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.

sourceelementsnow

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.


Requirements:

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!

CourVO

SoundStreak Windows Preview Released

soundstreakThursday I got the email I’ve been waiting for. The SoundStreak Preview Release  for Windows is out.

I’ve blogged about SoundStreak several times in the last few months.  The definitive article, featuring an interview with CEO Dan Caligor is here: SoundStreak – From the Top.

Dan sent the email…and I was excited to hear about it (1) because I’m a diehard Windows user, and (2) I have a great deal of respect for the potential of this product.

Galigor and his developer — Matthew Hensrud — have been letting me in on the beta testing.  I’ve been doing some sessions with them over the past weeks, and I’d like to think some of those instances helped a little bit.

SoundStreak’s native development was for the Mac OS, but after reaching a Beta product in that realm, SoundStreak wasted no time working on a version compatible with Win7.  It should more than double their possible user base.

Read the official SoundStreak announcement.  You’ll find all the appropriate links there to get started.  The program installs quickly.

In addition, Dan Caligor offered me a few other tidbits of information in his email:

“This preview is fully functional and largely feature-complete, and is fully interoperable with the Mac version (i.e., you can assume either the Production or Talent role on either platform and mix-and-match within sessions).  
All sessions on SoundStreak — as well as the software and account — will remain free of charge while we continue to finalize all the elements of our system. This preview is the tip of the wedge for a number of exciting changes we will be making over the next eight weeks or so.  These include new features and capabilities, a new and highly scalable back-end, multi-user and eterprise-grade account capabilities, and user and account admin portals.”
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Just briefly, for those unfamiliar:  SoundStreak maximizes an internet connection between talent and producer to provide a real-time link for studio quality remote recording.  Like ISDN, the session is usually initiated from the producer end, and both parties need to have the SoundStreak software up and running.  The producer feeds the script and even lo-res video (if needed) which appears on the talent’s screen.  Talent delivers as many takes as the producer wants…the producer listens…chooses the one he/she likes, and the “good” take is immediately downloaded in a hi-res version to the producer’s side of the equation.  All recordings also remain on the talent side of the recording.
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That’s a quick paraphrase, and there are many other handy and feature-rich nuances to the process, but the system is robust and intuitive.
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Hensrud told me that by the end of business Thursday, the new Windows Preview Release had gotten a couple of hundred hits.  ‘Not bad for the first day on the market!
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Below is a quick screen capture I did of my test session yesterday to show you the screen interface.  My promo read is horrid,  but you can see the sequencing of the countdown into the delivery of the video.  In my headphones, I was hearing all the background crowd noise of the video, plus Traci Ulman’s soundtrack, as well as the beep-beep-beep of the 3-second countdown.
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Great going SoundStreak!
CourVO

Like Lightning!

iQ5_Black_slant-displayBarely had the digital ink dried on my blog from Monday’s unveiling of the RØDE iXY before my good friend Tim Keenan (owner of Creative Media Recording) chimed in with some welcome news.

Most portable mics designed to work with iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc. come with the 19-pin connector common on the iPhone 3 and 4, and early models of the iPad and iPod.  But as I mentioned in the iXY blog, Apple is fond of designing away from 3rd-party vendors, just to keep ‘em hopping, I think.

But look at what our friends over at Zoom Electronics did!  They’ve already come up with a pretty snazzy mic

Zoom H4n

Zoom H4n

that fits Apple’s new Lightning Connector now installed on the iOS 6.0 or later (iPhone 5, iPod touch [5th generation], iPad mini, etc.).  Bingo!

As you know, Zoom is the innovator behind a number of pro-quality hand-held audio recorders…chief among them, the Zoom H4n…and now the new H2n as well.

zoomThe new unit is called the iQ5.  It has a unique ball-type design that they call “stereo mid-size microphone” that has both horizontal and vertical positioning.

From the SamsonTech website:  “…the iQ5 features a 3-position Mid-Side stereo field switch (90°, 120°, RAW) for selecting the width of your stereo field and creating incredible flexibility over your recordings. The iQ5’s 3-position gain control switch (Auto, Limit, Off) lets you quickly choose your volume settings, while its analog mic gain wheel allows you to fine tune your levels while recording.”

