Personally, we found it takes a little bit of time (no pun intended), ingenuity, new technology and a touch of luck.
First, some background…
Kruskopf Coontz, a Twin Cities ad agency with whom we do a lot of work, contacted us about a unique radio project for St. Josephs Hospital. Saint Joseph’s, Minnesota’s first hospital, has always been known for great patient care but people haven’t typically thought of them for having advanced medical technology – even though they’ve been a leader in this field for years with innovative treatments like the CyberKnife. This is an incredible tool which allows them to do full body radiosurgery using image-guided robotics. In simpler terms, it’s a highly accurate way of delivering radiation to specific places in the body without a lot of collateral damage to the surrounding tissue.
And I thought my iPod was cool.
Scott Jorgensen, the writer for this radio spot, thought that aurally displaying the time line might be the most innovative way to show that St. Joseph’s has always been at the forefront of technology – and that they’ve been doing so for a long time. His question to me was, “can we easily create the effect of someone’s voice going from very old to very young over the course of a minute”. My response was, “Walgreens called. Your meds are in – sorry for the delay” With that, we went to work.
With the cost of an ISDN recording session being out of the question, Scott decided to get full script voice-over auditions from several Minneapolis voice talent agencies using people of various ages. As a test run for the actual session, I would rip the voice-over selects into Pro Tools and muck around to see which would be a better approach; cross-fading the older voices into the younger ones, or hard editing between each of the voice talents. Surprisingly, once I started tweaking, we came to the conclusion that the hard edits worked best.
On the day of the session, Greg Geitzenauer was the engineer and he followed through with an approach that we all had thought might work – he would let each voice-over talent hear the previous talent’s full recording – once again going oldest to youngest. Then, he would have them mimic the feel and mood of that previous voice while they transitioned from that section into their own section and on into the next voice-over talent’s section. This recording method created long “flaps” of overlap that let Greg seam together the voice transitions in unexpected places (mid-sentence, sometimes mid-word). This “trick” made the progressions less perceptible and gave some credence to the idea that this was the “voice” of Saint Josephs Hospital.
Now that we had the voice-over talent transitioning from old to young, we needed to have that same effect occur with the audio. Prior to the session, John Lukas, the latest member of our staff, experimented with a recent plug-in from iZotope called, “Vinyl” that has the ability to produce “lo-fi” effects like dust, scratches, warping, etc. It was a huge help to the radio spot’s production value as it let us fabricate “sepia-toned” audio that was equal parts Matthew Brady and Thomas Dolby. We way love this thing.
The Minneapolis voice-over talent for this project were spot on too. In order of appearance they were: Irv Fink (any better way to imply history than to start off with an 80+ year old who’s still razor sharp?), Mark Benninghofen (whose transformation from old to young in itself was impressive), Matt Guidry, and Kevin Dewey.
Even though trying to accomplish this kind of “time transitioning” sound-design can generate some serious head scratching, Michael J. Fox (as Marty McFly) put the proper spin on it 20 yrs ago – “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”
Here’s, “Timeline” for Saint Joseph’s Hospital, produced by Kruskopf Coontz.
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