FreeSound

freesoundMy wife is having heart surgery this morning, and there was lots of preparation in advance of the procedure, so this is a short blog today.

‘Came across an interesting site called FreeSound.

From the website:

Freesound aims to create a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, … released under Creative Commons licenses that allow their reuse.

Freesound provides new and interesting ways of accessing these samples, allowing users to:

  • browse the sounds in new ways using keywords, a “sounds-like” type of browsing and more
  • upload and download sounds to and from the database, under the same creative commons license
  • interact with fellow sound-artists!

Check it out.  ‘Pretty interesting concept.

I’ll let you know how the surgery goes.  Prayers appreciated for Victoria.

CourVO

Skype Goes Pro Audio: What This Means for VO’s

skype-cSure, everybody loves to bash Microsoft, the most recent owner of Skype…but the truth is, the lion’s share of Skype employees live in Luxembourg, and the development team is mostly in Estonia (the birthplace of Skype).  That’s hardly a typical Redmond-based mishandling of some browser brouhaha.  Skype is one of the smartest things MS did, and they’ve been steadily improving it since the acquisition in 2011.

Skype has a huge user-base, and practically invented the concept of VOIP.  They are certainly behind the codec that seems to be powering all of the latest entries into the post-apocalyptic ISDN successors.  First known as SILK, this now totally open, royalty-free, highly versatile audio codec is universally called OPUS. (See my blog SILK Becomes an OPUS).

Opus is standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as RFC 6716 which incorporated technology from Skype’s SILK codec and Xiph.Org’s CELT codec.  SoundStreak is using it, Source-ConnectNOW, ipDTL, and now Skype, too, is announcing its own hi-fidelity broadcast quality, studio-grade, remote-recording connection called Skype TX.  Here are several write-ups:

http://www.engadget.com/2014/04/07/skype-tx-for-broadcasters/

http://blogs.skype.com/2014/04/07/skype-delivers-a-new-solution-for-broadcasters/

https://media.skype.com/skype-tx/

http://techcrunch.com/2014/04/07/microsoft-introduces-a-studio-grade-skype-for-broadcasters-called-skype-tx/

http://microsoft-news.com/microsoft-announces-skype-tx-a-studio-grade-broadcasting-solution/

Read all the geeky stuff about OPUS here: http://www.opus-codec.org/.

BOTTOM LINE FOR VOICE-ACTORS?

S’all good.  This is the kind of competition that makes capitalism great.  Global forces are competing for a seat at the post-ISDN table, and the menu is rich.

nailinthecoffin.jpgNo, ISDN is not going to disappear tomorrow, thanks to legacy-loving influential studios in big cities.  But the quality of these new solutions, paired with the general improvement in broadband reliability will prove to be the economical AND quality alternative that will win the day.

Users like us are the beneficiaries.  Now the marketplace can even-out…so can the opportunities.  Those voice-actors who don’t live in NYC or LA can have a shot at some of those big-studio, agency-driven jobs WITHOUT having to pay exorbitant rates for ISDN installs, hook-ups, codecs, and monthly maintenance.

Studios, too, will have a wider population of available talent from which to choose.  At least that’s how it looks on paper.  Lord knows other market forces could eventually militate against my remote-recording utopian vision.  But here’s where being a geek can be exciting.  All the technological gobbledegook DOES effect us in our workplace, our day-to-day routines, and our pocketbook.

Tomorrow, I hit the show floor at NAB.  One of my first stops will be the Source-Elements booth to talk to programming whiz Rebekah Wilson.  Maybe she’ll have some thoughts for me about all these developments.

CourVO

Put Your Demo on Google+

Hgoogleplusow many times have I said lately, that Google + is the future of Social Media?  I might even be right!  :)

SoundCloud is also a form of social media that is ascending to a safe place as the de facto program for embedding or linking to audio (much as YouTube serves that purpose for video).  That’s fine. SoundCloud is a solid product, and their developers have done their homework well.  Now G+ and SoundCloud come together.

Why put your demo on Google+?

  • 625,000 new users every day
  • 500-million users total (2nd only to FaceBook)
  • 350-million daily active users
  • 60% more users than Twitter

Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted a brief tutorial for posting your Demo on Pinterest, using SoundCloud.

Today, I present just-as-simple a method for posting your SoundCloud audio on G+.  It starts from the SoundCloud side of things.

From your list of tracks, click on the “Share” icon.

G+A

On the next screen, click on the G+ icon:

G+

Finally, on the next screen, choose the destination on G+ for your soundfile.   You can send it to any of your circles (or combination thereof).  You can also send it to groups or individuals.

G+B

It just doesn’t get any simpler than this.

