Category Archives: Airlift Productions Educational Software

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 R. 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.

 

** 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!

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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 Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.

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Amy Landon recording audio books at Airlift Productions New Orleans, March 2017

“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

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

Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

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I CAN Learn + Airlift Mike = STEM Careers & Big $$ 4 U.S. Math Students

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I CAN Learn Success Story Damien James enjoying a lobster dinner in Brazil, funded by his life-changing STEM degree & career

** Originally posted Oct. 15th, 2016 ~ And re-posted 1-13-17 in Honor of the Late JOHN R LEE **

I first “met” Damien James in the 9th grade at NOLA’s McDonogh #35.  HIS 9th grade; I was merely the one helping him MAKE the grade – as I taught him Algebra 1 & 2.

Inside a computer!

Damien had it pretty rough, as do way too many of New Orleans’ inner-city youth today… Mom was ‘asleep at the wheel’, brothers were dealing drugs, playgrounds were, how do we say, challenging?

But Damien found a friend – yours truly.

Inside a computer!

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As the narrator and audio producer behind all of I CAN Learn’s educational math programs since 1991, I personally helped steer Damien through the perilous gateway of Algebra and on to his chosen STEM degree – and career.

Too dramatic? Too ‘flowery’? How about a punchline?

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Damien James enjoying vacation time with his wife and daughter; “Thanks, John Lee!”

Today, Damien James has risen from the streets of NOLA to become the Information Technology Chief of a major American airline company, and I CAN Learn & I directly helped him get there.

Inside a computer!

Damien’s accomplishments are both remarkable and inspiring. As, together with this landmark, trail-blazing educational mathematics program, he was inspired and enabled to move from the ‘breadlines to the headlines’.

MichealZiantsAirliftProductionsICanLearnTweetScreenshotSTEM degrees, to the uninitiated (and sad to say there are many) – are the Science ** Technology ** Engineering ** Math ** degrees that hold the keys which unlock the doors to America’s future.

And the I CAN Learn Math program has been helping thousands of students achieve that degree – as well as that high-paying career of the future – since 1991!

Witness Damien’s personal story and testimony via YouTube here…

You know something? Of all the audio I’ve produced through all these years here in NOLA, this work with the I CAN Learn Educational System is the work of which I am most proud.  Without question.

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John R. Lee & I CAN Learn feature article in FORBES magazine, September 1997

John R. Lee and I first met in 1991 at the Airlift Productions legendary Iberville Street location. He found me in the Yellow Pages. (Remember them? Yes, ‘digital’ changed everything.)

He was looking for some help. Help in compiling, recording, and organizing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of interactive audio files to drive the engine of his brainchild.

John Lee is a stone-cold, off-the-charts runaway GENIUS.

His prescient vision of merging math textbooks with the digital realm of computers has been often copied through all these years (round up the usual suspects) – but never ever duplicated!

AbsentMindedDisneyMr. Lee is a one-of-a-kind visionary that doesn’t come along just any day… think Fred MacMurray’s lovable character Professor Ned Brainard in the Walt Disney 1961 classic “The Absent Minded Professor”.

But, gang, Flubber this ain’t!

Just ask Damien James. Or his wife. Or his daughter. Or the thousands of other aspiring Damien James wanna-bees whose lives have been forever changed by their introduction to the revolutionary I CAN Learn  Math program.

So, what does the future hold for John Lee and I CAN Learn?

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John R. Lee, Founder & President of JRL Enterprises, creators of I CAN Learn

Well, as John himself opined in his interview late last century with CNN news, “Education is a tricky place to grow a business”.

And despite political boondoggles, bureaucratic red tape, “snake oils”,  and cheap, imitation competitive knock-offs, in that same CNN interview, John told the camera, “You’re not beaten ’til you quit!”

And he hasn’t.

Today, in the fall of 2016, the saga continues, the story continues… and so does the “ah-ha!” moment in the minds of young, eager math students across America.

Oh, and Damien, if you just so happen to be reading this – can you spot me a few bucks ’til next Tuesday?

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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 Multimedia Development, JRL Enterprises, Creators of  “I CAN Learn” e-Learning Software, NOLA
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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from NOLA                                                               since 1984

Tah-Tah 2016! Hello-o-o 2017!

janusAs the calendar page turns, the balls drop, and the fireworks sizzle, together with the rest of America, allow me to wrap-up the old and welcome the new from New Orleans’ Airlift Productions.

To the ancient Romans, the god Janus (from whom we get the name of the month January) represented this rather two-faced sentiment.

Looking back . Yet forward. All at the same time.

Airlift Productions & I sure have had a wild and varied ride through the fall & early winter, but that’s the way we like it.

Variety, after all, is the spice of life. And in New Orleans, we certainly like our spices. 

What a roux!

From television commercial work to web-based holiday greeting cards …  from Christmas sentiment to radio imaging, through the past couple months, Airlift & I sure have stirred the pot.

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Wendi Berman drops the mic with Airlift Mike on behalf of Right Hat & Manatt

Tasked by Chicago-based ad agency Right Hat to provide the audio for an internet law firm’s Holiday Greeting Card, I called on the talents of NOLA-based actress Wendi Berman.

Together, we recorded a rather clever “Night Before Christmas” parody involving the holiday office pressures of a harried and frustrated thirty-something office manager.

Oh, boy. Oh, joy.  Happy Holi-daze, cubicle worker bees!

Meanwhile, back at Airlift Productions, the roux thickens….

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Airlift Mike working the Children’s Hospital Telethon in NOLA on WDSU-TV

Yours truly, Airlift Mike, got behind the mic, as well as drawing-up the storyboard with all the “creative”, for the gang at Mr. Sparky.

Working with video wizard Todd Schmidt and sales point guard Nathan Ales, I helped to cook-up this entree on behalf of the electricians down at our local Mr. Sparky.

Straight-ahead. No BS. “Electrifying”, you might even say, and now energizing flat screens all across metro New Orleans.

Television spots with vision, internet-based holiday cards … yet, as they say in the advertising world, “but wait, there’s more!”

Educational software pioneer – and my own personal BFF – JOHN LEE and I have been through quite the odyssey the past quarter century.

Katherine Lee records "Daddy Lessons" at Airlift Productions NOLA
Katherine Lee records “Daddy Lessons” at Airlift Productions NOLA

Together, we’ve not only created a trail-blazing approach to teaching America’s kids how ‘to cipher’ with a program that merges math text books with the computer and the internet … we’ve also seen each other through having and raising kids!

So, I get this call from John’s daughter Katherine a couple Sundays back looking for some help in putting together a very special kind of Christmas gift for her dad.

We call it “Daddy Lessons”, and it goes like this….

Katherine brought me a karaoke track from Beyonce’ Knowles, we dropped her voice into it, then added pictures from the family album at strategic points to deliver a powerfully poignant message for her daddy.

‘Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’… let alone a dry eye to be found around the Christmas Lee house.

Great job, Kat-gal!

Variety? Ya think?

And I haven’t even gotten into more radio imaging sessions for Mike Church and his Crusade Network or recording Hip-Hop artist Staxx (Greg Baptiste) for the Real Deal Nation label & Jason Jones.

1407-nighttime-pomonacrateLooking back, 2016 sure has been quite the year around the Airlift Productions studios … with fun & exciting projects, working for and with some wildly talented & fascinating individuals.

Let’s ‘face’ it. 2016 or 2017, whether you’re looking back – or forward – the view from Airlift on Pomona is outstanding.

Happy New Year, y’all!

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