All posts by Micheal

I am a Recording Artist and Studio Owner in New Orleans, Louisiana for over thirty years now. After a whirlwind radio career that took me through St. Louis, Nashville, Harrisburg & Philadelphia, I settled in New Orleans in 1983. VoiceOver work for TV & film, completely-produced radio ads, and audio book recording & production are specialties of the house, but my Airlift Productions Studio also plays in the music arena with artist CD projects and has become a go-to shop for Hollywood South. Look us up on the web at www.AirliftProductions.com, or connect with us at #1-800-210-WORD.

Airlift Productions ~ Recording With Mood & Attitude!

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Airlift Productions Recording Studio & PROduction House, New Orleans 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.

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 over 20 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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What Makes a Voice Over Talent … Talented?

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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, 1964

 

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!
 
Airlift Mike with the Tribe of Ziants, front porch, Youngstown, Ohio, circa 1962

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!
 

               Shocking, Raw, Visceral – Adults Only ** Micheal reads from Pelican Publishing’s True Crime Drama “Murder in Coweta County”

So, again, what if the voice over artist – the person delivering the message at the microphone – could combine innate, yet trained, acting chops plus vast commercial broadcast experience and decades of technical, hands-on production experience?
 
OK, here comes the horn tooting part – that would be … me!
 
Do you want to book a voice talent with experience?  With theater in his blood? With years of broadcasting & audio production thrown in ala carte? 
 
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Broadcast Veteran – and Actor – Micheal Ziants, plying his trade at the Airlift Studios
 
 
We now return you to your regularly scheduled internet browsing, already in progress…
 
 

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Texan Peg Jones at work station

“I listened to a lot of voices to represent Detective Lt. Robert (Robbo) Davidson for our audiobook version of “The Evil I Have Seen” and none quite fit. At last, I did a search for a commanding, seasoned, slightly Southern voice — and pulled up Airlift Productions of NOLA. I clicked on Micheal’s sample narrations of “Murder in Coweta County” then James Patterson’s “The Chef,” and I was hooked. No one else would do.

I was surprisingly delighted after speaking with Micheal to learn, he would not agree to narrate and produce the audiobook until he read it. He wasn’t in it just for money — he would only partner on material he believed to be worthwhile. It has been a delightful, rewarding experience and Robbo and I could not be more proud of the way he brought this book to life.” — Author PJ Jones

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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, 31 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  Tulsa, OK home, a gone pecan from NOLA for over ten 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?

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.

2022 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 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, Romper Room’s “Miss Linda” Mintz,  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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Is Audio Recording An Art … Or A Science? Or Magic?

The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…

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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.

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Airlift Productions “Booth” ~ where talent shines!

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.

Art & Science & Magic get it on at Airlift Productions!

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Original Airlift Productions Studio Design ~ Micheal Ziants, 2001

Pause to consider, the entire Airlift Productions air space is completely out-of-square with no parallel walls, and the studio ceiling rises from front to back.

Custom-designed, the entire room is built like the ancient Greeks imagined 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 6 feet square at the front … to nearly 12 feet at the back. Dramatic, sure, but functional, as well.  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.

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Airlift Productions “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

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 intensely personal musical 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.

When quality counts ~ count on Airlift Productions.  Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984.

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Micheal Ziants & Sean O’Shea, navigating the twists & turns of AudioBook production

“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 out environment he’s cultivated…personally and within his studio… 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 with www.airliftproductions.com”

—- Los Angeles & NOLA-based Dog Trainer SEAN O’SHEA

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Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984

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

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 New Orleans’ 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 recording 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 & I were hired to record the introduction to accompany the big show-opening 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.

Then, in 2019… it was 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 Mike Onstage with the late Sid Noel at NOLA’s Orpheum Theater, Halloween 2019

Dr. Ziants: My dear colleague, it was a true delight to visit and work with you in your digital laboratory. I somewhat envy your remarkable equipment, which far exceeds anything we can afford here in the old city ice house. Your audio production facilities are second to none, and I thank you again for the excellent recordings you produced for the Momus A. Morgus Institute.” — Momus

** A tested-by-time Testimonial from Dr. Morgus (aka – Sid Noel Rideau) direct from the old city ice house to the Airlift digital lab via email.

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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

Safelite AutoGlass TV Ads, Columbus, Ohio – And Airlift Mike?

Pascal Barone, Safelite AutoGlass naional spokesperson records TV VoiceOver at Airlift PROductions, NEW Orleans

It happened again last night, I caught a national TV ad broadcast across America – with audio recorded here in New Orleans at my Airlift PROductions, wherein (who knew) yours truly was the “silent partner”.

Ya’ see, my family up north – from the coal mines of West Virginia to the newspaper offices in Pittsburgh & the grade school classrooms of Lancaster, Ohio – has NO IDEA whatsoever that I am the dude behind the glass “teeing-up the ball” for these national TV ads.

