An Interview with Vincent Moore of the UCB NY Theater

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Centered Horizontal HeadshotI recently had the privilege to sit down with UCB NY performer Vincent Moore. Vincent is a performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater who currently performs on the Harold Team “Higgins”. You can see them perform Tuesday nights at the theater’s Chelsea location in Manhattan.

Christian Roberts: How long have you been a performer at UCB? What made you want to perform?

Vincent Moore: I’ve been taking classes since the summer of 2011 and began performing regularly at the theatre in the fall of 2012. I first started getting into improv during my freshman year at Trinity College in Connecticut, where I performed as a member of the then short-form group, The Moveable Joints!. Though I majored in religion, I was active in theatre as well and took acting classes as well as performed in a few plays. Before I graduated college, a couple of my good friends, who were also improvisers, moved down to New York to continue pursuing comedy. They told me about the UCB and how great it was and encouraged me to move down and check it out. After school, I did exactly that and they helped introduce me to the community and the city and everything. Since my initial training at the theatre, I’ve performed as a member of the teams Huxtable, Never Never, Sherlock & Cookies, and I currently perform on the Harold team, Higgins.

Roberts: What are some obstacles you’ve had to overcome?

Moore: Initially, my first obstacle was mostly just getting involved in the community and learning how it works. I was new to the city and didn’t know too many people at the beginning. But after seeing a few shows at the theatre and loving it and seeing how much my college friends loved it, I felt like this would be a great place to be and so I just had to get in there! Soon after I moved, I was fortunate enough to get an internship at the UCB’s offices, which was awesome because I not only got to see shows for free but that’s where I would meet performers off stage as many of them work for the theatre. It was an amazing experience working with them and getting to know the theatre through this vantage point and made me feel like a member of the community very quickly.

However, a more general obstacle that I’ve come across as a performer and creator is learning how to get out of your own way. When I’m writing or making something, I’ll sometimes second guess myself, doubt the quality of the material, and maybe even abandon the project before seeing it through. It can be difficult at times for me to create without placing my own judgment on it. But I’m finding the more I create, the less precious I’ve become with what I make. I try not to hold my work to too high of a standard where I’m hesitating before I even begin.

Roberts: How long have you been doing Points of View your YouTube series?

Moore: Points of View is a fairly new project. I started shooting in October of 2014 and releasing episodes in November. It’s been a really fun experiment so far and I’m still figuring out all of the things I can do with the premise. The beginning of the project coincided with my purchasing of a GoPro camera. I had been intrigued by watching videos online of skaters, surfers, base jumpers, and all that and thought that this would be an interesting tool for comedy. Buying the camera gave me the push to go and do it and figure out something that I could make with it. And given its portability and size, the camera allowed me to do a bunch of shots that I never thought of doing before, which eventually gave me the idea of doing POV angles. Even now, I’m still seeing what else I can do with it and seeing what other perspectives I can explore.

Roberts: Has creating content been helpful for your artistic endeavors?

Moore: Absolutely! Projects like Points of View and New to the Area, which is a silent web series I made with Matt Dennie, have contributed a great deal to figuring out what my sense of humor is and what it is that I like to make. Constantly producing things and trying things out is a fascinating, though hard, part of the process that has given me some content that I’m really happy with and want to share. Overall, it’s been helping me find and develop my voice as a comedian.

Making your own content also seems like a very important thing to do if you’re interested in having a career in entertainment right now. Its possible for a web series or video to garner enough attention that it could lead to professional opportunities for those making them. A show like Broad City, which originally was a web series, is an example of this happening recently. And it’s also not uncommon for people to sustain themselves solely on their YouTube channels. It’s a very different climate than what we might be used to and sometimes hard to navigate but, at the same time, you can make whatever you want for the most part for anyone to see, which can be pretty liberating.

Roberts: What’s some advice you can give to someone hoping to become an actor?

Moore: For acting, or for any artistic pursuit, I’ve been finding it helpful to surround myself with people that inspire me. It gets me to try new things, think differently, and move beyond my comfort zone and break routine, which makes me much more aware and present in what I’m doing. That’s what the UCB community has done for me over the past few years and continues to do so now. Everyone involved is immensely talented and driven, which makes me want to do and try as much as I can, sometimes too much. But having a community that supports you and pushes you is a great resource and I’d recommend finding that for yourself where you can.

I would also recommend keeping in mind that it’s okay to fail. Its something that I’m still working on myself but something that’s invaluable to know when you are taking risks and exploring what you are capable of creatively.

You can follow Vincent Moore on Twitter @Moore_Vincent, via his YouTube Channel, or his website. Be sure to check out his Harold Team “Higgins” that takes the stage at the UCB Chelsea Theater on Tuesday nights! 


