Uh-Oh…Here’s Another One!

audiotx stl-ipLet’s recap.  ISDN is dying.

IP-based technologies are scrabbling to fill the void ISDN will leave behind.

Top contenders in this space are:

  • ipDTL
  • Source-Connect NOW
  • SoundStreak
  • Skype

Another possibility that hasn’t done much with their patented technology is ConnectionOpen.

That’s about it.

Just yesterday ipDTL upped the ante by offering enhanced features, and a form of “free” subscription.  See Lance Blair’s excellent blog on this, as well as ipDTL’s own release.  Rebekah Wilson of Source-Connect NOW is hinting at a free version of their software, but so far, no official announcement.

But hold your horses folks!  Also in yesterday’s email was information from a source that’s been relatively silent for a long time:  Audio TX…also a UK company (like ipDTL).

AudioTX has long been a player in the ISDN space.  Their product relies on the paired copper wires of the traditional ISDN connection, but there’s no “box”…no codec, except in software form.  The advantage to AudioTX was, and has always been, the reduced price compared to a Musicam or Telos codec purchase.

I jumped on AudioTX  when I first had ISDN installed.  It was different.  All the heavy lifting in the audio transaction is handled by the computer and a terminal adaptor, instead of the codec box.  I found it quirky, and not terribly reliable, but that might’ve been my unfamiliarity with ISDN, AND their software.  It seemed to me, too much depended on the speed and capability of the computer.  I kept getting questions from producers like:  “…what kind of codec do you have again…?”

Eventually I went to a Telos box.  But even back then 3-4 years ago, part of the AudioTX software package was an IP connection.  The AudioTX people didn’t talk much about it, but the functionality was there.

Well…now they’re talking about it.  Even touting it!  Apparently they’ve noticed the marketplace shake-up lately.

They call it STL-IP.  From the website:  Transmit and receive up to 24bit, 96kHz broadcast quality audio: single- or bi-directional, stereo or mono, Linear (uncompressed) or using a variety of built-in professional quality compression algorithms including MPEG Layer 2, Layer 3, near-lossless J.41 and DAT12, ADPCM, G.722 and MPEG4 AAC, AAC Low-Delay and HE-AAC v2 with the optional AAC Coding Pack for Stereo audio from just 14kbps! and APTx, OPUS and Lossless FLAC.

Unless it’s a whole new regime of management over at AudioTX, I can tell you that this team has excellent engineering and customer service relations (sometimes one-and-the same person).  I have not communicated with them lately, but I appreciate their competitiveness in entering the market with a (hopefully) robust offering.

I DID get this email from Mo Dutta, their head of Sales:

A quick note to tell you about the new Live Record Option we’ve just launched for AudioTX Communicator.

  •    During a live session, this allows you to also record the audio direct to a file.
  •     You can record in full linear, uncompressed audio quality (a .WAV file)
  •     Or as an MP3 at any bitrate -  all the way up to 320kbps.
  •     You can choose to record the audio being sent, the audio being received or both.
  •    And if both, choose whether to record sent and record audio in separate files or mixed into one.

 If you’re a voice-over artist using Communicator for an ISDN session or a phone patch, now you can record a perfect digital quality, uncompressed copy of the audio direct to a file at the same time and then edit, upload or email it for your clients either as the primary audio delivery or as a value added service.  Or you can record as an MP3 file at any bitrate right up to 320kbps if you prefer.

 As a producer/production studio you make your workflow simpler, better, cleaner by recording the session audio direct to a file as you go and without needing any additional equipment.

 For interviews and interviewees, the Live Record Option offers a simple, clever way to record the interview easily and at the highest quality.

 Reporters can record their live reports and interviews to their local PC for later use, editing, archive or to upload a full quality uncompressed version later.

 You can purchase the new option and upgrade immediately online at:


 And, whilst you are thinking about upgrades, remember that we also offer the APTx Codec pack option adding both Standard and Enhanced APTx coding to AudioTX Communicator!

Is anybody using AudioTX still? Can you add anything to this conversation?


Skype Goes Pro Audio: What This Means for VO’s

skype-cSure, everybody loves to bash Microsoft, the most recent owner of Skype…but the truth is, the lion’s share of Skype employees live in Luxembourg, and the development team is mostly in Estonia (the birthplace of Skype).  That’s hardly a typical Redmond-based mishandling of some browser brouhaha.  Skype is one of the smartest things MS did, and they’ve been steadily improving it since the acquisition in 2011.

Skype has a huge user-base, and practically invented the concept of VOIP.  They are certainly behind the codec that seems to be powering all of the latest entries into the post-apocalyptic ISDN successors.  First known as SILK, this now totally open, royalty-free, highly versatile audio codec is universally called OPUS. (See my blog SILK Becomes an OPUS).

Opus is standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as RFC 6716 which incorporated technology from Skype’s SILK codec and Xiph.Org’s CELT codec.  SoundStreak is using it, Source-ConnectNOW, ipDTL, and now Skype, too, is announcing its own hi-fidelity broadcast quality, studio-grade, remote-recording connection called Skype TX.  Here are several write-ups:






Read all the geeky stuff about OPUS here: http://www.opus-codec.org/.


S’all good.  This is the kind of competition that makes capitalism great.  Global forces are competing for a seat at the post-ISDN table, and the menu is rich.

nailinthecoffin.jpgNo, ISDN is not going to disappear tomorrow, thanks to legacy-loving influential studios in big cities.  But the quality of these new solutions, paired with the general improvement in broadband reliability will prove to be the economical AND quality alternative that will win the day.

Users like us are the beneficiaries.  Now the marketplace can even-out…so can the opportunities.  Those voice-actors who don’t live in NYC or LA can have a shot at some of those big-studio, agency-driven jobs WITHOUT having to pay exorbitant rates for ISDN installs, hook-ups, codecs, and monthly maintenance.

Studios, too, will have a wider population of available talent from which to choose.  At least that’s how it looks on paper.  Lord knows other market forces could eventually militate against my remote-recording utopian vision.  But here’s where being a geek can be exciting.  All the technological gobbledegook DOES effect us in our workplace, our day-to-day routines, and our pocketbook.

Tomorrow, I hit the show floor at NAB.  One of my first stops will be the Source-Elements booth to talk to programming whiz Rebekah Wilson.  Maybe she’ll have some thoughts for me about all these developments.


NAB Week in Vegas

nab2014The National Association of Broadcasters hits town this week.

Broadcasting?  I thought broadcasting was dead…taken over by the internet, tablet computers, Netflix, and Twitter.

…and yet, there it is, the National Association of Broadcasters convention…among the top-5 best attended conferences in a town that hosts the biggest international conventions anywhere on the globe.

The event prompts some immediate reactions for me as I straddle the dual careers of TV News Anchor and Voice-Over talent.

  • Broadcast talent are announcers, aren’t they?  Isn’t “announcing” the most vilified voice-over delivery on the planet right now?  How ’bout that!  Don’t believe it.  Announcing is alive and well.
  • See the tag-line to NAB:  “Where CONTENT comes to life”?  This is the broadcasters’ challenge.  Bringing content to life where the audience is.
  • Where’s George Whittam? (keep checkin’ out the blog this week!)
  • Pray that “broadcast” survives… a HUGE chunk of the work that comes to voice-actors is from the programs supported by radio and TV.
  • Next to CES and NAMM, NAB is also one of the top geek haven conventions of the year…making it a great time to have a press pass.

Over the weekend, my wife and I got together with VO Promo voice Joe Cipriano, Ann Cipriano, and Joe’s friend Stoney Richards, a broadcaster from D.C., L.A., Pittsburgh, and anon.  You’ll find Stoney as a re-appearing 2014-04-05 20.52.59 HDRcharacter in Joe’s new book “On Air”.  Stoney was in town working for CBS Radio, doing interviews with country stars for the ACM awards show.  Stoney works at KDKA in Pittsburgh…one of the most venerable broadcast properties on the map.

This week, I will also meet-up with John Pozadzides and Cali  Lewis of GeekBeat TV.

Am I going to hit the NAB exhibit floor?   You bet.  I want to see Steve Savanyu at the AudioTechnica Booth, Hillary Money at Blue Microphones, and Rebekah Wilson of Source-Connect over at Booth ##C1122.

All of that is “broadcasting”… so typical of them to cast that net wide to include so much of what’s old, new, and developing…truly a broad spectrum!  I’m proud to be doubly a part of an industry working so hard to reinvent and be agile in the marketplace.

