Unleash the Storyteller


People love stories.  The juicier the better.  You’ve seen tabloid headlines like these:
Sex scandal topples Health Guru’s Empire
Corruption traced to Highest Levels
Giant creature roams sewers of Paris
We filmmakers can learn from these sleazy tabloids.
Well, often we’re asked to make films that are boring, data-driven scripts, i.e. “XY Corp finds increased efficiency on production line outperforms competitors.”   Many companies are telling their “stories” on YouTube but they’re boring, not “juicy”.
So, what’s the secret to getting people to watch our films?
We don’t have to use the sleazy tactics of the tabloids to fix a boring corporate script.  We just need to find a hook, and a pretty wrapper for the message. For example, the XY Corp story above we could massage into a more enticing approach”
“The Secret to perfectly grilled salmon”
The rewritten script would show a corporate picnic with the Pres and his workers grilling salmon together. During the video we mention that XP Corp is doing so well that they have barbecues for the employees and their families.  There are scenes of the Pres and his employees yukking it up.
The RESULT?  We got the message across.
What’s the Secret to Getting People to Watch Your Film?
  1. Bait the HOOK with something interesting to catch viewers. (Everybody wants to know how to grill salmon without drying it out).
  2. Put the message in a pretty WRAPPER – beautiful shots of buttery salmon, the sizzling grill, the smoke, the camaraderie around the table and great music.
  3. Weave the MESSAGE casually into the video (XY Corp is doing great, the president’s great and the employees are happy.  We might even throw in an interview or two of employees commenting on how nice it is to work for a well-run company.)
SUMMARY: If we want our videos to be watched, they need to be interesting (Bait the HOOK with something the audience is interested in), have aesthetically sexy images and sounds (the WRAPPER) so we have a film that captures and holds the audience’s attention while we deliver the MESSAGE.
This is our specialty.
We’ve built an award-winning career making corporate stories interesting.  And for the last five years, in the CineBootCamps, we’ve been teaching filmmakers what we’ve learned.
The old saying:
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”
I would paraphrase that to say,
“The way to the audience’s mind is through their heart.”
Turn that boring blog of data into something interesting to the heart,
with a well-baited HOOK and a WRAPPER that will get viewership.  
EXAMPLE ONE – Ocean Spray
We promoted Ocean Spray by telling the story of cranberry harvest on an Oregon farm that’s about to become a century farm (in the same family for 100 years.)  We wrapped Ocean Spray in an interesting story.  As we tell that story, we’re raising the awareness of the audience and their affinity for Ocean Spray and cranberries.  Next time they’re in the store we’ve increased the likelihood they’ll reach for Ocean Spray.  We’re selling Ocean Spray without selling it.
Check out HARVEST – a film featuring Ocean Spray.
(This CineBootCamps film premiered at Canon’s Hollywood Center.)
HARVEST (for Ocean Spray)
HARVEST (Ocean Spray)
EXAMPLE TWO – kindle
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN shows the poetry of Pablo Neruda comforting a woman on the subway.  Again, in telling this woman’s story with its romantic fantasy, we role of kindle in the lives of millions.  We’re selling kindle in NEW way, i.e. selling it without selling it.
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN (featuring kindle)
THE WOMAN ON THE TRAIN (featuring kindle)
ABOUT FLETCH – The Founder of CineBootCamps
Fletch & Cathleen block out her first shot.
Fletch has won two Emmys, a Gold Plaque at Chicago Film Festival, a Gold Medal from the National Academy of Western Art, his documentary, GOOGLE ME the MOVIE, was featured on OPRAH.  
For the last five years Fletch has helped
over 400 filmmakers tell their stories better.
  • Human Interest Stories
  • “Soft Sell” Corporate Profiles
  • “Social Responsibilty” videos
CineBootCamp Successes
“I learned more in two days than in two months of film school.” (CineBootCamps Grad) 
“Fletch handled a two-year-old problem I had in the first five minutes. (CineBootCamps Grad)
You learn by doing. So we use “Active Learning” techniques, endorsed by UC Berkeley and Columbia University as the most effective learning techniques.  So you’ll do hands-on drills not listen to boring lectures.  
We’re the highest-rated, hands-on filmmaking bootcamp in the world per student survey. This is because:
    • We specialize in private one-on-one training.
    • Your questions come first not last.
    • We tailor the training to your interests.  
    • We use “Active Learning techniques.
Joe practices focusing the Zeiss cp.2 lens
Fletch demonstrates better use of existing light.
Your in-house filmmakers can learn to shoot better, more engaging, more impactful videos in days, not weeks in our CineBootCamps.  
You’ll learn from a master filmmaker who’s boiled down the essentials of award-winning storytelling into Active Learning Drills so you become a better storyteller faster than any training available.  The workshop covers story development, camera operation, lighting, audio, and composition.

Call for Pricing Options

register now  
Please visit our home page.


(A portion of the CineBootCamps profits goes to Narconon - a non-profit, educational program to keep kids off drugs and to rehabilitate those who have drug addictions.)


Is your product’s voice dooming your product to lose?

Why does Apple, with all its reserves, invest in voices for Siri that are far below the sophistication of their technology?

The Siri voice sounds a bit put off by my questions. “Why are you bothering me?” is the subtle message between the lines of the voice of Siri on my iPhone 6 Plus. At other times Siri’s responses sounds robotic…very unhuman.

This “between the lines” subtext we can gather from Siri’s vocal delivery conveys a lot. So, sometimes it’s as if I told Siri to drive into a wall and Siri snaps back “Yes. I am blind. Whatever you say stupid human.”

Both these examples are far from the warm user experience Apple would like to create.

Here’s a pop quiz for you. What if you walked into an Apple store and the friendly person in the blue t-shirt blurted out responses that matched Siri’s vocal persona? You turn around and walk out. Computerized voices need to have that warmth we crave from our fellow humans. Not the gooey warmth of a salesperson, just real human understanding, empathy and helpfulness.


What’s a vocal persona? A vocal persona is person behind the words. For example, text messages arrive without a persona imbedded in their transmission. Unless the person added a smiley face or “no worries” to the end.

But in vocal communications, the vocal persona is the subtext that carries a lot of the meaning in the verbal transaction. My wife can say, “Yes, dear.” in a number of ways. The vocal persona fills in the subtext.

For example, “Yes, dear (you complete fool)” “Yes, dear (you darling for remembering our anniversary).” “Yes, dear (if ask me again I’ll burn dinner.”

Aside from the quality and texture of her voice she can imbed additional warmth, empathy, bitterness, apathy etc. into the same two words.

Fletcher Murray – President of The Association

In our voice casting to find the perfect voice for IBM, Chrysler, Cadillac,  Geico, Alpine, Honda, Acura, Visteon, or deCarta we go the extra mile to find a perfect vocal persona that matches our client’s technology, not just somebody who can read lines without making mistakes. We use a 14 column voice characteristics evaluation form to rank our candidates.

This voice IS the product. This voice IS the product to the consumer. That’s all they have to go by in their interaction with the product/company. And all the thousands of hours to develop, debug, and perfect the technology behind the product, rides on the human interaction of the technology’s voice and the human user.

Is that going to be a positive experience the consumer looks forward to enjoying or is it a neutral experience or is it a negative experience?

We try to find a voice that will insure that consumer interaction is “insanely great”. That was the bar that Steve Jobs set for Apple. It’s the bar we strive to clear with our voice casting and recordings – find the perfect voice match for the product and then voice coach her into being an astounding experience for the end user. It’s the bar every product should strive for.

The consumer IS listening.

(Fletcher Murray has been finding and recording voices for computerized voice systems for over 14 years. CLICK HERE for more info.)

