With all the equipment in the Airlift Productions studios – bouncing meters, glowing lights, ‘bells & whistles’ – the one thing visitors and clients seem to remark the most about is, strangely enough, the Window!
Its custom-cut, stained glass beauty captures every New Orleans sunset from it’s setting in the western wall of the studio, and gives constant feedback on current sky conditions as it reflects the tempo of each and every recording day.
Inspired by ancient Mayan illustrations and pyramid hieroglyphics, it was custom-designed to carry the colors of the Airlift Studios into it’s intricate artwork – from the passionate purple of the walls to the midnight blue carpet & charcoal grey acoustic foamed walls.
“The Gift of Life”, as it is called, symbolizes the spiritual journey of man.
At the center is the flame-like symbol of God who is Light & Life, the Creator of All.
The Triangle – symbolizing Mind, Spirit & Soul enlightened by God in its midst – is within the circle that signifies God is All in All, without beginning or end.
And surrounding the circle are the glyph signs for sky, earth’s abundance, and precious water.
And this magnificent artwork accomplishes all this spiritually without being overtly religious, to say nothing of ‘choosing up sides’ – favoring one religion, faith, or approach over another.
“The Gift of Life” also serves as the perfect backdrop and vibe for all the intensely creative audio projects & work being recorded and captured at the Airlift Productions Studios.
From Nat King Cole’s “Chestnuts roasting…” to Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming…” to Karen Carpenter’s “Greeting cards have all been sent…” the Christmas holidaysevery year have always been about all things audio to me.
And since I long ago left the snow-covered northeast for warmer climes in New Orleans, I’ve also replaced the crunch of snow and the sound of snow shovels scraping across concrete sidewalks with holiday sounds of my own making.
So, on this Christmas 2018, let’s queue up a few for this audio Christmas greeting from NOLA…
While I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Peyton or Eli Manning, I sure have met and worked withtheir pop Archie.
In the early days of the Airlift Studios down on the Crescent City’s Iberville Street, acting as writer and producer for Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym, it was my job to work with Archie on his various different radio campaigns.
Among my fave creative efforts for Archie was this one, wherein I was Santa Claus and he was the kid on Santa’s knee at the mall telling me what he wanted for Christmas.
** Archie Manning’s Gold’s Gym ** from 1992 **
And with our Saints making a Super Bowl run here in late 2018, how much fun was that?
Another 1990s Christmas effort of mine has resurfaced here this Christmas season, as old pal Sue Bonano resurrected a couple spots of mine to air on Entercom radio stations here in 2018!
Yeah, it all sounds a bit crazy but, with a little editing, a radio ad that is now 23 years old, was brushed-off and aired all over NOLA this holiday season to lovers who weren’t even born when it first aired.
** Sue’s Jewelry “Because…” Radio Campaign, again in 2018 **
As the Christmas audio memories continue…
Hired by a Chicago-based ad agency called Right Hat in late 2015, I was tasked with lining-up the talent and recording a web-based “politically correct” Holiday greeting card for a Washington, D.C. law firm.
Wait a tick, a what?
That’s right. A politically correct greeting card! So I tracked down a trio of very talented professors at our Loyola University to come to Airlift Productions to record a classic thatwould have old Ebeneezer himself doing a double take.
** Right Hat’s take on Christmas 2015, with Airlift Mike **
Whew! Let’s decompress after that one, OK?
And at the same time shift gears totally.
Shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific school shooting at Newtown, CT just before Christmas in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary, I was inspired to hit theAirlift Studios.
Taking an anonymous internet writing and adding Danny Elfman’s mystical score to my voice, I came up with an answer from the “other side” as to what happened to those beautiful young souls that fatefully painful December morning…
** Christmas Eve in Newtown by Micheal Ziants**
Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the Reason for the Season!
But given the fissures & cracks in our 21st century society, is it any wonder why the season can be so paradoxically wonderfully troubling and problematic for so many?
Meanwhile, the prayers and reflections continue to this day…
Like I said, for this Christmas audio greeting card – Funny, Sarcastic, Profound, Inspirational.
Which pretty much sums up my feelings, my take here on my 66th Christmas here on the 3rd rock.
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.
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 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!
** A “Mike McCann” classic VoiceOver/Production Demo from the 90s, all produced on Iberville with R-R tape – for NOLA clients like WVUE-TV, Pat O’Brien’s, Times-Picayune, etc. ***
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!
