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An Interview with Jeffrey Fisher

In this interview, Jeffrey talks about sound, and the role of sound in a PowerPoint presentation.


Jeffrey Fisher Jeffrey P. Fisher provides audio, video, music, writing, training, and media production services. He also writes about music, sound, and video for print and the Web. He's published six books including: Instant Sound Forge (CMP, 2004), The Voice Actor's Guide to Home Recording (with Harlan Hogan,, 2004), and Profiting From Your Music and Sound Project Studio (Allworth Press, 2001).

His latest library music CD, Dark New Age available from Fresh Music showcases his musical talent. He teaches Digital Audio Production and Advanced Audio Production at the College of DuPage Multimedia Arts department in Glen Ellyn, IL.

For more information visit his web site.

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and what led to your involvement with sound.

Jeffrey: My fascination with music and sound began late in high school. Songwriting is what originally captured my attention, but a few years later I recorded some songs in a little studio and was hooked. I built my own home project studio and continue to compose and record music along with other audio projects.

I once had a ton of music and sound gear in my studio, but today my studio is stripped to just a few key components. The racks of gear I once had are now all software on my computers.

Geetesh: What role can sound play in a typical PowerPoint presentation?

Jeffrey: I feel people think too narrowly about their PowerPoint presentations. Think of them as full multimedia experiences complete with little videos and sound-only content. Sound effects, music, and even "automated" narrated sequences can really break up the monotony of bullet points and charts. Embed a video at a key moment and re-engage your audience.

Geetesh: Do narrations and background scores mixed together work in PowerPoint presentations. Also, how loud should the volumes be.

Jeffrey: Adding narration with music and even sound effects can really work for certain PowerPoint presentations. Chances are the "live" presentation is what most people came to see/hear, but for opening and at key junctures to reinforce points, stand-alone, free running sequences can better deliver your message.

In general, choose music that fits the message and that isn't too busy. Keep it fairly low under the voice to make sure your audience can understand what's being said. If you are using a mixer or software - keep the music about 10-12 dB lower. There are tons of music libraries out there that supply good music for many circumstances - plus you avoid the whole copyright issue. Check out Fresh Music or Digital Juice for examples.

Geetesh: Tell us more about what type of hardware and software does a beginner presentation designer need to start with to record and edit basic voice-overs.

Jeffrey: First, avoid the cheap microphone that shipped with your computer (or worse, is built-in to a laptop). Second, avoid the noisy microphone input on your computer soundcard. Instead, invest in a decent microphone such as the Shure SM58 (under $100) and a small mixer that accepts microphones, such as those made by Behringer (under $100). Plug the mic into the mixer and the mixer into the soundcard line in and your hardware is complete.

Next, get some recording software. I love Sony Sound Forge for the PC. If you want to build richer soundtracks, such as with VO, music, and sound effects, consider Screenblast Movie Studio, which is really a video NLE, but has three audio tracks, too. This is the light version of Sony's flagship Vegas NLE which I use!

I've actually written a more detailed article on this subject which your readers can see on Audio Smart Actors.

Geetesh: Give us some recommendations of books on computer sound technology, recording and voiceovers that a layman can read — tell us about both your books and your other favorites.

Jeffrey: Start first at Audio Smart Actors — the companion Website to my upcoming book: The Voice-Actor's Guide to Home Recording ( written with 20-year VO veteran, Harlan Hogan. The Voice Actor's Guide to Home Recording shows both aspiring and established voice-over actors how to set up and effectively use their own inexpensive-but professional-sounding-personal recording studio.

To survive in this highly competitive field, you need to learn and master basic production techniques. This book shows you how to use a personal computer, reasonably-priced home-studio equipment, and the Internet to make pro-quality home recordings fast and easy.

I'd also recommend my Instant Sound Forge book (CMPBooks) and Harlan's VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor (Allworth Press)

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