Tag Archives: VoiceOvers

I Never Did Heroin With Dr. John. We Just Did Other Things.

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

Hired by Quincy Jones’ staff and his daughter Jolie to record Mac’s VoiceOver tracks for their Take It Back Foundation, I first met the Nite Tripper in the Airlift Productions Iberville days during NOLA’s raucous early 1990s.

He walked in without pomp or circumstance, no entourage, no fanfare, no feathers, solo… but just as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Our job wasn’t anything to do with music, it was all about VoiceOver – he’d been cast as the Yak in Quincy’s animated PSA to promote recycling efforts and it was destined for use in movie theaters, television & MTV across America that summer.

We phone-patched to Los Angeles and together with Stevie Wonder, Ozzy Osbourne, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Pat Benatar, Charlie Daniels, Barry White… and Bugs Bunny…

With a hip-hop beat straight outta “In Living Color” – Fox’s big hit at the time – it all showed-up in movie theaters like this…

Dr. John’s 1st visit to Airlift Productions – as “the Yak”

Some recording session, I’ll tell you that.

When Mac, not even asking if he could smoke, pulled out a Cheroot and lit it up, we rushed an ash tray into the booth without giving it a second thought. Sort of.

And when he asked if he could “use the facilities”, I took him up in the elevator to the Iberville Street living quarters, to the bathroom, where he encountered my then-one-year-old son Benjamin.

Imagine, if you can, Dr. John setting his walking stick aside, so he could pick up your child, hold him… and whisper sweet voodoo nothings in his ear!

Our second session, the following year, was all about VoiceOver for an awards presentation, wherein Mac was hired to record the introduction to accompany this big, splashy video – all about New Orleans legendary Red Light District!

Dr. John “Special Events Magazine” Awards Show Intro – 1993

Our paths – and stars – would continue to cross through the next couple decades, most notably at New Orleans’ Big Easy Entertainment Awards Shows.

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Dr. John & Airlift Mike, Big Easy Awards Show New Orleans 1995

I was honored to act as ‘Live Announcer’ for the show for ten consecutive years and Mac, being the one and only Dr. John, would be along many years to receive an award, or just to perform.

Just. As if.

My favorite memory was the year his mother flew in from NYC for the show, so Mac tracks me down and tells me that he wants me to meet his mama… and together we made the trek across the Fairmont ballroom so I could give my regards to his Dorothy.

Indeed, while Mac’s bouts with smack/heroin through the years are the stuff of legend, he had successfully navigated those choppy waters and was ‘clean’ the entire time I ever was fortunate enough to talk and record with him.

Through the years – the recording sessions & Big Easy Awards – we talked and laughed of many things… his love for New Orleans, his love of music, the ‘Big Picture’… existential things like living a life with “one foot in this world… and the other… in the other”!

Much in the way that Time Magazine caught his candor here…

Dr. John, with some pretty amazing answers… and questions.

The last time we ever spoke to each other?

It was at the funeral for Cosimo Matassa, New Orleans’ legendary, seminal recording engineer and producer.

Along with a Who’s-Who of New Orleans music royalty – Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Quint Davis, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch – we’d all gathered to say goodbye to Cos, the big mac-daddy that started it all down on Rampart all those years ago.

Dr. John had flown into NOLA from NYC to say his final farewell to Cosimo down at Lake Lawn.

Now, here in 2019… it’s his turn.

Yeah, we all may very well be ‘whistling past the graveyard’ but, damn – nobody whistled that tune better than Dr. John!

And just like ‘dat, mellifluous, mesmerizing, mystical Mac moves on… from New Orleans & ‘da World.

Sort of.

I mean, there IS the matter of all that fantastic music he left us.

Deepest thanks for all that hoodoo voodoo that you did so well, bud.

Nighty-night, Nite Tripper.

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

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

Airlift Productions ~ Recording With Mood & Attitude!

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Airlift Productions Recording Studio & PROduction House, New Orleans, 2019 Panoramic Studio Pic. Check it out … “Weapons of Mass Production”

 

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.

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The Airlift Productions “Engine Room” ~ a view into the studio control room, as seen from the Talent room, along with the “Gift of Life”, Myron’s Discobolus … and the Laughing Christ.

 

Catch the Fire!  At the  Airlift Productions Recording Studio  ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

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

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

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Now Playing At A Flat Screen Near You ~ In Atlanta

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Now playing – yes, still in 2018, that’s what ‘buyouts’ are all about – on flat screens all across Atlanta, from hotels to motels and on the web, is this classic piece all about a Mediterranean Grill in downtown Atlanta called “Aviva by Kameel”.

