Is Audio Recording An Art … Or A Science? Or Magic?

The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…

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To begin with, all sound travels in waves.  That’s analog.  As I speak, my voice travels from my larynx to your ear as a wave form. Now, in capturing said wave form in a recording device or computer for editing and storage, it is still considered and called a wave form, but then it’s digital.  Science.

But making MAGIC with that wave form is quite another thing altogether.  Art.

Now, creating an environment, a creative space, a ‘vibe’, a place to make that audio magic – that audio alchemy –  possible is yet another story completely.

Art & Science & Magic get it on at Airlift Productions!

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Original Airlift Productions Studio Design ~ Micheal Ziants, 2001

First off, the entire Airlift Productions air space is completely out-of-square with no parallel walls, and the studio ceiling rises from front to back.

It’s built like the ancient Greeks built the amphitheater – sound waves naturally propagate from the near-field reference monitors in the front across the room to the back wall.

The Airlift Studios control room widens from about 6 feet at the front … to nearly 12 feet at the back. A critical listening space should never be constructed with parallel walls, ceiling & floor, as this creates standing waves, slap-back echoes and assorted audio headaches.

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Airlift Productions “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

Room treatment, acoustic foam, carpeting on the walls, natural daylight filtered through stained glass, and dimmer-controlled mood lighting further enhance artist & engineer comfort & creativity through the entire recording process.

Yes, Art & Science get it on at Airlift Productions!  To create MAGIC.

Purpose-designed for comfort, creativity & breath-taking sound, Airlift has delivered the goods since 1984 … from local to global with style!

From broadcast to podcast, big screen to small.  From simple voice over tracks to full band or artist CD projects, test-drive your first session today, from wherever you are …  on the web at  Airlift Productions.

“Weapons of Mass Production” ~ Airlift Productions, New Orleans

Airlift Mike, always as close as the mouse on your desktop or the cell in your pocket at #504.833.8450.

When quality counts ~ count on Airlift Productions.  Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984.

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“I had the extreme pleasure of working with Mike of Airlift Productions for a project in 2016. He was professional, courteous and most importantly, fun to work with. Mike is patient and very thorough with his recording, making sure that what you want is done before he powers down the gear for the day. 10/10, I would work with him again.”  —-Jared Garcia, Sr. Recording Engineer for Blackstone Audio and Downpour.com

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Avery Caesar Alexander Addresses A Confederacy Of Dunces

Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA
Reverend & State Rep Avery Alexander Recorded VoiceOver At Airlift Productions NOLA

To be sure, John Kennedy Toole never spent time with Rev. Avery Alexander. But I sure did.  Contracted to record “the Rev” in the 90s, I not only spent time with him, but was paid to document the whole affair!

And as New Orleans, the South, and America continue to wrestle with heritage, history, prejudice & racial issues – Dixie, flags & monuments – allow the Airlift Productions archives to help shed a little light.

Statue of "The Rev", at the new UMC Medical facility
Statue of “The Rev”, at the new UMC Medical facility

For the uninitiated, Reverend Avery C. Alexander (1910~1999) was a longtime civil rights activist & La. State Representative,  as well as an ordained minister. He marched with Dr. King, was dragged from protests, and has today had N.O. Charity Hospital, part of the new University Medical Center, and our Pontchartrain Expressway re-named in his honor!

John Kennedy Toole (1937~1969) was a New Orleans author, educated at Tulane, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction – posthumously – after his death at his own hand – for his homespun novel about the misadventures of the lazy, obese and unmotivated Ignatius J. Reilly in “A Confederacy of Dunces”. 

Toole & Alexander never met.  But perhaps they should have.

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Academy Award Winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim Making Tracks At Airlift Productions ~ on Iberville in ’93

It was the fall of 1993, the Airlift Productions Studios were on Iberville Street mid-city NOLA,  and I was contracted by the late Academy Award winning Documentary Film Maker Charles Guggenheim to record Reverend Alexander VoiceOvers for his film, originally entitled “Shadows of Hate”.

In his final Academy Award-nominated film, Mr. Guggenheim was attempting to get at the root of racism, expose it, and hopefully lead to some answers to this vexing cancer of a problem – ‘America’s original sin’ –  maybe even tear it out at the root!

*** Avery Alexander talks of David Duke, the KKK, anti-Catholic & Jew bias … and the Dignity of Man … Airlift Productions – 1993. ***

Amazingly, with the impact Reverend Alexander made with his life here in NOLA and the South, there is no record of his speech, his voice, or his unfiltered thoughts ANYWHERE!

Except here … amid the ‘Confederacy of Dunces’.

 

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Avery Caesar Alexander being restrained by the NOPD during a scuffle at the controversial Liberty Monument re-dedication ceremony in March of 1993 (courtesy Times-Picayune)

 

Guggenheim, Alexander and I recorded and worked together for hours. I set the Airlift microphones for the Rev’s voice only …. while Charles paced the room, asking question after question, drawing out painfully revealing memory after memory, story after story …

 

*** Avery Alexander talks of prejudice, mistreatment, abuse, lynchings & murder… Airlift Productions – 1993.  ***

The film, for which these tracks were originally recorded, later was re-named “A Time For Justice”, and went on to win the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1995!

 

 

Today ~ in 2018 ~ Charles Guggenheim, Reverend Avery C. Alexander and John Kennedy Toole belong to the ages.  And the pages of history books.

Can we Americans … WILL we Americans, take the painfully divisive issues they wrote of, spoke of and lived through … move on, and leave them there too?

Please?

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“Mike, thank you for 25 years of successfully teaching Algebra to children of color and students who were living in poverty. They aren’t living in poverty anymore thanks to you and the mathematical skills you gave them. They are doctors, engineers and scientists today.” ~ the late John R. Lee, Founder of the I CAN Learn Mathematics E-Learning System

 

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Airlift Productions: A Life Lived In The Hurricane’s Eye

AirliftProductionsInTheHurricanesEyeThe National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.

Metaphorically, the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and  Airlift Productions & I would be the ones who have for over thirty years resided… calmly, persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.

Airlift Productions New Orleans Logo Re-boot 2012 by Ethan Anderson
The Airlift Productions logo, conceived & trademarked in 1984, and re-imagined for the 21st century

In 1984, the needs of my first full-time client – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – gave birth to the Airlift Productions Studios. That very year Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the compact disc was brand new, and top-rated  CBS affiliates WWL-TV WWL radio here in New Orleans were owned by Loyola University (“World Wide Loyola”) and… the Catholic Church.

From the changing complexion of the White House to digital music distribution (and piracy), TV/radio deregulation and consolidation,  and from Loyola’s WWL ownership to Gannett, Tegna & Entercom … my, how the media and technological winds have blown!

Meanwhile, through all the changes and through all the years, Airlift Productions and I have resided calmly and ever-persistent in the Hurricane’s Eye.

A recent Search Engine request for just two words “Airlift Productions” yielded the most remarkable result – in the Images section was an internet-search-generated montage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…

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a Google image search for ‘Airlift Productions’

There was every studio I’d ever built – from the closet at Rock Creek Apartments to Iberville to Pomona.  There was Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz, Heath Allen, the Blue Angels, Morgus, Greg DiLeo, Sister Thecla,  Quvenzhane Wallis, even James Carville’s feet on my ping pong table.

From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, music projects & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos,  from cathode ray tubes to flat screens and broadcast to podcast – the Airlift Studios & I have shifted and tacked into the winds of change … while remaining calm & steady in the Hurricane’s Eye.

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A recent Google Search for “VoiceOver Production Blogs” – of over 7-Million possibilities, Airlift Productions resides on page One.

 

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence & Determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Coolidge/Ziants

 

                    *** Micheal Ziants AUDIO BOOK Demo ***

 

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Airlift Productions proprietor Micheal Ziants putting in another day at the office ~ along with studio mascot ‘The Shadeaux’

And the winds continue to blow! My grandfather John was born before the radio, my father Charlie was born before the television, and I was born before the internet & digital.

What’s next?

Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.

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Airlift’s Micheal Ziants (Right) with actor Joe Renier, On-Camera with TLW Productions for Seacor Marine … deep in the Gulf of Mexico

“We’ve worked with Mike for almost 15 years, both as voice over and on-camera talent in more than 50 films.  Not only is he a great guy and a super talent,  but he has the coolest recording studio in the South.” ~ TIM WESTON, President TLW Productions, NOLA 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

… we’ll leave the light on for you.

Memorial Day Musings on Strength & Honor

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What began just after the Civil War as a day of remembrance for our country’s war dead sure has morphed and changed since the time of Lincoln. 

Today, Memorial Day seems forever tied to backyard barbecues, swimming pools, and appliance sales.  Ironically, here in metro New Orleans, at stores on Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
 
MemorialCookoutYes, the last Monday of every May has now become the unofficial start to America’s summer. As the true meaning becomes lost along with the ashes of yesterday’s cookout.
 
What needs to be remembered – and indeed commemorated on this day – is the Strength & Honor that drove America’s war dead down the path to becoming America’s war dead.
 
Thumbing through the pages of history it becomes very apparent. People come and go. Causes come and go. What is perceived as Right & Wrong comes and goes.
Strength & Honor are universal constants that do not.
 
You know, when Abe Lincoln was a little boy, you or I could have gone down to the French Market in New Orleans… and purchased Shaquille O’Neal!  And, no, not to play on our basketball team.
 
What is Right and what is Wrong, indeed all man’s laws are founded and based on man’s myopia, his nearsightedness  … on the ever-shifting sands of human perspective.
 
20120531-bbqday1Universal Law, some would call Divine Law, works from another level altogether. And this is the level where Strength & Honor LIVE!
 
Strength & Honor do not recognize skin color, nationality, culture, time or space … or even a uniform.
 
From ancient Greece through the Roman Empire … from Britain’s mastery of the world’s oceans to America (England, Junior) and her not-so-civil war … the dead have piled-up in the countless billions! 
 
Causes, Empires, Cultures, Countries and what is perceived as Right & Wrong have shifted with the winds of change down through all the centuries.
 
Strength & Honor have not.
 
America’s heralded General Patton once remarked that “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.  He won it by making the other poor bastard die for his country.”
 
On this Memorial Day weekend 2018 let’s you & I send up a prayer.  A prayer to the Father, to what Napoleon Hill termed ‘Infinite Intelligence’, to remove ‘bastard’, ‘war’, ‘death’ and ‘country’ from this equation. 
 
And let me raise a glass,  possibly a leftover beer from your backyard barbecue, and propose a toast.
A toast – To Strength & Honor!
 
~ Respectfully,
     
    Micheal Z
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Airlift Productions ~ a Catalyst for Positive Change since 1984

Judah Ben-Hur’s Messala Drops The Mic – With Airlift Mike

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Ben-Hur 2016 Star Toby Kebbell records national TV Sony Tablet Commercial VoiceOvers at Airlift Productions NOLA

I didn’t know quite what to expect the morning TOBY KEBBELL showed up at my Airlift Productions Studios to record VoiceOver for Sony Corporation and it’s new Xperia Z tablet.

“Ben-Hur 2016” wasn’t even on the drawing boards yet,  he was in New Orleans to film “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, and tagged by Tag-Europe (a huge London-based ad agency) as the voice for Sony Products, he needed a studio to record a few V-O patches.

The UK's TOBY KEBBELL drops the mic - with Airlift Mike, on behalf of Sony
The UK’s TOBY KEBBELL drops the mic – with Airlift Mike, on behalf of Sony

So, Toby and his brother arrived at Airlift that morning … Toby was unshaven, in flip-flops & cargo shorts – hey, it WAS for a VoiceOver session, after all; at 6’1″, we stood eye-to-eye – I set-up the phone-patch to connect us with Europe and we went to work.

As the fates would have it, in the UK the letter ‘Z’ is pronounced ‘Zed’, and in order to introduce this new tablet here in the states, the tag lines had to be re-recorded with the Yank’s sound.

Toby talks for Sony on the Airlift microphones like this…

The tracks were coached and directed by Louise at Tag, with her agency contact for Sony piggy-backed in on the call – from Tokyo!

I then relayed the wave files via an FTP site into the computers at the editing bays in London, England … and the finished commercial  – along with some help from David Bowie – appeared here in the United States like this…

And I love the exchange as he exited the studios that day. With Ziants being my last name, I’ve got a welcome mat at the front door with a ‘Z’ on it. Toby pointed it out and chuckled at the irony as he headed back to the rent-a-car.

