A Grown Man Goes to Camp…and You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!

Yeah, yeah…clickbait. So shoot me.

So you might have heard the rumblings about this event called Faff Camp. Words that have been used include “amazing,” “wonderful,” “awesome,” and a bevy (why don’t we use this word anymore?) of superlatives about a group of people from all walks of the VO industry getting together and sharing knowledge in all directions.

Now, you may be confused about the concept of Faff Camp, especially when many industry pros wait with bated breath each spring for the announcement of FaffCON, a similar event with a completely different dynamic. I felt it prudent to sit and write a spell (as they say on the farm) about what Faff Camp means to me, and some cardinal differences in the Camp and the Con.

So what’s the difference? I have gotten that question close to a dozen times in the last week, and honestly, it’s a fair one. Let’s start with a softball.

Name and Event Dynamic

Faffcon is a development event for professionals, complete with vetting process.

Faff Camp is a development event for professionals, even those that are peripherally related to the industry, as well as folks just getting started. Anyone is welcome to attend.

Schedule

Faffcon is dynamically scheduled. This is the idea of an ‘unconference.’ The fact is, some attendees have topics that they could pull out and talk about extemporaneously (another great word), but with the exception of a few select times, most of the event is scheduled right after opening circle.

Faff Camp is more structured. The schedule of events is more like a traditional conference. This way, more people can come. There are also some other cool things that only happen at Faff Camp, like Topic Tables and Lightning Talks. At Camp, there’s also two ‘tracks’ so that the attendees can be sure they will be where they need to be. (See what I did there? Faffers get it.)

Attendance Limitation

Faffcon never has more than one hundred attendees, much like there are never more than two Sith at any given time. Why? Well, it’s a solid number, and 42 was already taken.

Faff Camp helps alleviate the extremely long waiting list that invariably follows the closing of Faffcon registration. How does it do that? Well…there’s no limit to the number of attendees at Faff Camp. This year’s waiting list was apparently as long as…well, let’s just say it was long. 

Similarities

I mentioned earlier about writing what Faff Camp means to me. I felt like I could give you a bevy (ah…ahhhh!) of those things here. These are some things that you’ll get from both events:

  • The guy or gal that is leading a discussion in one session will be asking questions in the next one.
  • Getting to know people that you only knew by way of their online avatar and witty banter.
  • Making lifelong friendships.
  • Playing the official game of Faff events, Cards Against Humanity.
  • Seeing the different shades of red people turn while playing said game.
  • Bob Souer.
  • Peter O’Connell
  • Amy Snively.
  • Learning about parts of the industry in which you didn’t think you belonged.
  • Learning what the hell ‘faffing’ even is, and no, it’s not the same as ‘fapping.’
  • That the sharing of knowledge is the only thing that makes it truly knowledge.
  • That some people can really hold their alcohol.
  • That despite the shysters, has-beens, and never was-es that exist on the internet, this industry is full of giving, wonderful people. A great many of them come to Faff events.
  • And, of course, a rising tide lifts all boats.

What Faff Camp means to me

I mentioned just a smattering (there’s another one) of the things above that mean so much to me. The other part about Faff Camp that was so incredible, was the fact that it was kind of my return to visibility at VO events. I had firmly entrenched myself in Dallas, plugging away at what we all do day-to-day, when I started to really feel left out. I needed to share oxygen with my peers. There’s simply no substitute for being in the same room, hell, the same corner of a room, with others.

So I called Amy. I had just booked a big video game gig, and I was seeing some patterns emerge in the way I was coming about this work, and I asked to lead a session at Faff Camp. She was extremely excited about me coming back to a Faff event, as it had been fifteen months since I had been to my last one.

So Amy talked about teaming up to present with someone I had never met before, kind of a he said/she said approach to the session. It sounded great. I made the arrangements, and next thing I know, I was back in the thick of things.

I met several Faffers that were attending their first event, and some that had attended others but I hadn’t had the pleasure, and it was wonderful to meet them and talk about things that were related (and not related) to the industry. Among those people and conversations were Jane Ingalls, and our talk about opera, Martha Mellinger, Linda Joy, Bob and Amie Breedlove, Jay Rickerts (who was formerly a news anchor back in Oklahoma..small world), Jordan Reynolds (manhugs), Jeff Devitt, Bob Merkel, Dustin Ebaugh, Kirissa Shipp, Denny Brownlee, and of course, my session co-leader, Wendy Zier.

