Jim Cummings, Animation Voice Actor, IMDB
Edd Hall, Announcer/Voiceover Artist, IMDB
Robert Noone, Rental Manager, Location Sound Corp
Zack Allen, Production Sound Mixer, Soundgeek Productions
Michael Kammes, Director of Technology, Key Code Media
James DeRuvo, Film and Technology Reporter, DoddleNEWS
Larry Jordan: Tonight on The Buzz, we are talking voice acting, voice overs and audio. We start with Jim Cummings, probably the most famous person you’ve never heard of. Acting in hundreds of animated features, Jim is the voice of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Kaa the snake, and many others. He tells us what it’s like being a voice actor along with a great story from recording ‘The Lion King.’
Larry Jordan: Robert Noone is the rental manager for Location Sound, an LA based audio rental company. We talk with him about how to make the decision on whether to rent or buy the gear for your next project, and what to put into a basic audio kit.
Larry Jordan: Zack Allen is a freelance production sound recordist. He shares his thoughts on the challenges of recording good audio on set and the gear he uses to get it done.
Larry Jordan: Michael Kammes began his career as an audio engineer and describes the challenges of audio editing and the process of working with voice actors.
Larry Jordan: For 12 years, Edd Hall was the announcer and sidekick on ‘The Jay Leno Show’ and shares some of his experiences along with the gear he’s using and his audition process as a voice over artist in LA.
Larry Jordan: All this, plus James DeRuvo with our weekly DoddleNEWS update, The Buzz starts now.
Announcer: Since the dawn of digital filmmaking – authoritative – one show serves a worldwide network of media professionals – current – uniting industry experts – production – filmmakers – post production – and content creators around the planet – distribution. From the media capital of the world in Los Angeles, California, The Digital Production Buzz goes live now.
Larry Jordan: Welcome to the Digital Production Buzz, the world’s longest running podcast for the creative content industry, covering media production, post production and marketing around the world.
Larry Jordan: Hi, my name is Larry Jordan. Tonight’s show is about voice over, voice acting and audio. And since you can’t discuss voice acting without talking animated films, the news of the passing of legendary comedian Don Rickles earlier today is especially poignant. The reason I mention this, aside from his unique status as a comedian, is that in 1995, he revived his career by appearing with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in the original ‘Toy Story,’ playing the role of the grouchy Mister Potato Head. That lead to over a dozen ‘Toy Story’ related animated spin offs, TV shows, games and films over the next 22 years. His final project was scheduled to be ‘Toy Story 4’ which is currently in pre-production. Don Rickles is the perfect example that the world of voice acting encompasses a wide range of talents, which you’ll learn more about tonight.
Larry Jordan: On an unrelated note, I want to remind you that The Buzz is travelling to the 2017 NAB show where we’re going to be producing 27 live shows over four days at NAB. We’ll be interviewing almost 100 industry leaders, and for more information, visit NABshowbuzz.com and if you want to say “Hi,” stop by and say “Hello” in South Lower Hall, Booth 12405.
Larry Jordan: Now, it’s time for a DoddleNEWS update with James DeRuvo. Hello James.
James DeRuvo: Hello Larry.
Larry Jordan: So what’s the news this week?
James DeRuvo: Well Larry, tonight I’ve got stories on Apple, Magic Lantern and RED.
Larry Jordan: Let’s start with Apple, go ahead.
James DeRuvo: We’ve known over the last couple of weeks that Apple has gone to great lengths to reassure the professional market that it hasn’t forgotten them. They did a little mea culpa interview a couple of weeks ago where they apologized more or less for the long drought of upgrade in the Mac Pro, it’s disappointing performance, and now they have given us a sneak peek of a brand new modular Mac Pro which might be out by 2018. They said they have completely rethought the Mac Pro again with this modular design that promises upgrade ability, higher performance and a lower price. It’s like old meets new. If you had that old cheese grater Mac Pro which was the previous model, that’s fallen in love with the trash can Mac Pro and they had a baby, it’s probably going to be what the modular Mac Pro is going to be.
James DeRuvo: In the meantime, Apple is going to upgrade the current Mac Pro design with faster Xeon processors and GPUs, plus they’re assuring us that there’s going to be upgraded higher end iMacs later this year. But after that disappointing release of the trash can Mac Pro in 2013 and no updates since, I think Cupertino has a tall order to lure pros back who simply either went with the higher end 5K iMac, or just went to the dark side and went with a PC.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting, because all of a sudden now, the last two or three days, there’s been a flood of rumors of the new hardware coming for desktops. So I think a log jam has broken in terms of information, we’ll have to see what happens in the future. What have you got with Magic Lantern?
James DeRuvo: Magic Lantern has found the Holy Grail. They have finally unlocked 4K Ultra High Definition recording in 14 bit RAW for the Canon 5D Mark III. It uses a Super 35mm crop with a wide aspect ratio that is pretty close to anamorphic. But it’s not without its glitches. The live view is in black and white, and in the meantime, they’re keeping it in the nightly build section until they can make it more stable. Even though it’s not perfect, the RAW video tests I’ve seen are pretty impressive and shows that Canon sensors are much deeper and more capable than we knew. Honestly Larry, I don’t know why Canon just doesn’t hire all these guys away. They do really great work.
Larry Jordan: Maybe the Magic Lantern guys want to stay put. But you’ve also mentioned there’s cool stuff with RED. What’s going on there?
James DeRuvo: RED is future proofing their higher end 8K RED workflow with something they call the IPP2 workflow. It’s a complete overhaul from image capture to post production. It has in camera HDR monitoring controls with more consistent dynamic range and shadow details, improved demosaicing algorithms to achieve a greater detail without sacrificing pixel resolution as well as a new gamma curve called LOG3G10 for more accurate color tones. RED is always looking over the horizon Larry, and with this new IPP2 workflow, they’ll be able to adjust quickly to what they see for some time to come.
