Gobs on Sticks

Thoughts mostly (but not always) about the voice-over business, from London Voiceover Artist, Mike Cooper

  • About the author

    My name is Mike Cooper. I'm a full time Voiceover Artist living and working in London, and this is my blog. Find out more about me on my main website (there's a link further down this column), or if you'd like to hear some of my work, check out the files below.

Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Gobs on the Web (w/e 25th September)

Posted by MikeCooper on September 26, 2009

I’ve got a bit behind, haven’t I? It was the holiday that did it (Menorca, and very nice, thanks for asking. Most relaxing…) Nonetheless, here are the voiceover bits I’ve liked most in the last couple of weeks:

At Voiceover Extra, William Williams has just started a series on how to soundproof your studio – or whether you really can, in a domestic environment. Voiceover Extra also reports on Erik Sheppard’s thinking behind the new Voice Talent Productions website, where I’m pleased to be represented myself (you’ll find me here!) Cool and simple, as it goes.

Meanwhile, Mark Holden of The Invisible Studios in West Hollywood is embarking on a series of podcasts, starting with one that asks just how fancy do we need to get for voiceover auditions? Next week he’s going to look at microphones for voiceover recording, and as someone who is now the proud owner of not one, but two Neumanns, I’ll be interested in hearing his take on the issue!

Dave Courvoisier (how does this man find the time to sleep?) pondered whether two-year-old VO advice still had value – and then decided that, in the case of recording the spoken word at least, it did.

And Stephanie Ciccarelli from Voices.com has been busy, as ever. This week their Voiceover Experts podcast notched up its 100th edition (that went quickly, didn’t it?) with this week’s centennial outing presented by the very lovely Julie Ann Dean, who I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Vox conference with. Meanwhile, on VoxDaily, Stephanie posted two pieces that caught my interest: the first is from Dan Hurst, on 5 Mistakes Voice Talent Make and How To Avoid Them. And the second is a cautionary tale from John Taylor about his nightmare with an errant coffee cup – another good reason to wear headphones while you’re recording, in my view.

On that point, I picked up via the Macworld website this week that Sennheiser have introduced a new pair of headphones the HD 380 Pros, which they’re pitching as professional monitors. Worth a listen, perhaps, if you’re looking for something new to cuddle your ears with while working.

Happy reading!

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Gobs on the Web

Posted by MikeCooper on August 22, 2009

Welcome to my roundup of voiceover-related news from my week on the web.

My friend and colleague, Stefania Lintonbon has been digging around the internet and on her blog this week she’s posted links to two useful tutorials. The first throws light onto the sometimes murky subject of audio compression, and comes courtesy of Radiodaddy.com. If terms like “make-up gain” and “ratio” bring you out in a cold sweat then this excellent article is the online equivalent of a magic sponge. The second article which Stef references in her piece deals with removing pops and clicks for users of Sony Sound Forge. Stefania goes on to dispense some of her usual wisdom on positive thinking and getting the universe to deliver – something I support wholeheartedly!

Over at Vox Daily, Stephanie has a couple of goodies this week. One comes from Richard Weirich and deals with what happens when your client keeps pushing and pushing you, and the read you thought was great to start with goes off in a completely different direction. I’ve certainly been there and you may have too! Is the customer always right? Richard would love to hear your views.

Also on Vox Daily – as part of the ongoing series of Voice Over Experts podcasts, Marc Cashman shares his views on why practice makes perfect (or at least, better…)

Finally this week, following on from the awards recently bestowed on the animated series, Family Guy, the creator, Seth MacFarlane has decided to “out” the youngest member of the Griffin family. That’s right folks – in an announcement which will shock, well, barely anyone, I expect – MacFarlane confirms what we’d all suspected: Stewie is gay!

Until next time!

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Gobs on the Web

Posted by MikeCooper on August 14, 2009

I thought it would be a good idea to round up some of the voiceover business stories I’ve found most interesting and useful on my travels around the internet recently. So here, in what I hope to make a weekly feature, I present “Gobs on the Web”. This first one is going to be a bit longer than I expect these posts to be in general, because there’s been a lot of good stuff in recent weeks which I’d like to pull together in one go.

So, first up, Edge Studio this week posted the latest in their helpful series of posts for voice actors: The Voiceover Mistake Chart, listing the kind of mistakes that new – and sometimes experienced – voiceover artists make when going about their business. It includes everything from titling your demos in a way that makes them impossible to decipher, to wearing too much cologne in the VO booth and upsetting the next talent. The first section also deals with common pronunciation mistakes (though having had a read through, that section is more on the money for American English than for the rest of us). Edge Studio say they’ll keep adding to the list, so it’s a good one to bookmark. The guys have also very helpfully provided an archive of 3,500 voiceover scripts which talents are free to use to practice and demo with! Kudos to them for that (and thanks to Tracy Pattin on the VoiceBank blog for spotting it.)

