Tag Archives: WDSU-TV

New Orleans TV News Drops Anchor(s) at Airlift Productions

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(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz at the WDSU-TV Studios for the CMN Telethon

Norman Robinson. Lee Zurik. Camille Whitworth. Rich Lenz. Heath Allen. Rachel Wulff.

Round up the usual suspects.

I have –  to record various voice-over projects here in New Orleans at Airlift Productions.

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!

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Anchor man NORMAN ROBINSON brushing-up his VoiceOver skills at Airlift Productions NOLA

Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the city of 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 **

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L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 2004

Rich Lenz now 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 at WDSU.

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 **

 

Rachel Wulff records her VoiceOver Demo at Airlift Productions NOLA

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.

Very nice.

** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **

Fox-8/WVUE’s solid anchor dude – and award-winning investigative reporter – Lee Zurik and I work together on projects for video ace Paul Atkinson.

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Airlift Mike, Lee Zurik, Paul Atkinson – “Glory Days” sessions

The latest project? VoiceOver for “Glory Days”, an homage to the passions and victories of Newman High School’s football program.

As it turns out, Lee was on the same team at Newman with a local boy-made-good you may have heard of – the NFL’s Peyton Manning.

** Lee Zurik narrates “Glory Days” with Airlift Mike **

Man, that must’ve been some wild locker room, huh?

(BTW,  Lee, do you wanna send that sassy Kim Holden over for a recording session sometime?)

L-R. Micheal Ziants, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz, Brian Landry, making music at Airlift Productions NOLA

The Airlift Productions studio doors are always open to Heath Allen, veteran reporter for decades at WDSU.  Heath carved-out his reputation in the early days all over Baton Rouge TV.

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 Whitworth drop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.

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Camille Whitworth sets the VO mood at Airlift Productions NOLA

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 for clients 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’.

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants shoulder-to-shoulder with JAMES CARVILLE at the Airlift Studios

“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

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Airlift Productions – where the warmth of analogue lives. And the lightning speed of digital delivers.

 

 

Airlift Mike’s Katrina Confessions & Can Kickin’…Down The Road

 

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“Katrina-versary Get-Together” on Saturday August 29th, 2015 (L-R) Rich Lenz, Brian Landry, Norman Robinson, Dan Milham, Heath Allen, Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants 

*** “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!

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And this past weekend as we all got together at Brian Landry’s place just outside NOLA in Slidell… 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.

katrina-here-lies-vera-88a444c77c3c4c55Meanwhile,  I CAN Learn educational software founder and my good pal John Lee, who stayed through the storm …. well, he was uptown at Jackson & Magazine street …. burying Miss Vera, left dead on the New Orleans sidewalk in the steamy August-September heat. 

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.  With Rich 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….

** City Park, New Orleans ~ as seen from the sky via drone technology,             courtesy Todd Schmidt, Video Wunderkind **

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.

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“Mike, thank you for 25 years of successfully teaching Algebra to children of color and students who were living in poverty. They aren’t living in poverty anymore thanks to you and the mathematical skills you gave them. They are doctors, engineers and scientists today.” ~ the late JOHN R. LEE, founder & creator of the I CAN Learn Mathematics Educational Software

 

 

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 Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

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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“Anchors Away” ~ Airlift Mike Holiday Reflections

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Original WDSU-Airlift Productions-Children’s Hospital ‘Healing House’ krewe ~ (L-R) Heath Allen, Brian Landry, Rich Lenz, Micheal Ziants at the Airlift Productions Studios

It’s kind of funny the way life works, huh? We no sooner make our mark – than someone else comes along and spray paints the wall!

Rich Lenz worked at WDSU-TV here in New Orleans from 1994-2007, first as Sports Reporter, then Director, then Anchor.

Today, he’s in Tulsa at KOTV while Fletcher, Scott & Adrianna sit in his old chair down on Howard Avenue.

Someone spray painted the wall.

I first connected with Rich at a parochial school basketball game in 2002 wherein our boys (his Cameron and my Ben) were having at it … btw, St. Angela Merici went down that afternoon to the boyz from St. Pius.

In any event, Rich and I that day found our kindred muse – the guitar, music, Beatles & recording – and within weeks, Rich was bringing his ax “Sugar” by the Airlift Studios to make music, with yours truly as his engineer and producer.

It all started out innocently enough, with boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, etc. tunes, but by 2004, things took a turn.

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Gambit article about Rich Lenz, Micheal Ziants and our initial shot across the bow for the Children’s Hospital gang – “The Healing House”

Make that a ‘turn’ for the better. Together with WDSU’s Norman Robinson & Heath Allen, along with a host of others along the way, most notably Brian Landry, Marketing Director for the hospital, Jerry Christopher from N’awlins cover band ‘Bag of Donuts’ & saucy Swede Theresa Andersson, we’ve recorded many Children’s Miracle Network Telethon tunes together.

 

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L-R, Heath Allen, Theresa Andersson, Micheal Ziants, Rich Lenz – during a break from the original HEALING HOUSE sessions, Airlift Productions 2004

The songs & videos capture the Spirit of the hospital’s staff, have been warmly received by New Orleans TV viewers, and have directly helped to open pocketbooks and raise millions of dollars in support of our New Orleans Children’s Hospital.