Larry Jordan: I’m still not convinced 8K is the future, but I really am impressed with the new workflow from RED, so we’ll see what happens.
James DeRuvo: We’ll see what happens.
Larry Jordan: What other stories have we got?
James DeRuvo: Other stories this week include Pomfort launching a new app called Silverstack Lab, which enables you to have management and can create dailies. Canon is getting into the drone business with a heavy lift, six rotor drone that carries low light cameras for search and rescue, but really, can filmmaking be that far behind? Finally, YouTube TV launched this week in five major cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. That’s it for this week Larry.
Larry Jordan: For people that want all the information, where do they go on the web?
James DeRuvo: All these and other stories can be found at Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: James DeRuvo is the senior writer for Doddlenews.com, and returns every week with a DoddleNEWS update. James, thanks so much, we’ll talk to you next week.
James DeRuvo: Alright Larry, have a good weekend.
Larry Jordan: You too, bye bye.
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Larry Jordan: Join more than 100,000 attendees from 160 countries at the NAB show. Conferences are April 22nd to the 27th and exhibits are April 24th through the 27th, at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Let’s thrive and I’ll see you there.
Larry Jordan: Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, our next guest spent Saturday mornings riveted to the TV screen mimicking the characters in his favorite cartoons. Today Jim Cummings is one of the most well known voice actors in animation. During his career, he’s worked extensively for the Walt Disney Studios voicing classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, King Louis, Kaa the snake, and many others. He’s also acted in blockbusters features for DreamWorks, including ‘Shrek,’ ‘Ants,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit,’ ‘The Little Mermaid,’ ‘Aladdin,’ ‘Tarzan,’ well you get the idea. He obviously can’t find work. It is an honor to say welcome Jim, good to have you with us.
Jim Cummings: Hi, how are you doing pal?
Larry Jordan: I am doing great. I’m just sitting here, standing at attention just talking to someone of your caliber.
Jim Cummings: A likely story. I’ll take it though.
Larry Jordan: Aside from an addiction to Saturday morning cartoons, what got you into voice over work?
Jim Cummings: I always kind of knew that I was heading in that direction since I was about four. I was in the back of the class, just doing dolphin noises and things like that. I remember my dad when we were watching Mel Blanc on a TV show which I think was the Jack Benny Show, and he says, “You see this guy here? This guy does all those voices you get up and watch on Saturday morning. He does Bugs Bunny and Daffy, Sylvester and Tasmanian Devil” and I said, “You’re kidding? They’re all from this guy? Here he is, everybody likes him, he’s not getting kicked out of class. So maybe I’ll go that way with it.” I always knew I’d be somewhere in the arts as an actor, a musician or a designer. I painted Mardi Gras floats for a few years in New Orleans as a young guy. Although I knew I was never going to be a dancer. Nobody wants to see this. I was in no danger of becoming a professional dancer. Somewhere in the arts yes, but not that. Ten or 12 years old and I wanted to be the ogre or the hermit or the wizard that lived in a cave, because it seemed like it was more fun. So I think I was inadvertently training myself for this career because that’s how it is now. I still get up and pretend to be an ogre or a king or fill in the blank, or a bear or a duck.
Larry Jordan: How do you develop different voices, what’s your process?
Jim Cummings: I just get together with the producer, the writer, the artist and you look at them. Dark Green Duck, he’s not a big gigantic fellow, but he’s not a little tiny guy either so the process of elimination there, although sometimes it’s funny to get the big guy and have a tiny voice come out of him. Look at Mike Tyson. You’re not going to make fun of him for his voice. No matter what. However funny it sounds, or weird, so it’s always fun to go against type too. But you do that and you figure in the size, you figure in whether he’s got a big nose, you might want to have to do something there. That type of thing, and you just kind of mold it. I think a bit of sculpting almost, molding the character as you go. Is he sarcastic? Is he happy? Is he dreary, is he gloomy? You incorporate all of that together, and honestly at that point you just give in to your instincts. I always joking say instincts are the best stinks. If you’re enjoying it and if it makes you laugh, chances are others will too, so give it a shot. But like I say, it’s a molding, you’re sculpting it, and hopefully it comes out OK.
Larry Jordan: You mentioned that you meet with the producer and the writer and other parts of the creative team. What’s the collaboration process like? Are you saying, “Listen to this, what do you think?” Are they telling you what their thoughts are? Walk me through that in more detail.
Jim Cummings: They’re inside the booth and you’re in the studio and you just get on mic, and you’re looking at it, going “Well, this guy looks like, what is he? Oh he’s 700 years old. Oh he is, oh OK, well now, OK” and you get on the microphone and make him sound … They go “Yeah, that’s good. Maybe make him from England.” “Oh OK…” “I don’t know, maybe from Italy.” “…” and then you just switch, and you go, “A little less gravel. A little less this. A little higher.” Because you’re looking at the picture, which always helps. One thing you say is, “If this guy started talking, what would it sound like?” If you answer that question, you’re done. And what does he act like, obviously, that’s the biggest thing. One helps the other.
Larry Jordan: So it sounds like you’re working principally out of sound stages, not out of a home studio?
Jim Cummings: Well not sound stages, but recording studios. Yes. For animation, when you sing and do animation, you always have to go into the studio. A lot of times, like promos and different spots you can do at home. I’m the type of guy that’s got a blue collar work ethic or attitude toward a no color required career. I like to get out and do something, feel like I’m doing something.
Larry Jordan: How is the prep or collaboration different if you’re the lead voice, versus a secondary character?
