Mick Wingert, "Voice of Awesomeness," Relies on Neumann U 87 and Sennheiser MKH 416 to Capture Nuances of Animation Performances
Wingert, a 'Natural Born Mimic' and Voice of Po in Kung Fu Panda, Says Sennheiser and Neumann Microphones Capture Authenticity of Performances
Wingert has made his calling card in large part through his highly outstanding voice performances as Po in Kung Fu Panda over the last four years, in which he has been featured as Jack Black’s vocal stand-in. However, since the beginning, he has always had an ear for the sound of his characters.
“Every time I played a character in the community theater where I started acting, my first question would be, “What does this character sound like,” Wingert recalls. “The movement, the physical sense and even the emotions of the character were never as important to me as the voice. I knew voice acting would probably be my niche early on.”
Now, whether lending his talent to Nickelodeon, DreamWorks or another major Hollywood studio, Wingert prefers using the Neumann U 87 large diaphragm condenser microphone or the Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun microphone for all of his voice acting work — whether playing animated characters or doing more traditional voiceovers for advertisements.
“In voice acting, people expect the whole world to come through the audio,” observes Wingert. “It behooves the character actor to be able to create a reality both through their acting voices and through their microphone technique. It fascinates me how often I will dance with the microphone to get the best possible sound.”
For his animation work, Wingert most often uses the Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun microphone. “For me, the MKH 416 seems to capture a solid sound with a nice, crisp upper end and full bottom end,” he says. “My voice has a bright, brassy sound, and for my animation work, the MKH 416 really works with this, and I tend to use the U 87 for more traditional commercial and narration work. I have never had a ‘big announcer’ type voice, but the U 87 does a great job in capturing the baritone/tenor qualities of my voice.”
While voicing Kung Fu Panda’s Po character, Wingert must capture a broad palette of emotions and dynamic expression. “Po often has to apoligize and have sincere moments during the show, because he is the one with the character arc. I might have an apologetic moment where I have to get really close the mic and sound super-sincere. I let the mic do its job by capturing the intimacy of that moment by bringing out the rich, warmer tones of my voice so it sounds like I am standing right next to the person I am speaking with.” Wingert says this intimacy might contrast with another moment in the script where, say, Po is calling out across the courtyard to a crocodile bandit. “For something like this, I might be a little farther off the mic to allow for more space and room tone.”
Wingert, who also teaches voice acting, recommends the Neumann U 87 to his students whenever they are ready to make an investment in a great microphone. “To make your calling card in this industry, you need to combine your best performance and the best microphone for your sound. Get your own Neumann, because that’s what you will be working with in the ‘real world.’ The Neumann sound is solid, and there is a lot of depth and character to it. It captures nuance in a way that other microphones simply cannot.”