The Production Room was founded in 1995 as one of the first full time digital commercial recording facilties on the central coast of California. We started with 4 stereo tracks, 16 mb of ram and a 250 mb hard drive. A lot has happened since then. Today we're focusing on ways to serve clients who are creating web based media content. This includes strategic planning to integrate the benefits of traditional media, web design and IT solutions into new programs produced especially for on-line consumers. Join in the conversation. Throw rocks at glass houses. Share your vision of the future. This is the most progressive time in the media arts since Johannes Gutenburg invented movable type!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We Can't Come Home From Iraq

I woke up at 5:30 this morning.

My wife was kind enough to bring me a cup of coffee and the dog jumped on the bed and licked my face. I was scheduled to engineer a live ISDN feed to National Public Radios', "On Point" from Santa Barbara to WBUR in Boston. The show airs live in many markets, hence the early call here on the West Coast. I needed to be at the studio at 6:30 to turn on the gear, set up the voice booth and be ready to meet the guest who would be arriving for the program.

Noah, a production intern in Boston, had told me that the program would be about Iraq war vets who have returned from their service and are now in college. I was told that the guest here at The Production Room would be David Hassan, a student at UCSB.

As the production team in Boston and I worked out the final kinks before show time, David walked briskly into the studio and we exchanged greetings. He asked if he had time for a cigarette before the show. I said, "Sure" and finished setting up the session.

Poised and seemingly confident, 25 year old David Hassan took his seat, sipped his coffee and waited for his cue from Boston.

You can listen to this, "On Point" program, "Iraq Veterans on Campus"(after 3:30 PM Eastern Time 11.21.07)

Talya Havice is still on active duty in the US Marine Corps and is in school at Harvard. Matt Stiner is a Marine Corps veteran and is a senior at Oklahoma State University, Tulsa and David Hassan is also a Marine Corps Veteran in his first year at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Each student related the experience of returning to campus after their war. Each gave glancing insights into personal experiences. The show was also full of subtleties and subtext and a deliberate civility that acted like a bandaid covering up some very large wounds that are festering in this country. It was very much like the holiday get-together we'll be staging tomorrow. There are plenty of things we're just not prepared to say to our loved ones on Thanksgiving Day.

These kids all said they came back changed by their experience in the Iraq War. They were surprised by their new perceptions and by the distance of the war from their civilian peers. I heard some interesting things in their answers.

I had a long talk with David after the show. He was frustrated by what he hadn't been able to say. He was a volunteer who enlisted to serve his country. As an Arabic interpreter he was able to hear and understand that Iraqis saw him as a hated foreign occupier. His faith in his mission and his country had been challenged.

I asked him what lasting impact our presence in Iraq might have. He said, "I listened to those people every day. There are a large number of them who really really hate us now. They have no confidence that we can get the job done." He told me things he knew he couldn't say in public in a polite conversation with other vets on a radio program.

I had some time to think about what I'd heard. These Marines all seemed to be adjusting well and moving ahead into their futures. But they all acknowledged that they had been changed by their past service. A sense of gain - increased confidence and discipline is mixed with a realization of loss

I got a sense today of just how isolated we are from this war and the false hopes this promotes. Here, the thinking is almost totally polarized into being for or against the war. Both sides are fond of imagining that we will finally have a "Mission Accomplished" moment when the boys come marching home. That isn't likely in any event and won't be a reality for most of our vets.

Listen to this On Point program and see how big the writing is between the lines.

The kids we sent from America to fight in Iraq can't come home again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thinking Outside the Box

My friend and I were talking about how to create original content online.

We noticed that so much of what is being created is derivative of TV sitcoms, Film genres, stand up comedy and "America's Funniest Home Videos".

I made the comment that in order to see something that isn't derivative of modern media, you have to go back to silent film comedy of the 20's, cartoons of the 30's and 40's and TV from the 50's and early 60's.

I watched, "Ocean's 12" recently and noticed that Carl Reiner's sense of classic sitcom stole the picture.

I was just today introduced to a high school media production class and noticed something very encouraging. The new generation is the first to be as active producing media as they are consuming it. This means that they are entering the creative world with their imagination connected directly into the new media tools they are using and the audience they are serving. They have far fewer stylistic or conceptual limitations holding them back and they are much more likely to play with applications to see what they can do. And there are no gate keepers telling them it can't be done.

In about 5 years we are going to see an explosion of media innovation the like of which we haven't seen in 2 generations - or longer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Business Podcasting

Ok so here we are....

And this is podcast number 134.

I'm John and with me is, ummmm, who are you again? (laughs)

(laughs) I'm Steve.

Right. Steve. Are you sure? You look like you had a rough night.

Yeah, we tore it up kinda late last night. (pause) (laughs) Yeah.


The previous is an example of why most podcasts are pointless and boring, i.e. a colossal waste of time. And it's why most businesses are keeping the idea of podcasting at arms length.

If you own or manage a business, the idea of doing a podcast has come up. Everyone loves the idea. And then nothing really happens.


Because nobody who works for you actually knows how to make a business podcast...
or why you should make one or how it integrates with your marketing plan or how long it should be or how much production budget it requires...

Oh need a budget for this.

I realize that Skippy down in EYE-TEE says he can plug a mic into his laptop and make a podcast for free (see above). I guarantee you WILL get your money's worth.

Skippy isn't up to speed with all of your business decisions: marketing or branding strategies, investor relations, sponsor commitments, employee training and, etc.

Do you really want to put Skippy in charge of your business?

Podcasting IS an important means for publishing valuable content that communicates on web channels you own and control. It DOES take time and money to setup and run but the payoff potential is huge.

The value of your company - in terms of branding, positioning and top of mind (and search engine) awareness - is now riding on how well you produce regularly published web based content.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Giving Honors

Today was Veterans day in the US.

My kids had today off from school and the wife had to work so I made the time to take my boys for a little walk about in downtown Santa Barbara.

We had a nice breakfast out together, then we drove down to Paseo Nuevo, browsed the high end shops and wandered about the pedestrian mall that makes up our downtown.

Along the way a Marine in uniform came walking alone toward us. I looked at this young hispanic man in uniform, minding his own business. I caught his eye as he came up to us. I quietly said, "Thank you".

He looked like he wasn't sure what I meant. Then he looked me in the eye, smiled and said, "Thank YOU sir." and went on his way.

With so much to regret about war and politics the dead and the wounded and the lingering doubt that rests on all of us, I hope this simple act made a difference to one young Marine. I know it made a difference to me.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How To Get Started In Pro Voice Work

I want to thank a blog reader who asked, "How do I get started in voice work"

This is a common question, and the blog is a great place to respond.
So you want to be a VO talent? Alright then, I'll tell you. You've got it easy. The means to record and the variety of media you can be part of are sweet and simple compared to the old days of 10 years ago. And even easier than the golden age of radio.

So the question is: What makes you think you want to be a voice talent?

Ahh! You want to get paid and you think this is easy work! Well sure you do. Now let me get you hip to what it takes.

There's more than one way to shine this shoe. I started as a radio guy many years ago. Back then, a cat named Art Hannes taught me at the old KiiS Broadcasting Workshop in Hollywood. Art was known in house as, "The Voice Of God". He worked as a booth announcer on the old CBS radio and TV networks in New York. Art was the announcer on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the day. Look up Ed Sullivan and The Beatles sometime so that you might dig how important this cat was in the announcer world.

Now those days are long gone and the, "Voice of God" is best left to the Big Cat himself. But dig baby, there's still some craft you've got to learn if you're going to be a pro who can hold his head up and roar in the same domain as the legends before you. That's not to put you down or make you small. That's just to say you've got to bow to those who are the masters. Not me - dig - I'm still a student like you.

Getting paid is good. But you've got to know that this is an art. And artists compete like atheletes. Who can run fastest, hit farthest and deliver the copy - the WORDS - you dig, the meaning - like, the most REAL. He or she is is the one who gets paid like a .400 hitter.

So dig it. Here is how you train to win like that .400 hitter.

First off. Can you read? No baby, I don't mean, "See Jane. Jane Has the ball." I'm hip that you can read. I mean, can you READ what the WRITER is putting down? Can you phrase it like music? Do you hear melody in the words? Do you get the jazz of Bill Cosby? The passion of Saint John? Can you lift emotion off the page and put it out there to be heard?

Alright that's pretty advanced. Let me start slower and kinder to your ego.

I can't play like Miles Davis. I didn't play the horn and furthermore, I'm not the innovator who found melody where none had been before. That's what I desire. I desire to play my instrument and find the melody unique to every story. So how do I get there?

Think about it. Somebody sometime gave you a challenge to master in your life. Maybe it was math. Maybe it was straightening up, maybe it was saying just the right thing to a lover. Something mattered to you that much. To Miles it was the horn. To you it will be your voice. And you will practice your vocal instrument like Miles practiced his horn. Dig?

