We all need differentiators to help set us apart from the growing army of voiceoverists* so that we end up with our fair share of the sacks of money* waiting to be spent on voiceovers.
(*Inside joke from the VO-BB.com)
One of the things I ”sell” is my quality assurance. I spend time making sure that the files I send are as close to perfection as possible. This is fairly easy to do if you have a standard :30 or :60 spot. Couple of minutes to record a couple of takes. A quick couple of minutes to listen and clean up any little blups and boom, the file is out and you are 100% sure that it is ready for your client to drop into their production timeline. Make mistakes with this simple kind of work and you won’t stay in business long.
But much of my work includes vast numbers of files. And if I didn’t have some sort of work flow established and some specialized software, I would not be able to have the confidence that my files are nearly perfect when they leave my studio.
The first hurdle is making sure that you get good clean takes to start with. This takes a keen ear for your own delivery, mouth noises and vowel flutter or other stray noises that creep into the studio. I don’t use headphones anymore when I am self-directing – only when on phone patch or using ISDN – and even then, I try to listen with one ear open. But I can hear that pesky little smacking noise that my mouth makes sometimes when I say a word with an “l” in it.
The second challenge is naming vast numbers of files – sometimes with obscure file names that do not in any way relate to the content of the file in a way that would help you keep track of them. Other times they are at least sequentially numbered – except that the leading zero is left out of a sequence, so the files don’t end up exactly in sequential order according to the brain of the computer doing the sorting. Another time sucker and error prone task is keying in the names of these files one by one.
I am using a new piece of software that helps in these first two steps. Word2WAV lets you record over and over again until you are happy with a take AND saves each previous take as a backup file in another folder. It also automatically names the files with your unique file names or lets you create an accurate sequential numbering system.
While the newest version of W2W includes some editing and punch in capabilities – I find that I switch back to my Adobe Audition for any serious editing that may need to be done. When doing single word files, or short telephony prompts there is not a lot of editing. It is the batch processing that is the next hurdle in the Quality Assurance Process.
Each of my clients has different normalization levels, data and bit rates and file formats, so it is important to keep track of that information so you don’t end up sending out a format or level that is wrong. This not only cuts into your profit, but it puts a crimp in the client’s schedule when you have to redo the work.
I use the batch processing features of Adobe Audition – plus VoxStudio. Both convert sample and bit rates nicely. Audition does a much better job at normalizing a bunch of files. And VoxStudio is great for adding a specified amount of silence to the beginning and end of a file.
Then, after you know the files are clean, in the right format, at the right amplitude and named correctly, you still have to deliver them. Most telephony files are so small in size that it isn’t an issue to send them by email – except that there are so darn many of them. Simple – create a ZIP file and send that. One of my clients wants the files encrypted, so I have a process in place for that as well.
If you are sending wavs or aiffs chances are you will either need to send the files a few at a time through email or use some kind of ftp service. You want to reduce the number of emails going back and forth saying that the client hasn’t received File 23 -34 yet.
And you have to keep backups of what you do. This means some sort of file management system that allows you to quickly find the files you need – if you need to make changes. Clients like it when you are able to make a quick fix easily because you still have the original files close at hand.
Quality Assurance is part of my business plan. And it is something my clients can count on.