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What To Do When Noisy Cement
Trucks Roll Up To Your Studio ...
 
By Linda Ristig
Voice Actor
 
It started like an ordinary day. My son and I rose early so he could head out to his high school varsity football practice, and we decided to let my husband sleep.
 
It was gentle beginning to the morning. I sipped a cup of Irish Breakfast tea, thinking of today's voice over project. 
 
But as my son departed for practice, at 7:30 sharp, I began to hear a rumble next door.
 
I stepped onto our front porch and saw the first cement truck of the day parked in front of our house, waiting for the signal from the general contractor to begin pouring the basement walls for the new home construction next door.
 
STUDIO FACES JOB SITE
 
My first thought was actually how relieved I was that the crew was starting early, because I had a live recording session scheduled in the early afternoon with a director from an ad agency.
 
My studio window faces the job site, and was only about 12 feet away from all the racket. Surely they’d be done pouring in a few hours!
 
How wrong I was.
 
A FRIENDLY CHAT
 
Now, a less intrepid soul might panic. Not me.
 
I went out and made quick friends with the crew chief. His original prediction was that they'd be finished by 4 p.m., if the cement trucks arrived one after the other.
 
He was intrigued by my career and apologized for the noise. And I told him not to worry. I’d just push back the VO session.
 
BUT REALLY ...
 
Never mind that I had recorded this same spot two days earlier in a soft-sell, real person approach, as I followed the guidelines the production company wanted.
 
I already had the heads-up that today’s director wanted a fast-paced, high-energy read, and would listen in on a phone patch.
 
Since this gig was sponsored by a well-known car maker and was an animated TV commercial, I was looking forward to giving voice to a completely different type of read.
 
BAD VIBRATIONS
 
Back to my story ... 
 
The day wore on, and our home was vibrating from the cement mixer engines and pumps that were shooting the cement from the trucks into the metal forms.
 
There was no way they could stop pouring, because rain was predicted to come through in the late evening.
 
The temperature was pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and everyone was busy!
 
As the afternoon wore on, it became apparent that the time frame for the construction was a bit incorrect.
 
When I strolled by the site, mid-afternoonish, the prediction for finishing was to be closer to 9 p.m.
 
UPFRONT WITH PRODUCER
 
So I contacted the ad agency and the production company for the second time, and asked whether they’d considered the additional sound effect of a cement mixer into their car commercial concept, since that was my predicament.
 
Being upfront and honest with them, with a little slice of humor thrown in, was the only way to go.
 
The production guys promised that if I could deliver my voice, they’d edit out the background noise.
 
NOISES OFF
 
A few minutes before the appointment with the director, I did what I always do. I turned off the air conditioner and the attic fan, out of habit for noise reduction when recording.
 
Using my Bluetooth earpiece with an astute director guiding me through the read, I stepped into the recording booth with the roar of the noisy machines next door.
 
I smiled to myself quietly when I realized that I probably didn’t need to worry at all about the fan noises coming from our home.
 
Suddenly, I was so focused on the various takes that I blocked out the noise that had plagued me all day.
 
It was all going to work out just fine.
 
TOMORROW, THEY'LL PAUSE
 
In the early evening, I strolled next door to let the foreman know my session was over.
 
At that point, the owner was there as well, surveying the day’s work. Both of them looked at me and grinned. The owner spoke up and said,
“We agreed - if you need 20 to 30 minutes of quiet each day from here on, in order to record a directed-live session, just come by and let us know. We’ll give the workers an immediate break, you’ll get your work done, and we’ll all be happy.”
Wow!
 
SCRIPT REVISIONS
 
As the creative process for the commercial wound through various committees, I was told that the animation work had been adjusted slightly, and that a revised script was coming.
 
There would be hammering and gravel pouring going on outside, but it wouldn't matter.
 
Working within the voice over community means sharing your life and cooperating with the real community to brainstorm real solutions to real problems!
 
WORKING TOGETHER
 
Being proactive is always better than feeling victimized. Had I not communicated with the construction crew, the outcome would have been very different.
 
Thank goodness we all made the neighborhood choice to just get along and cooperate.
 
And now I’m wondering what other stories are out there about facing down adversity when trying to do a voice over? I’d love to hear them!
 
ABOUT LINDA ...
 
Linda Ristig is a freelance voice talent for The Fairfax (VA) Public Access television and radio station, LibriVox.com, and a contributor to The Metropolitan Washington Ear. She is also a full-time voice talent with a studio in the Washington, D.C. area, providing voice overs for corporate phone voice messaging, interactive voice response, PowerPoint, Internet media and website business presentations from the local Chamber of Commerce to international corporations.
 
 
 
 
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Comments (12)
Drew
8/22/2010 at 1:15 PM
Make friends?; make peace?; not me! I curse, scream, and let lose my best Incredible Hulk impression.

I mean the kind which "forces Captain America expel Bruce Banner from The Avengers" temper tantrum.

Then I smile, as I feel better, while watching everyone else runs as far away as possible. I fully recommend it for a thriving career!
Amanda
8/19/2010 at 2:50 PM
I can relate.

Our office building was tearing down, then rebuilding the parking area. It **rattled** the entire building, and the sound leaked right into the booth. Loudly. My favorite was the day they scraped all the remaining materials off the side of the building.

Each time I had a recording, the building manager had to ask them to stop work. I cannot imagine the amount of money that cost them. However, it was up to our landlord to provide us our needs as tenant of the building. We warned them up front this would be an issue. It took some fighting with them sometimes to get them to understand.
jennifer dixon
8/18/2010 at 3:53 PM
Great story, Linda. People are often much more co-operative than we give them credit for. We just have to approach each situation with respect and truth - exactly as you described. Great job and so empowering to here other's experiences like this.
Thanks so much,
Jenny
Linda Ristig
8/18/2010 at 3:35 PM
It's so kind of all of you to take a moment to respond to my story. I'm touched by your willingness to share your reactions here on John's e-zine. Thank you!

I've just heard back from the amazing production company,The PPS Group and Velocity Marketing, Inc., the Chevrolet Ad Agency, that were jointly handling the details of this television commercial. They've just given me permission to release their names and the type of commercial!

My thanks go out to both Sam Womelsdorf of PPS for handling the emails and phone call arrangements, and to John Marshall of Velocity for directing the noisy session. Your dedication to your craft was truly appreciated, and now you are better able to get a little background glimpse into what a VO artist might have to overcome.

I should also thank George Whittam, who just finished assisting me with sound proofing and sound adsorption issues inside my studio ... what great timing! You can learn about that story at: http://voicebylinda.wordpress.com

Hmmm .... Anyone care to guess the model of car for the commercial I just voiced with the incredible team from PPS and Velocity?
Maxine Dunn
8/18/2010 at 2:04 PM
Linda, I just love your article! Isn't it amazing how helpful and caring people can be ... if we just ask?

Congratulations on getting your session finished! I can relate so well to your predicament because I've been surrounded by construction for about two months. Bravo on handling the noise in such a genuine, humorous, and friendly way. We can all certainly learn from your wonderful diplomacy and proactive techniques.

xox
Maxine
Linda Ristig
8/18/2010 at 12:46 PM
Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

I think the way I cope is still a left-over trait from my 5th grade teaching days. Better to solve problems with logic and assessing options than it is to become emotional or helpless. Also, as part of a criteria for my Masters Degree, I taught key strategies from "Crucial Conversations" by Stephen Covey to our faculty. It was purely an opt-in experiment, and I couldn't have been more surprised when most of the faculty chose to participate in the sessions after school!

The goal was to face down something you feared - in my case, talking to large groups of adults. I'm fine with kids, but I learned the walls we put in front of ourselves are usually of our own creation.

That experience taught me to look on the other side of fear - to think about what it would look like if you weren't afraid, and figure out the action steps you need to take to accomplish that goal.

Now, I have no trepidation about speaking to large groups of adults. (Maybe a few butterflies in the tummy at first, but nothing I can't handle! lol) John, I heard in your Andy Boyns interview that you faced similiar issues when you started VoiceOverXtra.

Therefore, talking through the situation with the construction gang was an action step, to my way of thinking. (My husband thought I was out of my mind to visit the crew next door!)

It's a great book that has helped me out of tricky situations many times over.
John Florian
8/18/2010 at 11:22 AM
Trish,
I'd have thought that your wink at a landscaper might CREATE some noise!
Elizabeth Holmes
8/18/2010 at 10:32 AM
Wow, Linda. THANK YOU for this story! I've been going through a string of these kinds of interruptions lately, and your gracious, practical approach is very helpful.

The first time I had this problem was with neighborhood kids who set off random firecracker explosions around Fourth of July. Then, last weekend, I was recording on deadline when our Post Office burned down. There were screaming sirens and enormous fire trucks passing my home studio for hours! The best I could do was take breaks when the noise was unbearable.

Fortunately, the project (an audio tour for my local museum) turned out well. Although I noticed the distinctive wave form of a low background rumble on few files, the fidelity of the tour's audio unit is not high enough to catch it.

Things have a way of working out, don't they?
Paul J. Warwick
8/18/2010 at 10:20 AM
Linda,
Great story! Wish I could create that kind of relationship with the Orlando International Airport!
Trish, you'd be amazed what a case of beer can do! lol
Brian Whitaker
8/18/2010 at 10:05 AM
Thanks for sharing - Great story. I had a similar thing happen to me last year. Got booked for a national TV spot & was getting ready for the session and the roof was getting worked on at the studio where I work. AAHH, the noise!

Fortunately, I was able to set up at a friend's house that had an ISDN line - moved my mic setup and recorded from a blanket-covered closet for 4 hours - and everything turned out perfect! (except an occasional barking dog, which the producers got a kick out of.)
Karl von Loewe
8/18/2010 at 7:27 AM
Linda, once again a "solid" performance! It also gives a new meaning to mixer for vo actors.
Trish
8/18/2010 at 12:41 AM
Linda, I love your stories!

I've been known to bat an eyelash or two at the landscaper to help with noise control. If it gets REALLY bad I just offer a pitcher of lemonade or iced tea and that seems to do the trick for a bit. ;) On that note, I feel sorry for the VO guys that deal with construction issues.

Congrats on your booking! You MUST share the final spot with us ....
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