The Voice of God in High DefDON LAFONTAINE UPGRADES, STREAMLINES TO HD AUDIO/VIDEO 4/01/2006 7:00 AM Eastern
For the “King of the Movie Trailers” and owner of The Voice of God studio, it makes perfect sense to have a facility of the highest quality. And when that supreme studio sees upwards of 60 sessions a week, it needs to run seamlessly.
Don LaFontaine, arguably the most successful and famous voice-over actor, places high value on time management in the workplace. When he realized that his Voice of God project studio — where he records at least 10 sessions a day via ISDN lines — could run even more efficiently, he upgraded, incorporating the latest in audio and video technology. “I was having extreme difficulty doing simple things, like manufacture an MP3 to send off to a client or even using FTP,” says LaFontaine, who runs all of his voice-over sessions himself. “There were too many steps. I needed to streamline so that I could operate everything without having to step out of my voice studio.”
With George Whittam of ElDorado Recording in Los Angeles handling installation and MW Audio's Mike Warren, Danny Brant and Jimmy Church supplying the equipment, LaFontaine expanded to a computer-centered HD audio and video facility. He donated much of his old gear — Mackie 32×8 board, MOTU 2408 and Macintosh G3, among other items — to a school near his Los Feliz, Calif., home.
A converted electrical room in the bottom floor of LaFontaine's house serves as a 6×5-foot vocal booth; the control room is housed among a media storage area and machinery for other A/V equipment. To acoustically enhance the space, Whittam installed Auralex Elite Pro panels on the wall and bass traps between the wall and ceiling, and encased a noisy home-surveillance recorder inside a soundproof KK Audio Quiet Rack QR-16.
In place of his former setup, LaFontaine received a Mac G5 computer, Digidesign Pro Tools|HD1 with 192 I/O interface, and an Allen & Heath WZ20 mixing console, among other items. On the video side, Whittam installed a Gateway 6500D to run Avid Express Pro HD 5.2 software and Mojo hardware, Sony HVR M10U HDV deck and HVR Z1U HDV camcorder, and a Sharp LC-45GX6U 45-inch HD monitor, “one of the few LCDs available that can display the full 1,920-by-1,080 picture of HDV,” says Whittam. The video equipment exists mainly for LaFontaine's personal projects. “I like to shoot and edit film,” the studio owner says. “That's one of my hobbies. I also like to have the best toys, and since I can afford it, most of the time I'm very happy to get them.”
An iBook laptop, networked to the G5 via WiFi and Timbuktu Remote Desktop software, allows LaFontaine to control his audio operation from within the booth if need be. “Now I don't have to leave the room to change a level,” he says. But most of the time, the audio equipment stays on autopilot, with everything running through ISDN and the Telos Zephyr Express ISDN codec. “My agent will send me a fax at the end of the day telling me what I'm starting with the next day,” LaFontaine explains. “I come downstairs at the right time, pick another fax up off the machine that's got the copy on it, I hear the ‘beep-beep’ that the ISDN is hooked up and I go into the studio. The microphone is set at a certain level; everything is set so all I have to do is talk. It's pretty idiot-proof.” LaFontaine usually reads into a Manley tube mic, which runs into a Tube-Tech MEC-1A preamp. He records his vocals “flat,” with little to no compression, letting the clients add any necessary processing during the mix.
He has worked out of his own studio for nearly five years, and this new, streamlined setup makes it even easier to manage back-to-back network promos for such clients as Fox, CBS, NBC, TNT and Cartoon Network, as well as voice-over work for America's Most Wanted, Survivor, 24, World's Most Amazing Videos, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider and myriad film trailers.
Working via ISDN certainly enhances LaFontaine's productivity, though his previous modus operandi — traveling via chauffeured white limo from studio to studio — certainly did more for his celebrity image. “I might have had 12 or 13 different stops, which can get tiring at the end of the day,” he says. “It also takes up a lot of time, not to mention a lot of gas. Now it's very handy to just go downstairs, take a fax out of a machine and step into my little booth and do the session. It's really been a boon for anyone who does a bulk amount of announcing. But the real boon is for the talent in the outlying areas who aren't living in New York, Chicago or L.A. With ISDN, they can really make themselves available to those larger markets.”
Heather Johnson is a Mix contributing writer.