Fletcher Murray - President of The Association

Fletcher Murray – President of The Association

Storytelling – the advertising that works

Though millions of dollars are spent trying to hammer marketing messages into our skulls, I doubt if you could name a single advertisement you remember hearing, seeing or reading on the radio on TV or now the internet.

Madison Avenue has done nothing but help us develop an amazing set of what I call “advertising deflector shields”. Just like the shields of the SS Enterprise, our human version can detect and deflect the marketing message without us even being aware of it.

So, what does work?

Stories. Interesting human interest stories can fly under the deflector shields and suddenly we’re embracing a client who’s bringing us an interesting or amusing story.

We’ve been telling clients’ stories for years now. Telling Princess passengers how their cruise will be a cut above the scary land-based vacation, or how Health Valley is making foods to ensure a happy, healthy future for their customer, or how Ocean Spray’s growers are salt-of-the-earth people bringing one of the healthiest foods we can eat to our table.


(click to play video)

So, before you spend your advertising budget on things that just won’t work, consider hiring us to tell a story that might get through….and actually work.

We used to say our videos were free. Nobody got it. But in actuality, our videos work so well, they pay for themselves.

And isn’t that what you expect when you buy something? That it’ll work?

Is Canon’s 70D the best BASIC filmmaking tool?

The 70D has so many advancements that solve so many problems it’s a dream camera for filmmakers, old and new, who don’t want to be bothered with all the buttons. Sure it’s been out a while and other cameras have jumped on center stage but it’s core competency keep it in the spotlight. And that’s the ability to nail focus with the touch of a finger instantly…fast than any focus puller I’ve worked with. So the 70D’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF empowers you to shoot live view and still be in focus without interruption. This sensor has not migrated over to Canon’s Cinema cameras as well.

Now this video isn’t about that focus feature. I’ve got other videos showing how well it does in the focus department listed below. This video is a shootout with the Canon 5D Mark III when we set it at ISO 1250 for a night filming.

Check it out for yourself but I stand with Vincent LaForet that this is the perfect basic camera for the beginner (and experience filmmakers who are tired of being out of focus). http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/mygear/basic-kit/

Even the kit lenses are sharp (though not built for heavy use). Check out their MTF stats. (Flat lines along the top is a very good thing.)




Click here to check out the 70D night test video.
Or click below

Nite Fountain Shootout – Canon’s 5D M3 vs 70D from Fletch Murray/CineBootCamps on Vimeo.

Below are the CineBootCamps tests we ran on the 70D’s ability to focus FAST and with pinpoint accuracy.

The 70D’s fast touch focus tests

Fast Touch Focusing 70D

70D focusing shootout with the Panasonic GH4

70D vs GH4

What’s in a voice? …..everything !

It baffles us to see companies with immense technological prowess and customer service choose a voice that is uncaring, cold, and distant.

The voice of a company defines the company’s persona.  The persona often determines whether the person wants to have a relationship with the company or not.

So to help our clients find a voice that will be an asset and not a liability, we audition at least 43 voice talents and rate them on a scale of fourteen characteristics of their voice.

We are located in Hollywood, which is the deepest talent pool on the planet.  Not just English but people from just about every country are here. 


Of course we’re not proposing using Hollywood movie stars. 

We have to be frugal in what we offer our clients. So we also check to see if the voice talent has good comprehension skills, i.e. can read quickly with perfect diction and retain all the other pleasant characteristics.  So, often our “Hollywood” quality voices are less expensive than the “staff” voices companies have on contract.  One minute they’re reading a grocery store ad and the next minute your company’s persona is in their hands.  Our production line is so streamlined after sixteen years of recording the best voices that we can outperform any voice recording service in error-free, sustainable voice systems.

Example One – Cadillac STS came to our client Alpine for voices for their executive tier vehicle.  We found the most delicious voices in French Canadian, Spanish and English you ever heard.  If a Cadillac could talk, this is how it would sound.  What a win that was.

If you’d like help finding a truly remarkable voice that conveys how professional and how committed your company is to quality and customer satisfaction, please give us a call.   We’ve got the voice for you.

Don’t hesitate to call my personal cell is 818 606-3538.  My voice isn’t pretty but the voices I find take you breath away.




Finding Pleasant Human Voices for Computer Apps

So the now the big rush is to update and upgrade the human voice for the connected car and those imbedded in communications devices like the iPhone’s Siri.

Honda, Audi, Tesla, Cadillac, Ford, and Toyota all want a voice to talk to you in their car. They want a voice you won’t turn off because it’s irritating. Many companies misfired the first time out choosing robotic sounding voices. They soon found out that consumers were turning off their technology because the voice interface was irritating.  Now, thousands of files later, they’ve got to find a new voice and re-do their filesets.  We’ve had good luck finding voices that were perfect. The voice we found for Cadillac sounded just like you’d think a Cadillac would sound…pleasant, authoritative, classy, elegant.

If you could pick the perfect voice for your connected car to speak to the driver, what would be your parameters? “Pleasant” would probably top the list. But many more criteria are needed for the perfect voice to meet our criteria.  After all, we’re not just recording one radio spot.  We’re hiring a voice talent who can record for us for 19+ years.  That’s the sustainability issue in casting voice talent.

As we wrote in an article for Telematics Update magazine, the voice actor needs perfect diction, be free of objectionable dialect, have a liveliness while still sounding professional, and have a concern in the voice that they actually care about you….a far different set of criteria from the robotic voices most engineers chose initially.

At the beginning of voice recordings for automated systems many of these characteristics were ignored in favor of someone who sounded robotic. The goal was to be more machine-like than human. But also, because memory space was limited in early automated systems, single words were recorded which would be combined by the computer to make a phrase or sentence. So, engineers thought it was a good thing to have all the words read in a flat, cold, monotonal voice. That way the sentences could be fabricated easily.  For an idea of what we’re talking about click on “BADLY DONE VOICE FILES” on our site and hear this kind of style of voice recording.

Badly w Arrow

But soon, as end users would just turn off these robotic voices because they were annoying and cold.  Engineers then favored voice recordings with more “humanity” in the voices and expanded memory allocation allowed phrases to be recorded as a complete file instead of just words.  This improved the “humanity” in the voice files. The emphasis then swung to recording phrases so that they’d fit together seamlessly and seem like they were recorded as a single sentence.

The voice filesets we’ve been recording for Alpine’s navigation systems since 1999 have this quality. CLICK HERE to hear the “Seamless” style of recording voice phrases.

Seamless Voice Files

Voice files that combine together seamlessly is the key to better human-emulating systems. And so, in casting your talent, you need a voice talent who can match the tone, pacing, energy, modulation, warmth and volume in files they recorded years ago. An analogy is that the voice talent needs to have the same ability as figure skaters doing their compulsory figure eights in which their blades must follow the same groove they did on their previous circuit.

And so when we do our voice casting (we find voice talent as well as record them) we listen for not only a pleasant voice but a well-controlled voice.   Often, we find singers have this athleticism in their voice. Voice over talent who just record thirty-second spots don’t often have the ability to repeat exactly the variances they had in their voice three years ago.  And they tend to overmodulate (adding that infomercial, in-your-face, marketing, sing-song delivery). The ideal voice talent who has the ability to record files that match what they did three years ago. An analogy would be a brick maker – every brick must match in color, weight, size, consistency, texture, shape, edges, etc. etc. We’re not interested in voice talent who can do a spectacular read one time but can’t repeat it four years later. We’re building a vast “brick wall” of voice files and they all need to fit perfectly together.   And we want voice talent who can “put a smile” in their recordings.  You can actually hear that smile.

Luckily we’ve found voice talent who meet these criteria. They’ve been building filesets with them for Alpine for over sixteen years now. If you play a voice file recorded in 1999 it will match seamlessly with one recorded in 2011. This kind of quality results from choosing the best voice talent at the very beginning.  We hope you fare well in your choice of voice talent so you only have to do the fileset once, and not start all over again like Apple did with Siri.

(Fletcher Murray’s voice recording team has voicecast and recorded hundreds of thousands voicefiles for filesets for IBM, Alpine, Johnson Controls, Visteon, deCarta, Honda, Acura, Cadillac, Clarion and Microsoft. The Association’s quality control has achieved Six Sigma levels in error-free performance.)

We’re so good, we can’t talk about it….

Funny thing.  We work for great clients.  They love our work (finding and recording perfect voices for their computerized applications).  So what’s the problem?

We ask them for success stories but they tell us they’re bound by their corporate anonymity policies.

So after much begging they agreed to review our work on the condition of anonymity.)  Below are the real quotes (can you pick the one I wrote?)   The rest are real.

“High quality voices in many languages, excellent translation services, direct translation review to ensure accuracy, friendly staff. ” (Senior Project Manager)

“Professional and cost effective recording of voice prompts for use in vehicle navigation applications.” (President of Company)

“A full service voice recording company.  identifying candidates for recorded voice applications according to customer requirements, signing voice talent to contracts for the term required by the customer, performing requirement engineering on the scripts to minimize unnecessary changes, making arrangements for studio time, arranging and managing recording sessions, and performing QA on the voice files. The Association also records catch up recordings as changes are needed.” (Senior Project Manager).

“Procurement and retention of voice talent and coaches in 3 languages Project management, planning, scheduling…Ability to provide accurate schedule and cost estimates …Transparent and documented quality control process from start to finish.” (Senior Project Manager)

“The Association is a very well organized company that treats each project with the upmost importance and your precision to detail. During script reviews I like that the Association brings in expert language coaches to cypher through hundreds and thousands of lines to find any grammatical errors.

During the recording sessions I appreciate all of the work that your team does (from listening to “clicks” to editing recorded files on the spot). The quality control that goes into each recorded voice file. The “Legal Buffer” that you provide to protect us from any legal issues that may arise.”  (Project Lead)

“Fletch is the hardest working white guy I know. To see the way he’s organized the chaotic business of voice casting and recording into a process that achieves Six Sigma levels of error free voice files is a marvel for anyone interested in not wanting to worry if they’re going to make their deadlines and stay on budget.  I’d hire him in a minute and relax.”  (Tall Person)

(We’ve worked for Alpine, IBM, deCarta, Microsoft, Clarion, Johnson Controls and others since the beginning of car navigation systems over fifteen years ago.  We’re approaching 60,000 error free voice file on sustainable filesets for returning customers.  Always willing to add peace and sanity to this process for you.  Please call my cell at 818 606-3538.)

Finding the Perfect Voice

Searching for the “perfect” voices for HMI (Human Machine Interface) in smart devices, biometrics, natural language, telematics and navigation systems is challenging.  Not only does the voice talent need to sound good today, but be able to match their performance for years into the future as technology develops. But if you choose the right voice it can save you millions of dollars and avoid re-recording a whole new fileset if the voice proves unsustainable in the short term.

Most all companies face this process…it’s almost like computer dating. You want to find the “perfect” one. The one that will be yours forever.

Well we can’t promise you we’ll find you voices that will be perfect forever but we’ve found voices that have been perfect for our customers since 1999. Contrast that with Apple’s quick replacement of Siri’s voice.  Audi, General Motors, Elektrobit Automotive, Ford, Chrysler and other manufacturers interest in the HMI applications have to realize that the voice chosen IS THE DEVICE to the consumer.  Consumers either like the voice or they don’t.  The thinking behind the original Siri voice is baffling to us.  It reminds us of the mistakes engineers were making at the beginning of voice prompts for navigation system.  They wanted the voices to sound like computers for some unknown reason.   Do you want a cold, impersonal, heartless voice telling you what to do?

