Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bob Bergen - "All characters have a voice, but not all voices have character"

Talk about a kick in the pants!

While I was at the agency I had the opportunity to direct Bob Bergen a couple times (i think quite literally twice), and I can easily say they were some of the most fun sessions I had ever recorded. Playful, imaginative, and very open to suggestions and direction, but I really respected that while I could tell he really was playing, really having fun, he was also very efficient. He had a goal, and he attacked it almost tactically.
As the booth director, a busy day could mean pushing record over 200 times. The actors who come in READY to play are refreshing, a breath of fresh air, and really help move the day along. They're the ones I have the most fun with, and are the most creatively satisfying both artistically (directing) and technically. If I remember correctly, Bob's second read with me was for a neebish character, and I had a blast simply setting his mics up to accentuate the work he was doing (416 set high to capture his sinus cavity).

Soon after I left the agency, Bob invited me to sit in on one of his animation classes, and I jumped at the chance. The first class of 2008 was last night at Voicetrax West (Artt was the engineer WOOT!), and about 13 of us (4 auditors and 9 students I think) were in attendance.

It was a great night.

This first three hour class was an introduction night, class expectations, introduction to the business, voice health and maintenance, homework, and a little time left at the end for a primer on character creation and sound effects. Bob's manner is gracious and self-effacing, instantly engaging. His craft and advice is honest and practical, and I found my neck was sore after the first hour from agreeing with him so much.
Towards the end of the evening it was time to start playing, and we jumped in immediately with sound effects. Within minutes the room was full of dogs, dinosaurs, vultures, seals, and more. Bob easily broke down how these sounds were created, and just as easily broke down student's resistances and stripped away self-consciousness.
I watched several times as students would exclaim "Oh, I can't do that", only to have Bob walk them through step by step, and BAM, a minute later a pterodactyl was born! Also it was interesting watching the differences in gender. I think boys have a slight edge, as growing up our toys need sound effects (I played with Transformer, which need to drive and fly around, shoot lasers, and blow things up, all the while speaking with big robot voices), so it's not that silly an idea for us, but the women held their own just fine.
True to form, everyone who was there participated, so even though I hadn't payed a dime to observe, I was working toe to toe with everyone else. I thought I had an edge, as my Velociraptor is formidable, but Bob threw me a curve with "Crying Baby". Sure enough, in under a minute, with a couple quick tactical tips, I was shocked as the very realistic sound of a crying infant was screaming out of my face.
It was a magic kinda moment for me, as it's rare in life that someone can say "Oh, do this" and not only does it just simply work, but you find yourself creating something you never would've thought yourself capable. It's something so small and simple, but it opens up all these possibilities in your head.

I can't thank Bob enough for letting me sit in, and If you (the reader) are interested in the business and performance of animation, I would HIGHLY recommend Bob's class. After just one session I was energized, motivated, and I'm seriously considering jumping out from behind my mixer, and stepping up to the mic again.

For more info check out Bob Bergen's web site.

And if you happen to read this Bob, I'm down any time for Vox on the Rocks!

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