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How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

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How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

Unless you had your home theater set up by a professional, chances are you aren’t getting the best possible video and sound out of your existing setup. These simple tweaks will take just a little bit of time but will make a world of difference.

Blast from the past is a weekly feature at Lifehacker in which we revive old, but still relevant, posts for your reading and hacking pleasure. This week, we’re giving our home theater a little tune-up.

You can build a pretty sweet home theater with an HDTV and a nice set of speakers, but just because you’ve got the gear doesn’t mean you have the optimal viewing experience. With all the time setting up a TV, audio receiver, Blu-Ray player, and home theater PC can take (and all the confusion it can cause), you may not have made the small tweaks that can make all the difference in delivering the high quality audio and video you paid for. If it’s been awhile since you thought about the nitty-gritty of your system, here are some things you may want to go through to make sure your theater’s performing in tip-top shape.

This guide assumes you’ve already got a home theater of some sort set up, and that you’ve put some thought into it already: That is, you’re using all the right cables, you’ve got a decent HDTV, and you maybe even have a surround sound system set up. This isn’t about setting up your first home theater—this is about making your existing system’s sound and audio a whole lot better.

Video

You spent a lot of money on that new HDTV, and while it may seem infinitely better than the old tube you had in its place, you’re probably not getting the best picture possible out of it—especially if you just brought it home from the store and threw it in the cabinet. Here’s how to tweak your HDTV into giving you the best video possible.

Set the Optimal Viewing Distance

How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

This is something you probably (hopefully) thought about when you bought the TV in the first place, but if you didn’t, you should consider whether your TV is at the optimum distance and viewing angle from your seating area.

You can find a lot of different opinions on the subject of optimum viewing distance, but the easiest way to decide your optimal viewing distance is to take the diagonal size of your TV in inches and multiply it by two. That’s around how many inches you should sit away from the TV—or that your TV should sit away from you. Keep in mind you want to measure from the TV to where your eyes would be—not the front or back of the couch.

How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

That said, it doesn’t really need to be measured in exact inches (after all, that isn’t practical for everyone’s living rom). You’ll definitely want to make sure your TV is within the range of one of these charts, though. Check out the table to the right for RCA’s recommendations (if you prefer a more immersive experience, THX’s ranges may be more your style). Also remember that, if you’re going to play around with moving your furniture, we recommend mapping it out first, so you don’t end up moving it 10 times before you find the best setup.

Calibrate Your TV

How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

You may not realize it, but your TV likely won’t be set up to deliver the best quality video when you unbox it—you’ll have to calibrate it yourself. While you could do this manually, the best way to do it is with a DVD-based calibration tool. You probably already have a DVD with THX’s optimizer tool (pretty much any DVD with the THX logo will have it), and for $ 2 you can grab a pair of blue filter glasses that will help you run the program even better. If you’re a fan of the Criterion Collection, all their DVDs come with calibration tools as well.

If you’re not thrilled with the free-ish options, for about $ 20 or so you can grab a more full-featured calibration DVD that better explains the process. Some favorites include Sound & Vision’s Home Theater Tune-Up disc, the Avia Guide to Home Theater, and Digital Video Essential’s Home Theater Optimizer. (S&E’s is probably best for beginners.) These’ll also help you calibrate your sound too (which we’ll come back to later), so that’s pretty handy. Check out our guide to calibrating your TV for the full step-by-step instructions.

Many people recommend using a colorimiter to help calibrate your TV, too. It isn’t imperative, but if you have a local photo shop that rents them, you can rent one for considerably less than the sticker price.

The other thing you’ll want to be wary of when doing this is that your TV will look different at different times of day (and even with different inputs). Many TV’s should allow you to create different color presets, and PC World recommends calibrating your TV once during the day and once at night, and creating presets for both—that way, you can switch back and forth between them and have the best picture no matter what kind of light is peeking through your blinds. More simply, if you generally watch TV during one time of day—at night, for example—you’d be better off calibrating at night. For more info on calibrating your TV, I highly recommend checking out PC World’s full guide—it’s got a lot of great information.

Sound

The other half of the home theater equation is sound. Chances are, even if you have a surround sound system and put some thought into the speaker setup, it isn’t yet optimal. With these tweaks, however, you’ll find you can get much better sound from your system in just a few minutes.

Place Your Speakers Correctly

How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

You’d think you could just plop your speakers down on either side of your TV and you’d be fine, right? Not so fast: for the best possible sound, you’ll actually want to take distance and angle into account.

Dolby has some pretty good diagrams that can help you out, but the essence is simple: try to make an equilateral triangle, with your left and right front speakers as two points and your ears as the third point. That means if you are 8 feet away from your TV, your speakers should be 8 feet apart (so, about 4 feet away from the center of the TV). Tilt them at a 22 to 30 degree angle, as shown above, and make sure they’re as close to ear level as possiblefl. If you have a 5.1 setup, place those speakers accordingly. Don’t get too hung up on the angles of the speakers—a little wiggle room is just fine if you have other furniture in the way.