Today’s added bonus:  two more sites that have incredible Google + tips you can take advantage of.

New Google Plus View Counts

13+ Google+ Tools to Improve Your Marketing

Have a great weekend!

CourVO

 

MS Office on your iPad/iPhone

msofficeDigital tools are so important to voice-actors.

You will not win or lose a voiceover audition based on having MS Office on your iPhone or iPad (or not), but as you know, tools can come in mighty handy in your workflow, and in a pinch.  The RIGHT tool can be a lifesaver in a panic.  I prefer to be prepared, and as you know, I love geeky things…hence today’s blog.

Microsoft is accepting reality.  Laptop and desktop computer purchases are diminishing by the day worldwide, which means the Windows OS cash cow of yesteryear has already seen its heyday. (Don’t cheer too loudly Apple fans, the same turnabout is happening with sales of Mac OS laptop and desktop computers).

The foreseeable future of computing is in the hands of smartphones and tablets.  So while Redmond is acknowledging the slow death of a huge revenue stream, it’s finally coming awake to the fact that it has in-hand a lucrative replacement: its ubiquitous Office Suite.  Even Apple has nothing to compare with this combination of everyday programs offered in such widespread distribution and acceptance worldwide.

The popular combination of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (variously bundled with Access, Publisher, Linq, OneNote and Outlook), paired with OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), is widely used internationally on almost every available operating system.  Microsoft jumped on the “cloud” bandwagon a couple of years ago with the Office Suite, and like other major software companies (Adobe comes to mind), is moving to a licensing model of monthly fee for a version of the application that is used and constantly updated online — no local computer install necessary.

Now MS is taking it a step further by making the Office Suite available on Android and iOS platforms.

I know… it makes for strange bedfellows, but it’s smart business.

This lofty goal of MS Office Suite on virtually all computing platforms everywhere is laudable, but even after their announcement recently, the implementation has been a little slow.

I now have a successful working version of MS Office (MS365) on my iPhone and iPad, but it took about a half-hour with a Microsoft Service Technician to get there.  Yes, Microsoft IS reachable by phone…in fact THEY called ME.

If you have MS365 Plus Pro or MS Office Small Biz or Small Biz Premium, I’ve done the homework for you.  Just download the iOS app at this link:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/office-mobile-for-office-365/id541164041.  For some reason (and it could be iTunes Store competitiveness/slothfulness), that link is not available as a downloadable app in the iTunes store from your phone or tablet.  You have to send this link to your iPhone or iPad by email, and open it there, then downoad the app from a browser, and click to install.  There are some sneaky imposters (lookalikes) out there in the marketplace.  Make sure it comes with this logo (left).  ms365

Once the app is installed, you go through a standard sign-on sequence using your Microsoft credentials, and eventually you get to a screen that lets you view or generate new Word and Excel files, including those you can access from OneDrive.  The only drawback for iPad users is that the app is designed for the iPhone, so when you enlarge the app for the iPad screen, it loses some distinct resolution.  I’m told the native iPad version is almost here.

These are just tools, people… use ‘em or not, but at least consider which ones are right for your business.

CourVO

 

 

The Key to Choosing KeyWords

keywordsThere’s that term again:  Keywords.  Everybody throws it around like it’s OBVIOUS what they are, or should be.  Delve into online websites, marketing your VO services, and you’ll see that keywords pop up in many of the SEO and SEM strategies that used to be so important.  I dunno.  Are they still?  I choose keywords (tags) for every blog I write.  Some keywords are visible, others are written into the site’s code.  Keywords show up in backlinks, inbound links, and inlinks.

Keywords are at the heart of most analyses of web traffic.  If you want metrics, chances are the person you’re hiring, or the program you’re using is going to ask for keywords.

Google “keywords” and you’ll invariably get a lot of links to a site called Moz.com.  They hope to sign you up for their service, but the site is chock-full of some basic keywords philosophy.  Check out their page:  http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research, where you’ll find this wisdom: “….through the detective work of puzzling ouour market’s keyword demand, you not only learn which terms and phrases to target with SEO, but also learn more about your customers as a whole. It’s not always about getting visitors to your site, but about getting the right kind of visitors. The usefulness of this intelligence cannot be overstated – with keyword research you can predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions, and produce the products, services, and content that web searchers are already actively seeking…”

Great.  Got it.  The concept of keywords is not hard…just choosing the keywords…THAT’s hard.  Why?

