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Media producer brings fiction, fact to life with iconic deep voice

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With a rich, sonorous bass voice that can drop down to a basso profundo rumble, Rodney Rastall of east Memphis was born to do those solemn “In a world …” movie voice-overs.
But the veteran media producer also direct, shoots, edits, writes, acts and sings. He enjoys end-to-end production of corporate videos, voicing lighthearted promotional video clips, and reading for those intense, veins-popping-in-the-forehead car commercials.
“I help clients with their projects from concept to completion, including marketing consultation and executive coaching,” Rastall said. “From trade shows, to sales meetings to broadcast, I can have a role.”
One of his latest big projects is a new joy: Editing and narrating audiobooks. His first full-length novel narration, “Driven,” hit stores in December, when he completed a two-year undertaking with his longtime friend, local author Rick Jacobs.
Jacobs wrote a gritty crime thriller, and Rastall brought it to life with his voice.
Rastall did more than just read the script: He tweaked the dialog, helped to refine plot points, created character voices with distinct personalities, and edited hundreds of clips.
Today, the book has a five-star rating on Amazon.com and a 4.70 on Audible.com.
As a creative man, Rastall found the work tremendously satisfying.
“If I can make a living running my mouth in front of a microphone, and that’d be all I do – audiobooks and commercials – that’d be great,” Rastall said. “I’d love that.”
He also has a deep résumé with work in corporate clients’ instructional and marketing videos, particularly in the medical industry and in heavy construction.
He is currently collaborating with Jacobs again on the next book in the “Driven” series, adding new characters and putting familiar characters in new situations.
Rastall smiled. “We’ve got some ideas we’re excited about.”
He operates his company, Hanahawk Commu-nications (named after his children’s middle names), from the comfort of his home office. It looks like the media studio it is, with microphones, fan-like pop filters to soften sharper sounds, and stacks of computer gear.
His eight-year-old St. Bernard, Heidi, slumbers at his feet, occasionally raising her long lashes to glance around the room with big brown eyes, thump her tail, and then lay her head back on her paws.
“She’s just happy to be in the room,” he said, with a deep chuckle.
For Rastall, a typical day has him hitting the gym and then returning home to hustle business, record audio and edit it.
The editing involves listening to his recorded work and making both subtle and major changes on the computer. He demonstrated with a brief edit of an audio clip to remove a word. When he was finished, the audio sounded natural and unedited, and the word was gone.
“Basically, it’s like word processing for audio,” he explained.
During recording sessions for the book, if Rastall made an error, Jacobs spoke out loud or Heidi snorted, Rastall would give a short higher-pitched whoop. In contrast with his deep voice, it made a distinctive visible pattern on the recording timeline for easier identification and editing.
Jacobs and Rastall broke the work up into chapters, and there were hundreds of different clips, he said. There was only one scene in Jacobs’ book that required a little reverb and filtering for an ominous otherworldly sound.
For everything else that editing can’t do, Rastall makes characters distinctive with just his voice.
“They just kind of come,” he said. “I look at it and try to think what that person would sound like and keep it consistent – the nuances and the characters. I try to think like them, and it helps me talk like them.”
Regarding the book work, he said, “One of the reasons that I think people have responded so well to the audiobook was that the dialog was so well written, and when I edited it, I edited it for the ear — what’s the flow that’s going to sound right, and the cadence and pitch. And so in the process of doing that editing, we were able to develop characters, and I kind of understood them ahead of time because I read about them and got deep into the copy and into the texture of the story.”
He added, “When people get it – when they laugh, when they clap, when they’re moved, when they’re affected by what I can create, affected the way I want them to be affected – that’s what’s really satisfying.”
He relishes the work he does and was persuaded to offer few words of advice for others who want a similar career: Get a good microphone and other gear; you will be competing against professionals who have excellent equipment and more experience. Learn how to finesse the audio with software to maximize the quality. Practice. Listen to feedback, but don’t be crushed by the naysayers. Act professional and cultivate a loyal customer base with above-and-beyond service, creativity and pleasant interactions with the customer. Persevere. And keep up with the technology.
He gestured around his studio. “None of this technology existed when I was in school.”
He entered the University of Memphis as an engineer major and quickly switched when he was captivated by radio work. Later, a Memphis agency he respects to this day employed him for his vocal and audio talents.
Eventually, he began to yearn for the creative freedom of operating his own business.
In September 2000, Rastall was talking with his uncle, who was also his consultant and investor. The older man told Rastall to quit his agency work to strike out on his one. And not “soon” — quit that very day. “I said, ‘Today? I wasn’t prepared for today.’ But I did.”
Rastall still had boxes of his office belongings in his car when he drove over to a former client, Smith & Nephew, and drummed up a job that afternoon.
Since then, his career has taken him from corporate retreats at resorts across the U.S. to destinations in Mexico, Canada, England, Ireland, Holland and more.
“It’s so cool,” he said. “And you get paid to do stuff that’s cool. I’m very fortunate.”