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Voice Over Studio Equipment REAPER Recording and Editing

Voice Over Studio Equipment : Analog to Digital with Lance Blair

Voice Over Studio Equipment : Analog to Digital

When you book me for your voice over project, you are hiring my voice and talent: but also my expertise and training. And along with that, you are hiring me for my time, often including a built in rate for editing the voice over audio sessions into video edit-ready sound files. But you are also hiring me for my voice over studio equipment. Let’s go through the signal chain of my studio, from my voice to your ear.

1.) First, I am using a new Rode NT1 large diaphragm condenser microphone with 4.5 dBA self noise. Love it more than the TLM-103 or the CAD E100S I used to own! Great for voicing everything from videogames to e-learning.  For my travel rig, I use a Rode NTG3 microphone. It has the same sound as a Sennheiser MKH 416, but with a little more response around 100-200 Hz. It has the same self noise of 13 dBA : but in practice the self-noise is lower because the Rode has a significantly louder output. So you don’t need to crank up the gain to get a full, clean signal that cuts through the mix but isn’t brittle. Perfect for voice over. I leant out my microphone to the VO Atlanta Conference remote recording booth while I attended and the talents and engineer George Whittam were very pleased with it.

2.) Next in the chain of my voice over studio equipment, my mic is plugged into high quality Mogami Gold XLR cables and mounted with a strong and quiet Rode PSA1 Boom Arm. It’s true that you don’t need massively expensive XLR cables, but the quality ones like Mogami, ProCo, and Canare do sound better than the cheap ones and have higher shielding coverage.

3.) From there, the cable runs to my Soundcraft Signature 10 USB mixer with nice Ghost preamps in them. All I have to do to play back any audio down the line during a remotely directed session is just call up stereo fader 9/10! But don’t forget that everything should have clean, reliable power. That’s why everything in my studio is powered with M-8×2 power conditioners plugged into Liebert UPC Battery Backup / Surge Protector units. I recommend the Liebert models over APC.

For my travel rig, I pair my NTG3 with a Focusrite 2i2 New Generation audio interface. The New Generation model, which is a great improvement over the first generation model that I once owned, has a great sound with extremely low latency and good headphone amplifiers. It’s conveniently travel-sized and you can buy them anywhere if needed

On the Digital Side of Recording Voice Overs

4.) The Focusrite interfaces then connects to my brand new iMac. Yes, after 12 years in the voice over business I’ve switched from a PC to a Mac! The final straw was that Windows 10 is simply incompatible with modern audio streaming services. A Mac is fool proof when working with drivers and streaming products. The iMac is silent, even though I record in a separate booth with a tablet and script stand. I didn’t go for a laptop as I prefer to have the larger 21″ screen for editing. I can still record on my PC laptop on the road. But I’m home at my studio with my voice over studio equipment nearly year round, even during holidays!

5.) Inside the iMac is my new favorite tool: the REAPER DAW. I’ve ditched my Adobe Audition Creative Cloud subscription, and REAPER can do so much more. What’s it like? Check out this video showing my open source customized REAPER skin. Amazingly, this video was edited and exported using REAPER without the use of any video editing tools. It’s that powerful. And it costs about the same as one year subscription to Audition Creative Cloud, but then you’re not renting it. You own it! To get the most out of my DAW, I record at 48 kHz 24 bit, no matter what the final file resolution is. Always the best quality for source material!

If you’re a corporate or E Learning producer with limited audio editing and processing capabilities, I can process the files for you using my suite of plugins to give you nice, gently processed, ready to publish audio with -3dBFS peaks. I was an audio engineer for film and broadcast years before I was a voice talent, so you can trust me on this! In the video below, I have recorded audio as-is in blue, and then the following yellow section is the same audio fully processed.

Voice Over Recording and Editing with REAPER from Lance Blair Voice Over on Vimeo.

You can connect with me on phone patch, Skype, or ipDTL. I even have an ipDTL to ISDN bridge at +1 213 228 6850. After the recording is done, I proof everything listening to my Yamaha HS50M monitors or Sennheiser HD280 headphones.

When you hire me, you are getting my voice, training, time, experience, and my voice over studio equipment. All having the highest quality. My goal is always quick turnaround, and lasting results.

All the best,
Lance

Atlernatives to Chrome for Voice Over Studio Connections

Alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming Voice Over Studio Connections

Why You Need Alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming

There are many resources now for streaming audio over an internet browser, such as ipDTL, SessionLinkPro, and Bodalgocall. While conventional wisdom says to use such streaming services on a Chrome browser, that’s not necessarily your only, or best, choice. There are now also many alternatives to Chrome for audio streaming voice over studio connections. Chrome uses the Opus Codec for streaming audio, but what is Chrome? It’s an Open Source Chromium browser. The difference between a Chrome and Chromium browser is well explained in this How-To Geek article. There are many of those other than Chrome, and they’re not made by Alphabet / Google. So, in fact, you can use these services in most cases with any Open Source Chromium browser such as Opera or Yandex. I was the first voice over talent to test ipDTL on either of those browsers and I regularly run my sessions with the Opera browser. But why would you need alternatives to Chrome for Audio Streaming? Consider the following four points:

  1. Chrome is a big resource drain on computers. Enough said.
  2. Google is always stripping out or killing off programs and capabilities, as well as releasing incompatible upgrades. Can you trust Chrome will always work?
  3. Privacy concerns. If you don’t already know how invasive Google is, Bing or Duck Duck Go it.
  4. Redundancy and backup services. Always good policy to have backups in the toolbox for audio streaming voice over in case Chrome lets you down.

    Your Options with Google and Microsoft.

Outside of Opera and Yandex, there is another Chrome solution other than the latest Chrome browser. The support staff at ipDTL recommends using the M57 and not the latest version of Chrome. ipDTL has also released stable Chromium versions which are free to download at the Facebook ipDTL Users Group. Join up, and then search for Chromium Browsers. I highly recommend the group for all your technical questions related to ipDTL, and they’re very quick and helpful with their responses.

As for the Edge browser, they’re getting closer to supporting Opus Codec for streaming but dragging their heels. Recall that a few years back Microsoft promised a Skype TX high-quality audio streaming voice over service but that was all hype and no action. Not even an alpha version was developed. So, don’t hold your breath for that.

Streaming Audio with Firefox Quantum.

However, Firefox has upped their game in so many ways with the new Firefox Quantum browser. It’s fast, stable, and works with almost any application or site. Most of all, while Firefox has supported Opus Codec since 2012, it now supports audio streaming solutions. I’ve successfully used it on many sessions on Windows 10 with ipDTL and SessionLink Pro. Still, there is not complete support/compatibility with Firefox Quantum, but it’s very close. I asked Kevin Leach of In:Quality, the company behind ipDTL and he replied:

“Frustratingly, Firefox has always been slightly behind the Blink based browsers such as Chrome in terms of what we need to get the best out of ipDTL. That said, it’s come on some way recently and you can now run ipDTL in Firefox with just a couple of limitations, and this is a neat solution for those who have had audio problems between Chrome and Windows 10.

We’ve actually been throwing some of our own development effort into Firefox recently – as its open source structure allows us to do so – which should hopefully see things like output device selection being possible in the near future. This means that we’ll soon be able to announce full support for Firefox in ipDTL, allowing for greater flexibility in browser choice. Our contribution here will also benefit users of ipDTL ‘lookalike’ apps.”

So there you have it. If you need alternatives to Chrome for audio streaming voice over studio connections you have several choices: M57 Chrome, Custom Chromium, Opera, Yandex, and Firefox Quantum.
Good luck, and here’s wishing you a great session!

-Lance

How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients? Soundcraft Signature 10 Mixer

How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients?

A Full-Solution Mixer for the Voice Over Studio

Voice Over Talent and some producers and directors ask me “How Do You Playback Audio to Voice Over Clients?” for remote recording sessions. Soundcraft recently released their new small format audio mixer the Signature 10. I’m pleased to report that it’s an all-in one solution for the voice over studio that makes that easy. It has:

1.) Great sounding mic preamps
2.) Solid USB Interface with nice converters
3.) Ability to playback any computer audio source to a director/client (including your DAW) without extra routing.

I added it to my voice over studio because I wanted a 2-in/2-out USB interface like the Focusrite Scarlett but with better preamps. Unfortunately with Scarlett interfaces, even when one goes line-in from an external preamp on the bigger Focusrite models, the audio still goes through the Scarlett preamp. That’s not terrible, but I wanted something better, with the ability to run a HPF as I recorded if possible. The Signature 10 mixer has its own downloadable ASIO driver, just like the Scarlett. So it’s an interface and preamp all-in-one. And yes, the preamps, conversion, and playback all sounds better on the Signature 10 for $300 street price.

The Game Changer: Playback any Audio to Your Clients

But this isn’t just a Soundcraft mixer…it’s an invaluable voice over tool! You can playback any audio source from your computer to the client without doing any routing tricks. The 9/10 Channel Fader controls the playback from your computer…and it goes right back down the main output as long as that it up. So anything you just recorded in ProTools or Audition you can just cue it up and play, and control the output with the fader. Any streaming sound from YouTube or Vimeo can go down the line too. And, as a bonus, this works with all the remote recording solutions like ipDTL, Skype, SessionLinkPro, Source Connect Now…well, anything that you are connected to. If the client can hear you, they will hear the playback on command.

The only trick to this is that you will need to Mute Channel 9/10 so that it doesn’t go to your DAW while recording, and then un-mute it when you want to do playback. In order to monitor in your headphones, you will have to engage the PFL (Pre Fader Listen) buttons near the faders on your mic channel and the 9/10 channel to hear your voice over director. Easy peasy! Or, if you want to get fancy, go ahead and don’t mute the client. But record stereo files and record your mic on the left channel and pan the client to the right. That can be very helpful when you want to hear the client feedback for notes when editing.

Update: I discussed this with voice over tech guru George Whittam and he said that the Yamaha AG03 also has this ability in a small travel-size mixer for half the price. If you don’t need the extra inputs, additional routing, nice EQ and preamps (although the Yamaha preamps are definitely professional-grade) then the AG03 is a great solution also. I think I’ll be getting one for my travel rig!

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence

I recently had the pleasure of discussing International Voice Over Production with Audiovisual Intelligence chief, Alex Jacobi. His company has two main studios: one in Dusseldorf, and their headquarters in Aachen, Germany. The studios feature a growing staff of 27 media experts. He founded the company over ten years ago when he made the switch from being a music producer to producing sound for commercial work. He realized that he would need a reliable roster of voice over talent for the amount of corporate video work he was producing. As a result, he decided to create a web tool for that, and sprechersprecher.de was born.

Today they are the largest voice casting company in Germany with a vast international scope. AI features over 12,000 voice over talents in over 40 languages. Along with sprechersprecher.de, Audiovisual Intelligence also has an online presence with their casting app Wundervoices. The app design helps producers find the exact voice talents they need. More importantly, these are all vetted native speakers: judged for their talent and studio specifications. You can listen to an excerpt from our interview here:

ipDTL for Remote International Recording

On the many projects that I have recorded for AI, we have used ipDTL to connect my Atlanta studio to their German studios. Alex Jacobi notes that ipDTL is fantastic not just because it’s a cheaper ISDN replacement, but because they work with global talents in their native countries, including Southeast Asia and Africa. For this, the ease of use and ubiquity of ipDTL makes it the great choice for remote international recording. Also, it even works with a Chromebook. Audiovisual Intelligence screens native speakers of dialects through two-to-three other native speakers for approval. They also work with native speakers to get the copy just right for multi-lingual productions. This is especially true for their work for FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) voice over clients.