So here's how you do it without a coach. And I swear by the power of life itself that this is how you master voice work no matter who you are. I'll give my method to you for free. All that is required of you is that you commit to it. All you've got to do is work out. Just like you work out at a gym. And 3 days a week should do it.

STEP 1. Get a recording device with a real hand held microphone. You need to capture your performance and you have to learn mic technique. Love your mic and it will love you back.

STEP 2. Pick out some words to read. Ad Copy, poetry, classified ads, a speech. Whatever moves you is good to practice.

STEP 3. Record a selection of words you are moved to perform. Do three reads of each text. Spend about 30 minutes recording it in.

STEP 4. Put your recording away. DO NOT LISTEN TO IT AFTER YOUR SESSION. I know that's going to be hard for your little heart to stand. You want to play back and admire your work. DO NOT DO IT! Tell your ego to stand down and set the recording aside 'till your next session. Now go to step 5.

STEP 5. If you listen to your work directly after your recording, the mind plays tricks. Your ear will hear what you thought you put down. But cruel time is more honest than sweet ear. Once you have forgotten what you meant, you will hear what you did. And the honest difference will teach you as well as any professional coach. The mic don't lie baby, and you've got no court of appeal.

STEP 6. Use time to become your best teacher. Listen. No, I mean LISTEN to your work. Wait between workouts and then listen to what you did. Re-read work you think you can improve and discard work that does not serve you. Save work that pleases you because it is TRUE to your intention. That becomes your demo.

STEP 7. Never stop practicing. This isn't a job. This is you mastering your hearts desire.

That's all. When you have your practice down you'll know you ARE a voice talent and nobody will ever be able to tell you different.

Now you might want me to say more about getting the big gig, or making the killer demo or finding the right agent. That's all BS from people who want to cash in on your hunger. I'm not selling you, I'm telling you. There is no shortcut for learning to play your instrument. When you master that you won't need me or anybody else.

Now get to work.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Media Deconstruction

Today I took down the studio desk I built with my father's tools the year after he died of Alzheimers. Friday I gave away the old couch that held so many client meetings and creative daydreams.

I pulled out the pro audio gear that I had acquired over 12 years. I pulled the dozens of custom built wires that my friend Scotty Johnson hand soldered for me one weekend. Scotty is a Santa Barabra radio veteran from the legendary KIST. He served in Viet Nam and worked for Armed Forces Radio in Saigon. He is currently depressed about the state of radio, but still is in the business as a radio voice in Tuscon, AZ.

As I pulled the gear and the wire from the desk I built, I realized how things have changed. So much of the gear in the racks hadn't been a part of any current production for years. The DAT machine, the CD Player, the outboard audio compressor, the turntable and the patch bay are no longer needed in today's digital production suite.

Our most valuable outboard tools are the Telos Zephyr Xstream - for ISDN, our fine microphones and preamps and the sound cards that do the analog to digital conversion for voice recording. The sound effects and music tracks now live on external hard drive. Those will remain configured in service for Production Room clients in Santa Barbara and Canada. Everything else is already being done via internet and in software applications that can live on a desktop MAC, a PC or a laptop.

Steve Gordon is now our outboard source for Protools editing and mixing, and we maintain an outstanding voice booth and record-in service on site at our current address. The easy online transfer and delivery of digital files will save our clients money by giving them options to deal with each facet of production in ways that work best for them.

I just wanted to pause tonight to thank those who helped build the old studio. My father, who taught me to use his tools to build with care and craftsmanship. My father in law who helped wire AC to the desk. Scotty and fellow KIST veteran Doug Allen who supported me with their time, know how and materials. Ray, who lent me his first audio mixer. Hugh, who built my first studio computer in 1995, Brian Godlis, who saved me from evil virus attacks and Bob Lentini - who created SAW - the PC based digital audio software that got me started in computer based multi track recording and production.

Thank you too to all the clients past and present who have brought their business to me since 1995.

We're not done with the work. I'm auditioning this week to voice the narration on an important documentary film project. I'm creating radio commercials for one of my oldest clients. I'm happy to continue as the voice of the Chumash Casino and I'm helping with the creative and marketing work on a new website for a professional firm. And as I mentioned before, I'll be writing the scripts for a series of new online video productions.

I'm learning the new medium and how it works to gather an audience. In many ways I'm back in the job I loved as a broadcast program director and promotions manager. And Annie, my generous and affectionate Australian shepherd, will still be present to greet you with her blue-eyed and tail-less wriggle of welcome at 1629 State St.

The Production Room has changed but it's still committed to, "Craftsmanship, Service and Satisfaction".

I'll keep you posted from here.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

But How Do You Make Money?

I'm just as interested as anybody. How do you make money on the internet?

I've spent a lot of time making money for other people. Now I'm creating online content. And everyone wants to know, "How do you make money?". I don't know. How do you write a hit record? How do you create, "I Love Lucy"?

My answer is this. If you create something people want to see - you'll make money.
It's that simple. The internet is no exception. In fact, it's already proving the rule.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's The Future

The Mercury Space Program taught me to count backwards.

The solemn countdown from T Minus 10 to Liftoff taught me that subtraction would launch us toward the future.

This week the future announced its arrival in the headlines I read in the Los Angeles Times and all over the web.

TV Networks in trouble. A cable company announcing a drop in basic subscribers, content being produced exclusively for on-line viewing, Hollywood Studios scrambling for traction, a music survey announcing that Bruce Springsteen had scored a number one release on the charts - by selling just 77,000 copies of his new album - a position that used to command numbers in the millions. And finally, most remarkably, there was NBC Universal and News Corp (FOX) announcing that they were pulling all of their online content from other channels on the web and forming their own video channel called "Hulu". The new channel (when it's available) will offer free video content.

It's the future. The one we were promised back when we were introduced to computers. The one I wrote about last week.

And once again, we will reach the future through subtraction.

No more magnetic tape. No more digital tape, no more Floppies or Zip drives or CD's and no more need for a hundred thousand dollars of outboard recording and transmission gear. Just a bit of software and a laptop. In the larger world, subtraction is a huge problem for TV, Cable, Print News and entertainment companies. But just for a while. Living in the future takes time.

We sent men out of Earth's orbit into deep space with less memory and processing power than I carry with me wherever I go on earth. If they could do it, so can I. The Production Room has been hired by Red Rocket Productions in Santa Barbara to work on a bold new venture. We'll be producing webmedia full time and I'll be one of the chief writers and creative talents for the launch. I'll be subtracting my office space and will be referring audio post production work to my friend and associate, Steve Gordon.

I hope you'll wish us well.

When I learned my arithmetic I always felt more comfortable with addition. NASA taught me that a launch into the unknown requires subtraction.

PS - The global companies are now "Fututre Proofing" (Thanks Robert Tucker) their businesses. It's writing on the wall for main street business to read.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

California Fire Map

Here's a link I picked up from a post on Doc Searls Blog.

This fire map will give you a scale visual of the fires

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fire -

Everbody Say AMEN!

California has IncieWeb working tonight in real time with current fire data and summary info online.

This is as close to real time live data as you can get tonight with a wild fire moving out of control.

Check it out!

California Fire Info

10.22.07 8:47 PM

This is for my fellow Golden Staters who are all over the world tonight and wondering what's going on in this fire emergency. If you've found my blog page I want to help.

Here is a link to the California State Home Page.

TONIGHT: The site server is not working in real time but it contains regional fire info., and will eventually have links to emergency and disaster relief info.

Tune to KNX Radio

For live fire info. from Southern California -


It would be nice if they pulled off the ad they have linked to this feed about now, but wait for it and you'll get a good feed on regional info.

Best wishes to all at this time

California Is On Fire

We're pretty cool about a lot of things in California.

Ordinary Celebs don't impress us. If you're loaded with Money, Fame and Power, we're all like, "whatever dude". One reason we're so cool about that stuff is that all of us who've lived here a while can say, "Remember the Coyote Fire?" or "Remember the Northridge Quake?" It's the stuff we all live through together - no matter where in the world we live - which can literally level the society we share. Trust me, mountains of fire moving at the speed of the wind and the earth trembling underfoot makes mere mortals of us all.

I was thinking about a couple of things I wanted to blog about today. But I had to answer an email from concerned neighbors in Canada. Then as I was getting started to write, the phone rang and a dear friend in New Hampshire needed to know that we were OK. So it finally got through to me what my blog is about today.

California is on fire.

I'm fortunate to be sitting in a place tonight that isn't currently under threat. I can take the time to write to you. Tonight, to the South and East of here there are people watching helplessly as the fire consumes the ridges above them with towers of flame 100 feet high. Fire crews are scrambling to establish defensive perimeters and police units are cruising nice suburban neighborhoods ordering 1 million people to get out - NOW! People watch, wondering when they should leave. Children are in their PJ's, sitting next to boxes of family photos and treasures, wondering when they'll be bundled in to cars to flee - where?. And always, we watch the wind. A shift in the wind means salvation, or total destruction.

