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When we started work on the 2007 version of FXhome.com, we knew that we wanted more video content on the site, in the form of example clips and promos. The example clips we could handle but the promos needed something in particular: voiceovers.
Deciding that we needed a pro, we eventually selected voice artist S. Michael Leier as the new Voice of FXhome. Now that the new site is online, we asked him a few questions about his craft...
How long have you worked as a voiceover artist?
I have worked in the field of broadcasting for over 20 years starting in high school. I was lucky that we had a great facility including a low wattage television station for broadcasting sports events. After high school I went to a college in Northern Minnesota that had an on-air FM station where I majored in broadcasting. Being a voiceover artist is really just an extension of that earlier training. I left radio in 2001 because the money just wasn’t there. The stations were always on the hunt for cheaper talent so the wages stayed pretty low and with the advent of computerized automation systems stations have turned less and less to live programming. I was looking for a way to use my voice again and started offering VO work on-line with some success, so I expanded my equipment capabilities and here I am.
When did you realise you had a good 'voiceover' voice?
Well, that is subjective really. I think one of the biggest pluses to having VO success is the ability to speak clearly and deliver the script without sounding like you're reading something. I consider myself more of a voice actor then anything else. When I look at a piece of copy, I try to create a character in my mind and adjust my delivery to match that character. In that way, it comes out more conversational and natural. I work very hard with the client to adjust my delivery to suit their needs, so sometimes I have to adjust how I visualize the character in my head. One of the most important aspects to doing VO is the ability to adapt to the client. If you can’t do that, you won’t get much work.
How did you get into the voiceover industry?
The internet really opened the door for many of us to enter this field without having to move to the major hubs of voiceover works, such as LA and New York. To get started is relatively easy and the equipment fairly affordable for someone wanting to try it out. What I did was spend months researching and checking out other VO artist’s to see what equipment they were using. I had a budget of just under $2000 for equipment and found that I could easily get a professional set up and good quality sound within that figure. After that, I began networking with other VO artists on the web, which was very important. That led to auditioning for work and the rest is history. One thing about the voiceover industry is that the people involved are very friendly and seem almost anxious to help.
Is voiceover work your main profession?
It is more and more becoming a large part of my day; however, I do own a retail business as well. I am also the writer and creator of The Skull Hunter series, which is being turned into a graphic novel right now by a very talented artist named Todd Rinker. A great CGI artist named Dave Watson, who is a member here at FXhome.com, is also doing a brief CGI trailer in conjunction with the books release. Hopefully both will be ready for release by the end of the year. I am also working on a script for a full length live action version, which I am looking for someone to film.
What kind of studio setup do you have?
I built a vocal booth, which is roughly 6’ long by 5’ wide with the interior lined with sound absorbing materials. My main microphone is a MXL 770, which is plugged into a mixing board, which is connected to a compressor/limiter, then fed into an external sound card that goes to my computer. My computer is in another room and I have a flat screen monitor attached to the wall in my booth. That is a very simplistic list of my system. I hired a broadcast engineer to adjust the system for me (at $60 an hour). For my recording software I went very cheap, and use Audacity (free), because for what I do it works great. Eventually I would like to upgrade to Audition Pro for better mixing and effects capabilities when doing radio imaging work. Like I said before, I had a budget of $2000 to get it done and I stayed pretty much in that budget. I will upgrade my system as more work comes along.
What kind of voiceover work do you prefer to do?
I like doing it all whether it is a radio imaging drop, a commercial, a movie trailer, narration, or a character I really love doing it all and look forward to every new project. My dream has always been to be in an animated cartoon. I only wish I were doing this during the days of Hanna-Barbera. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to be in a Saturday morning cartoon of theirs.
You've kindly offered to help out many of the no-budget filmmakers at FXhome.com. What inspired you to be so generous with your time and skills?
To me the one thing that makes a professional a professional is the desire to continuing learning and honing their skills. The voice is like any instrument in that it gets better with use and the user gets better with practice. I felt that helping the talented people at FXhome was a good way for me to try new things and keep honing my skills. In many ways they are helping me just as much as I am helping them. I hope I can continue to help as many people as I can. I am amazed daily at the amount of talent and imagination I find here. The FXhome products have made it so much easier for these people to make their dream of creating a film come true. The need to create is a powerful motivator and creative people seem to flock together. FXhome is proof of that and I am very proud to be accepted in this extraordinary society and help in whatever small way I can.