It was as if I’d come home. Now I think I understood what the prodigal son must’ve felt. It’s like I went away of my own choice, and I finally made it back.

Sharing air, stories, wisdom, and laughs with people that a great many things in common with me. It was glorious.

Those laughs, stories, and good times will never be lost to me, and it’s all because I wanted to go. I didn’t want to be left out.

I mentioned in a Facebook post about how this is the kind of event that opens your eyes to the countless facets to the diamond that is a career as a disembodied voice. I must have been channeling my inner T.S. Eliot, because it was oddly poetic and true. So was my time at camp.

After that weekend, I swore I would never miss another Faff event. I have not, and God willing, I won’t.

This experience can be yours, as well. Don’t wait. Come to Faff Camp.

See you there.

BV

P.S. $25 off the registration price can be saved with the use of code VT8987775

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key. (Thank you, Faffcon)

So another faff-tastic weekend has come and gone. And now that I’m in full-on reflection mode today, I’ve had some time to think about the trip and everything that went on from Thursday to Monday, and to be honest, it broke my brain to try and reassemble the events chronologically.

So, instead to trying to recap everything, I think that a thank you list is in order. And I know that this might be dangerous, considering that I might miss people or leave like a handful out, and that possibility just makes me a sad panda.

So I preface this by saying that if I neglect to mention you, then you are a part of the regrets of my weekend. That I didn’t go out of my way to spend quality time with each and every one of you kinda makes me ill in retrospect. I assure you that I will do my level best to catch up, albeit here in the ether.

It’s going to be tough to get through this without bawling my eyes out.

So thank you, one and all. This weekend proved that I truly get by with a little help from my friends. See what I did there?

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It’s taken me all this time to find out what I need. (‘Have You Seen This Man?’ Weeks 37 & 38) PART 1

(We interrupt our normally scheduled weight loss blog to bring you this special bulletin, and fair warning, it’s gonna be a long one.)

I feel like It’s been forever since I wrote. It’s only been two weeks, but it seems like forever. 

It’s probably because there’s been so many things going on in my life. I know I keep saying that I’m busy, but it’s true. I have been extremely busy, and last week, I added an elliptical/walking regime to my schedule, so believe me when I say I have been busy.

In fact, work really started blowing up before Bob Bergen’s Voiceover Group Therapy workshop. You all know that I landed the reboot of Leisure Suit Larry, and things were chugging along with that (I mean seriously…like four thousand cues and even more lines), so we did like 1-2 sessions per week for like a month, and there was constant work for FUNimation and my retail clients. 

Then there was this awesome thing called Faffcamp, the first and only peer conference for VO, in which myself and cool chica Wendy Zier gave a breakout session called Video Game VO: Industry Infiltration, among tons and tons of other incredible tidbits and sessions that can only happen when you’re among your peers.

This is why I want to take time away from my normal ranting about the struggles of weight loss, and focus on an event that, I feel, is as game-changing as it is career-changing. So without further ado, I give you:

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'Delightfully Irreverent, Yet Effective' discussion: Voiceregistry by Voicebank.net

"Sherman, set the WABAC Machine to the late 1980s.”

"Yes, Mr. Peabody."

In the past, a person looking to get the next greatest voiceover, there was really only one way to do it. There would be a local casting call, then move on to agencies outside of that market, and then hope that some voiceover veteran or some heretofore undiscovered diamond-in-the-VO-rough would surface as the next national voice of the client du jour. Anyone who wasn’t repped by a big agency was S.O.L., but that’s OK, because nobody outside of the industry even knew about voiceover back then except for radio jocks, “real” actors that were looking for some way to pay the rent, and folks who go to comic book and anime conventions.

Fast forward to the present.

When a modern-day voiceoverist (thank you, Mr. Philip Banks) looks for voiceover-related stuff on the internet nowadays, they have an overabundance of resources. Hardly the dearth of the early-to-mid 90s…thank you Al Gore, for opening that lockbox and giving us the internet. I have to admit, if I were a novice voiceoverist, I would be really overwhelmed right now. Too many places on the web nowadays are starting to make voiceover sound like a get-rich-quick scheme or worse, a multilevel marketing scam. *shiver*

Thank goodness some things are grounded in reality. For example, the aforementioned casting process from when we fired up the Wayback Machine? Well, that process still exists. It’s just been enhanced. In 1998, the voiceover industry went online when Voicebank.net went live. It legitimized voiceover in ways nobody could have foreseen just twenty years ago. Voicebank also created a thirst for agency representation by voice-only performers. This was mainly because Voicebank listings were for agencies only. It was exclusive. And people wanted in.