Most users of car navigation systems admit they turn their systems off.  What manufacturers don’t realize is the the voice in a device IS their company to the consumer.   Shouldn’t the voice of Cadillac sound like what you imagine a Cadillac would sound like if it had a voice?

Well, that’s what we do.  if Nuance had asked us to find a voice it would have been the coolest voice you can imagine.  But they didn’t.  So now we can offer that coolest voice to other clients.


15 Criteria to picking the “perfect” voice

I think if Apple and Nuance had a “Voice Talent Evaluation Grid” they would not have ended up with a voice that they would replace in three years…at great expense.  So how do you pick a “perfect” voice?

It helps to have a template when auditioning voice talent.  We have a checklist template that has fifteen criteria to help us pick the best overall voice talent.

Choosing the voice talent to record for new VUI systems usually involves five people or more. Each “likes” different voices for different reasons.  But pleasantness of the voice is just the start. There’s fourteen more criteria to be measured on our checklist.  For example, you have to listen for clicks, pops, saliva noises which will all have to be removed or rerecorded.  If the voice talent has bad comprehension and makes an error every third line, your budget has just grown 33%.  When you’re recording 109,000 words in a script you’ve got to have a clean voice talent.

A checklist also helps the whole team stay on the same page. The last thing you want is for the client to dig in their heels on a voice that has so many technical flaws you’ll bust your budget cleaning up the files.   The checklist helps the client understand why you favor candidate 5 over candidate 4.

BTW, we don’t use talent names because it prejudices the choice.  After all, wouldn’t it affect your choice if you knew candidate 3 and 4′s real names –  Angelica and Gurdta?

So that’s a few examples of the fifteen criteria we apply in evaluating voice talent. Take a look at the Voice Talent Evaluation Grid Checklist. Click here to go tour our site to download our Voice Talent Evaluation Grid Template.

The checklist helps you listen for technical flaws that will inflate the cost of the project as well as imbed in the files errors that must be fixed downstream and even more expense. The checklist also assures that our client, their client, the sound engineer, and the producer deliver voice files at a great price that will endure for a long, long time.  One voicefile contract has been running seventeen years now with thousands of files recorded.

CUSTOM VOICE CASTING - Most recording studios have a fixed stable of regulars they record often.  We do a custom voicecasting for each client.  Our last project we cast forty-three women.  Then we culled it down to the best nineteen.  The talent came in and read a carefully prepared script meant to reveal difficulties that could imperil the budget and the timeframe.  For example, most voice talent are used to recording just a few pages of copy.  We record 11,000 lines.  If the voice talent doesn’t have endurance and consistency it doesn’t matter how good they sound.  The script puts them to the test.


How to find the best voice for your VUI (voice user interface) application

Finding a pleasant-sounding voice is key to a successful VUI interface. But it’s not always easy to get it right the first time, as proven by Apple’s move away from Siri’s first voice to a broader spectrum of voices people may like better. Many other auto manufacturers are facing the same task of replacing voices that fail to connect with the customer. Some are so aggravating that drivers turn off their system.  This reflects negatively on the manufacturer.

We think the voice should BE the voice you’d expect to hear if your car or device could talk.

An example is the voice we placed in Cadillac. Listen to her recording our world-famous    Seamless Voice Files  - six files combined to sound as smooth as if she’d recorded one sentence.

Here's how a beautiful voice looks...

(above – A beautiful voice we cast for Cadillac looked like this, but listen to how her seamless voice files sound.

How can you improve the odds of getting a voice right the first time?

In a current project for a new client, we cast 43 females from our cadre of professional Hollywood voices to find the “perfect” one. We narrowed the selections to twelve to present to the client. To help sensitize the client to the variables to listen for, we provided them with a Voice Evaluation Grid template. This helps the client listen for the qualities in the voice that will be a sustainable solution for them. Too often clients just don’t know what to listen for.

If you’d like a Voice Evaluation Grid, please email me at fletch@theassociation.tv

My next installment will go into more specifics of choosing and recording a voice for zero defect voice file sets.