Almost there!

Good evening everyone!  Like anyone really reads much of this anyway…except me.  I read the hell out of my own posts.  I’ve found spots where I’ve mentioned the same thing twice, and both times like it was the first time I had the idea!  Yeah, a little scary.  But, that’s just me I suppose.

On to the fun stuff. I am a GEEK for home automation.  An absolute geek!.  I have been automating my house(s) for years now.  I don’t mean the hardwired stuff that costs thousands of dollars.  I mean the cheap, super easy, very effective things you can do that you can take with you when you decide to move.  None of it is permanent, you don’t have to drill holes in the walls or the ceiling or anything like that.  I have Philips Hue Smart light bulbs in almost every light in the house.  That means my lights are now voice controllable.  I have several smart plugs, which means everything plugged into them is now voice controllable.  So here we get to the fun, at least for this geek.  I have a surge suppressor that is voice controllable now….I put it in the studio.  I plugged my new floor lamp into it and I plugged my laptop into as well.  It also has four (yes four!) USB ports for charging.  No more charging blocks!!!! I went into the Jinvoo app (that’s the company that makes the smart surge suppressor) and named the surge suppressor ‘studio’.  I went into the Hue app and named the two lights ‘studio one’ and ‘studio two’ and put them in the room named ‘Studio’.  Now I can say, “Alexa, start up the studio.” and the surge suppressor turns on as well as the floor lamp.  This powers everything I have in my little recording space.  So now when I’m ready, so is my studio!  I know, I could come in here, turn the laptop on, pull the chain on both of the lights on the floor lamp and sit down and wait for everything to boot up, but now I don’t have to!  Dad bought an Echo Dot tonight for his bedroom….that means we have an Alexa powered device in every major room of the house.  The best part of all this…..when we move this summer (fingers crossed) all we have to do it unplug the various devices and put them back in their original boxes, take out all the light bulbs and put the old ones back in and take all the smart plugs with us.  That is the entire system for this (almost) completely automated home!  I don’t have to buy anything else for the new house or apartment.  I have an old Army field fax machine wooden chest.  I put all of my home automation stuff in there.  I pack up the stuff in the boxes, lock down the box with the closures on each side, pick up the handles and walk away.  TOO EASY!

More on the studio.  Ok, so it isn’t really a studio….it’s a recording space.  Studio is shorter to say.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.  I was having mic issues and interface issues and Studio One issues and so much more.  After messing with it for two days, I finally just asked ‘Uncle Roy’ to help me.  It took him 10 minutes to get me recording at acceptable levels and everything running the way it should!  He’s great!  I’m ready to start a good long session with him to get him to show me more stuff…..it costs, but it’s worth it!    I was ready to call up George Whittam, had my card in hand and everything, but he wasn’t available until the middle of next week.  Turns out my problems were caused by my own ignorance.  Thankfully Roy only gave me a little flack about that and fixed me right up!

So now I can record easily, at acceptable levels, I can play it back and actually hear it, and I have light in the studio so I can see what the hell I’m trying to do.

That means I started playing with Audacity.  I tried using Studio One but so much of it didn’t make sense.  I was already a little familiar with Audacity so I’ll be sticking with that until I get a feel for cleaning up my files so they’re presentable for auditions and such.

On another VO note, I think I want to give telephony a shot.  It sounds like fun really.  A fellow VO said she even has a contract with one of her local installers that bundles her voice files with new phone systems and such.  That sounds like a GREAT deal!

I’ve met some AMAZING people in the VO groups I’ve joined.  I’ve met some that aren’t so nice as well.  Every barrel has a few bad apples, the VO business is no different.  No biggy.  Some people are more patient than others.  With me being so new to the industry, I have questions these professionals have heard a MILLION times, I’m sure they get tired of answering the same questions over and over and over again.  I can’t really blame them to be honest.  I’d get a little testy as well.

So, now that I’ve talked your ear off about that….think about what tasks you would like to have automated in your house.  IFTTT is an amazing tool for home automation.  Every morning  when my Echo Show alarm goes off, the lights turn on very dim and steadily get brighter for the next ten minutes until they are at 100%.  I did it using an applet I created in IFTTT.  I was watching an episode of Booth Junkie and he said he uses IFTTT to do backups of his work.  While I don’t use it for this right now, I am in the process of setting it up.  IFTTT lets you make your own ‘recipes’ for whatever it is you want to happen.  You can set things up to happen at a certain time or when you trigger the action.  There are more than a hundred ‘ifs’ and the same for ‘then that’ options.  If this happens then that happens.  Old school style.  I set up two new applets tonight for this blog.  Now anytime I publish a new post, IFTTT will automatically post the title and link to my Facebook page and will also tweet the same information for me so I don’t have to do it anymore.  Every time I get a text on my phone, that text and corresponding information is automatically added to s spreadsheet on my google drive.  I don’t have to do a thing!  Once you have your lights set up, you can set up IFTTT triggers for those, too.  On at sunset off at sunrise if you want…or you can use a specific time.  So many things you can do!  Oh, and did I mention that IFTTT is free?  Yeah, IFTTT is FREE!

I’m ready to see if my two new applets worked and then go play with the editing chain presets in Audacity.  Have a great night!

Step one completed

It’s been a horribly harrowing day at the day job. It’s been a horrible day for house selling, too.  My buyers pushed back the closing date AGAIN….we’re coming up on 50 days now.  I’ve had enough.  I signed the paperwork to extend one last time until this Friday and if we don’t have a rock solid closing date within 7 business days of then, I’m taking the $1250 earnest money, putting it in my pocket and putting the house back on the market.

After all of this, I came home to a box sitting on my bed.  My brand-spankin’ new AT2035 mic.  I also found in the paper where Harbor Freight has their Pelican style cases with pic-n-pac foam inside on sale for $30.  It looks just big enough to be a great case for my mic and it’s accessories.  I was excited about the mic, of course, but I can’t do anything with it until my interface arrives.  I apparently made a very bad decision on my first mic because no matter how quiet it is in the house and outside, there is a nasty hiss I can’t seem to get rid of.  We’ll see how much better this one is than the old one.  I’m ready to get started but can’t do anything…yet.

Of course, right now the neighbor is running his truck with the radio on at full blast with no one in it or even outside to listen to it.  The dishwasher is running, the fan on the oven hood is going, Dad is playing the Xbox, my son is super talkative (as usual 🙂 ) and my other neighbor has his music up much too loud on the other side of me, not to mention the kids playing outside.  Screaming is always part of the playing.  So I don’t see me recording ANYTHING tonight on EITHER mic.  *le sigh*

That’s all OK though.  When things are really bad, the only way left to go is up!  That means tomorrow will be a better day and I’m looking forward to it!  So I’ll fill out the registration for my mic and then turn on my own Xbox and go kick Dad’s a$$ in Call of Duty for a few hours.  🙂

Catch ya’ next time!

The new demo

As I have said previously about my demos, the narration can’t really have anything done with it.  It would have to be re-recorded.  I did get the commercial one back today but I started listening to it and it was so loud it was distorted.  I had to yank the buds out of my ears because it hurt my ears!  I pulled it into Audacity to look at it and it stayed way up in the red all the way through.  I wrote the gentleman back and told him as much and I thought it was time to start talking about a refund for the price of the demos.  Once I got it down to a manageable level that wouldn’t blow my eardrums, I do like the music selection better.  *sigh* I’m not looking forward to this fight at all.  I’ve made a copy of it so I can play with it and maybe get it down to a manageable level for volume, once I find the right tutorial for how to do it.

My demo update…

So, as promised, my director had one of the Post Production gentlemen call me to chat about my demos.  He asked about the comments that were made and things like that.  We chatted and he said the commercial demo would go back to the cutting floor and I should have it back in a few days.  The narration demo was another story.  Apparently I should have known just a few months into training that I was supposed to ask for a certain kind of script.  Of course, at that point, I had no idea anything like that existed. 😦  He ACTUALLY suggested I record and produce MY OWN corporate narration/e-learning demo!  Yeah, just my USB mic and I in a ‘non studio’ environment.  I think that would hurt me more than the demo I have!  Now I’m just waiting for the commercial demo to come back in.  *sigh*

Everything I have read/watched/learned has had a few things in common. NEVER produce your own demo was very high on the list!  It’s gonna take some serious time to get the money together to get another couple of demos done after the chunk of change I put down for these.  I hope the commercial demo is salvageable.  This has already put a hiatus on my plans to purchase a new audio chain, so it will sit in my Amazon cart for good while now before I can get it.

All in all, it’s ok.  I learned something from it.  ONWARD to the next obstacle to climb!!

Climbing another hill…

Ok, so I think I might have said something before about some of the feedback I’ve been getting on my demos being….well……not great.  I contacted my director about it, she called and we discussed it.  She was very nice about it, she didn’t get defensive or rude or anything, which I was very grateful for because I wasn’t trying to be rude either, and we chatted a bit about some of the things that were said, what type of people they were coming from and things like that.  In the end, she still has all of her notes and the raw recordings I made in December so she is going to go back to the production team and see if we can’t change it up a bit and get some better feedback and get some work. I certainly hope so!  I haven’t had any work since my job on Upwork.  That’s ok though, I’ve been using my time as wisely as I can.  I’ve been learning every tiny little thing I can about just about everything.  Watching YouTube videos, reading blogs, reading all the posts in my many VO groups on FB and stuff like that.

I have my cart at Amazon filled up with all the new techy toys I’d like to have in my studio.  Ok, not ALL the toys, but the ones I feel like I definitely need there. 🙂 I have the basket at just under $512.  I have ten dollars in credit with Amazon and in a day or so, I’ll have five more dollars in credit.  That brings the total cost for my audio chain down to less than $500, which is my goal.  I get free 2- day shipping with my Amazon Prime so I don’t have to worry about that part either.

I think I have an idea for a recording space that is definitely ‘out of the box’.  It has no parallel walls and uses no wood and costs less than $400….at least that is the goal.  While it isn’t ‘take it to your hotel room’ portable, it is something you can take with you without much of a problem when you move houses, like I’m planning to do in the semi-near future.  I’m waiting to run the idea by my new favorite YouTuber, Mike Delgaudio, who does Booth Junkie.  I love watching him.  Despite the fact that he hates combing his hair, he has some great information on his videos.

Since I mentioned groups earlier, I just have to say this.  When I started all this, I was told I needed to join groups.  Yeah, that was easy.  Then they said I needed to be active in ALL of them!  Are you joking me?  I forgot how exhausting it was to be so active in a bunch of groups.  Yes, there is some excellent information I would have missed in these groups if I wasn’t active and reading all the posts and comments and links, but WOW.  How do pro VOs get any work done?  If I didn’t work a day job, it would take me all day to get through my groups (I’m only in about ten or twelve I think) with reading, posting my own stuff (which I don’t really have much of right now), congratulating folks (because these people really do deserve it for some of the amazing stuff I’ve seen) and liking various comments.  See, I don’t just go through and like everything.  I actually read the posts, the comments that have already been added, all of it.  If someone is asking about something I don’t know anything about, I keep my proverbial mouth shut and ears open.  If the question is a good one, I’ll like it, but seeing as I have little to no experience with any of this, I (thankfully) get to stay mostly silent for now.  That will change though, because I AM going to get work and I AM going to get paid well for it and I AM going to expand, because I LOVE it and because I CAN!

Despite all of that, I have ‘met’ some really great people in the groups I’ve joined.  Yes, there are some bad apples, idiots, ass holes, people that are just bitter at the world and taking it out on others, but luckily they’re few and far between.  One got ejected from a group for a really crude comment that was made because someone else in the group was non-union.  Well, a lot of us in that group are non-union.  She got a few crass comments in before she was shown the door.  Never take it personally or seriously folks.  Those idiots feel threatened by the ‘next generation’ of Voice Actors and they don’t want to be made obsolete.  They think it’s us that will make them obsolete when it’s the market that will do that.  Won’t have a thing to do with us.

I’ve been playing around with another idea.  I am going to try to find where I can upload audio files to each of my posts and record each one, a little like a podcast.  That way folks can read it or listen to it.  I mean really.  I’m a Voice Actor, why wouldn’t I record my blogs?  It’s great practice, it let’s people (read as potential clients or connections to them) hear my voice and I can also get some practice in editing audio.  No way but to practice, right?!  Can’t get any better if I don’t do it.  While work isn’t exactly plenty right now, I can still get my practice in and maybe even do myself some good!

I’ve been told several times that I shouldn’t let potential clients know I’m new to the VO world.  While I don’t necessarily think this is bad advice and I don’t normally go screaming that I’m a newbie at every mountain top, I don’t see anything wrong with being a newbie.  Not even to a client.  No VA will last forever, the market will change, people will retire.  Every VA was new once.  As the market changes, the voices change, too.  Yes, there will be some that want a seasoned VO, but then they get a seasoned voice.  Nothing wrong with using a New Voice Actor and getting a New Voice!

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Hey folks!  Boy do I have some stuff to share today!  Not all of it is good though.  so hold on to your seats folks, here comes the roller coaster.

The GB groups I am in for VO are amazing.  Ninety eight percent of the folks there are actually there to help and to listen.  There’s always a few bad apples though.  The last few days I have been the target of some pretty ugly….bashing.  Not only me personally, but new Voice actors.  I have heard folks say some horrible things.  But there’s always a bully, right?  They can say all they want to me; as far as I’m concerned, their talk says more about them than it does about me.  I don’t try to defend my actions, I don’t even respond to them, I figure they’re just not worth my time.  I firmly believe they people that matter will see what they’re doing and it will degrade them instead of me.  So folks, bring it on, because you can’t hurt my feelings.  An NCO in the Army I used to work with used to say that you “have to have skin like woodpecker lips” to get through.  I love that saying and I believe it.

On to better stuff……I have been watching Mike Delgaudio on his “Booth Junkie” YouTube channel.  This guy is great!  He speaks language normal folks understand, he has great information.  He compares products, he answers questions and he doesn’t say UM every third word!  lol  Sorry, that’s one of my pet peeves.

Now on to even better stuff!  I can’t give all of it away, but I’ve got a plan, an idea, a thought….whatever you want to call it…for a semi portable vocal booth for less than 500 bucks!  This includes the treatment of the space!  I can tell you it isn’t a square, it isn’t a rectangle, it isn’t a diamond and it’s not one of those super cool units that are made to fit into a corner!  It’s fully customizable to what you need/want in your booth and it’s expandable!  You don’t have to be a carpenter to make it because there is no wood involved!  The way I see it in my head you only need a circular saw, a tape measure, a marker, a set of three door hinges, a door handle and maybe a long strip of rubber weather stripped type stuff…and of course the secret thing that makes it all.  I’ll post more on it after I’ve hit up a couple of folks to see if the theory is sound, no pun intended.  If mine works, I could possibly monetize it later on down the road.  If my sound gurus say it’s a viable theory, I’ll build one for myself taking careful notes on supplies, cost and taking lots of pictures…screw ups included, because hey, I’m not perfect.

As for my logo, my friend Jack sent it back to me and I’ve sent a couple of questions back to him on “what does your artistic eye say about…” type stuff.  Minor potential changes and then my logo will be good to go and I can get rid of these pictures of me that are posted all over my stuff!

And finally, down to the last bad thing.  Over the last two weeks, I’ve had some disturbing feedback on the demos I have posted on my website.  Again, it doesn’t hurt my feelings, especially considering what the comments were.  I have approached my producer/director about it and we’ll chat it out and see what we will do about it this coming week.  In short, most everyone that sent feedback agrees on the issues and it boils down to one thing.  I should NOT be using these demos to promote myself.  Ok, I can take a hint, even one I was hit in the head with. 🙂  That just means it’s time to adjust and take aim again.

If you’re not excited about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.  Now, as Mike says, “Go record something amazing.”

 

OVERLOAD!!

When I said there was almost too much information out there, I wasn’t kidding folks.  Between books I’ve downloaded to listen to, free webinars, sites with tutorials, SEO marketing help videos and the suggestions from my domain hosting company….there is just so much!

One thing I have yet to find is a tutorial on mastering/editing my tracks on Audacity.  Yes, I’ve read the manual, virtual cover to virtual cover, a couple of times but that just tells me where to go to use the tools in that program.  Gain, attack time, release time, compression, filters and at least a hundred other terms that I need to know are a total mystery to me.  I can look up each of the terms individually, but even then, these ‘definitions’ assume you know what these things are.  I need something like this:  Compression is the act of blah blah blah on an audio track.  Things that need to be set for compression are attack time, release time, blah blah blah.  If your attack time is too (short?) your audio will sound like (ummmmm).

I just need to know what these settings are supposed to do and what difference they make in sound, and maybe even a good place to start for my own tracks.  Yeah, I am a total newbie when it comes to mastering/editing tracks but this is something I need to learn to do and need to learn fast.  I’m finding some help on a blog I found last night but I still need more.

I have to learn how to get, and then keep, my site high in the Google search engines.

I have a long time family friend, Jack, working on an idea that cropped up last night for my logo.  It’s a tall order I sent him this morning, but once he finishes, that will be one large portion of worry off my plate.

Then it’s cover letters on Fiverr, proposals on Upwork, mining Craigslist and about a thousand other places to look for work.  I’m in for the long haul, but it’s going to be longer than I imagined it would.  I had no delusions that this was some get rich quick scheme, I knew it would take a lot of work, but I was totally unprepared for all the things I’ve been hit with since starting this.  I’ll figure it out, I always do. 🙂

I’m open to any suggestions as well……I have an open mind and a closed mouth, unless I’m behind the mic.  Here’s to another day of soaking up information!