Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sounding Off

Spending the morning reading the tutorial on how to use a digital recording application I've just downloaded called "Audacity." Exciting, eh? I'm setting up a home recording "studio" (AKA my study closet) so that I can record voiceover auditions from home, thus garnering me more chances to yell my brains out on all manner of video games. There's so much copy for video games these days that my agency can only record a fraction of them in-house (they'd have no booth space for anything else otherwise). Hence, my entry into home recording.

Many people I know would just jump in and "play around" with the equipment and software without using a manual, a FAQ, or a "Read Me." Those people fall into two categories: Gestaltists, who intuitively "get" how something works and can magically make it happen; and Minimalists, who want to know only enough to get them up and running, but no more. An example of the former would be my friend Michael, a savant who can assemble a Lego kit just by looking at the box (and I'm talking about one of those "for ages 8-14" Star Wars kits that have been known to reduce parents to quivering lunatics ). An example of the latter would be my husband Doug, who still does not know where the volume is on his Blackberry phone. 

I am cautious, and obedient. I want ALL the information. If something says "Read Me," I, like Alice in Wonderland, cannot resist. I am of the "Gather All Data and Synthesize" school (GADAS), which Doug has rechristened the "Waste My Time and Put me to Sleep" (WMTPMS) school. I am able to tell him how to use his iTunes library to create a specific Requiem ringtone for each of his most-called numbers. He refuses to care. This is how marriage works after twenty years. 

Audacity is a free downloadable program, recommended to me by several of my VO colleagues. It's simpler to use than Garage Band, and its online manual rocks, mostly because it begins with the heading, "How is sound made?" which is exactly the level I'm starting at. The manual has conversational, easy-to-understand instructions, employing exactly the same tone I use when trying to explain to my mother-in-law how to attach photos to her email. 

Here's a sample:

Your computer has a soundcard − it could be a separate card, like a SoundBlaster, or it could be built−in to your computer. Either way, your soundcard comes with an Analog−to−Digital Converter (ADC) for recording, and a Digital−to−Analog Converter (DAC) for playing audio. Your operating system (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, etc.) talks to the sound card to actually handle the recording and playback, and Audacity talks to your operating system so that you can capture sounds to a file, edit them, and mix multiple tracks while playing.

I like all those components having little chats in my computer— it's so warm, so collegial! I imagine them gathered around the water cooler, sound files tucked under their digital arms, holding coffee mugs with sound waves steaming out of them...

Okay, back to reading...

Here's another good bit:

Next comes foley. These are clothes rustling(body sounds), foot steps and objects being handled. People that have the ultimate edition of Terminator 2 will know that all of Arnold Schwarzenegger's footsteps and rustle of his leather clothing were created by a five foot woman. These people are usually called foley walkers or foley artists.

Arnold Schwarzenegger being foley'd by a five-foot woman? Now that's information I can use! Even Doug would want to know that!

This may take a while...

Update: My brain hurts. I'm done

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Birds are Back in Town

Tick. Tick. Tick. Minutes before Easter Sunday. I've placed the giant log of brioche dough rolled with cinnamon and sugar in the refrigerator, from where it will be taken out the next morning, sliced, left to rise up gloriously like our Savior, and be transubstantiated into pecan sticky buns. The pizza rusticas are cooling on the racks. I could go to sleep now and get my rest for the double shift to come (brunch and dinner), but, no, I'm waiting, idling in the kitchen as if I'm unaware of my procrastination. Wipe the counter, make notes in my cookbooks.
Should have taken the photo before
the Sticky Bun Massacre
Tick tick tick.


12:01. "Denis, James has invited you to play a game of Scrabble."

12:02. "Susan, James has invited you to play a game of Scrabble."

12:03. "Bob, James has invited you to play a game of Scrabble."

I'm back, baby!

Yes, after the long, looong self-imposed exile from the land of app games, I am free once more to roam in the latter half of my iPad. Hello, my little darlings, it's so good to see you. How long was Lent? It felt like years. What? It's only been since March 8th? Impossible! Let's never fight again...

Coronary in a Crust
So, how did my little experiment pan out? Well, I can't say that I've felt any more productive in this time period. Granted, we had vacation and sick child during that time, but the lack of distraction didn't spur me onto any great heights of creative output, as I was kinda hoping it would. My days did seem more... accounted for. I got a bit more sleep, and I read tons more books. So that's a good thing. I'm a gonna try to cut back on the games, play them more... mindfully, but I'm doubtful. I'm kinda an all-or-nothing kinda person (this is also true when it comes to the sticky buns and pizza rustica, unfortunately). But I'll try. Curbing compulsion is freeing.

And how was my return to those Angry, angry Birds? Well, I have to say, the magic may be gone. It's like when you have an absolute obsession over someone, and you can't stop thinking of him, and imagining yourself with him, and scribbling his name on napkins... and then a few years go by and you find yourself wondering, "What was the big deal about that guy? I played a few rounds of Angry Birds, but it really didn't so anything for me. It was the same old hitting the wooden planks with colored birds, and no matter how much holiday dressing, it felt rote. I really don't see the attraction any more. I may not be going back...

Yeah, right. It rocked! I plowed through eight levels and I RULE those pigs with the bunny hats on! Only now I'm developing a slight pain in my forearm from all that repetitious iPad flicking of birds... maybe I should have eased back into it a little more slowly...

One Last Thing. Some fun for those who love trashy reality shows, Oscar Wilde, or both:
 The Broadway cast of "The Importance of Being Earnest" take on the witticisms of the Jersey Shore (thanks for the heads up, Towleroad):

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Small Indiscretion

Sunday: it was a tiring, unspun day, clogged with snotty tissues rising like yeast on my son's night stand, bowls of uneaten soup and cups of unsipped tea, rumpled sheets and the constant search for the inhaler to administer puffs of albuterol. A sleepless night. The day meted out in four-hour increments for medication. Finally, I'm able to leave the house for a quick trip to the gym. I sit in my car. I'm alone. I'm unneeded (this is a good thing). I'm too tired to start the next thing, and then I get the Urge. Fierce, sudden, and uncontrollable. Why don't I do it? There's no one around... time for a quick one. I deserve it. And without further thought, driven by primal need, I pull it out.

Squawk! Squawk! Da-da-da dah, da-da-da dah, da-da-da-da-da-da-da dah...

I know. I know. A week away from Easter I had to break my Angry Birds fast. I was so close! Jesus wept. I didn't play long, just three rounds of "Ham 'em High" (there were new levels!) where the pigs were on the train, and the next one where they are under a dangling bridge... and then I felt dirty. Dirty dirty dirty. Remember how Piper Laurie felt when she confessed to Sissy Spacek in "Carrie" about her husband coming home that night with whiskey on his breath?

And I liked it, I LIKED IT!
That dirty.

No app games since, though I did play "Toy Story 3" on the PS3 with Benjamin (he was sick! It was bonding!) I'll be able to hold off now until the Resurrection, mostly because I'll be baking AND because I found a new, healthy alternative to games, something quick and fun and entertaining!


It's good. Really laugh-out-loud funny, and in easy, snack-size portions. If you like "30 Rock" and Liz Lemon, this is just more yummy goodness. (She writes just like my friend Sue Ferrara talks. Amazing.) If you don't like "30 Rock," (yes Mom, I know you can't stand her AND that Baldwin fellow) then by all means, shun the book, or better yet, buy a copy and bring it to the book-burning that I'm sure Sarah Palin is organizing right about now.

All right, must go and make a pizza rustica. And sticky buns. Maybe a brioche.

Sublimation reigns!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Roundup

"Today, the minutes seem like hours,
 The hours go so slowly,
And still the sky is light..."

This lyric is not describing an impending lover's tryst. It is describing what it's like to have a child sick at home for FIVE DAYS with a cold. One that seemingly abates during the day, allowing him to squirrel around the house with the promise of recovery (and school) the following day, only to flare up in fever and hacking coughs at night, thereby rendering any sleep for him or his haggard parents virtually impossible. It's been siege mentality around here.

Five days. That's all I'm saying. And Monday doesn't look too promising.

That aside, pretty busy week, work-wise. Aside from the Kung-Fu Panda work, had a looping session for an imported show called "Winks." Anyone from Across the Pond heard of it? Apparently, it's pretty popular out in Europe. From what I can tell, it's what "Tinkerbell" would be like if it were made into a manga series. Fairies à la "Bakugan"— what's not to like? Just throw in a few robotic dragons, and it hits every demographic!

Also did two days of shouting, screaming and dying for a MUCH-anticipated sequel to a video game franchise. In a reversal of my summer Chicago experience on "Chicago Code," I voiced one of the Boys in Blue this time, a Chicago cop. Took me a little bit to find the accent, surprisingly. I won't tell my Chi-town friends who I conjured up to get that accent in my head... ("Oh my Gaahd! He can't be taahking about me!")

This taping was pretty grueling. Imagine fours hours straight, two days, of yelling life-or-death dialogue along the lines of "Hold it right the-ah!" "Staahp or I'll shoot!" and "He's aahn the roof!" Pages and pages, three times each (at least), plus expletives, expletives and more expletives.

(My son is fascinating by this. "You said swear words?" "Yes, lots of them. All of them." "Even the King of swears?" "Many times." "Why?" "They want the game to sound very grown-up." "I wanna hear it." "You're not gonna hear it.")

The director, himself originally from Chicago, was great, and saved all the screaming and fighting and dying for the end. Aside from the usual falling off buildings (three-story and ten-story), gun shots, punches and axes to the head, legs and gut, plus the death groans long and short, I learned a new death sound: garroting with a wire! It involves taking a small sip of water and letting it gurgle after a brief struggle and choke. Excellent. You never know when you're gonna need to let forth a good arterial spritzing...

I have to confess: I liked doing them. So cathartic. And I have to admit—I'm pretty good at dying.

Had a little trouble, though, with some juicy "f's" the first day. Don't you hate it when that happens? You can hear it during playback: some consonants just sound a little spitty. This is usually not a problem for me, but I think I was getting over a cold myself so my mouth was a little wetter than usual. Swigging water and swallowing helps, but the next day I remedied the situation with a sure-cure:
The VO world's secret weapon....

Voice over tip: A bite of green apple (gotta be green, pink ladies aint gonna cut it) are good for taking all that extra junk in your mouth and sucking it away. Has to do with the acidity, I think. It works.

If a lingering cold can make itself heard in the recording booth, you can understand how terrified voice-over folk are of getting any kind of respiratory infection. You have to excuse the battery of teas, sprays, apples and ancient Chinses elixers that some of us tote around to sessions. Crap in your throat can kill you.

I guess I won't be bringing Benjamin to tapings any time soon.

MOVIE WATCH. Doug and I got out of the House of Plague for an evening. Saw the very enjoyable, badly-titled, just-what-the-doctor-ordered movie "Source Code." It's a time-twisting, "Inception"-meets-"Groundhog's Day" thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, who turns in a surprisingly affecting performance for such a popcorn flick. It's not a movie you have to think hard about (nor should you— watch out for those plot holes!); you just enjoy the ride. ALSO set in Chicago, albeit mostly on a train. The music was a bit "Planet of the Apes" bombastic, but otherwise quite entertaining. Thought the filmmakers missed one moment, though: there's a scene where Jake, in all his desperate loveliness, follows a suspect into the men's room of a train station. The man washes his hand, looks up to see Jake staring at him. Hard. The suspect leaves, but not before glancing back to see that Jake is still ls still staring at him, hard, practically quivering with anticipation. The man stares back, and leaves, frightened. Come on. I don't care if you're straight or gay, if Jake Gyllenhaal is staring at you in the men's bathroom with those heavy-lidded doe eyes, you are NOT going to run away.
If you wanna racial profile me, Jake, you go right ahead.

Sigh... but maybe that's a different movie.

HOBBIT ALERT! Okay, time to fly my nerd flag once more: there's a video diary entry from Peter Jackson on the set of "The Hobbit" in New Zealand. Talking about quivering with anticipation— I just finished reading it to Benj and I can't wait for this movie to get made. It looks exciting, with veterans Ian McKellan and Andy Serkis making appearances. And I've never seen such hunky Middle Earth dwarves:

All right, back to the House of Plague. Please, say a novena for us.