Here is José Santaella answering our questions today:
Let’s start with some ice-breaking quick questions:
– What’s your favorite food?
That’s a hard question. It depends on the occasion, whether I’m alone or with company, and on my mood, of course. Some good onion soup, sushi, or a delicious paella could be good. Generally speaking, it could be anything that includes chocolate cake filled with chocolate as a dessert.
– Mac or PC user?
PC FTW! I grew up among PC users and, despite having given a fair chance to Mac and other Apple products, I simply don’t enjoy or click with them. I think this might be because I don’t find their products particularly “user friendly.”
– What was the last software or hardware you purchased?
Oh, don’t get me started on that! I can talk about Voiceover gear and software for voiceover all day long! I recently bought an additional Mic preamp from Warm audio called the WA12 MKII Black that is just BEAUTIFUL! From the way it sounds to the way it looks. You could say it is the little brother of Warms’ audio TB12 the Tone Beast but without the “steroids”. And software-wise, I recently purchased the Fabfilter Pro 3 bundle which I LOVE and some WAVES plugins to add to my collection.
– What’s your favorite Digital Audio Workstation for editing sound?
Adobe Audition! I’ve been an Adobe audition user for years now. In fact, I’ve been both a user and a fan since the early 2000s when it was formerly known as Cool Edit Pro! It runs smoothly, the default user interface is beautiful, although customizable, and, most important of all, super intuitive. Did I mention it is user friendly right out of the box? You can record something simple as a RAW voiceover to fully record, edit, produce, and master a multi-track award-winning production with Adobe Audition. Please note that I’m not being sponsored by Adobe :D.
– What is the last movie/series you loved?
Wow, there are several. Since it is the 15-year anniversary, Breaking Bad comes to mind. Brilliant all around from story to production to outstanding performances from the actors, especially Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul. That being said…I can’t stress enough that for those who have seen it (and loved it) that it is MANDATORY to go and watch the “prequel”, Better Call Saul. And, in more recent times, I have to mention Cobra Kai, The Boys, and Tulsa King.
– What are your top 3 favorite music bands?
This one is kind of like food. It all depends on the occasion, whether or not you have company, and, of course, the mood. I could name Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald as well as Clapton, Queen, Kiss, or Metallica. So take your pick and let’s blast those speakers off!
– What is your favorite place in the world?
In essence, any place where I could be with my family. If we are talking “specifics” The beach is my favorite place to be. But not the party, high and loud beach. No, I’m talking about a nice, quiet, and warm beautiful beach. It will do wonders for your mind and soul as well as for your body, so do yourselves a favor and take some time out (whenever you can) on a nice quite beautiful beach break/vacation.
– What’s the most famous person you’ve met?
Not sure about “the most famous”, but since I come from a Radio and television background here in Venezuela, I got the chance to meet and hang out with a few actors, models, musicians, and TV personalities that are well-known in the industry. Off the top of my head, I think I could mention both the most famous and the most beautiful of them all: Chiquinquira Delgado, an actress, model and TV host. She is as beautiful and talented as she is nice and kind. I got to meet her back in 2003 at the TV studios of Venevision (Venezuela), where we were shooting a special episode about her upcoming nuptials for the show “La Guerra de los Sexos”.
– Imagine if you could meet any person of your choosing, who would that be??
I wish I could have met my grandparents. I never got to meet them. They all passed before I was born. If we are talking about someone famous/music related, I would say Stevie Ray Vaughan, and, if we are talking Voiceover-related, it could be Mel Blanc and Don LaFontaine. Instead of just pestering them with questions, love, and praise, I would just love the opportunity to “hang out” with them.
– Any place in mind for the next vacation?
I haven’t been to the seaside since my birthday in 2019 (pre COVID-19), so I think we are going to go to Margarita and Coche Island here in Venezuela. Right after that and when the time is right I would love to go to Madrid Spain and visit my big brother Jorge Santaella who I haven’t seen in about 7 years. Jorge has been an incredibly supportive older brother to me since day 1 on this earth. Hopefully, we will meet again.
– What does a normal day in your life look like?
Sometimes I get to do late-night recordings or editing work in the studio or I have to be ready in the middle of the night because of a remote session with Dubai so that will determine at what time and how I will wake up. It ranges from 5 am to even 9 am. When there is time, I like to wake up early and take my son to school so we can spend some time together before starting the day. I have natural/temperature water first thing once out of bed and make some homemade hot honey and lemon or ginger tea, sometimes both. I usually have some fruit like papaya or melon on an empty stomach which is a fantastic way to start your day in a healthy, energetic way. After that, it’s email/networking time, so black coffee with no sugar, please! I’m not a gym or sports fan but I do like to get some air, stretch a little, and walk to get the blood flowing once or twice a day depending on the schedule. The rest of the day gets determined by either auditions or actual jobs/sessions. If everything is quiet in those departments (sometimes it is), I’m always networking and marketing my services out there. Improving the website’s SEO or overall looks is ALWAYS a “work in progress” (apologies, I’ve been meaning to update the website before COVID-19). From time to time, I do a little coaching in Spanish for non-native speakers who just simply love Spanish for either personal or commercial use or for people whose parents speak Spanish as a first language and want to improve their own ability. As a good old “nerd” for voiceover stuff, I also help people with their sound (mostly people beginning in the field) for voiceovers, bringing the importance of things like understanding your gear, mic technique, and a well-treated room and not just having a $5K microphone. When this is understood, I offer them the option to own a nice custom-made sound chain to add to their DAWs process so they will have broadcast-quality audio at the hit of a button when needed.
Career Path & Insights
– Please, tell us a little bit about yourself!
My Name is José Gregorio Santaella Viña or José Santaella for short lol. I am born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, on the 21st of August of 1980 which makes me a 42-year-old. I grew up on a Colombian Paso fino horse breeding farm with tons of animals. Growing up, I got to join some school theater clubs and plays while me and some friends put together a “typical” garage rock band which, “in a certain way”, eventually led the way to the radio and local TV scene. I’ve got a Business Administration degree right after high-school and decided to go after my passion (at the time) for Radio and got my radio and TV communications degree at the Universidad Central de Venezuela back in 2010.
– How and when did you start as a VO in the industry?
Since my school days, I was always involved in acting clubs and theater groups. I basically started because of the local radio and TV scene I was involved in during my teenage years back in the day when you just needed some acting chops, a “pretty face” and or a “golden voice” to get hired. (I guess I was really lucky! Seriously). You just walked into the studio, “read your thing”, and got out. After that, Engineers would do their magic while you were completely clueless about the whole production thing as opposed to how things are nowadays. Because of the political turmoil and the constant economical changes in the country… I “transitioned” to the corporate world and started working remotely for a property management company based in the United States. After a couple of years of literally burning myself on 12-14 hour long shifts from Monday to Saturday, I just had enough and walked out of the “blood-sucking-corporate-life style” disguised as a “we are a family” front. I simply left and never looked back. A few weeks after that, while looking for a “new job” (yeah, I know, I know. I have a family to feed and family always comes 1st), I found a job posting that required me to record the application and to do a sort of sales speech thing and I ended up turning the whole thing into a 40+ seconds commercial Voiceover. That was my aha moment if you will. I started thinking of ways to do what I used to love and have fun with and the possibility of making some money out of it. Thanks to the advances in technology, like broadband internet and more value-for-money accessible home-recording gear available, I set my mind to making a comeback with my voice and acting chops on a solo venture. I researched to the whole internet for classes, workshops, and a way to conquer the US bilingual voiceover market (insert wink here) lol. I stuck with names like Real Voice LA, Bill Dewees, and Tim Tippets just to name a few. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to get to know phenomenally talented people in this industry as well as to lend my humble voice in Spanish for amazing brands/products/clients such as Coca-Cola, Toyota, Walmart, or Boost Mobile for the US market. I consider myself fairly new to the “VO game” (Internationally speaking) meaning I’m non-union, so I’m still a few steps away from that highly desirable union status everyone “talks about”. (Smiley face here).
– Why did you decide to start in the VO industry?
I fell in love with the community simply because it has THE BEST community of professionals you will ever find to belong to. What in other professions you will call “competition”, here you will only be surrounded by colleagues or even friends! People who encourage and support each other whether you are just starting out or a 20-year veteran.
– What keeps your motivation going in the business?
Basically, being a part of such a great community of professionals. And the ever-expanding wonderful business this is.
– Do you have agents?
Indeed I do. Agents are a fundamental part of what I do and where I want to be in the voiceover business. They know my strengths and abilities as a talent and they send work my way accordingly. Communication is key so make sure to build a nice healthy working relationship with yours.
– Current projects you have at the moment that you can tell.
I’ve been a full-time working Voice talent for a while so there is not much I can talk about that doesn’t involve an NDA I’m sorry to say. Other than that, there are several hours a week of e-learning recording and editing that we could talk about if you’d like :D.
– What are the biggest challenges as a VO?
Dealing with rejection is the first thing that comes to mind. I’ve seen talented people, more talented than I am, really walking away for good from VO because they just can’t deal with rejection at any level. Being a VO is not all about your beautiful “GOD-LIKE” voice and the flashy fancy lifestyle everyone shows you on social media if you ask me. I think Bob Bergen will agree with me on this one.
– What else besides the voice do you need as a VO? I love how VO are also their own business, not only as freelancers but also as personal brands, networking…what do you think?
If you already have the voice, congratulations! You may have about 15% of what is needed to begin with. Remember what it was like back in the day? Assuming you already had a great demo and representation back then You just showed up to the studio with that beautiful voice, did a couple of takes and you went off. Nowadays, you need to be a sort of a know it all/do it all kind of a super VO-Man/Woman (Can I say hi to my dear friend Joshua Alexander!?). You are the Actor, the engineer, sometimes the producer, the marketer/community manager, aaand the business owner. You have to deal with all sorts of things ,rejection included.
– Do you have one or more people in mind who have helped you, or guided you, on this journey? How did these people help you?
I could certainly recite a list of great voiceover people, but when it comes to encouragement, support, inspiration, and even friendship without asking anything in return, there is mi Amigo Joshua Alexander a superb business owner who happens to be a professional voice actor (Hola Amigo! See what I did there!?). There is also someone that I really look up to and care for a whole lot: Jessica Marz, an uberly talented bilingual Voiceover/Coach extraordinaire who happens to be a good friend of mine. Gracias Amigos!
– Can you tell us some of your future projects?
Okay sure but a short story first!? During the first stages of the quarantine process, because of COVID-19, I was forced to leave my downtown studio unattended for a couple of weeks/months, and it got ransacked. They even took the wires from the walls so to speak… (no insurance, no nothing by the way… long story.) Long story short, I needed to literally start over from home, which is not an ideal place to be because of noisy neighbors and their loud pets. So I am in the planning process of building a sound-proofed bunker/VO Home Studio and all the upgrades it can take once it’s completed. (Insert a Huge smile here please!)
Home Studio for remote recording
– Do you have your own studio?
Indeed I do! Around 2017, and like most people, it all started off from a small closet space with the occasional upgrade here and there over the years.
– Could you tell us what setup, tech & hardware it consists of? How did you build it? Which kind of interface, DAW, setup, mic, headphones, speakers…
It consists of a decent sound-proofed and sound-treated space at the back of my home. I basically built a room within a room with loaded mass vinyl and Owens corning insulation. My hardware studio consists of a WA12 MKII Black microphone Preamp from Warm Audio, a Solid State Logic audio interface, a custom-built Neumann 47-style condenser microphone, Sennheiser shotgun microphone, all connected through Mogami Gold cables. For listening and monitoring needs, I use good old Sony MDR 7506s and Yamaha’s HS5 studio monitors. And, last, but not least, Adobe Audition 2023 paired with Fabfilter Pro3 bundle, WAVES plugins, and Izotope RX10 Advanced.
