VoiceOver Demos, Airlift Mike … And Teenagers?

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Mary Rose Neumeyer “delivers the goods” at the Airlift Productions microphones ~ August 2017

A well-crafted VoiceOver Demo should do for one’s voice what a model’s portfolio does for one’s body.

Show it off! Showcase it! Highlight it!

Just as a photographer uses lighting, sets, makeup, and wardrobe to capture its subject, the voice demo audio producer uses compression, reverberation, equalization, the just-right music, sound effects and editing to properly capture/record his subject.

From compassion and pathos … to angst-filled attitude. Sly and seductive … to bold & brassy! Demure … to confident.

A captivating VoiceOver Demo captures every trick the actor has in his/her bag, and is edited in such a way as to showcase versatility and cast-ability.

Case in point?

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Mary Rose Neumeyer having way-y too much fun at the Airlift microphones

On a hot, sultry N’awlins August 2017 afternoon in the cool confines of the Airlift Productions Studios, I hosted Vicky & Jeff’s pride & joy Mary Rose Neumeyer.

Having trained for years under the tutelage of noted NOLA acting coach Debby Gaudet, Mary Rose indeed brought some formidable skills to the Airlift microphones.

Part commercial, part promo, and all class, Mary Rose’s V-O Demo captures a style and sensibility that belies her 14 years on the planet.

Yet, boy, can she still be a kid! And deliver FOR the kids.

Give a listen to this teen sensation’s skill set, here …

       *** Mary Rose Neumeyer VoiceOver Demo ***

Look out, Nickelodeon; the Disney gang is on notice, as well.

Make room for this kid … at the top!

 

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Airlift Mike with VoiceOver Teen Sensation Mary Rose Neumeyer at Airlift Productions, August 2017

And if your project, TV campaign, radio spot, or promo could use a fresh from-the-mouth-of-babes, stand-out-from-the-crowd approach – Mary Rose & I are as close as the cellphone in your pocket.

You’ll find us at 1-800-210-WORD (9673).

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“Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base… But I haven’t found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them… Some of them are as bright as any of the adults I’ve met.” ~ the late film director John Hughes

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Micheal Ziants is a great voice talent who is generous with his time and energy. I have worked in TV for years, but needed the guidance of a professional to create my radio reel and found it with Ziants. He made me feel comfortable in studio and encouraged creativity, coaching me to a reel I hope will bring many job opportunities. “ ~ California-bound, Former WWL/WDSU Anchor/Reporter, Mom, Realtor – RACHEL WULFF

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

From New Castle … to New Orleans, What a Trip!

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as a ‘babe in the woods’ New Castle, PA. What, no headphones?
From New Castle (PA) to New Orleans (LA) … to quote the California sage Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been!”
 
Born in New Castle (just north of Pittsburgh) to Charlie & Phyllis, the middle child of five kids, by the time I was five, we’d already relocated all the way to Florida – where we moved two additional times in three years … before moving back north to Youngstown, Ohio.
 
So, let me see, I’m all of nine years old and I’ve already had five different mailing addresses in three different states in the union.  No, pop wasn’t running from the law, just an upwardly mobile and in-demand chemical/mechanical engineer.
My first jobs were newspaper boy, altar boy, and grocery bagging and delivery boy.  Boy, that’s a lot of ‘boys’.  And great training at a young age in dependability and responsibility for manhood, I might add.
 
Even as a young dude (boy) through all these very same years, the roots of the recording studio and voiceover career were planted. I took up acting in civic children’s theater, studied ventriloquism (even built my own dummy), taught myself to play the guitar (had my own band in high school) … and fell in love with radio & communications.
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Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA
Upon graduating high school, with dreams of heading to the military academy at West Point, I spent a year working hard as a land surveyor during the day and attending Penn State by night. When the academy dreams fell apart, I’ve got to admit – it was radio, communications and broadcasting that captured my heart.
 
