The only problem with dogs is … that they don’t live forever!
And spelled either frontwards or backwards … Dog is still man’s best friend.
The Shadeaux, with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal dogs, came to the Airlift Productions Studios and became our official mascot and ‘talent herder’ over Christmas 2006.
Near as we can tell, he’s twelve years old today and, truth be known, he picked us out at the SPCA that day. Kind of like the Ziants boyz – a mutt; part German Shepherd, part Chow, part Border Collie … and all Love.
No, this is not his obituary (and even he’d appreciate the humor that the word ‘bitch’ is in that word), it’s more like a mid-life opus and testament to his otherworldly powers.
After all, the recording process can be somewhat intimidating to some, and capturing a stellar on-mic performance can feel a bit daunting at times – even to the pro!
And the Shadeaux has an uncanny way of throwing a ‘chill-out’ factor into the entire equation.
Little Quvenzhane Wallis (of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ fame) wanted to take him home with her (no chance), and James Carville’s ‘missus’ – Mary Matalin – could hardly tear herself away to get back to work on her audio book.
With a woof, a lick, and an appreciative tail wag – coupled with more fur than Liz Taylor at a pre-PETA-days holiday bash – the Shadeaux has an amazing talent for making anyone feel comfortable, relaxed and right at home.
And when trying to record a stunning on-mic, on-point performance … what more could you ask for?
Except maybe that he’d live forever.
Airlift Productions … where EVERY day is ‘Take Your Doggie to Work Day’… Airlift Mike with his fave, furry four-footed friend – and uncharacteristically shy, The Shadeaux
“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” ~ Will Rogers
“I care not for a man’s religion whose dog & cat are not the better for it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.” ~ Andy Rooney
“Airlift Mike was a saint, and ridiculously patient and supportive (and helpful!!) for this audio book virgin. In another environment, without the support, and with pressure to perform “right”, I probably would have completely fallen apart. So the MVP for this getting done goes 100% to Mike and the chilled outenvironment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to get this audio book out to you guys!! As challenging as it all was, the end result, I think, is amazing!
Once again, a big heartfelt thanks to Mike and the years of expertise he brought to this project to ensure I sounded my very best. If you’re ever in Nola and need the best audio dude, and the best dude dude, holler at my man Mike withwww.airliftproductions.com
Thanks for the great week my friend! :)”
— SEAN O’SHEA, Los Angeles-based Dog Trainer & AudioBook Producer
If a thirty second radio ad is a sprint, audio book recording would have to be the marathon.
To capture the spirit, essence & dedication of an author is without question a meticulous, pain-staking and arduous ( do you like these words? ) task.
With four Grammy awards on the shelf – for Best Spoken Word (3X) as well as Best Comedy Album – Audio Book producerJohn F. McElroyknows the task well.
John has personally worked with and recorded ( for hours on end ) Jon Stewart, Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, Jason Alexander, Stephen Colbert, along with scores of other notables.
And just imagine, if you can, working with, directing & producing President Bill Clinton through his personal reading of his triumphs & tribulations in the Grammy Award winning autobiography “My Life”. I mean, really.
The amazing thing? All of our work was conducted via Skype and a Symetrix phone patch. John & I have never personally met. Similar to the set-up of a radio talk show host, we did all of this work, every second of every hour with John F. coaching and directing long distance from New York!
Quite a remarkable feat. Quite amazing sessions. Quite a Marathon indeed.
Mr. McElroy, thanks for the vote of confidence, sir. I’m certainly gratified to know that Airlift and I did not misplace your trust.
“Micheal Ziants and I have worked on a number of celebrity productions together. He’s a cool head in tight spots, keeping the talent moving ahead happily. He has a wealth of experience at the controls and behind the mic and knows what he can and can’t get–a valuable and rare sense of proportion. Working at Airlift remotely via Skype or phone patch is seamless. It’s like being in the next room.”
~ John F. McElroy, New York based Grammy Award winning Audio Book Producer
Hurricane season in NOLA arrived a bit early this year. Little did I realize when we first talked on the phone what a force of nature AMY LANDON was.
“Hurricane Amy” had found my website, innocently enough, through a referral and a Google search. She reached out to me in January with her initial inquiry, but nothing in that call had prepared me for the drive, intellect, talent and passion that blew into New Orleans in early March.
Idaho native, Los Angeles-Nashville transplant, actress, writer, audio book narrator, voice over talent – and self-described ‘motochick’ – Amy Landon was looking for a quality recording studio in N’awlins to help her record gigabytes of audio book work throughout March.
I said, ‘Why not?” And did we ever.
Working and recording together every afternoon, we created other worlds – from young-adult paranormal science fiction to dramatic whodunnit mystery thrillers.
Creating believable character after character, painting scenic pictures, drawing the listener deeper with every ‘page’ of her iPad, Amy weaved audio book magic daily at the Airlift Productionsmicrophones.
Having worked with many talents across many years – and with hundreds of sessions to compare hers with – I was struck by her dogged stamina and hyper-focus, especially after hours-long sessions at the mic.
** A very unique view of audio book production ~ with computer-generated wave files reflected off the studio glass **
For voice talents, no doubt, if the radio commercial or TV tag is the hundred yard dash, the audio book is the marathon!
And this woman is without question in for the long haul, a true hurricane force-of-nature talent, the real deal!
Case in point?
Amy’s now back in Los Angeles. Did she fly? Take Amtrak?
She rode her Harley Davidson from New Orleans all the way home to the west coast.
Thankfully, during her time here in New Orleans, she took me along for the ride.
And today, I still somehow find myself watching the weather channel, looking for strange hurricane-type activity boomeranging back towards New Orleans – from the west … instead of the Gulf.
“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
The email came into the Airlift Studios, innocently enough, just a couple weeks back.
It was a referral (my favorite kind of email) from the Studio Director at Blackstone Audio, the largestindependent audio book publisher in America.
Bryan had been referred to Airlift Productions & me by the same audio book producer who’d hired me to record James Carville for the first time. And the second time. And the third time.
Taking the words of America’s preeminent ‘dog whisperer’ and making them leap off the page in a new audio book treatment, in an effort to help dog lovers across the world wake up to a more ethical and nurturing approach to raising their little canine cuties.
Zak & I first met and went to work (?) on Thursday, October 6th, recording the audio book treatment of his destined-to-be bestseller for Blackstone, along with hot-shot producer Jared Garcia on the Airlift Studio’s phone-patch setup.
Together, we plowed through the introduction and chapter after chapter, while bonding and laughing, and creating the doggie lover’s ultimate tome – “Dog Training rEvolution”.
Sample just a taste of Zak’s genuine love & compassion for our favorite four footed furry friends in his most recent You Tube blast here ….
Monday and Tuesday we’ll be back at it – giving LIFE to words on paper… making Audio Book Magic!
Recording and mastering wave files into computers, and at the same time delivering sincere, honest emotion into headphones and speakers.
Don’t you just love people who’ve found a way to make life work?
I mean, a job is one thing … but when one has found a way to live life at the intersection of passion/compassion and opportunity/luck … well, that’s quite another.
“Micheal Ziants & I have worked on a number of celebrity productions together. He’s a cool head in tight spots, keeping the talent moving ahead happily. He has a wealth of experience at the controls and behind the mic, and knows what he can and can’t get — a valuable and rare sense of proportion. Working at Airlift Productions remotely via Skype or phone patch is seamless. It’s like being in the next room.”
— JOHN F. McELROY, New York based Grammy Award Winning Audio Book Producer
Hard to believe, but this past Thanksgiving weekend 2015 marks one year since my pal David Menasche dropped his body … and moved on.
Oh, not that it was any surprise – diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2006, he/we often joked as he would come for recording sessions at the Airlift Productions Studios, that here came a “Dead Man Walking”. He knew he was on borrowed time for some time. We all did.
But it was the things, the issues, the subjects we talked of endlessly that continue to reverberate and resonate still today through all of my waking, and yes even sleeping, hours.
Emerson, Thoreau, Shakespeare, Gandhi, Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, even Scot William Wallace from Mel’s “Braveheart” and the concept that “Everyone has to die … but not everyone truly LIVES.”
Case in point, pictured above, David even had his body tattooed with the words “I Decide”, so even while unconscious on an operating table, he was letting the attending doctors know who, indeed, was in charge of the flesh he carried around.
Cajones? Guts? Tenacity? Courage? I don’t think the average man walking around today in America even has a concept or a clue.
And to think that he dragged his body across America – SOLO – from south Florida … all the way to the Golden Gate bridge & Hollywood, then back east & north to New York City, before coming to crash in New Orleans for awhile – all in a quest to figure out if his life, his very existence, even ever mattered.