Toby Kebbell all decked-out for the premiere
Toby Kebbell all decked-out for the premiere

The girls (or ‘birds’ as they call them there) in the UK are just gaga over this dude, and the ladies in on the phone-patch session that morning echoed that excitement.

Studly. Easy on the eyes. Soft-spoken. Ultra talented.

But from his appearance as Doctor Doom in the ill-fated “Fantastic Four” to the apparent miscues, in the eyes of some critics, with “Ben-Hur 2016”, I just wish Toby could find his footing in a true star-making role, one that could seriously catapult him into the stratosphere.

In the meantime, I’ll be the one catching Kebbell’s magic via Netflix on the flat screen in the den, remembering my morning recording Toby before his days with Judah Ben-Hur,  popcorn in-hand, smiling – and shaking the dust off my sandals.

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TobyRickettsVoiceOverAirliftProductionsNOLA“Working on the road can be a pain for voice artists – I was so glad to find Airlift studios on my travels, just outside NOLA CBD! What a beautiful, cozy, and quiet space to work in. Micheal was an absolute pleasure to work with, being 100% professional and 100% nice guy! If I’m ever in the Big Easy again, I’ll be sure to stop in and see Mike at Airlift Productions.” ~ TOBY RICKETTS, Award-Winning, World-Class, New Zealand-based VoiceOver Talent

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Airlift Productions ~ Where the warmth of analogue lives … and the lightning speed of digital delivers!

Let’s Discuss Mike Ziants & That “Discus Thing”

DiscobolusBefore John Saint John, before Mike McCann and even before New Orleans… decades before Airlift Productions, there was the discus.

The Discus Throw Event in Track & Field marks the first time that I ever proved to myself beyond the shadow of a doubt that I could do ANYTHING I wanted in life – IF I wanted it badly enough, applied myself, and focused ALL my talents and efforts.

Some lesson.

I’ve often been asked through all these years and all these homes and all these recording studios – about the ever-present discus thrower, Myron’s classic Greek statue – The Discobolus.

Some homophobes have actually implied – or even come right out and said – that I must be “gay” to have some statue of a naked dude so prominently displayed in my Airlift Productions Studios.

Really?

Here’s the REAL story ….

The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969
The Ziants family (L-R) John, Mike, Linda, Tom, Steve * in the backyard, Beaver Falls, PA 1969

Growing up as the middle child of five, with brothers Tommy & John, who were the true athletes of the family (basketball stars both, brother Steve’s star would rise later), my acting & musical talents often took the “backseat” in the eyes of my father and, at age 15, I was committed to proving that I could “measure-up” and “man-up”!

So, it was the discus that caught my eye.  And all my attention.

I built a gym in the basement and went after it. Dumbbells and barbells rang and clanged late into the night. 

Discus Boy Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970
“Discus Boy” Mike Ziants practicing hurling that thing, after school, 1970

I studied film (yes, 8mm film) of the great ones – Al Oerter, Jay Silvester, Ludvik Danek  (look these guys up) – and perfected my throwing form and style.

Heck, I even almost ended up in the hospital, or maybe even dead, when at one track meet in the spring of 1970, some dude actually threw one INTO MY HEAD!

ZiantsDiscusAccident-1970My mother Phyllis would later laughingly joke, “Oh, maybe that’s what’s wrong with Mike!”

But … I just kept at it. With. Dogged. Persistence. Day. After. Day. Week. After. Week.

I even poured the concrete in a vacant lot by the family home and built my own practice circle.

You know, real ‘Home Work’.

Like I said,  I wanted it badly. I applied myself. I focused all my talents and efforts.

So, how did it all come out?

DiscusHighSchoolWell, the regulation high school discus weighs-in at 3 pounds-9 ounces, and competition models are made of wood and steel.

I placed 3rd-out-of-18 High Schools in the W.P.I.A.L. (Western PA Interscholastic Athletic League).  And went on to set the Northwestern High School Discus Record in 1970 with a toss of 149 feet & 11 inches – that’s half a regulation football field!

My record stood unmatched, untouched and unbroken for 10 years.

No, I never got the cheers and accolades that accompanied my brothers’ pulse-pounding,  jam-packed Shadyside & Northwestern High School basketball games; and Papa Charlie never did get a chance to make it out to catch me in action. 

But I sure got something else.

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Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA

The self-satisfied smile as week-after-week I won the discus event. And the knowledge that my mind & spirit had showed my flesh who was the boss.

You see, in  metaphysical circles today much is made of the fact that the human mind – sort of like a rubber band – once stretched to a new idea … never quite returns to its original shape.

Mine never has.

 

And after graduation that year, another crazy passion entered my life – RADIO!

As yours truly, Airlift Mike Ziants, went from hurling discs … to spinning them … on turntables.

And New Orleans, Louisiana wasn’t even on the kid’s radar. Yet.

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Airlift Productions Recording Studio, New Orleans, 2017

But that “discus dude”, Myron’s Discobolus, remains to this day in the Airlift Studios as an ever-present reminder that I can accomplish anything in the world that I want to  – if I just put my mind to it.

Some lesson indeed.

For a teenage boy. In the summer of ’69.

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SidNoelRideauMorgusRecordsVoiceOverForNewOrleansAtAirliftProductions
E.R.I.C. the talking skull records VoiceOver at Airlift Productions

“No recording studio I have worked with has given such personal attention toward perfecting the ‘science of sound’ than Airlift Productions in the hands of Micheal Ziants.  I thank him for the many voice-overs and sound effects he produced for my syndicated television shows “MORGUS PRESENTS”!

 
– – –  DR. MOMUS ALEXANDER MORGUS, www.morgus.com

 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

It’s An Airlift To Dubai – And the “Anderson Cooper of the Middle East”

Ibrahim Alshamrani’s  “60-Minutes-Style” Twitter Account Screenshot

Especially given the current political-religious intolerant issues of the planet Earth today, I didn’t quite know what to expect when the phone rang that Saturday night in March 2018 at the Airlift Studios .

It was a video producer pal of mine, founder of NolaVid, Max Cusimano, wondering if I could make time for a special Saturday night audio session for Ibrahim and Ali.

Middle East Broadcasting – MBC, Dubai – “Nerve Center”

As it turns out, Ibrahim Alshamrani heads-up the investigative reporting for MBC (Middle East Broadcasting) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and was in New Orleans that weekend tracking-down leads on a now-three-year-old cold case.

Ali comes from a large Muslim family and had a brother who ‘went missing’ from the streets of New Orleans three years back and, together with Ibrahim, was looking for more than clues.

So, after shooting all of his on-site noisy & loud French Quarter/New Orleans video with Max, Ibrahim was in need of a professional, relaxed and QUIET studio to record all the VoiceOver to tie everything together.

Enter Airlift Productions and Airlift Mike.

Dubai’s MBC Investigative Reporter Ibrahim Alshamrani records News Story VoiceOver at Airlift Productions in New Orleans, March 2018

World traveled, intensely focused, highly intelligent, passionate and compassionate, Ibrahim went right to work.

After downloading his script to the iPad, he hit the booth. And while I do not understand a bit of the Arabic tongue – I could sure feel the professionalism, the dedication, and the passion…

*** Arabic VoiceOver from Dubai’s Ibrahim Alshamrani ***

Interesting and downright fascinating, isn’t it?

Here’s a boy from Pennsylvania (yours truly), transplanted to New Orleans, recording a hot-shot investigative reporter from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates – for VoiceOver targeted to over 150 million Arabs in the middle east!

Proving, without a doubt, the engaging, enriching, stereotype-defying, and awesome reach of not only technology –  but the Brotherhood of VoiceOver.

And Man.

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Rhiannon Boulger & Airlift Mike at the Airlift Studios NOLA 1-6-17

“Thank you Michael for being so accommodating, and making my job truly enjoyable. I’ve recorded in many professional studios all around Australia throughout the years, but I felt right at home and was really impressed with the huge Airlift Productions recording space & booth you built. Recording with you was as easy as if I were in my own studio back in Australia – and that really makes for a successful session. All your wonderful compliments didn’t hurt the vibe either! My ego appreciates your generous, kind words. Thanks again for being such a gentleman.” ~ Rhiannon Boulger, Aussie VoiceOver Talent/Shell Oil Spokesperson

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans – since 1984.  

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist