Rube Goldberg and my WRXcellent Adventure
Goldberg7eRube Goldberg was a famous cartoonist known for his "inventions" that depicted bizarrely-connected machines doing complex and needless tasks to create simple results.

This past weekend I think I bonded with the man.

For an upcoming project involving an international car maker we were asked to record and/or create the sound of what it might be like to be strapped onto a sports car at 80 mph. My response was, "Easy, let's just mix the sound of high wind with someone screaming and gasping from a heart attack"

- I got blank stares.

Truth is, with race cars, this "lashed to the beast" sound is not impossible to achieve. Those machines are loud and have little or no sound insulation inside the cockpit. So all one needs to do is place a microphone somewhere inside the car away from the wind. A
good mic, shock mount, and a possum and your in good shape. The mic never needs to meet the great outdoors.

However, the constant sound of a standard production car from outside at close perspective is difficult to achieve. Wind, vibration, tire noise and traffic sounds all get in the way. And, if you're really pushing to get the right sound, sirens might get in the mix.


Saturday, (the only temperate day we've had in Minnesota this Spring), I set out to see what could be achieved. First off, I knew that standard studio mics would not work because they were too large to fit in the places that I thought best for this; under the hood and above the exhaust of my 2003 Subaru WRX. Secondly, the microphones needed to survive high sound pressure levels and sound clean. A nice pair of
Shure Microflex 185 Lavaliere's proved a logical choice.

Soon, I learned, I really needed to control the elements. My recordings stunk.

Foam did nothing for vibration.

Pop filters were useless on wind.

Obscenities only fixed the gaze of my neighbors.

Beer, however, opened my thought processes.

Enter Rube Goldberg...
WRX5ASunday, I sawed off the bottom of a pill bottle, drilled a pair of small holes through its body, then strung a rubber band through the opposing holes. I suspended the lavaliere between the leaves of the rubber band and pulled on them like a tourniquet - Eureka!, an instant shock mount that would fit near the engine. And, for the exhaust, a contraption that could hang perpendicularly inside a Rycote Windjammer on the bumper. Problem solved!


From Saturday's recordings, what I thought had been vibration coming from the engine compartment turned out to be... wind. Back to the drawing board. Or, in this case, my sock drawer. I cut out the toe section of an old pair of black socks, turned it inside out, and then taped it over the head of the pill bottle going in the engine.


What followed was a five minute tear around
Lake Nokomis where the sound was thick, sweet, strong and had me buzzing; Turkish coffee with 227 horses and all wheel drive.

Was this an idiotic way to spend a weekend? I'll happily call myself , "A Rube"

Here's my WRXcellent adventure...

Big Corporate Chicken Gets Roasted
ChickenWLogo2CropWith the growth of the internet, the arrival of new digital technologies, and the creation of the global economy, it seems that you can get just about anything from anywhere, at anytime, from anyone.

Great, if your buying flashlights or pantyhose. Not so great if you want to eat wisely or support your local economy.

Gold 'n Plump, a family business based out of St. Cloud, Minnesota has been in the chicken biz since 1926. Just peer into any meat case here in Minnesota or Wisconsin and you'll see the fruits of their labors along with those of the 300 or so local family farmers with whom they partner. Great story. Until recently.

Now, some large poultry manufacturers are doing what they can to gain shelf space in the Twin Cities and beyond.

So, to confront this "Big Birdzilla" the folks at Gold 'n Plump decided to show a little, forgive me,... "pluck".
The statue outside Big Corporate Chicken's offices

Gabriel, deGrood, Bendt, their new advertising agency, came up with a radio campaign that pokes fun at Big Corporate Chicken companies. In the radio spots, Minneapolis voice-over actors Gary Groomes and Eden Bodnar were cast as local chicken farmers who are doing what they can to both protect and celebrate their livelihood. The spots could have turned out mean, morose, or something akin to Grant Wood. Instead, they feel like a slice of "Prairie Home Companion" or "A Mighty Wind"; Funny. Smart. Toungue-In-Cheek.

Jeff Schuller, the writer for these radio spots, (and singer/songwriter for the band
U-Joint), composed and played the Woodie Guthriesque tune for the spot, "Protest Song". The singing of the lyrics was left to voice-over actor and sometime singer, Kevin Dewey, who added his own quirky and unique spin to the character.
Jeff Schuller, Kevin Dewey, Gary Groomes and Eden Bodnar recording in Studio A at Babble-On.

Gotta say its nice to see so many local actors involved in such cool work. Indeed, sometimes "keeping it local" is like chicken soup itself - it's good for the soul.

Here's the spot called "Protest Song"

Here's the final and complete mix of the song in AAC format

You can find out more about Gary Groomes and Eden Bodnar from their agent, Moore Creative Talent, Inc. Kevin Dewey is represented by Wehmann Models & Talent, Inc.

If you'd like to hear some more of Gabriel deGrood Bendt's work, click
here, or go to our samples page.

One For The Books
Janis Amatuzio Recording StudioWe just passed two intriguing days in studio with Janis Amatuzio, acclaimed medical doctor, author, and founder of Midwest Forensic Pathology. She was recording the voice-over for her book "Forever Ours: Real Stories of Immortality and Living from a Forensic Pathologist".

This is an interesting collection of stories from her extensive experience as a coroner for multiple counties in Minnesota. The book, and the audio version of it, presents cases which detail the processes and mysteries surrounding death and dying as well as the associated experiences of the living.

Light reading, it is not. Essential reading, it might be. Very moving.

The audio book is a production from New World Library and we had the pleasure of having Editorial Director Georgia Hughes with us for the two-day recording session handled by John Lukas in studio B.

You should be able purchase a copy of this audio book from New World Library's website sometime in late Summer 2005
Springtime in Minnesota (and other strange phenomena)
Cold. Strange. Uncertain. Weird.

And that's just the whole
Jennifer Wilbanks saga.

In just over a week, we've had a day in Minneapolis with a mean temp of
38, and ...snow

We learned that
Laura Bush is Sheckie Green

And, in the Arkansas backwoods, folks discovered a formerly extinct
- toothless and poorly educated perhaps, but - living.

Then, to continue this odd stretch of events, we recorded some clever thirty second radio ads for
Martin Williams and their client, Donatos Pizza.

Odd, because thirty second radio spots are really tough to do well; there's rarely enough room to shape an idea with all the price points, phone numbers, web addresses and disclaimers cluttering up the picture.

Chris Gault, the writer, smartly dodged that pitfall by thematically tying these radio spots to the brand TV campaign - thus avoiding a certain date with "price point purgatory".

John Bruno CropL.A. actor Jon Bruno (pictured at left) is the main character in both campaigns.

In the TV spots, he enters the scene out of nowhere during an intensely uncomfortable moment to deliver a serious-live-on-the-scene-news-style-commentary about the "dangers" of ordering so-so pizza. He kills.

For the radio he riffs slightly away from that character but still nails down the campaign's theme line, "Please, order responsibly"

We recorded Jon in the Twin Cities via ISDN Digital Patch from one of our favorite studios out in L.A.,
Outlaw Sound. During the recording, as is often the case, there was a little studio downtime between takes and scripts when we were able to chat about all kinds of things...

Turns out that Jon, as a voice-over guy, is often the voice you hear coming out of the TV or radio in films and television.

- Never woulda guessed there was a job out there for that.

This month you can hear him on the TV Shows
"Law and Order", and "Medium" as well as in the movies "Wedding Crashers", and "Monster in Law" . His favorite role to date? a gig he had a few years back on "Beverly Hills 90210" as the voice of a talking parrot.

...I'm guessing that there's a bird in Arkansas who's feeling jealous.

Here's one of the spots that just got approved, called, "Flower Power"

If you'd like to book Jon, you can contact him through his agent -

LW 1, Inc.
7257 Beverly Blvd. #200. Los
Angeles, CA. 90036
(323) 653-5700
Babblings from the week....(Part 1)
Shout Benning WeisMix together two talented voice actors, two talented musicians, two talented writers, and two guys who get comedic timing along with recording session dynamics, and you get, - these two guys.

Mark Benninghofen and Joe Weismann (pictured at left) are the creative mettle behind Shout! Radio; a radio production company.

As Twin Cities voice-over guys in high demand, they pass many hours a week stuck behind the aquarium glass of recording studios like Babble-On, navigating through copy that others might find confining.

Because of that wealth of experience, they have a particular understanding of what it's like to work with strong scripts, tight editing, and good direction from writers and producers.

They were hanging out at Babble-On this week doing new radio spots for a significant advertising client they recently landed. Regrettably, due to certain obligations, we're unable to share with you the client or any audio from the session. Even so, the work from Shout! is a scream, the client is extremely happy, and we're going out to celebrate with pancakes and a large side order of meat.

Since session audio is out of the question, we thought we'd offer a snippet from Mark and Joe's writing/production demo that we edited together here at Babble-On a few months ago.

Here's a twist of Shout!

If you want to know more about Shout!, please contact us and we'll put you in touch with the guys (their web site isn't quite done)

Both Mark and Joe and can be booked for voice-over through
Wehmann Talent and Models, inc.

Got a comment? Please click the link below and let us know...
Babblings from the week... (part 2)
Sometimes at Babble-On, we acquire more than the typical studio gear of microphones, mixing boards, headphones, CD's, production music, etc. - we get some colorful art to enliven the place.

This week we were pleased to receive, and prominently display, an original piece from a friend of ours -
Tom Jewell-Vitale.

An art professor at
Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa; Tom's work is distinct and expressive. We have several of his pieces animating the walls at Babble-On; with their bright colors and fluid motion they provide a wealth of creative inspiration - something one really needs to avoid "studio head" during those long days recording, mixing and editing.

Carol, (pictured below with Tom's work) is our studio den mother and maven of all things that need true organization. The piece called, "Carnevale at Piazza San Marco", can now be found (along with Carol) in the brand new office across from studio c.

Gotta say though that we felt kinda crappy that all we could muster for such a momentous occasion was a lame web entry.

So we decided to pull out all the stops to showcase this important event in our lives.

Just click the play arrow on the photo.

Got a comment? Please click the link below and let us know...
ISDN's Evolution And The Genesis Of Using It Creatively.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

- Charles Darwin.

Darwin7Well, he may not have been the most amusing character at a cocktail party, but Dr. D understood a thing or two about adapting quickly to unfamiliar circumstances; like new technology.

In the early nineties recording studios began recording voice talent and musicians from around the world via ISDN. At that time, the great promise of this new technology was that it would evolve in such a way that talent could live and work anywhere in the world and be quickly and easily connected to anyone, anywhere, worldwide; no more grainy phone patches with ear-splitting feedback, or studios having to wait for the chatty FedEx guy to arrive with a DAT master in the morning.

The specific hope of this "great promise" was that actors living outside of New York, L.A. or Chicago could now easily work in those hyper-media markets - that the playing field would even out. But, as with so many evolving technologies, things didn't go as planned.
(One is reminded of Alfred Nobel, Mr. Peace Prize himself, a pacifist, who spent much of his life trying to disassociate himself from his particularly unmatched and bloody giftto mankind. Ouch.)

The reality of ISDN has been that, by an increasing margin, the voice talent pool, instead of expanding, has been narrowing to a formidable base of talented actors primarily working in L.A. and New York.

However, (if you'll pardon a really cheap pop culture rip-off) there is good news: there are a handful of very savvy advertising agencies that do tap into the strong Minneapolis voice-over talent pool for their radio and television spots. One, is Barkley Evergreen & Partners, Inc. of Kansas City, Missouri - an agency with strong creative that works with talent from many markets to create award winning work.

Gary Groomes BW at Babble-OnOne of BE&P's clients is Cellular One from Dobson Cellular Systems and they use Twin Cities actor Gary Groomes (photo at left) as the voice of their brand. He's a signature example of the quality and versatility we have in town and its nice to see him and others get some broader exposure in other markets.

For this particular spot, called "Special Day", Babble-On's John Lukas was the engineer on this end of the box, while our buddy John Blank, owner/operator of Evolution Audio in Kansas City was the engineer/editor/sound designer on the other end.

Other talent involved in the production were Dan Armstrong of Wehmann Models and Talent, and Katie McEwen of Moore Creative Talent, inc. Gary, too, is represented locally by Moore.

So, while for some, using talent from markets other than L.A. and New York might not always seem like the wisest decision, I'm reminded of another great quote from Darwin -

"I love fools experiments. I am always making them"

Here's Evolution Audio's mix of "Special Day"

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