Big time!
So, after carrying a 4.0 in English, Speech, Philosophy and (oh, my) Calculus at Penn State, I decided to drop out, follow my heart and launch a career in radio. Now the fun begins.
From Columbus to Youngstown, Ohio … Harrisburg, PA to Saint Louis, MONashville, TN to Philadelphia, PA … all before landing in the land of sugarcane and Pontchartrain – New Orleans!
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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as alter-ego John Saint John, in the production room at WLAC, Nashville, 1980
Yes, I’ve been hired and fired from some of the finest radio stations in America!  And worked for some of the country’s hallmark names and companies … the Joseph Pulitzer family-KSD Radio in St. Louis, Billboard Magazine-WLAC, Nashville, and General Cinema Corporation-WIFI, Philadelphia. When I arrived in New Orleans at Q-93, the station was then owned by Insilco, a Fortune 500 outfit with silver mines all over planet earth! 
But I just grew tired and weary of the fragile existence that radio offered/threatened, along with the toll on my private and personal life. You want to know something?  Women will only take to that packing and unpacking, up-and-down-the-radio-dial life for just so long … before they say ‘so long’.
 
Necessity being the mother of invention, I began the Airlift Productions thing – recording and producing ‘voice-overs for export’ – long before it became fashionable.  I built my first recording studio in 1984, ‘burned the ships’ (as the expression goes) and never looked back.
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The Original Airlift Productions – before digital, the internet & mp3s – in the closet of my one-bedroom apartment – 1985
Airlift Productions was my opportunity to combine all my loves – acting, music, communications, production and radio – into my own business.  Oh sure, I could still run the bus off the road, but at least from now onward … I was the one at the wheel.  
 
1984 was the age of reel-to-reel magnetic recording tape, grease pencils and splicing blocks, cassettes and Fed Ex next-day deliveries. The internet and world wide web, mp3 email attachments, and digital non-destructive edits weren’t even dreams yet in a tech head’s head!
 
Fast-forward now to 2018… and the kid has stayed in the picture.  I still love to paint those mental pictures, color the air with bright pastels and deep earth-toned hues … motivate with sound!
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Micheal Ziants and the new “Annie” Quvenzhane Wallis, recording for Chrysler and sharing a few laughs at Airlift Productions
And what a thrill and honor to do it all from the world’s most unique city and America’s most fascinating destination.  If you’ve been to New Orleans you know whereof I speak … and if you haven’t, well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
 
Catch-up with us when you can at Airlift Productions Recording Studio here in New Orleans.  We’ll leave the mics hot for you!
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Airlift Productions, New Orleans

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DaleAnthonySmith“It has been my pleasure to collaborate with Mike at Airlift on a variety of projects from sound effects for museum films, to Narration for corporate and commercial work, to high end deeply layered radio spots.
He works out of his own custom designed studio, so he has been able to offer a flexibility to accommodate erratic schedules.
In every case, he has maintained the highest standards of production that equal anything produced in New York or LA. He is dedicated, tireless, dependable and truly enjoys his work to the point of making the process actually fun. I would not hesitate to recommend his services to my colleagues or anyone seeking a totally professional sound track.” ~ DALE ANTHONY SMITH,  Designer/Producer at Multi-Media Corp,  New Orleans

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A ShoutOut to Sister Thecla in the Spirit World From Airlift Productions

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Sister Thecla celebrating her 75th year as a nun in the Order of the Holy Family ~ along with Micheal Ziants in 2009

Today, January 10th, 2018, would have been Sister Thecla’s 104th birthday.

Born Agnes Bonner in 1914 in Scott, LA, Sister Thecla was a nun in New Orleans’ Order of the Holy Family for 75 years!

I first met the good sister through mutual friend John Lee in the aftermath of a rather painful divorce.  We took to each other immediately.  She wore her air of peaceful equanimity and compassionate non-judgment like a crown.

Calling the house every night for 7 straight years, she consoled and comforted, listened and directed, laughed and cried … and prayed with me.

Would that we all could make the ‘other side’ so clearly visible from this one.

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Sister Thecla in 1934, as she took her vows to be a nun. I always used to tease her that we would get Halle Berry to play her in the made-for-TV movie! 🙂

Never one to proselytize, catechize or evangelize – ‘Sister Tee’ showed by her example, the way she lived her life every minute of everyday … the way to a Kingly life.

After all, True religion is not something to be ‘put on’ for an hour or two a week in a building, but rightly used is knit into the day-to-day fabric of our very lives.  Wow!  Did Thecla ever get that.

Through her 75 year run as a nun she led the posse at the Order, in the French Quarter originally, and then on Chef Menteur, through quite a litany list of soap operas … as they tended to the temporal, as well as the spiritual, needs of everyone!

That’s everyone.  From hookers, homeless and drug addicts … to abandoned children and severely abused women.  The Sisters of the Order of the Holy Family even took in Louis Armstrong at one point in his life.