I don’t see a price anywhere for this unit.  It’s not even listed on the offiicial Zoom site.

The site I’m linking to here claims the Zoom iQ5 is available at Guitar Center, but Guitar Center’s online site doesn’t return any results on a site search.

Again, this disclaimer — so well elucidated by tech officianado and LA voice talent Bo Weaver:  “No mobile mic-with-tablet-and-app configuration will match the fidelity of your home studio.”  (paraphrased)

Innovation marches on!

CourVO

 

 

 

Must-See Numbers

Graphs, and statistics…data and research results…they can all be misconstrued until…

…until the preponderance of the data starts leading to much the same conclusion over and over.

THEN you know you have more than just conjecture, you have about the closest thing to predicting the future that there is.

I came across some information this week that blew me away.  It’s a SlideShare presentation, and there are 88 slides in all.  Honestly, I didn’t look at them all…YET.  But I’m going to be darn sure I do!

KPCB: Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers, is a Mega Venture Capital firm with its hands on plenty of data.  They’ve sifted the info down to the impressive SlideShare you’re about to see.

It’s all about internet stats.  You know…the internet…only the most significant cultural phenomenon since the wheel, the bible, peanut butter and electricity.  The internet…the technological game-changer that has transformed the voice-acting business and many others.

The presentation is broken down into four chapters:

  • Basic Stats (don’t ignore this section)
  • Re-Imagination (of everything)
  • Asset-Light Generation
  • USA, Inc ( a lot to be excited about in Tech…a lot to worry about in other areas)

Why should you care about internet/technology/global market trends?

If I have to explain it to you….

OK, OK… look at it this way.  You want to be out front…you want to be able to give your business the best chance it has in what is now a global economy.  Seeing “it” coming, will not only keep you from being blindsided, but it puts you on the vanguard of change.  Change is constant, and change is opportunity.

Besides, it’s just fascinating research…I guarantee… more than one of the following slides will make you raise your eyebrows.  See below.

CourVO

 

 

 

Tablet Transformation

Tablets are a game changer.

Sure, your iPad is handy for swiping through copy as you read…easy to catch up on email while waiting at the doctor’s office…but tablet computers are about to explode on the scene in ways you didn’t expect, and the jury’s still out on how that effects the business of voice-acting.

Yes, Apple’s iPad is still King, and coming out soon with a Prince of a smaller pad with a 7″-screen and at the $200 price-point that made the Amazon Kindle FIRE such a hit.  Add to that a plethora of Android-powered devices from Asus, Acer, Samsung, HTC, Sony, Fujitsu, Lenovo and others… and you’re onto some serious competition.

But wait…there’s more!  Google will soon launch it’s own mid-size tablet the the Google name on it, called the NEXUS, and early reviews are glowing…like…really good!…also around $200.

I’ve also come across some recent deep research that shows how consumers are changing their behaviors due to the increasing penetration of tablet computing in our culture.

Here are some key points:

People primarily use their tablets for consuming content. (in order)

  1. Watching Video
  2. Checking Weather
  3. Getting News

Tablet Users are trending older and more evenly distributed between the genders.

  • 74 million tablet users, up 31% in one year
  • Increasingly users are from high income households
  • Tablet penetration on course to reach 47% next year, 16% are new buyers

Android device penetration is now even with iOS

  • Kindle Fire prompted the surge
  • Samsung proliferation on Android OS contributed

Tablet Users are very satisfied and using more

  • Average use is now 14 hours/week, evening dominates
  • 74% use their tablet daily

Content is King (as always)

  • 94% access content/information
  • 67% access the internet (1/3rd outside the home)
  • 66% check email
  • 61% play games

More and more users are showing Cross-Platform tendencies 85% on 2 screens at once, 66% on 3 screens

 ALL THIS IS CREATING A HUGE NEW MARKET FOR CONTENT…ESPECIALLY SHORT-FORM NEWS & ENTERTAINMENT VIDEOS…61% of tablet owners PURCHASED content on their tablet…and the top 3 areas are entertainment, sports, and weather.  (see http://www.online-publishers.org for data)

What’s your takeaway as a voice-actor?   Indicators are that it bodes well for us.

The demand for more content invariably leads to more need for the human voice in different delivery streams.  It’s still the unsynthesized human voice that brings the best emotions out of consumers when it comes to ads, content, entertainment, information, sports and weather.

Just be ready for the agent, client, or company to say: “…we’re putting together this program for our customers on the iPad, and…”

CourVO

Bi-Linguage

Having grown up in white-bread middle-America in the 50′s, I never imagined a future for this country that accepted anything else but English. I won’t mince my words: I think it weakens our country to be bi-lingual.  That sounds odd coming from me.  I’m the son of a Swiss Immigrant, whose native tongue was French, and my mother spoke German in her Iowa farmland school and church through sixth grade.

But back then it wasn’t cool to speak anything else but English.  The elegant French pronunciation of my last name — Americanized — was:  Kor-vuh-seer’.  My father almost NEVER spoke French around the house.  He wanted to be an “American”…and that meant speaking English.

That sentiment is apparently gone, now.

Having said that…and getting back to reality…there seems to be no turning back. And besides, the arrogant attitude in America of the 60′s. 70′s and 80′s where the education system only gave lip service to learning foreign languages has hurt us all on the world stage.

So now, it seems cool to be able to hang out your voice-over shingle with the words: “BILINGUAL” or “Spanish AND English VO”.  I’d be jealous, but I’m having enough trouble enough accomplishing English.  So is it likely in my late-50′s that I’d be able to master a 2nd or 3rd language?  I’ve always been great with pronunciations (you might be surprised how many broadcasters are NOT), but believably delivering copy in two languages seems daunting.  There are so many Spanish dialects…French lilts…British acccents…American twangs.  Where would I start?

IF you’re a bi-lingual voice actor, I’m interested to know how you market yourself…whether it doubles your exposure, your opportunity, your income.  Is it twice the headache?  Do you have two rate-cards?

Please participate in my brief survey posted in the Voice-Over Friends FaceBook Group.

Or…feel free to react to THIS blog article in the comment section below.  I’d like to know your thoughts.

CourVO

Speak Text For Me

The issue of Synthetic Voices has garnered as much or more attention on this blog as any other one topic.

There are unique challenges and advantages in this area to the voice actor.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, a little backstory:  I’ve blogged about this at least 6 times in recent years:

*Synthetic Voice: Revolutionary or Repugnant?

*‘Touched a (Synthetic?) Nerve!

*More Writing On the Wall

*Synthetic Voices — this time with digital code!

*This VO Issue Won’t Go Away

*Convert Text Speech

Well, here comes another one.

Speak Text For Me.com and the Speak Text iPhone app lead you to the same service…a software solution that claims to read out loud anything you highlight on a website or a document in 20 different native languages, and that can translate from English to 30 different languages.

Google translate offers much the same functionality, but not spoken (that I know of).

Certainly the technology exists, and it’s better than ever.  The best examples of this sit at the top of a long history of software development that essentially defines the best of artificial intelligence based on powerful algorithms.  Dragon Naturally Speaking, now owned by the Software company NUANCE, is advanced in this.  From the start Amazon’s Kindle has offered the feature of text-to-speech.

But Speak Text For Me seems to go one better.  From their site:

Innovative Features:
1. Speak & translate the touched words on web pages and documents.

2. Speak & translate the whole page from start or touched words to the end sentence by sentence.
3. Search and speak the whole page from matching words to the end sentence by sentence.
4. Switch to available Google or Microsoft translating service automatically.
5. Support powerful speaking repeat, pause and speed options.

Features:
- Speak & translate web pages and documents
- Web pages
- Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint
- Apple iWork: Pages, Numbers, Keynote
- eBook (epub)
- Text, RTF document

Why VO’s should care:

#1.  Growing acceptance of synthetic voices may cut into our services.  These new innovative software products often feature outright computer-simulated human voices, replacing the need for a real human voice.  Critics claim listening to these artificially-created voices becomes monotonous and tedious.  Others listeners like it for it’s neutrality.

#2  Growing acceptance of synthetic voices may create more VO opportunities.  Example: Siri…the new artificial intelligence app in the iPhone 4s.  In every country where this app is sold, a voice-actor was contracted to speak the thousands of responses.

#3  These programs can aid in quick pronunciation help.  Sometimes in audiobook work, I spend valuable narration time doing research for foreign or difficult technical pronunciations.  A program like Speak Text For Me can be invaluable as a resource in this task.

What’s your take on all this?

CourVO

 

AudioBook Wisdom

Everyone pretty much agrees that AudioBooks are a bit of a different animal among the panoply of niche voice opportunities that stand before the working voice actor.

The general word right now is that the AudioBook Publishing industry is fertile ground for new work, ’cause the medium of audiobooks (helped along by iTunes) is booming.

A newsletter the other day from James Adams offered an especially cogent assessment of the AudioBook Publishing industry, and I’m repurposing most of it below, with the express permission of Mr. Adams.

Here’s his resume’:  James Adams is the former Managing Editor of the London Sunday Times, CEO of United Press International, founder and CEO of iDEFENSE, a cyber intelligence company, Board member at the National Security Agency and NCIS, author of 13 bestselling books on warfare and intelligence and currently Chairman of ADRevolution http://adrevolution.com.

Yeah, I know…pretty impressive.  You’ll concur after reading his articles below.

Please pay special attention to the final article:  WHAT PRICE NARRATORS?

Thanks James!

CourVO

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The Whole Pie

piehole Anybody know who first coined that term: “PIEHOLE”? (usually associated with the phrase “Shut your PieHole!”)

Regardless….in this case, PieHole is asking you to open yours….uh, your piehole, that is.

OK, wait-a-minute. PIEHOLE is the name of a company based in Ireland, that among other things, seeks to match voice talent with clients. 

Here’s the unique link, though: PieHole makes the connection through copywriters…not that uncommon in Europe, I understand.

It’s an idea that’s working.  Here’s the operative quote:  “…we stalk and harass advertising agencies to hire our voiceovers…”

PieHole is a fixture in the European ad market…expanding now into the UK and Canada, and – yes – they are seeking North American talent.

I was so intrigued, that I asked the founders – Priscilla Groves and James Kennedy – to offer a few quick answers to some pointed questions.

The result is below.  Click on the pic above to go to their site.

CourVO

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Social Media: Got Time?

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At 3:54am PST, I ponder this issue.

How much more of my personal time can I afford to give over to Social Media?

That simple question begets a rash of other questions that belie the complexity of the issue.

  • First of all is the question: “Can I afford NOT to give that time, if I want a successful freelance Voiceover business under today’s new internet paradigm?”
  • Secondly: “Is it really a burden if I’m having fun?”
  • Thirdly: “Is it really a waste of time if it’s bringing me clients?”
  • Finally: “If I DO draw a line…WHERE do I draw the line?”

(There are even more caveats, but again, you have to draw the line somewhere.)

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

I’ve been especially pondering this issue on behalf of the upcoming attendees of June’s VOICE2010 conference in LA.  Along with voice-actor Terry Daniel, I’ll be expounding on the ROI of Social Media for VO’s in a morning general session, and I hope to have some darn good answers for people who paid good money to learn something.

‘Trouble is, Social Media is such a moving target these days.  There’s a lot of flailing around in a pushing-the-envelope environment that sees trial-and-error success and failure in weeks, days, sometimes even hours.

Yet, in this new frontier, there are gold mines to be found.  Luckily there are also volumes being written daily…mostly in the blogosphere…to help.

RESOURCES

HERE is an extremely helpful, informative article entitled 10+ TIPS FOR USING TWITTER TO GROW YOUR FREELANCE BUSINESS.

And for those of you brave enough to take on Google’s latest Twitter challenge called BUZZ,  HERE is a primer for getting around, called HOW TO DO EVRYTHING IN GOOGLE BUZZ (INCLUDING TURN IT OFF).

Will you be there in June?  It really will be fun and worthwhile. I hope you try to make it.  See the registration site HERE.

CourVO