Rest in Peace and rest assured, brother David, it certainly did.
Or, alternately, you can grab the AUDIO download for your ipod or digital device here – “The Priority List” Audiobook – in David’s own resilient words captured in November 2013 at the Airlift Studios.
A teaser from the Airlift-produced prologue is here ….
David’s take on working with Airlift and me? While I’m certainly gratified and humble regarding my contributions, the testimonial he gave me after days spent recording his audio book is a tad embarrassing, but very heartfelt and sincere —
“I would like to thank Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions for making the recording of the audio version of my book such a pleasure. Not only is Micheal an incredible audio engineer, he is my new best friend. This guy is one of the coolest cats I have ever had the honor of meeting. He made me comfortable, he made me feel talented, and he actually made my book into a product I can actually imagine people enjoying listening to. So far, the opportunity to work with Michael on a future project is my best incentive to write another book.” ~ David Menasche
Meanwhile, Hollywood and Steve Carell are laying plans for their adaptation for a cinematic treatment. Having worked intimately with David, and being a fan of Steve’s work through the years, I feel he is the perfect choice for this heroic, poignant drama-dey in-progress.
Norma, if you’re reading this – stay strong and keep your faith. Paula, if you’re reading this – David understands. Jennifer, if you’re reading this – call me, let’s compare notes and catch-up.
In closing, just one of David’s and my favorite thoughts that we spoke of, meditated on, and laughed often about continues to reverberate and resonate – “You’re a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust. What do you have to be afraid of?”
It really is true: To the VoiceOver guy, if the thirty second radio spot is the 100 yard dash, then the audio book recording process would have to be the marathon.
What a marathon – and what an audio book – “Murder In Coweta County” turned out to be. An autopsy on American Ideals and Dreams that mixes prejudice, racism, big money, pride, murder and southern justice all cast against the backdrop of 1948 Georgia – I lost count after 75 all the different characters I would have to portray by book’s end.
The courtroom scenes, which dominate the back half of the book, involve questioning from agenda-filled lawyers and testimony from terrified and frightened witnesses. For they have been called to help fill in all the details and build the state’s case against the villainous, feared, arrogant John Wallace.
Bringing LIFE to printed words on paper, painting mental pictures, taking the listener to front-stage center in the ‘theater of the mind’ are the challenges posed to the audio book narrator & actor.
In this excerpt from Chapter 21 of “Murder In Coweta County”, it was my task to, in effect, be the Judge, Jury & Executioner, as the saying goes … as I create antagonist, protagonist and everyone in between – from the prosecutor to the service station attendant cleaning up blood-stained car mats. Even the aged father of the poor, murdered victim.
~ Airlift Mike reads from Chapter 21 of “Murder In Coweta County”, courtesy of the krewe at Pelican Publishing ~
If a printed book can be referred to as a “page turner”, urging the reader ever-onward, it’s Pelican Publishing’s and my hope that this audio book will be a tough one to turn off.
Given the fact that the outcome, which is a long foregone conclusion having been based on a true crime drama (“he gets the chair”), the magic has to be in the story telling. Or as Billy Shakespeare used to say, “The play’s the thing”.
And play it I did. My heart, soul, blood, sweat & tears … metaphysical studies & philosophical leanings, coupled with my decades of on-mic experiences are all boiled down into the tracks of every chapter of this audio book. Truly.
So, as 2015 continues to grind on – with tensions from Ferguson to Baltimore – give a listen to this fascinating autopsy on America’s roots and ideals.
Available from the krewe across the river at Pelican Publishing, it will serve as a permanent reminder around the house and to all of America, that racism must be a thing of the past, that might does not make right … and that “crime does not pay”!
It would appear that seeds sown through countless past seasons have now rooted, grown and indeed blossomed. Too flowery? Too poetic? Not so much. Run with me here…
While Airlift Productions clients of last century found Airlift & me via the Yellow Pages (“let your fingers do the walking…”), this Spring’s flowers have all been delivered through SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and that wacky Internet of Things. Really.
Don Draper & Roger Sterling, those dashing Mad Men, would not even recognize the marketing landscape of today! And audio/video production crews of the 1970s and ’80s wouldn’t even have a clue as to what’s going down in 2015.