Kinda like getting into an exclusive club, your name needs to be on the list, and with Voicebank, it’s no different. You have to be repped by an agency that uses Voicebank to cast projects in order to be listed on Voicebank.net. And of course, the eternal question is “how do I get repped?” Well, much like legitimizing the online presence of the voiceover industry back in the day, I believe Voicebank has that figured out, too.

So now, I know what some of you are thinking: “But Brad, what about the pay-to-play websites? Aren’t they the next step in the evolution of the voiceover industry?”

No.

"Why not?"

Well, as Alton Brown would say, “That’s another show.”

Here’s the deal. A great deal of performers look to signing with an agency as one of the major milestones in their careers. And why not? That is usually a point in which someone recognizes the performer’s perseverance in honing their craft. That’s why the next legitimate evolution in the voiceover industry is Voiceregistry. It’s been dubbed “the bridge to Voicebank” by Voicebank’s CEO Jeff Hixon.

When I spoke to Voicebank staff member Colleen Colin about Voiceregistry, she said that:

"[Voiceregistry has] more tools aimed at providing actors with ways to improve their skills, market their talent and increase their opportunities to be searched by the Talent Agencies and improve their opportunities for representation."

Well, how do you like that? It’s like asking a magician for the secret to her biggest trick, and have her not only tell you, but draw a detailed diagram. Now I know that it’s tough to determine tone of voice in print, and I can be quite the smart aleck when I talk about things here, but I am flat-out serious about that example.

The actor’s perception towards agency representation and inclusion on Voicebank has always been a measuring stick of legitimacy in this industry. So when the company that epitomizes legitimacy rolls out a new product that is a “bridge” to those goals, I think people should sit up and take notice.

OK, so now I might have your attention. Let’s dig deeper into my conversation with Colleen Colin from Voicebank:

Voiceregistry by Voicebank.net

Brad Venable: There is a very low price point for the Platinum membership ($7.00 per month). Was this decided to make becoming a Platinum member pretty much a no-brainer?

Colleen Colin: Making Voiceregistry affordable, accessible and truly useful is our goal. It serves the needs of the aspiring VO actor as well as the Talent Agencies. Talent Agencies really are looking for new talent, and Voiceregistry helps them manage that process.

BV: Was this part of Voicebank.net brought about just for the purpose of creating a non-affiliated voice registry (for talent not necessarily represented by union-franchised agencies)? If so, how long has this idea been batted around?

CC: Voicebank.net has been the standard for professional VO delivery for over ten years. We have had thousands of actors ask “How can I get listed on Voicebank?” In fact, only a talent agency can put talent onto the Voicebank site. Voiceregistry represents a “bridge” to Voicebank. A way for actors to seek out training, feedback, marketing and, possibly, representation.

BV: As services like Voiceregistry becomes even more prevalent, is the industry driving towards a time when there will be even less face-to-face interaction with other industry people like agents, managers, casting directors, and the like?

CC: Voiceregistry to a large degree is a search feature for the Talent Agencies. It is aimed at improving the connections between actor and agent and subsequently increasing the relationships between an actor and industry professionals. With our “Video Tips of the Day” and our “Weekend Workout” the actor now has more opportunities to understand what talent agents and casting directors look for and expect. Not to mention the chance to have their voice heard and receive constructive feedback which can help improve every actors’ chance for success in a demanding field.

BV: Who benefits most from a Voicebank.net Voiceregistry entry?

CC: Actors and Agents.  The actor can find a platform from which to advance in the world of VO and it is a wonderful time saving tool for the talent agents when they need to find a unique voice to fill a specific need or to round out their roster of talent.

BV: Noticing that Voice Registry is still in ‘beta,’ does that mean that there will be more features rolled out as the site matures?

CC: Yes, we are constantly  brainstorming and listening to talent agents, casting directors and actors. We have a number of ideas on the horizon.

BV: Is there anything cool on the horizon on the Voice Registry that you can tell us about?

CC: We are very exicited that our Weekend Workout guest directors have been so involved and supportive. DPN’s Brandie Illson recently hosted [the Weekend Workout], and in the next few weeks,  Sara Rucker from Jim Nicolay’s office at CAA and Vanessa Gilbert, partner at TGMD, will be hosting. There are more great things coming and we look forward to continuing to build the Voiceregistry “bridge” to opportunity.

