mean the real basics, like microphone technique. We were doing a spot with a stage actor who had quite a reputation regionally, but no experience in the recording studio. We were doing a spot that required one character to be on the telephone, so our theatrical friend was working in an isolation booth. We started doing takes, but he always sounded way off mic. He swore that he was right on top of it, his lips less than an inch away. The engineer asked me to take a peek in the booth to see if I could see the problem. The actor was right, his lips were almost touching it. Unfortunately, he was talking into the counter weight on the mic boom.
"My favourite Christmas commercial so far was for a shopping centre that advertised the arrival of Santa Claus riding on a monster truck called Battron, which turns into a 20 ft tall, caped robot that shoots fire from it's arms. You don't need to look much further than this to find the true meaning of Christmas."
[Chris White - Virginia]
"I was voicing an Industrial for a large US Insurance company. The CEO stopped me mid-flow and said 'It seems Harlan is emphasising the nouns and verbs in the sentences and I wonder what it would be like if he didn't do that?'. Fighting the urge to point out that it would no longer be English as we know it, I did my best flat-as-a-pancake read while his staff quietly giggled behind his back.
[Harlan Hogan - Illinois]
As reported recently in the Radio Magazine, the Sales Director of Trent FM has just discovered that a lack of creativity and the belief, on the part of ad. agencies, that a particular number of clich�'d script formats really do work is the cause of poor commercials. Why couldn't we see it before...of course - two men in a pub, Mastermind, the Sgt. Major (Yawn)...I wonder if he knows that World War II has ended?
SALESMANBALLS - GREATEST HITS - VOL V
"You know, maybe we should just do that K.I.S.S. thing ... Keep it Stupid, Simple."
"I started off as a telly ad."
"She hasn't got a very good ease of explaining things"
"Radio XXX's first broadcast wasn't 5.58 - it was two minutes to six"
"If that happens, local rates will go up through the window"
"You two would die for , which is exactly what we want you to do..."
"How long will it take to get to Southport from here? ("about half an hour") "- How long will it take to get back?"
"That will really increase your standoutability"
"Anybody tell me who's on the back of a twenty pound note?" "- Washington!"
"He's paying the same amount....only less"
"It stuck out like a sore balloon"
DIGGING DIGITAL WITH SOUNDSCAPE
By Tony Aitken
Believe it or not it's five years or so since we first began to hear about the misdemeanours of a certain Sadie. It was also about five years ago that Sound Station surfaced at Ocean Sound: a terrifyingly expensive piece of kit costing upwards of �25,000, a touch sensitive screen and a manual that read like the London Phone Directory.
However, the die was cast, and Digital Recording, in fact digital everything, was to be the order of the day, and by the early nineties most VO's were using PCs for admin. But it was an expensive old game until quite recently, when memory and Hard disk drives started to tumble in price. Suddenly PCs with all the whistles and bells could be had for under a grand.
There are now some quite neat little HD recording units like the Fostex DMT 8, the Tascam 564 and the Roland VS880, all with a half-gigabyte hard disk and about half an hour of four track, CD Quality recording. Not bad for about fifteen hundred quid. But if you want all the benefits of Sadie, the on screen editing, and removable SCSI disks, but don't have six grand, then what are the options?
Well, to cut to the chase, I looked at PC based systems and concluded that the weak link is the PC itself: the processor that controls the PC also controls the files and directories in which you store your precious music or dialogue, and, as we all know, PCs crash.
Then I discovered Soundscape. Or rather Brian Savin at BRMB who runs two Soundscape units recommended that I try it out. A call to Raper and Wayman here in London and off we set to explore.
The Soundscape hardware is a stand alone 2u unit which use a PC as a front end, the screen carries information, but all the files are stored in the unit on whatever size of hard disk you specify. The program is loaded from one floppy and the arrangement information is stored to the host PC. There are digital and analogue in/outs on the back, so that Digital backups can be made
to DAT. With a two and a half gig hard disk there is eight and a half hours of mono recording time. There are eight Tracks that can be recorded and played back at once and as many virtual tracks as you'll ever need. The system is non-destructive which means that you have to try very hard to delete anything. The onscreen editing - cut paste drag and drop - is a joy and glitchless. There are fade controls, EQ, normalisation, and the wave forms can be enlarged to huge proportions for editing. The features are too numerous to describe in a short article, but with Reverb and Time Pitch Shift, there is really nothing missing at all.
I've used Soundscape for a couple of months now and with a manual that actually makes sense to a non techy person, it is simply a great tool to use. It will chase SMPTE and can be chained into a Midi setup with a sequencer or sound Module, and Soundscape units can be daisy chained for up to 128 tracks! And the bottom line is that the Soundscape SSHDR1 with all the extras, costs under two and a half grand plus Vat. Of course you need a host PC, I've used an old 486 Dx33 which is fine. Sadie costs over twice as much and to be honest is a lot more tricky to use, and with Pro Tools on a Mac costing up to ten grand, Soundscape is a serious contender for Professional HD recording at a very keen price.
From re-editing showreels to full length Radio dramas, there is no problem except, well, wouldn't it be great to get another unit and have sixteen tracks to play with!