– Where are your favorite places to record?
It’s always nice to get to know other studios, especially if you are traveling, but after some years I grew accustomed to my little “padded room”.
– Which kind of services do you offer with your studio?
The usual Voiceover services from either me or my son for a whole lot of projects. Remote recording, digital delivery, English to Spanish translation and proofreading, Music, and SFX for some productions, Audio analysis and sound design for voice actors, and the occasional Spanish/Tech coaching 101 for VO.
– Do you record outside your studio? How do you record when you travel?
It’s not a common occurrence, but yes, I do. When it happens, I always have a travel rig that involves a small Behringer audio interface, a laptop, and my shotgun mic. As for the place for recording, it could be in the car or the quietest part of a Hotel room.
Remote working with Source-Connect
– What percentage of your work is remote now and in the studio?
As of today, I’d say 90% of my work is remote, maybe even more so.
– What are the main projects you record remotely as a bilingual VO?
I’ve worked with several Studios from New York to L.A., Miami, Spain, and Dubai. I’ve done quite a bit of everything from ADR to dubbing. I also had the opportunity to lend my voice for some Japanese animation projects, tons of corporate and educational stuff, e-Learning mostly, and my fair share of commercial Voiceovers all around the world.
– When did you start with Source-Connect?
I guess you could say I am “new” to Source-Connect. I always went to somebody else’s studio when the need for remote recording arose. But Covid-19 changed that.
You could say because of covid-19 and because it is the most requested feature to have from major studios and production houses from all over the world. Work’s great even when your internet connection is not at its best. It is easy to use, the user interface looks nice, it has allowed me and my son to record nice projects for great clients…and, I mean, what is there not to love about Source-Connect?
– How did you start with remote recording sessions?
The very 1st one was related to the port mapping of the router to open the ports for Source-Connect. I tried doing it myself several times unsuccessfully right before a session with a new client. I ended up scheduling a tech support session that was programmed to be the next day 20 minutes before my session with the new client. I was freaking out! The 1st contact with tech support failed and I thought I’ve lost the chance to solve my issue. Fortunately, the Source Elements tech support team wouldn’t give up on me. They persisted until we could get on the call and start resolving my issue. It all got fixed quickly and wonderfully and I still had about 5 minutes left for my remote session. (Phew!)
– What has been your favorite recording session with Source-Connect?
There are several! One of them is when I got to play the parts of 2 dogs for the Spanish version of a TV commercial for the Lottery of Georgia in the US. We all had so much fun that day! As a Voice actor, one of the main benefits of having such a great collaboration tool as Source Connect is that in most cases you don’t have to worry about recording or editing the session at all. I always record as a backup just in case but since the client is handling the recording I get to focus entirely on my performance and following directions to the “T”. Definitely a Huge plus to have.
– Are you Source-Connect certified?
No, but it is definitely on my to-do/wish list for 2023:D
– What is your favorite thing about remote recording?
It’s versatility and the ability to keep us all together and connected all the time regardless of where you might be.
– Are remote collaboration tools here to stay?
Absolutely! There is no question about it.
– What benefits brought to your career the remote tools?
Expanding the reach of my voice to the world! Growing my clientele, Working and connecting with wonderful professionals, companies, and productions houses.
– What challenges have you faced when working remotely?
Nothing out of the ordinary I guess. Power outages and internet connection issues are the ones that come to mind when thinking of some challenges when working remotely. Other than that it is smooth sailing.
– Which are the places or countries you mostly record to/from?
Here is my top 3 recording places/countries: from Caracas, Venezuela, to 1) United States, 2) Spain, and 3) Dubai.
– How did you learn about remote recording tools and online collaboration?
It’s been a part of what I do for so long that I honestly don’t remember! Friends and colleagues would be my best guess.
– What advice would you pass on to someone who’s trying this sort of remote workflow out for the first time?
Trust your certified professionals and ask for help! Source-Connect tech support team is AMAZING they would help set everything up for you without breaking a sweat.
Industry, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
– How would you describe the VO industry?
All I can say is that it is the greatest Industry in the whole world supported by an equally amazing community of professionals.
– What are the advantages of being a bilingual VO? What are the projects, roles, voices, accents, studios usually ask you to record?
The main advantage is being able to play the same role in two languages. Often times, you will be asked to do 2 language versions for a project. I’ve had the opportunity to play an Antonio Banderas sound-alike once or twice for a video game and for some commercial projects. As for accents, the most asked for would be the neutral Latin American Spanish accent.
– I’m very interested in accents and the neutral accent. I think we are increasingly seeing more diverse accents, and even new accents! What’s your opinion on this and how do you see accents and dubbing in the upcoming years?
Definitely. Diversity is the key word here. We used to have the Latin American Neutral and the Castilian Spanish accents as the two biggest and main contenders in the dubbing industry. But now, more and more production houses are more open to the inclusion of Argentinian, Chilean, or Colombian accents for dubbing to name a few. And this is only the beginning. In a nutshell, the future of accents and dubbing is bright and wide.
– How is the VO community around you? Do you belong to any platform, community or group?
The greatest community there is! On LinkedIn alone, I’m surrounded by thousands of professionals related to the industry. Facebook and Instagram are also a good place to hang out and share with the VO community, especially Joshua Alexander’s The Global Voiceover Artists Network and Marc Preston’s The VoiceOver Community on Facebook.
– What’s your perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion in the industry at the moment?
As a Latino who has been trying “to make it abroad,” I’m definitely 100% up for encouraging and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Talent agencies and production houses are now more aware of the importance of having native Spanish people related to the industry who understand the business. For instance, ACM Talent welcomed former HBO Latin American senior producer Viviana Acevedo to join their forces as the Head of the Spanish talent department a few months ago.
– What’s the future of the industry looking like from your perspective?
HUGE! Despite the fear of the use of AI on voiceovers, most people have this wonderful ever-growing, ever-evolving industry that still has its best years to come. It all comes down to accepting things you can’t change and going with it.
Advices to other VO artists/people in the industry
– How would you describe your job to those who don’t know the industry well?
All I do is talk to myself in a little padded room for hours at a time and get paid for it. If I don’t forget to send out invoices that is! 😀
– For someone who is starting their career, what would you advise them for auditions, unions, agents, platforms, conferences?
Training, training, and training. Voice acting IS ACTING! Even when you know how to act you just need to keep on training. If you play your cards right and take no shortcuts, agents and unions will “reveal to you” when the time is right. Join as many platforms and attend as many conferences as you can. You will always want to be surrounded by the people who already achieved what you are going after.
– Who have you found useful to watch or to learn from?
Joshua Alexander hands down especially because of his self-promoting attitude and the way he runs his business. You can learn a thing or two by reading some of his books or by joining The Global Voiceover Artists Group on Facebook. In short a great business person who happens to be a great VO guy.
– What would be the thing you would like our readers to take away from this interview?
A couple of things actually:
1st. Source-Connect is the one tool you want your studio to be equipped/associated with. Period.
Don’t let others tell you “you can’t” and, if they, do, don’t mind them! Keep your mind as well as your ears open. It is okay to ask for help, just don’t expect other people to have all the answers lined up for you. Experimenting and experiencing will do wonders for you, get out there and figure things out on your own! just be prepared to deal with rejection and work hard.
Don’t forget to say goodbye! Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
The best things that ever have happened to my studio happened after being associated with Source-Connect. Take it from me, regardless of all the bells and whistles my studio could offer, the 1st and most important thing EVERYONE asks is if your studio is equipped with Source-Connect.
Get to know more about José Santaella: