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.
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!
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?
“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
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!
Our most recent project? Recording and compiling every electronic message for every streetcar and bus – even the ferries – in the cityof 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 **
Rich Lenznow 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 atWDSU.
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 **
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.
** Rachel’s VO Demo, with her daughter’s cutesy intro **
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 Whitworthdrop by from time to time for various VO commercial and industrial projects.
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 forclients 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’.
“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
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.
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 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!
** 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!
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.
But Airlift on Pomona – along with its construction & marketing challenges – is the story for another blog and another time.
“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
The short answer? All three! The long answer? How much time do you have? Too many questions? Oops, another question…
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 pressureto 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 withwww.airliftproductions.com”
—- Los Angeles & NOLA-based Dog Trainer SEAN O’SHEA
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 thePlayboycatalog.
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”.
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!
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!
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 marquis–type names.
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.”
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?
“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 National Weather Service defines the “Eye” as the region of mostly calm weather at the center of strong tropical cyclones.
Metaphorically, the ever-changing media & technology would be the tropical cyclones/hurricanes, and Airlift Productions & I would be the ones whohave for over thirty years resided… calmly, persistent & steady, in the hurricane’s eye.
In 1984, the needs of my first full-time client – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – gave birth to the Airlift Productions Studios.That very year Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office, the compact disc was brand new, and top-rated CBS affiliates WWL-TV & WWL radio here in New Orleans were owned by Loyola University (“World Wide Loyola”) and… the Catholic Church.
From the changing complexion of the White House to digital music distribution (and piracy), TV/radio deregulation and consolidation, and from Loyola’s WWL ownership change to Gannet/Tegna, and Entercom to Audacy – my, oh my, how the media and technological winds have blown!
Meanwhile, through all the changes and through all the years, Airlift Productions and I have resided calmly and ever-persistent in the Hurricane’s Eye.
A recent Search Engine request for just two words “Airlift Productions” yielded the most remarkable result – in the Images section was an internet-search-generated collage of a Life lived in the Hurricane’s Eye…
There was every studio I’d ever built – from the closet at Rock Creek Apartments to Iberville to Pomona. There was Norman Robinson, Rich Lenz, Heath Allen, Deuce McAllister, Congressman Steve Scalise, Dr. Morgus, Rachel Wulff, Jamie Neumann, Sean O’Shea, Sister Thecla, even studio mascot The Shadeaux, the studio’s stained glass window and game room!
From radio commercials, TV voice-overs, music projects & audio books, to educational software, industrial training & safety videos, and from cathode ray tubes to flat screens and broadcast to podcast – the Airlift Studios & I have shifted and tacked into the winds of change … while remaining calm & steady in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence & Determination alone are omnipotent.” ~ Coolidge/Ziants
*** Micheal Ziants AUDIO BOOK Demo ***
And the winds continue to blow! My grandfather John was born before the radio, my father Charlie was born before the television, and I was born before the internet & digital.
Well, whatever it is, you can rest assured that Airlift Productions and I will be there … in the Hurricane’s Eye.
“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
Around the Airlift Productions Studios, I still get into this one with my video production pals – when it comes down to audio versus video, which of the two is more powerful and packs the bigger punch?!?
I mean, what is all televison except radio… with pictures? Which came first? And where are the more powerful emotional cues?
You know, the ones that capture attention, motivate, inspire, scare … and drive someone to action?
Pause to consider, the very first sense that develops as the human develops within the mother’s womb is …. wait for it – the sense of HEARING! The growing infant HEARS the mother’s heartbeat and the rush of amniotic fluid, almost like ocean waves, surrounding it’s ears.
The eyes are nowhere in the picture yet.
Now, picture yourself in a movie theater. You are terrified by the motion picture – from b/w ‘Psycho’ in the ’60s to the latest flick about some camp counselor gone crazy chasing teens through the woods with an ax – and you can very simply close your eyes.
But you cannot close your ears!
The shrieks of terror, the ragged breathing, the sound effects, the dramatic music pulsing and pounding. Even when all sounds disappear and come to a complete … heart-pounding … stop!
Interestingly, the Creator gave us eyelids… but He didn’t give us EAR-lids!
Now, talk to a hospice caregiver, and they’ll quickly tell you from experience that in the majority of cases the final sense to leave us at death – is the sense of hearing.
More to the point, in the case of television advertising, when an ad comes on, many are off to the bathroom or into the kitchen. In this case, all the expensive video editing software and fancy visual zips and zaps are superfluous! They are not even there in the experience of the intended viewer.
And since time immemorial, the story-telling tradition, as one generation passed legend and myth and bedtime stories down to the next, the entire presentation was aural – powerful, memorable and impact-full.
Sorry, video aces, but audio trumps video. It will always be AUDIO that drives the emotional train.
“Airlift is THE place to go for a top quality demo. With Mike behind the board you are in very capable hands. His vast knowledge and command of all things audio blends with his laid-back fun environment to bring out the best in any voice. Airlift Productions has the experience and all the tools necessary to make a voice-over reel that is on par with anything you would find in New York or LA!”