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In 2004, on her 90th birthday, Sister Thecla visited the Airlift Productions Studios to record her life story

 

*** Thecla Therapy  ~  “What a Wonderful World” from Airlift ***

Sister Thecla’s unyielding faith, relentless compassion, and inner strength are captured in her voice.  Listen to just a bit of this remarkable spirit – the patron saint of Airlift Productions –  in this recording made on her 90th birthday in 2004.

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Sister Thecla hanging with the sinners – the Ziants boyz Ben & Micheal – on Thanksgiving 2004

Though she dropped her body in 2009, I won’t say ‘rest in peace’ at this point.  Because she’s still at it today … planning her work, and working her plan.  That’s what that Roman Catholic concept of ‘communion of the saints’ is really all about.

Let me just say God Speed, ‘Sister Tee’!  And thanks ever so for helping me to be a little more than just human … and for helping Airlift Productions in NOLA to be  a little something more than just a recording studio.

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Airlift’s Micheal Ziants and BFF Sister Thecla hanging around the Order of the Holy Family commissary on Father’s Day 2008

 

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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 & creator of the I CAN Learn Mathematics Educational Software

 

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

Confucius + John Saint John = Airlift Productions

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“Try to remember the kind of September, when you were a young & callow fellow…” ~ Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John Saint John, in the WKBO, Harrisburg, PA studios, circa 1976

It was the ancient Chinese sage Confucius who once said, “Choose work that you love… and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Joseph Campbell amplified this comment with his admonition, “Follow your bliss!”

Furthermore, the Cherokee used to tell their children that we are all ‘born with a song’, and that we all need to learn to sing that song. Not someone else’s song…. but our unique song.

Well, I actually used to fall asleep as a pre-teen kid in Youngstown, Ohio with a transistor radio tucked under the pillow, listening to far-off radio stations in Chicago (WLS & WCFL) and New York (WABC) dreaming of one day being a radio star.

To communicate with someone unseen without wires over great distances was to a kid the stuff of magic.  I wanted to be the magician – badly.

The millennial of 2018 would not even recognize the time.  At all.  No internet, no world wide web… no iPhones, iPads, iPods, or apps.  Video games?  Excuse me? Pong & Pac-Man were hardly even on the horizon. The compact disc & video tape hadn’t even been invented yet, let alone ‘cloud storage’ or DVD.  The 7-inch 45 rpm record, the audio cassette, and reel-to-reel tape was it.  And it was magic!

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Along the banks of the Susquehanna River, Harrisburg, PA … 1st WKBO Music Survey – 1973

My very first rock radio job – being a disc jockey, an air personality – was at WKBO Radio in Harrisburg, PA.  It’s where I really discovered my true love – communications.  It’s where John Saint John was born.  It’s where I learned how to work a microphone as though it were a warm human ear… instead of a cold metal object.  And it was magic!

** Micheal Ziants as John Saint John On-Air WKBO Radio, Harrisburg, PA – 1977 … with Listener Introduction **

But the afternoon air shift wasn’t the full story.

Everyday duties – in addition to the air shift – included production! Every day… of every week… for five straight years, I produced radio commercials.  Little did I realize, but the seeds were being sown for Airlift Productions…. one day… way down yonder in New Orleans. Boy, was it ever magic!

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Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants, as alter ego John Saint John, standing behind John Travolta’s brother Joey at a WKBO Radio promotion, Harrisburg East Mall, 1977

** Micheal Ziants ON-AIR at WKBO Radio – Summer 1978, shortly before the move to KSD, St. Louis **

Work I love?  Following my bliss? I tell you what, give a listen to the LIVE On-Air WKBO Airchecks within this blog … and then you tell me.

And the challenge of translating all this On-Air fun & drive into self-employment as a recording studio owner & VoiceOver Talent is the subject for yet another blog, another day.  But, oh, what days/daze these were….

