Source Connect (SC) is a technology that was created by a company called Source-Elements. As it concerns us VO talents, there are two versions of the technology: Source-Connect Standard (paid version) and Source-Connect Now (free).
If you’re recording voice acting auditions these days, whether through agents or pay to play sites, you’ve heard the term. The technology allows the transmission, in real time, of very high-quality audio from one location to another via a high-speed internet connection. As such, it allows a commercial studio to receive and record the microphone feed of another studio in a different location. This is typically used when a voice actor can’t come to the commercial studio in person.
Before so many voice talents had professional home studios, if you booked a job that was meant to record in New York, but you were in Houston, the client might have gotten you to go to a studio in Houston so that the studio in New York could connect to it (via the SC app that both studios had). This way, the client in New York could record you as if you were in their studio, in person. The technology is quite amazing: you talk into a microphone in Houston, the high-quality audio signal gets transmitted via the internet, and the New York studio receives and records the performance as if you were talking into one of their microphones. The studio in New York has full control of your microphone feed. In the voice over industry, we call this “recording remotely”.
When was Source-Connect created?
SC was created in 2005 as an alternative to its predecessor, ISDN. This technology was created in 1986 (initially for the army, then for broadcast TV and radio). ISDN still exists today and works via phone lines (land lines). Though it transmits excellent audio, it’s extremely expensive and difficult to set up. In fact, phone companies are phasing this technology out. Source-Connect is much more affordable and much more flexible. To use it, two parties can simply connect via a wired internet connection (and the SC app of course).
To make SC work, you’ll need high-speed internet (at least 3MB upload speed) and to connect a traditional RJ 45 internet wire between your modem and your computer (wireless connections don’t work). Note that if you aren’t paying for high speed internet, you probably won’t have enough bandwidth. Unless you have exceptionally good Internet in your neighborhood, paying for higher speed internet is often required for studio-to-studio sessions.
Why Clients Use Source-Connect
If you have your own home voice acting studio, you may be thinking: “I have a voice over booth I record from, why is there another studio in the mix? I can record the audio and send it to the client.” Or: “Clients can just call me while I record, and I’ll send them the audio file right after.”
While you may have a great voice over studio space and great voice over recording equipment, when clients hire a commercial studio to connect to yours it’s generally because that studio is in charge of all the audio on the production (whether it’s a commercial, narration, animation, video game, etc.) For instance:
- The audio engineers at the commercial studio may be composing music or sound effects for the client;
- Engineers may want to put effects (via high end preamps and compressors) on your voice to make you sound as amazing as humanely (or technologically) possible;
- Clients may also want to hear you as if you were right there in the studio with them when you’re performing. Since the audio from an SC connection is high-quality, clients get a better idea of what you’ll actually sound like in the finished product.
- A commercial studio will also be able to mix your audio with the client’s video (if available) in real time, allowing the client to make last minute changes to your script or performance.
All of this gives clients full control of the production. The higher end the production, the nit-pickier clients are, and that’s often when a technology like SC comes in (others exist, like iPDTL, which works equally well, but is more common in Europe where it was created).
What About Skype or a Cell Phone?
Keep in mind that when clients call into your studio with Skype or a cell phone, they miss many nuances in your performance because some of the audio is not being transmitted (listen to the audio quality of a voicemail; it’s sub-par). Also, when clients aren’t using SC, they have to wait until you email them the audio files and until someone mixes it into the production to really get a sense of how it all works together. This process may not suit a client who is hired to make a production sound flawless in one session. In fact, poor sound quality and an inability to mix audio and video in real-time is the reason sessions conducted over the phone can trigger so many revisions (text and performance). Clients aren’t spending the time or money to get it right the first time.
How Can You Prepare for Source-Connect?
Due to the quality of the audio that’s transmitted in a SC recording session, you’ll want to make sure your voice over studio’s room tone is very silent and that you have an analog (XLR) voice over microphone before subscribing to the service. Also, be sure you’re booking jobs before buying this as it’s expensive ($650, plus another smaller yearly support fee). That said, you can prepare for it in the event you need it. To do so:
- Look into getting a high-speed internet connection (how long does it take to get the service if you needed it right away?);
- Get the RJ 45 internet wire out of your old wire bin (or order it) and make sure you can plug it into your computer (if not, get an adaptor);
- If the computer you’re using to record audio has a fan that can turn on intermittently, be sure it sits outside of your recording space);
- Look into Source Connect Now (free version).
If you have everything ready, you’ll be in a position to pull the trigger when you book a job. Keep in mind that you’ll most definitely need help from customer service before being able to use SC and their department may be backed up, so plan for that.
What Kind of Client likes Source-Connect?
As far as which clients use it most and what connection they prefer, during the pandemic, some union clients have been working with actors who have the free version (SC Now), but the paid version (SC Standard) is always preferred. Either way, SC sessions are much more common in the union sector than in the non-union sector, though the technology is also used there (the free version doesn’t seem popular).
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