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.