Musings & Skype

Today’s post is a combination of different elements.

Working Toward Skype Conferences

First, and let’s get this out of the way. If you have Skype and you would like to chat with Taji (whenever he’s available – because remember I live in Cairo, Egypt) then add the account m.taji with the code TVE in your first comment so I know you are one of my blog readers.

I feel sometimes that  sitting in-front of the computer and writing (in my head talking) to the screen sometimes gets me out of touch with how you guys are feeling and what you might be going through in the industry and I hope to remedy that by having honest-to-God conversations with those in the trenches and on the frontlines.

Note of Caution

I might not always be at the keyboard when my skype is on… I have it running about 8 hours a day and sometimes I need to do things away from the computer. Please take no offense if there is a delay and if you send me a message… be patient… I will answer back. I might not always be available for video chat … but I can usually either text or audio chat during the periods I am online.

Musings of the Son of Man

Maybe it’s because of my current involvement with the voiceover directory project that’s taking up such a big chunk of my time (shameless plug) , but one particular incident with a friend brought me back to why we do the things we do and why we enjoy them.

The incident

My friend works in one of the biggest oil companies in the world. These guys supply the guys who supply the guys who put gas in your car. We’ve been friends now for nearly 15 years and I know for a fact that he has drama training , I even attended a play or two of his back when we were both in university.

He has since gotten his masters degree in economics from Michigan state and his Six sigma something or other from somewhere in boston. He’s moved to an oil rich country and works there managing one of the procurement departments in a multi billion dollar organization.

My friend is American/ Egyptian and lived a big chunk of his early years in Minnesota. His English (spoken and written) and american accent are native to that area (I should actually say that he has excellent English writing skills and is pretty eloquent when he puts his mind to it… I say this to dispel the idea that anyone born to English speaking parents is automatically able to write with eloquence) .  So it was no surprise that his company directors would ask him to write up a script for the procurement department’s training purposes. He did and the script was great. Then those same directors asked my friend to voice the script for the video. This is when things started getting interesting.

For starters, my friend has never voiced a thing in his life, so having an American accent would not have helped him since he does not have the experience of dissecting a script for recording. Although he had written the script and that makes a huge difference in delivery because he knew exactly what the writer intended.

Before going into the studio I gave him a few tips on how he should approach the recording experience and a few things he should avoid. I thought I had prepared him enough for the coming event.

Little did I know that the poor guy was going into a studio run by incompetent primates. The truth came to light after the voiceover and video were compiled and aired.

The Echo Incident

For starters there was an unexplained echo that made the whole recording sound like they were in a public washroom. When I asked my friend about it. He said that he had pointed out the echo to the sound engineer who had said that my friend should not worry about it and that he would be able to take it out later.

What?

What amazing new noise gating technology  has suddenly been discovered that eliminates echo from a recording without loss of quality. In fact the better question is WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD would you record with the stupid effect on? My friend assured me that he went to a professional looking studio with sound proofing and a booth. Where the hell would the echo come from if not from the actual equipment itself?

Not only that but half way through the second minute the echo suddenly took on other characteristics and decided to work toward washing away my friend’s voice all together.

The Nasality causality

Second. My friend’s normally mellow baritone voice which would probably sound great with compression and a bit of EQ had transformed itself into the annoying nasal onslaught of a teenager begging to use his parent’s car for a night out with the “guys”. Where was the deep mellowness that my friend naturally exudes?

What had happened was that this multi-billion dollar company had decided to bring in random strangers from the street and ask them to direct the session. Or at least they might as well have because the results of these people’s so called “Directing” was to tell my friend to do it with more excitement… more… give us MORE… DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?!?! MORE EXCITEMENT!!!

So the poor guy put on Jack Nicholson’s Smile from the first Batman movie and proceeded to record the script. Of course whenever he wanted to emphasize a specific bit in the script … he couldn’t because the overall EXCITEDNESS of the rest of the performance washed over the emphasis… that and the other alternative was reaching the top of his vocal range (which ended up in a squeak).

Variable Speed Delivery

I don’t know about other voiceover artists… but I have rhythm. I was in a band for a few years and as a musician you have to keep rhythm with the the rest of the band… usually that is the Drummer’s job… but our drummer wasn’t very good. He was a nice guy … but on the rare occasions that he did keep rhythm he would not be sitting on his drum set at the time.

So it was down to our brilliant Bassist to keep him in check. I was not a prodigy or anything … I was just a regular musician but I had a nack  for writing off beats into my music that would take the listener by surprise and make things interesting for us technically. Our rhythm guitarist was a metronome in and of himself…. except he was stuck in 4/4 time and anything other than 4/4 time… say  3/4  time would have caused an immediate malfunction in his extremities.

Now I have carried this sense of keeping time into my voiceover work so I can mentally (to a degree) maintain the speed of narration that I started with or that is necessary for the project’s duration.

My friend didn’t … neither did the people at the studio hired by the multi-billion dollar company to record this 7 minute introduction video.

All these different elements are not my friend’s fault. He is not a professional voiceover actor, he has never recorded himself in a studio before, he was not the one to record the session with the echo effect on and he was not the one who decided to try and put excitement into a video about the procurement of oil drill bits.

I mean seriously folks was all this done so that the multi-billion dollar company could save a few bucks?

Incidentally my friend was not paid a cent for all this extra work.

Delusions and Conclusions

I’m very disappointed to tell you the truth. I’m disappointed in clients that would do that to themselves. I mean they obviously paid a pretty penny for the introductory graphics and CGI of the instructional video… they just didn’t bother to assign enough importance to the thing actually driving the video.. propelling it forward… in other words,  the Narration.

They decided to save a few bucks by:

1. Hiring a studio which charged by the hour
2. Asking the Manager of a department to take a few hours out of his time to do the recording
3. Hire a director, sound engineer and a couple of guys off the street to assist.

And all of that was cheaper in their mind than say $300 to $400 that a professional would charge them.

Subhan Allah (God Almight!)


6 Comments


  1. You are correct, Taji. Penny wise and pound foolish to (A) choose voice talent on the basis that you don’t have to pay them and (B) securing a less than professional studion and employing incompetent producers.

    With good direction, it’s entirely possible your friend could have done a credible job. Sine he already was part of the staff and actually wrote the script, it is may not have been an unreasonable assumption that he could do it. What is ‘un-realistic’ is not checking the credentials of the ‘producers’ hired for the project.

    For a ‘multi-billion dollar company, to try to get the job done ‘on the cheap’ they set themselves up for failure.

  2. My webinar eveing of April 5 starting 6 p.m. Pacific U.S. time but available to you worldwide once you enroll, concerns working foreign markets. Unaccented American English voices or vo talents who speak foreign languages as a mother tongue (not learned in highschool!) are wanted. Find out more. You enroll on the sponsor site, http://www.voiceoverxtra.com and the link to go right to enrolling ($44.95) is http://www.bit.ly/ForeignVOWebnr

    Your musings about your friend from Minnesota trying to do a voice over…that is a good example of an accent, they are nasal and influenced in that part of the U.S. by Swedish and Norwegian (and other) heritages. Were the accent strong in your friend,that would have instantly made him undesirable to producers in a foreign market outside of the U.S. The same is true for speakers of American English with a Texan, deep South, Brooklyn, Bronx, Boston, Chicago, and many other accents (which I prefer to call ‘colorations.’)

    Every language has many accents, versions, dialects. But if an American English speaker is relatively free of these and has excellent diction and a good vocal tone and expression, and reads well speaking aloud, then the world waits. Expand your marketplace. I have been researching this complicated topic three months now for my webinar. Additionally, I have been working foreign markets as a voice for over six years now and teaching this. Others now are jumping on this topic, and I see someone is teaching it at a summer workshop that’s being advertised, but my research extends for many years, so I hope you’ll tune in and hear results of my in-depth work. Questions and answer time too.

    The webinar also includes foreign speakers working in the U.S. There are requirements for those whose mother-tongue is a language other than English. Hope you’ll think about voicing more U.S. and Canadian jobs when you’re not American or Canadian born. Speaking “French” or “German” or any language does NOT mean you can speak that language in all countries or even cities! For example, there is a form of Spanish preferred only in Mexico City! London has various language differences from one area of London to the next! So does Chicago!

    As you can see, as a voice speech coach, I’m fascinated by this subject so I won’t go on further although I could write about it much longer here.

    Thanks for letting me say this, Taji. I think it is a vital topic.And Taji, I must tell you that every time I read your written words, I enjoy your writing skills. You are an excellent writer!! I admire this.

    Hey Everybody– I am in Italy, Rome and Venice, in April, also Zurich end of month. Email me if you’re there too!

    Bettye Zoller
    http://www.voicesvoices.com
    Voiceovers/Coaching
    Audio Production

  3. I’d like to add to what Betty said. You write better than many native born Americans!

    • Well I can’t say that it would be a fair comparison. I went to a British school for 10 years. An American one for 3 and then an American university for 4 years.
      I actually do have a degree in journalism so I’ve been taught how to put an article together.

      Unfortunately since my articles are blog posts they don’t conform to the usual rules of journalistic writing (thank God!) or else you’d really see how terrible I am at following journalistic rules.

      But I will both accept and cherish your praise (take that Journalism 201 Prof.)

      Taji