Tag Archives: Todd Schmidt

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


“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!


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.


“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





 Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

UFO Sighting in Louisiana Skies? Well, sort of…

Laser Tag of Baton Rouge latest TV spot searches for Intelligent Life - and Laser Tag Fun - elsewhere in the Universe
Laser Tag of Baton Rouge latest TV spot searches for Intelligent Life – and Laser Tag Fun – elsewhere in the Universe

As one who’s written and produced countless thousands of radio & TV commercials through the years, I’ve come up with some pretty strange spots and approaches, but none stranger than the subject of this blog.

Imagine a TV spot with NO dialogue until the final seconds, all sound effects and undecipherable alien tongues … a commercial that rewards repeated viewings and definitely arrests attention.

Imagine all that and you can begin to get your imagination around the latest :30 TV creation for Laser Tag of Baton Rouge.

Mastermind Nathan Ales
Mastermind Nathan Ales

Running partner Nathan Ales threw down the gauntlet of challenge back in late July, the germ of an idea originally conceived by Laser Tag management that sounded, well, pretty crazy!

A teen alien doing an ‘Oogle search’ for the Best Laser Tag arena in the universe, who then cajoles his mama into letting him go, they do, he then scares the pants off the staff as he enters to play! 


Video Magician Todd Schmidt and I then went to work. 

I laid-out a rough storyboard concept and began an exhaustive sound effect hunt; it had to be cartoon-ish, outlandish and in-your-face Looney Toons fun!

Todd Schmidt, Video Wizard
Todd Schmidt, Video Wizard

The finished audio track was then relayed over to Todd, who did all the ‘Heavy Lifting’, as he waved his magic wand and created all the animation and edited video.

Frankly, I’ve worked with many a video dude through all these years, but this guy is hands-down the Best!

The end result of all these efforts? 

A :30 belly laugh for the folks of Baton Rouge – who after the rains & high waters of August could sure use one!

In living rooms, dens, and bars around the state capital flat screens this late summer, it looks – and sounds – like this —-


** Laser Tag of Baton Rouge “Alien Encounter” TV :30 spot **

At last check, Davor & his Baton Rouge crew were still re-stocking their supply of Reese’s Pieces.

Oh, and E.T., if you just so happen to be reading this one … PHONE HOME, little dude!


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984


harlon miller“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!”

– – – HARLON MILLER, Voice-Over Actor

(Hear Harlon’s most bodacious demo on his website at  www.harlonmiller.com)

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

Airlift Productions “Gift of Life” Stained Glass Window

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

A space with a ‘vibe’.

A space with an aura.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuce McAllister records PSA TV VoiceOvers with Airlift Productions, NOLA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the year is yet young.


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


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

Napoleon Hill, Star Wars & Airlift Mike

"Think and Grow Rich" Author, a young NAPOLEON HILL
“Think and Grow Rich” Author, a young NAPOLEON HILL

As the great 20th century American thinker Napoleon Hill so eloquently reminded us all – the IMAGINATION is the Workshop of the Soul! And therein, I use power tools.

You see, one of the many things that separates me from the one-thousand-and-one other guys who offer VoiceOver services on the internet today is that I not only operate a genuine, bonafide, tricked-out full recording studio, but, in many cases, I also get the opportunity to WRITE and CREATE – from the ground up – the V-O copy I read. 

How thrilling to put my OWN words into my OWN mouth!

Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants putting in another day at the office.

The power tools? Well, those would be meditation and exercise. Properly focused and fine-tuned, these two aid and assist in the entire creative pursuit, as they feed the imagination from the deep wells of the subconscious, which then directly grease the wheels of the entire writing process.

Too deep? A classic case in point would be the exercise of this past week. 

Tasked by running partner Nathan Ales to create, write, voice, and produce thirty seconds of audio for Baton Rouge, La. television & radio to promote a Laser Tag outfit … I went to work. And can we make it “Star-Wars-y”?!?

Oh, sure.

*** Airlift Mike’s “Star-Wars-y” Laser Tag of Baton Rouge ***

1401389338528328800Working within the 29.5 seconds ‘Goalposts’, that’s a lot to accomplish: Cop a James-Earl-Jones-ish attitude & pitch, grab some cinematic french horns, make ‘Sky-walk’ into a verb,  draw an analogy to paintball challenges, state a very direct call to action, and finish with an ‘out-of-this-world’ tag – literally.

** Laser Tag of Baton Rouge :30 Television, along with running partners Video Wizard Todd Schmidt & Sales Ace Nathan Ales **

Now, how much fun is that?

From the ‘Workshop of the Soul’ – to countless tens of thousands of ears and eyes via the magic of technologies (radio, TV & the Internet) that weren’t even on the radar when Napoleon Hill was born.

Now, how magical is that?

Airlift Productions, New Orleans


Work? Excuse me? That’s what my coal miner brothers have been doing their entire lives, not me. For I have made my vacation … my vocation! The only ‘mining’ I do is within the ‘mind’ ~ and the ‘Workshop of the Soul’.


The late David Menasche, author of “The Priority List” (soon to be a major motion picture from Warner Bros), recording with Micheal Ziants at Airlift Productions NOLA in 2012

” I would like to thank Micheal Ziants & Airlift Productions for making the recording of the audio version of my book such a pleasure.  Not only is Micheal an incredible audio engineer, he is my new best friend.  This guy is one of the coolest cats I have ever had the honor of meeting.  He made me comfortable, he made me feel talented, and he actually made my book into a product I can actually imagine people enjoying listening to.  So far, the opportunity to work with Micheal on a future project is my best incentive to write another book.  If any of you out there ever need a professional to help you with sound recordings, contact Micheal Ziants at Airlift Productions immediately!”

— the late DAVID MENASCHE, Author, Educator of Young Minds, Brain Cancer Activist, Major Mensch


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984


Yin~Yang & Early Fall Around The Airlift Productions Studios

imagesYin me, Yang me. From the ridiculous to the sublime, and everything in between, it sure has been a rather interesting late summer and early fall around the Airlift Studios here in NOLA.


Airlift Mike – like the local fireman down at the firehouse – ready to take the call

As footballs fly, leaves fall, and political mud gets slung, far be it from Airlift & me to not get a little on us.  And just as the time-honored Yin~Yang symbol reminds us:  Every Thing contains it’s opposite! We’ll never have the concepts of Heat without Cold, Up without Down, or a Hero without a Villain.

Recording studios and VoiceOver dudes and dudesses walk the same path… especially in 2015.  Welcome to my ‘Silver Linings Playbook’.

Working alongside Nathan Ales and Todd Schmidt, lately we’ve tackled some pretty attention-grabbing television, for clients as diverse as high-end furniture outlets … 

** Georgian Furnishing & Berger Home Labor Day Sale, asking the question “What will the Future Look Like?”  ~ Ziants/Schmidt **

… to one-stop-shopping for plumbing, lighting & generators.  And with the Louisiana State University Tigers having to cancel their home-opener last weekend on account of lightning & rain for the first time in nearly a hundred years, and sending over 100, 000 home early, the boys and I were almost prescient with this one ….

** Southland Plumbing’s ‘Best Seat in the House’ TV :30 ~ voiced by Micheal Ziants, Video Wizardry by Todd Schmidt **

Nathan Ales, Sales Dude Extraordinaire
Nathan Ales, Sales Dude Extraordinaire
Todd Schmidt, Video Wizard
Todd Schmidt, Video Wizard

I just LOVE working with these characters. Nathan Ales and I go way back to radio days at Q-93 here in NOLA, I was afternoon air personality and he was super sales dude.  Todd and I met only last year, but that meeting was on the common ground where creative sparks fly and alchemy & magic live. This guy just gets it. He’ll go into the field with camera in-hand and then edit, imagineer, and cut ‘n paste masterpieces! 

But as they say in the advertising field – “That’s not all!”

The Yin~Yang continues.

The call came in from Manhattan about another job slated to air in California – San Francisco, to be precise. Andy would write the copy, cast the talent (four separate actors), the agency is in Boston – are you following so far – and yours truly, sitting here in NOLA at the Airlift Productions Studios would merely be the button-pusher engineer to make it all happen. 

Sixteen edits in a :30 spot? Really. Airing now in San Francisco is this goodie on behalf of the Armanino crowd…

** Armanino Radio :30, produced by Micheal Ziants at Airlift **

And to wrap-up the ‘Yin~Yang’ fall post, as the Louisiana Governor’s race looms – Trick or Treat – the call came into the ‘firehouse’ for some help with some boys (ironically, also in San Francisco) heading-up an Anti-David Vitter TV ad campaign.  Oh boy, oh joy!

Jamie Neumann Records VoiceOver/Vice-Over at Airlift Productions NOLA
Jamie Neumann Records VoiceOver/Vice-Over at Airlift Productions NOLA

Could I help out recording NYC-schooled, NOLA-born ‘n bred Jamie Neumann reading the riot act?…. shouting ‘fire’ in the crowded political theater… calling, in effect, the front-runner a whore-monger?!?!

Oh, sure, why not.  Sample just a taste of the phone-patched V-O session from a week and a half back, here ….

** Jamie’s ‘Anybody But Vitter’ phone-patch session excerpt **

From New Orleans, a town that pretty much invented the ‘piano player in the cat house’ thing, and where the only thing folks like spicier and hotter than their food – is their politics, why not?

Besides, as a life-long political atheist and outsider, I say, “Hey, let the best man win!”

Fall in the air, fur flying, leaves falling, mud on the tires – and the flat screens. Things just seem to get more interesting all the time around the Airlift Productions Studios. More Interesting.  And hotter!


HarlonMillerRecordsVoiceOverAtAirliftProductionsNOLA“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 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!”

– – – HARLON MILLER, Voice-Actor

Hear Harlon’s most bodacious demo now at HarlonMiller.com 


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984!

Airlift Productions Gets “Handy” for the New Year

New Orleans VoiceOver Talent Micheal Ziants – along with The Shadow – at Airlift Productions, where EVERY day is ‘take your doggie to work day’

One of the things that I’m most thank-full for as this New Year of 2015 dawns is the opportunity to use more of my God-given talents. Long the VoiceOver guy and audio producer, I’ve had few chances this century to truly flex my creative writing & advertising muscles.

You know, ordinarily the client sends along the copy, and as the voice dude and producer, I simply interpret and record those words to a wave file and send them along. What a gift it is to create that string of words … and then put them into my own mouth!

As a case in point, this thirty second spot airing all over the New Orleans TV market for the New Year. Imagine being tasked with pounding the drum (ever so softly) for a local home improvement outfit that is today expanding their services & products … and taking-on Lowe’s and Home Depot. Really? Really.

Southland Plumbing TV :30 spot for New Orleans ADI – written and envisioned by Micheal Ziants at Airlift Productions, for Nathan Ales of Ales & Associates, January 2015

So, let’s open with a truncated aphorism.  A what?!? Yes, a saying that we’ve all heard,”Home is where the Heart is”, and then twist it a bit.  Add a colorful N’awlins colloquialism “For true!” And we’re off to the races.

It all adds up to setting the homeboys – a local, family-owned business for nearly 50 years – apart and head-and-shoulders above the ‘big box boys’, all the while playing the strings of the heart.

And it all comes out of the hometown flat screens like this ….


*** Southland Plumbing TV :30, written, voiced & audio-produced by Micheal Ziants; Video editing by Todd Schmidt, on behalf of Nathan Ales at Ales & Associates  ***

Nathan Ales and I go back years! He was actually a ‘sales dog’ at Q-93 Radio when I first came to work there in the 1980s, and it was his job to sell that Mike McCann dude.

His affable, quip-filled approach has disarmed many a wary advertiser and always delivered for his clients.  I’m thrilled that we’ve re-connected here in the 21st century and the Southland account is one of our first joint ventures.

Nathan Ales of Ales & Associates, along with wife Debbie
Nathan Ales of Ales & Associates, along with wife Debbie

So Nathan, with his unique blend of street savvy, charm, and moxie does the selling and lining-up the accounts, I handle creative, voice over and audio production … and then hand it over to this guy – meet Todd Schmidt.

The multi-talented Todd Schmidt - actor, raconteur & video whiz kid
The multi-talented Todd Schmidt – actor, camera man, photographer & video whiz kid

Todd has just an amazing skill set – while not working with the poker-hot TV series “American Horror Story” or finishing-up the new “Trumbo” film (this guy stays way too busy), he hangs out with Nathan and me and brings his video wizardry to our projects.  Catch more of his magic here on the web at Schmidt VFX . Remarkable!

Lucky and indeed fortunate I am to be running with these dudes in 2015.  Audio …  and now ‘Creative’ and Video to-go! What can the boyz and I cook up for YOU today?

Airlift Productions Recording Studio ~ Audio Alchemy from NOLA since 1984

Kitty Cats & Games & Lasers, Oh My! ~ Courtesy Airlift Productions

Artist’s rendering of Airlift Mike at the Mic ~ Airlift Productions, New Orleans

Boy, is it just me, or is it HOT in here?  Things around the Airlift Studios have really heated-up as of late!  While thick in the audio book recording sessions –  New Orleans TV & Radio have been calling.

Working alongside that rascal Nathan Ales, we’ve teamed-up to put together a radio/TV campaign for Davor & his krewe at the Laser Tag of Metairie Family Entertainment Center on Veterans Boulevard, just outside New Orleans towards the airport.

And perhaps we had just a little too much fun with this one.  Guilty as charged.

The TV thirty – with the masterful touch of digital artist and video ace extraordinaire Todd Schmidt – has the cutest little digital cartoon kitty cat playing all the games at Laser Tag.  You see him shooting basketballs, riding bumper cars, firing lasers… even sliding down the bowling alley to make a strike!

The spot is called “While the Cat’s Away –  the whole Family plays at Laser Tag Family Entertainment Center”.

Laser Tag of Metaire, which also includes a rockin' Bumper Car ride
Laser Tag of Metaire, which also includes a rockin’ Bumper Car ride

The radio campaign – which airs on N’awlins B-97 Radio starting this week plays-off the excitement of the whole experience – including pop dance music with stereo laser wash sound effects … and a ‘kitty cat’ call-back to the TV spot at the tail end.

Crank-UP your computer speakers, blow some dust off ’em,  and check-out these Airlift-produced radio :30s here ….

~ Laser Tag of Metairie “PARTIES” ** :30 Radio for B-97 Air ~


~ Laser Tag of Metairie “JEDI KNIGHTS” ** :30 Radio for the B ~

In your face, pulse-pounding, ratcheted-up, yet fun & exciting!  If you live in or around the metro New Orleans area, you’ll have to keep an ear and eye out for them.

In the meantime, I’ll see you around the Laser Tag arena on Veterans Boulevard.  My arena name tag says ‘SkyWalker Mike’!

Oh yeah, Sorry! But the Shadow demanded equal time — Arf! Arf!

Airlift Mike and the Shadow, a doggie with powers & abilities far beyond those of mortal dogs


Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy from New Orleans since 1984