A Case Study in Fixing A Tech Issue
On Thursday I got the email that a professional voice over actor never wants to get from an agent. One of my most attentive agents took the time to email me that something was wonky with my audio. She said it sounded off, and in addition she could hear clicks and plosives that she could not normally hear. This is odd because I used isotope RX7 in my effects stack, so that never happens. She also said that my “Fs” did not sound like they usually do. While I was profoundly thankful for the feedback, my heart sank. In voice over, we are only as good as we sound, and I had recently made a ton of studio upgrades. So my mind was racing. When did these issues start? What had I submitted that sounded this way? I knew I had to fix it, and fast. I had a live commercial session the next morning with a producer I work with regularly but the client was new, and this had to be fixed prior to the session. I only had a few hours and the clock was ticking.
I immediately reached out to Tim Tippets, aka the VO Tech Guru. I had worked with Tim on the recent upgrades I made and he had created my new effects stack. I was not sure where the problem began, but I was confident Tim could fix it. I must confess, I stalked Tim. I emailed him sound to compare our baseline audio from when we had worked together several months ago and my audio from Thursday. I also texted him to see when he was around and to let him know my availability with a desperate hope that he was able to fit me in. Tim answered my prayers and made time in his super busy schedule for me later that evening. I was profoundly thankful.
Fixing The Glitch
Tim and I had a zoom session. I gave Tim control of my computer. Tim right away determined I was having a UAD software issue with my Apollo MK II Thunderbolt preamp. Somehow, at some point, I had checked a box that for my settings should never be checked. In this case, it is the preamp box. Once that box was checked, it changed all of the settings, the gain, the input, basically all the levels were completely different. We quickly realized that the baseline for the Manley Voxbox that I use was not saved on my iMac. Rather, it was still on my MacBook Air that I had used before my recent upgrade. So, I needed to send it to my new computer. Tim was amazing. He was patient and confident and in very little time he had my preamp settings restored. Further, he made sure that I was now able to restore them on my own in the future. He also took the time to tell me how to do audio play back in zoom to make my live sessions with clients better.
Why It Matters
Put simply, in voice over, we are only as good as we sound. If we want our base of clients to keep coming back, we must offer nothing less than consistently pristine audio. If my agent could hear sibilance and plosive, then it is likely it was heard in auditions and work submitted around that time as well. Part of being a professional working voice actor means having broadcast ready audio, and broadcast ready audio is perfect. Broadcast ready audio sounds as good as our demos.. It matters because our clients depend on us to provide them with great audio. It matters because our agents need us to have bookable, quality work. It matters because there is a difference between professionals and amateurs and sounding broadcast ready is one of those defining qualities.
Reflections on the Situation
If we can’t sound as good as we sound on our best day every day then we need to know how to fix it. I was fortunate, since the start of my small business, I have made a habit of surrounding myself with people that I can trust. As a working professional, I can tell you that every day is not perfect. Here is why this situation is something to write about: I had a problem, I took action, I knew whew to call, and the problem was resolved within hours, before it effected client work. As a working voice over actor, it is essential to have go-to industry partners that you trust. In this scenario, my agent was my alarm. She had my back. We always need others who will fix our crowns when they get knocked off. Then I had Tim. He had my back too. He scheduled me right away when I let me know how urgent my need was. So in the end, my audio problem was fixed because I have meaningful relationships with people in my industry. Our success may be about the sound, but it is also built upon the relationships with other people in voiceover and without that my sound would likely still be a mess.