The creative crew at Destination Network in Florida came up with the copy, approach & video editing expertise.  The call came into the Airlift Productions Studios for V/O help on the announce tracks.

Yours truly – as the VoiceOver guy – is merely a supporting player, helping to tell the story.  The star is without question – proprietor, chief cook and bottle washer – Kameel Srouji!

A native of Nazareth, Israel, who emigrated to the states and Atlanta in 1979, this guy just lights up the screen with his intensity, passion, and drive.  And, oh, those eyes.

Kameel serving it up…with style & passion

My job?  Simply to tie it all together – level, even-handed, even understated – while the orchestrated symphony of the kitchen workers and the snappy music track propel it forward.

Fun! Bouncy! Electric!  And motivating hungry Atlanta natives & tourists to sample Aviva’s eclectic fare… and keep coming back for more.

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Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios

Airlift Productions  & Airlift Mike ~ sort of like my buddy Kameel ~   ‘boxing-up’ VoiceOvers-to-Go since 1984!

Tour the Studios right now from your laptop or cell phone here ~ AIRLIFT PRODUCTIONS, or just call on the 504 at 833-8450.

 

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

N’awlins Cries Wulff! Rachel Wulff, That Is

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Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

I first met Rachel Wulff innocently enough around the aisles of our local Lowes Home Improvement store on Veterans in Metairie.

Go figure.

After our brief introductions, she confessed that, together with her husband, she was looking forward to the birth of her second child come the summer and had plans to take some time off from the grueling grind of television news.

My story was somewhat less dramatic.

I filled Rachel in on my thirty-plus-years run owning and operating a recording studio here in NOLA, and told her all about the decidedly un-glamorous world of VoiceOver ~ and Airlift Productions.

She seemed intrigued, agreed to a meeting at my studio, and last month we went to work.

If you want to call it that.

After all, for a guy who’s played with tape recorders and sound for fun since he was a pre-teen, I still marvel at the fact that people will pay me for what amounts to playing with my train set!

In any event, back to Rachel

Rachel Wulff on-set at WDSU-TV
Rachel Wulff on-set at WDSU-TV

Rachel Wulff is as accomplished as they come.  With seasoned, measured, articulate and compassionate tones, she’s reported in the field and anchored at the desk on TVs across America.

The folks of New Orleans have been fortunate to have her around delivering ‘the good, the bad & the ugly’, locally on WDSU & WWL, since 2007.

But, perhaps, it’s time for a different chapter in this reporter/anchor/realtor/mother’s life.

A chapter that I’m proud to help her write.

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Rachel on the WWL set, shortly before announcing her maternity exit

Last month, in early February, Rachel laid-down the tracks for a VoiceOver Demo – no news, no body count, no tragedy – an opportunity for her to str-e-t-ch, bust-out, and showcase her remarkable skill-set at the microphone.

I was somewhat surprised when she left the production end of things (music, sound effects, editing) entirely up to me!

And it all comes out of your digital device’s speakers like this…

** Rachel Wulff Commercial VoiceOver Demo **

Playful. Up-Tempo. Seductive. Versatile. And, yeah, that’s her little girl, “S.B.” on the intro.

While we’ll sure miss her news-filled contributions, in the future, if that voice coming out of your radio or TV speakers sounds a bit familiar, but you’re not quite sure – now you know the rest of the story.

Go get ’em, Rachel!

Here’s to a healthy delivery this early summer, and allow me & the Airlift Productions krewe to raise a glass to toast your new addition to the Wulff-pack.

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

 

 

 

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“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 newbie VoiceOver dude 

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2016 NOLA VoiceOvers So Far: “Round-Up the Usual Suspects!”

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Airlift Productions “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

I guess when I first conceived, designed, built and wired the Airlift Productions Studios,  I was dedicated to creating a space to create.

A space with a ‘vibe’.

A space with an aura.

Comfortable, relaxing, and yet stimulating all at the same time.

Every day looks different because natural daylight filtered through stained glass gives feedback on the day, and every sunset has a different hue… a different feel.

And the sound? Oh yes, it had to be killer!

Whether UP full blast and in-your-face or background mellow relaxed, Airlift Productions is where the warmth of analogue lives… and the lightning-quick speed of digital delivers.

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Veteran WDSU News Anchor NORMAN ROBINSON delivering the goods for Posi-Gen Solar

And check out just a few of the totally cool – and multi-talented  -individuals who’ve been ‘killing time’ with  yours truly already here in 2016 —-

If you live in or around metro New Orleans, these characters really need no introduction. But we’ll give them one anyway.