Speaking of Source-Connect…did you see that Source-Connect NOW is in its Beta-4 stage?  How many stages do they get?  I’m not sure, but every time they run out a new update it gets better and better.  In this version:

  • Record - local audio in PCM WAV format
  • Multi-connect - conference with 2 others
  • Quality - you and your guest choose what quality you send, for better bandwidth management
  • Stability - huge improvements

See the complete announcement about Source-Connect NOW’s new Beta release here.

Hopefully, I’ll get even more about Sourcce-Element’s plans for the future when I meet Rebekah Wilson, one of the driving forces behind Source-Elements.



source-connect-aWe raised a few eyebrows in the VO community when WoVO came out with its Emancipation from ISDN Proclamation, but it’s looking more and more like we read the tea leaves right.

Plumbing the waters on ANYTHING developing in our business is best done in online community groups and forums.  Lately, those platforms have been full of notices about ISDN-replacement technology. The top contenders:

All three seem to be racheting up the pace of competition, which seems mostly good for voice-actors as a whole.  YouTube videos demo’ing the tools abound, and just Wednesday, Source-Elements announced its Beta, Phase 3… meaning:

- Anyone can now make an account
- No iLok or Source-Connect is required
- Microchat: private chat for you and your guest
- Status updates: see what’s going on
- Better audio device support

- Easier connections, more feedback

See the announcement of Source-Connect NOW’s final phase of BETA service here.

Register for Source-Connect NOW, here.

VO Atlanta (starting today 3/20/14)  is preparing some live demonstrations of ipDTL and Source-Connect now…as is WoVOCon in May.

These technological developments are exciting, but nothing will move ISDN-happy production houses off their duff until the impetus comes from the rank ‘n’ file voice actor cajoling for the change.  If you operate your VO business in any other city than LA or NYC, this means you.

When you have an ISDN session with a producer, ask them quickly if they’ve tried the new technologies like ipDTL or Source-Connect NOW.  A few enterprising voice actors doing this — and conducting a test session on the spot — are finding a genuine WOW! reaction from the producers.

The demise of ISDN, and the rise of replacement technologies only saves money for all of us (production houses too), and spreads around those lucrative jobs to a wider universe of possible talent.

Give “NOW” a try.  It’s amazingly easy and intuitive, and it’s free till Tax Day!


Twisted Online

twistedwave-aMy geek genes run deep.  But you already knew that.

When I was aimlessly walking around the show floor at CES in January a bauble caught my eye, and now it’s on my desk.   I’ve been watching the growth and acceptance of ChromeBooks over past months, and when Toshiba got into the game, I saw the combination of factors that made it right for me.  Here are the specs: toshiba_CB30-A3120_chromebook

But the important figures that make this a good buy were the price ($299) the screen size (13.3 in), and feature set:  wifi, webcam, SDCard slot, 100GB of free Google Drive storage, 16GB SSD, HD Graphics, 2 USB ports, and more.

On top of that, I knew from CES that the Chromebook was FAST.  It is. The BIG question was:  could I manage all cb30-featured-herothe tasks I need in a day, as a Voice Actor, blogger, online nerd, and all-around geek, on a device that only runs Google Chrome and Google Apps?  The answer is yes.  I still drag out my trusty Acer laptop for using any Windows proprietary programs.  But only the most advanced programs are needed.  You wouldn’t believe the panoply of Google Chrome Apps and extensions available today that can answer your needs.  Besides, most of what you do is in the cloud, anyway…right?

The Google ChromeBook is a nice compromise for people like me who refuse to move to an OSX machine.  The Toshiba Chromebook acts like a Windows computer in many ways, but looks like a MacBook air, and did I mention it’s felony fast?

Here’s the other important caveat to consider: “No”, you can’t record audio on the Chromebook.  At least not passable audio.  Too bad, ’cause it runs silently.  But in furiously adding ChromeBook Apps, I noticed a Twisted Wave app… the popular editing app for iOS (they say it’s on OSX too, but I wouldn’t know).

Maybe I’m late to the party on this one, but did you know that an online version of Twisted Wave is available in Beta form?  It’s free so far, and looks to be very full-featured. How cool is this?

You can upload a file from anywhere, including an import from SoundCloud and Google Drive.  The program even comes with a bookmarklet that you can put on your browser toolbar for launching the audio editor.

Here’s a look at the window that popped up when I uploaded a demo.  (click for full view)


One less program I need a laptop for.  I figure I’ll use my ZoomH6n for remote recording on a SD card…insert the card into Chromebook for online Twisted Wave editing…and I’m off and running for hotel room auditions!

Anybody else tried Twisted Wave Online?


Should You Accept BitCoin as Payment?

bitcoinBy now, you MUST have heard of BitCoin.  Decentralized digital money.

It’s origins shrouded in mystery, BitCoin is the loose currency canon that is threatening global monetary systems, confounding financial analysts, and exciting markets with the promise of a true world-wide economy…unencumbered by boundaries, bills, or banks.

Traditional news outlets have finally picked up on the trail of BitCoin.  Mostly because one of it’s high-profile exchanges — Mt. Gox — folded.  Any time millions of dollars and thousands of investors are left in the lurch, it makes headlines.

This blog will NOT lay out a  history of BitCoin, nor attempt any sort of analysis of political, economic, or cultural forces at work — other than those that come up in the central question of whether it’s fair to consider BitCoin as a means of being paid.  For background on BitCoin, check out a couple of the following links:

What is BitCoin, and How Does it Work? (Reuters)
What is BiTcoin, and How Does it Work? (NDTVProfit)
BitCoin FAQ’s
What is BitCoin (YouTube)
BitCoin’s Current Crisis (Scientific American)Everything You Need to Know About BitCoin

The real question is whether, when, and why you would want to accept BitCoin as payment for your freelance Voice Over services.  Is there an advantage to that? How hard would that be?  How does it work?  Who would even want the pay you in BitCoin?

Hence the reason I write this blog today.  As far as I know, I’m the first voice-actor to offer to accept BitCoin as payment for voiceover services.  I do that, because I think BitCoin is something to keep your eye on.  The total number of merchants around the globe accepting BitCoin recently tripled to 3,000 (Source: CoinMap.org, Jan 2014).

Larry Greenemeier writes:  “For merchants, the advantages are clear. BitCoin is a guaranteed payment, like a cashier’s check. If you receive BitCoins, that transaction cannot be reversed at a later date by a criminal seeking to commit fraud. This has obvious advantages for merchants selling goods over the Internet. In addition, Visa, MasterCard and other credit cards cover only about 60 of the world’s nearly 200 countries. BitCoin enables anyone in any country to securely pay a merchant, without the merchant having to worry about fraud risk.”

More major retailers are poised to accept BitCoin.  Several resorts in Las Vegas already do.

Yet, so much uncertainty, intrigue, and ignorance exists surrounding BitCoin, that the questions I pose about whether you should consider BitCoin as payment — may be entirely premature.  I own ONE BitCoin myself.  I refuse to say how much I paid for it.  That’s OK, because the decentralized software system that controls BitCoin releases new currency into the supply every 10 minutes, until a maximum of 21 million BitCoins is reached.  Anything that is coveted, and yet limited, will rise in value.  At least that’s what I’m banking on in the long run.

But back to the question:  Does it behoove me as a voice-actor to accept BitCoin?  At this point probably not much of a distinct advantage… but it would:

  • make the point to your clients that you’re a forward thinker
  • widen the spectrum of acceptable payment for your services
  • theoretically give you more security and less risk than regular currency
  • offers an immediate PR pop

HOW to accept BitCoin? Surprisingly easy.  You’ll need to open an account with a Merchant Solution.  I’m using CoinBase, but there are many.  You can usually accept payment through a SmartPhone or Tablet app.  Most merchants choose to have that payment converted to US Dollars and sent to the bank connected to your merchant exchange.

This website explains accepting BitCoin as payment better than I ever could.

Now all you need are a few clients who are willing to pay in BitCoin, and you’re off and running.  Oh, and don’t think this system bypasses the IRS…it doesn’t.

Below is an interesting SlideShare presentation with more information about BitCoin that you’ll probably ever need.


Cipriano Talks Connectivity

ISDNAll the churning in online forums lately about new remote recording solutions is getting serious.  It’s also raising plenty of disclaimers that (again) the rumors of ISDN’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

World-Voices Organization recently took a bold stand encouraging people on both sides of the recording transaction (talent & producers) to wake up to the inevitable, and join in a movement that will democratize opportunity for all (and save significant amounts of money).  See WoVO’s Emancipation from ISDN Proclamation

Someone who long ago proved his chops in adopting new technology, saw WoVO’s Proclamation and called to tell me a story that seemed more than coincidental given all the a fore-mentioned churn.


Joe Cipriano

In 1994, Joe Cipriano was able to single-handedly convince the managers at the FOX network to install something called Integrated Services Digital Network lines, so he wouldn’t have to traipse down to the studios every night after-hours to cut a few promo lines.  Now he’s among a select few Network TV promo voices who all use ISDN (and sometimes Source-Connect) constantly to get his job done.

But these days, Joe is fighting a similar battle with the Network heads over the new paradigms emerging.  His call prompted me to suggest maybe we should give his compelling story a larger audience.  We agreed to record our conversation about his recent connectivity “issue” (it’s a doozie!), as further proof that no solution is a sure thing (including ISDN), and that technological advances bid us to press forward anyway.

Watch below the 15-min chat we had about Joe’s brief brush with panic, the future of connectivity, and the tough pushback from the top.  Thanks, Joe!


Joe Cipriano Talks Connectivity from Dave Courvoisier on Vimeo.


Capturing iPad Video on your Computer

reflectorapp.jpg …in the spirit of a recent rash of posts about a voice-actor’s use of video, I humbly re-submit this blog which I wrote more than a year ago, and which is still every bit relevant.

Screen capture programs are becoming more and more handy.  I’m referring to programs that can capture everything happening on your screen…video, sound, with highlights, graphics, arrows, circles, zooming…not just the capture of a still pic.

All those tutorials you see on YouTube for software programs are done using Camtasia or some other similar screen-capture program (and usually a poor quality voice-over by the dude in engineering).

But despite my requests and others, TechSmith (Camtasia’s parent company), never seemed interested in developing a similar app for capturing the activities on an iPad screen.  There was a lot of talk for a while, but no action.

Now, there’s something available that settles the issue.

REFLECTOR is an inexpensive and simple-to-install program for Mac or Windows machine that mirrors everything from your iPad screen to your computer screen.  So whatever you manipulate on your iPad (or iPhone) will appear there on your laptop.  It requires an iPad2 or newer, which has the AirPlay mirror program already built-in to the iOS.

You install and run the reflector app in the background, then access AirPlay on your iOS device.  There’s  nothing to install on your iPhone or iPad.  The AirPlay function lets you choose which device you want to “reflect” on your computer, and there it is!

At that point, you still need to use Camtasia or some other less expensive screen capture program on your laptop to make a video of what you’re doing on the iPad (mirrored on your laptop).  (I hope that wasn’t confusing.)

I’m embedding a video below to show you how really well this works…very easy to set-up, free from Reflector, and comes with good tutorials, and help FAQ’s.


Source-Elements Debuts “NOW”

source-connect-aIn the midst of an unbridled enthusiasm for ipDtL… one of the first providers of non-ISDN remote, high-quality recording — Source Elements — is out with a compelling competing product.

Even as World-Voices Organization calls for an industry-wide end to ISDN, pretenders to the throne are emerging with strong statements as replacements.

ipDtL and SoundStreak are both gaining traction as alternatives.  There are others, but for years, Source-Connect has been a viable and working (if low key) solution to an ISDN workaround.

Now, apparently, feeling the heat of other contenders, Source-Elements has gotten busy with it’s own offering.

I had the pleasure of being in an active working online session for SourceConnect Now with Rebekah Wilson of Source-Elements.  At this point, registered NOW users cannot just sign-in and connect with other registered users; a Source-Elements customer service person has to initiate the internet transaction, but this is just temporary.


screen capture of my live session with Source-Connect NOW showing simple and intuitive program interface

For this Beta test, I had to perform a registration, then a log-in (X2), but Rebekah tells me by next week, it’ll be a one-click process. After the log-in, it’s a truly brainless interchange… in seconds I was connected with Rebekah in a seamless, solid, and quality voice transaction.  You’ll see VU meters actively reflecting the voice from your end, and the other end.

