George Whittam

The EWABS Interview

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Book, Career, Freelancing, Gear, Internet, Journalism & Media, Promotion, Social Media, Studio 2 Comments

Paul Strikwerda, author of "Making Money In Your PJs."East-West Audio Body Shop or EWABS, is a weekly interactive online talk show modeled after NPR’s popular “Car Talk.”

Hosted by Dan Lenard on the East Coast and George Whittam on the West, the duo answers questions about home studios, and they give tech tips on gear, soundproofing, best recording practices, and more.

Every week they also interview guests from celebrity voice actors to agents. During the show the chat room is open where colleagues comment on the topics of the day, and pose questions to the featured experts.

Every Monday evening (6PT/9EST) EWABS goes live, and you can find an archive of 144 previous programs on YouTube.

This Monday I had a chance to sit down with Dan and George, and talk about my new book, my personal background, the state of the voice-over industry, and my voice-over studio. I also read part of my story “The Most Obnoxious Man in Voice-Overs.”

The segment starts at 30:10.

Enjoy the show!

CONTEST

To celebrate the release of my new book, I invite you to enter a picture of yourself reading a copy of “Making Money In Your PJs.” You can use the paperback edition or a digital version, as long as the cover of the book is visible in the picture.

I’ll leave it up to you to make sure your photo stands out, as long as you are using the real book, or your eReader with an upload of the book. Only one entry per person, please.

You can either post your picture on the Making Money In Your PJs-Facebook page (www.facebook.com/moneyinyourpjs), or you can tweet it to @MoneyInYourPJs. If you really feel inspired, post it on both platforms.

IMPORTANT: By sending me your picture, I will assume that you give me permission to share it with my social networks, and that it’s okay with you to post it on this blog as well. You will remain the proud owner of the photo.

You have until Wednesday, June 18th at 1:00 PM EST, to enter your photo. The three winners will be revealed on Thursday, June 19th.

PRIZES

The third prize -a signed paperback of the book- will go to someone who already owns the digital version.

If you’re the winner of the second prize, I will interview you for this blog, and your story will reach 11,000+ subscribers, as well as many other readers.

The first prize is a 45-minute Skype session with me, where you can literally ask me anything about voice-overs, freelancing and self-publishing.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

Be Sweet. Please retweet!


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.


My Prized Possession

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Gear, Studio 34 Comments

What do the Vatican, the United Nations, the German Parliament, the BBC and my company Nethervoice have in common?

We all use top of the line microphones from a family owned business in the small German town of Gefell.

If you’ve never heard of Gefell and you enjoy European history, let’s travel back in time for a moment.

In 1943, Georg Neumann‘s main microphone laboratory in Berlin was hit by bombs and caught fire. To avoid more damage, Neumann and his technical director Erich Kühnast moved the entire company to Gefell where they continued their work in an old textile mill.

After Germany’s surrender, Gefell was occupied by the Americans and then handed over to the Soviet Union. In 1946 a number of Gefell employees returned to Berlin to establish a small workshop. This workshop eventually became Georg Neumann GmbH, the second Neumann company.

Kühnast and most of the original staff stayed in Gefell and continued to develop and build microphones. Neumann made Kühnast manager of the limited partnership Georg Neumann & Co. which was later nationalized by the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Despite the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the management of the two companies stayed in touch with one another.

In 1972, the GDR prohibited use of the Neumann trademark, and the East-German company was renamed VEB Mikrofontechnik Gefell.

After the Wall came down in 1989, Georg Neumann’s heirs reclaimed their share in the company and a new period of cooperation began. Here’s what’s remarkable. When the Neumann engineers took a closer look at the Gefell products that had been developed behind the Iron Curtain, they discovered microphone technology that was more sophisticated than some of that in the West.

After Sennheiser took over Neumann in 1991, Microtech Gefell -as it is now called- became an independent, privately owned company, known for hand-made, high-end microphones. (this overview is in part based on an article in Sound on Sound and on information on the Gefell website).