BV: Thanks so much for your time in sharing about Voicebank’s Voiceregistry, Colleen!

CC: Thank you for asking!

Final thoughts

Our industry is at a crossroads, folks. We’re in a world of coupon and Groupon bargain hunters, and that mentality has trickled down to clients. People’s perceived value of talent is getting cheaper because some people are out there trying to reinvent the wheel.

Others realize that voiceover is a talent-driven industry, and enhance the parts of the industry that are deeply rooted in hard work, community, good business, and paying it forward.

Companies like Voicebank get that, and don’t just exist as a goal to strive for, but also create a way to enhance the way talents can be more educated and discovered by agencies.

Reputable agencies (ad and talent, and casting, all) get that, because they evolve by using the internet to search, provide, and use the precious commodity of talent that literally be found anywhere that’s connected. The fact that an industry that relies so much on “the meeting” has embraced a more global focus by using Voicebank, is simply amazing.

Talents get that. That’s why they’re forming mastermind groups, attending meetups, and formulating events like Faffcon. They know that keeping the tradition of ‘troupes’ of talents, referring new talent to decision-makers, and like a good dialogue commercial, always thinking of the other talent, this entire industry moves forward. 

It’s a good thing that Faffcon and Voicebank found each other. Entities with similar goals usually do, sooner or later.

In an industry that seems so lonely at times, it’s never been more important to have a people with which to faff about, but also keep you accountable. And that’s advice you can take to the ‘bank. 

Yeah, that was like three puns…take that Mr. Peabody.

Bragging rights and a trip to Hot-lanta (It’s actually pretty cold right now, right?) are at stake for the 2011 The Price Is Right ’Faux-ditions.’ So no, I’m not really going to be on the show (although it would be unilaterally cool if somehow my cut of the show’s open found its way into Mike Richards’ (The Price Is Right Executive Producer) hands…just sayin’).

You know that TPIR has been auditioning announcers for the last few weeks, right? Guys like the incredible David H. Lawrence XVII (“Puppetmaster” Eric Doyle from Heroes), Brad Sherwood and Jeff Davis (of Whose Line Is It Anyway?), JD Roberto (American Idol Extra), and George Gray (The Weakest Link), have been on there, doing the classic “come on down,” and seeing if they can warm the crowd’s (and the producers’) hearts. 

But that’s not what this is about. I want a trip to Faffcon, where I can mingle with some fellow voiceover pros and head east for the first time in….*mumblefifteenyearsmumble*. I also put a ton of effort into this, and it was a total revisiting of what got me into voiceover in the first place, live announcing. In fact, I was announcer for our campus The Price Is Right shows for three years, so kid of a cool return to my VO roots, so to speak.

SO ENOUGH OF MY YAPPING!

Please go vote. Follow the link above, post a comment on the sponsoring blog, and list your top three in 1-2-3 order. While of course, I would love your first place vote, I would also appreciate your second or third place vote, as well. No repeats, please!

All the best to everyone on this penultimate weekday evening. Konban Wa, ladies and gentlemen.

My audition for The Price is Right announcer…

…not really. More like “faux-dition.” But I am in the running for a free trip to Faffcon (the voiceover unconference) for my efforts. Be sure and go vote!

Here’s all you have to do:

You have to rank your top three choices in the comments of the blog post linked below. Polls close at 5 PM this Sunday, January 23rd! 

http://blog.audioconnell.com/2011/01/19/voting-is-under-way-for-the-2011-unofficial-casting-call/

Delightfully Irreverent, Yet Effective Review: Sennheiser MKH-416

So after years of wondering if I should get another new mic after my Neumann TLM-103, the decision was finalized because I got married.

Yep, you read that right. My marriage was the reason I got a new microphone. Haha, no…it wasn’t a coping tool for my new lifestyle. Instead, it was a coping tool for my new environment. You see, when I moved in to my wife’s apartment, there was no walk-in closet to isolate my Neumann, and with the wood floors, poor insulation, and woman living above our head that wears pumps 24/7, it was a recipe for recording disaster. 

Trust me, folks. I did everything I could to control the noise for my beloved 103. I put up bass traps in the corners, treated every wall I could, decoupled my desk from the wood floor and my mic stand from my desk, put up heavy insulated curtains, and started sleeping from five in the morning to one in the afternoon so the clackity-clackity-creak-creak-clackity-clackity noise from the 80-pound-waif-in-heels and her dude du jour’s extracurricular activities wouldn’t pick up on the mic (although, now that I think about it, that kind of recording might have made enough money to stand it. :P). 

Needless to say, I tried everything I could to work with the noise thumbprint I had, and even after scouring the web for more and more education regarding engineering the noise out, it simply wasn’t good enough.

SO…..a new mic was the answer. And my sneaky wife got it for me as a Christmas present. Just one more reason on the laundry list of things I love about her. Thanks, baby.

So now, I have the hyperdirectional goodness of one of the microphones on many a voiceoverist’s short (or wish) list: the Sennheiser 416.

I have to say, I was hopeful, yet skeptical that it would make a difference in the noise thumbprint of where I record, after all, a wise man once said that proper treatment of a room is the first solution. Well, congratulations. No amount of treatment will take away the sounds coming from above (and yes, I know full well about my choice of words). I have been working in this space, warts and all, and using every ounce of my technical mastery in order to clean it up. So this can’t hurt. And who cares if this solution doesn’t work? The mic came from Sweetwater. If it doesn’t work, BAM! Money back and no worries.

So I tried it out. Wow. I’ll tell you right now, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

My noise floor was -61.5, lower than ever before…especially since the compressor on the refrigerator was running and the heater was, as well. I was starting to get excited.

I recorded some copy at a performance level, and was astonished to see that my average peaks were around -15, which is a wonderful signal-to-noise ratio. After mild compression and de-essing, I normalized to -6, and the result was a beautiful recording that looked and sounded the part while sitting in my workspace in Audition 3. I knew I had a winner. And I promptly booked two new jobs. And the engineer loved how i the recordings cut through the mix. Hoo-freaking-rah, epic win.

So I know that some people may poo-poo at my non-scientific, non-sterile review methods and/or results, and that’s fine. This review is meant to be accessible to all, not just a select elite group of gear sluts that talk tech like it’s a language meant to impress, annoy, and class stratify. I’m as much of a gear slut as most, but when people make a point to talk in a way that’s difficult or impossible to understand, it’s like walking past a group of people talking a language other than your own and they laugh. It makes you a little bit paranoid and inferior.

That will never be my goal. It is my goal, however, to give practical knowledge and entertain a little with some sarcastic observations about life and voiceover sprinkled in between the nuggets. So I joke about our little apartment and the clackity-clackity-creak-creak-clackity-clakity coming from above (oops, Britney…I did it again), only because it’s a shortcoming of the place that I live and work, and overcoming similar obstacles are important to many of you out there. So that’s what I’ll do. Delightfully irreverant, yet effective. Sounds like a good title for a review series. Sounds like it was coined by Monty Python. It wasn’t, but it sounds like it, right?

So, bottom line, the review went swimmingly. And I have an expensive solution to a really crappy location problem…and I couldn’t be happier. Problem of room rumble, and forcing a crappy recording schedule solved. Now I just can’t wait until I can have a treated closet to use. I shiver with antici…………..pation.

Oh, yes. One über-geeky thing I wanted to put up here was the frequency response curve that was hand-measured at the factory. Here it is:

As you can see, a nice little boost between 300-600 Hz, which is right in the wheelhouse for voiceover folks. And further right, you’ll see a quite large boost in the high frequencies. Great for harmonics and it just makes the VO stuff I’ve been doing ‘dance,’ for lack of a better word. It just sounds really good. I even recorded my “The Price Is Right” faux-dition entry with it, in the hopes that I win a trip to Faffcon 2, Electric Boogaloo. You can go listen to the entries (mine is #12) at Peter O’Connell’s site here. For more information on the contest, Peter’s blog has all the answers.

So that’s it for this episode of Brad Venable’s “Delightfully Irreverent, Yet Effective Review” (I really do like the sound of that). I’m not going to give it some arbitrary Likert-type (ten-point) scale score that really doesn’t mean anything anyway. Instead, I’ll say that it has excellent off-axis signal rejection (due to the hypercardioid pickup), and extremely low self-noise. It was a very expensive ($1000) temporary solution to a problem that is best fixed with a new room construction and heavy absorption treatment, but in the end, it travels easily no matter where I go, and I have an excellent microphone that is worth having by some of the best in the business. The 416 solved my number one problem, and it’s helped with the environmental problems and confidence of turning out a quality product. Epic Win.