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A Sound Education

The Voice, Part 3


"At one time there were voiceover artists, now there are celebrity voiceover artists. It's unfortunate because these people need the money less than the voiceover artist."
David Duchovny

What does it take to perform a voice-over? After talking with several industry veterans, it turns out that it's not as easy as they make it sound - and that's the whole point. In Part 1, we found out how these four voice-over artists got into the profession. In Part 2, we learned about preparation and technique. In this last installment of our series, our nimble-tongued pros have advice to budding narrators and writers.


The Voice, Part 2

"In voice-over work, you have to actually do more work with your facial muscles and your mouth. You have to kind of exaggerate your pronunciation a little bit more, whereas with live action, you can get away with mumbling sometimes."

Mark Valley

What does it take to perform a voice-over? After talking with several industry veterans, it turns out that it's not as easy as they make it sound - and that's the whole point. In Part 1, we found out how these four voice-over artists got into the profession. This month, we learn the nitty gritty of preparation and technique.


The Voice, Part 1

"One of the things that I love about voiceover is that it's a situation where - because you're not encumbered by being seen - it's liberating. You're able to make broad choices that you would never make if you were on camera."
Mark Hamill

What does it take to perform a voice-over? After talking with several industry veterans, it turns out that it's not as easy as they make it sound - and that's the whole point. We find out that each of these voice professionals have their own approach to achieving the nearly impossible task of a voice-over artist: making it sound sincere. Plus, find out what's been happening at Dynamix lately.


Wagner, Vader, and the Viking


"The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings."
Ralph Carpenter, Texas Tech Sports Information Director

Richard Wagner, the 19th century German composer, would have loved Star Wars. He may not have understood what a light saber or X-Wing fighter was, but he would get it - even with his eyes shut. That's because the Star Wars films are rich with composer John Williams' scores that employ a musical tool that Wagner himself was a master of: the leitmotif.


I Review the Aputure Deity Boom Microphone

Aputure Narration Test in Studio

Read and/or watch my review of the Aputure Deity boom microphone. It's a sub-$400 offering that sounds and feels like a much costlier microphone. It has a few caveats, but not enough to keep it out of the gear bag of the budget-conscious, but quality-focused videographer.


The Lasting Legacy of Bell Labs


"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it? "
Albert Einstein

Bell Labs was born more than a hundred years ago out of the need to improve the nascent telephone. It grew into a pure research facility that made an astounding number of scientific discoveries, improved or invented new technologies, and even influenced art and music.


22 Bazillion ⚫ 2 Gazillion


"I like to be surrounded by splendid things."
Freddie Mercury

1.0, 2.0, 4.0, 5.1, 7.1, 10.2, 11.1, 22.2 – the numbers get bigger and bigger, like monsters stomping toward us. Oh no, we're surrounded! And it's a good thing!

Ever since recordings progressed from one channel (mono) into two (stereo), audio producers have been trying to create the ultimate immersive sound experience. The natural way is to add more channels, hence more speakers. But that usually comes at a cost, usually on the listener's end. If you have a surround system in your house, do you remember how much more expensive it was than a traditional stereo? Sure, you can go to a theater or theme park with a bazillion speakers for your listening pleasure. To get that same exhilarating experience at home you'll have to pay up.

Most television surround broadcasts are in 5.1, which is really six channels: a front stereo pair, a center dialog channel, a back stereo pair, and a subwoofer (the "point one"). DVDs, Bluerays, games, and some music releases use this format. Speaker placement is somewhat critical, but I've heard systems with haphazardly-placed rear speakers that are still effective. In the early days of surround, engineers mostly used the rear channels for precisely located content, like sound effects and ambience. Now, engineers try to evenly spread environmental sounds and music around the four primary speakers to immerse the listener. It's not perfect because the rear speakers are usually smaller, have reduced fidelity, and there are pronounced gaps between front and rear speakers.

OK, let's add a couple of more speakers, space them more evenly around us, and call it 7.1 surround. Most movie theaters, Bluerays, and some games are now in 7.1. Engineers are able to immerse the listener better with fewer gaps than in 5.1. Most new home theater systems come in this variety.

So far, all the speakers are line-of-sight...err...line-of-ears. What about height? 10.2 surround adds four more front speakers, two of which are over the others at a 45-degree angle. One more rear channel and subwoofer are added. The 11.1 and 11.2 systems are similar in that they create height by adding overhead speakers. These formats were designed for cinemas and are now creeping in to high-end home theaters.