My friend Brett Bumeter — web developer and WordPress expert explained it to me this way:

Customers typically need solutions to problems.  A voice over actor might be the solution to that problem, but they might approach it like ‘How do I make my own commercial?’ or ‘Where do I hire a firm to narrate a commerical?’ or something like that which never mentions the actual keywords voice over, or voice over artist or voice over actor.  They have questions to ask, but they do not have the answer to the question and therefore can’t seek out the person that embodies that answer.
So that means that as you are trying to drive more business and sales, you need to make certain pages or posts on your site visible in search ranking much further upstream int the clients ‘self-education process.
 
With that being the case, generic keywords like the ones above could be the absolute last keywords to chase and maybe also the most competitive and more expensive keywords to spend money and time on!
BTW, Brett is a genius at this stuff, and although he says he doesn’t do much SEO anymore, he’s plenty savvy about it.  He’s also great at ANYTHING WordPress.  I give him my unabashed recommendation:  http://www.softduit.com.
So where does that leave us, as voice-actors?  Where you’ve always been: finding your own marketing path to success.  Surely it may make sense to choose the standard keywords:  voiceover, voice-over, voice over, voice actor, etc.  But then again, maybe you need to choose more creative VO-related keywords that could reel in a different kind of fish.
The more you read about this stuff, the more complicated (and fascinating) it can be.  Of course, Google is big in this realm, so you may want to start there:  GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER.
Then there’s this too:  Google Keyword Tool Box.
BING offers a keyword search page that’s pretty helpful too:  http://www.bing.com/toolbox/keywords.
Finally, following up on the line of thought that I shared from Brett Bumeter above, there’s this dynamite article from January of this year on Social Media Today concerning alternatives to Google keyword search tools:  http://socialmediatoday.com/pamdyer/2039406/10-great-alternatives-google-keyword-research-tool.
Let us know what you decide on… or not.
CourVO

Nimble Contacts Widget for Chrome

nimble-2When FaffCon happened last October, I had already been fooling around with NIMBLE quite a bit.  Then I sat in on an hour-long session with Voice Actor Matt Cowlrick.  Matt was not just proficient at NIMBLE, he was inspirational!

Nimble helps manage your relationships.  I know that sounds nebulous, but it’s true.  Nimble can be used as a Customer Relationship Management tool, but that sounds so clinical.  With Nimble, you can handle email, social media, reminders, alarms, categorize your contacts, and much much more.

Like any other online tool that aggregates so many functions, Nimble takes a little getting used to, but once you see its potential, you’ll want to be on it every day.  Thanks, Matt!

Now, I used Nimble more and more…constantly culling my contacts so the service is more effective.

Even when I’m NOT using Nimble to handle my email, I’m using Nimble WITHIN Gmail as an extension.  The Nimble Contacts Widget is a free and simple install. It helps you manage contacts from the Gmail interface.

Now, there’s also a Nimble Contacts Widget for Chrome.
From the website:

“…The Nimble Contacts Widget provides a smart summary for any contact you’ll encounter, anywhere across the Web. Simply highlight a person’s name, right-click and select ‘Nimble search for John Doe’ and you’re on your way. Now, you’ll have the ability to view social profiles, streams and signals related to that contact from a single screen. Nimble also pulls and provides complete communications history of social messages, emails, notes, and events for every contact on your behalf. It’s a complete relationship management system. The Nimble Contacts Widget also enables you to take action by communicating with contacts, across networks, adding tasks, curating the contact to start engagement and follow-ups directly within the app itself. Nimble enables you to add contacts easily, which is enormously helpful as you come across people you may want to engage with — to start to build a relationship– as you encounter them across the web….”

Take a turn around the block with Nimble just to see it’s cool design.  Even if you subscribe, Nimble is very affordable.  Once you start using it, you’ll understand why having the extension in Chrome and Gmail are a no-brainer.

Have a great weekend!

CourVO

Ch-ch-ch-Changes

source-connect-aWe raised a few eyebrows in the VO community when WoVO came out with its Emancipation from ISDN Proclamation, but it’s looking more and more like we read the tea leaves right.

Plumbing the waters on ANYTHING developing in our business is best done in online community groups and forums.  Lately, those platforms have been full of notices about ISDN-replacement technology. The top contenders:

All three seem to be racheting up the pace of competition, which seems mostly good for voice-actors as a whole.  YouTube videos demo’ing the tools abound, and just Wednesday, Source-Elements announced its Beta, Phase 3… meaning:

- Anyone can now make an account
- No iLok or Source-Connect is required
- Microchat: private chat for you and your guest
- Status updates: see what’s going on
- Better audio device support

- Easier connections, more feedback

See the announcement of Source-Connect NOW’s final phase of BETA service here.

Register for Source-Connect NOW, here.

VO Atlanta (starting today 3/20/14)  is preparing some live demonstrations of ipDTL and Source-Connect now…as is WoVOCon in May.