Through the Airlift Productions website and this blog, imagine the fascinating and interesting jobs produced already this Spring from the Airlift Productions studios here in NOLA —–
The call came just weeks ago from Elonide, the President of a Boston & Chicago-based Ad Agency, Right Hat, for some help – the job?A :30 radio ad, which would be overseen by the writer Andy, who lives in Manhattan… the spot would be voiced by four different voice actors (all working from their respective home studios), and yours truly was contracted to produce and engineer the finished spot (for a CPA firm) to air – in San Francisco!
All sound a bit confusing? Well, it certainly was ‘out there’ and different. The commercial involved EIGHTEEN cuts/edits – in a thirty second radio ad – and multiple attempts to find the just-right music.
And the entire job … from NOLA to Chicago to NYC to San Francisco began … with a Google/Bing search by Elonide at the helm of Right Hat.
Just two weeks ago, the Airlift Studioswere really buzzing, as we phone-patched between NOLA and NYC (from the Big Apple to the Big Easy) to record the Audio Book “The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen & the Churchill Club”.
Contracted by Recorded Books in NYC, the world’s largest independent distributor of audio books to libraries, schools & the retail market, Airlift Productions warmed-up the mics to record the book’s author Phil Hoose, as he interpreted the words of it’s hero.
Imagine, if you can, 1940s Danish teens, upset by Denmark’s neutral stance, who decide to take on the Gestapo, the Nazis and the 3rd Reich all by themselves … and spearhead Danish resistance. Wow! What a story.
The sessions ran nine hours across two days, and all the wave files were directed via the Airlift phone-patch and neatly dropped back into Manhattan via an FTP site for use by their editors.
And Andy & his gang at Recorded Books found Airlift and me via the internet and a Google search. As he let his ‘fingers do the walking’ – 21st century style.
Finally, just this past week, the call came into the Airlift Studios from Denver and a big post-production house called High Noon Entertainment. These guys are the driving force behind many of your fave shows from TLC, Discovery, HGTV, Animal Planet & …. well, you get the idea.
As it turns out, the hot new show on The Cooking Channel is a fun one called “Taco Trip”, and it’s star, another fun one himself, is a close buddy & business partner with our NOLA chef John Besh. And he needed to record VoiceOver tracks for the show.
Chef Aaron Sanchez blew in the Airlift Studio doors like a hurricane Wednesday morning, we set mic levels, then phone-patched between NOLA and Denver as producer Matt Walker walked the good chef through all his reads for the show.
Again, voila! Within the hour, all the big fat wave files were delivered to Denver, tagged & bagged and ready for air – on flat screens via cable & satellite on The Cooking Channel … all across America!
Yeah, I guess you could say that Spring is busting out all over at Airlift Productions. And if these are the April showers … what will May bring?
As Mardi Gras rumbles through the streets of NOLA yet again (bands, beads & boobs), and just ahead of the opening of “50 Shades of Grey” at a cineplex near you … a few thoughts from Airlift.
It’s kind of funny the way life works sometimes. The Chinese call it ‘wu wei’ …. living with the give and take, the flow of life, but the biggest industrial VoiceOver job I got all last year centered around an unbelievable set of circumstances.
The CEO of this major Chicago-based supply house needed VoiceOver work recorded for a huge upcoming convention in Dallas. As fate would have it, the CEO was female, and her request to the video producer was, “Have Micheal read it like he did ‘The Highwayman’ on his website.”
Now, the read in question came from an audio book on CD that I had finished recording in the mid-1990s, “Soft Words, Warm Nights“, and was a far cry from anything I’d been cast to record at that point. Not even close.
Passionate. Dramatic. Cinematic. As you may recall from high school or collegiate English classes, this epic poem tells the tale of highway robbery, torrid passion, star-crossed lovers, suicide & murder!
Certainly not what one would call ‘commercial fare’.
Yet across the decades, this recording of ‘The Highwayman’ was the clincher. This was the approach, the mic technique, the raw emotion that this woman – the corporate decision maker – based her final decision on.
All that being said, here comes another Airlift Mike stretch.
In her sizzling, poker-hot, best-seller “50 Shades of Grey”, E. L. James set fire to the smoldering libidos of women all across the planet.
And now, just ahead of it’s big box office release, Airlift Productionspresents ’50 Shades of Grey ~ the Ziants way’ – no reverb, no special effects, no music. Naked. Raw. Real. Sensual. Oh, and fun!
