East West Audio Body Shop

How I Became Dear Abby

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career 45 Comments

Paul StrikwerdaSomething scary and awful has happened to me.

Because of the strange popularity of this blog and my appearance as an “expert” on several VO-shows and webinars, people are starting to take me seriously.

What am I to do?

All of a sudden, friends and foes feel the urge to retweet my nonsensical wisecracks, and care to comment on bizarre thoughts I share with you on Facebook. Some people even shower me with compliments and unhealthy adoration.

STOP THAT!

I already suffer from extreme self-esteem, and you’re not making it any easier for me to stick to my twelve-step program aimed at practicing modesty and humility.

My AA (Arrogance Anonymous) self-help group was just praising me for the progress I had made in that area. It was horrible. All of a sudden I felt exceedingly full of myself again, and their flattery threw me back several months.

Because of my growing reputation, folks from all corners of the earth believe I have the answer to all their voice-over questions. Who do you think I am?

Joan Baker? J.S. Gilbert? Bill DeWees?

I thought I’d share a few of their issues with you, and when you read my responses, you will soon realize that it’s pointless to contact me.

Here we go.

Q. Dear Paul, I’d like you to critique my demo. How much do you charge for that?

A. Mr. Friedman, it depends on the audio. If your demo is very bad, you can’t pay me enough to listen to it. If it’s any good, you don’t need my critique because it speaks for itself.

Q. Dear Paul, I want to get rid of my announcer voice. What do I do?

A. Dear Doug Turkel, I can see why this could be a problem for you. I suggest talk therapy, and be sure to keep it conversational. Once you’re rid of your radio voice, relaunch your business. When you do, you better make a big announcement!

Q. Dear Paul, can you tell me what James Cameron found when his submarine hit the floor of the Mariana Trench?

A. Contrary to popular belief, this was not a marine expedition. Mr. Cameron was actually looking for cheap voice talent for his upcoming productions. He wondered how low they would go, and I think he found some bottom feeders.

Q. Dear Paul, am I allowed to drink during the session if the client is paying for a “dry read only”?

A. Very funny. Yes, you may drink, but only from a Blue Bottle!

I have a good one for you: Are you allowed to shout in a Whisper Room®?

Q. Dear Paul, Marc Cashman charged me an arm and a leg to help me find my money voice. Is that okay?

A. Give the man some credit. He’s a genius, and he deserves every penny!

Q. Dear Paul, I have some emotional scars from a Nancy Wolfson tough love seminar. What do I need to heal from that experience?

A. A big hug from Bob Souer or Uncle Roy.

Q. Dear Paul, although I just started my voice-over business, I want to come across as a seasoned professional. What are some of the must-haves if I want to pull this off?

A. That’s easy. People are doing it every day. You have to have:

• a profile picture of you, hugging a microphone;

• demos that have been so doctored, sweetened, and spiced up that your voice needs decompression after the session;

• a YouTube video tour of your walk-in closet voice-over studio showing a surprisingly rich variety of naughty undergarments;

• knowing the answer to the question: “What would Don have done?” (No, not Don Draper);

• a Neumann TLM 103 because you can’t afford a U87;

• a website with a picture of you hugging a microphone;

• a friend request from Dave Courvoisier;

• a Facebook album with pictures of you holding various celebrities in an iron grip as they are forced to pose with you;

• a subscription to my blog;

• a real job.

Q. Dear Paul, please listen to my most recent audition. Should I put more egg crates on the wall to tame the reflections?

A. The audition was horrible. Your bathroom sounds just fine, but I think you are the one who needs more treatment.

Q. Dear Paul, you’re such a wordsmith. Can you come up with a snappy slogan for my VO-business?

A. What do you think of these?

“I can’t read your mind but I will read your script.”
“I’m always on speaking terms with my clients.”
“Speak for yourself, or I will do it for you!”

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS My sincere apologies to all the colleagues mentioned in this article. You never wrote to me, and after this article I fear you never will.


Thinking Outside the Box: Studiobricks

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Studio 7 Comments

Every once in a while, a product comes along that could become a game changer in the industry. This is the story of one such product. Before I tell you what it is, you should know that my voice is for hire, but my opinion is not. 

Guillermo Jungbauer

Born of a Dutch father and a Spanish mother, Guillermo Jungbauer worked as a plant manager in the automotive industry. In his spare time he played the saxophone, but he was always worried that his music might disturb the neighbors.

He had used several prefab isolation booths to keep the decibel level down, but when it was time to move into a new apartment in Barcelona, Guillermo wanted something more stylish and more portable. Something that looked like design furniture, but it would have to be as easy to put together as the things you buy from IKEA.

There was one problem: such a booth did not exist.

In Europe, there were at least fifteen different manufacturers, and none of them offered what Guillermo was looking for. So, he decided to develop it himself.

THE SOUND BOOTH REIMAGINED

Jungbauer imagined a beautiful looking booth, made of building blocks that would fit together seamlessly without using any screws. 

On paper it was a great idea, but sound engineers and industrial designers told him it was impossible, especially because he wanted the booth to have double walls and a door. Time and again he was told: “It can’t be done.”

This was in 2007.

It took Guillermo two more years to perfect a concept he named the Studiobricks cabin system, a self-assembly acoustic booth unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

These are the building blocks or bricks:

Here is the finished product:

Guillermo’s first customers were woodwind and brass players who -just like Jungbauer- needed an isolated space to be able to practice at home. Soon, he received inquiries from pianists, string players and drummers. Then recording studios and post-production facilities got wind of it.

By the end of 2011, 170 units were sold all over Europe, in Asia, India and Australia. In 2012, Studio Bricks sales topped 250 units.

STUDIOBRICKS COME TO THE STATES

Depeche Mode singer Dave Gahan built a 12′ x 8′ Studiobricks recording space, right into a residential apartment in New York.

Gahan’s engineer/producer Kurt Uenala told the online magazine SonicScoop:

“They’re modules (Soundbricks, PS) that are really Legos – they snap into each other, but they’re made of sandwich wood and rubber,” he notes. “It’s been here since September, and it really works sonically and in terms of providing acoustic isolation. It reins in the sound not just of the vocals being recorded, but also of productions and mixes – we have to be able to turn it up.

I’ve got to admit that first and foremost I fell for the look – it’s beautiful. This is a very beautiful apartment, and whatever we do has to look good. That was maybe more my prerequisite, because I thought it would be really sad to put a carpeted wooden room in here.” (click here for the full story and pictures)

Studiobricks offers standard solutions, but a lot of cabins are made to order. Jungbauer:

“Once the customer places an order, we create a Serial Number and PDF with the cabin. We ask for exact measurements of the room (height!), we want to know where the wire tunnel has to be drilled, where the door and window have to go, the color of the booth, et cetera. For professional studios we can also print digital photos and logos on the bricks in order to create a unique look (see picture below).

click image to enlarge

Computer Numerical Controlled machinery (CNC), ensures that each lightweight element fits precisely without gluing, screwing, sawing or sealing. A small Studiobricks booth can be assembled by one person within an hour, no building skills required. All the blocks are numbered and installation instructions come in many languages.

We are available on Skype to assist with the assembly process. So far, only one customer in Mumbai India asked for Skype assistance, and after 2 hours the whole studio was ready.”

I asked Jungbauer if an existing model can be expanded by adding more bricks. He said:

“Yes, we already have customers who bought a vocal booth and now want to connect it to a control room. To change one brick with a window brick is no problem, and if you change the frame construction you can add bricks in 1ft steps.”

ADDING ACOUSTIC PANELS

If you are familiar with isolation booths, you know that these spaces need to be treated with dampening materials. Otherwise the sound waves will just bounce off the walls the way they do in your bathroom. Studiobricks booths are no exception, and that’s why they come with panels made by a rapidly growing company from Portugal: Vicoustic.

Vicoustic might not be very well-known in North America, but they have installed soundproofing solutions in Russia, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, The Netherlands and in many other countries.

Studiobricks cabins come with adjustable Vicoustic Wavewood acoustic panels.

Another problem small studios have is ventilation. Studiobricks offers a CE certified Studio Ventilation Kit at $430 that delivers an almost silent flow of air (see picture). It can be controlled wirelessly and placed inside or outside the booth. Other ventilation systems can be connected to the booth as well.

A VOICE-OVER SOLUTION

Because of increasing demand from the voice-over market, Studiobricks has released their latest product, the Studiobricks ONE, a 4′ by 3′ booth, retailing at $3,500 (depending on the exchange rate of the weakening Euro).

Add an estimated $1,000 for packaging and transportation (prices depend on your location), an optional ventilation system, and you’ll end up paying about $4,888 + taxes. That’s still cheaper than a 3.5′ x 3.5′ double-walled Enhanced WhisperRoom™ ($5,870 -shipping not included).

THE EXPERT WEIGHS IN

On the East West Audio Body Shop program, the must-see show about home studios, George Whittam said about Studiobricks cabins:

“It looks like they are built at a very high degree of precision and care, and from an esthetic standpoint, they definitely kick the butts of anything I have seen. These things apparently perform really well. I was looking at the specs, and even their standard model seems to outperform the WhisperRoom and the VocalBooth, until you get into the highest levels of both of those products, which gets really expensive.

It’s pretty darn impressive for something that’s prefabricated. I have never seen anything quite like it before. If they can get that thing over here to the states at a reasonable cost, it’s going to be a major competition for the likes of WhisperRoom™, VocalBooth.com™ and Gretch-Ken.”

There are more than 20 showrooms worldwide where you can find a Studiobricks cabin (see their website for details) and the plan is to have some on display in New York and LA at some point in time. Now get ready for this:

SPECIAL OFFER

Studiobricks CEO Guillermo Jungbauer has a special offer for one U.S. reader of this blog:

The FIRST person in the USA to order the new Studiobricks ONE cabin will receive a 30% discount on the cabin itself, if he/she mentions this article. Please note: this discount does not apply to packing and shipping costs, the ventilation unit or other accessories.

Bear in mind that this is a new product and that production of the Studiobricks ONE will be in full gear starting September. 

Once your cabin has been assembled, I will post pictures of your studio on this blog, as well as audio samples. 

The question is, who will be the first voice talent in the U.S. with a brand new booth from Studiobricks? We’re about to find out soon because I’m not going to keep it quiet!

AND THE WINNER IS…

Mike Bratton has just installed his new booth, and you can click here to find out what he has to say. My interview includes audio samples.

As far as I know, there is no company that imports Studiobricks booths into the U.S. Those who have a cabin, have imported it themselves. However, Classe A, Inc. in Montreal, can help you get a Studiobricks booth, and they have a model in their store. Here’s the link to their website:http://www.classea.com/Classe_A/Studiobricks_EN.html

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

Many thanks to David Weiss, founder & editor of SonicScoop for allowing me to use a quote from the article about Dave Gahan’s studio.

In my next story, Casting agents Beth Allen and Linda Stopfer open up about unprofessional behavior that causes talent to lose jobs and damages their reputation with clients.