October’s AES-LA Section meeting at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City offered an impressive array of talent discussing Audio for Animation. Creative talent ranging from Buzzy Music’s Andrew Morris, who recorded Mel Blanc, to Doc Kane, who recorded Robin Williams for Aladdin, through Nickelodeon’s director of audio Justin Brinsfield to Kristopher Carter, the Emmy-winning composer of Batman Beyond, and the great voice-over talent Rob Paulsen, came together to chat about the audio side of animation.
Each panelist offered a peek into their aspect of the process, as a recording engineer, studio director, music composer, and voice-over talent. Each offered advice on what to do or things to avoid. Stories abounded, and the evening flew by.
For instance, Doc Kane suggested that, as a recording engineer, it is helpful - in fact very helpful - to learn to read music. A conductor might ask to return to measure 54, and knowing where that is in the music can save a good bit of time and aggravation for everyone in the studio. He also stated that, as the engineer, it is his job to be prepared before the talent and directors arrive, and read the mood of the room. Actors can have good and bad days, too. Asking for an autograph at the wrong time can really stress everyone out. Another piece of advice: test your microphones and equipment with your friends, not the clients.
It’s good advice. The animation recording community is relatively small; everyone knows everyone else, and a poor reputation can end your career in a hurry. So avoid wasting the talent’s time, or wasting the producer’s time with equipment that doesn’t function or isn’t set up correctly. Sometimes the first take is the spark—if you miss recording it, the session loses energy.
Andrew Morris concurred, adding that engineers get only one take. He makes sure he has a duplicate recording system running at all times. Justin Brinsfield tells all his junior engineers: “When you hit stop, always hit Command + Save.” You don’t want to tell the client they need to re-record, as they did once when the studio’s building lost power but before the engineer saved the session.
Justin related how he got into the business: by starting as a truck driver on The Angry Beavers. In between drives, he would find anyone on the show that needed something done, and do it. In time, he made such an impression on the person who came to run the new recording studio, that when Justin asked to be a part of it, assisting an engineer, they took him up on his offer. “Don’t say no,” to work or, as Rob Paulsen put it: “Never don’t say ‘yes’.” It’s sort of like an extended interview. Being available and doing the job (even if it isn’t your dream job) then doing it right, can create a stepping stone to where you want to be.
In the late 1970s, Rob Paulsen came to Los Angeles in pursuit of an acting career. Like many actors, he struggled to find work, and eventually secured voice-over sessions to supplement his income. He remembered receiving a call from his live-action agent for a role on Hill Street Blues, but turned it down as the scheduling conflicted with two recording sessions for The New