Jim Cummings: It isn’t. The lead voice just gets a little busier. That’s about it. Still trying to honor the character.
Larry Jordan: It sounds like it’s a very interactive collaboration process in the recording studio as both you and the producer are trying to figure out what this character’s going to be?
Jim Cummings: With the writer, and the voice director, absolutely. Everybody puts their two cents in, and you finally go “You know what? Hold it, there he is right there. Hold onto that guy, let’s do that. Let’s hear him up against …” and you see how things work out and how they sound, and off to the races.
Larry Jordan: Is it always you by yourself, or are there other characters to play off of?
Jim Cummings: For the auditions usually it’s going to be yourself. You alone. But every now and again they’ll bring a couple of people in if they’re going to be a team, like some sort of Abbott & Costello group going on there, then they would have it. But usually you carve them out one at a time, and then they put them all together in the end.
Larry Jordan: It’s interesting because you are inventing the character almost before the animation’s done. You’re recording the audio anywhere from one to three years before production’s complete.
Jim Cummings: Yes. Very much so. A lot of people think you’re doing looping. I remember the movie ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ throwing everybody off because they thought when Robin Williams’ character was in there doing these voices that it was, they draw them first. Well they sketch them first obviously because you have to know what the character’s going to look like. But they don’t animate them first. Draw them first, sketch them out yes, animate them first, no. Because you can’t draw comedic timing. If you think about it, you can’t draw tension or ‘how long is the dramatic pause is dramatic enough in the art work?’ Whereas if it’s recorded and you hear it, it’s like a radio play playing in your head, and you know. You’ve got the comedic timing right there because you hear it. It’s like the “Wait for it” well, that’s what they’re doing.
Larry Jordan: Are you ever surprised with what they do with your character?
Jim Cummings: I’m surprised at different takes that they use every now and then. But on the whole, no. The biggest surprise I ever had was in ‘The Lion King.’ I was Ed, and I sang a song called ‘Be Prepared’ for Jeremy Irons. I did all the singing part, there was a lot of talking on there which was him, but all the “Be Prepared,” the singing was me, and the biggest surprise was I did the demo for ‘Hakuna Matata’ with my friend Jess Harnell, I was Timon and he was Pumba, because Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella weren’t musicians. Sometimes it can be very frustrating for everyone, if you get an actor in the studio who has to sing all of a sudden. If he’s not a singer, sometimes it can be really hard, and it’s tough on the actor because they’re really accomplished in one area, and they can’t pull this off. They thought, “Let’s get Nathan and Ernie a tape, we’ll get Jim and Jess to sing it and then they can know the song way before they get to the session. We’ll make them this cassette, they can ride around in their cars for a month and listen to it, that way when it comes to the sessions, they know it the way they know ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ or ‘Happy Birthday.’ Just have it in their head.” We did that, but they didn’t have all the lyrics. Tim Rice of course did the lyrics and he’s from Britain. The lyrics for ‘Hakuna Matata’ before I showed up were things like “When I was a kid it was rough, you have it easy, I had it tough. Everything you do is not a problem, but I had it really,” and everybody’s dad used to say “I had to walk uphill both ways to school and it snowed every day.” “I know it was terrible for you and I’ve got it easy.” No kid wants to hear that, but I said, “On the other hand we’ve got this stinky guy here with a flatulence problem, and you can’t go wrong with flatulence in an animated movie.” So I said, “I got a lyric,” and I went over and gave Jess a couple of lines, and we went back, and I said, “Roll tape,” and said, “Oh the shame, oh now he’s ashamed. But what’s in a name, what’s in a name? And I got downhearted every time that I, Pumba not in front of the kids, sorry. Hakuna Matata.” So I alluded to farting so I wrote the fart verse, I’m still proud to say.
Jim Cummings: At the premiere you could have knocked me over with a feather. I went up to Don Hahn and I said, “You’ve kept the fart verse?” He goes, “It was the funniest thing in the movie.” I said, “Yes, but you’ve kept the fart verse?” I just couldn’t believe. They didn’t say the word fart, but there was no question what was coming next. Everybody laughed and I thought, “It was the funniest thing in the movie.” But on the other hand, it’s not like I got ‘With additional lyrics by’ because that would have been nice. It was like, wait a minute, so I figure when I retire I’ll just sue Disney, Peggy Lee style and get $15 or $20 million in … What do you think? Sound like a plan Larry? I don’t know.
Larry Jordan: Jim, you’ve been doing this for a long time. What part of voice acting still gets you excited and out of bed in the morning?
Jim Cummings: Oh, honestly all of it. Unless it’s … some assembly required. Your parents helped you put it together. That probably doesn’t excite me all that much anymore. But like yesterday, it was a blast, it was like another Andrew Lloyd Webber gigantic songfest and I realize that now I’m sworn to secrecy. I could tell you but you’d have to kill me. It was singing for a major video game coming to a monitor near you. It all gets me excited. I love my job. Like I always tell my nieces, nephews, kids, anybody who will listen, “If you make a list of things you feel like doing, you love so much you’d do all daylong for free, and then do them so well that somebody’ll pay you,” that’s kind of what I did. Ergo, I’m still there, you know? The fact that they pay me, I just have to suffer through.
Larry Jordan: The pain just hurts. The voice you’ve been listening to is Jim Cummings, and you’ve been hearing it all your life in cartoons and animated features. Jim, thanks for joining us today.
Jim Cummings: Oh my pleasure, so much. Thank you so much Larry. Be well everybody and stay tuned. And that’s spelt tooned.
Larry Jordan: Jim, you’ve obviously done this before. Is there a question you want me to ask that I did not?
Jim Cummings: No, not really, you did great. Everybody, show of hands, how did Larry do? Hands in the back, perfect. Oh wow, it’s unanimous.