Footprints in the Sands of Time …. or skid marks at the intersection?
I guess it’s human nature for all of us to seek love and respect in life. Respect from family, friends and co-workers. And to be thought lovingly of and to be fondly remembered by those we’ve left behind is to never die. You know, “footprints”.
Well, as a life-long student of history, world religions and philosophy, I’ve read many a book on history, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been IN one … until now.
I don’t know what you – the reader of this blog – were doing in the 1970s, or even if you were alive in the ’70s, but in that decade I left enough creative blood and sweat in Harrisburg, PA radio station control rooms to fill a swimming pool!
And here, in the 21st century, Harrisburg native, broadcast vet, engineer & scholar Timothy P. Portzline has written ‘Harrisburg Broadcasting: Images of America’, wherein he devotes an embarrassing amount of ink to yours truly.
Available today through all the usual outlets and on Amazon here — ‘Harrisburg Broadcasting’ tells the remarkable story – along with images – of radio’s & television’s roots in the state capital of Pennsylvania. Including that irascible John Saint John guy.
Yes, it was my job every afternoon for over five years to entertain state workers (white & blue collar) in the ‘commuter combat zones’… topical, relevant, cutesy, but never ‘rude, crude, or lascivious’. And it was all LIVE and direct into car speakers years before the internet, web, mp3 players and digital downloads.
Listen to a WKBO Radio AirCheck of John Saint John from 1977, along with Listener Introduction here ….
This recording, along with a few others, helped to catapult me from Harrisburg to afternoon drive with the Pulitzer Family at NBC affiliate KSD Radio in Saint Louis the very next year.
‘Fun’ is too weak a word. ‘Exciting’ barely captures the passion and drive. Personality Radio to a then-20-something was EVERYTHING! It’s a good thing J. Albert Dame (WKBO owner)didn’t know it, but I would have paid HIM for the opportunity.
And to think, to this wild-eyed wanderer … New Orleans, recording studio entrepreneurship and Airlift Productions weren’t even dreams yet or even on my radar.
The Cherokee have a sentiment and saying which states that each of us (as “human beings”) live as long as the last person who remembers us.
So we’ll leave it all to the history books and workplace water cooler talk to make sense of my years in Pennsylvania’s capitol city. Footprints…or skid marks. Either way, I wouldn’t change a thing or trade a day.
In the meantime, the mics are hot and the creative juices are still flowing … in NOLA … every day … at AirliftProductions.com
It’s kind of strange the way inspiration works. I was sitting at a bar that no longer exists in a hotel that no longer exists while dreaming of a business that didn’t yet exist … and it struck!
In my second year on Q-93 radio ( WQUE-FM, New Orleans ) as afternoon air personality Mike McCann, I was frustrated and, to be honest, somewhat frightened and more than a bit concerned.
After all, I would not have been at Q-93 had a format change not led to my being terminated/fired from my on-air job in Philadelphia! And wouldn’t have been in Philly had they not let the entire air staff go in Nashville! A similar story – station sale & format change – led to my exit from St. Louis.
Short story longer, I used to wake up in a cold sweat on the waterbed (hey, it was the 1980s) in the middle of the night wondering where I’d be when I reached age 40, to say nothing of 50 or 60 if I stayed on my current path.
So, my Q-93 partner in crimeRon Chatman and I were sitting around the bar at Bert’s, a bar on the first floor of a now-imploded and long-gone hotel on Canal Street having a few, comparing battle scars and musing about our collective futures.
I grabbed a bar napkin and started doodling, sketching, dreaming … and came up with the first crude version of the Airlift Productions logo.
Airlift – as in ‘to the rescue’, with all it’s heroic connotations. If all radio & TV commercials are indeed sent over the air, “let me give your Air a Lift!” Alphabetical listings being what they are, I’d also be listed first in all the recording studio listings.
** Airlift Mike narrates James Patterson’s best-seller “The Chef”, now available on worldwide AudioBook platforms **
Plus, I somehow knew all those years ago that the studio would be involved in projects bigger and loftier than just commercials, so it just had to be Airlift ‘Productions’. I knew that I was on to something.
The year was 1984.
After hiring local artist, the late Harrel Grey to fine-tune my crude bar napkin logo rendering, I trademarked it with Baton Rouge officials, got my first bonafide freelance account – WGNO-TV/Tribune Broadcasting – and was off to the races.
Today, in 2021, if one were to do an internet search with just those two words ‘airlift productions‘ in a search engine – with no qualifiers, no country or state, nothing else – out of over several million possibilities worldwide and worldwide-web-wise – there I am.
Hard to believe that as I write these words it’s well over thirty years later, but that’s what the calendar tells me.
Meanwhile, the technology, the recording gear & the delivery methods somehow grew into my dream & vision.
And the jobs? Well, Airlift Productions has today recorded and delivered audio all around the world – literally!
“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