(Later)I'm currently listening to KNX in Los Angeles. Damage is extensive - 1800 houses destroyed as of 8:10 PM (Pacific Time) Tues. Hundreds of thousands of acres have burned. Weather calls for lows tonight in the 50's - 60's high tomorrow in the 90's. 68,000 homes threatened. 45 injuries - mostly firefighters.

These fires are being fought, but they are in fact largely out of control. It is hot today. Temperatures are ridiculous on the fire lines, and fires generate their own blazing winds.

If you haven't lived it, you just can't know it. I'm sure people who lived through Katrina know what I mean. I was shocked by the pictures - but I didn't live in them.

I've got fire stories to tell. But this fire story doesn't belong to me.

Pray for mercy on the fire crews tonight from all over the west who are putting their lives into a desperate struggle to save the homes of people they don't even know.

Pray that everyone has a chance to get out alive.

It might be hard for you to understand what's happening. Imagine an area larger than some eastern states burning down to dirt. Then imagine how you could help.

We might be hard to impress. But Californians aren't too proud to be grateful when neighbors pitch in to help.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bundle This!

My good friend Dave called me a couple of days ago. After a moment of small talk he told me why he called.

Dave is an announcer at a local NPR affiliate. As you can imagine it's almost genetically against his nature to raise his voice above beautiful, precise and carefully modulated tones.

Dave was mad as hell (in an NPR kind of way) and wanted to know if he had to take it anymore.

The problem Dave outlined was with with our local cable provider.

Seems our local provider had decided to move a few of his favorite channels from basic cable to more expensive service packages. Bundling is a common term for these packages.

After assuring Dave that the best thing to do was cancel his monthly service agreement, I tried to soothe his savage (yet mellow) attitude with the idea that such pricing schemes were doomed in the face of broadband service and selectable on-line content. Happy was I to have such an excellent answer and poor Dave was resigned to pay more or lose his cable.

Did I give him the best answer?

While bundling free online content (like this blog) through free utilities is an easy way to aggregate your own "do it yourself" media menu, pay for play content is a stickier problem. The FCC did a consumer study a few years ago on this very issue. The conclusion? That un-bundling cable service and allowing customers to choose channels would actually add costs and raise the monthly rate to consumers. The report was supported by the cable industry and opposed by Consumers Union.

I'd be happy to dismiss the cable industry from the table and support the Consumers Union but for one fact: itunes.

For just .99 cents you get a song you want from itunes (with use restrictions). The problem? I don't know anybody who likes just one song. If you like hundreds of songs, that's hundreds of dollars in music that you pay for, but don't actually own.

If you have to pay a dollar each for three TV shows you like each day, that's about 90 dollars a month, plus the cost of your broadband service. And who wants to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month for content, just to avoid paying for cable TV?

Especially when there is a better way.

In 1925, BBDO advertising aired it's first hour long radio program sponsored by Atwater Kent radios. This was possible because BBDO had obtained exclusive rights to broadcast Metropolitan Opera stars. A couple of years later and BBDO is the first advertising agency to have it's own radio department.

You know how the rest works. You tune in for free content, in exchange for allowing the sponsor to include their commercial message in the content.

It's simple, it's free, it makes content creation possible because the medium itself has value to sponsors who want to reach the mass market. And it makes the sponsor lots of money.

The cable industry and pay for play is based on an obsolete model. Cable was built because people wanted access to broadcasts they couldn't get over the air. The internet has solved that problem permanently by giving everyone who can connect to it access to selectable, unbundled content from millions of channels all of the time for a single low price.

And as far as monetizing content goes, well, look for the return of the Texaco Star Theater.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Your News Looks Funny

Political cartoons have been around in America since before the founding of the Republic.

Ben Franklin, as owner of the Pennsylvania Gazette, was one of the first and most effective, using his sharp wit to rally the American Colonials (at least the ones who could read) into revolution!

Now comes Dean Opperman, a local resident and former radio personality who is not nearly as old or as credible as Mr. Franklin but he is rallying folks around the absurdity of the world we live in. Dean has created his own series of political cartoons and is posting them at his site.

His breakthrough effort (so far) has been "Vista Sucks" which went viral shortly after being picked up on The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.

The gas bags and geek speakers about all things 2.0 are really talking about the ability of online media to incorporate what Dean is doing now. Or next. Or...
I suggest you link to so you don't miss whatever it is.

Dean Opperman is the new artist newspaper 2.0 will call on when they need a political cartoon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Web Is Not Made of Paper

Thanks to Paul Gibler for a link to this page from Editor and Publisher titled: Web Editors Reveal Online Flops or Failures

It's a look at what editors themselves see as challenges in the current webnews format.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Is Newspaper 2.0 still mostly 0.2?

Time for a recap on the state of Santa Barbara's historically establishment newspaper, its evolving status in the county, the announced demise of local print and the lauded arrival of newspaper 2.0 as the new local news media to replace newspapers.

Some of the words most often used by Santa Barbara bloggers to describe the state of the News Press are "ongoing collapse", "continuing meltdown", News Mess, and etc. The total demise of the paper is repeatedly predicted.

News Press owner Wendy McCaw has stirred up the kind of emotion usually reserved for Darth Vader and so the hyperbole flies in both directions. The News Press editorial page is consistent in it's delusions of persecution and bias as Craig Smith reports. If Wendy McCaw announces that she's Jerry Roberts' mother the analogy will be complete. Read this sample of local opinion from Blogabarbara.

For a nice long read through the whole tangled story try this article on Wikipedia

Don't worry, you've got time. The lawyers will be billing hours on all of the related legal cases for years.

At present the conventional local news journals have actually increased the total amount of local news coverage. The Daily Sound and the Independent, even the Daily Nexus have staffed up at the expense of their rival. Some content is not up to the professional standard of the old News Press, but recognition of professional traditions in their established forms seems to be negotiable on a lot of levels these days and that could be key to the whole trouble at the NP.

The blogs continue to function well in the capacity of local news and opinion forums and edhat continues to develop a diverse audience as an aggregater and manager of online content.

Santa Barbara's Newsroom, an online print type site run by former NP staff and supported by the Teamsters Union, has come and gone.

Now we have the next serious run at online local news and innovation: Noozhawk

New technology often arrives in the form of the thing it replaces. So it's not surprising that Noozhawk not only looks like a newspaper but also like the Santa Barbara Independent online. The Noozhawk staff includes former News Pressers including head man Bill MacFayden, former owner of the now departed South Coast Beacon.

I've noticed that online media is populated by managers from old media. This causes problems. Just ask Allen Wastler of CNBC and formerly CNN who is currently being barbecued by the blogging public for his handling of an online poll. You know the kind I mean, like, "Whose Naughtier? Hillary or Brittany?

Newspaper 2.0 might be coming soon, but we really won't see what it looks like until 2.0 managers include video and audio as well as web design and graphic animation fully integrated on their pages.

Since the entire concept of Newspaper 2.0 is being and has been pioneered in Santa Barbara, to some degree because of the shift in the value of our own conventional media, it will be interesting to see if someone around here will make it a reality that others can see and advance.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jerry's Cadavers

Just in time for Halloween!

What happens when a modern day ghoul learns the benefits of web-marketing?
And what happens when you realize the value in owning (or renting) a real corpse?

Check out this clip from!

Friday, October 12, 2007

"And - Look at Eckersley - Shocked to his Toes!"

This blog has been circling around the question of value. Where does it come from? What is it? Who creates it? How do you monetize it? How do we deliver it?

Well since it's October and Fall baseball season, I thought I'd share a baseball analogy that might serve to illustrate this discussion.

Television was the technical medium that showed Los Angeles Dodger hitter Kirk Gibson's game winning homer with two out in the 9th inning against the Oakland A's Ace reliever Dennis Eckersly in 1988. But it was the voice of Vin Scully making the call on NBC TV and the image of a crippled Gibson running the bases and pumping his fist that made it memorable.

So what is the value of a broadcaster and image maker to a baseball franchise? Well, the talent who looked at a devastated star pitcher and said, "And, look at Eckersley - shocked to his toes" is now making 3 million dollars a season. The current Dodger manager, Grady Little, is estimated to make about $650,000.

(My Canadian friends could just as easily tell you where they were when Canada beat the Soviet Union for a gold medal in hockey at the Olympics - and they could tell you at the drop of a touque who made the call on the air.)

It's only a matter of time before the web becomes the medium with that kind of power. It will then be up to talent to create the value - the sounds and sights we remember forever.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The big BIG Monetizing Picture

When I worked in radio I used to hear the same old sorry story every month about how the radio station (read: every station I ever worked for) was losing money. The boss would point out that all the value went out the door in paychecks to talent and admin. staff every two weeks. It pained him to a greater extent than I will explain here in polite company.

Then a funny thing happened. They sold their radio stations based on the market value that a larger company (like Clear Channel) was willing to pay and they walked away with a nice cash payout which more than made up for losing a couple grand a month for a few years. Me and the boys and girls in programing and production? We got zip.

Flash forward to the startup of YouTube and a little seminar I was at today.