Larry Jordan: I’ve never been greeted by so many fans and hands in my life.
Jim Cummings: That’s right, look at that.
Larry Jordan: Thank you so much for your time. Have yourself a wonderful day, and I hope you stay busy as long as you want to be busy.
Jim Cummings: Excellent, thank you so much, same to you. God speed, God bless.
Larry Jordan: Thank you, take care, bye bye.
Jim Cummings: Bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Robert Noone joined Location Sound Corp in 1989. He became their rental manager in 1996 and his role is the logistics and inventory of all their rental gear with the goal of keeping all their equipment fresh and current. Hello Robert, welcome.
Robert Noone: Hi, how’s it going?
Larry Jordan: Robert, media technology changes constantly. How do you decide what to buy?
Robert Noone: What we look at is what the products from the manufacturers are solving for the industry. So from Lectrosonics, they made this new PDR that’s a little recorder with a little lav, so when you get out of wireless range, it still records the audio so that later they can transfer it into post and stuff like that. So we look for the trends and there’s a buzz around something, so a lot of times what will happen is manufacturers, and the sales department work together to promote products that are coming in that solve industry need problems. I’d say wireless mics are a big thing and the capabilities that they come with and the use of them is probably one of the biggest things we deal with in the industry. Frequencies are so important, so having the capability to use multi-channel frequency stuff is where the industry’s going. The FCC just sold a big chunk of that bandwidth and we’re going to be squeezed even into a smaller area, so it’s more important to have frequency scanning type of equipment, multiple, wider band frequencies so you can cover more area, because you just don’t know what your needs are going to be on the location.
Larry Jordan: One of the big questions that many filmmakers wrestle with is, whether to buy or rent the gear for their next project. What criteria should they use to decide the answer?
Robert Noone: I run into that factor all the time because I’m always competing in sales, against the sales department. Generally, for about 15 to 20 weeks, an item can be purchased. So if a rental goes that long, I have to go from a four day week down to a one day week because I’m not competing against my competitors or anything like that, I’m actually competing against the sale price of the unit. What happens is, if they’re going to be doing multiple things, like they’ve got multiple projects coming up, and you’re going to have any more than 15 or more weeks in a year, then it’s probably a good idea to buy the equipment I would say. The advantage of renting over a period of time is, we’re always moving with the technology changes, and what happens is, when you buy something you’re stuck in that set area, and if things change down the road, your equipment’s old or getting outdated, and we’re still current. So length of time and how much use you’re going to have in it. If you’re in the industry you’ve got projects and you’re going to be doing it over multiple years, it’s always good to buy. But if you usually use four to five wireless in your package, then later on you need seven or eight, then I would tell people not to buy that. Generally what you’re using is four to five, buy what your needs are. Rent to supplement your needs. So if you need an extra shotgun mic, an extra boom pole, rent that stuff, but you should have a boom pole, you should have a shotgun mic, and those are the type of things I would recommend people buy first. I wouldn’t buy recorders because recorders and those recording formats have changed over years. It was Nagras, then DAD, then nonlinear like CDs and DVDs, and now they’re on the flash cards, like the compact flash and flash cards, stuff like that.
Larry Jordan: For people that are trying to decide, what questions should they ask their rental house, to determine if they’re worth doing business with? In other words, how do we evaluate the company we’re renting from?
Robert Noone: Do they keep their equipment current? Do they QC their equipment before it goes out? Some other rental questions are, if you pick up on a Friday from us and use it over the weekend, we only charge one day over the weekend. We don’t charge taxes on our rental, so that’s one of the things. A lot of companies, when you go in to rent and you’re a first timer or you’re not known by the people, they’ll put holds on the cards. Let’s say the equipment’s a couple of thousand dollars, they might hold a $1,000 or $2,000 for that equipment. They hold that money against your card, they tie up your credit line. Whereas what we do is, when you rent from us, you come in and we fill out a credit card authorization form, and we get a driver’s license and stuff like that, and we just charge you for the rental. So if the rental’s $200 for the rental for the weekend let’s say, we just charge you $200. That verifies the card’s good, that verifies we got our payment for the rental, and we know if there’s any L&D or late, that the card is a valid card. So that’s how we do it, and we don’t do holds. So a lot of people seem to like that.
Robert Noone: Do the people stand behind? We have 24/7 on call services. If you have a problem out in the field, are you going to be able to call somebody and have one of your problems solved, or a solution for that? You know, those are the big things that I would say rental houses have to show and do. I would say check around the reputation of companies by word of mouth and stuff like that. Usually people who have dealt with a company will tell you, “Yes, these guys are stand up guys. They are going to take care of you. They know what they’re talking about, they give you the time.” That’s very important. So when you come in, you have questions, we can answer your questions for you. You’re going to get the products you asked for. That’s the other thing, not having too much switching going on. You request something, you get it. Or if they tell you in advance, “Hey I can work with you a deal, but can you just take any shotgun mic?” If they’re straightforward, that’s what you want from a rental company.
Larry Jordan: Robert, for people that need information about your company where can they go on the web?
Robert Noone: You can go to www.locationsound.com and our telephone number here is 818 980 9891.
Larry Jordan: Extension 315, exactly correct.
Robert Noone: For rentals or just press zero for the operator, and they can get you sales. We do sales service and rentals at Location Sound.
Larry Jordan: Robert Noone is the rental manager for Location Sound, and Robert, thanks for joining us today.
Robert Noone: Thank you and have a good day Larry.
Larry Jordan: You too, bye bye.
Robert Noone: Bye.
Larry Jordan: Zack Allen is a freelance production sound mixer and owner of Soundgeek Productions which is based in Fresno, California. He’s been recording sounds since he was 17 and for the past seven years, he’s worked in features, commercials, news, sports and documentaries. Hello Zack, welcome.
Zack Allen: How you doing?
Larry Jordan: What first got you hooked on audio?
Zack Allen: I’m going to blame my parents. They had all these kid toys that were very sound savvy, and I think that’s probably what started my hook onto noises.
Larry Jordan: This week on the show, we’re talking about audio, voice overs and voice acting. From your perspective, what’s the difference between recording during production and recording during post?
Zack Allen: it’s always every sound mixer’s dream to be able to have the perfect location where there’s no leaf blowers and chainsaws, and airplanes to ruin your sound. Sometimes you have no control over that whatsoever, and you need to take the dialog into a more isolated area to make it better.
Larry Jordan: Yes, but one of the reasons you’re on location is not just the view, but also the environment. Wouldn’t you want the bird chirps and the chainsaws and just the atmosphere?
Zack Allen: There’s a point of where it becomes useless. Ambiance is good to have, in the background. You can keep it in the background. Sometimes when I’m on projects I’ll purposely set up a stereo rig while I’m recording the dialog scene and grab that ambiance in stereo so that editors can use it, because it’s from the location and it makes sense. Sometimes it’s just too loud to where the dialogs can be buried in the background noise, and that’s just due to bad location scouting.
Larry Jordan: It seems audio and video are almost always in conflict because video’s going after the best picture, and you want to have everything turned off so you get the best sound. There’s always a built in conflict isn’t there?
Zack Allen: There is. I would call it an artistic conflict, not necessarily personal most of the time. Being on the sound side of production you don’t have as much clout, that’s for sure. You have to make a bigger case to prove your point. You don’t have a whole lot of people on your team, to help support your desires. Sometimes you do, which is really nice and those are the people you want to keep working with, from our side of things. Sometimes you don’t, and you just have to roll with the punch and do the best you can, and take notes. They’ll figure out that it’s not your fault eventually.
Larry Jordan: Eventually.
Zack Allen: They learn the hard way you know. They don’t see it up front at the time it’s happening, but they’ll definitely notice later in post and their wallets will definitely notice too.
Larry Jordan: When you’re recording on set, what are some of your favorite pieces of gear?
Zack Allen: I use the Sound Devices mixer recorders now that’s 633 and 688. I’ve had them for many years now. I felt very satisfied with them to the point where I don’t feel like I need to change it up any more. The integration with the 688 and all the new peripherals that it has with it is fantastic. 633 has got some new upgrades that are comparable to the 688 and makes it very powerful. It’s one of my main travel rigs. When I travel abroad it’s a workhorse, and very stable. I appreciate the design into them.
Larry Jordan: What’s your preference for wireless systems?
Zack Allen: I’ve used quite a bit. I used to use Zaxcom stuff. I’ve always used Lectrosonics, and I had some Zaxcom wireless. I’ve tested some Whizzy coms which were nice, and as of now, I use Lectrosonics only for everything with Talent microphones and camera wireless and IFB systems and all that. I’ve had little to zero problems with all their equipment working together.
Larry Jordan: For someone that was getting started as a production sound mixer, enough to know that they’ve got work coming, as an assumption. What gear should they start with? What’s the basic kit?
Zack Allen: There’s a lot of different basic kits set up. If you are serious about wanting to dive into this career field, I would go with the philosophy of buy once and done. So buy the best, spend the money up front, you won’t have to spend it again later. I unfortunately didn’t follow this philosophy and I went with the ‘let’s see how it goes and I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.’ That works too but it ends up costing more in investment money to start with. But if you wanted to start with the bottom and work your way up, I think looking at the new Zoom recorders, the F4 or F8 are pretty interesting pieces of equipment for what they offer at the price point. It’s been an industry eye opener. You would probably start there and work your way up. If you’re going straight to professional type setup which I would recommend, you look at anything like sound devices has, Zaxcom, Cantar even, those are all great manufacturers.
Zack Allen: I like to buy things that were made or manufactured in America because the customer supports are a lot easier to deal with instead of having to send things overseas when you need it. That’s a consideration to keep in mind for those people starting up.
Larry Jordan: Would you recommend for people starting out that they purchase gear or rent gear until they get comfortable with what’s going on?
Zack Allen: I would say there’s about 95 percent of the professionals would have their own gear. Maybe there’s a small percentage that likes to keep their own costs low, and provide gear which can be a problem. This is another mess which can make you look bad if the gear is not kept up well and you got to learn how to maintain someone else’s stuff that you’ve never used before. That can look bad on your part if you’re not familiar with it. I would recommend purchasing your own gear.
Larry Jordan: Zack, for people that have decided that they should hire you for their next gig, where can they go on the web to learn more about you?
Zack Allen: All my information and gear list and contact information can be found at soundgeekproductions.com.
Larry Jordan: That’s all one word, soundgeekproductions.com and Zack Allen is a freelance production sound mixer, and the owner of Soundgeek Productions. Zack, thanks for joining us today.
Zack Allen: Thank you very much.
Larry Jordan: In his current role as the director of technology at Key Code Media, Michael Kammes consults on the latest in technology, but he got his start in audio. Hello Michael, welcome back.
Michael Kammes: Hello Larry, good to hear your voice.
Larry Jordan: Well it is wonderful to hear yours. Tell us about what you did in an audio world.
Michael Kammes: Before I became someone who’s obsessed with zeros and ones, I worked with headphones. I was a creative sound editor both in the mid west, for my home town of Chicago and suburban Chicago and I did that on and off for about ten years, in addition to the technological stuff that I did. So it was a lot of independent films, documentaries, doing sound design and basically everything that you need to do in post sound.