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.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“Working with Airlift Mike in NOLA was an utter pleasure. I was in town for business for a month and needed to maintain my audiobook recording schedule. Mike was accommodating and a pure professional. He mastered the punch and roll technique in 24 hours to be ready for our first session, and over the course of the month we laid down 5 books and a number of auditions. His studio sounds great. The vibe & atmosphere can’t be beat. You’d be hard pressed to find a better recording studio in the southeast – no matter what your needs. I wish I could have stayed!” ~ AMY LANDON, Los Angeles-based Actress & Ultra-busy AudioBook Narrator
I first met and recorded Norman Robinson in 1991. He was fresh back in NOLA from the White House CBS-TV Network news beat, and was the newly-ordained anchor man at our WDSU.
Little did we then realize, or even think about future days, but the fact is, 27 years later, we’re still at it!
Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the cityof New Orleans.
“Senior citizens ride the bus for only 40 cents”… “Please look around you for any personal items you may have left behind before exiting the vehicle/next stop, Canal Street.”
NORTA – the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority – tagged Norman and me to record well over 1,500 wav files for use in their system citywide.
** Norman narrates NORTA’s ‘Go Mobile’ App Tutorial **
Rich Lenznow calls KOTV & Tulsa, OK home, a gone pecan from NOLA for over nine years now (gee, Thanks, Katrina), but he served for 16 years as sports director/anchor atWDSU.
Richie and I’ve recorded countless tunes together, including epic anthems to herald the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon fund-raising year-after-year to benefit and support our Children’s Hospital’s life saving efforts for our kids.
** the 1st, of many, Telethon Tunes for Children’s Hospital **
After meeting WWL/WDSU anchor gal Rachel Wulff around the aisles of our local Lowe’s Home Improvement store, I helped Rachel improve her post-anchor life and UP her game by producing a VoiceOver demo for her.
** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **
His compassionate, and knowledgeable in-the-field reporting is always incisive and spot-on. And he picks quite a guitar, at that.
2018 continues to see local NOLA news veteran Camille Whitworthdrop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.
Camille dedicated years to the anchor chair at WDSU, and today fills her days public speaking, doing on-camera work for our East Jefferson Hospital, and recording various VoiceOver projects forclients in and around NOLA.
Dependable, personable, and experienced, Camille is always fun to have around the Airlift Studios.
There is simply no reason or need for news anchors to walk away from their skills & finely-honed talents when they walk away from the nightly news anchor desk.
Norman, Rich, Heath, Rachel, Lee & Camille are all exceptionally fine and experienced talents with, as the expression goes, ‘ a lot of good miles left on their tires’.
It has also been said, and rightly so, that journalism, as well as the nightly news, is ‘History – the first draft’.
I am so gratified – and humbled – that these remarkable ladies and gentlemen have all chosen to work with me and Airlift Productions to write new chapters.
And, as Paul Harvey used to intone, tell ‘the rest of the story’.
“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions. The quality of the production, the studio, and frankly the comfort make it the only place I want to record now or in the future”— JAMES CARVILLE, Political commentator, Tulane professor & Campaign Strategist behind the most dramatic political victories of our generation
With all due respect to Jada, Tiffany, Regina, and the Queen, a “Girls’ Trip” this wasn’t! Not as crazy, foul or funky, but what a trip it was.
When the early June call came into my Airlift Productions Studios from a “Sam” at NYC’s Team Epiphany, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the proposed job.
Samantha Whidby, project manager, had found my website via a Google search, and was looking for some help at Essence Festival 2018.
Team Epiphany, as it turns out, handles some pretty hefty clients, like HBO, Nike… and Coca-Cola; and they had their sights set on making some “noise” for Coke within the Convention Center for this annual epic summer extravaganza.
Put together a team of audio engineers to man two recording studio booths at Essence Fest to engage and embrace the consumer by helping her to record unique beats on drum pads using Coca-Cola sound effects!
The beats would be then recorded to computer, saved as mp3s, and then sent to the consumer’s email address, allowing her to then save it to her phone, and even use it as her unique Coke-Essence-Fest ring tone.
Like I said, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the gig.
But make it, we did. And how!
Let the “Boys’ Trip” begin….
Kind of like Tom Sawyer’s summertime tale of talking his comrades into helping him paint the fence, within a few phone calls I’d lined-up my summer vacation posse.
Accomplished full-time civil engineer (and audio savant/all-around tech-head) Ed Pepper, along with college student (and aspiring DJ) Harold Bonner agreed to saddle-up for theride.
So, how did it all come out?
