Today’s feature artist is none other than Emmy Award Winning Audio Extraordinaire, Cliff Zellman! Cliff is a renowned Audio Engineer, Producer, Director, Editor, Coach, and overall VAST resource for ANYONE involved in any aspect of broadcast audio. He is the Chief Audio Engineer and head of audio production for RadioVision. AND he owns Amazing Demos, a company that produces hand-crafted demos for VO pros! AAANNNND he created the now 975 member Dallas Voice Actors Meetup Group (DVA)!
Speaking of the DVA, I met Cliff when I was searching for some VO coaching, and answers to all my home studio set-up problems. I was astounded that in all my years of VO, our paths had not crossed! Here was this phenomenally-talented, overly-qualified guy right in my own backyard! I went to his intro class and was FLABBERGASTED at the amount of high-quality, industry-specific information he gave out for such a reasonable fee! His wealth of knowledge, industry connections, and expert experience far exceeded my expectations! Anytime anyone calls/emails/facebook messages/etc with the generic “how do I get started in VO?”, I send them to Cliff! Oh, how I wish I would’ve known about him YEARS before so I could’ve saved myself wasted $$$ and time. Live and learn.
He’s such a kind, genuine soul that you feel as if you’ve known him for a decade. He’s that protective upperclassman during your awkward days in jr high! I’m so blessed to know Cliff! And to refer dozens of up and comers to him. He also works one on one with more seasoned talents. RUN, do not walk your little butt to “meetup” with Cliff! And if you need an auto commercial (well, basically ANY commercial) produced, duh. He’s your guy!
Time to hear from Cliff himself!
Bio: I’ve been in the production industry for over 40 years and have recorded, produced, directed and edited just about anything & everything audio. My firm foundation in music has been instrumental (pun intended) in my success on the “other side of the glass”. The listings below represent long-term relationships. I did not include the hundreds of independent projects…
I began my career as an assistant engineer in Los Angeles at the age of 19.
- Davlen Studios, (1977) home to such artists as Fleetwood Mac, Hall & Oats, Al Stewart, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Alice Cooper and others while enrolled and approaching graduation from the University of Sound Arts, Los Angeles.
- Fidelity Recording Studios 1979 Studio City, Ca., Chief Audio Engineer and Head of In-House Production.
- Saban Entertainment 1992 Burbank, Ca., Audio engineering specializing in live dialogue recording for animation. Programs include “The Power Rangers”, “Creepy Crawlers”, “Little Mouse on the Prairie”, and “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego”.
- RadioVision LP. 1995 to Present. Dallas, TX, Chief Audio Engineer/Client Creative Services and head of audio production for RadioVision, a full service marketing & advertising agency. VO direction, Strategic campaign creations, Voice
- In Taipei, Taiwan, I taught audio engineering and music production while recording mainstream pop artists on 6 separate occasions for various labels including Music Impact, BMG Asia and Friendly Dogs Records.
- Education – Graduated LAVC completing requirements for Communications and Music.
- Graduated University of Sound Arts L.A. with a degree in Audio Engineering
- Attended UCLA studying foreign language (Mandarin Chinese)
- OWNER – Amazing Demos. Hand-crafted VO Demos for the professional Voice Over Industry.
- Founder & Organizer of The Dallas Voice Acting Meet Up Group since 2007
- World Voices Org. Member Technical Standards Committee
- THX Certified for Audio Engineering
- Member of SMPTE
- Emmy Award Winner for Best Original Song in a Televised Series
- Winner of the Communicator “Crystal Award”
- RIAA Multiple Gold Record Recipient for Audio Engineering/Production
- Owner of AutoGraphyx – A graphic/design/web resource servicing the production and creative industries for over 15 years
- Owner & webmaster of DallasVO.com – a support site for the DVA
- I have been married to the same wonderful woman for 28 years and have 2 beautiful daughters age 22 & 15.
What types of media do you specialize in? All genres of broadcast audio. Commercial/Retail Production, Automotive, Professional VO Demos, Sound Design and Mastering.
Fave project ever and why: Every day brings new projects. Many are repeat clients, some are VO demos for industry professionals. I can expect a few jingle projects a month as well. Honestly, I’d say the project I am starting right now is my favorite.
My Meet-Up group did a radio adaptation of A Christmas Carol a few years ago. We had a cast of 28 and was a full-blown production with score and FX. Each cast & crew member donated 50 dollars to Radio & Reading Resource of Dallas, formerly N. Texas Radio for the Blind. They aired it for many days during the holidays and it won IAAIS Best Program of the Year – Dramatic Reading in 2012. That was awesome!