Larry Jordan: In post, what’s the difference in working with a voice over actor than recording audio on set?
Michael Kammes: Well there’s a couple of different things. Traditionally, if you’re bringing the talent in to re-do dialog which is referred to as ADR, or Automatic Dialogue Replacement, which is funny because there’s nothing automatic about it. You’re bringing the talent in to try and recreate dialog that wasn’t recorded well on set. What I mean by not recorded well, there might have been background noises. In Chicago it was the L track. You’re shooting in Chicago, it’s hard to get clean dialog when you’re shooting next to a train. So it was trying to get the creatives, trying to get the talent to recreate the emotion of that moment in time, and getting them to do it to match their lips that the camera caught.
Larry Jordan: That’s non trivial just from a recreating a performance point of view. From a recording point of view, you’re inside a soundproof room and you’re recording something that was recorded outside. How do you begin to match that environment?
Michael Kammes: That’s a great question. Some folks have gone the route of ADR trailers which are actually on set. So if you know that where you’re recording is going to be all wide shots and you can’t lav or you can’t boom the talent, right after the take is done you whisk them away to an ADR trailer, and do it right there, so they’re still in that moment. If they’re not, then there are a few things you can do. A trick that a lot of people don’t know is that if you’re trying to do ADR, call people like Zack who you just had on, and say “Hey, what mic did you use in this scene?” and then rent, or borrow that mic for your ADR recording, because you’re trying to match the location dialog. So it only makes sense for you to use a mic that was used on location.
Larry Jordan: How do you set the room up for ADR recording?
Michael Kammes: That’s a real good question. I’m a big fan of Auralex which have sound dampening, Isopads, they also have base traps, baffles, and you can mount those to almost any surface to diffuse the reverb in the room. Usually you get reverb in a room, some people call it FL, but it’s actually reverb. The reverb you’re getting in your room is the audio bouncing off a hard surface and then reflecting back at you. So, what we want to do is diffuse that so we get as few, what they call standing waves, to hit us back as possible. That’s where diffusion comes in. If you don’t want to go Auralex, you’ve probably seen bands have rugs hung up in their garage. That helps to some degree as well.
Larry Jordan: Basically you want as flat a voice as possible with as little reverb, so that you can manipulate it as much as you want in the editing process itself?
Michael Kammes: If you can’t record ADR in the location the scene was shot at, then yes. You want it as dead as possible so you can recreate that environment, and there are actually plug-ins called convolution reverbs which are modelers. They model environments so when you play sound through them, they recreate what that sound is like in that environment. There are plug-ins that you can download libraries into that will allow you to model different environments to try and recreate that so you don’t have to do it from scratch.
Larry Jordan: Basically you can dial in the external environment on the flat recording and make it sound believable?
Michael Kammes: You can get it in the ballpark. There’s always going to be stuff you need to do to accentuate some of the consonants, or take out some of the pops or … but it does get you a lot closer.
Larry Jordan: Michael, for people that want to keep track of what you’re doing now, as opposed to what you were doing in the beginning of your career, where can they go on the web?
Michael Kammes: Two different places. You can go to 5thingsseries.com, that’s the number five, or you can go to michaelkammes.com.
Larry Jordan: I like the michaelkammes.com website, and Michael Kammes himself is the person you’re listening to. Michael, thanks for joining us today.
Michael Kammes: Always a pleasure Larry, thank you.
Larry Jordan: Take care, bye bye.
Larry Jordan: Here’s another website I want to introduce you to. Doddlenews.com. DoddleNEWS gives you a portal into the broadcast, video and film industries. It’s a leading online resource, presenting news, reviews and products for the film and video industry. DoddleNEWS also offers a resource guide and crew management platforms specifically designed for production. These digital call sheets, along with their app, directory and premium listings, provide in depth organizational tools for busy production professionals. DoddleNEWS is a part of the Thalo Arts Community, a worldwide community of artists, filmmakers and storytellers. From photography to filmmaking, performing arts to fine arts, and everything in between, Thalo is filled with resources you need to succeed. Whether you want the latest industry news, need to network with other creative professionals or require state of the art online tools to manage your next project, there’s only one place to go. Doddlenews.com.
Larry Jordan: Edd Hall has over 40 years experience as an announcer, voice over artist and actor.
Edd Hall: That makes me sound so old man let’s just, no I’m kidding. I’m sorry you can start that again.
Larry Jordan: Edd Hall is a pain in the neck.
Edd Hall: There you go.
Larry Jordan: He’s best known for his 12 year run as the announcer and sketch actor for ‘The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.’ He currently spends most of his time lending his voice to various TV shows and commercials. Hello Edd, welcome.
Edd Hall: Well thank you, it’s my pleasure to be here Larry.
Larry Jordan: My goal is to have you say that at the end of the interview as well.
Edd Hall: Sure.
Larry Jordan: What got you interested in voice over? This is not something a three year old looks at the TV set and says, “Wow, that’s something I want to do.”
Edd Hall: Here’s the funny thing. When I was real young, six or seven, I started imitating cartoon voices almost right away. In fact when my voice changed I lost several, including Jerry Lewis that I used to do and many other cartoony voices. I did the ‘Magilla Gorilla Show’ starring Magilla Gorilla, you remember that? That was a while ago. I’ve done all kinds of those goofy things and that was a real young age. But it wasn’t until junior high school that they had a radio club at my school and I joined it and part of the deal was that we got to go a radio station every weekend, and for half an hour, one of us could be a DJ. The show was called ‘Teens and Tunes,’ so I started doing that, and I liked it, they liked me and eventually they hired me to do a shift when I was 14. I stuck with radio for a long time and TV came up after college. I went to New York to be a DJ and of course couldn’t find work as a DJ but I started working as an NBC page, and eventually got on ‘The David Letterman Show’ and he hired me to do a bunch of voices.