These technological developments are exciting, but nothing will move ISDN-happy production houses off their duff until the impetus comes from the rank ‘n’ file voice actor cajoling for the change.  If you operate your VO business in any other city than LA or NYC, this means you.

When you have an ISDN session with a producer, ask them quickly if they’ve tried the new technologies like ipDTL or Source-Connect NOW.  A few enterprising voice actors doing this — and conducting a test session on the spot — are finding a genuine WOW! reaction from the producers.

The demise of ISDN, and the rise of replacement technologies only saves money for all of us (production houses too), and spreads around those lucrative jobs to a wider universe of possible talent.

Give “NOW” a try.  It’s amazingly easy and intuitive, and it’s free till Tax Day!

CourVO

5 Tips for Handling Info Overload

infooverload-cYou know me… I live, eat, and breath social media.  Believe it or not, though, I’m not the most prolific poster among my peers.  I chime in when I see fit, and I’ll throw out a blog link or retweet now and then.

For the most part, though, I’m content erring on the side of posting paucity unless I have something worthwhile to say.  Instead, I prefer soaking it all in; wallowing in the mud of information overload…. and what a mudhole it is!

Even for a niche as specialized as voice-acting, there is more to read in one day than any of us have time for.  Derek Chappell’s ever-expanding compendium of voice-over blogs is impressive.  FaceBook VO groups abound.  Add in VO Twitter Lists, Google Plus VO Communities, Stumble-Upon, Reddit, Delicious, VoiceOverXtra, Johnny HateBait, Voice Over Herald, and Steven Lowell, and you’ve got a full plate.

People ask me all the time how I navigate all the info out there to keep a consistent upper-hand on “the latest”.  Well, it helps that I’ve been dealing with information overload in my broadcast news job for decades.  I’ve established a few protocols that have even survived the explosion of information that came with the internet, PLUS some tools that help separate the wheat from the chaff online.

CourVO’s 5 Tips for Handling Info Overload

Be loyal to sites that have earned your trust over time  Most successful information sites from before the internet have managed survive the digital world too.  Wall Street Journal, CNN, Reuters, Wired, and Time Magazine are excellent examples. Digital-only publications have had enough time to earn a reputation, so ask around and get referrals from your friends, pay attention to the sites that seem to get a lot of traffic, and do your homework.

Triage your email, favorite websites, and blogs. Set your priorities before you begin browsing for the day, and don’t get swept in to click on anything but those subject headings or headlines that meet your priority.  Content providers are being trained to write great “hooks” to get you to click.  Don’t let them.  As you go through your email first thing in the day, cruise through all the subject lines and sender names looking for known quantities, clients, friends, and expected mail FIRST.  The rest can wait until later.

Use a feed reader.  Yes, there is life after Google Reader.  A “reader” is an online program that collates and displays all the content (without ads) from your favorite sites in one place.  It does that by utilizing the site’s “feed”.  That lingo is actually fairly arcane these days.  All you really need is the site’s URL, and you’re good.  Top Feed Readers these days are Feedly, FeedSpot, Kouio, and FlowReader.

Browse on your laptop without plugging it in.  When the battery runs out, you’re done. It’s that simple, and it’s for those days when you just can’t seem to stop surfing…and there’s just that one…more…site…

Consider a News Aggregator.  I like The Tweeted Times the best.  Tweeted Times is a personal newspaper generated from your Twitter account.  It sure beats mousing through your Twitter stream forever.  Paper.li is another service like this.  Both are free, and you get to configure what’s included.

Honorable mention Online search.  Yes, I mean Google, Bing, and YouTube.  UNBELIEVABLE how good they are. Use short keywords on the topic you seek, and I’ll be amazed if you don’t find what you’re looking for.  Wanna go deeper?  Try Twitter’s advanced search or LinkedIn’s amazing search engine.

What have I missed?

CourVO

Source-Elements Debuts “NOW”

source-connect-aIn the midst of an unbridled enthusiasm for ipDtL… one of the first providers of non-ISDN remote, high-quality recording — Source Elements — is out with a compelling competing product.

Even as World-Voices Organization calls for an industry-wide end to ISDN, pretenders to the throne are emerging with strong statements as replacements.

ipDtL and SoundStreak are both gaining traction as alternatives.  There are others, but for years, Source-Connect has been a viable and working (if low key) solution to an ISDN workaround.

Now, apparently, feeling the heat of other contenders, Source-Elements has gotten busy with it’s own offering.