Dream job or project: My dream was to have a state-of-the-art studio with 24/7 access… in other words a pro-“home” studio.
Describe a typical day in your work life: It ALWAYS starts with a cup of coffee. My first move with my agency is to check for incoming VO files via email. Usually scripts are sent the end of the day before to be read in the morning. I match up the available audio with my production calendar. Opps, there’s the phone, hang on… Ok. Where was I. Then I check the script section of the Purchase Order to make sure VO matches the copy. Errors happen often regardless of the experience level of the talent. I correct any errors and request revisions.
I always produce a ‘pre-audio’ track to give to my video dept. so they may begin the video edit asap. The pre-audio contains the edited and processed Voice Over with the selected music bed. This pre-audio stage is where I really zero in on the VO, fix all audio issues, timing, layering, time compress, EQ, etc. Once I send the pre-audio track to video, the VO is 99% done. I do up to a half dozen before noon. Then… Lunch. Since the video editing & rendering process takes much longer than the audio side, I get to wait… usually it’s very quiet from noon to about 3 PM while video is doing their thing. This is when I do EVERYTHING else. Social media, script prep for demos, catch up on email, phone calls and so on. Once my video dept. starts sending me back the spots, I import their high res .movs into my pre-audio session and add all the BLAMS and BOOMS and all the sfx sweetening needed to help convince you to go buy a Toyota Camry…. right now!
Things slow down around 6PM and I do the family thing for a few hours.
Then I usually have a VO demo session booked from 8 to around 9:30…. after that, my house is asleep and I can do whatever I want, which is usually watch a recorded baseball game while playing my electric guitar unplugged…. or waste time on Facebook…
Where can we see or hear your next project? Between innings in just about every Texas Ranger’s game. As far as national / regional media placement, hmmmm, I’ll have to ask our media dept. Basically, just look for the big boulder falling into the bed of a Ford F150.
What led you to being a director/producer? I love putting pieces together. From making models as a kid, to collecting elements for an audio production. Since I speak “music” I can communicate easily with other musicians and singers. When I first walked into a professional recording studio at the age of 17, I NEVER wanted to leave. I have been hooked for over 40 years.
Tip for a director/producer wannabe:
- Take music lessons! You don’t need to be virtuoso. Learning music, minimal music theory, terminology, tempo etc. will really help in seeing and hearing the ‘big picture’.
- Trust the talent you hire. Take advantage of their experience & creative input.
- Learn the tools of the trade and speak the language of the engineers/operators.
- Be kind, be generous and ALWAYS maintain a positive vibe while in session.
Tip for a VO talent: To the newcomers, be sure you know the ropes before you offer your services. Spend a good amount of time reading and researching the business and all it involves. Set up a modest “practice” studio in your home and build it slowly and as needed. Start reading and editing on your own taking copy where ever you can find it. Learn by doing and keep your efforts quiet for a while. Do not ask questions in social media before trying to find your answer via web search. Avoid opinion by committee! You’re the artist. Be the boss!
Biggest talent pet peeve: Fiverr!
As far as a “professional talent” pet peeve, I ready don’t have any. I am blown away daily and totally grateful to the incredible talent I have the privilege and honor to work with on a daily basis.
Coolest marketing you’ve seen from a VO talent: Just about anything from Celia Siegal Mgt.
What keeps you busy outside of work? Being a husband of 28 years & father of 2 daughters (23 & 15) can be a full time job in itself. I’ve kinda funneled all my loves and passions into one giant organism.
Other than that, I enjoy EVERY aspect of what I do from production, demos, my website, my Dallas VO meet-up group (DVA) and as much Dim Sum as I can eat.
Interesting fact no one knows about you:
- I HATE vinegar.
- I LOVE chocolate milk.
- I can’t go to sleep before 2 AM.
- I can not ride a unicycle, no matter how much I practice.
Pets? My 12 year old studio kitty, Molly. My guitar collection and my Redline Hot Wheels Collection.
Favorite goodies? Bit ‘o Honey, Chicago Style Hot Dogs, BBQ Potato Chips, dried apricots, bananas and Nutella and of course, Dim Sum.
Anything else you want to tell us?
- I have learned that the secret to a happy life is to focus on gratitude.
- When it comes to creativity, always go with your first impression.
- Don’t fake it ’til you make it, rather Learn it to earn it!
Final note from Hollypop: Are you as impressed as me?! Yeah, I feel like hot stuff just KNOWING Cliff. Think I’ll go eat some Dim Sum so I can be more like him. 🙂