Lorrie Thomas is a genius. How do I know? I've seen her speak and I've seen her hourly rate. Her genius is inherent in her confidence and her knowledge of internet marketing. I was inspired by what she said today at the SABER breakfast meeting at the University Club in Santa Barbara. It's what she didn't say that is the subject of this post to you.

Flash back to 2005. YouTube went from a bootstrap startup in February, 2005 to a 1.65 BILLION dollar company in November, 2006. How do we know that this is the value of YouTube? Because that's what Google was willing to pay for it. Did YouTube lose money month to month in the interim? Who cares? They cashed out for huge money in a matter of months.

Flash Forward now to your online presence and the value of your business.

I've spent more than a year interviewing and meeting with clients about their online presence and the value of investing in online media content to build the value of their brand. I've often received applause for laying out the case for online development as a means for increasing the value of an online or local business. The applause is followed by deafening silence.

What's the deal?

The deal is, most companies don't realize the value that webmedia creates for them. They are totally hung up on the question of "monetization", as if it were the same as employee paychecks or the month to month cost of electric and telephone service.

Think about it. The goal of venture capital, small business and entrepreneurs the world over is to generate the perception of value that they can use to cash out for big profit when the time comes.

So how do you create value in your business? Ask YouTube.

And you want to know something else? The available time my company has to sell has just been bought out by a media production company. Why? Because they want to create value that they can sell on the web.


And there's more. The value of online media translates into new fields for those of us who have been involved in traditional media production for these many years. How will we integrate our services to the new new media presence?

We need to prove our value as professional talent and continue to do what we do best. It's going to take a couple more years, but soon enough, the business world will be calling on media professionals to deliver the goods in an increasingly competitive arena.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's Technorati Time

Hi there sports fans! And welcome to the future. Or a least a step along the cowpath that leads to it.

Frankly, I feel a bit the guy who has to get out and crank start his Ford in a blizzard. All I want is to get things running. Instead, I'm standing in snow up to my butt turning over an engine with a metal rod.

When is someone going to make this thing as turn key as they say it is?

Technorati Profile

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

If Everybody Is Special, Nobody Is

My double life has flipped back into the land of sunshine, fake boobs and serious mortgage debt. I've once again traded the pastoral for the profane and am in the studio in Santa Barbara, California. (For those who enjoyed my summer notes from the farm, please stand by for a new blog featuring our adventures and photos from Prince Edward Island.)

Over the summer, I worked on media projects coming mostly from our clients in California. In Canada, I'm set up with a voice over booth, recording gear and the same mic I use in Santa Barbara. I was pleased that on several continuing projects I was able to match voice tracks from both studios to the satisfaction of our clients. It was a wonderful demonstration of the flexibility the internet gives us to work where we want and how we want. But...some weird science is happening online and all may not be well in the land of professional talent.

To learn more and join the discussion, please start with this link:

(Summary: The End of Artificial Scarcity - The New York Times? The New Business Model is Here - by Robert Paterson.)

"It is clear, at least to me, that the web destroys any business model based on artificial scarcity. Content will be all but infinite. What will be scarce in a world of limitless content will be people's ability to find what they value and to help them find more meaning when they find it."

I think Mr. Paterson's statement is a clear look at what I think of as the "popular sovereignty" model of the internet, one that is already influencing those of us who provide or use professional services online.

Now listen to this NPR interview with Andrew Keen, author of, "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture".

(Summary: Mr Keen presents an indictment of web 2.0. He explains how he sees the rise of user generated content causing a crisis in professional journalism, professional recorded music, newspapers, radio stations, TV and publishing.)

With those two points of view you can see a long way down the cross roads we're all standing on.

To take a closer look at how these issues of on-line service and technical capability are impacting production from the point of view of the people who read copy for a living, please continue.

Todd Schick is a busy man. I know because he had to jump off of his call from me to take another call for a paying gig. Being a pro and a Canadian, he also had to call me back and apologize. Todd works full time as a voice talent in Toronto, one of North America's busiest media hubs.

Please go to:

(Summary: Todd describes the pluses and minuses of working with Voice 123, an online casting directory of voice talent and demos.)

Now check out this posting from one of the busiest voices in Hollywood, Corey Burton:

(Summary: Corey's post, "The World's Most Tasteless Microphone" sums up his experience in the brave new world of, "one size fits all" solutions in modern digital production.)

And finally, here's my take on these evolving issues. At first glance, Robert Paterson's "Artificial Scarcity" struck me as the kind of airy froth that social optimists are bound to embrace. But on closer look I saw something more concrete in his view. "What will be scarce...will be people's ability to find what they value..."

Oddly, this might explain and support Andrew Keen's premise. Perhaps it's not so much that expertise will cease to be, it's whether or not you can find the expertise you value that is the issue.

If everyone can join the thousands who have listed themselves on Voice123 as professional talent (or some kind of virtual equivalent)then who will spend the time separating the garbage from the recycling? That job used to belong to an experienced producer or a casting director who got paid to evaluate talent. These days the job of casting could just as easily go to a first year production assistant or account executive. No doubt she'll be casting voices on her lunch break.

In any event, I'd like to think that Robert Paterson has it right. If everyone is special, then it's simply a matter of taking time to find the people you need to create the results you want.

If Andrew Keen is correct then perhaps we'll reach the logical conclusion of a society-wide social trend which makes everything acceptable. In Keen's view, If everybody is special, then nobody is.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Life on the Farm


I just realized it's been over a month since I posted here. That should give you some idea of what the harvest season is like in farm country.

So here I am in PEI, Canada, harvesting, selling, canning and freezing the work of the last four months as the harvest of produce comes in and the days get shorter in the north country.

Hundreds of pounds of fresh produce have been picked, packed and sold by yours truly as we wind our way through a land that actually has seasons you can't ignore!

Good reading for anyone who is interested in what we do here and what meaning it might have is Barbara Kingsolver's book - "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." The premise is her family experience moving from Tuscon, Arizona, to eastern Virginia to raise children and food on a few acres of farmland.

Could you eat only home grown and locally produced food for a year?

Your chances are pretty good in Santa Barbara with glowing farmers market produce and
a growing season that delivers four crops a year. But try that in the heartland and you face a different challenge. Still, the rewards are large and the food is great!

And we did it all on about $150.00 of fossil fuel for the tractor (some of which I'm wearing now as the diesel spilled while I was filling the tractor from a plastic gas can.) and we maintained our organic certification under strict supervision and inspection.

In fact our largest fossil fuel expense (besides off farm transportation) was for mowing! No need for irrigation - it rained a LOT and we have the lawn and field mowing to prove it!

More mowing, compost pile building and picking to come as we close up the summer and look ahead to more healthy soil, weeds and crops in the spring.

I'll be home to lovely ash covered SB in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Summer Sunshine and Blue Skies

Summertime brings us so much to do. Sometimes it's tough to keep both eyes on the ball when the kids are out of school, we're working overtime to earn a summer break or even just a day at the beach.

One issue that comes up often these days is how to create time efficiency and cost effectiveness for our clients while meeting important business deadlines.

Here are some things we suggest to clients who need to complete projects on time and on budget. This can help especially when summer time and production money is at a premium.

We work with clients to include their input on budgets for talent and studio time. We offer consulting and up front planning on studio costs and talent fees. We often include careful script review and session planning. We find we're able to identify script questions and problems in pre-production that we might otherwise have to solve on the clock in a recording or editing session. We offer thirty day billing for our established clients and we now accept credit card payment for ISDN service and clients who want to establish credit.

Getting the right voice and the right read is critical. We invite clients to join us in the studio or by phone to session direct talent with us. This helps avoid expensive additional time and talent fees to re-track projects. We also think it helps clients appreciate having professional voice talent on each session we do. It simply takes less time to work with talent that can take and hold direction.

Script and talent issues are the most common reasons that projects go over budget.
Sometimes these costs simply cannot be avoided. But the best way to manage costs is to have a bullet proof script and a clear understanding of your production needs before recording begins. And as always, you can't expect to buy a Mercedes Coupe at a Chevy price. So if you need all the bells and whistles, it's best to plan for that up front.

We work for our production clients and our job is to represent your issues on every project. We're happy to have you put the job in our hands and trust our judgememnt to complete it to your satisfaction. But if you need to manage a complex project on a tight budget, plan on working with us from the start to help you get the most for your money.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Little Horse Sense For Media Producers

In the modern world, we are used to dealing with machines and the fickle whims of technology. We approach most things as though they ought to work to satisfy us and be completely reliable and predictable. Gone are the days when a city boy like me depended on animals to get things done. But the lessons I'm learning from my two buckskin geldings, Dakota and Casey, have the same steep learning curve as an Iphone might have for you. They also carry some interesting information about creating good working relationships with the human beings in our lives.

I'm hoping that a few of the lessons that have tried my patience and have on occasion caused me pain are worth sharing. A little horse sense can serve a man pretty well in the modern world as he tries to work well with others.