Setting up the subwoofer is beast unto its own. Your subwoofer can generally go anywhere, as long as it isn’t in a corner or other enclosed space. Try a few different locations to see where it sounds best. If you really want to get crazy, you can try the previously mentioned “subwoofer crawl”, in which you place the subwoofer in the spot where you usually sit, and then get on your hands and knees and crawl around the room, listening for the best sound. When you find the spot with the best sound, switch places with your subwoofer, and it should retain roughly the same sound quality.

Tune Your Subwoofer’s Volume and Crossover

In a sound system, your receiver needs to know when to send sounds to the subwoofer and when to play them on the main speakers. To make sure this is set up correctly, you’ll need to tweak a few things: your system’s crossover frequency, the subwoofer’s volume, and the speaker size setting. This is actually quite simple—if you want to get really deep into it, Audioholics.com has a pretty great guide to managing your bass, but we’ll go through the basics right here.

It works like this: Your speakers have a “crossover frequency”, which is the frequency that decides whether a sound is sent to your speakers or your subwoofer. If you have a two-speaker setup, the crossover frequency setting will be on your subwoofer, and you can tweak it as described here. If you have a surround sound system, however, you’ll want to turn your subwoofer’s crossover frequency off and manage it through your receiver’s main menu. If you can’t turn your subwoofer’s crossover frequency off, turn it up as high as you can—it’ll have essentially the same effect.

So, to set your subwoofer up, do the following:

  1. First, set the crossover. This is the frequency at which your subwoofer starts playing bass notes. You generally want your crossover set to where your speakers start to roll off—for example, my speakers can’t go much lower than 80Hz, so my subwoofer’s crossover is set to about 80. You can find this in your speaker’s specs, or just slowly turn it up until it “rounds out” the sound on your speakers (so that your speakers and subwoofer aren’t both playing the same notes).
  2. Next, adjust the gain. This is the important part, and the part that I’ve done incorrectly oh-so-many times—but it’s also the easiest. Start playing a song, and turn the subwoofer down until you can’t hear the subwoofer anymore. Then, turn the gain up just enough so you can start to hear it start to fill in the bass. That’s all it takes.
  3. Lastly, if you have a phase switch, switch it between 0 and 180 degrees and see if you hear a difference. One may sound better than the other depending on your room and gear. You can read more about what phase is here, but in practice, it’s pretty simple: pick whichever one sounds better.

(The above text is taken from our guide to subwoofer volume.)

Lastly, set the speaker’s “size” on your receiver (if it has a setting for it). In most surround sound setups, each speaker has a setting: “small” or “large”. Any speakers set to “large” will not send their bass sounds to the subwoofer—meaning your speaker will spend most of its power trying to output those low bass sounds. Whether your speaker is actually small or large in real life doesn’t really make a difference: you’re probably best off setting all your speakers to “small”. There are, of course, differing views on the subject (if you really want to, you can set your main left and right speakers to “large”), but just setting them all to “small” is about as easy as it gets, and your system is pretty much guaranteed to sound great.

Tune Your Speaker Volume

How to Get More From Your Home Theater Without Paying a Dime

The last step is adjusting the volume of each speaker in your surround sound setup (if you only have two speakers, you can skip this step). Sit down in your listening or viewing spot and adjust the master volume to the level you’re used to. Your receiver should come with a test tone for setting the volume levels—turn it on and let it play through each speaker in the system. Tweak the volume level of each channel until they all sound similar. If you really want to get a good calibration going, the aforementioned video calibration DVDs will also calibrate your sound, so you can get both done in one fell swoop.

You’ll want to watch out for a few things as you do this. Make sure you don’t turn your rear speakers up too high. Ecoustics explains this oft-made mistake:

The surround isn’t intended to blast you with precise directional cues except for certain hard-mixed sounds that happen off-screen during gun battles, fights, chase sequences and the like. Much of the time, you may wonder if the surrounds are even on-until say, a rainstorm or outdoor sequence or perhaps a phone ringing off-screen suddenly reminds you of how much realism a surround system is capable of.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, either—if you feel like dialogue is too quiet in relation to explosions and other sound effects, there’s no shame in turning your center channel up a bit (despite what many home theater enthusiasts would tell you). Start with the basic recommendations and tweak to your liking.


Many of you may have already tweaked your home theaters to this effect, so if you have some experience, share your thoughts with us. What worked for you? What didn’t? Which tweaks made a bigger difference than others? Sound off in the comments.

Photos by Pascalsijen and Jeff Golden.

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