March 2012 issue
Tools of the Trade
In the voice talent business, one of the most important tools of the trade is the microphone. And, arguably, the studio standard for voice microphones is the legendary Neumann U-87. It is a large capsule condenser microphone with three focal patterns: omnidirectional, figure-8, and cardoid. It is so sensitive you can hear a cockroach burping in an all night diner three blocks away!
I was given one of these beauties several years ago and for several months I used it almost exclusively for my recordings. But it started getting temperamental; suddenly dropping in volume, inserting scratches and hisses, and generally becoming too unreliable for regular use.
Fortunately I had acquired a couple of Neumann TLM-103s through EBay before they also became expensive, so I packed my treasured U-87 away and have relied on my twin TLM-103s for the past several years.
Recently, one of them started exhibiting some of the same problems as my old U-87! I decided it was time to send the two offenders in for cleaning and repairs. I don't want to be stuck without a spare mic, so I downloaded a repair order form.
I had to describe the problem in detail on the form, so I fired-up the two mics on my back-up system, to refresh my memory. Lo and behold they both sounded great, with no problems at all! The old U-87 was as buttery-smooth as ever, and the TLM-103 was also clean and clear.
Um, well, would you believe a bad microphone cable?
All those years......
Move over, Homer.
A Florida Vacation in January? Hell No!!
Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time. My college professor wife, Irene, was accepted to present her Autism research at a convention, presented by the Council for Exceptional Children, held in Miami Beach. A friend with an abundance of time share credits offered us the use of a luxury condo on the beach in Pompano Beach, about 45 minutes North of the convention.
We gratefully accepted, already dreaming of sitting in the sand, basking under a Florida sun, listening to the roar of the surf, and generally loafing to our heart's content for a few days before the event. The only caveat was that we had to drive from New York to Miami and back... no airplane rides. The downside of claustrophobia. Oh well... the college was still on winter break, so it was no big deal.
The condo was beautiful, and on the sixth floor of a building with a parking deck taking up the first three floors. Well, elevators are no better than airplanes when it comes to that feeling of confinement, so we decided to park on the 3rd floor and take the stairs up to the sixth. Once we got in the stairwell, we found all the exit doors were locked... except for the ground floor! The condo management, in their infinite wisdom, thought this was a wise security measure, so people leaving the building in a fire couldn't mistakenly exit onto a floor in flames.
I pointed out that this was a terrorist's dream! Just disable the two elevators and wedge the two ground floor stairwell doors shut, then torch the building. Only way out; jump. ...And the lowest apartment was three stories up! The security chief turned pale at the thought, but refused to change the management company's policy. So we had a lot of stairs to climb every time we went anywhere. There were no alternative apartments available. Exhausting!
We drove to Daytona for a couple of days to visit old friends, and Irene did an assessment study of a young girl with ASD. Work started coming in: I got out my laptop and set up a temporary studio while Irene prepared for her presentation. I wound up doing an ISDN session from a studio in Jupiter, FL, plus several more from my makeshift studio. By the time we headed home, we'd had five minutes on the beach and seven days of work!
The car broke down on I-95 in NC! We had to get a wrecker to haul us to Fayetteville, the only place still doing business at 6:00 on a Saturday night. At least "Big Wayne" let Irene operate the rollback's winch, just for grins.
We rented a UHaul auto transport to carry our dead BMW and a huge, empty 14' truck to tow it back to NY.
We got home about 10:00 Sunday night, and discovered that the fuel oil tank's float gauge was stuck, the tank was dry, the furnace was cold, and the house was just above freezing inside, with 5 inches of snow on the ground outside. There was no hot water for a shower, and we both had to be up and working by 7:30 next morning. The trip home cost more than the entire ten days we were gone
Long In The Tooth!
Those of you who've worked with me over the years may remember that I literally blew out two of my front teeth in the summer of 2007, and had to change a lot of speech habits to avoid lisping and slurring. That began a very long and arduous series of medical adventures and mis-adventures as several dentists attempted to repair my damaged choppers while keeping me able to do voice work.
Some things worked, others did not. The procedures that didn't work resulted in the loss of the last of my natural, healthy upper front teeth! Dental implants became my only option. This has been the biggest challenge in my voiceover career, to date.
For the past three months, I have been working with an artificial "flipper", or removable bridge, in my mouth. Imagine trying to speak naturally with a thick slab of something stuck to the roof of your mouth! Somehow I've managed to deliver respectable narrations in spite of the flipper, sometimes removing it just to be able to get a clear pronunciation of a particularily difficult passage. I've gotten almost no negative feedback regarding my diction during all this, so I haven't worried about it too much.
Now it looks like the end is in sight. I should have a brand new set of permanent teeth in my mouth by Easter! I've had bone grafts, titanium threaded sockets buried in my jaw bone, and temporary posts screwed into the sockets while my gums heal... eckhhh! And I've spent enough money to make Donald Trump wince. But, by golly, I'm already looking forward to the day when I can speak with ease, smile without scaring small children, and tear into a sizzling rare chunk of filet mignon!
Can You Bank On It?
Am I the only former Wachovia customer who's upset with the way Wells Fargo is transitioning us into their sphere? I can't believe the sloppiness and disregard for the customer's needs being shown as all this takes place!
For starters, over President's Day weekend (when they made the big switch of old Wachovia accounts over to Wells Fargo, here in NY) my "new" bank managed to lose over a thousand dollars in deposits to my checking account. They said I must've given them the wrong account information, but backed off when I showed them the deposit receipt I got from their teller. It took 5 days for them to put the money into my account... I'm not sure they ever actually found it!
The online switch is even rougher. I was promised that all account information would be preserved, including all of my Bill Pay information for online transactions. The first time I used the new system they took all payments from the wrong account, opening the doors to overdraft hell.
I tried to download pdf copies of my statements, to reconcile my check register, and got files with a "cgi" append that wouldn't open in any of my applications. Their help desk suggested I download a free pdf plug-in for my Mozilla browser. I did, and then couldn't download any pdf's from any website! Using the original "cgi" downloads, I tried changing the append to .pdf, and it worked fine... except every file was named "session", with no clue as to which month's statement was contained in each file!
Y'know... pdf downloads are simple, commonplace bits of code used on a zillion websites that all work just fine. If Wells Fargo can't even get that right, how should I feel about how they're handling other more complex things... like security?!