1) Unreasonable fears can cause real problems. My horse Casey took a shock to the nose from an electric fence. Now he's afraid to go through gates. How many of us find ourselves dealing with the unreasonable fears of others?

2) You've got to have more time than the horse. To move past Casey's fear of gates, I've spent days just standing or working with him, to ease him past this "fear barrier" so he can see that there is no danger. How many times do clients react to creative ideas with this kind of unreasonable fear?

3) Leadership requires earning the trust and confidence of others. Dakota spooks pretty easily. I've spent a lot of time with him earning his trust with calm handling and steady riding. At times I have to push him past obstacles that scare him so that we can move forward together. How many times as creative talent, do we get frustrated when a client backs away from our direction? Sometimes you've got to take time to learn what bothers a client and stay constant with some gentle pushes to work through it. These challenges also force me to stop and reconsider what I'm doing. Can I take responsibility and find an innovative answer to the problem?

4) Losing control. When I get irritated with a horse, I often lose the initiative and trust I've worked hard to create. I've had to remind myself to be a calm, firm leader to get us where we need to go. As soon as I lose patience, I lose control.
My modern, by-the-clock mindset is often the trouble here. Horses don't wear watches. So again, takng the time to understand the problem and see the solution is more productive than simply getting mad. How many times have we let some bit of creative frustration hurt our progress with a good client?

5) Reward. We usually look to results alone as our measure of success. This is clearly important in business. But we work as a team with people who call on us to serve them. It's important to recognize and congratulate our creative partners for their work on a job well done. Sometimes we have to give a little to get more done.

Fresh carrots or apples seem to work for the horses.

A sincere, "Thank You, you did a great job on this." might work better for us and our working partners.

You might have some horse sense of your own to add to my list of suggestions for dealing with people in the creative process. I hope you'll share what you've learned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Thanks From the Farm Studio in PEI

Thanks to those not away on summer holiday for some wonderful work in the past few days...

Thank You Barnett Cox and Associates for letting us finish the first series of your wonderful creative campaign for Community West Bank.

Thanks also to EC Productions for allowing me to voice track your HD documentary on the Save Our Seas Foundation and it's work with sharks and manta rays. I can't wait to see the final production!

Also, thanks to EHY for calling on us for your ongoing work with the Chumash Casino.

While Steve Gordon is calmly manning the helm in Santa Barbara, I am frantically managing summer production of a different kind here on Prince Edward Island, Canada.
And though part of each day is devoted to studio recording and business issues on the West Coast, we're finding time to plant and harvest a good crop of family fun and fresh vegetables this summer.

For those whose geography is as poor as mine, you'll find that PEI is Canada's smallest province, located just a few miles off of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the east coast of North America.

My wife and I are here with our two boys for the summer, managing our organic farm.
We're growing a variety of herbs and produce which we sell to the fresh market.
The crops are pretty much in the ground already for the short summer season. Long daylight hours help things grow (it isn't dark until almost 10:00 PM). We've had a late start of summer with lots of clouds and rain. But the last few days have been sunny and hot, which has really launched our plantation into full swing!

The Goleta Valley Mesclun Salad mix we grow is very popular and the French Breakfast Radishes have been a good accompaniment. We're also rich in Spinach right now and the Swiss Chard and Beet Greens too are selling well.

We're about to be awash in sweet shelling Peas and it won't be long before we're digging up baskets full of new Yukon Gold Potatoes. Summer Squash is flowering now and Zuchini and Yellow Crook Neck varieties will be coming soon. The Cucumbers are flowering and these are in much demand locally for fresh eating and fall pickling. Yellow wax beans will be coming in August and Pumpkins will be big and orange by the time I return to Santa Barbara in September. Corn and tomatoes have been slow to start, so we'll see what nature does with those crops. There's too much more to mention!

In addition to our cash crops, there is other work that goes on. We're planting a fourth of our crop rows in green manure crop to keep out weeds and feed the soil for next year. To do this we planted field peas and oats which will die off this winter and leave rich compost for the spring plowing. To that purpose, we're encouraged by warm rain forecast for tomorrow. Hopefully this will start the California poppy seeds I've planted along the lane.

Nature on her own also blesses us with wild harvests of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in their seasons. On the shore we dig clams and harvest mussels for steaming pots of savory seafood.

Summer truly is a time of bounty. Here's hoping you are enjoying the gifts of summer wherever you may be!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Help With Flash Audio Presets and Internet Audio Quality

For those of us in production one of the problems we face is the bandwidth issues that are established in production tools themselves.

When we match audio to picture we often find ourselves creating large files which get digitally compressed by default presets in the software. These defaults tend to be particularly tough on audio, often squashing it down to a low resolution file that sounds grainy at best.

These settings are designed to protect a certain level of picture size and resolution in playback through streaming media. But they destroy the delicate nuance of sound and make it the rough equivalent of a telephone.

There are several ways to improve this situation and deliver quality picture and sound to the user. But we're still looking for help, particularly in Flash, to adjust the defaults and allow better sound while preserving the picture. We've seen some very good examples of this and we know it can be done, but we need help from a Flash wizard who can help us understand the processing and how to optimize it. We think this is an important step toward guiding our post production clients to appreciate and expect better results online.

First of all, we know how to create good sounding files for marriage with Flash. One trick we employ is reducing stereo files to mono files whenever possible. This reduces the gross size of a full resolution file by half and allows for less compression in the mixdown. We then compress the mono file to a 192k resolution MP3 file that retains good, clean quality. Even so, we find that our pre-compressed and configured files are then re-compressed by Flash so that the results are often muddy and unsatisfactory compared to the compressed files we deliver.

Does anyone know how to strip in premixed audio and prevent Flash from further compression of the audio in the mixdown to picture?

The problem seems to be just as bad or worse when Flash handles full resolution audio
in a mixdown.

Your input would be helpful.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Rabbi, The Bull Rider and the IQ Test

Did you hear the one about the Rabbi, the Bull Rider and the IQ Test?

Well, neither had I until a client presented us with a challenge.

We were called on to produce a series of radio commercials for an agency that needed us to co-ordinate production between their creative talent in another city, a professional bull rider in Colorado and a local Rabbi. They also needed us to cast an authoritative voice to be the "brand" announcer. The agency directed the talent by phone patch and finished production was delivered to broadcasters from a virtual studio on The Production Room website.

Then there was the IQ test. Or more properly there was Stephen Murdoch, local author of the new book, "IQ: Smart History of a Failed Idea". If you're an NPR listener, you probably heard our live ISDN feed to "Talk of the Nation" from Washington DC. The program feed came from The Production Room in Santa Barbara. As a listed ISDN service provider for NPR stations, we're increasingly using ISDN to link guests in our studio to programs on this national network.

I'm hoping more of our local Industry, Agency and Independent producers will discover that we can do for them what we're already doing for major companies, producers and networks around the world. We've come along way to bring professional production options to Santa Barbara.

If you need a level of service compatible with major studios and networks, a connection from a major market to Santa Barbara or if you're a regional agency in North America, Asia or the EU in need of a professional production partner, we're ready to help you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

La Belle Digital and Your Location Audio

Often lost in North America in the deluge of truly wonderful audio gear developed and sold by American audio brands is some truly handy gear from other parts of the world.

One fine bit of gear I picked up several years ago has become idespensable in my tool kit. The V2 VX Pocket sound card from Digigram (France) has been a lifesaver. It retails for about $400.00 US but I got mine on-line for a lot less. It's a fully equipped PC sound card that slips into a laptop PC and it allows me to plug my pro audio gear directly into my computer no matter where I am. I've found that a lot of interfaces offer overkill solutions for multitrack recording. This card fits my more simple need to plug 2 channel pro sound gear into a laptop.

We had a meeting of the Santa Barbara Indie Co-op at the Production Room to share tips on location audio with some independent film makers in SB. While we covered the basics, I wasn't able to point to some of the wonderful opportunities for capturing live audio direct to digital - and even previewing or editing on location.

With my laptop and a battery powered Behringer mixer (Germany) I can record high quality location audio with phantom powered mics directly into a digital file.

The difference between on camera mic plug-ins and consumer grade PC laptop audio cards is that the VX Pocket is configured with a "pigtail" of cords that allow you to plug inputs and outputs to and from the sound card at line level (pro) with XLR connectors directly to and from a mixer. It also allows a SPDIF digital in and out connection. This is really handy for interfacing with other digital gear.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a technical engineer. So audio gear that plugs together like a kids toy and delivers quality that passes muster in the main studio is my kind of gear.

When I'm on location in Canada, my studio consists of my laptop, the VXpocket Card, a Focusrite Platinum Mic Preamp, a main amp, some monitor speakers and my editing software. With that and an internet connection I have recorded audio for film, a PBS Documentary, broadcast TV and Radio Commercials, and on-line media.

For just a few dollars more than it takes to plug a location mic into a camera, Indie film makers can track high quality location audio into battery powered remote gear and get better sound to work with in post production. And you can even do some of your pre-production on location, which will save you time and money. Synching to picture could be an issue for some but by using 48k .AIFF files, you should be able to strip in the audio in Final Cut without too much trouble. Let me know your thoughts about that...