Norman Robinson, after handling White House duties for CBS Nightly News, and after spending 20+ years in the anchor chair at WDSU-TV, enjoys cracking the Airlift Productions microphones for VoiceOver jobs for various clients, including Posi-Gen solar.

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L-R. Micheal Ziants, Steve Blaze, Todd Schmidt – recording V-O for “Through the Veil”, March 2016, Airlift Productions NOLA

Heavy Metal fans all across the south have lost their minds to the tender, heartfelt refrains of Lillian Axe since the 1980s, and the band’s founder & leader Steve Blaze was by the Airlift mics to lay down V-O tracks last month for “Through the Veil”, coming soon to a flat screen near you.

Imagine. Steve is now a ghost hunter out along the bayou, cher!

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Deuce McAllister records PSA TV VoiceOvers with Airlift Productions, NOLA

Together with over 70,000 of my closest friends, I’ve stood (like a scene out of ‘Gladiator’) in our Superdome and chanted this guy’s name, as he pounded yet another one over the goal line.

The New Orleans Saints’ all-time leading ground-gainer/rusher, with over 6,000 yards and 55 Touchdowns to his credit – “The Deuce”, Deuce McAllister dropped by just last week to ‘drop the mic’ for the Mississippi State Dept of Protective Services.

We laid-down tracks for a PSA campaign slated for air all across the state to raise awareness to the plight of abused and exploited kids.

Let me tell you, Fox-8/WVUE-TV down on Jefferson Davis Parkway here in NOLA is awfully lucky to have this dude in its employ.

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Fox-8’s Lee Zurik, along with videographer Paul Atkinson, recording “Glory Days” VoiceOvers at Airlift Productions NOLA

Lee Zurik not only anchors the nightly newscasts – he makes news! Lee’s mantle above the fireplace isn’t big enough to handle all the awards – the Peabody, National Edward R. Murrows,  the Dupont Silver Batons… as his investigative reports shake up New Orleans almost nightly!

What many do NOT know about Lee, though, is that he was pulling guard for Peyton Manning down at Newman here in NOLA, as he and Peyton were high school teammates back in the day. Really.

We got together in February to make waves for a program called “Glory Days”, along with video dude Paul Atkinson.

And I haven’t even added my contributions – from radio imaging for Mike Church to TV VoiceOvers and radio spots for the local N’awlins market and beyond.

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An Airlift Productions’ VO session in progress, with Steve Blaze at the hot mic

I guess what I find most exciting about 2016 so far is the VARIETY of work: TV promotional V-O for a solar company,  public service announcements to raise awareness for exploited kids, high school football retrospectives … even ghost hunting on the bayou!

And the year is yet young.

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discovery_channel_logo“Micheal Ziants and Airlift Productions offer an excellent and affordable option for VoiceOver & Recording.”– Michael Morris, Head of Post-Production, Discovery Studios, Hollywood, California

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To Communicate is the Beginning of Understanding. Airlift Productions Communicates.

SEX Continues To Sell Well At Airlift Productions

9c8980092c6baa5cb82835995209d93eIt occurs to me that my last several blogs have dealt with Life’s Rear View mirror (history), so let’s pump the brakes just a second and re-enter the 21st century – in fact, a poker-hot July at the Airlift Productions Studios in NOLA.

From the days of the Mad Men in the ’60s to today, let’s face it, SEX sells! Folks will part with their last dollar to find it, thrill to it, and hang on to it. The magic allure of sex is a well that the Madison Avenue crowd will always draw from.  Always.  And in all ways.

I was reminded of this just this past Wednesday as the phone rang from Madison Avenue in NYC looking for some help on a project for Yves Saint Laurent.  The boys were curious if I could find some time to record an actor while he was filming for HBO in New Orleans.

Ah-h, sure, let me check my schedule.

So, in the middle of cranking out some new night club commercials (also involving sex and the search for same), I agreed to record Edoardo Ballerini on behalf of Yves Saint Laurent for Moritz & Company in Manhattan.

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NYC-based Film/TV actor Edoardo Ballerini records VoiceOver for Yves Saint Laurent at Airlift Productions NOLA

Check this dude out. Perhaps you’ve already witnessed Edoardo’s talents on the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire on HBO.  It was further work with the Home Box Office crowd that brought him to NOLA.  His new show, coming soon, is called “Quarry”.