Larry Jordan: Wait. One does not eventually get on ‘The Jay Leno show.’ Some magic dust must have been involved. How did you get the gig?
Edd Hall: Jay Leno came ten years after, so I did about ten years of various voices on the Letterman show and a few other sit coms and stuff. I found out through my manager that Jay was looking for an announcer, he was taking over ‘The Tonight Show’ and needed an announcer, so I said “Let’s send a tape.” I really didn’t think I was going to get it, but we got a call, they said, “Come on, Jay and his manager want to talk to you.” We went in and sat down, it was a fairly interesting interview but they were just all over us, going “Oh but that’s great, and we want to do this and here’s the other things we want to do with the show.” I walked out of the thing and I turned to my manager and I said, “Gee, you know, it sounds like we got the job.” Then two hours later we got a call, “You want the job?” “OK.” So that was kind of wild and that of course has been my biggest job in my career. 12 years with Leno.
Larry Jordan: As the famous off stage voice who then managed to get on stage sometimes, what were some of your favorite moments?
Edd Hall: Not a lot of actors enjoy this, in fact I got a lot of advice from other actors saying, “Don’t do this,” but I love playing the stooge. I love being the guy who got like hot oil poured all over him, or got hit by buses or whatever. All my friends would say, “You know what? You’re going to get typecast as a stooge and everyone’s going to walk all over you and you’re never going to make it in this business.” For me, that was the most fun. To be able to sit there with some goofy puppy dog look on my face covered with oil or whatever. That was the most fun and getting good laughs for it. You know, the announcing was almost like, “Well, yeah I do that too” on that show.
Larry Jordan: People would kill for a 12 year career on the same show. If being a stooge helps, one can’t really complain.
Edd Hall: Sure, and the cool thing was, it was 12 years on one show is amazing, but 12 years on a show that plays every night is also pretty amazing. For regular viewers, you got seen a lot.
Larry Jordan: We’ve talked to a variety of voice actors and voice artists in this show, how would you define the difference between a voice over person and a voice artist or a voice actor or are they the same thing?
Edd Hall: A voice over artist and a voice actor are pretty much the same thing. I’m more of an announcer with a commercial voice, which means I don’t do a lot of goofy characters. You know when you get hired for an animation TV cartoon or a video game or something, they usually want you to do at least two different voices, and most of the time it’s three or four. I’m not that good at changing my voice to all these different things. I had an interesting audition with Jim Henson years ago. The first thing they do is they bring you up with Richard Hunt, and he sits you down and he says, “Do you do any voices? Can I hear some?” And I was like, “Well yes, I kind of do this guy.” They go, “Oh, yes, we have one of those.” I did Kermit for him. So yes, I can imitate certain voices, but these guys who do animation, they sit down and they come up with like 100 different voices in a matter of seconds, and they’re all so distinctly different. But I’m not that guy. To me, that’s a real voice over artist or a real voice actor. I’m more of a commercial announcer. I can sound like the regular guy down the street, or I can sound like a big announcer man. Those are my variations.
Larry Jordan: A real strong range from A to B.
Edd Hall: Exactly.
Larry Jordan: How do you take care of your voice?
Edd Hall: I used to smoke a lot and that helped. I quit smoking but no. I can’t tell you that I go through any kind of regimen. If my throat starts to bother me, if it starts to feel rough, I’m immediately on the vitamin C and the emergency tea with lemon and honey and that kind of stuff. I don’t scream or strain my voice as much as possible but as far as a regular regimen, I don’t really do anything. I’m not like a singer, I don’t do warm ups or things like that.
Larry Jordan: No yoga exercises before beginning a gig?
Edd Hall: No. I just try and get there, just get there on time, or a little early is nice.
Larry Jordan: Switching to a different subject. When somebody gives you a new script do you do any special prep in terms of determining how you’re going to approach the script, or how you’re going to approach the read? Or are you just winging it?
Edd Hall: There are two things you have to look at. When you get a script, usually you get specs with it, which is the direction from the producer or the writer, sometimes from your agent. You have to look at that, and go “OK this is what they’re asking for. Big strong voice.” Sometimes they’ll say two opposite things in one spec. “We want a big strong voice, but don’t sound like an announcer.” OK. Alright. For me, a big strong voice is going to come out sounding like an announcer. But anyway, you look at their directions, and sometimes you know, you follow them as precisely as you can, but other times I find that I book more when I don’t follow their instructions. Maybe it’s because they’re hearing a lot of people and they’re hearing a lot of them do that one thing, and then they hear mine, and they go, “Oh wait, that’s kind of good.” I find that most times they don’t really know exactly what they want, and they’ll know it when they hear it. So, my best advice is to just do what is comfortable for you. Be yourself, be as natural as possible, and do what the script says to you. Because you’ll get it or you won’t and if you try so hard to sound like something, you’ll never sound authentic.
Larry Jordan: Are you working principally in the studio, or are you working principally from home?
Edd Hall: Right now because I’m semi retired, I do most of my stuff in my home booth. I do a lot of radio work throughout the country and Canada, what’s called radio imaging. In fact, I’m doing a commercial from my booth this afternoon through ISDN phone lines, but then tomorrow I’m going to Days of our Lives and record a couple of voice overs for them in their studio. So it varies. A lot more of my stuff is at home now than it used to be.
Larry Jordan: When you’re working from home, what’s the collaboration process like?
Edd Hall: Well, we have what’s called duplex, so I hear their direction, obviously they hear me and can record me at their end with high quality recording equipment and high quality phone lines getting there. Then I hear them, so first of course they send me the script via email, with direction and then we do it a few times, and then they say “OK, now let’s try this, and let’s try that,” and eventually we come to what they want for their product.