Please share your location audio problems and let us us help you with some tips that
may save your next post session. Our advice is free...and worth every penny!

And by the way...shouldn't you be subscribing to this blog?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Podcasts: Communication, Branding or Marketing?

What the heck IS a podcast.

I honestly thought I knew. Generally, podcasts are described in technical terms and defined by how they are distributed. Podcasts are usually represented as low tech messages or program content that are subscribed to or downloadable online. Like blogging.

But that isn't actually what a podcast is to the communicator or the listener and they are the only two parties that matter in this equation.

We are working in a medium created by technicians. We need to start defining our terms better. To start with I recently found that it's important to define what a podcast DOES.

I had designed a podcast project that would include informal interview style Q&A with the client which I would minimally edit into a simple audio program structure: intro, body, conclusion, close. Nice and clean.

We tried it. The client didn't like it. They felt it didn't represent them. Ironic since they had spoken every word themselves. But it was a predictable result.

Any Company, Individual or Commercial entity that has invested in creating a brand identity will not allow anyone to muck about with some half arsed effort at ad-libbing lamely through a podcast about who they are or what they do.

So Podcasting is on the road to becoming just like other "Reality Programs". That means highly produced, tightly controlled and structured to look and sound informal. In the process, goals are defined, ideas are focused, communication is direct and brand identity is protected.

There's a lot more to this than meets the ear, and I'll have more to share about this very soon. Right after the client hears our revised program.

And by the way, shouldn't you be subscribing to this blog?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Local Media Misses Fire Season Premiere

Multiple broadcast signals (appx. 23) are licensed for the expressed purpose of serving the public in the Santa Barbara metro. That's 23 local channels that will reliably air detailed coverage of whatever Paris Hilton does.

So how many local reporters showed up to cover a brush fire above the city on East Camino Cielo last night at about 9:40? I don't know but I couldn't find any news about it until The Daily Sound was linked to me this morning on Blogabarbara.

If you don't live here, you may not think that matters.

But if you are like many who have noticed that there is no local news or public emergency information on your local TV, Radio, Digital and Satellite stations, then it does matter. Towns across the country are giving the FCC an earful about broadcasters who have failed to serve them in an emergency. What's the FCC doing about it? Holding regional public hearings.

What are the broadcasters doing about it? Very little. Because they don't have to.

If that seems wrong to you you're not alone. And let me share what I've learned about the subject here in wild-fire prone Santa Barbara.

Radio stations here cover local news during the day. At night, the staff goes home. They turn off the lights, turn on the answer machine and lock the doors.

TV stations operate pretty much the same way, except KEYT, which still has a live 11:00 PM local news cast. They're pretty much the only local news after sunset.

The last wildfire disaster hit Santa Barbara in 1991. The one before that was 1978. The one before that was 1964. You get the picture?

In the 1991 fire, one person was killed and 440 homes were destroyed. A lot has changed since then but not for the better. Since 911, the rules have changed from the top down. A local event may suddenly be controlled by a FEMA director instead of local fire and police officials. And if an earthquake hits at 3:00 AM, there probably won't be ANY local news until somebody gets to the radio/TV station. Or you might get an EAS bulletin. More about that in a moment. But First...

Over the past several years I've talked with broadcasters, residents and emergency service providers about our current situation. Everyone knows there is a problem. Everyone knows the problem is communication of emergency news and information in a disaster event. The logical entity to take the lead here are the broadcasters. Except for that one little problem. Remember? They don't have to.

Well, THEY think they don't have to. And they should know. They helped lobby the FCC to make the rules. And here's a general idea of what the rules are.

"Harrumph! Mr./Ms. Broadcaster, you are hereby charged as a public trustee with serving the interests of the public. Since we at the FCC have no idea how to interpret what the public interest is, we leave it to you to decide."

One thing that complicates this situation for our otherwise satisfied broadcaster is the EAS or Emergency Alert System. EAS replaced our old Cold War Favorite, "The Emergency Broadcast System" ("If this had been an actual emergency..."). Since people hear EAS alerts on their local stations, they assume EAS is under local control. And they are wrong. EAS is actually meant to allow the President of the United States to address the nation in a national emergency. Homeland Security has put the director of FEMA in charge of the EAS. And FEMA can also trigger a national EAS broadcast.

After that, participation in EAS is voluntary and effectiveness is limited by the ability to respond to a local alert.

"Broadcasters and Cable Systems may decide individually whether to transmit such messages that originate at the State and Local level"

(FCC Report 05-191 Released 11/10/05 Section II, Part B, Paragraph 8) decide what the public interest is and don't worry about EAS unless the President is talking.

And what, you humbly ask, does this have to do with a fire on East Camino Cielo last night? Glad you asked.

While I am grossly irrtated and perturbed about the wholesale slaughter of the concept, "principled local broadcaster as trustee of public interest", you my friend may ignore my crusty attitude and let your local station know that they'd better straighten up - or else! Which brings me to The Public Comment File.

Every broadcaster is required to maintain a public file. Almost any citizen of good standing with interest in the community can file a complaint with a station regarding it's public service. The station must also open it's file to public inspection. The FCC reviews this file and the station response at license renewal times.

Since the FCC has declined to define public interest, this is a very important vehicle for pressuring broadcasters to meet community needs at the local level.
It's important to document the facts and submit them to the public file each time a station falis to be of service. Over time a pattern of failure can be established and a broadcaster will have a tougher time claiming that they serve the public.

The events of last night would seem to be a good place to start in Santa Barbara.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Super ISDN Celebrity Hollywood Extravaganza!

Yes, thanks in part to key word searches we're back to the breathless headlines of the good old days, when gossipy newspapers strung nouns and adjectives together like plastic cranberries and popcorn on a Zody's Xmas tree.

Today certainly was our day to, "Service the Stars!" to speak.

First up was an ISDN engagement for our friends at Campbell, Mithun, Esty of Minneapolis, Minn., wherein animation and commercial VO star Jeannie Elias (Over The Hedge, The Wild) stopped in for a commercial read. The Montreal native is now at home in So. Cal. (A gratuitous plug being mandatory for those north of the border who love to play, "Guess Who's A Canadian" eh?)

Next up was an ISDN session with TV and Film star John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Northern Exposure, etc.). John was in for an ISDN session courtesy of DDB Chicago. Always the cool breeze when he visits The Prod Room, John just came off the road with The John Corbett Band which recently hit Chicago and Kansas City.

Finally, ever vigilant engineer Steve Gordon stepped out onto our second floor landing to hail a citizen who was parking his car and blocking our driveway. The motorist turned out to be Kenny Loggins, who graciously scooted his car out of the way.

Only in Santa Barbara.

And by the way, shouldn't you be subscribing to this blog?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Now! For ALL Your Radio Needs!

Last weekend was a really important sales weekend for car dealers. I know because I've been voicing and producing car commercials for a very long time.

Memorial Day Weekend sales events are as common as dirt. It's pretty hard to stand out from the crowd of advertisers who blast the airwaves with video vomit and full frequency audio assaults for THIS WEEKEND ONLY!

So I was pretty happy to learn that a simple spot I voiced at Red Rocket Productions for Toland Marketing helped sell 73 Toyotas. That's pretty good for a single dealership. Furthermore, the dealer only bought radio. No Print. No TV. No Direct Mail. So that would be an example of good radio advertising.

Now, for a hilarious example of bad radio advertising that you can write yourself, follow this link:
to "Dan O'Day's Amazing Bad Commercial Generator!"

There's lots of fun stuff here, Dan has been providing prep. sheets, production elements and "sound" advice to radio professionals for years. This is your chance to peek behind the curtain at some real old school radio goodies. Trust me, anybody who ever was a disc jockey knows Dan O'Day and O'liners.

And if you want to know how we helped a single dealer sell 73 cars last weekend, let me know.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Meet An Ambassador of the Environment

I've worked on many projects over the years with Jean Michel Cousteau and Ocean Futures Society. We're pleased to work with this charming man and honored to participate in his mission to develop human understanding of marine life.

When Brooks Intitute of Photography student, Dave Cheney contacted us about a film project featuring a new Ocean Futures program, I was intrigued. The film documents the "Ambassadors of the Environment" program - an educational camp for grade school students who learn environmental science in a natural, hands on setting. Dave needed us to record a professional narration and he needed location audio from the shoot cleaned up.

Almost by definition, a student film is budget challenged. When we met to review his request we realized Dave had a great project that just needed a little help to make it even better. We recorded the narration, Steve Gordon cleaned up the location audio tracks and did the final sound mix. Dave worked with us to cover some of the studio time but once we took on the project we felt the real issue was doing our best work regardless of the budget. Thanks to Dave for sending us a link to the final version of the production:

And then there was a moment of cosmic comedy. Yesterday I spotted Jean Michel and a companion strolling up the walk in front of the San Roque Post Office in Santa Barbara. I was about to say hello when a couple from out of town pulled up behind my truck and asked him if he knew the way to "fisherman's wharf". Mr. Cousteau gave them a slight chuckle and then gave them directions.

