Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ida..Covid and 'Inferno'...the Legend Continues....

 

ALL HELL WILL BREAK LOOSE...
this year at The Most Haunted Mansion in the City of NOLA… The Mortuary!     Or at least that's what the latest video headline Infer'nos!

But, in the real world it's a bit worse. As hurricane Ida (a category 4 storm) comes barreling up from the Gulf Coast towards a vulnerable NOLA, already dealing with a set back from a storm of new patients flooding the hospitals from COVID-19-DELTA-VARIANT breakthrough cases. This was startin to look like a sign that things were gettin Biblical. One has to wonder how much one part of the country can take. All being accented by the fact that today marks 16 years to the date that hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. 

That we're voicing any video promotions at all, has been resting on unsteady COVID-19 guidelines that at present have just started to allow venues like the Mortuary to operate...even if barley.

The Inferno attraction is where visitors pass through the Mortuary haunted house with the effect of the house burning. We are tasked with igniting Inferno's motto: Burn..Baby...Burn. 

 

The commercials are being co-sponsored by Fanta and Barq's beverages and feature QR code interaction with discount tickets and contest platforms. So, we're pushing for a resilient city ready to snap-back to relative normal. 

Seguing into what's appearing more and more n-o-r-m-a-l these days is Stefan Nadelman's imaging credits he's chalking-up all over town. Guess who's doin the series visual effects for the - HBO/MAX series; 100 Foot Wave

And Stefan's, title sequence animator on the Tv Mini-Series; Into the Storm. Hard to figure it's going on 20 years since voicing on his Terminal Bar. But it's pretty cool seeing him in the thick of it making a name etching his technique.



Due to power outages and in general, system-wide breakdowns within NOLA, we have yet to access the completed Halloween videos. So, until we get the agency finals we put together (below) a slide-show version of The Mortuary Inferno spots featuring the actual Vo and music mix audio track.

There's a lot of tongue-in-cheek goin on in these spots and hopefully not too scary for the younger people. After all, with event titles like "Santa's Psycho Asylum", it shouldn't be taken all that seriously.




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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Bourdain's AI Roadrunner does in 45 seconds what used to take a Lifetime

Inadvertently, this months BLOG focus has to do with the changing landscape of… “We interrupt this formulaic lead-in, to say - The Sheriff is Near”. Or to put it more mildly, there’s a new voice in town, and it ain’t human!!


That’s right, those-in-the-know have been sayin it for years - that any day now they’ll develop an audio program that’ll enable an audio editor or god forbid (anyone) to take a voice slice of let’s say; JE Jones, throw a splash of Tom Hanks in there with a smidgen of Pee Wee and viola, your VoiceOver is ready! Has that day arrived?

         See if you can tell the difference

 

C’mon, we didn’t expect a new sheriff till we got really old. But, after the opening of Morgan Neville’s new documentary called “Roadrunner”, about the life of Anthony Bourdain, it appears that just 45 seconds of it is drawing much of the public’s attention. It has come out that there’s a few lines of Bourdain’s voice that's AI generated. And inadvertently, with that announcement floats the Genie right outta the bottle with the advent of Realistic Voice Replication or cloning.


Morgan Neville’s new documentary on Anthony Bourdain has Neville’s use of a voice cloning software to deepfake Bourdain’s voice for a commercial documentary: Roadrunner (sparking criticism and ethical concerns). Of course these folks are concerned with the ethical aspect of automating his voice, whereas the folks in the VO biz are concerned with the days left before they have to get a real job.

Coincidence or not, there has been a flurry of chatter on social media over the last few weeks with the advertising of automated voice generating software programs. Some promising to "Create Text-to-Speech Voice-overs in just 3 Simple Steps...without Recording a Single Word". If you're old enough to remember back when the music industry had it's own technological awakening, with synthesized music replacing live performers, then being in the voice industry right now could be leaving you with that not so fresh feeling of uncertainty. 

Perhaps all is not lost... just yet, anyway. The Bourdian deepfake centered mostly on cloning Anthony's voice from hours & hours of his own voice sampling. I'm sure the bill on those 45 seconds was formidable. For what it's worth, the consensus on the text-to-voice programs are sketchy at best. And after digging and digging for any scrap of info regarding the "software company" associated with Bourdain's voice cloning, all's I could find was a company called Descript and their cloning software named Overdub. Again, they made it clear that much time is spent "training" the software to learn, so there's almost as much time being spent (at least during this initial stage) formatting and tweaking the AI voices for commercial use, as there would be to pay a human to do it manually & naturally.   

FLASH: a BLOG reader was kind enough to share a link AI gave Val Kilmer his voice back regarding the ill-fated voice of Val Kilmer and how a voice-AI algorithm has helped him communicate both personally & professionally. Val describes in detail how his voice was restored via AI after surgery for throat cancer in his new documentary "Val" now streaming on Amazon Prime.  

~ Here's Val and I at Chiller photo Op ~

 

 

On a different note entirely and catching us by surprise is MTV's 40th Anniversary. MTV turns forty tomorrow... and hey, radio didn't die. As part of their original programming MTV/Paramount produced an animated show called Celebrity DeathMatch, where we were featured regularly. 

The weekly series was a staple for wild & wacky fun between 1998 to 2007. It was a late night venture that featured a novel approach with it's use of 'Claymation' of animated celebrity figures.

Of course they needed celebrity sound-a-likes to represent those figures. In a mock-like Madison Square Garden boxing ring arena, filled with blood thirsty spectators, they'd pit celebrities duking it out (to-the-death) with two play-by-play Claymation announcers... AND a recurring referee complete with the actual voice of Mills Lane (the famous World-Boxing referee). Between two agents, I was racking up some nice credits on the show voicing the likes of: Rodney Dangerfield, Nick Nolte, Chris Tucker, Sammo Hong, Teddy Roosevelt, Emeril Lagasse, Charlton Heston and many more. The link below is to the Charlton Heston episode pitted against Russell Crowe...voted Best Celebrity DeathMatch by Celebrity Judge - Jerry Springer: It don't get much better than that!

Click to Play Celeb DeathMatch

 

Here's a Tribute to Jackie Mason addressing an issue he mighta tackled with his off-kiltered wit had he been around a little bit longer. Mr Mason passed away July 24th at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 93 years old.




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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Fibre 2 Fashion unveils TexPro with TC & Company


Tom Clifford stylizes the introduction soundtrack of: TexPro with a particular emphasis on: Technical Textiles -  A centralized market hub of Fibre 2 Fashion that gives information on raw material prices to patents and tenders within just a few clicks...to play

Not just another venue for voice-overs but a whole new world. What's the buzzword in the textile industry - Micro Fiber'ing or what might be called - delivering exactly what matters to an industry in the textile & apparel value chain. Patents & Tenders. Global stuff. International intrigue. Threads...there's a lot of threads. And only one man can safely and coherently relay that. Yet, little does anyone know that he has no working idea of what he's talking about. Is that bad! There's a political joke in there somewhere...

So, after hunkering down with the Bio-ticulars, I found that Fibre2Fashion (F2F) has for over 2 decades been carving a niche as a one-stop solution for the Textile, Apparel & Fashion industry. That's sounds a bit-of-alright, but what does it mean. Supporting the global aspect is F2F's strong global presence and widespread reach as a world leader in facilitating new business opportunities, innovative brand building solutions, market research & data intelligence and a lot more. But, can it core A-apple, oh Chef-of-the-Future! Being an important B2B trade media Fibre2Fashion is a name synonymous as ‘Knowledge Disseminators’... helping the textile, apparel and fashion industry make informed business decisions.

F2F's Global Outreach:
1. 45 Million Hits!
2. 70% Decision Makers!
3. 7,00,000 registered members
4. Successfully served Fortune 500 Clients worldwide

 

We took the position that as TexPro is a Market Intelligence tool, perhaps a lighter approach would move the text along for a more receptive voice-to-picture combo. Why not lend a little inspiration for a tool which offers an unsurpassed platform to access quantitative data with unique insights.


Whew! Now say that in English...or at least have it sound like people will understand that our client is helping businesses take strategic and calculated decisions to reduce market risks. And that has to be conveyed with words that are clear and with a tone that's approachable but not too Sheldon Cooper with the cogs & dynamics. 

That being said so-to-speak, the client proffered that we annunciation 'Patents' in true British tradition and asked that we record a pick-up. They requested that it be said the way Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany's) character did in A Knight’s Tale when he was asked to forge ‘Letter’s of Pay-tense to Nobility’. Hence, turning the lowly squire, William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) into the pedigree - Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein of Gelderland. Hey, what do we know from - The Canterbury Tales...





 

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Beirut's Inspirational Roll-Out Campaign

The fundraising copy was not the usual "Pleas For Monies" over photos of grief stricken people or videos of devastation. This was the Real Deal.  Lebanon ...where are you now and where have you come from. Well, it's been a tough couple of years on top of eighty zillion years of heritage. You just gotta sort it out and go for the gut with the delivery and tell it like it is...we're truly in need of your help.

For now the Lebanese people are more than willing, they are counting on lifting themselves up and above the depreciating effects of last years port of Beirut's massive explosion. Rebuilding not only the infrastructure of Lebanon's capital city, but the spirits and momentum of a debilitated economy hit hard with Covid shutdowns throughout 2020. Fundraising for outside financial assistance had to be a bit more urgent sounding and most important - inspirational. The advertising agency gave the spot an emotional tone. Serious times demand serious measures, kind of approach. Every word precise and inflecting a precious moment in time.

In one moment, everything stood still...
Time stopped. Dreams of our youth, parents and children ~ vanished.


In one moment ~ precious hearts failed to beat again


 

Nearly a year ago on August 4th, 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored
at the port of the city of Beirut, exploded, causing at least 204 deaths, 7,500 injuries, $15 billion in property damage and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.

The blast was felt in Turkey, Syria, Israel, Palestine and parts of Europe, and was heard in Cyprus,
more than 240 km (150 mi) away. It was detected by the United States Geological Survey as a seismic event of magnitude 3.3, and is considered one of the most powerful artificial non-nuclear explosions in history.

A cargo of 2,750 tonnes of the substance (equivalent to approx. 1.1 kilotons of TNT) had been stored in a warehouse without proper safety measures for the previous six years. The explosion was preceded by a fire in the same warehouse. The exact cause of the detonation is still under investigation. Despite the devastating consequences of the event, the ad agency wanted to show how the Lebanese people were inspired with the many contributions in all forms that helped alleviate their suffering. 50% of the Lebanese population live under the poverty line. So, the Lebanese people thought that it was their duty to support each other despite all their differences. Donations started coming in from all areas including colleges and even from different countries like Italy, Scotland and the US.
It's important to mention that Boehringer Ingelheim stood in solidarity with the Lebanese people and was able to provide $1.14 million in aid. With this contribution, they were able to distribute first aid, medical supplies, financial and psychological support to Lebanese families and their family's friends. 



Click above to Play "Inspiration"


 
 
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Friday, April 30, 2021

First One hundred Days...How's that Workin Out for You

 

The latest from the computer Blue Screen of Death is: It sucks tryin to get back to normal. However, everything IS much faster, almost to a debilitating extreme. Makin a lot of mistakes...including a couple of close permanent deletions. Oh, here's a 'get-you-outta-jail' card techy link from my good pal Bill P. The link shows step-by-step instruction of how to make a recovery drive or disc for when the BSOD pops up. It 's mainly for Windows-Ten, but it could work for earlier versions as well.

Otherwise, everything's just a bit different and ready to give a new app here, buy a new app there or manage entirely without a program one has relied on!

It's the simple little things, like scanner/printer needing constant updates from the mother ship. Older programs are chuggin along with a whole set of their own idiosyncrasies & challenges or they refuse to report for work. And there's Microsoft's continual reminding that my fully certified version of Office is heading towards obsolescence  'cause it ain't in the "clouds". And in the midst of all of it, Adobe decides that now is the time to do the EOL notice to their Flash program. Can't even get a digital sound card that offers the optical 'In' feature without a struggle for the right drivers. 

As Kimberly "Sweet Brown" Wilken's would say:  "I got Bronchitis, ain't nobody got time for that"

Overseas, things are changing up over at the ad agency in Lebanon. The gal I work with and whom my daughter had visited before the pandemic, is moving on and getting married.  I've gotten the introductions to the rest of the team and there's already a client in the wings to read for.  

 

 

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Blue Screen of Death - Are Your Assets Covered

Well, it happened. Just like you tell yourself it'll happen...the dreaded Blue Screen of Death! It was a sinking feeling in the belly. A wallop! How could this have happened? I've been so careful. Could everything on that computer be lost? And how thorough has the backup routine been?

Then comes denial as to when the last back-up of the 'essential' files were actually done? Geez, it's been more than a year for some. We kept intending to feed that 32 gig USB gizmo in the back of the machine with updates.

Another phase is acceptance. OK, we're screwed, but by how much? Let's take stock. It's been a few years where we started with Windows 7 outta the box. Then we upgraded to windows 8.1 running an i7 core with 64 bits and a terabyte of hard drive. Plus, an optical sound card installed to record digitally. This baby was fairly up-to-speed even by today's standards...and lightning fast. But get this - as of December 2020, Microsoft stopped making upgrade service packs for Windows 7 machines. And I also made the mistake of not testing the 'boot-up' software. Truth is, who ever really does. Well...

With the aid of a couple of seasoned techies, we've come up with a possible scenario as to how the Blue Screen may have occurred. As it seems to be a trending practice in business today, free-rides of any sort, ain't hap'nin' much anymore. Case in point, my popular web host'er is no longer supplying free email service with domain purchases. That's like buyin' a hot dog without the bun. "Well, did you expect it to be free forever" was the rebuke I got from 3 different rep's. Hummm, that don't sound rehearsed! And they arbitrarily migrated all my emails to Outlook and supplied a dot exe link to download an assistant.

So, I downloaded it and thought it had installed. Got busy with something else and never gave it much thought afterwards. However, the next day when the machine was turned on, instead of being greeted with the usual password box, I had the: The Blue Screen of Death. Coincidence; to the install of the assistant...who can tell? But, if anyone out there is thinking about installing migrating assistants or any dot exec's on older machines, they might want to consult your local techy. Or, at the very least, make sure you're in possession of the boot up software.

We tried almost all the remedies and iterations to resurrect the machine. None did the trick. Some came so close that it might just be a matter of finding the correct boot disk sequence. 

Those techy's were invaluable. They advised to buy a 'Docking Station' for the hard-drive to be read. We were at that stage of acknowledgment. IF the Hard-Drive wasn't corrupted, the station would allow the data to transfer to another machine or disk. 

It W-O-R-K-E-D!

Every bit and zero was salvageable. Less and less loyalty was being placed with the older machine and more and more thoughts were heading towards a Brandy New One. I shoulda had a 'docking station' all along and highly recommend them - Twenty dollars at Amazon.

Speaking of Amazon - they had a machine with a 10th Generation Intel Core, Super-Speed USB ports with one that's a type 'C'  3.1, (AKA Thunderbolt 3) for big-time gig rate transfers! USB - C type explained

Well, at least if I had to make a major purchase for what feels like a comparable machine, it's a step-up to the 90's with some New & Improved innards. Could be me, but there's little in the way of 'creative designing' with the current offering of 2021machines. By all appearances, they opted for the " a lot less is more" dictum when they designed the towers.

Perhaps, they have it on good authority that these machines sink into oblivion once purchased. I think almost all the computers I've used were relegated under desks...inside drawers with a big-ass hole on top of the desk that was accented with a cool rubber goodie for all the wires to go through. Then again, not only do the new desktops seem to be altogether smaller in size, much lighter and noiseless to sit unobtrusively amongst the Rolodex and answer machine, but could this be an early clue, to the new direction of desk-tops actually sitting on top of the desk

It certainly would make operations easier.

The machine 'Up & About' would relieve the frustration with the vertical DVD feed and retrieval the new machines assume. It'll also make rear & frontal USB slots more user-friendly. Especially, with the never ending fight over 'which side of a USB is the right side'. Will it be a new phenomenon that'll become an occupational necessity to let the towers intrude on top of the desk after all? BTW, USB 3.1 's operate with either side in. 


Up..Up...and A-W-A-Y, Oh-Chef-of-the-Future ~ 

  

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Music 'Producer Tags'...an Unexplored Voice-Over Frontier

Had the occasion to get involved with voicing a music 'Producer Tag'. Generally speaking producer tags (sometimes called drops) are prerecorded vocal snippets. They often feature all or part of the producers name or signature at the beginning of most of their instrumentals. These tags also serve as artist provenance and act as an important function to an essential, but often overlooked, contributor to the finished song.

 
How it plays into the voice-over game is obvious. Adding a professional voice to add color, nuance and effective engagements could be the difference between a successful tag and artist. With a bit of effortless Googling you'll come up with more than a few contenders...including Fiverr. What makes it worth the trip for voice actors is the challenge to interpret the artists intent and how to make the pairing work. Not-to-mention, it's kinda cool.

 From a VoiceOver standpoint of untapped resources or ones that could at least provide a little creative stretching, it shouldn't be overlooked. Dropping tags at the start of a song has become an inescapable-staple in music. 

Having its roots anchored in the 90's mix-tape culture, when DJs would do name shout-outs over their tracks, tags have become a way to build brand equity in an industry where producers only got credit in album liner notes. These days - liner notes are harder to find than Trump's taxes. Fluctuating CD and digital music sales have many producers developing signature drops to make their presence known. Which in turn has lent credence to tags as an actual component of songwriting.

 I was introduced to producer tags quite by accident as part of a favor for a client's daughter. Always willing to help out the cause as it were, I dived into the genre with both feet, albeit a little wobbly. You see, I was working for grandpa. and supposed to sound like it too. Amos McCoy that is. Walter Brennan, to anyone not born in another millennia. The chief grandpa and producer at grandpa. wanted a specific sound for a short line to be read as an old codger. Something tells me her dad had something to do with Walter. The line was " Well, back in my day" . They did some tweaking here & there plus adding a bit of echo and Viola. You can find grandpa. at Instagram and can check out her new single Distrokid with links to music previews at: Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and Amazon.

Signature tags are artistic hooks. The reasoning for younger producers wanting to use a tagline may evolve as their career scales to a certain level of success. Some contend that as technology advances at lightning speeds it's lowered  the barrier for entry that producers often use to make themselves stand out...especially in an industry where over-saturation can lead to musical stagnation. Perhaps it's because it’s a part of the culture now, where sometimes the producer is bigger than the artist and the producer tag helps the artist be heard.

 
Click to Play Producer Tag

Love them or hate them, tags have become so woven into the music scene that it’s pushed producers into the spotlight. Some, even get credited as featured artists on tracks. VoiceOver people can be an integral part of the producer tag process. One more arena to belly up to the microphone and show 'em what you got. 'Course, if the music ain't happenin', tag or no tag ain't gonna matter.

 

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