What a stud. Edoardo blew through the Airlift Studio doors yesterday afternoon with all the swag of Johnny Depp … only with more talent! His zen-like, laser-focused mic techniques – honed through his recording of over one hundred audio books – were most impressive.  Listen here to just a bit of this week’s magic captured by the Airlift Productions mics …

** Edoardo Ballerini talks for Yves Saint Laurent, 7-16-15 **

Ballerini on-camera playing shoot-em-up
Ballerini on-camera playing shoot-em-up

This guy’s skill set is just off the charts.  Not only is he bilingual, fluent in Italian as well, but he studied Latin while on a scholarship – in Rome.  And his relaxed and self-assured looks allow him to fit into any era on film.  And play good guy or bad – with style.

In fact, as we discussed his life yesterday after our session, while he banged on my guitar in the Airlift Studios Green Room, I felt somewhat envious. Edoardo jets between NYC and NOLA, playing out the lives of fascinating folks on sets and sound stages …. while yours truly makes a living from the solitude of a dimly-lit, tricked-out digital cave.

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Airlift Productions, New Orleans

But it’s funny, ya know,  the Great Spirit has kept things in such perfect balance that one cannot lose one thing without gaining another. One door may close, but a window will open.

And a fine digital cave it is. And I have my privacy. And flying is for the birds.  And the inquisitive fingers of prying TSA agents.

Which brings us back to sex.

And it continues to sell – well at Airlift Productions.

** A couple recent radio thirties for the gang at Legends Encore from Airlift Mike & the Airlift Productions Studios **

 

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DaleAnthonySmithRecordsWithAirliftProductionsNOLA“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.  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 Corporation, NOLA

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

What Makes a Voice Over Talent … Talented?

 

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Yes, the little bespectacled goober front row left is 13 year old Micheal Ziants of Airlift Productions – part of the “Young Tom Edison” cast, Youngstown, Ohio Civic Children’s Theater, 1965

It has been said that the best VoiceOverTalents come from the stage –  not the radio – because the theater and acting is at the heart of the craft, not broadcasting.

But what if a talent could combine both?

 Yes, this blog could perhaps be seen as self-serving, tooting one’s own horn … and sort of like ‘breaking the 4th wall’ in a Woody Allen movie where he addresses the camera directly, but here  goes …
 
While I began my broadcasting career in the 1970s and worked on-air in some of America’s greatest cities (and was subsequently hired & fired from some of America’s greatest radio stations),  for me… it all began on the stage!
 
The acting bug bit me early – and hard! In the 1960s it was civic Children’s Theater in Youngstown, Ohio that was my launch pad. Saturdays could find me on-stage re-creating the stories of Peter Pan, Tom Edison or Robin Hood.
I then went on, through high school, to become the President of the Thespian Club and had the leads in the Junior and Senior Class plays as well.
 
Using the human voice to arrest someone’s attention …  and then motivate them to relate to a cause or sympathize with an issue seemed the stuff of magic.  I was hooked.
 
Later on, as a broadcaster – and then as a voice over talent – I learned to call on these same skills, intuitive yet honed on a stage … and bring them to the microphone!
 
So, again, what if the voice over artist – the person delivering the message at the microphone – could combine innate, yet trained acting chops, vast commercial broadcast experience, and decades of technical, hands-on production experience?
 
OK, here comes the horn tooting part – that would be … me!
 
You want to book a voice talent with experience?  With theater in his blood? With years of broadcasting experience thrown in ala carte? 

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Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios

 
You want to book, hire, call on Airlift Productions, New Orleans Premier Voice Over Recording Studio … We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet browsing, already in progress…
 
 

Classic N.O. Eatery Gets a FaceLift … Airlift Style!

 

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Airlift Productions & Micheal Ziants Add the Voice & Sizzle to Tujague’s Radio spot

 

I was reminded of this gig just last night when I caught the spot on WRNO-99.5-Rush Radio in New Orleans.  Man, how times … and dimes have changed.

When it came time for legendary French Quarter restaurant Tujagues on Decatur to roll-out it’s new Brunch menu and shout it from the rooftops via WRNO, the bat signal went out into the night sky for Airlift Mike.

What followed is kind of like the ‘alley-oop’ play in basketball – Bo Walker (then-production chief at Clear Channel) emailed me the copy … I voiced it and sent it back to him, along with some sound effect cues … he added his music track and mixed it down, then ping-ponged this mp3 back to me … and voila!

Part history lesson, part menu … and all sizzle! And when it all comes out of your car speaker on WRNO or worldwide via their I-Heart radio app, ‘Tujagues Brunch Menu’ radio :60 sounds like this….

 

Yeah, pretty amazing times we’re living in, huh?

Please though, do not attempt this kind of radio production at home.  These men are trained professionals.

Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this commercial.

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Tujagues Brunch Menu Radio :60 Voiced by Micheal Ziants & Airlift Productions