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.
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 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!)