Future Trends in Voice Over Casting

In conclusion, Alex Jacobi notes future trends in voice over casting are influenced by manufacturers now producing their commercials and videos internally with extensive marketing departments. However, marketers do not necessarily have the same skill set or expertise as the media producers and directors one would see on similar projects 20 years ago.  Casting companies need to provide voice over solutions and knowledge for them in many languages. That’s where Alex Jacobi’s company comes in to provide Audiovisual Intelligence.

2016 Voice Over Year in Review

My 2016 Voice Over Year

My 2016 Voice Over Year in Review

2016 was a trying, stressful year for many of us. Fortunately, my family didn’t suffer any calamities. Well, a tree feel on my house. Our hot water heater caught on fire. But fortunately nobody was hurt!  My 2016 voice over year in review was thankfully rewarding and satisfying. I learned a lot. Tried to do things differently. Reach out to new people and new ways of thinking. Stray outside my comfort zone whenever possible. So here we are at the end of 2016, looking forward to a great 2017! Why has the year been so rewarding? Because I made a point of investing in my career.

Investing in My Brand

First off, I invested in getting a new professionally produced commercial demo to enhance my brand and marketability. I enlisted the coaching, directional, and audio production talents of Eric Romanowski at Ear Blowing Audio in Virgina Beach, Virginia. As I’m in Atlanta, we collaborated at length over emails and recorded the sessions via my ipDTL account. He really captured my money reads and then pushed some of it into new directions. And the investment has paid off, in ways I could not have expected. For example, I had never done television spots for toys and now I’ve done several for well known brands. On my own, I’ve compiled and edited my new audio and video demo reels for Corporate, E-learning, Explainer Video, and MOH/IVR voice overs from pieces of actual work.

Investing in My Relationships

Secondly, I invested in the time to learn from others. One of the best things I did this year was attend VO Atlanta in March for the first time. The panel discussions and seminars were outstanding, and it was great to meet so many people that I knew well online but not IRL! Plus, I got to meet new people in person that now I know well online too. I’ll be attending again this coming March. Come see me at the ipDTL booth where I’ll be available to discuss what it’s like to use it as voice over talent.

Speaking of ipDTL, I invested in the ‘Tel’ subscription of ipDTL. Not only can I bridge to ISDN on-demand, and stream live to studios; but it’s also a superior replacement for phone patch and Skype. It even works fantastic for connecting to mobile lines if I drop the rate to 64 kbps. So many of my clients love using it to direct sessions live, and it’s really made all those old cranky phone patch or Skype sessions sound so much better and go more smoothly.

Investing in My Voice Over Studio

When it comes to investing in one’s voice over career, there’s always the opportunity to upgrade one’s studio. I upgraded from Adobe Audition 3 to Audition CC. Yes, the monthly subscription is a bit much, but I think of it as an investment. It’s as if it is my monthly rent for my digital office. And it’s the price of doing business in a way that provides the best results for my clients.

I also upgraded from a CAD E100s microphone to a Rode NT-1. Same self-noise level but the Rode has a much hotter output and a more flattering tone for my voice. I love it! I’ve owned a TLM-103 and a MKH-416 in the past. The NT-1 sounds very similar to the 103 but with a tighter pattern; it also doesn’t sound tubby and phasey like a 416 can if you’re not working it closely. I also switched from the first generation Scarlett interface to the Second Generation Scarlett which is an improvement in so many ways: preamp, latency, controls, and in the ability to switch seamlessly between programs and sample rates. I’ve got my eye on the new Millennia one-channel preamp for an upgrade in 2017!

