ISDN in your Voice Over Home Recording Studio

Will ISDN enhance your voice over job opportunities?

The latest trend in voice overs is to have your own home studio. This allows you to work from home and to accept work from anyone in the world. Often the scripts are sent to you via email and you interpret the script, record it, and return the finished files to the client.

However this process requires that you fully understand the requirements of your client so that you can direct your own performance. But what if the clients wants to listen in and direct you as you record? This adds another layer of complexity to your studio setup so you can supply this capability with your studio gear. This need is can be met with an ISDN connection.

The grandaddy of remote monitoring (listening in, commenting and recording from a distant location) is the ISDN connection. ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network and it provides a constant direct digital connection over telephone lines to a remote studio.

ISDN has two major advantages.

suz actingISDN allows you to send high fidelity (20-20kHz) audio signals from your studio to the remote studio. This allows you to speak into your microphone while the remote studio receives your signal at high quality in their studio. The producer, director and engineer can hear your performance clearly on their monitor speakers as though you were in the other room, so they can hear the subtlety of your performance and catch any stumbles in your performance.

More importantly, since the signal is high fidelity, it can be recorded on the remote studio's recording equipment and used immediately. Back in the day, this eliminated the need to send tapes recorded at your studio via overnight express in order to deliver your performance to the distant studio.

The director can also speak to you over a phone quality line to give you performance notes and you hear this direction in your headphones as if s/he were in the control room next door. You can speak back to the director through your mic.

So ISDN has two benefits: High fidelity sound quality for remote monitoring and recording. And real-time delivery through the ability to record this high fidelity sound in the remote location.

So why shouldn't all voice over talents run right out and get ISDN?

Telos codecOne issue is cost. ISDN can cost several hundred dollars to install and set up and and there is also a monthly charge for the line of about $60.00. You also need an ISDN CODEC.

This is a box that receives the analog signal from your mixing board and converts it to the digital signals that are sent over the ISDN line. This codec can cost around $5000.00. So unless your doing enough high-end jobs that require ISDN you may never recoup your investment.

And remember, the receiving studio needs an ISDN line and codec as well. It is useless to supply ISDN service to your client if they don't have access to an ISDN studio on their end. Renting an ISDN studio can cost up to $250.00 an hour.

Also, as broadband internet becomes universal, the recording process is changing. You now record your jobs as digital files, not a 1/4 inch tape. So the second and more important benefit of ISDN--real-time remote delivery--has disappeared. You can now record your work in high fidelity on your computer and upload those files to a client's server in a matter of minutes.

ISDN still does allow two way communication with a voice director in a remote studio.

But this communication can also be achieved with the use of a PHONE PATCH, which is a much simpler and more universal means of communication with the client for simply receiving direction.  However a phone patch transmits and receives telephone quality audio which is not high fidelity.

You should pay close attention to your own recordings and performance to assure they are high quality and to catch mistakes that the client might not hear over the phone.

I have found that ISDN is requested mostly by "media" companies. Companies that produce movie trailers or TV promos, or companies that produce material for broadcast--live interviews, syndicated programs and so forth. Perhaps in the future, casting companies and voice over agents may require it but many of them haven't caught up with the new world of talent with home studios.

The moral of the story

So what's the moral of the story? Hold off on installing ISDN capability until a pressing need--and the corresponding ability to pay for it-- arises. For now, stick to a phone patch.


Keep Talking!

by William Williams


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