Larry Jordan: What are you using for gear at your end?
Edd Hall: I have a Sennheiser 416, a shotgun mic. That has an interesting story if you have time.
Larry Jordan: I do.
Edd Hall: Again, this is maybe 20 years ago when I was doing a lot of running around from one place to the next, as opposed to doing it from home. In New York, their standard microphone was like a Neumann U87 or something. But in LA, when I moved there in 90, it was this Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, and I wondered why that is. It’s a shotgun mic, doesn’t seem like a recording studio mic. Apparently Ernie Anderson, do you know him?
Larry Jordan: Oh yes.
Edd Hall: Ernie Anderson, the voice of the Love Boat.
Larry Jordan: Who redefines the word bass.
Edd Hall: Yes, the voice of ABC promos for decades. He pretty much demanded to have that mic. It was his favorite mic and he used to go around from studio to studio recording promos and what not, and so all the studios in LA had to have this mic. Now it’s kind of the standard in LA, so I wanted the standard in LA because if I’m recording something from home, it can sound like it’s from their studio. In fact, I did a VW commercial in studio, and then they called me and said, “Oh we need this tag, something changed, and we need it real quick.” So I did it from my booth with that same microphone and it fit perfectly. They made it work completely. So that’s why I have that microphone. And I have a USB pre amp slash interface from Sound Devices, so basically my mic was about a grand, and the USB pre was about a grand. That to me is sort of the middle of the road in mics and pre amps. For someone just starting out, you don’t need to go that far, you can get a good mic for 200 to $300 is a pretty good mic. Audio interface is around 150, so between those two things, and a piece of software like Audacity, which is a free piece of recording software, you can get up and running for just a few hundred dollars.
Larry Jordan: Is that mic what we’re listening to you on now?
Edd Hall: You’re listening to me on the Sennheiser now, yes. Of course, we’re doing it over Skype so I don’t know how that works.
Larry Jordan: Actually it’s working really good. Your voice quality is amazing.
Edd Hall: Oh good.
Larry Jordan: I’m still suffering from baritone envy over here.
Edd Hall: You sound pretty good fellow.
Larry Jordan: It’s all Photoshop really, I’ve just got a Photoshop filter in front of my mic is what it is.
Edd Hall: A lovely thing.
Larry Jordan: What advice would you give to somebody who’s starting out in voice over? Can they make a living?
Edd Hall: Honestly, that’s so subjective. I mean, it depends on how marketable your voice is, obviously. But I know a lot of people who are making a good living who have no training really. These days, they’re not looking so much for my kind of trained announcer voice. Literally, the stuff I get is for like a parody of an announcer, or some big over the top voice. Right now, most of the work is people who sound like a regular guy walking down the street, and as long as you can sound natural behind a microphone, you can probably make a good living. The thing is, in the old days, and I say that 30 years ago, whatever, and you had to go to your agent’s office, or to casting directors to audition, you’d be up for a job with maybe a few hundred people. Now you’re up for a job with 10,000 other people competing from around the country via email. So the competition is really difficult, but the fact is, because of the internet and streaming networks and all that stuff, there’s more work too. It’s more diverse work, and there’s a lot of non union work, whereas when I started, there really wasn’t. You had to join the union to get work. So I would say right now, there’s a lot of work for non union people, you just have to kind of look for it. There’s a few websites, voice123.com and voices.com. They’re both places where non union voice over guys can go and get auditions and get a few jobs, stack them together on a reel and send it to real agents if you want that kind of work.
Larry Jordan: Do you still enjoy the voice over work you do?
Edd Hall: Oh I love it. Now, working out of my home is great. It’s great fun, and I can do it in my underwear.
Larry Jordan: Up until that last sentence I was with you. Now, it’s way more information than I need.
Edd Hall: Alright, I’m sorry.
Larry Jordan: Edd, where can people go on the web to learn more about you and book you for their next gig?
Edd Hall: Well the best bet is IMDb. I used to have a website set up and now I just send everybody over to IMDb because they can do it better. So it’s imdb.com and search Edd with two D’s Hall, and you’ll get everything you want to know about me.
Larry Jordan: That voice you’re listening to is Edd Hall himself. A voice actor and voice over artist. Edd, thanks for your time, this has been fun.
Edd Hall: My pleasure Larry. Have a good one.
Larry Jordan: What I find endlessly fascinating about audio is the incredible variety. Just as much variety in recreating the sounds that we hear as there is variety in creating the pictures that we look at. Whether it’s voice acting, like Jim, or straight narration like Edd, or the kind of gear that we need for recording, either in the field or in the studio, there’s just so much that we can do, and so many ways that we can influence both the story and the emotion with the audio that we work with.
Larry Jordan: I want to thank our guests this week, Jim Cummings, voice actor, Robert Noone from Location Sound Corp, Zack Allen, freelance sound recordist, Michael Kammes, audio editor, Edd Hall, voice over artist, and always James DeRuvo with DoddleNEWS.
Larry Jordan: There’s a lot of history in our industry and it’s all posted to our website at digitalproductionbuzz.com. Here you’ll find thousands of interviews all online, and all available to you today. You can talk with us on Twitter @DPBuZZ and Facebook at digitalproductionbuzz.com.
Larry Jordan: Our theme music is composed by Nathan Dugi-Turner with additional music provided by Smartsound.com. Text transcripts are provided by Take 1 Transcription. Visit Take1.tv to learn how they can help you.
Larry Jordan: Our producer is Debbie Price. My name is Larry Jordan, and thanks for listening to The Digital Production Buzz.
Larry Jordan: The Digital Production Buzz is copyright 2017 by Thalo LLC.