Meanwhile over on the ProComm Voiceover Blog, Dan Freeman has posted an excellent article on choosing the right microphone. His advice? Listen before buying if at all possible. And for those of us whose location doesn’t allow auditioning, he has some great “stock suggestions” for good starting points which shouldn’t embarrass you. (I was pleased to see my own mic, the Neumann TLM 103 on the list – it’s a cracker!)

Voice Actor, Producer and Coach, James Alburger, posted recently on VoiceOverExtra about how to work remotely with your clients. It’s all very well living in the digital age and being tape-free, but email doesn’t cut it for sending big files without a lot of compression. James’s excellent article explains the various options for remote session recording and walks anyone who’s not sure through the basics of ISDN, Phone Patch, and newcomers like Source-Connect for live sessions, before going on to talk about FTP and file delivery services (including my own personal favourite, YouSENDIt.com, which even has its own iPhone app for you to monitor who downloaded the file and when).

Stephanie Ciccarelli of online casting service, Voices.com, is in the middle of a series of great posts over at VoxDaily. First of these is 95+ Podcast Resources for Voice Actors95?! She’s been busy, I’ll say that. Aimed primarily at those trying to get into the business and build their client list, Stephanie has helpfully categorised this mammoth list into sections like “Getting Started”, “Marketing”, “Branding”, “Demos”, “Technique” and so on. There should be something in here for everyone, though I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not personally been through all of her recommendations. (If you’d like to read my own series on Getting Started then click here and read from the bottom up…)

In much the same vein, check out Stephanie’s other posts of recent weeks: 4 Ways to Increase Your Voice Acting Income and 6 Ways To Get Experience in the Business of Voice Acting (Stephanie is very fond of numbers.)

Finally, some lighter reading: Bill Pryce of Austin, Texas got stopped at security with a Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic – which appears to have been mistaken for, erm, a shotgun… And congratulations to Rory O’Shea, who’s living the dream and has just completed building his basement studio in Toronto. In fact he’s so happy, he’s giving us a tour.

I hope you enjoyed this first roundup – do drop me a line and let me know. Comments are welcome as always!

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Content is king (…distance is nothing!)

Posted by MikeCooper on August 12, 2009

I recently provided the voiceover for a documentary film for a producer in Sydney, Australia called Craig Tanner. Craig is from South Africa and his film, “Fahrenheit 2010”, charts the ups and downs of his homeland’s preparations to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournament.

You can read more about the project in the News section of my website here. With the film’s successful debut last week at the Durban International Film Festival, I took the opportunity to ask Craig a few questions about how the film was received, and about the process of collaborating with a voiceover artist who was 10,500 miles away!

MC: So, how was the Durban premiere, Craig?

CT: The film went down very well.  The Q and A following the screening involved positive feedback, and came to an end, not because the audience ran out of questions, but because the next film was due to start soon. An animated Q and A session the following day was also encouraging.  Input from “industry” people has also given me cause for optimism regarding TV sales. (You will be interested to hear that I have had several people enthusing about the voiceover.)

MC: <blush> That’s encouraging! The film’s a South African production, set it South Africa and looking in detail at that country’s struggles and challenges in the run-up to next year’s World Cup football tournament. So what made you want to hire a British voice?

CT: In making a film about South Africa, with its myriad of languages and accents, it was important for me that the voice of the film did not represent any particular class or ethnic group within that society.  I wanted a voice that had hallmarks of independence and neutrality, and would not itself involve an exotic distraction. Received pronunciation or Standard English meets those criteria. It is the voice of international news, and of documentary films.

MC: Understood. And how did you find our long-distance collaboration?

CT: It was really easy.  I sent the material via email.  We proceeded to have a discussion over Skype regarding the tenor of the voice, and the pronunciation of various African names.  I then listened in as you did your stuff.  We discussed the odd variation in emphasis, and you provided some alternatives.  The sound files arrived in my inbox within minutes, and my editor was working with the material later that day.  The distance between London and Sydney was no barrier at all.

MC: Thanks, Craig – and the best of luck with the next stage of selling the film to buyers!

Here’s a tip for you: As a voiceover artist I work on my own most of the time, and marketing is something I have to focus on for myself – there’s no one else to do it for me, after all! So, I always take an opportunity like this to ask for a few words by way of a testimonial from a happy client. I won’t publish them here to save further blushes, but if you’d like to read the very nice things that Craig said about me then check out my Testimonials page over at www.MikeCooperVoiceover.com.

Posted in Documentaries, Freelancing, news, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finding a Voice

Posted by MikeCooper on August 7, 2009

The following is a short piece I wrote for the current issue of the IVCA’s “Update” magazine, on the subject of how to find a Voiceover Artist for your production. I hope you enjoy it! To read the article in its original form click here.

What do you normally do when your client comes to you and asks you to find them a Voiceover Artist? Do you point them to an agency and let them deal with it? Perhaps you suggest hiring the voice you hired last time, to save the trouble? Or maybe you panic about the best way forward, perhaps even by trying to convince them that they don’t need one for their project, and that it’s strong enough to “speak for itself”?

If any of the above seems familiar then you’re not alone, but it doesn’t have to be quite like that. In the same way that technology has revolutionised the business of making video in the last decade, that same technology has seen a quiet revolution in the world of the Voiceover Artist. The equipment to produce professional audio doesn’t cost what it once did, and this has meant that more “voices” than ever are working from home studios and marketing themselves either outside – or in addition to – traditional artiste/agency relationships. I know because I’m one of them. Voiceover Artists all over the world now use the internet to find, or attract, work – whether through their own websites, or via one of the “online casting directories” like Voice123 or Voices.com, which have seen explosive growth over the last few years.

If your client is on a budget, then cutting out both the agency fees, and the time and cost of taking your talent into a production facility with an engineer, could make an attractive difference to the balance sheet. Not only that, but the quality of the finished audio might well surprise you…

Of course you need to do your homework. The lower the bar of entry, the more any profession becomes attractive to those who don’t necessarily possess the skills to do it justice. But the beauty of the internet is that you and your client can check out what you’re likely to get back before you engage a talent. You can even ask for a sample to be provided by way of an audition. Most voices will be happy to record a portion of your script and deliver it in a format of your choice. Get them to do that, and you’ll know exactly the quality of what you’re likely to get back for the end product – including the artiste’s delivery, technical quality and editing skills.

What should you expect to pay? Well, the price range varies hugely. On some casting sites you might be lucky and pay well under the £200 or so that’s still perceived to be the ballpark hourly rate you’d pay for taking your talent into a studio. But make sure you do that homework: if you don’t, then that £45 voiceover track that seemed like such a bargain at the time might not turn out to be all it promised. It’s still true that in voiceovers – as in life – you generally get what you pay for. And if you’re paying £200 to your voice, but not paying the traditional associated costs on top, the chances are that’s still quite a saving.

Check that your agreed rate includes things such as prep time, session fees, studio costs, editing and supply. Check the talent’s policy on “recuts” in case there’s anything you or your client aren’t happy with. Don’t be afraid to ask for a written quote. Ask if the talent has a Service Agreement you can check out. And make sure you have agreed any usage fees, if appropriate.

It’s true that not every project needs a voiceover (sometimes, as Ronan Keating pointed out, you say it best when you say nothing at all). But next time one does, take heart: With a bit of care, and with the help of the internet, Google and casting directories as your new best friends, Voiceover Artists from all corners of the world are now well within your reach.

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Oh look! I’ve just got bigger Down Under…

Posted by MikeCooper on July 2, 2009

KEVM_clean_logo_90x90I’m pleased to report that Sydney-based Kathy Evans Voice Management is now acting as my agent for voiceover work in the Southern Hemisphere.

As a result, I’m hoping to take my voiceover work to a greater audience in places like Australia and New Zealand.

Read the full story here.

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twitwoop-de-doop!

Posted by MikeCooper on June 18, 2009

If you follow me on twitter, you may have stumbled across this message yesterday:

“We are happy to have voice artist Mike Cooper @LondonVoiceover as our official English voice on the @twitwoop voice service.”

So reads the tweet. But what does it actually mean?

Well, “twitwoop” is a spin-off from German Voice Application Service Provider, “woopla“.

Still no clearer?

OK, here goes. twitter, as you must surely know by now, is an online service allowing you to send short messages of 140 characters or less for other people to read. twitwoop takes the idea a little further:

“Let your followers hear what you are doing. At the ocean? What about some ocean breeze? Stuck in traffic? Let us hear some New York horns. Sing a song, tell us a joke or simply say something with a meaning. twitwoops can be 140 seconds long – that’s twitter style.”

twitwoop logo

twitwoop is a new service which allows you to post audio to your twitter timeline

The idea is that you register up to two phone numbers (typically your mobile and a landline) and give them access to your twitter account. When you dial in, the system recognises your number automatically and allows you to post audio. At this point there are numbers in London, New York and LA, as well as in Germany. You can choose to post to your own twitter timeline, or to twitwoop‘s own public timeline.

When I called in yesterday to try it out, I found it worked rather well, but it was apparent that the voice prompts had been recorded by a German speaker. Don’t get me wrong: Mark’s English voice prompts are far and away better than anything I could attempt, even in my best GCSE German, but there was still a noticeable accent there. So, I seized the opportunity and offered to make them some new ones!

A couple of hours and a bit of mutual back-scratching later (I recorded their voice prompts; they are now kind enough to promote me on their web pages and allow me to do likewise in the intro prompt) and I have become the English voice of twitwoop. It’s cost nobody anything for this to happen, but there’s a mutual benefit.

Sometimes a little deal like this is a great way to improve the reach of your voiceover business and get heard by more people (last time I looked they were up to over 1,000 followers). And, just as importantly, the whole thing’s quite a fun thing to be involved in.

Check it out at twitwoop.com, select your country from the drop-down list, then dial in and have a listen!

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Mike’s Mid-June Voiceover Update

Posted by MikeCooper on June 17, 2009

The year is whizzing by faster than I seem to be able to keep track. This weekend it’s the longest day of the year already, which means it’ll soon be Christmas, no doubt. I’ve been keeping busy the last few weeks with some interesting new projects.

A couple of weeks ago I voiced a documentary for an independent film-maker based in Sydney, who’s producing a programme on the preparations for next year’s football World Cup in South Africa. The programme is still in the editing stages, but when it’s finished the idea is that it will be shown at various festivals and sold to interested broadcasters. I’ll post an update on this in due course.

An interesting meeting at Pinewood studios at the start of the month revealed some great new programmes coming to Film24, for whom I work as a continuity announcer. These include “Sordid Lives: The Series”, which will be airing on Film24 from the start of August. Think “Desperate Housewives”, but set on a trailer park, and with Olivia Newton John and Golden Girl Rue McLanahan, and you start to get the idea. Andrew Burns, CEO of the channel, has some other new programming ideas up his sleeve for the next few months too, all of which should bring exciting improvements to the schedule.

Also this month I’ve voiced a science documentary which will soon start showing in museums in the United States. Called Planet You 3D, it’s been produced by Chedd-Angier-Lewis, in Watertown, MA, and will shortly get its premiere at the Health Museum in Houston and the Museum of Science in Boston, before hopefully rolling out to science centres across the United States. You can read the production blog (including the very nice things they said about me) here.

Aside from these projects it’s been the regular round of corporates, including jobs for Capgemini and British Gas, commercials for radio stations in the UK, and my ongoing work for the BBC World Service and the History Channel. And outside work I’ve been trying to get to see as much of the ICC World Twenty20 cricket as I can – after all, I only live ten minutes from Kennington Oval!

Posted in Broadcasting, Documentaries, Freelancing, news, Television, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Google Calendar 101. A personalised TV Schedule.

Posted by MikeCooper on June 6, 2009

Today I set up a Google Calendar, which details when programmes I’ve voiced are showing on various channels here in the UK. I started doing this mostly for my own benefit, so I could keep track of the growing number of programmes I’ve now added my voiceovers to. But I realised midway through that it might prove to be an interesting website addition. If there’s a way of extracting the data to Twitter for automatic Tweets just ahead of the billed times then that would be even better still, but let’s go one step at a time!

I’ve included channel numbers for Sky and Virgin in the “location” field (crafty, eh?) and also flagged up days where I can be heard as a station continuity voiceover for History and Film24, as well as the BBC World Service. The next step might be to add links to clips from the programmes, but I’m not sure that URLs can be embedded in Google Calendar entries (any thoughts?)

There’s no way to automate the process of adding new showings or altering late changes, unfortunately, so that will have to be a weekly task for yours truly, but at least now the bulk of programmes and their billings are in the system, they can be “duplicated” to new showing times as needed, with top-ups as I voice more material.

After some playing with the options and embedding the resulting code into a fresh page on my website, I now have a rather nicely-presented TV Schedule page, which you’ll find here.

The cost of all this? Absolutely nothing, other than my time. And the beauty part is that, as a Public calendar on Google, it gets indexed by You Know Who, too…

Posted in Broadcasting, Documentaries, news, Radio, Television, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Mike’s Late May Update

Posted by MikeCooper on May 27, 2009

It’s been a busy month, all told. I’ve been writing furiously for the History Channel (which now prefers to be known simply as “History”). They’ve asked me to become a regular continuity announcer for the channel for the next little while, so I’ll be popping up between programmes there quite a lot for now, and I’m actually on air all week this week (26-31 May).

WhP, in France, asked me to produce some voiceover material for the Renault Academy last week, which I delivered this week. A complex project which involved a lot of editing to produce files which could be split up by an automated process. I learned a lot about the new Mégane Coupé in the process, should anyone ever call on me to do a repair.

Meanwhile, IC Group in Winnipeg, Canada, approached me to voice the British version of some training materials for Brit Insurance.

And tomorrow I’m looking forward to voicing a documentary programme about the preparations for the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa, with a producer based in (wait for it…) Sydney, Australia!

Never let it be said that I don’t get around…

Posted in Broadcasting, Documentaries, Freelancing, news, Television, Voiceovers | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »