28th March 2017 - Lost Voice!

Last week I began to feel pretty awful and knew I was coming down with a cold. To normal folk, this probably isn’t that big of a deal. However, to a voice over artist, it can be significantly detrimental. Not only do you get to feel terrible, you lose money.

I’ve given up caring whether people think I’m bonkers if I lather myself in antibacterial hand gel, or put my scarf up over my nose and mouth when people dare to cough or sneeze in my vicinity. To me, it just isn’t worth the risk.

Sadly however, I succumbed to a very peculiar cold and sore throat, which culminated me in losing my voice at the end of last week! Thankfully, it decided to pack up and vacate on a Friday, which meant I had the weekend to recuperate. But what could I possibly do to aid in its restoration? Well, that’s where fellow voice actor, and vocal coach Nicola Redman steps in. I asked her for some help and advice and here’s what she had to say…

Stop talking! That’s the first thing. If you’ve lost you’re voice it’ll be due to vocal fatigue and perhaps a little swelling of the vocal folds. So give it a good rest. This involves your body too, so you have my permission to nap! Keep your fluids up and avoid (sorry…) booze, coffee and smoking. It’s also a good idea to steam if you can too, this rehydrates the vocal folds from the outside-in too, as steam is the only moisture that will ever reach your folds. This can be as simple as a nice long bath, but getting your head over a bowl of hot water is great too. Don’t put anything in the water, just leave it plain. Avoid any lozenges that have pain killing properties as you’re likely to think you’re better, talk again and do more damage. A simple glycerin pastille is best, if you feel the need for a suck. You can also encourage the vocal folds to heal themselves by doing a gentle siren on the ‘ng’ sounds (eg siNG) up and down your range. Good luck!”

As of today, my voice feels much better. I hate colds, they can make you feel so miserable, especially when they take your taste buds away! But with friends like Nic, offering wonderful advice, hopefully you don’t suffer for long.

To find out more about Nicola’s Vocal Coaching and all round wellbeing in terms of your “folds”, you can visit her website www.nicredmanvoice.com.

 

9th July 2014 - Watermarking - do we really need it?

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had two potential clients come back to me… both from across the pond and both saying how much they love my voice BUT…

…and here-in lies the issue. Both said that because I had watermarked my audition, there was a problem. 

With the first custom audition, I removed the brand name of the item I was promoting. Seems logical, I hear you cry. In the second custom audition, I removed the medical term the audio was about. Again, seems logical (ooh, I’m inside your head, lol). 

Personally, when auditioning over the Pay2Play sites, I watermark EVERYTHING. The simple fact is that the audio you produce isn’t tangible. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can never get it back. And finding it again can also be like finding a needle in a giant worldwide haystack. You will probably never know if your voice is being used illegitimately, so it’s probably best to stop it from being used right from the start.

None of us really know the clients we are auditioning for over these sites. Sometimes we have pointers to suggest whether they are established or new to the site, but even so, you do not know who is sitting at the other end of the keyboard. With this in mind, I am always cautious. Are you?

Over in America, it is quite common for people to “slate” their auditions, ie. state their name at the beginning of the read. That’s all well and good but a) it’s not something we do over here in the UK, and b) if you slate your name at the start then produce a great read of the client’s script, then you’ve simply produced a great read of the client’s script…. and they could easily use it without letting you know. Obviously, this would be completely unethical if they weren’t to pay you, but it can still happen, and sadly it does happen.

I think it’s fair to say that gone are the days of getting paid to audition SO… should we not be protecting our work?

I watermark in two ways, depending on what the script is. Often, I simply remove words, like branding or significant words. If the script is too short or requires them to hear how you would pronounce something, then I lay a quiet piece of music or beeps underneath. The latter may be irritating when you listen back but you have to protect yourself and I find that if a client is serious, they will respect what you have done and pursue you anyway, if you are right for the job. As my mother always says, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Us VO’s all love our jobs and we are all self employed. That in turn means we have to look after ourselves, charge the correct fees and not sell ourselves short because that sure as heck isn’t going to get the mortgage paid. What you do is great. And great never comes for free. And as the saying goes, “We’re worth it!”

So, in summation, watermark, watermark, watermark 😀

This is me: http://www.joannelamb.co.uk/home/demos/

8th August 2013 - My ISDN hell continued....

So there I was, stood in front of a very important producer, demo CD in hand. What happened next knocked me for six…. he handed the CD back! Now, don’t get me wrong, he was incredibly polite and simply told me there was no point in giving it to him because I didn’t have ISDN. All they did was work via ISDN. He then went on to say that when I did have it installed, to give him a call and he would take a listen to me. Happy days.

Decision made. I came back from VOX and announced my plans and set about planning the next part of my mission. To get the whole caboodle installed.

And so began my research. Being a member of a fantastic Facebook group for Voiceovers, I put lots of questions out there in relation to options to choose. Do I go down the hardware route or the software route? Which telecomms company should I use? Is it really worth the significant investment both financially and personally?

I was privvy to some great nuggets of advice and I was surprised at the response. This is what I established:

Hardware (codec box) – this can be a very expensive option. It is a stand alone unit that connects directly into an ISDN line. New units can cost upwards of £1500-£3000. There’s also talk that they’re not really being supported anymore, with all the rumours of BT canning ISDN, it would seem companies are not producing new units. Second hand units can be around the £900 mark however, you don’t always get what you bargain for! I learned to be careful of buying off eBay and to pretty much avoid the American ISDN units because of the way they’re wired internally, something to do with channels  (I apologise if I’m not using the correct terminology – I’m still learning). They also cost a fortune to ship over AND you have to wait for them to clear customs, sometimes the weeks turn into months! So, it’s best to ask around to see who’s got what, if anything, to offer. Talk to people you trust or who are recommended/respected in the business.

Software – you can get 2 flavours of software: Audio TX (PC based) which allows you to use ISDN or VoIP without getting a codec box, and Source Connect (was MAC based but now they’ve got a PC version as well) which offers VoIP via broadband only. Some people are saying that VoIP is the way forward however, lots are also saying that ISDN will be around for quite a while because SO many people have it and it won’t just die out overnight…

Unfortunately, Audio TX and Source Connect do not talk to each other. You pay for your software and an ISDN card (for Audio TX) and that’s pretty much it, you’re set up. However, for VoIP, you are pretty reliant on your Broadband provider to give you exemplary speeds and quality of line, and also the software provider to support you. I’d heard mixed reviews about both software companies and their products; would a complete techo-phobe like me get the support I needed?

I’m a PC person, so Audio TX was clearly the one for me. Phew…. I’d finally made my decision. This was based on lots of other VO’s saying that they were using Audio TX too, plus the fact that it was a few hundred pounds cheaper to set up than getting a hardware codec.

However, when I looked into it more, having made that decision, I found out that I would need a separate PC to run it off OR I would have to upgrade my current PC to support it. This would have taken the cost up from expensive to out of the question.

So….. a new decision was made.

HARDWARE CODEC was the way forward!

Now I had to choose my ISDN provider. I’d seen a recent FB thread on this very topic a few weeks previous, so went looking for it again. It seemed that the general consensus was not to go direct. Two other company names were given: BLUEBELL TELECOM (www.bluebelltelecom.com) and ONE STOP TELECOM (formerly Ellesys). I’d heard good things about both, so contacted them and was delighted with the level of customer service I received. In the end, my decision was based on price – one company had cheaper installation fees and a special introductory offer, saving me a substantial amount of money!

In relation to the hardware codec box, I asked around and someone in the FB group suggested an engineer who was lending her his codec whilst he fixed hers. She said that he had a couple of spare units that he was looking to sell, gave me a seal of approval for the work he was doing with her and so I contacted him and set the wheels in motion.

Finally, the response I got from other VO’s saying that my level of work would increase gave me the confidence to go ahead and make this significant financial investment. Whilst I have every faith in my work, I’m not really a risk taker therefore this WAS a difficult decision to make. Lots of research was required but with that done, I suppose it’s now only a matter of time before I know whether I made the right decision or not.

I shall keep you posted….

21st July 2013 - My ISDN journey... or should I say roller coaster ride

In April 2013, I went to my first ever VOX conference. I had a brilliant time, learnt a lot and met some cracking people; VO’s, producers and techies alike.

I went there with one main mission in mind; to find out as much as I could about ISDN to answer my internal question as to whether I should get it installed or not. I had heard that it was a huge expense and I had also heard that it would soon be faded out as a technology. So, was it really a necessity or just a luxury that I could do without?

When I arrived at VOX, I met some lovely people all stood around a table sipping tea and coffee and nibbling on fruit and pastries from the amazing spread of refreshments the hotel and the VOX committee had laid on for us. Around this table was a chap called Rob Bee from Bee Productive. Little did I know at the time, Rob would instrumental in helping me… More on that later.

I asked everyone what they thought of ISDN and lots of opinions came forward. What I did learn was that yes, it COULD be expensive but not necessarily. Secondly, I learnt that ISDN would more than likely be around for the next 5 years, or even more…. Lastly, I learned that it probably WOULD be worth having it installed.

I listened to lots of stories, including horror stories about buying rusty units from America off eBay (thank you Anna for your honesty and support) but I also listened to these stories and took so much information from them that I knew I would have enough to be able to make my decision. But something was still holding me back, and I didn’t know what.

Later in the day, there were some round table discussions from industry professionals. Following a very interesting presentation from a high profile producer, I decided to approach him with my demo CD. What happened next would lead me down a roller coaster ride of emotions and a whole different world of stress, anxiety and turmoil….

To be continued!