Plug-in the headphones (no kids allowed) and give a LISTEN to Airlift’s audio book audition track here …
***** Micheal Ziants reads from ’50 Shades of Grey’ *****
To the uninitiated who’ve never heard an audio book, yes, the narrator/reader performs all the parts. It’s all about treating the microphone not as a cold piece of metal … but as a warm, human ear. Making sterile technology & internet downloads all warm … and fuzzy.
It has been said that the most important sexual organ is between the ears, not the legs … the human brain, the gray matter. So, let’s tickle it a bit.
Whether this read influences the next corporate narration VoiceOver job or not is purely an academic question at this point … but for now, let’s just consider this a bedtime story for the 21st century woman.
Contracted by Penguin Audio out of Manhattan & Listen Up Audio Books in Atlanta to help work with David in the recording of this remarkable story, little did I then realize what I’d signed up for.
David Menasche, a gifted English teacher from Miami, Florida at Coral Reef Senior High was diagnosed in 2006 with gliablastoma multiforme cancer – he had a lemon-sized brain tumor in the right temporal lobe … and was given only months to live.
But blessed with a wicked sense of humor and the fearless courage of Hercules, David thumbed his nose defiantly at the grim reaper and proceeded to live nearly another EIGHT YEARS, defy all the odds, travel to hang with former students, write a best-selling book about his travels – and come to the Airlift Studios to record it with me.
We quickly became fast and close pals. Together with his confidant and ride Jen Brewer, we drank scotch & Wild Turkey together, had dinners together, laughed and joked… talking life, philosophy, world religions, great literature and the hemorrhaging of the American Dream.
A lover. And a fighter. David’s amazing story is without a doubt the 21st century’s answer to Robin’s “Dead Poets Society”.
LISTEN to just a taste of our sessions together in this piece of audio I produced from his intro to “The Priority List: A Teacher’s Final Quest to Discover Life’s Greatest Lessons” here ….
~ Excerpted Intro to “The Priority List” with introduction by Micheal Ziants, courtesy Amazon.com, Audible.com & Listen Up Audio Books
Pause to consider what this dude pulled off – with only half a brain, half a body, and nearly zero vision (legally blind) he traveled via trains, buses, even hitching rides, across America to visit former students and landed a book deal based on his journal & writings.
Now, today in 2014, Warner Brothers out of Hollywood has bought and secured the movie rights … and cast none other than box office charmer Steve Carell to play him in the upcoming movie version of David’s “The Priority List”! Really.
After our last meal together, as I saw him out the studio doors and to the car, his final words as Jen drove him off were only to quote Maximus from “Gladiator” as he shouted to me “Strength & Honor, my friend. Strength & Honor!”
And his final text message to me – just last month – was “Hello friend, I hope this finds you ridiculously well and happy.”
I am indeed, brother David. To have known you. Now it’s eternal.
Truth be known, across America today there might very well be busier VoiceOver dudes and recording studios than Airlift & me, but I seriously doubt that any are doing a wider variety of work!
In the past week alone … I’ve recorded incendiary tracks for the controversial audio book “Murder In Coweta County” (coming soon to a Pelican Publishing download/CD near you), in-your-face TV audio for Baton Rouge, banging the drum for a Laser Tag outlet …. and canned stage announcements for a N’awlins-based Bollywood dance team! I mean, really.
~ Audio Excerpt of Micheal Ziants, interpreting the pain of dealing with a dead body, in Chapter 7 of ‘Murder in Coweta County” – courtesy Pelican Publishing ~
~ Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants invades the flat screens of Baton Rouge – along with ad ace Nathan Ales – with this :30 TV spot (written, voiced & produced in the Airlift engine room by Micheal) to promote ‘Laser Tag of Baton Rouge’~
Meanwhile, as the Laser Tag dudes are going at it in the dark of the arena …. on a brightly lit, spot-lighted stage in an auditorium somewhere around Louisiana and the Gulf South tonight – jubilant and righteously proud moms & dads are cheering on their daughters to these stage announcements ….
~ Airlift Mike – at it again – with pre-recorded (canned) stage announcements for Indian export Ruby Pal and her New Orleans-based Ruby Creative Dance team ~
Whew! Honestly, in my thirty years owning and operating Airlift Productions here in America’s most fascinating city, I’ve had busier, more versatile and challenging weeks … but I’d be hard-pressed to name one.
And, yes, the beat goes on …
~ Airlift’s Micheal Ziants – bustin’ out all over! ~