Well, across the entire Essence Festival weekend – July 6th, 7th & 8th – we recorded over 300 unique beats!
And gave the consumer more than a “Coke and a smile”.
We gave them customized, unique ringtones like this…
” I’ve had the privilege of working with professionals all over the world. Micheal Ziants is among the best of them. His professional integrity is only surpassed by his love for humanity. It is perhaps his boundless humanity that drives his passion for his work and his compassion.. to say nothing of his appreciation and understanding of the human spirit, at it’s most creative level.” — NORMAN ROBINSON, former CBS News White House correspondent & Longtime New Orleans Television News Anchor
The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…
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.
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.
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.
“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
The 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 whohave for over thirty years resided… calmly, persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.
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…
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.
“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 ***
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.
Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“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
*** “Originally published two years ago this week, with Hurricane Harvey’s harrowing Houston devastation, coupled with the untimely death of my best friend John R. Lee earlier this year (1-08-17), this Hurricane Katrina post takes on new poignancy, meaning, and relevance.” ~ Airlift Mike ***
Truth be known, the morning Mother Katrina came to town – August 29th, 2005 – I woke up at a Red Roof Inn in Jackson, Mississippi, to which I’d evacuated, along with my son, through the contraflow out of New Orleans the night before.
My running partners – Rich Lenz, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen & Dan Milham – all ‘stood watch’ and remained on-duty reporting the entire debacle via WDSU-TV for all to witness.
Painful. Distressing. Life-altering. Even Apocalyptic!
And this past weekend as we all got together at Brian Landry’s place just outside NOLA inSlidell… the ‘Katrina guilt’ began to set in … again.
Rich & his wife Leslie lost their entire home in the flooding. The home they had raised their kids in was completely destroyed by the breached London Avenue canal. Norman Robinson and his wife had similar catastrophic results from the MRGO in New Orleans East.
Milham & Allen, living ‘out of Dodge’ in north shore haunts were luckier with their homes, but still had to gut it out on-camera and tell the tale – of the horrors, struggles, death & destruction – while broadcasting to the anxious, scattered-to-the-four-winds New Orleanians tuning-in.
As yours truly slept-in around the air-conditioned Red Roof in Jackson … and watched it all play out on TV. The term was coined, very appropriately ~ ‘Katrina Guilt’.
So, after we’d all returned from our Katrina-cation, I patched-up the house and studio (hardly damaged, no flooding) and decided to get back to work myself. WithRich Lenz. And together, we created musical ‘salve for the wounds’. To wit …..
*** “I Ain’t Livin’ in the Bowl No More” ~ Rich Lenz & Company ***
Along with a cast of characters, we put together a bright, up-tempo, Garth-Brooks-ish take on Rich’s calamity on Chatham Drive. It all proved quite therapeutic, actually. For all parties concerned. We even talked Brad Edelman, former All-Pro Guard with the N.O. Saints, into playing his harmonica for us. Too much fun!
*** “Up In The Attic” ~ Rich Lenz, recorded at Airlift Productions ***
Now, imagine – if you can – a woman climbing into her attic to escape Katrina’s floodwaters … only to die there! It was but one of many similar stories Rich had to cover for WDSU – and he came to me and Airlift Productions to just let it … all… out. Again, therapy.
Then, we’d get together at the Airlift Productions Studios, join our talents, and put on a show for our Children’s Hospital with tunes like this one. Heath Allen and Rich would take the leads, along with Brian Landry of Children’s and Norman Robinson on the horns – the Soul Men.
All to benefit the kids down at New Orleans Children’s Hospital.
To close on yet another up-tempo & positive note, it is both interesting, and rather amazing, to think that many folks around America – and the world – still believe that NOLA is UNDER WATER! Really.
They have no idea whatsoever as to our recovery. So…. take a trip with me now – high above our City Park, with footage taken just weeks ago, courtesy of drone cinematography and witness true resilience….
Through America’s greatest tragedy, my media partners were indeed the heroes… while I was but the observer, albeit occasional confidant, chronicler and cheerleader.
Perhaps I need to visit old Lucy in the classic Charlie Brown cartoons with her ‘Psychiatric Help – 5 cents’ sign and booth. Because the infamous ‘Katrina Guilt’ still hangs on after these ten years. Well, look me up in another ten and I’ll let you know how I’m doing.
In the meantime, better days are on the way, America. They have to be. Keep the Faith.