And then we have this new beast – 22.2. Like Godzilla, this monster surround system hails from Japan. NHK, Japan's public broadcasting network, unleashed the new system a decade ago and have incorporated it into their new Ultra HD Television broadcast standard (UHDT transmits 4K and 8K video). What exactly is 22.2? It's three layers of sound utilizing front, side, back, and overhead speakers. With 22.2, engineers will have to learn how to place sounds in a three-dimensional space. Researchers have noted that early programs are using the three distinct layers similarly to the earliest days of stereo and 5.1, by placing specific sounds in specific locations:

Upper layer
- Reverberation and ambience
- Sound localized above, such as loudspeakers in gymnasiums, airplanes, and fireworks shows

Middle layer
- The anchor layer of the basic sound field, including surround environments

Lower layer
- Sounds of water such as the sea, rivers, and drops of water
- Sound on the ground in scenes with bird’s-eye views

Though still in its infancy, it will probably become the next standard because as of 2016, 6 million 4K TV sets have been sold, and there are already more than forty 4K TV channels worldwide. Is 22.2 surround sound just a fanciful idea? Apparently not, as major heavy weight broadcasting organizations around the world are testing and standardizing its incorporation into their new UHDT schemes.

The big question though, is "Will I ever have one in my home?" Probably not, unless I hit the lottery. I don't think the average home theater will for some time either because sound systems are really just another piece of furniture. Correctly installing a surround system is already a big commitment, I can't imagine having to deal with 24 speakers. Besides, I've rearranged my living room a few times in the last five years, and I'm not about to also move 24 speakers. My guess is that the format will just filter cinema movies down to those lucky enough to have 22.4 in their home. Remember how excited we were that DVDs would have multi-angle camera views, soundtracks in twenty-two languages, and multiple story lines? Didn't happen. Too much work. Like moving furniture.

Explore More

Retro Digital

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"Analog is more beautiful than digital, really, but we go for comfort."
Anton Corbijn

There's been a growing trend over the last several years to bring back the sound of classic analog gear, such as compressors and amps with vacuum tubes, ribbon microphones, and even reel-to-reel tape. Let's look at how old school charm is finding new love.


Hello From Mars


"The rockets came like drums, beating in the night."
From "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury

Walter Gripp is the last man on Mars. All the rockets to Earth have launched without him. One evening in a deserted town, he hears a phone ringing. This creepy scenario from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles has captured the fascination of science fiction fans for decades. The reader wonders, who could it be? The scientist wonders, what would it sound like? We're about to find out...maybe.


Time Travelers

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"Shh! Listen! Someone's coming! I think -- I think it might be us!"
J. K. ROWLING, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Imagine if we could time travel without changing history. If we could go back 50 or 100 years would people view our technology as magic? If we were visited by time travelers from the future, would their technology be magic to us?


Pots & Pans: Cooking Up Stereo

Mar 17-Pots Pans

"Cooking is like music: you can tell when someone puts love into it.”
Taylor Hicks

The transition from mono to stereo music recordings in the late 1950s had its challenges. Find out how Rudy Van Gelder and other recording engineers worked out the details.


The Loudest Record!!!


"Every crowd has a silver lining.”
P.T. Barnum

126.4 I think that's what will be inside a little oval sticker that I'm going to put on my bumper. I see "26.2" bumper stickers that marathon runners proudly display. Colorado mountain climbers have "14er" stickers. A lot of dads are number "1." Then what's so special about 126.4? It used to be a number for Kings, but now it's a number for Cats.

Before I start to sound like a broken record, let me back up and tell this story from the beginning. Team Cornett wanted to raise the profile of UK Health Care and their close association with UK Athletics, so they came up with a plan to get the attention of a sports crowd. There's no better place for a hyped up crowd than Rupp Arena in downtown Lexington. With nearly 24,000 people, its been known to get really loud in there. It would be the perfect place to try and break the world record for the loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports event. And what basketball game would have the biggest and loudest crowd? A made-for-ESPN-TV marquee matchup: Kentucky versus Kansas.


New Year's Resolution


"New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Mark Twain

Have you made your resolutions yet? Why bother, no one keeps them anyway. So let's talk about resolution instead. In particular how low-resolution MP3s can affect your emotional reaction to music. In a study out of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), researchers found that the fidelity of an MP3 recording of musical instruments can affect their emotional characteristics.