“Try to remember the kind of September, when you were a young and callow fellow….” ~ from the Fantasticks 

MichealZiantsAkaJohnStJohnWKBO-1976

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Magic from NOLA since 1984

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JohnDenneyRecordsVoiceOverAtAirliftProductionsNOLA“For voice over actors, the demo serves as a calling card and is unquestionably the most important tool in the pursuit of voice over work. Mike Ziants and Airlift PROductions produced my first VO demo and within weeks I landed my first job in the industry. Airlift’s state-of-the-art recording studio combined with Mike’s wisdom and expertise provided me with an excellent demo as well as the confidence needed to achieve success!” ~ JOHN DENNEY, founder & lead singer of the Los Angeles-based ’80s Punk Band The Weirdos – AND VoiceOver Talent

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Airlift Productions – From Dream to Reality Brick by Brick on Iberville

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Airlift Productions 3927 Iberville Street location, under construction in 1989

If you ever recorded at or visited or got silly during Friday ‘happy hours’ at the now-the-stuff-of-legend Airlift Productions Iberville Street location … have you ever paused to consider what it took to create that remarkable space?

It’s not too bold a statement to say that my blood is quite literally in the mortar that holds the very bricks in this wall together!  For though I am not a mason or a brick layer, I certainly played one in 1989 on Iberville Street.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants ~ like a proud papa ~ at the Airlift shingle, Iberville Street, NOLA 1992

With the help of just one other guy (Joe Delery now works in the crime division of the NOPD), I also pounded the nails, hung & floated sheet rock, packed insulation, laid carpet, and wired the entire facility. Whew! 

And oh, the people who were destined to walk through that front door to record within these walls … Peyton & Eli’s pop Archie Manning,   Mayor Marc Morial, his mother Sybil, the Rev. Avery C. Alexander, Dr. Morgus the Magnificent, Ronnie Lamarque, I CAN Learn founder John Lee, WDSU’s Norman Robinson …

Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad
Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), Oliver Thomas, Senator Jon Johnson, Congressman Bill Jefferson, Academy Award winning documentary film maker Charles Guggenheim, Anders Osborne, Theresa Andersson, Bishop Paul Morton…

And a whole host of radio rebels, stand-up comics, misfits, in-laws & outlaws!

The mantra through the entire construction stage was ‘Build it…and they will come!’  What a passion, what a studio… what a time!

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Airlift Productions – as it looked in 1992 on Iberville Street … Reel-to-reel analog decks, outboard gear & mixer, the way recording used to be done. Oh, if only you’d lived then, kids.

But as much as I loved this location, Iberville street, the elevator, my Endymion parties, and having Venezia’s Italian food, Angelo Brocato’s, Mandina’s & Liuzza’s but a block or two walk away … I flooded twice at this location – and this was well before Mother Katrina came to town!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants outside the Iberville haunts, shortly before the 2001 move to Pomona

So, I ran with my prophetic visions and in early 2001 moved the entire Airlift Productions business well out of the flood plain and to the high ground just the other side of the now-infamous breached 17th Street Canal .  To start over, yet again. But that’s the story for another blog.

New Orleans Premier VoiceOver & Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from the Big Easy … since 1984

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  i-can-learn_cd“Mike is a craftsman.  You don’t often hear that word when describing digital media, but it most certainly applies to work done at AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS.  Mike’s  produced literally thousands of audio segments for me,  and they’ve all sounded perfect.  He also understands how to get things done!  I wish all of my contractors were as responsive and committed to meeting deadlines.  You’re in good hands with AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS.” ~ Ethan Anderson, Former Manager of Multi-Media Development for JRL Enterprises, Creators of the “I CAN Learn” Mathematics Educational Software

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Mike McCann/John Saint John… Goes Country?

The now-vacant 45-story Plaza Tower, towering over the New Orleans skyline

One of my more obscure contributions to the media DNA of New Orleans was performing as morning drive air personality on the ill-fated  rockin’ country WQXY, Y-96 FM.

While continuing to operate the Airlift Productions studios, then on Iberville Street just off Carrollton and Canal Street, early mornings in late 1989 and early 1990 found me on top of the Plaza Tower building near the Superdome waking UP the Big Easy.

And, WHEW! What a view.

Today in 2017 the same frequency is under Entercom rule and plays classic rock under the Bayou 95.7 banner. 

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“Mike McCann” (seated) in the Airlift Productions Iberville studios, along with ‘the Gator’, circa 1990

But 27 years ago it was a different game in a different town.

Y-96 FM was an ill-fated attempt to unseat NOLA Country mainstay WNOE … from, ironically, an ill-fated building, that since Katrina in 2005 has remained vacant, and a subject of asbestos-tainted controversy.

But that’s another story all together.

Here’s mine.

As the radio fates would have it, a former on-air buddy from the old Nashville days at WLAC, Smokey Rivers (Fred Flanzer), had stepped-in as consultant to Ric Frances (WQXY GM), and I was offered the morning drive position.