MY NEW BABY

Fast forward to Tuesday, January 17th, 2012, the day I became the first person in America to own a Gefell M 930 Ts studio condenser microphone.

Out of thousands of microphones on the market, why did I pick this particular make and model?

I have to be honest with you: I didn’t pick this mic. It picked me. Or rather: I got lucky. Very, very lucky!

In my radio days I never paid any attention to the equipment I was using, but since I became master and commander of my own studio, things have changed. As a professional, I think it’s important to get to know the tools of the trade. 

Before I’m ready to make any type of investment in my business, I spend months doing research, reading reviews and talking to colleagues in the know. They make sure I don’t fall for the latest fad, and that when I finally decide on a new purchase, I invest in quality that will last for many years to come.

Any professional chef, musician or mechanic can tell you that well-made, reliable tools make the job a lot easier because they work with you instead of against you. Good tools can’t make an artist more creative, but they can inspire. Without them, he’s less able to realize his dreams. A great set of tools can take you to that proverbial next level.

It’s a cliché, but quality never goes out of style. It is remembered long after the price is forgotten.

RISING FROM THE PACK

As home studios are becoming the norm and more people are having a go at voice-overs, it’s increasingly important to distinguish oneself. It all starts with the way the voice is captured.

The quality of your sound is your signature.

Clients are sick and tired of having to put up with hiss, rumble, interference and echoes coming from inferior equipment recorded in so-called ‘professional’ booths set up in someone’s boudoir. By the sound of it, these spaces aren’t studios. They sound more like shacks. Radio shacks.

If you can’t provide clean, crystal clear audio, you should start a website where amateur VO’s can go forth, multiply and make a lot of noise. Why not call it VoiceRabbit (after the rabid growth I predict it will undergo)?

Alternatively, you could consult men like Dan Lenard, Dan Friedman, George Whittam or Mel Allen. They will set you up with the right gear and help you fine-tune your sound in less time than it will take you to learn the ropes through trial and error.

Although it never paints a complete picture, quality equipment does make a statement. When a client or agent sees you are using professional grade gear, they know you mean business and they have one less thing to worry about.

Imagine going to a wedding photographer to find out if he’s going to be a good fit for your big day, and the man pulls out a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Would you hire him? I don’t think so. Now, owning a Hasselblad 503CW does not make one a brilliant photographer, but that’s a different story.

RECORDINGHACKS

In my quest for the best equipment, I spent many hours on Matt Mcglyn’s creation: www.recordinghacks.com. It’s an online magazine as well as the world’s most extensive database of a 1000+ microphones.

If you happen to be looking for a good podcasting mic for $200, recordinghacks has put them to the test. If you need the specs of the Manley Reference Gold tube condenser, look no further. Interested in a $60,000 ribbon mic shootout? You know where to go!

In 2011, recordinghacks gave away a new mic every month: a Cascade Fathead II, a Blue Yeti Pro, a Lauten Horizon et cetera. December’s prize topped it all: a brand new Microtech Gefell 930 Ts. This small, large diaphragm condenser was made with broadcasting and voice-over applications in mind.

AND THE WINNER IS…

In the first week of January, Matt Mcglyn said he had some good news for me: I was the lucky winner of the giveaway! It was unbelievable. What a start to the new year!

I want to thank Microtech Gefell GmbH for such a generous gift, and for their ongoing, uncompromising dedication to quality.

Matt Mcglyn deserves a big ‘thank you’ for creating such an excellent database and magazine, and for magically pulling my name out of his recordinghacks-hat.

As for the rest of you, I’m sure you’d like to know how my new mic sounds, and how it stacks up against other voice-over microphones. Well, it just so happens that I have written a review for recordinghacks, and you’ll find out for yourself why the Vatican has given its blessing to a small German company.

If there ever was one brand that has earned the right to capture the voice of G-d, it has to be Microtech Gefell!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice 

Next week I’ll tell you about one of the worst customer service experiences I’ve ever had, and what lessons we can draw from that for our own business.