First contacted and contracted by the Ron Foth Agency in Columbus, Ohio way back in 2013, I’ve been recording Safelite AutoGlass national on-camera spokesperson PASCAL BARONE ever since!

Pascal “drops the mic” with Airlift Mike for Safelite AutoGlass

Amiable, authentic, and as genuine as they come, Pascal has been a front man for Safelite for nearly a decade and, as the fates would have it, is a New Orleans local (actually Kenner-bruh).

Give a listen to audio excerpts from our phone-patch recording session between NOLA & Columbus with Pascal from March 2020, used in Safelite’s “Camping/Road Trip” :30 TV spot now airing.

** “Gee, Pascal, you took your cell phone into my booth? And, how nice, he only dropped one ‘S-Bomb’. What a FUN session, though.. Great talent; great client; great guy!”…mgz **

Now, here’s how the VoiceOver tracks recorded at Airlift PROductions play out – along with the client jingle – on national television airwaves & digital platforms. And notice how seamlessly the “wild tracks”/ADR voice match the on-screen performance…

Nice job, Pascal! Great spot, Ron Foth Columbus, Ohio dudes!

As to me, Airlift Mike?

Well, sorta like that old line from the Wicked Witch/Judy Garland cinema classic, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

No smoke. No mirrors. Not even a brainless scarecrow.

Just call me, ah, well, ok …”The Wizard of Ads”.

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Toby Ricketts Instagram-Twitter ‘Selfie” taken in the Airlift Productions booth

“Working on the road can be a pain for voice artists – I was so glad to find Airlift studios on my travels, just outside NOLA CBD! What a beautiful, cozy, and quiet space to work in. Michael was an absolute pleasure to work with, being 100% professional and 100% nice guy! If I’m ever in the Big Easy again, I’ll be sure to stop in and see Mike at Airlift Productions.” — Award-Winning, World-Class, New Zealand-based VoiceOver Talent, TOBY RICKETTS

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

From New Castle … to New Orleans, What a Trip!

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Airlift Productions Proprietor Micheal Ziants as a ‘babe in the woods’ New Castle, PA. What, no headphones?

From New Castle (PA) to New Orleans (LA) … to quote the California sage Jerry Garcia, “What a long strange trip it’s been!”
 
Born in New Castle (just north of Pittsburgh) to Charlie & Phyllis, the middle child of five kids, by the time I was five, we’d already relocated all the way to Florida – where we moved two additional times in three years … before moving back north to Youngstown, Ohio.
 
So, let me see, I’m all of nine years old and I’ve already had five different mailing addresses in three different states in the union.  No, pop wasn’t running from the law, just an upwardly mobile and in-demand chemical/mechanical engineer.
My first jobs were newspaper boy, altar boy, and grocery bagging and delivery boy.  Boy, that’s a lot of ‘boys’.  And great training at a young age in dependability and responsibility for manhood, I might add.
Even as a young dude (boy) through all these very same years, the roots of the recording studio and voiceover career were planted. I took up acting in civic children’s theater, studied ventriloquism (even built my own dummy), taught myself to play the guitar (had my own band in high school) … and fell in love with radio & communications.

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Micheal Ziants High School Grad Pic 1970 Northwestern High, Beaver Falls, PA

Upon graduating high school, with dreams of heading to the military academy at West Point, I spent a year working hard as a land surveyor during the day and attending Penn State by night. When the academy dreams fell apart, I’ve got to admit – it was radio, communications and broadcasting that captured my heart.
 
Big time!
So, after carrying a 4.0 in English, Speech, Philosophy and (oh, my) Calculus at Penn State, I decided to drop out, follow my heart and launch a career in radio. Now the fun begins.
From Columbus to Youngstown, Ohio … Harrisburg, PA to Saint Louis, MONashville, TN to Philadelphia, PA … all before landing in the land of sugarcane and Pontchartrain – New Orleans!

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Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as alter-ego John Saint John, in the production room at WLAC, Nashville, 1980

Yes, I’ve been hired – and fired – from some of the finest radio stations in America!  And worked for some of the country’s hallmark names and companies … the Joseph Pulitzer family-KSD Radio in St. Louis, Billboard Magazine-WLAC, Nashville, and General Cinema Corporation-WIFI, Philadelphia.
When I arrived in New Orleans at Q-93, the station was then owned by Insilco, a Fortune 500 outfit with silver mines all over planet earth! 
But I just grew tired and weary of the fragile existence that radio offered and/or threatened, along with the toll on my private and personal life.
Ya’ want to know something?  Women will only take to that packing and unpacking, up-and-down-the-radio-dial life for just so long … before they say ‘so long’.
 
Necessity being the mother of invention, I began the Airlift Productions thing – recording and producing ‘voice-overs for export’ – long before it became fashionable.  I built my first recording studio in 1984, ‘burned the ships’ (as the expression goes) and never looked back.

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The Original Airlift Productions – before digital, the internet & mp3s – in the closet of my one-bedroom apartment – 1985

Airlift Productions was my opportunity to combine all my loves – acting, music, communications, production and radio – into my own business. Oh sure, I could still run the bus off the road, but at least from now onward … I was the one at the wheel.  
 
1984 was the age of reel-to-reel magnetic recording tape, grease pencils and splicing blocks, cassettes and Fed Ex next-day deliveries. The internet and world wide web, mp3 email attachments, and digital non-destructive edits weren’t even dreams yet in a tech head’s head!
Fast-forward now to 2021… and the kid has stayed in the picture.  I still love to paint those mental pictures, color the air with bright pastels and deep earth-toned hues … motivate with sound!

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Micheal Ziants and the new “Annie” Quvenzhane Wallis, recording for Chrysler and sharing a few laughs at Airlift Productions

And what a thrill and honor to do it all from the world’s most unique city and America’s most fascinating destination.  If you’ve been to New Orleans you know whereof I speak … and if you haven’t, well, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
 
Catch-up with us when you can at Airlift Productions Recording Studio here in New Orleans.  We’ll leave the mics hot for you!
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“I listened to a lot of voices to represent Detective Lt. Robert (Robbo) Davidson for our audiobook version of “The Evil I Have Seen” and none quite fit. At last, I did a search for a commanding, seasoned, slightly Southern voice — and pulled up Airlift Productions of NOLA. I clicked on Micheal’s sample narrations of “Murder in Coweta County” then James Patterson’s “The Chef,” and I was hooked. No one else would do.

I was surprisingly delighted after speaking with Micheal to learn, he would not agree to narrate and produce the audiobook until he read it. He wasn’t in it just for money — he would only partner on material he believed to be worthwhile.

It has been a delightful, rewarding experience and Robbo and I could not be more proud of the way he brought this book to life. He is the voice, the director and producer of the audio version of “The Evil I Have Seen.” I recommend him wholeheartedly! — P.J. JONES, AUTHOR of the out-now shocker, “The Evil I Have Seen”

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“Back In The Game”, Congressman Steve Scalise & Me

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Congressman Steve Scalise records “Back In The Game” with Airlift Mike, October 2018 at Airlift Productions NOLA

I first met Congressman Steve Scalise Monday morning, October 8th, 2018 at the Airlift Productions Studios.

Hired by the Hachette AudioBook Group, based in Paris & NYC, my job was simple.

Or was it?

I would host the congressman, along with his body guards the Capitol Police, here at Airlift through the month to record and capture his personal memoir reading of “Back In The Game” for worldwide distribution.

The AudioBook recording process, even to the pro, can prove a daunting task. To a newbie, like Steve, it can prove most intimidating.

Even though as Majority Whip the congressman could and would speak on the floor of the United States House with conviction, confidence & fervor – THIS was something else altogether.

Alone. Isolated. Pensive. Painful. Hopeful.

While reflecting on a life-changing event. And one that damn near took his life.

** Steve Scalise Excerpt from “Back In The Game”, courtesy Hachette AudioBook Group **

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Airlift Productions records “Back In The Game” AudioBook, October 2018

“Back In The Game” details the congressional baseball practice shooting in June 2017 – what could have been the biggest political assassination in U.S. History – and the remarkable efforts of the police, first-responders, doctors, and surgeons who saved Steve’s life.

Not exactly light reading. 

It was harrowingly frightening, desperately challenging… and ultimately inspirational and hopeful.

Through our three weeks of recording, I hosted and made  all the Capitol Police comfortable, engineered the sessions, operated the phone-patch with our director in New York, delivered the wav files via FTP to the final producer – and bonded with the congressman.

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Steve Scalise at the “hot mic”, October 2018, Airlift Productions NOLA

Steve and I recorded for hours (over two dozen), had lunches together, shared anecdotes from our respective life-walks, laughed long and hard, and talked of God, politics, and country.

Incredibly, to this audio engineer, two of our recording sessions followed lunches he had just come from with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and another with our U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former two-term Georgia Governor) Sonny Perdue!

Ya know, not exactly my lunchtime cohorts down at the Subway.

Although after this rather unique month, I can now look upon this affable, personable & warmly sincere congressman as more than an acquaintance.

So, Steve, if you just so happen to be reading this – you’ve got more than just a constituent on Pomona…  you’ve got a friend.

And howzabout a rematch on that ping-pong game?

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Steve Scalise & Airlift Mike during a break from “Back In The Game”, Airlift Productions NOLA, October 2018

“Mike, I can’t thank you enough for the great job you did coaching me through the audio recording of my new book, “Back in the Game!” Since this was the first book I’ve ever written (and recorded), it was all new territory for me. You made the entire process go very smoothly, and I am incredibly happy with the final product.

I appreciate all you did to bring this book to life. You know you are really good when both James Carville and I are in complete agreement that you are great to work with!!” — CONGRESSMAN STEVE SCALISE

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Airlift Productions ~ Telling America’s Greatest Stories from New Orleans … since 1984

From Books-on-Tape to CDs in 1993? Courtesy Airlift Productions

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(L-R) Charlie Biondo, “Miss Linda” Mintz, Micheal Ziants, celebrating over 3,500 units sold, “Soft Words, Warm Nights”

While the world was still calling the genre “Books-On-Tape” in 1993, Airlift Productions self-published and successfully sold spoken word CDs to libraries across America – and to the world via the Playboy catalog.

I realize that this all sounds a tad mad, but let me tell you the story.

I first met New Orleans icon “Miss Linda”, Linda Mintz, during a session at the Airlift Studios on Iberville street in 1993 while recording radio commercials for a local client.

Our muses, along with the stars, somehow aligned after that session while Linda and I discussed our love for poetry… as we hatched the egg of an idea for an outfit we dubbed “WordMusic”.

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“Miss Linda” Mintz & Micheal Ziants (McCann), during recording sessions for “Soft Words, Warm Nights”, Airlift Productions, 1993

Linda, long known and loved by generations of New Orleanians as Romper Room’s “Miss Linda”, had been reared with a love and respect for the magic of poetry.

Yours truly, while working all over New Orleans airwaves as a commercial voice and producer, was looking to create a self-published project that had “legs”, would be “evergreen” and that we could get behind and market to the world.

Produced on Iberville Street (all on reel-to-reel tape), voiced by Linda & me, and backed by husband Albert Mintz… we called the project “SOFT WORDS, WARM NIGHTS”.

** “I Love You/A Bright New Land”… Soft Words, Warm Nights excerpt with Linda Mintz & Micheal Ziants **

Imagine the world’s most romantic poetry lovingly rendered – and cast against the lush backdrop of the sounds of nature, coupled with a meditative new age score.

Score one for the kids on Iberville Street!

** Bess, the landlord’s daughter sacrifices herself to save her lover, Mike Ziants reads the classic, “The Highwayman” from SWWN **

Together with marketing pal Charlie Biondo, we drew the attention of Bayside Distributors in California, produced cassette tapes AND CDs in 1993, were successfully reviewed by all the major trade publications, and took it to market!

** “Will You Love Me When I’m Old?” from SWWN **

After selling over 3,500 to libraries across the U.S., we attended the American Booksellers Association trade show in Chicago, where I personally pitched the project to Hugh Hefner!

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“Soft Words, Warm Nights”, featured in the Playboy catalog, 1995

Hef was back in his hometown that weekend to promote Playboy’s 40th Anniversary coffee table book and, little did he know it – but get a fast pitch from Micheal Ziants.

Playboy Magazine’s catalog then featured our “Soft Words, Warm Nights” in several editions, helping us to move over 500 units, saying that our CD created “Irresistible Ambiance”.

While I caught a lot of kidding & ribbing  from family and fellow radio pals here in NOLA over this entire escapade, it remains one of my favorite stories.

What wasn’t so pleasant?

In an attempt to get a major ongoing distributor for our work, upon sending our CDs to every single major AudioBook publisher at the time, we were not only turned down – but ripped off! 

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“Soft Words, Warm Nights” CD artwork, Airlift Productions/WordMusic 1993

As the idea – romantic spoken word, produced with music & sound effects – was copied within a year by many of them, along with known Hollywood actors that carried marquistype names.

(Sigh!)

Oh well, as the Bard once opined, “It is better to have loved and lost… than to have never loved at all.”

Besides, it still makes for great “Did-you-hear-the-one-about-the-BIG-one-that-got-away?” type stories around the bar and NOLA parties.

Furthermore, as Churchill reminded us all, “Never. Never. Never. Give up!”… and from the vernacular, “He who loves and runs away, lives to fight another day.”

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Airlift Mike, Micheal Ziants, reads James Patterson’s “The Chef” for Hachette AudioBooks, NYC/Paris

I haven’t. (Given up.)

And.. I have! (Lived for another day.)

I mean, back in the 1990s, how was I to know that here in 2019 my path would intersect with one of the world’s biggest and best-selling authors? 

“Now showing” on earbuds near you, from the Hachette AudioBook Group, and today available on all worldwide platforms… Micheal Ziants narrates and interprets James Patterson’s “THE CHEF”.

And trust me, gang – Soft words and a warm night, this ain’t!

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“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


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

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