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Airlift Productions – as it looked in 1990 on Iberville Street … Reel-to-reel analog decks, outboard gear & mixer, the way recording used to be done. Oh, if only you’d lived then, kids.

So, while continuing to operate Airlift Productions with all my freelance jobs (WGNO-TV, Ronnie Lamarque, The Esplanade Mall, WNOL-TV), I also covered mornings for the Y-96 FM Waking Krewe!

Sample just a taste of “your morning M & M on the FM”, sandwiched in-between Dolly Parton, George Strait, Ricky Van Shelton, and Roseanne Cash, here …

** “Mike McCann” WQXY, Y-96 FM, January 1990 **

Ironically, John Volpe (mentioned here as a fellow air personality) today in 2017 is a super salesman for the Entercom krewe, which today operates this frequency 95.7/Bayou; and Terrell Robinson, featured here, continues 27 years later, still plying his trade as traffic reporter in New Orleans.

Funny, isn’t it, how some things change, and others remain the same.

Here in 2017, country music sure has changed, the radio stations and owners (like an adult game of musical chairs) sure have changed, but the one now-decades-long constant in the whole NOLA media mix?

Airlift Mike and Airlift Productions.

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“My experience with Airlift Productions was top notch from the start. My company is based in Los Angeles and I had a client that needed to do a last minute VO session in New Orleans. Micheal was incredibly knowledgable and accommodating, not to mention a blast to work with! Our session turned out beautifully. ” — Lizz Rantze, Executive Producer, Rantze + Raves Productions, Los Angeles, CA

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Airlift Mike, Sportsman’s Paradise Outcast, Rebel

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Veteran New Orleans Voice Talent Micheal Ziants with trusty sidekick & mascot The Shadeaux

Although I live in Louisiana, the Sportsman’s Paradise, I do not hunt and shoot animals, I do not own a gun … shucks, I don’t even play golf!

THIS is what I do.

Giving LIFE to the printed word, making simple text & fonts on an iPad or piece of paper BREATHE and create emotion in the mind of the listener is what I do.

And then, I further animate those living, breathing words with soundscapes – musical backdrops and sound effects which enhance and complement the human voice.

You know, the stuff that comes out of your radio speaker, or the flat screen TV in the background at the bar, or deep in your inner ear canal from earbuds, stuff like this….

    ** Micheal Ziants Narration Demo **

And with roots in the great state of Pennsylvania,  now firmly re-planted for over thirty years in the bayou state of Louisiana, it’s kind of strange to say but, here in 2017, I feel a stranger to both.

I don’t talk like your average N’awlins folks (“Wherey’at, dawlin’?”), I have a growing disdain for the yearly bacchanal called  the “Mardi Gras”, and yet I have no desire to return to the ice-packed, snow-covered northeast. 

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New Orleans Voice Talent & All-around Audio Dude Micheal Ziants, Airlift Mike

A man without a country.

But I do have one thing most don’t – a vocation that is also my vacation.  And there’s solace in that.

On top of that, it’s a vocation that due to technological and digital advances affords me the opportunity to be heard by – and work for – anyone, anytime, and anywhere on planet Earth!

Wow.

   ** Airlift Mike talks for SHELL OIL **

While the VoiceOver arena is today an incredibly competitive and increasingly overcrowded field, it’s an honor to throw my headphones into the ring every day from New Orleans, warm-up the Airlift Productions microphones, and create compellingly convincing audio for clients near and far.

And the challenges and obstacles are far more daunting than shooting deer, flushing-out ducks, or spending weekends chasing a little white ball around a golf course.

 ** Airlift Mike taking a “shot” at Movie Trailer V-O **

Outcast? Rebel?  Well, sort of, I guess.

But in the meantime, life in Louisiana certainly has its upside, too – cargo shorts & flip-flops year-round, I haven’t bought snow tires in years, and I sure have become a Saints fan. Who Dat?!?

And, really, who cares if I talk kind of funny.

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“Micheal Ziants is a great voice talent who is generous with his time and energy. I have worked in TV for years, but needed the guidance of a professional to create my radio reel and found it with Ziants. He made me feel comfortable in studio and encouraged creativity, coaching me to a reel I hope will bring many job opportunities. “ – RACHEL WULFF,  former WWL/WDSU-TV Anchor & Reporter

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

 

 

 

 

 

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist