Remote Recording: How the Media Localization Industry Tackled a Potentially Existential Threat, Part 3

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Today, we take a look at the solutions recording studios have found to mitigate the effects of a global pandemic: software and hardware.

The challenges faced while developing remote recording protocols were substantial and largely unprecedented, making the solutions found all the more impressive. As discussed in the previous articles in this series, those problems ranged from technical issues (like needing voice talents to set up audio equipment) to security issues revolving around keeping content from being leaked or otherwise improperly shared. Furthermore, studios were highly motivated to maintain the quality of their productions at the level that consumers are used to as well as to foster the same level of cooperation and collaboration that team members are accustomed to.

The solutions adopted came primarily in the form of software that would facilitate the creative and collaborative processes that everyone was familiar with. Ensuring that these processes remained comfortable and accessible for all stakeholders involved was crucial to achieving the goals of each project vis-a-vis quality and continuity of content. This meant not only ensuring that collaboration could happen, but that all parties felt comfortable with the process. In particular, those we spoke with emphasized that the comfort of voice talents was a very high priority.

For example, Valeria ZunZun explained to us that while her studio felt that video conferencing would be a key component of successful remote collaboration, they ultimately found that adding video conferencing hogged bandwidth and slowed down their remote recording sessions. Perhaps more importantly, voice talents were hesitant to share video from their homes, rendering the benefits that video conferencing would bring insignificant in comparison to the complications that would follow. Compromising on the choice of voice talents because their first choice was not trained in the technical aspects of recording was not an option.

Continuing with the same voice actors (such as in a show where characters’ voices could not simply be changed) would require quite a bit of flexibility from all involved. This flexibility requires a digital environment that enables and facilitates these necessary changes in the process. Moreover, the onus of compatibility would have to be on the team tasked with developing such a technology rather than with the teams tasked with using those solutions. That is to say that any technology proposed as a solution should replicate the in-studio workflow rather than force team members to adapt to an entirely new workflow. In addition, this software should be easy to use so that it does not present an additional hurdle for any parties. For simplicity’s sake, the companies we interviewed went with software that is browser-based, removing the need for any download or setup.

In addition to maintaining quality standards, this same software would have to keep the content being worked on secure. A common theme in the softwares deployed by SDI Media and Deluxe is that their answer to security is simply ensuring that the actual video files are never shared. Instead, various stakeholders will only be able to stream the content from within the secure app. This keeps the video files from being stored on insecure servers, vulnerable to external or internal leaks. 

While software solutions allow for collaboration without the need to be physically in the same space, there simply is no replacement for the hardware used to create high quality audio recordings. This means that voice talents must have this hardware available to them in their own homes and must either learn to set up the equipment or be guided by someone who does. Although audio engineers no longer had access to the equipment they would normally be setting up, they now had remote tools that allowed them to become coaches and guide the voice talents in setting up that equipment themselves. The equipment in question could either be set up with the guidance of an audio engineer on what specific components to acquire and how those components should interact, or, alternatively, voice talents could turn to self-contained units like Iyuno Media Group’s “field deployable recording booth.”

The development of a protocol for remote recording was plagued by a number of unknowns. It was unknown how long the pandemic would last, what measures would be safe to take, or whether or not recording remotely would be able to seamlessly replace traditional recording. Now that the framework is in place, the future of recording is open to a number of possibilities. While the pandemic continues to affect everyday life, the system in place provides a pathway for dealing with these disruptions. In the future, studios will be better prepared for disruptions of any kind, being able to switch to a remote protocol that’s already been tested and established. Content distributors and voice talents alike can expand their network of opportunities to include projects from all over the world. Overall, the media localization industry is now more connected than ever before and well set up for the potential challenges of the foreseeable future.

Check out our report on remote recording or part 1 and part 2 of this mini-series on how the media industry responded to COVID-19.

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31 March 2021

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