Finally, what I am most grateful for in 2016 are my repeat clients and my new clients that have become repeat clients in this year. One of the best parts of my job is building relationships with people from all kinds of businesses from all around the world. I look forward to working with all my clients in the new year.

ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution

ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Voice Over Remote Recording Solution

ipDTL : Broadcast Quality Multi-Party Audio

In:Quality has launched its ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution. As a result of the new upgrades and features, ipDTL becomes the here-to-stay complete remote recording solution for live-directing of voice over sessions. The new Silver subscription allows 2 simultaneous connections of low-latency broadcast-quality audio and the Gold subscription makes 4 connections. Most of all, it lets you connect to anything: ip, ISDN, land lines, and mobile phones.

And, in a first for ip voice over products, one can record the incoming audio as mp3 or wav files! Here’s a .wav sample of one of the many recent tests I ran of the beta version of the upgrade. I’m joined in the test I recorded within ipDTL at my Atlanta studio by Jan Anderson from the San Francisco Bay Area and Andy Kavanagh from Newcastle in the United Kingdom.

First of all, check out this video from Kevin Leach of ipDTL explaining how the new features work:

 

ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution

With the new Third Anniversary beta updates, ipDTL can do what ISDN can’t:
1. Much lower latency
2. Lower latency with two simultaneous connections: with an additional option for four simultaneous connections in the premium studio versions.
3. The ability to solo inputs with PFL options via the interface mixer
4. The ability (finally!) to record the incoming audio via ipDTL
5. The ability to record the incoming audio and download as separate takes either as a high-resolution .mp3 or as a 48 kHz 16 bit stereo .wav file.
6. Live chat feature which will keep all parties connected online even if the audio or video connection is dropped.
7. Live collaborative script editor. Paste in your entire script from word!
8. With the new “Tel” and “Tel +” subscription options, you can also still bridge to ISDN on-demand 24/7/365
9. Also, with “Tel” you can connect to land lines. No more terrible Skype Connections
10. With “Tel +” you can connect to land and mobile phones and call ISDN lines. Standard Tel can only receive ISDN calls.

New Audio Mixer interface 

Let’s walk through the faders from left to right:

  1. Red fader controls the send level of your microphone
  2. Blue fader controls the level of the uploaded playback audio clips (another great ipDTL feature)
  3. Maroon fader controls the first ipDTL user you connect to.
  4. Orange fader controls the second ipDTL user you connect to.
  5. Black fader controls the total output of the mixer that you send ‘down the line’
  6. Finally, the Silver fader controls the mixed feed to the ‘Receive Audio’ device. It doesn’t include the audio you send down the line.

There will always be very good reasons to use ISDN for many applications. Live broadcast events springs to mind. However, as a production solution for live-direction of remote session voice overs, ipDTL is all-encompassing. The ipDTL 3rd Anniversary Upgrades Remote Recording Voice Over Solution is a comprehensive solution for media production: voice overs, music production, interviews, podcasting, and mult-party voice acting.

Don’t Settle for Skype! Use ipDTL

Because so many remote sessions are being done by producers on their cellphones or in conference calls, don’t settle for Skype to interface with.  Skype doesn’t cut it. Classic phone patch doesn’t cut it. The audio is terrible. How many times do you have to ask the talent “Um, I’m not sure if you said the plural S on the end of the product name in the fifth line?” Yet that won’t happen with ipDTL.  It’s been years since Skype promised a high-quality audio “Skype TX” and it was never delivered.

In conclusion, ipDTL has been good on its promises to improve every year and listen to the demands of the media production people that use it all over the world. As a result, the ipDTL 3rd Anniversary version delivers on being the complete remote recording voice over solution.

Find Out More about ipDTL

To get an ipDTL subscription, go to https://ipdtl.com/#getipdtl

To find out what voice over  and radio studios and voice talents around the world are using ipDTL, visit https://ipdtl.com/network/

Finally, to find out more general inquires and technical specs of ipDTL, please see https://ipdtl.com/faqs.php