I had the pleasure of being in an active working online session for SourceConnect Now with Rebekah Wilson of Source-Elements.  At this point, registered NOW users cannot just sign-in and connect with other registered users; a Source-Elements customer service person has to initiate the internet transaction, but this is just temporary.

sourceelementsnow

screen capture of my live session with Source-Connect NOW showing simple and intuitive program interface

For this Beta test, I had to perform a registration, then a log-in (X2), but Rebekah tells me by next week, it’ll be a one-click process. After the log-in, it’s a truly brainless interchange… in seconds I was connected with Rebekah in a seamless, solid, and quality voice transaction.  You’ll see VU meters actively reflecting the voice from your end, and the other end.

Again, this was only so effortless because I was already a registered Source-Connect user.  She was not forthcoming with a pricing structure at this point, but I can only imagine that it is competitive (has to be).

I got the sense from Rebekah that they were on the verge of a public debut, and that’s why they’ve been so generous with granting interviews, and getting word out on social media today.  Word of this product was circulating under the radar for weeks, and with this revealing look, it’s clear Source-Elements is:

1) serious about being agressive in this space
2) clearly putting some forethought into design and marketplace
3) reacting to customer demand for an easy-to-use ISDN alternative for both talent and producer/engineer.

From the “NOW” Beta website, some specs:

Beta Features:

Opus codec
Set at 128kbps for professional high-quality audio.

ISDN-like workflow
Low-latency bi-directional audio.

Conference up to 10 connections
Only limited by your bandwidth.

For music and voice
Send high-quality mono, dual mono or stereo.
Mono: Voiceover and remote ADR sessions
Dual mono: Two discrete microphones or timecode
Stereo: High-quality music monitoring and review

Easy-to-make Connections
Self-configuring, easy-to-make connections
No port-forwarding required, works on most networks automatically.


Requirements:

Mac OSX, Windows, Linux or ChromeOS
Compatible with any OS that supports Chrome Browser.

Audio device
A stereo or multi-mono CoreAudio, ASIO or Linux audio device set to 48000hz sample-rate.

Chrome Browser version 32 or higher.
Chrome Beta 33 recommended due to audio bug where you cannot set your own output with Chrome 32.

Watch this blog for further developments on this exciting product very soon!  Nice work, Source-Elements!

CourVO

Get It On the Record

calltrunkSome voice talents ask for signed written contracts, and/or require payment up front before they start on a project with a new client.

I can certainly see the wisdom of that, especially if you’ve been burned on a job along the line somewhere.  Their argument is that most reputable business people will respect that you can build mutual trust with all the details, in advance, on paper.  That way, nothing left to chance or unreliable memory.  Some feel that an email record is sufficient, in place of a signed, written contract.

On the other hand, there’s the chance that you might put someone off by demanding such proof of trust right at the beginning of a business relationship.  I know many long-time voice actors who claim they’ve never required a written contract up front, and have never or rarely been disappointed.

Often, you may be tempted to just pick up the phone and seal-the-deal verbally.  That’s probably even more haphazard than relying on an email trail.  But there might be an add-on solution to that instance.

The answer is a service that will record the calls you program into it.  It’s called CALL-TRUNK.  Call-Trunk is from the family of the ubiquitous EverNote service.  You use EverNote already…right?  If not, you might want to consider this handy cloud program.  EverNote has become my memory, my brain, my repository of all content online that I value.  Try it.  Pricing is very reasonable for what you get in return, and practically every program and app in the known universe integrates with EverNote.

But back to Call-Trunk.   It records your phone calls no matter what device you’re using.

From their website:

Calltrunk works on any device. So you can make calls with your landline, Skype, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows7 or Symbian phone.  Or you could launch a call through your Mac Address book or, say, via your CRM solution.

Access recordings via your mobile or your computer. 

Attach notes to recordings, download them, email them or order transcriptions.Share recordings with Evernote, Box, Dropbox, SugarCRM and more.

Search your conversations for important information. 

 enables you to instantly search all your recordings for the words spoken, the notes you made, the transcripts you may have ordered, the date of the call or even the type of call.

Call Trunk is free to try (3o  minutes cell or landline/60 on Skype), and from there, you can choose a monthly package or Pay-as-you-go.  CallTrunk has worked hard to make the pricing painless (mostly).  Transcriptions of calls is available, but that’s another add-on price.  And of course, this is all on top of the cost of whatever phone service you’re already using.

Oh, and BTW, it’s legal to record your own conversations. The specific requirements for notification vary from country to country and state to state.  For example, US Federal law, English law, Canadian law and the law in most US States requires single party notification.

Nifty, huh?  Now you can get those verbal agreements on record, and have them at the ready.  ‘Might not hurt to tell people they’re being recorded, though.

CourVO