“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
** With Mardi Gras 2017 excitement in the air – along with Jefferson Parish’s Family Gras happening this weekend – I’m re-posting this blog, originally published in June of 2015 **
Long before her recent shaking-up of the “Apple Cart’s” new music streaming service this past week, Country/Pop-Tart Taylor Swiftwas headed to play New Orleans – and yours truly, Airlift Mike, was tagged to help promote and give voice to the show.
Little did any of us realize when then-19 year old Taylor was selected to appear at Family Gras 2008 – just down Veterans Boulevard from the Airlift Productions Studios – that she was destined to explode and become one of the world’s hottest selling musical artists!
Family Gras was brand new – and so was Taylor Swift’s career.
Contracted by NOLA public relations ace Greg Buisson and the Jefferson Parish Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, I was tasked with voicing and producing the :60 audio track (video edited by Jay Schneider) which was then to play all over New Orleans television to promote the affair.
** An uncharacteristically UP-Tempo Micheal Ziants, generating excitement for Taylor Swift’s Family Gras 2008 Appearance **
So, with but one big hit in her hip pocket (“Our Song”), Taylor got in the bus with mom & dad, Andrea & Scott, and drove down to NOLA from Nashville for the show on that ill-fated late January.
She was slated to appear along with Blake Shelton, Kansas, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Bangles and a host of class N’awlins acts – all in between Mardi Gras parades on the neutral ground of Veterans Boulevard here in Metairie for Family Gras 2008.
But Mother Nature had other ideas.
As Fate and the rain gods would have it, the skies over NOLA opened up that fate-filled Friday afternoon and it rained. And it rained. And it rained!
Poor Taylor’s only appearance that afternoon was on the 6:00 News/Blues. Under an umbrella. In a pouring rainstorm. As she tendered her regrets to a dismayed New Orleans crowd about her canceled show.
Really. Ask her about this one sometime, should you get a chance.
And little did any of us realize that day that this little PA native, Nashville transplant, Taylor Alison Swift’scareer was about to explode – into the stratosphere!
“Great recording studios share something in common with great concert venues. They both have a…what is it? An aura, a vibe, a karma, an ambiance? Whatever you call it, it’s as real as any speaker on the wall or slider on a console. You can’t see it, but, you can absolutely FEEL it.
Airlift Productions has IT – thanks to the man behind the board (and in your ear). Micheal Ziants has a knack for gently pulling your best work out of you – and then improving upon it in the final mix. The finished product always leaves you thrilled, satisfied and amazed that you really had it in you! The best part- he gives you all the credit and you only realize later what great hands your material was in.
Do yourself a favor- give Airlift a try. You’ll love the results and every moment you spent producing them.”
~ RICH LENZ, former WDSU-TV Sports Director/Anchor, currently the KING of daytime TV at KOTV, Tulsa
Perhaps it’s something in the air, the river, or the centuries-long influence of the Spanish & French, but talent seems to grow wild in the fertile soil that is New Orleans.
And, as a veteran studio producer, I love to pick wildflowers.
Furthermore, having watered and nurtured many a talented wildflower through now-over-thirty years of runningAirlift Productions here in NOLA, I know a wildflower when I come upon one.
All that being said, meet the latest ones.
It occurred to me years ago that all of hip-hop & rap music was really nothing more than another form of VoiceOver.
Think about it – the producer takes a beat, basically a music track (that can come sampled from anywhere) and records a solid, up-front, and in-your-face vocal track over top of it.
So, I get this phone call a couple months back from this young turk named Jason Jones. He proceeds to tell me that he works at Louis Armstrong Airport, operates a barber shop in the 7th ward – AND he’s putting together a hip-hop label called the Real Deal Nation!
We then meet at the Airlift Studios and I find out that I really like these guys. A lot.
Young & talented, and full of social consciousness coupled with faith-filled, church-born Christian ethics, these dudes are picking up where Motown’s Temptations & Marvin Gaye back in the day left off.
The only thing they were missing was the producer dude to help pull it all together. Think of what Rick Rubin brought to the table, er, ah… the speakers for Jay-Z.
They HAD “99 Problems”, but now the ‘producer’ ain’t one of ’em!
“Micheal is an amazing talent. We were faced with several issues on a recent project and he was incredibly proactive in finding the perfect solution. He worked tirelessly and at lightning speed to create music that not only made our client happy but also garnered industry recognition. Thanks again for your work, Micheal, and we will definitely consider you for upcoming projects—including voice over work.” ~ Charlyne Fabi, Creative Director, Right Hat, Chicago