Thursday, September 13, 2012


That's an old problem. A client is surprised to find its industrial video's multilingual version not appropriate to sell its product, because voices are lousy and the speech can't follow the picture. To cap it all the brand name has been pronounced completely wrong.
Well this is a typical process that can double the cost of a normal VO in multiple languages...

It just happened to me, but this time it was much worse. I got a phone call from an Italian customer asking for help to find a true German voice to record his ads on toys to be sold in Germany during the Christmas season. He insisted on having a true, genuine, native, authentic Germanic, Deutsch voice... He wanted to avoid what he had just experienced: he hired a German person to voice his ads in Italy, but when the ads were mixed and ready to broadcast in Germany, the distributor rejected those. "The voice speaks with a funny accent, exotic, un German, she is not German", said the distributor. The Italian producer was mad at hearing the bad news but accepted his mistake. So we had to organise an urgent recording session with one of our authentic, genuine, true German voice talents and this time the ad was broadcast.

Some studios that offer voiceover are not necessarily knowledgeable on foreign voices. They can certainly provide local talent and certify about their authenticity, simply because a native person can recognize when the voice masters his mother toung. It takes a native to recognize another native. They offer a casting of voice talents in the main languages because they see there is an increasing demand for that, but more often than not foreign voiceovers is not their core business. They choose talent based on references, on their nationality or their good-sounding voices, but that's it. Audio engineers are not linguists so, how can they make sure that the foreign talent has kept his native language in good shape?

  • Make sure the foreign voice has good references and proven experience in VOs.
  • Ask him how he keeps his language sharp and fresh while living in a foreign country
  • Inquire on where he comes from, in most languages you have regional accents or dialects that could be inappropriate for certain target audiences
  • Don't hesitate to ask for his CV, Resumé, since education is the main, basic feature you expect from a good voice actor
This should not intimidate the voice talent. If he is a good one, he will even appreciate your professionnality as a producer or as a sound engineer.

What do you think? Have you ever had issues with foreign talents? Your feedback is much appreciated.

Constantino de Miguel

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A power failure and you are recording !!!

It just happened in India, it could happen to you too !

Grids supplying electricity to half of India's 1.2 billion people collapsed, trapping coal miners, stranding train travelers and plunging hospitals into darkness in the second major blackout in as many days.

A blackout could happen anywhere, anytime and it could be devasting for your business as a voiceover talent. Imagine you are in your booth recording this long script that absorbs all your concentration and the power fails? Your time and effort is wasted and it could also damage your reputation as you might not be able to meet your deadline to your client. A power failure could be temporary nuisance or as in India last for too many hours, but sooner or later the power would arrive at the mains and then cross your fingers !  The power could come with undesired peaks that could ruin your recording equipment.

But there is a solution for this problem as any sound studio knows.
Here is our CHECKLIST of things to do to protect your home studio in case of power failure
  1. Buy a Uninterrupted Power Supply or UPS at any computer store. You can buy it at around $ 70 or € 50. It's basically a battery that stores DC electricity and transforms into into AC at the normal current you use 110 or 220 V.  
  2. The UPS should be connected to the computer on which you are recording the audio, so when power fails you have still 5 to 10 minutes (depending on UPS battery capacity) to save your precious recordings and shut down.
  3. Make sure that the battery is standard and you can buy the replacement anywhere (even a do it your self stores). The UPS battery has a capacity of up to 1000 charges and could last for 3 years.
  4. Or consider buying a more powerful UPS in the first place if you want to go on recording no matter the power failure. It could cost you from $ 500 or 600 €. You will need it for your preamp that also use electricity and feeds your mic with phantom power. We stress that the UPS should be of much better quality, because a standard, cheap UPS will introduce unwanted noise into your recording, since the alternative power is not streamlined.
  5. A stronger UPS unit should be connected to computer, preamp and screens and can provide filtered good quality electricity for 15 minutes with some luck.  You can then finish the part of the script you were reading and then save everything.
Another reason to have a UPS interconnected is that you will protect your equipment from power surges when electricity goes on and off after a storm for example. Also your valuable telephone lines or ISDN. This unit below has 8 outlets.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Interviews, a success formula 

Any interview for the media is a kind of battle between two brains interacting: one with the mission of extracting information and the other trying to give away what is convenient or relevant. It's more than words that are exchanged in the interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee, since gestures and attitudes, including body language, are a key part of any face to face talk, especially if both participants are on camera at a TV show or at a prerecorded interview.
Larry King, in his book "How to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The secrets of a good communication", says that an interview has the same elements of a conversation. He has a success formula with four key elements:

1) Honesty, I would say just be yourself, don't pretend and be sincere to your audience

2) Practice, so do as many interviews as possible or rehearse them if you don't have the chance

3) Interest on what the other person has to say, so you need to listen and show sincere empathy

4) Be frank, so be as open and sincere to your interviewee as you want him to be with you

Friday, December 16, 2011

Je suis un journaliste, pas un acteur, alors comment puis-je faire face à une caméra ?
Eh bien si vous n'avez pas été formé pour le faire, ce n'est pas grave,  c'est comme tout une question de pratique, beaucoup de pratique. 

 Voici quelques conseils pour vous:
1) Préparez à fond votre sujet. Etudiez le sujet que vous allez en parler jusqu'à ce qu'il devienne une partie de votre connaissance, jusqu'à ce que vous pouvez l'expliquer à partir d'angles différents et avec une richese des mots et des expressions. Si vous devez parler à un large public à travers l'objetiv de la caméra, vous devez faire comme tout soldat qui part sur le front: prendre assez de munitions et d'armes. Cela signifie pour vous des arguments et des opinions claires sur ce que vous parlez.
2) Ne mémorisez pas le sujet. Préparer un sujet ne signifie pas l'apprendre par cœur, puis le dire comme une machine à parler. Dale Carnegie écrit que «l'homme qui écrit et mémorise ses recits perd son temps et beaucoup d'énergie et il va vers la catastrophe". Vous devriez penser en fonction des idées, non en fonction des paroles. Comme Carnegie souligne «si vos idées sont claires, les mots viennent aussi naturellement et inconsciemment que l'air que nous respirons.
3) Lisez avec votre esprit ouvert. Contrairement aux idées reçues, les acteurs n'apprennent pas ligne par ligne, littéralement l'enregistrement dans leur esprit les phrases. Le processus est lu maintes et maintes fois les textes clés de votre discours et points de balle. Ce processus d'assimilation doit avoir lieu avec désinvolture et pendant les meilleurs moments de leur quand il n'ya pas de pression.
4) Répétez. Oui, vous avez besoin pour la pratique en face de quelqu'un qui peut vous orienter, ou si vous êtes seul dans un hôtel, le faire en face d'un miroir. Ne vous inquiétez pas si le discours change à chaque fois, rappelez-vous que vous n'êtes pas une machine, vous devrez exprimer des idées non pas une collection de mots, cela signifie que vous pouvez formuler vos idées dans différents modes, tant qu'ils sont clairs et que vous êtes debout dans le plein contrôle.
5) Gardez le contrôle. Il est naturel que vous vous sentez mal à l'aise et en tension quand vous savez que vous allez faire une présentation en direct devant les caméras. C'est une bonne chose, car cela signifie que votre adrénaline coule dans votre corps et l'esprit, alors quand vient le moment vous serez en mesure d'être forte. Obtenez votre esprit hors vous et se concentrer sur le sujet.
6) Gardez-le refroidir sur une caméra. Lorsque vous signalez la vie devant la caméra, vous serez debout pendant un certain temps, peut-être quelques minutes avant le point d'ancrage vous salue et vous pose des questions. Vous ne serez pas en mesure de le voir, mais vous avez à regarder la caméra, sans trop bouger. Pendant que vous attendez tout simplement se détendre et peut-être réfléchir sur les messages clés de ce que vous allez dire. Puis ajouter de l'énergie et de personnalité à vos phrases, mais ne suis pas nerveux si un mot est mal placée, si vous avez soudainement oublié quelque chose.

On Camera Live Coverage. How ?

I'm a journalist not an actor, so how can I face a camera and have a fluent meaningful speech that sounds and looks natural ?

Well you haven't been trained to do it, but it doesn't matter, this is a matter of practice, a lot of practice. Here are some tips for you:

1) Prepare your subject matter. really brood over the topic you are going to talk about until it becomes part of your knowledge, until you can explain it from different angles and with different words and expressions. If you have to talk to a wide audience through a camera lens you need to do as any soldier will do to combat, get the right ammunition and weapons. That means for you arguments and clear views on what you are talking about.

2) Do not memorize the topic. Preparing a subject does not mean to learn by heart a text and then say it like a talking machine. Dale Carnegie writes that "the man who writes out and memorizes his talks is wasting his time and energy and courting disaster". You should think of ideas, not words. As Carnegie points out "if your ideas are clear, the words come as naturally and unconsciously as the air we breathe.

3) Read with your mind open. Contrary to conventional wisdom, actors don't learn line by line, literally recording in their minds the sentences. The process is reading over and over again the key texts of your speech and bullet points. This assimilation process should take place casually and during the best moments of they when there is no pressure.

4) Rehearse. Yes, you need to practice in front of someone who can direct you, or if you are alone in a hotel, do it in front of a mirror. Don't worry if the speech changes everytime, remember you are not a machine, you will express ideas not a collection of words, that means that you can formulate your ideas in different fashions, as long as they are clear and you are standing in full control.

5) Keep control. It is natural that you feel uneasy and in tension when you know that you are going to do a live presentation on camera. That is good, because it means your adrenaline is flowing in your mind and body, so when the moment comes you will be able to be sharp. Get your mind off you and focus on the subject matter.

6) Keep it cool on-camera. When you are reporting life in front of camera, you will be standing for a while, maybe several minutes before the anchor greets you and asks you questions. You will not be able to see him, but you have to look at the camera without moving too much. While you wait just relax and maybe think about the key messages of what you are going to say. Then add energy and personality to your sentences, but don't get nervous if a word is misplaced, if you suddenly forgot something.

At PrimeVoices' studios we record voice-overs in multiple languages. We have a casting of native voice talents from all over the world. From simple voice-over to more elaborate dubbing or lip-sync, at PrimeVoices we can also mix the speech track with music or just background sound. With three studio suites, we can perform any post-production from video editing, to subtitling and captioning.
With PrimeReporters, a branch of PrimeVoices, we organise coverage of world events like elections or summits, supplying ready-to-air reports to international broadcasters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vous pouvez apprendre n'importe quoiLes enfants de certains fermes australiennes connaissent très bien l'education à distance. Depuis les années soixante, ils ont utilisé cet apprentissage en utilisant la radio ondes courtes pour communiquer avec leurs enseignants et leurs classes, parce que c'était la seule alternative possible pour avoir l'éducation lorsque les écoles étaient des centaines de kilometres. Maintenant, il est plus facile et il faut pas vivre en Australie, vous pouvez améliorer vos compétences n'importe ou grâce au e-learning. Tous ce que vous avez besoin est un ordinateur ou même un smartphone et bien entendu du temps et de la concentration. E-learning a été inventé en 1998 par Cisco Systems, société qui avait découvert e-learning comme un moyen efficace de former ses employés partout dans le monde. Par le biais de simples modules d'animations, des vidéos et des schémas, l'étudiant peut approfondir ses connaissances sur des sujets comme l'éthique d'entreprise, comment améliorer le service à la clientèle ou les règles de sécurité sur une usine. La beauté du e-learning est que l'apprentissage est un processus étape par étape, dans lequelle vous faites l'acquisition des compétences suite à une série de tests. C'est auto-formation fournit un résultat objectif clair, car avec un système de choix multiples vous et votre entreprise saurez si vous avez vraiment fait des progrès. Pour rendre l'apprentissage en ligne un outil de formation efficace, les modules d'animation sont toujours enregistrés par une voix humaine, la plupart du temps un narrateur persuasive qui vous parle dans votre propre langue. Parfois, il peut être plus que cela, donc une vraie conversation enregistrée avec des acteurs qui donnent vie à une scène particulière. Ainsi l'enregistrement d'e-learning est un must et c'est ce que nous faisons très régulièrement dans les studios de PrimeVoices.
Nous sélectionnons les acteurs pour leurs compétences pédagogiques, parce qu'ils doivent transmettre avec leur voix une série d'exercices qui peuvent parfois être complexes. Un example très atypique de cours e-learning nous l'avions enregistrée pour Renault il y a quatre ans et la langue en question était le slovène. Ce n'était pas facile de trouver les acteurs dans cette langue, mais alors quand nous avons réussi à les trouver l'enregistrement ce n'était pas une tâche facile . Ils devaient lire un texte très technique avec des instructions spécifiques sur la façon de fonctionner des machines qui fabriquent des voitures dans une usine en Slovénie.
Alors quelle est l'efficacité d'e-learning?. Il est portable, car les modules peuvent être chargés sur n'importe quel appareil numérique, téléphone intelligent, ordinateur ou tablette. Il s'agit d'une formation autonome et une série d'exercices qui permettent d'évaluer votre niveau. Il est objectif et d'entraînement résultat. Mais quels sont les inconvénients? E-learning est inutile si elle est utilisée seule, l'utilisateur doit être soutenue par un tuteur, parce que l'auto-étude a ses limites. Normalement le paquet d'e-learning est utilisé par la filiale à l'aide d'entraîneur professionnel qui fournit des directives générales sur la façon de l'utiliser par les gestionnaires. Last but not least l'utilisateur final devrait aussi avoir le temps au sein de l'entreprise d'être en mesure de suivre le cours.Au PrimeVoices nous avons enregistré d'e-learning dans plus de 30 langues, couvrant non seulement l'audio, voix-off sur les images, mais aussi la post-production finale avec sous-titrage et sous-titrage. Dans certains cas, nous avons localisé les animations afin que les textes embarqué peut également être adapté à la langue locale.

Recording E-learning

You can learn anything
Australian farm kids know it very well. Since the sixties they have used distance learning using short wave radio to communicate with their teachers and their classes, because it was the only possible alternative to have education when schools were hundreds of miles away. Now it's easier and you dont' need to be a kid or live in Australia, you can improve your skills in any area thanks to e-learning. All you need is a computer or even a smart phone and of course time and concentration. E-learning was invented in 1998 by Cisco Systems when it discovered that an effective way of training its employees all over the world was sending them e-learning modules. By means of simple animations, videos and diagrams, the student can improve his knowledge in topics like company ethics, effective customer service or safety rules. The beauty of e-learning is that it is a step by step process, in which you acquire skills through a series of tests. It's self study with a clear objective result, because with a multiple choice system you know and your company knows if you have really made progress. To make e-learning an effective tool in training, the animated modules have always a human voice, mostly a persuasive narrator who is talking to you in your own language. Sometimes it can be more than that, so a real conversation recorded with actors that give life to a particular scene. So recording e-learning is a must and this is what we do very regularly at PrimeVoices.
We select actors for their pedagogical skills, because they have to convey with their voices a series of drills or exercises that sometimes can be complex. A very atypical e-learning course we have recorded it was for Renault and the language involved was Slovenian. It wasn't easy to find the actors in that language, but then when we recorded it wasn't an easy task. They had to read a very technical texts with specific instructions on how to operate the machines that manufacture cars at a plant in Slovenia.
How effective can e-learning be ?. It is portable because the modules can be loaded on any digital device, smart-phone, computer or tablet. It is a self-contained training, with speaking e-teacher, the voice you hear, and a series of exercise that assess your level. It is objective and result drive. But what are the inconveniences? E-learning is useless if it is used alone, the user should be supported by a tutor, because self-study has limits. Normally the e-learning package is used by the subsidiary with the help of professional coach that provides general guidelines on how to use it by managers. Last but not least the final user should also have the time within the company to be able to follow the course.
At PrimeVoices we have recorded e-learning in over 30 languages, covering not just audio, voice-over on pictures, but also final post-production with captioning and subtitling. In some cases, we have localized the animations so that the embedded texts can also be adapted to the local language.