3 thoughts on voice over technology – iAudition, do you?

Like all things gadget and quasi-technical, I think it was Dave Courvoisier who first posted something about the new i-phone application called iAudition which promises: “You can record, edit and send your auditions from wherever you are, without the need for a recording studio or computer!”

It dices, it slices it even make julienne fries! But wait, there’s more!

Well then George Washington, III chimed in with his experience on the device. As I am not nor really ever been a pioneer on technical items, I figured now that these two fellas had tried it, maybe for a penny under $5 I could try it for my iphone.

So I pinged in Facebook that I had done just that and one of the comments I got in response to that post got me to thinking.

Facebook friend and voice talent Don Capone opined “bottom line… it maybe ok for a quick edit or to… but lets be real…the audio recording quality is hideous… but i guess if its a must have situation and u need to do a quick audition…”

I love comments like Don’s because they start me thinking and in this case three thoughts popped into my head.

1. The technology boat will leave with or without us
It is pathetically obvious to even the most unengaged user of technology that as soon as you buy the newest computer at the store, it’s outdated in some aspect of its internal technology. Beyond computers, it the tech sectors business model – always be improving so customers will buy your newer stuff.

This is, to my knowledge, one of the first apps of its kind for iPhone and it’s very specifically targeted my area of business. Obviously my biggest concern with something like iAudition is audio fidelity and quality…so will Don be proven right? Will I hate it?

I won’t know unless I try it and at under $5, I can roll the dice on this technology.

2. As technology changes, so do people’s expectations
As an example: black and white TV’s died when a successful color TV model was invented. HDTV is having the same effect on analog. People expect better.

BUT sometimes people’s expectations for quality can be lowered and those lower expectations become acceptable. One example I site is this: I remember, growing up, that people always dressed up when one flew on an airplane; jackets and ties were the norm. Now it’s just nice if people keep their flip flops on during the whole flight.

In voiceover, the same thing has happened whether we like it or not. Recording studios and their amazing acoustics have given way to home studios where voice talents manage their acoustics with bed foam and moving van blankets…the clients know not the the recording room difference most times when they listen to the finished file.

Remember when voice over agencies ruled the business? Most professional voice talents signed with an agency and the agency did all the marketing for the talent (one might even go to the agent or the client’s office to audition). Now the Voices.com and Voice123’s of the world have changed that dynamic. And while some of their clients offer fine quality audio recordings and performances, some are pathetic in both those measures. But because those lesser talents will work for pennies on the dollar, they get work.

Sacrificing quality for lower cost is an American retail tradition. Which led me to think…

3. What is the tipping point for “acceptable” audio fidelity on auditions?
Whatever it is today, I think it will be different tomorrow. In much the same way America had recording studio quality standards years ago, today radio stations will seemingly broadcast almost anything for ad dollars and I can’t blame them. And video not audio has always been a prime focus for television ads as anyone who has ever watched a local cable ad can attest.

So what about when auditioning? Will clients and production houses sacrifice pristine audio quality on auditions since they are only auditions? Shouldn’t the audio quality of the audio represent the level of the finished product should that voice talent get the job? Or will the client assume that can all be fixed in post?

It’s an evolving answer but as our national consciousness seems to be focusing on faster and easier more so than better and quality, I think this debate in the voiceover industry isn’t but a year or so away from getting a clearer answer.

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13 Responses to “3 thoughts on voice over technology – iAudition, do you?”

  1. Great thoughts, Peter, and thanks for the mention.

    Change — as “they” say — is the only constant. I agree with you on all points. But oddly, I find, in this world of razor-sharp HD video, another force is at work to ameliorate the expectation for quality pictures: YouTube.

    People will sit at their computers and watch for hours the crappiest, low-res, bad-angle, shaky video. I know, I have a 16-yr-old who does!

    So…change, yes…always better? Not necessarily.

    Dave Courvoisier

  2. My fear is that by the time my kids are 16, they’ll have a computer chip implanted in their heads. It probably won’t go well from there! Thanks Dave.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  3. Peter, it is a valid question.

    How far down do we go in quality before we see it as “unacceptable?” I suppose that depends on who you are working with. There is no way I would have submitted the audio I did for someone who had never heard me before. But in a pinch, I was able to get the audio in when there was no way I could have gotten anything in before late in the evening.

    Ultimately, in the case of iAudition, it is a product better served by the iPad and a full USB mic. The potential is there for a pretty significant breakthrough in ease of use and portability (if you consider the almost gargantuan iPad portable). But this is all part of the democratizing effect of technology. As tech moves down the scale of price, barriers to entry fall. I myself am a prime example of it.

    There is a pretty lively conversation about this topic raging on the Working Voice Actors group on LinkedIn. But in the end, I agree: it isn’t always going to be better. But in the world of faster, better isn’t always the answer.

  4. As a professional voice talent and audio producer – I can see, MAYBE, a few times a year where this application might be handy – for AUDITION purposes ONLY offcourse. The audio quality is atrocious – and, from a professional point of view, I would NEVER use it to go to Mix Down stage and certainly NOT for broadcast. As a Voice Talent – I would be appalled if people were hearing my voice for the first time – on air – in such low quality audio, and I’d be worried about the repercussions of that too.
    WHY is it ONLY available for iPhone btw..? Why not on android systems such as the Samsung Galaxy S or HTC’s range of smart phones..?
    Personally, I have manufactured my own, portable VO booth and recording setup using a top of the range HP Laptop, USB Mic, 7 inch monitor and sound-proof VO booth. It all fits quite neatly into a portable suitcase. The quality is still not quite what I’d like – but with the right EQ and mixing – VO’s done through this portable system HAVE been used on air and have sounded very good.
    …Food for thought folks… 😉

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Peter K. O'Connell, Stephan. Stephan said: 3 thoughts on voice over technology – iAudition, do …: Facebook friend and voice talent Don Capone opined “bot… http://bit.ly/ekMGKa […]

  6. The reason it is only on iphone right now is because the two development platforms, iOS and Android are very different. Add in the fact that there is more than one Android platform out there, and you an understand why a developer would chose a single, stable platform to release on first, then make a decision on what to develop it for next.

    I think the fact that the application’s name is iAudition pretty much says it all. Again, you have to choose your battles; don’t expect anything that you record on a mic that has a total width of 1/4 of an inch to be broadcast worthy. The reason I was able to use it successfully was because it was with a client that knows me and wanted to hear that I could do a technical read without stumbling.

    My point still stands: the best implementation will be on a more powerful platform (like the iPad) with more capable mic inputs (like the Blue Yeti USB). I too have done broadcast level recording on a laptop on the road. I think options are good, and if it is an iPad/USB mic/iAudition solution, or a full blown traveling laptop +your flavor of mic and interface, if you can deliver the performance, you can get the gig.

  7. For voice over, the question I think will be: is audio quality (at least on auditions) job 1?

    We’ll see George. Thanks for the comment; you’re always welcome here.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  8. Hi John,

    Thanks for visiting.

    While I agree with all your points, I guess the question is better put to the producers who receive our auditions. Again to my hear, I have heard worse quality audio on auditions that were not done on iAudition. So will the quality scale begin to be lowered? Hmmm….

    Best always,
    – Peter

  9. What happens though George, if Steve Jobs and company some how improve the iphone’s audio quality in the next iteration of the phone. OR if someone adds the Mikey portable mic. What does this do to the iAudition scenario?

    Just a thought.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  10. It is a good thought. And I think that such things could mark the beginning of another shift downward in the barrier to entry. I for one am very interested in seeing where it goes!

    I have been wondering if the Mikey would work with iAudition, because that would certainly change the playing field. A clean point of entry with a Mikey would make the ability to fire off quick, quality auditions when out of pocket would absolutely change how people who aren’t full time voice artists can compete in the audition space. Work in an office and get an audition request? Hit a conference room, record your takes, fire it off. Really, that’s a new world, and I see it being good no matter how you look at it.

  11. Peter, you raise an interesting issue that virtually every business owner faces – the impact of technology on their industry and on their livelihood . Quite often convenience trumps quality – like the take-up of mobile phones over land lines or North America’s reliance on fast food. The outcome is always change – sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

    The best approach to take in the face of this change (IMHO) is to embrace change while trying to maintain a balance between your quality standards and your customers changing quality requirements. We’re all in business to serve the needs of a market – whatever those changing needs happen to be.

    And by the way… a very belated thank you for your comments on the ‘Social media or TV show?’ post. http://blog.audioconnell.com/2010/09/30/social-media-video-or-tv-show/

  12. George,

    I cannot recall if Courvo actually tested the Mikey or if he only wrote about it.

    And since I don’t think Guitar Center in my neck of the woods carries it, I’d be interested to hear from anybody who had tested it.

    Best always,
    – Peter

  13. Hi Jimm,

    You’re very welcome for the plug, I still think your was one of the best videos of its kind I’ve seen.

    And I agree, we have to serve the market…but in VO I just want to know how to tell when the market will let me know its OK to regularly send iAudition auditions. I’m hoping there will be an interoffice memo or something 🙂

    Best always,
    – Peter

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