A Conversation With Harlan

Technology That Speaks

I recently had an opportunity to speak with friend and colleague Harlan Hogan, world-renowned voice actor and author who has blanketed the past four decades with countless memorable commercials, documentaries and films.

Some of his most famous advertising catch phrases stay with us (who grew up with him on television) like, "Strong enough for a man...," "You never get a second chance to make a first impression...," "When you care enough to send the very best..." and "It's the cereal even Mikey likes...." So after all these years, all of his ideas and inventions being realized from the award-winning Harlan Hogan Porta-Booth to high end Mics...what's next?

I went back to the beginning where Harlan discovered a need for home-based VO equipment and asked how technological needs changed throughout the years?

Being a struggling actor and part-time radio DJ his work at the radio station allowed him access to a professional and advanced radio studio for free, while bringing in some income. As he saw technology progress with the Internet and MP3s he foresaw the trend that people would soon be recording from home.

He laughs as he recalls just how many people thought he was out of his mind. How could studios ever be replaced? But the ones who weren't laughing saw what he saw, the possibilities. He then decided that he wanted to write an entire book for voice actors explaining the process of recording at home. Partnering with Jeff Fisher, a talented audio engineer and co-author of their book Voice Actor's Guide to Recording At Home and on the Road his vision soon became a reality. They soon both discovered that many were looking for an alternative to a long commute to studios, savings in cost and energy output, and the convenience factor of simply working from home. He then set out to write a book, which was simple and straightforward and would appeal to voice actors.

Who knew that Harlan would be ahead of the curve in predicting an increase in home recordings? He provided gear and equipment that the average person can afford creating the practice of home recording. Harlan notes, "When talent auditions they are not just auditioning their performance but their audio quality as well." These home studios needed to impress casting directors and those not able to produce professional quality earned the "kiss of death." As home studios began replacing professional studios it became increasingly important for the developing artist to have an affordable quality easy to use set up.

I asked him for suggestions for home based studios, to tell us what they are for someone who is just starting out?

While not everyone needs a complete studio to record, "a few professional components are helpful to allow the talent to produce topnotch quality and to distribute around the world."

Harlan created the original Harlan Hogan Porta-Booth® and Porta-Booth Pro® as well as the VO: 1-A microphone that allows for high-quality mobile recordings from anywhere while offering professional quality sound. Having completely manufactured these products himself these innovative inventions soon became his beloved pet projects. He did not want a company to pick a product out of their stock and just put his name on it.

The company he decided to go with was MXL, which would start from the ground up and make a unique microphone for him. "I did not want to come out with a microphone that just stuck my signature on it. The only reason to do that is ego." He insisted the mic include a cable, so consumers would not be disappointed upon receiving their mic and realizing they needed a quality mic cable too. They created a good mic that was easy to use and really produced professional quality sound from home. For those starting out, the mic was a reasonable choice to building an entire home studio.

I always wanted to know what it was about VO that spoke to his heart and soul and how was he able to continue to give his best year after year.

He watched his dad toil away in the steel mill never liking his job. "I knew immediately I did not want to do that." He describes VO work by saying "It's like love" allowing me to connect and harness my love of performing and what I enjoyed most about radio. VO work grabbed him from the start. He could act without being seen. It allowed him to continue a profession he really enjoyed doing. Hogan is really proud of his PBS work, especially their tagline, "This program was made possible by generous contributions from viewers like you." He always felt good about being associated with PBS.

As technology continues to progress and expand even further, Harlan can see how much simpler and better the equipment continues to get. Hogan can see a time when an analog to digital converter will be built into computers and eventually, data might not be sent in packets but by streaming, and your telephone could be air quality.

Harlan is nothing short of iconic and inspirational to many and especially to me as a New England based Voice-Over Coach and to our team at lau lapides company.

Harlan Hogan single handedly paved the way to use technology to offer inspiration for many to do what was thought of as the "impossible." I was one of the first in our industry to skype in seminars and workshops, offer our clients the ability to create an on-camera audition tape to send out to clients cross country, and to shoot out MP3's to a global voice over market. Harlan is an accomplished part of the foundation of our industry and a solid integrator of this kind of technology, paving the way for our generation to get our voices heard.

For more information on the VO: 1-A Microphone and Harlan's line of Porta-Booths www.voiceoveressentials.com


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