Again, this was only so effortless because I was already a registered Source-Connect user.  She was not forthcoming with a pricing structure at this point, but I can only imagine that it is competitive (has to be).

I got the sense from Rebekah that they were on the verge of a public debut, and that’s why they’ve been so generous with granting interviews, and getting word out on social media today.  Word of this product was circulating under the radar for weeks, and with this revealing look, it’s clear Source-Elements is:

1) serious about being agressive in this space
2) clearly putting some forethought into design and marketplace
3) reacting to customer demand for an easy-to-use ISDN alternative for both talent and producer/engineer.

From the “NOW” Beta website, some specs:

Beta Features:

Opus codec
Set at 128kbps for professional high-quality audio.

ISDN-like workflow
Low-latency bi-directional audio.

Conference up to 10 connections
Only limited by your bandwidth.

For music and voice
Send high-quality mono, dual mono or stereo.
Mono: Voiceover and remote ADR sessions
Dual mono: Two discrete microphones or timecode
Stereo: High-quality music monitoring and review

Easy-to-make Connections
Self-configuring, easy-to-make connections
No port-forwarding required, works on most networks automatically.


Mac OSX, Windows, Linux or ChromeOS
Compatible with any OS that supports Chrome Browser.

Audio device
A stereo or multi-mono CoreAudio, ASIO or Linux audio device set to 48000hz sample-rate.

Chrome Browser version 32 or higher.
Chrome Beta 33 recommended due to audio bug where you cannot set your own output with Chrome 32.

Watch this blog for further developments on this exciting product very soon!  Nice work, Source-Elements!


Seizing the Moment

seize the momentPeople wonder why I hammer away at the one big issue that faces us all.  I’m not even sure what to call it… but it has to do with the impending death of ISDN, and pretenders to the throne.

A voice-over friend in Canada wrote me yesterday to ask my opinion of  ipDtL.  I hope he won’t mind my copying his frustration, which was perfectly captured in his comments to me:  “…Now the VO talent  community is being asked to fork over cash to basically keep trying these new technologies until one or more of them is adopted.  The post-ISDN landscape is fragmented, and regardless of its low cost of entry for IPDTL is just “one more thing”… IP based ISDN replacements have a *brutal* adoption rate  because US and Canadian ISPs have a stranglehold on the reliable plans that we all need to use an IP based solution. I can’t imagine that ipDTL is going to fare any better. Fragmented adoption, piecemeal compatibility across client bases…”

Virtually every up-and-coming solution  –  and there are several good ones:  Source-Connect, SoundStreak, ipDtL…even Skype — will need to climb the same mountain blocking adoption:  acceptance from the big guys…the producers, the studios, the audio engineers.  Most all of them will not budge from using over-priced ISDN lines until the TelCo’s come over to their place of business ipdtl-aand rip the paired wires from the ground.

Oh, a few are watching the landscape…wringing their hands, and dipping their toe in the water, but in the meantime, our freelance voice-over colleagues are getting reamed by ever-increasing monthly ISDN fees.  In Wisconsin and Michigan, for instance, reports of monthly ISDN fees approaching $500.  There’s a threshold…a point of diminishing returns that the big phone companies are pushing so that ISDN will go away.  They’re losing money on it, and they make no bones about their distaste for continuing to support it.

Fine, then… let’s give ‘em their wish.  Only…which option?  The debate rises above the old “Beta vs. VHS” stand-off from years past because the market is undecided.

powwerIn the end, WE will push the point.  Voice actors. We have to.  It’s in our best interest.  To get the best deal on breaking the stranglehold that ISDN and East-Coast, West-Coast studios have on our business, all of “the rest of us” are going to have to make our preference known to the studios.  We need to seize the moment.  Once ISDN goes away, and the democratization of hi-fidelity remote recording from anywhere is realized over IP… it won’t matter WHICH big city you live in or don’t live in… you can step up and compete for a big piece of the pie like never before.

It’s already happening.  ipDtL & SoundStreak users are gently urging their remote recording studios to “give it a try, and see how easy it is, and how good it sounds”.  One by one they’ll fall.  One by one, they’ll have to be convinced.

Start now. The sooner you do, the sooner you will grow your business and help the business of voiceovers progress past this logjam.