They drove away unaware that they had just asked Jean Michel Cousteau for directions to the ocean.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Planting Summer in the Snow

Okay, what happened? last week was sunny and warm in the Canadian Maritimes. The door to Spring was thrown wide open as temperatures climbed into "balmy" territory. Locals were giddy after the long winter. Then it was as if Ma Nature flipped us back into winter, yelling,"Psych"!

On Wednesday the air temperature was hovering near freezing. As a steady wind blew down from the north I bent over the prepared soil in a field I have been fallowing for 3 years. I carefully placed each seed for our potatos, peas, spinach, beets and chard into the moist earth. My hands were numb. I kept working. My back hurt. I kept working. My legs ached. I kept working. Snow and rain in the forcast that night meant finishing all of the field work 3 days sooner than I had expected. After snow and rain soaked the dirt it would simply be mud. Too wet to plant. So I kept working.


All winter I had been making plans. Placing seed orders, organizing tasks so I could optimize the 2 weeks in May when the farm wakes up. My vision of summer bounty required that certain work be done - no matter what.

My plans were largely destroyed by first contact with reality on the ground. I spent time revising expecations and re-organizing tasks. I juggled my time around weather forcasts and visiting neighbors, production work in the studio and just plain daydreaming. But the real test of my creative vision was on that cold afternoon when my body wanted to quit and accept the consequences. I kept working.

And here's what I learned:

Make plans. Then scrap them.

Reality just is.

It's amazing how powerful an intention can be.

I beleive in what I'm doing enough to be uncomfortable in the process of doing it.

It's about love!

Tomorrow, I will leave for Santa Barbara. My seeds are planted. The weather will soon be warm and summer will come. The fields and flowers will be beautiful. I will pick beans with my wife, I will smell fresh mowed grass, I will watch my children steal sweet peas in the late afternoon, I will meet charming couples from Montreal, freckled kids and their parents from Ontario and smiling locals. I will laugh with friends who come home to the island each summer for wine and potluck suppers at the shore and a pack of kids and dogs will scream and shout into the deep twilight.


Sometimes you have to plant it in the snow.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Creative Birthing or Delivering in Public

I just gave birth to a new website.

It was a long and difficult process. The labor pains were intense.

Of course being the father, I actually had nothing to with the most difficult or dangerous part of the experience. But there were many professionals involved,
making sure everything went smoothly.

I'm now convinced that you should never try to do anything like this by yourself at home. For the same reason that you shouldn't try to take out your own appendix with a pocket knife on a Saturday afternoon. Even if you could do it, the results might not be...ummm...professional.

Remember whenever a baby was born in all of those old TV shows? The new father wasn't anywhere near the birth. He just handed out cigars in the waiting room and acted as if he'd inhaled several cubic yards of nitrous oxide. Of course things aren't like that today. Fathers are very much involved in the process and are often found in the birthing room.

Our new "baby" arrived in a very public birthing room called the Pasadena Convention Center during an event called, "The California Small Business Success Conference". Not exactly a calming, ambient environment. But that's where we were when the site went live.

Fortunately our new arrival was judged to be attractive and the attendees all made appropriate and appreciative cooing noises about our user interface and multi-channel media services. And they were amazed that it could already talk!

I sighed, smiled, and passed out marketing branded water bottles.

Anyway, as long as you're here, have a peek at the baby:

I've really got to go and get some sleep!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pardon Our Mess...Alchemy in Progress!

Alchemy is an early protoscientific practice combining elements of chemistry, physics, astrology, art, semiotics, metallurgy, medicine, mysticism, and religion. There were three main goals many alchemists sought for. The most renowned goal of alchemy is the transmutation of any metal into either gold or silver.Also they tried to create universal panacea, a remedy that would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. The philosopher's stone was the key in these goals. ...

This week a team assembled from at least 3 companies and several states have been in a mad rush to build a new website for The Production Room.

If the alchemists goal was to transmute base metals into gold, then our goal is nothing less than to convert the lead weight of our static web display into a golden doorway to future online prosperity. If that sounds overly ambitious, well, that is the nature of alchemy. Why stop at basic chemistry when riches could be all around you. And why settle for a Band-Aid when a Universal Panacea is just waiting to be discovered?

I'll have more to say about the site in the next week or so. Until then, I'll be out in the garage tinkering with the laws of science and nature.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The New Innovative Medium Is - Radio?

A lot of folks will tell you that radio is dying. Trends show fewer people listening and advertising dollars shrinking. A lot of folks - myself included - have read the tea leaves and concluded that radio is diminishing in importance as a mass medium. Well, what if we're all wrong?

Certainly the facts show that internet usage is increasing steadily and the tide is rising in on-line content creation and advertising revenue. But what about the old media? Is it really dying? I think the answer is yes...and no.

After TV invaded the North American living room, the network radio programs of the 30's, 40's and 50's faded away. They were replaced by rock and roll radio and music programming that captured a huge audience. The new radio programming ushered in a musical and cultural revolution. The transistor radio became a driving force of this change. It was the ipod of the 60's.

Radio will change again. Radio is changing already.

Clear Channel announced the sale of its stations this year. Clearly they thought the time was right to get out of Dodge. I saw the pictures of doddering old Don Imus in the days before he was excused from CBS radio. Why was this guy still holding forth on a major radio network in an era when young consumers are the hot commodity? Rush Limbaugh is a product of the '80's, Paul Harvey is still on the air, Rick Dees is still doing mornings in LA (though no longer at KiiS FM) and everyone else is still doing a robotic version of a music format that was invented by Bill Drake in 1965. Could it be that radio has simply become stuck in a malevolent time warp?

Taking a moment to gaze into my crystal ball, I see good things for radio. I see a medium that won't be tied to it's past much longer. I see radio learning from the new producers and entertainment programmers in podcasting. When radio loses it's rigid format clock, the possibilities for the kind of innovation we're hearing on line will migrate into broadcasting. That will be good for radio. That will be good for new and interesting programmers who will reach a broader audience and that will be the death of radio as we've known it for a generation.

The net is full of innovative programs without much of an audience. Radio has an audience but it sure could use some innovative programming.

In the mean time, since the exit of Clear Channel, we're producing more radio commercials at The Production Room than we have in quite some time.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

300 - The Video Game

My 14 year old son was lobbying me hard to see the latest flick that has his crowd buzzing. It's only a matter of time before he'll be too busy to go to the movies or anywhere else with me. So after reading reviews in the LA Times, hearing news reports about it and noticing that there was even an article in Time Magazine I was curious enough to go see the blood-soaked CG driven epic, 300.

I can see why serious people like film critics and cultural pundits want to weigh in and assign their powers to this film. Heck, even the Iranians registered their opinion. They hate it - which is understandable since nobody wants to be the bad guy. Modern day Germans must really get tired of WWII. Paul VerHoeven has a new movie out featuring evil Nazis. It's not a role you want your country to get type-cast in. obviously, a bad rep. can stick for a long time. In the case of the Persians in 300...a VERY long time. On the other hand when was the last time you saw a movie that had you rooting for barely clad Greeks?

All the blah blah I read about this film dissipated suddenly during the closing credits - an animated sequence with comic book color and lettering and an attribution to a graphic novel. That's when I saw what this film intends to be.

This movie hits it's mark with a generation of media consumers who understand graphic imagery and video gaming. They experience this film in an entirely different way than the LA Times or the leadership in Tehran. This is a generation that doesn't learn Greek and won't volunteer to read classical western history in any language. But they DO get the language of modern media.

In 300, the Spartans are video game heroes. The violence is graphic but not personal. (You can go on from there at-will about de-sensitizing viewers to violence.)

We have pretty severe limits on screen time - both video game and media watching for our kids. We killed our cable TV connection almost 2 years ago because you never know who or what is trying to get through to your children and how it might be received. It is a cause of concern for a lot of parents.

My son's simple 5 word review of 300 was re-assuring and it ought to make the Ayatollahs relax a bit.

"It's a really good yarn".

Isn't that EXACTLY how the ancient story of the Spartans came to US? The heroes, villains, glory and embellishments were there to be brightly colored each time by every new teller. The movie 300 is nothing more than classical story telling for a new generation.

Next, he'll be lobbying for the video game.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I love My Vinyl!

Well it's not all serious business here at The Production Room. So as another busy week comes to a close (Thanks to all who brought us their really great projects this week - Ideocore, Victoria Street, Evans Hardy and Young, Barnett Cox and Associates and Matrix Communications - we're proud to serve you!) It's time to pour a little Canadian Beer and put on a few sides.

Yup, I've never recovered from my DJ days when I spun vinyl live on the air for at least four hours a day 6 days a week. Oh yeah, those were the days. When I took the job, my boss pointed to a wall filled with vinyl LP's and said, "You can play any of these. Just remember to play a few of the new cuts and don't forget to take commercial breaks a couple of times an hour." That was the format. I was 22 years old. They gave me an FM station to play with and a paycheck too. I've been in love with music on vinyl ever since.

Well, here at the studio we've got a few LP's to play and I spent some time
tonight putting some of those great old songs on the turntable. Yes, we still have one. In fact you can pick up some premium old phono players really cheap these days.
And those of us who still have our vinyl find that those original pressings still sound surprisingly good. A hell of a lot better than mp3.

So I put on some Lovin' Spoonful, some Jackie Wilson, a bit of Geroge Harrison, Johnny Cash (on an original Sun pressing) and finished it off with Don Mclean singing, "American Pie". Mmmmm MMMM. That's good music.

The record companies sure are stuck in a rut today. Not just because they can't seem to figure out how to sell music. They can't figure out how to make people want to BUY music.

Back in the day we got free music from the record labels every week. Then the music promo reps called the radio station and begged us to play their songs. It was all free to the listener...until you wanted to own a copy, then you bought it.

Well, the internet changed that. But I'm not sure why. You might think the obvious answer is piracy and you might be right. But it seems to me that when music was free on the radio it made people want to buy it.

So maybe the music companies need to allow us to demo whateveer we want for free on line. Maybe they need to start their own on-line radio stations. Maybe they need to hire some 22 year old kids, point them to the music library and say, "You can play anything you want from here." Pretty soon now, the hottest internet sites are going to be all about live programming.

I'll bet that will be pretty interesting. And it might make me want to buy something new.

Have a good week.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Being in Need of Magic

A friend of mine once earned black daggers of death from my eyes when he introduced me to a group of witty and clever people as, "a really funny guy". What followed was the sound of crickets as every eye turned to watch me be funny.

This week I confessed to my friend Taymar Pixley that I was really blocked when it came to writing content for my soon to be re-launched website. After all, my site has to represent me to a decidedly critical group of clever and witty people. It has to say just the right things about the leading edge communications we're exploring and the down to earth values of craftsmanship and service we believe in. AAACK! Do you see what I mean? What it comes down to is that I don't want to explain it I just want to do it!

BUT - business executives don't know what I know about how to create and use the medium. So how do I tell my story to them? What the heck AM I doing anyway? I couldn't find my bearings on ground that I should and DO know very well. I was like Daniel Boone. Not exactly lost but a might bewildered for a few days.

Then I got a call from a client who was interested in what I had to say about new media applications or, "programs" as I like to describe them. I found myself warming to the task of elaborating how some simple media programs could solve several important problems for this company. They could improve communications with their sales staff. They could cut down middle management time in meetings while increasing their effectiveness. They could screen job applicants and save money on employee training, demonstrate their product benefits to their member clients, easily update their materials and adjust their strategies at will. And they could use their on-line presence to deliver different levels of service both internally and externally in an on-demand consumer world.

When I had finished, the client said, "I'll be losing sleep thinking about all those things this weekend." I had showed him the answers as if they were magic. He saw that everything I told him was true, even though his company had never done anything like it before. His realization was the answer to my dilemma. It's magic.

It's magic that makes you sexy when you aren't even trying to look good. It's magic when we take a fuzzy concept from a client and manifest it into a sharply tuned marketing program or business solution.

There are several people I consult for their explanations about how media works. Doc Searls and Patrick Gregston are two fine examples of those who can catch lightning in a bottle. But tonight I am still bogged down in the pedestrian work of explaining myself and how I work. Because it's magic that develops my creative energy and I can't really explain how it happens. I only know that the Muse is fleeting and documenting magic isn't really very sexy at all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Power of a Good Idea

Santa Barbara City College is one of the most beautiful College Campuses in America.
You can visit (and study) on line:

The college sits on a high mesa overlooking the Pacific ocean. Our city set aside this large expanse of prime real estate for local citizens to enroll in higher education and it is making high quality college course work available to anyone who wants to learn. That was a great idea.

One of the latest gifts to the community from City College is the School of Media Arts and a series of 7 free seminars offered to the public in the Digital Arts Center. SoMa Now is a series of seminars offered to the public to educate and clarify current technologies that impact our daily lives. The seminar was just as advertised. A 3 hour overview explaining videopodcast production, rss and online content promotion. What a great idea!

My friend Stan Krome of First Crescent Design:, invited me to join him this past Friday at the SoMA Seminar on video podcasting. We started with a relaxing lunch at the local beach grill. We dined at a table on the beach, just a few yards from the water. We were served by pretty young women and were primed for the short (but steep) walk up the hill to our classroom. We entered a computer lab with long rows of clean tables and at each place was an IMAC ready for use on demand.

The class was called to order by Liz Russotti, chair of the graphic arts department at the college. She introduced our instructor, Peter McEwen. Peter is a relaxed man in his 30's who has studied on line technology but is also a creative talent and website developer. He was clear and measured in his delivery and very well organized in his presentation. He allowed for and answered many questions as he explained the technology, the creative process and the applications involved.

As I looked around the room I took note of the number of students (26) and their approximate ages (majority from 40 to 65 + years) and I was surprised that there weren't more youngsters in class. Isn't online video a young persons domain?

I found his approach interesting. He stripped the process down to the most practical solutions to allow all of us to understand and use the most direct means of creating, posting and promoting video content online. He explained that YouTube and Itunes are the primary and simplest means of getting material uploaded, rss tagged, search indexed and available to the most people right away because they are simplest to use. He endorsed using the power of two very good ideas that are drawing the largest concentration of active users on the net.

My thought has been to emphasize self hosted and self contained content and control of content delivered through a private channel (the owner's host site) and allowing Google to sort it all out. But I now see some key advantages to his method. You have a better chance of being seen and heard if you go where people are. Or to put it another way, these two outlets are currently the largest broadcast networks on the web and you can get your content included on their network program schedule today - simply by submitting it. (Try that at NBC). Peter added insight into posting content to other specific online communities so that you can in fact target your intended audience - a factor that is just now emerging but is of huge importance to commercial enterprise.

One other point, you can upload your content to YouTube or Itunes or any other community and still post the same material on your own host site. And you should do this so that your personal or business community are being served - by YOU.

All of these good ideas add up to some very powerful means of communication, and they are moving the very foundations of our media world.


More Power to a Good Idea!

I'm including the following press release from our friend and client Frank Christopher of Cross Keys Media. We had a tiny role in this project (I voiced the funding credits) but Frank created amazing online activity as part of the production of this ground breaking - and now award winning - PBS documentary. Congratulations Frank! More proof of the power of a good idea!

PBS Series wins First Place at 2006 Association of Health Care Journalists Awards
Los Angeles, CA, March 17, 2007 – The four-part PBS series Remaking American Medicine™ ~ Health Care for the 21st Century was chosen as the best television program of 2006 by the Association of Health Care Journalists at the eighth annual conference in Los Angeles on March 17. The awards recognize the finest health reporting in nine categories covering print, broadcast and online media. In only its third year, the contest drew nearly 400 entries.
Contest entries were screened and judged by 44 health care journalists. Remaking American Medicine won in the Television (Top 20 markets) category. A CNN Anderson Cooper 360 report, “Sick and Uninsured” by Sanjay Gupta, Shahreen Abedid and Abigail Leonard, won second place. “Battling Alzheimer’s” by Susan Dentzer of PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer placed third.
The judges described Remaking American Medicine as: “A beautifully written and produced piece that sheds light on some of the nation’s most vexing health care issues. The episodes successfully exposed problems and examined solutions. Kudos to the makers of Remaking American Medicine. We should all aspire to produce health stories of similar caliber. Impressive, informative and compelling work!” Pulitzer prize-winning health care journalist Charles Ornstein of the Los Angeles Times presented the award to producers Frank Christopher, Matthew Eisen and Marc Shaffer.
Remaking American Medicine was a four-part, primetime PBS series that aired every Thursday evening at 10pm in October 2006. The documentaries brought to the forefront of national discourse the imperative of improving the quality of health care for all Americans. Over 7 million viewers tuned in. The series was supported by a nation-wide public engagement campaign that succeeded in creating national, regional and local coalitions to re-energize and expand the burgeoning heath care quality movement.
Remaking American Medicine was produced by Crosskeys Media, a multimedia entertainment production company committed to telling stories of American health care. Frank Christopher was the executive producer of the series. Matthew Eisen was the co-executive producer. Marc Shaffer was series producer. Peabody and Emmy award-winner John Hockenberry served as the series host.
Devillier Communications, Inc., (DCI), a public relations and marketing agency with extensive public television experience, coordinated the Remaking American Medicine national outreach campaign. KQED, the award-winning public television station in San Francisco, which serves the Northern California area, presented the series to the PBS system.
Remaking American Medicine was made possible through funding provided by the Amgen Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson FoundationÆ. The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts provided additional funding. Additional support was provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
For more information about Crosskeys Media:
For more information about the TV series:
For more information about the Outreach Campaign:
CONTACT: 805.966.3700