But back to the wall, the spray paint … and that mother Katrina. After losing the family home to Hurricane Katrina (the breached London Avenue canal sent flood waters to their roof top), it wasn’t long before Rich & family took off for greener (drier?) pastures.

Of all the tunes Richie & I have recorded together, his country-fied opus to his Katrina-ventures, “I Ain’t Livin’ in the Bowl No More” is among my favorites.

Think Garth Brooks meets Al Yankovic! Crank-up the speakers on your digital device and give this little ditty a LISTEN here —-

“I Ain’t Livin’ In The Bowl No More” ~ Rich Lenz – aka ‘Sheet Rock & the Spore Boyz’

Its been said that comedy and tragedy are forever joined at the root, and no doubt the humor in this tune came from some pretty damn frustrating heartache. Katrina survivors, you feel me? In a musical sense, I helped to sort of talk Rich off the ledge.

I love Karen Bailey’s back-up vocals, and on the harmonica? Why, that’s none other than former N.O. Saints All-Pro Guard (now quite the photographer) Brad Edelman. Oh, you should have been along for these sessions.

So, the happy ending? Rich, Leslie, Cameron & Claire now reside in Tulsa, Oklahoma where Rich is going gangbusters, anchoring the wake-up show on KOTV to #1 ratings! I don’t know about happily ever after… but they sure are happy… now. And we miss them.

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Rich Lenz, far right – along with his KOTV gang. Ironically and coincidentally still on Channel 6!

Around the beginning of each new year, it’s always time for reflection and giving thanks for the graces and kindness the Father Spirit has bestowed. And I certainly have been honored and blessed to have met and befriended this dude.

Upward and onward now into 2017!

Oh, and be wary of strangers in the night carrying cans of spray paint.

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Airlift Mike on-camera shoot with Tim Weston of TLW Productions - 2004
Airlift Mike on-camera shoot with Tim Weston of TLW Productions – 2004

“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 

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

“Anchors Away” – Airlift Mike Reflects On Decades of Recording Norman Robinson

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Norman Robinson sat in the Anchor chair at WDSU-TV, New Orleans for over twenty years … and still today records his euphonium and VoiceOvers at Airlift Productions.

I first met Norman Robinson in 1991 at the Airlift Productions studios on Iberville Street. He was fresh off the White House beat for the CBS Network  and was the newly ordained nightly news anchor at WDSU-TV here in New Orleans.

Along with John Lee, the founder of the I Can Learn educational programs, he showed up at the studios to record some promotional VoiceOver tracks to help attract some attention to this new and innovative method of teaching.

I was thinking about our first meeting and that first session together as Norman arrived at the Airlift studios this past Friday, February 6th, 2015 to record with me…  yet again.

Let’s see, so simple math would indicate that our relationship and friendship now spans nearly a quarter of a century!

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(L-R) Brian Landry, Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz & Airlift’s Micheal Ziants ~ in the Airlift Productions ‘Green Room’, along with a plaque commemorating four years of Children’s Miracle Network Telethon Theme Songs for our Children’s Hospital in New Orleans

In addition to his outstanding contributions every night for over two decades in the anchor chair at WDSU, Norman is quite the musician as well. While foreign to many, the euphonium (sort of a hybrid cross between a french horn and a tuba) is Norm’s instrument of choice.

He played it in the marine band while in the service, and still does today in various orchestras and ensembles around the Crescent City – and for the Children’s Hospital NOLA at Airlift Productions.

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Norman Robinson at the euphonium, along with Brian Landry, the “Soul Men”, laying-down tracks for the 2014 Telethon at Airlift Productions

But it’s more than his chops at the euphonium or at the anchor desk that make Norman so special. It’s his spirit! Charm. Charisma. Magnetism. Gravitas. Norman didn’t just sit in the anchor chair. He inhabited it. He owned it.

In a day and time where even NBC Network News & Brian Williams’ authority and credibility have now come into question, the city of New Orleans always had its fingers on the pulse of what was going on … and believed in and trusted Norman Robinson.

It was that trust, that gravitas, that authoritative weight that brought Norman back into the Airlift Productions Studios this past week to record VoiceOver for a very special project.  Just give a listen to a taste of what went down Friday here ….

*** Norman Robinson at the Airlift Productions microphones Friday, February 6th, 2015, talking unabashedly of the city he loves ***

If all Norman did was string words together in that marvelous booming baritone, to many, that would be more than enough, but it doesn’t stop there. His nightly news laughter and asides, and his boundless humanity and love of life on the yearly Children’s Telethons is what endeared him to so many.

Witness  this clip provided by his successor Scott Walker, from a cell phone video at our last telethon in June of 2014, as Norman invokes the spirit of James Brown ….

*** Norman performs to make the telephones ring and the pledges come in at the 2014 Children’s Miracle Network Telethon ***

As Norman and I wrapped-up our session this past week, we reflected on our many years working together. And I guess the most interesting part of our conversation was about what lies ahead for us … because we’re just getting warmed-up.

Because, you see, on that great Highway of Life, the most fascinating years, the really interesting ones …  are through the windshield – not the rear view mirror! 

For more, as they used to say in the ad world, “Watch this Space”.

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(L-R) Airlift’s Micheal Ziants, Norman Robinson, Heath Allen, Rich Lenz at the WDSU-TV Studios for the annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon.

Airlift Productions Recording Studio ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA