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.
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Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

“I am Spartacus!” (or what happens when everyone talks at once…)

Posted by MikeCooper on November 12, 2010

I was puzzled this morning by a growing – no, make that “snowballing” – torrent of posts on Twitter carrying the hashtag “#iamspartacus“. I’m not normally one to be slow on the uptake with this sort of thing, but it really puzzled me for a while until I found a helpful Urban Dictionary definition:

“Refers to a scene in the movie “Spartacus”… After the army of former Roman slaves led by Spartacus is defeated in battle by legions of the Roman army, a Roman general stands before the captured surviving members of the slave army and demands that they turn over Spartacus, or else all of the former slaves will be executed. Upon hearing this and not wanting his friends to be executed, Spartacus stands up and says “I am Spartacus.” However, the loyalty of his friends is so great that each of them stands forward in succession, shouting “I am Spartacus!” until the shouts dissolve into a cacophony of thousands of former slaves each insisting “I am Spartacus!”…Thus the phrase “I am Spartacus!” is often used to humorously start a chorus of responses of “No, I am Spartacus” among a group.”

The uprising on Twitter seems to be as a result of the news, yesterday, that a man who posted a Twitter message threatening to blow up Robin Hood airport is facing a £3,000 bill after losing an appeal against his conviction. The Twitterati have mobilised and are creating a cacaphony of noise by way of a peaceful, but mischevious protest. (In the movie, of course, the Roman general gets the last laugh and has them all crucified just to shut them up, but you get the point.)

The moral of all this from a voiceover point of view (you knew we’d get there eventually, right?) is that if everyone’s shouting at once, no one can hear your message. Or, taken as a more abstract concept: if anyone’s going to notice what you have to say, then you need to do something to make it stand out from the noise.

So, next time you’re selling something and your copy seems great because it sounds just like the stuff you hear on the radio or TV every day, perhaps it might be time to rethink your approach before you sign off and give it to your voice talent. We’re miracle workers by trade – but even we’re not Spartacus.


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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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If it’s Tourist Season, does that mean we can shoot them?

Posted by MikeCooper on April 11, 2009

Good Friday in Old London Town. Everyone is excited about the prospect of the first Long Weekend of the year (for in the UK, both Friday and Monday are public – or “Bank” – holidays), and the weather, having given us tantalising glimmers of hope in the previous week, is predictably dour and horrible.

Something else happens on Good Friday though, and it seems to happen with just as much predictability as the Easter weather: tourists descend on London in droves of biblical proportions. London’s never without its visitors, of course, and the comparitively weak Pound has swelled their numbers in no small measure of late, but yesterday morning it was clear that the annual Easter influx had arrived. Though workers were scarce, the streets around Charing Cross and Trafalgar square were awash with what seemed like about a million people (most of them Spanish, if the array of weatherproof guide books was anything to go by), and a sizeable chunk of them trying to cram onto the “Heritage” Routemaster bus opposite the station. Being a local, and hence wise to the tricks, I darted around the rear to the equally serviceable (though touristically inferior) Standard Red Bus, that would carry me to the other end of the Strand and to the BBC at Bush House.

I sat myself down, smugly, on the empty bus and waited for it to pull out, but my plan was thwarted, as the overspill from the Routemaster in front piled onto my bus – very slowly. When we eventually got going, there were no seats left on either deck, and it was standing room only for several of the map-clutching Spaniards.

Now, in the Current Economic Climate (yawn, as I remind you once again that I’m not doing the recession) I realise that it can only be a Good Thing that our capital’s streets are thronged with foreigners. But here’s the rub: they don’t half get on my nerves. Yes, I realise that living at the pace of a big city has made me impatient, intolerant and indeed impervious to the needs of my fellow man, but I’m not alone in this. Otherwise the Facebook Group called “I Want To Punch Slow Walking People In The Back Of The Head” wouldn’t have 1,275,319 members at time of writing, now would it?

Maybe it’s just my perverse way of thinking, but as I tutted, muttered expletives and shouted (sotto voce, of course) “Get out of my way!” for the umpteenth time on my way through Covent Garden a little later in the morning, it struck me that perhaps there was a global conspiracy at work. Perhaps all of those foreign guidebooks contain a section called “Instructions for Tourists on the Streets of London”, written in the local tongue. If so, it seems to me that the advice would probably read something like this…

  1. The British are sociable and, as a nation, love walking. Show your appreciation of this custom by always walking at least two abreast on pavements (sidewalks). Hold hands if possible, and on narrower pavements four or five people in a row is desirable.
  2. London’s street layout can be confusing. Make sure you stop dead the instant you become unsure of your position, then spread your arms and and raise your map to eye height to check. The people walking behind you will understand.
  3. On the Underground, the best place to stand while waiting for a train is directly in front of the entrance (doubly so for large groups). Moving down the platform just wastes everyone’s time.
  4. Bag thieves and pickpockets are everywhere, so don’t let your luggage out of your sight. On escalators, and especially in Tube stations, place your bag to the right of you and then stand next to it. This occupies the full width of the escalator and ensures that no one can make off with your belongings.
  5. Likewise, so as not to encourage pickpockets on the Underground, don’t get your ticket for the barrier out until the very last minute. Feigning surprise at the need to present your ticket as you block the gate is positively encouraged.
  6. ..etc

As I dreamed up this list, I began to wonder if it was just me that had these kind of thoughts. Fortunately, asking the question “If it’s Tourist Season, does that mean we can shoot them?” on my Twitter stream, elicited some reassuring responses, among them::

“Yes, we can. Especially the slow walkers…” (@bitful)

“I’m up for a tourist shoot!” (@pyykko)


“No its a trap and release policy, I tend to release them around Kensington.” (@mosesjones)

Thank heavens I’m not the only one. And, I might add, both @bitul and @pyykko are both non-Brits who’ve adopted London as their home. Which is, it seems, where non-charity begins – on a holiday weekend, at least.

If you can think of any more advice for travellers then go on and fill my Comments box. You know you want to…

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I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers

Posted by MikeCooper on February 5, 2009

It’s always a nice boost when someone says something nice about you, isn’t it?

It’s especially lovely when it comes out of nowhere, without any prompting/arm-twisting/threats of blackmail. And it’s extremely welcome when you’re feeling as down-in-the-dumps and ill as I’ve been all this week.

So imagine my delight when my twitter feed filled up with messages from someone I’d never met and never worked with telling me that I posess:

“a voice that trickles you all over with chocolate sauce”

…that has:

“a tingling timbre”

…and that my voice is:

“fabulously sweet … like smouldering applewood”

She’s obviously not heard me in the last five days (it’s currently more like a crackling bonfire) but I’ll gloss over that.

This, friends, is one of the nice things about twitter. Whereas Facebook lets you stay in touch with your friends, however tenuous and tentative those connections may be, twitter encourages you to reach out and meet new people. Look at who your followers are, see who their friends are, check out who the friends of your friends are, and then follow them too! Of course, for this to happen, you’ll not want to be “Protecting” your updates, so switch that off in twitter’s preferences (what are you here for, if not to share?)

There are even services which help you find people to follow to enable you make those connections (here’s an article about some of them, and Grader, apart from telling you your “twitter grade” also does a good job).

The instantaneous nature of the response to twitter’s question “What are you doing?” begs more frequent updates than Facebook’s status updates, and keeps things moving along at a pace. Plus anyone who’s interested in following trends or finding out more on subjects that interest them is well-served by twitter’s in-built search facility. It’s hidden away at the bottom of the page, but it works very well.

Users can also “tag” their “tweets” with a useful word to make finding them easier for others – this week the tag #uksnow was a prime example for anyone following the story of a Britain caught in the worst snow for years.

I suppose this has really become that first post on social networking that I promised earlier, and I promise to write some more. But I also promise not to become a social networking “expert”, because those posts are already oversubscribed.

Back to the lady in question who prompted me into action. Her name is Anthea Bailey and she’s from somewhere in the North of England. She works in PR (hey, maybe I could use her?!) and her website is being constructed “as we speak”. So in the meantime you’ll just have to “follow” her, here

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