Source Connect & Zoom
Conferencing software facilitates the new world of remote VO recording. Note: It’s important to bump up your internet speeds as much as possible and connect your computer to the internet with an ethernet cable. Wifi probably won’t be sufficient.
Remote recording until recently was rare in animation and game VO. It if was a remote session, the studio would still record everyone via an expensive and hardware-dependent broadband phone connection called an ISDN. That required installing expensive hardware along with a special phone service, plus monthly fees for line usage. Because of its hassle and expense, it was typically reserved for stars and the famous. This form of remote VO recording is thankfully well on the way out.
Source Connect is a popular to record professional voice overs remotely (this has been more common with promos and commercial voice acting). SC is software you install on your home studio computer (not tablet or iPhone) that allows the same kind of low latency (low sound delay) high fidelity audio connection over a regular internet connection. Source Connect is the new standard for a new age in VO. A voice actor just needs a good internet connection, a decent mic and acoustics and SC properly installed and configured on a laptop or computer and you’re good to go.
Source Connect is not necessarily simple to set up- it needs to be tailored for each system and studio and navigating its site can be frustrating. Expect some back and forth with tech support or help of an engineer friend or both to get it properly configured for your particular set up. Be patient as Source Elements (the maker of SC) are currently overwhelmed. They are nice guys, trying their best.
Note: you will need to reconfigure “port forwarding” settings for some cable modems so your SC can communicate with the modem- to allow the sound to travel out and in. You may need sound engineer help with this! I had to purchase a third party router to replace the router my internet service provided (Spectrum), since their router was designed to not allow for reconfiguring. The new modem allowed me to log in to its settings over my local wifi network (with an engineer helper friend) to reconfigure the port forwarding settings so everything worked. Another modem I have didn’t require any reconfiguring (Frontier).
Once installed and configured, it is quite simple to use SC. You log on and have it up and running in the background during your session while you record on your own machine and/or the studio records you remotely over SC.
Source Connect “Standard” is the version you’d want. The “pro” version is for animation studios. SC Standard offers a 15 day free trial to set it up, then once you’ve configured it and confirmed it works for you, you have options to subscribe or purchase it outright.
An added feature is that, unlike ISDN, SC is portable and its “iLok” license is transferable to whatever machine you are working on, wherever that is. It thus functions like a much more affordable, portable software-based ISDN.
Another product of Source Elements, “Source Connect Now,” is an audio conferencing software that is currently in beta testing and I’ve heard still has bugs to work out. It lacks the versatility and video conferencing of Zoom. It does not offer the direct high quality one-to-one connection that Source Connect does, but is rather a group conferencing tool. It works as a plugin on the Chrome browser and my few experiences with it didn’t inspire confidence. You may be invited to a SC Now session via a link, if the producers choose to use it, so at least it doesn’t require purchase or even a complete install.
For an in-depth explanation of Source Connect for Voice Actors, CLICK HERE
For a brief overview of ISDN and Source Connect, CLICK HERE.
ipDTL (“ihp-dittle”) is gaining in popularity as an alternative to Source Connect. Some engineers find it more reliable with fewer “drop outs” compared to Source Connect. Still, as with all such “over internet” audio recording, it ain’t perfect and you’ll still need to record a backup on your home studio setup.
With ipDTL, the voice actor is sent a link, which opens in your Chrome Browser (gotta be Chrome) and you click through to a connection that functions much as does SC. The best part is that it doesn’t require the talent to purchase, install and configure a third party software.
My experience with this service has generally been good so far- that is, once the engineer gets things properly routed on their end. ipDTL records audio on producer’s end while directing is facilitated probably with Zoom.
Not matter how audio is recorded on the other end, the voice actor will need to record a good, clean back up at the home studio, in almost all instances.
Conferencing- Zoom, BlueJeans and Beyond
Audio-only recording at home lacked a vital part of animation’s creative collaboration- the face to face interaction that facilitates nuance, improv and connection with a voice director and creative decision makers. Animation VO had been best created eye to eye. Most voice actors didn’t have home studio recordings because nobody wanted a less-efficient and less effective audio-only directed session. That has changed.
Enter video conferencing! Even for television animation, producers are now rapidly acclimating to add visual conferencing to remote directing via video conference (Zoom, or BlueJeans, for instance). Video conferencing transforms remote home recording to more closely match the effectiveness of an in-studio session, assuming the voice actor is set up for it.
Video conferencing also enables table reads as well as even group records. I’ve had good experience with both, with one ensemble record working successfully over Zoom video while each actor recorded their performance at home (after initially setting up their acoustics with the show’s engineer).
Also, software like Zoom enable allowing a remote sound engineer to not only share his/her screen or video player (say, for ADR), but the engineer can also commandeer the voice actor’s home computer entirely, running the recording software, adjusting the levels, and saving and transferring the session files entirely- with the voice actor only having to perform.
But even without ISDN/SC or an acoustically dead home studio, producers are finding they can use your at-home recorded sound files to build an animatic or even animate to for later replacement via ADR. Still, it is to every voice actor’s advantage to get a sufficient home recording booth up and running.
This is a revolutionary transformation of the process of animation voice acting, rendering what was once studio-bound as now portable and even mobile. Luckily, it appears that voice actors are uniquely positioned to survive and thrive in the face of this disruption.