Connie Terwilliger – ISDN Voice Talent

November 6, 2015

Careful What You Ask For

Filed under: Announcements, Auditioning, Business, Marketing, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 10:33 am
WoVo logo

WoVo is an association of voiceover professionals (both union and non-union) seeking to inform and educate about best practices, standards for ethical conduct and professional expertise. It has an online casting engine that features ONLY vetted professional voices, unlike the company being discussed in this blog post.

Remember the commercial actors strike in 2000? Pay-per-Play was one of the big things the union was asking for. The business has never really been the same.

According to a white paper published by Villanova University the convergence of TV and the Internet was the “core” issue. The unions were aware of the technical tsunami approaching, that the distribution of the content was forever changing. Not the actual work, but the delivery of the product.

It is hard to predict the future, but being responsive to changes so that you don’t get so far behind that you can never catch up should be part of your DNA by now. But changes are not always good without understanding the past. Creative fields are slowly being strangled by over saturation and plummeting rates.

Part of it has to do with new younger producers who know nothing about the way things used to be done. And they don’t care. The Internet provides them with access to everything in the blink of an eye. Ask and you shall receive. But you really need to know the right questions to ask.

I am a dinosaur – producing, writing and performing as on and off-camera talent since the 70’s. But I am also an early adopter of technology and take personal pride in staying close to the bleeding edge.

When I started focusing on voice talent work in the late 90’s, I dove into the Internet and have been a Beta tester for several online marketplaces matching voice talent to producers. The growing pains were just that – painful. And still are.

The concept of streamlining the casting process is good. The execution is not as good. The big online casting sites – what we took to referring to as “Pay-to-Play (P2P)” because they charged a fee – began with a good concept that appeared to be advocating for the talent, but has instead (at least in some cases) been shown to be powered by pure business greed.

Giving away free information was (and still is) a way to gain traction in the search engines. I’ve had free stuff on my personal websites since 1996. I also joined many online voiceover groups and freely provided advice and information.

One group I supported early on was Voices.com (I am not putting a link to them here – I’m sure you can find them) because they had a lot of free information for voiceover talent. I created 2 podcasts that have been on their site since 2007/2008. I paid the fees to receive auditions from them and a couple of other developing P2P sites.

No more. I have not been a paying member of Voices.com or Voice123 for several years now. I have maintained a free profile on each site, but that has also changed as of today. I have asked that both my podcasts and my profile be deleted from Voices.com until such time that they recognize that their current business practices are simply not serving the professional voiceover community, nor helping the production community understand the value of the voiceover talent.

As the site grew larger and larger, the focus seems to have changed from providing an online “dating” service for talent and producers, to how much profit can be made on the backs of the people who are paying the fees to list themselves on the site. Frankly, they are acting as an “agent” and a casting director. I am not opposed to a streamlined system for this process. But if you are acting like an agent and/or casting director, then play by those rules. Go ahead and charge a commission (the escrow fee in the case of Voices) and even charge to coordinate large jobs (as long as this doesn’t undercut the rate to the talent in order to do so).

But as the “dating” service has evolved into functioning as an agent, the site should NOT be charging the talent a fee to be on the site.

The Internet has changed everything. We ask. Someone writes some code. And voila, we have an answer. But be careful what you ask for. Do your due diligence. Think about the consequences of what you are asking for.

In the case of online casting, more and more people claiming they are professionals with the result being fewer and fewer people who can make a full-time living doing the work. This isn’t unique to the voiceover business, all creative fields are suffering from lots of people lowering their rates (or being asked to lower their rates) to try to snag some of the work.

One group is trying to find a balance. World-Voices.org has an online casting site that has ONLY vetted professional talent – www.voiceover.biz. It is brand new, so there will be growing pains here as well. The talent listed on this site are all members of WoVo, which means they pay a small annual membership fee to keep this advocacy group for voice actors and the voiceover business in general functioning. A listing on Voiceover.biz is a benefit of membership. Less than $50 a year, as opposed to upwards of $400 per year for a listing on one of the big P2P sites.

It’s new. It doesn’t have a lot of activity yet. There are undoubtedly going to be some glitches, but it might be something you would want to try when you are looking for a voiceover casting site that is all about the voices and not about making a profit.

Be a part of the next new thing in voiceover – Voiceover.biz.

You might just get exactly what you are asking for.

August 21, 2015

Predicting The Hot New Flavors of Video Advertising

Filed under: Advertising, Business, Technology — Tags: , — connieterwilliger @ 10:30 am

ChangesNo one can predict the future. Well, a few people have correctly predicted the future. In 1909 Nikola Tesla predicted that we would be carrying personal wireless devices. But in general it is interesting and frequently amusing to read predictions from 100 years ago – even predictions from 10 years ago. And the way technology is changing – even trying to predict what will be happening a year from now is daunting.

The best you can do is study what is happening now and try to respond as quickly as possible to try to ride the wave and then keep checking for the next wave. For example, video advertising. Will it be short and sweet (like a “vine”) or more traditional or will it go for the interactive approach.

We can see that video is not going away – so that’s good news – but how it is being used and what shape it will take is constantly evolving.

An article yesterday in MediaPost’s Online Video Insider column by Daisy Whitney is about the state of mobile video ads. “Shorter Isn’t Always Better in Mobile Video Ads

If you are creating online ads, you need to start studying the research about what the viewers are “liking” or responding to. Whitney says…

Shorter may not always better in mobile. Sometimes, giving viewers the unexpected can deliver better results.

As a voice talent, one of my jobs is to constantly research what kinds of voices are being used – what attitudes – what sounds. I am also a writer, so I study the scripts – what kind of approach works for the product/subject, the audience and the delivery method.

Finding the “right” approach is a challenge for any producer, especially for those creating ads. On the corporate side, it is only slightly less complicated, because the internal audience is changing as well which means that the way we communicate with them has to change.

I predict that the people who will be successful in the coming years will be the ones who don’t hold on to the way it used to be.

July 1, 2015

Wait, I left my phone in the house…

Filed under: Business, Communication, Musings, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 8:43 pm

Modern telephone communication is a wonder – a boon – a time-waster and at times – a nightmare. It can also be an addiction, especially when it comes to our smart phones. In fact, it is a named anxiety disorder – Nomophobia (“no mobile phone phobia”).

From Psychology Today – July 25, 2013

Two years ago Psychology Today said that “Nomophobia- fear of being without your smartphone- affects 40% of the population.” Today, the figure is 64%, according to Pew Research Center.

I know that I feel panicked when I can’t find my phone. But it allows me to leave my office during traditional business hours and still stay connected to my clients. This is a good thing.

Years ago, before cell phones and their predecessor car phones, we all had pagers. Before that, we had no stress. OK, so we still had stress. Probably because we could never leave the office.

I remember one day – in the pre-cell phone era, I heard a very odd noise coming from what sounded like the inside of a wall in my house. Every few seconds – a repetitive “buzz buzz buzz.” I was convinced it was a gas leak, or some electrical wiring gone awry. I just knew the house was going to explode. I was panicked. I ran my hands up and down the walls trying to find the source. It went on for several minutes with my panic growing. Ultimately, I discovered my pager, under some clothing on top of a rattan dresser – which is why it wasn’t making its usual beeper sound.

Then I had a car phone – in my mind a status symbol. I felt like such a successful business person with this brick sized marvel sitting next to me. Until the day it was cloned while I was sitting in the turn lane on MacArthur Blvd in Orange County calling local auto shops after my clutch went out. That felt as though I had been betrayed by modern mobile technology.

This was in the late 80’s and since then I have had a progression of cell phones getting smarter and smarter with each waning contract and/or software update.

I couldn’t tell you exactly when I realized that leaving the house without my phone was upsetting. Probably after my first real smart phone – with Facebook and Google installed on it – and wi-fi in every coffee shop.

Lately I find that out of respect for people in public places (like my yoga class or the theater), I turn the ringer and vibrate off. And then forget to turn it on again.

This causes some anxiety – OK, a great deal of anxiety – when trying to find the phone. Since you can’t hear it when you call it, it can stay lost for a long time. Which brings on more anxiety.

I haven’t damaged my phone (knock on wood) for a long time by dropping it into the toilet or cracking the screen, but I have left it places without realizing it. I suppose I have been lucky that it has always showed up. That it wasn’t stolen, or hacked (do they still clone?) or dropped or cracked.

So, trying to not become a Nomophob, I have taken to intentionally leaving the phone at home when I am not going to be gone too long. Of course, the definition of “too long” is open for interpretation.

May 25, 2014

Who will decide who comes in first in the ISDN Alternative Race – talent or studio?

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:22 am

There has been a LOT of buzz lately about the death of ISDN as a connection method for solid distance recording between talent and studio. New lines are impossible to get in certain parts of the United States (primarily on the East Coast at the moment) and the cost for the lines is skyrocketing in other parts of the country. The cost for my lines has remained steady for the past several years, but each month when the pre-paid bill arrives, I open the envelope with trepidation.

There are now several potential replacements for ISDN, which will at some point no longer be an optionSoundStreakipDTL, and Source-Connect NOW.

So far, I have “invested” in ipTDL and Source-Connect. Should I add SoundStreak too? Yes, I probably should. Will another technology come along that blows them all out of the water? Maybe. And who is to say which will come out as the favorite? Probably not the talent. The studios will be driving that boat.

But it is in our best interest to know what is out there and start discussing the alternatives with the producers and engineers we work with. If there is a window of opportunity to have a brief chat with the engineer just prior to an ISDN session, or in a follow up email, ask them if they have considered what they are going to do when ISDN bites the dust. Most are familiar with Source-Connect, but ask them if they have tried SoundStreak or ipDTL.

With the rates we are paying to keep the ISDN lines going each month, it appears that the cost of having ALL of these alternatives in our quiver will make sense.  I pay about $600 a year to keep my ISDN lines ready for work.

Let’s do the math:

  • $160 a year for ipDTL for the HQ audio
  • SoundStreak is free for talent or less than $50 an hour for producers
  • Source-Connect NOW is free for both or a bit more for some premium features.

OK, that’s not really math – there is no math in voiceovers – thank goodness ;-). But you get the idea. It isn’t the costs that are in the way, it is the stability and ease of use that will probably win this race. But even if there is no clear winner, we should be able to afford to provide our clients with the connections they want.

As talent, we need to keep our ears and eyes open to see what is coming next. For right now, I’m crossing my fingers that the ISDN bill stays steady until some sort of sea change happens.

 

March 30, 2014

Is a monthly blog enough?

Filed under: Musings, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 6:41 pm

Just squeaking in under the wire to get a post completed before the end of March…

I don’t know about you, but this has been a very busy month – filled with many highs and a few lows. Moments of self-doubt. Moments of reaffirmation. Moments of utter confusion. And moments of crystal clarity. Invoicing for large $$. Writing checks for large $$ for taxes.

Pretty much a normal month, I guess…but I did find myself starting a post more than once and simply abandoning it to something else, promising myself that I would return to the keyboard and write something brilliant.

Best laid plans!

So, to return to the question at hand. Is it worth keeping a blog alive if you only post once a month or so? Or will that actually be detrimental to social media standings. I don’t know the answer to that and frankly, my blog isn’t all that popular, so perhaps it will not matter in the grand Internet scheme of searchability.

And what should this particular blog be about? Who is it actually for? Is it for the media communications business as a whole, or more focused on the voiceover part of the business? There are plenty of voiceover people blogging to the voiceover community. Derek Chappell aggregates the best of these blogs – http://thevoiceofyourbusiness.com/blog/

I find that I want to pass along interesting bits of information for the media communications business. Information that will help everyone in the process to improve the way we communicate. Lately I find that I am forwarding more links to articles by other people through Twitter, and LinkedIn and Facebook groups than I am creating a blog post about it here.

Here, for example, is an article I forwarded last week – MediaPost’s Online Video Insider –  http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/221919/product-videos-boost-roi-intent-to-purchase.html.

…new data underscores the specific usefulness of product videos as a key element in a content marketing strategy. About 73% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase a product or service if they watch an informational video about it beforehand, according to Animoto, an online video creation app, that surveyed 1,000 consumers about video marketing.

I would consider this article relevant to the whole media communications industry. People want to see video. We are part of the team that makes video.

Digital media communication is not going away. That long tail keeps getting longer with more and more opportunities, but with fewer dollars attached to each opportunity. The people who will be able to capitalize on the greatest ROI for these long tail opportunities will be the one creating the most relevant and watchable content.

This takes understanding more than just the distribution medium, but how to make the best possible story emerge from that medium.

It means getting back to the basics of good storytelling – which includes both technical and artistic elements.

So, let me ponder this a bit more and see if I can come up with an answer for this blog sometime in April.

 

December 1, 2013

I Have 3 Lawn Mowers and 5 Mics

Filed under: Business, Marketing, Musings, Negotiating, Recording, Technology — connieterwilliger @ 12:54 pm

Scattered in the storage area behind the garage are three (yes, I said 3) lawn mowers. Two gas mowers and an electric mower. None of them work. Well, one can be coaxed into mowing, if you know the secret sequence of events that involves lots of starter fluid sprayed in the spark plug socket and the carburetor in just the right order. Only one person knows how to do that.

I should probably get rid of all three of them and get one that works right the first time you yank on the starter.

I have two weed whackers. One is gas powered and I don’t think that one works. The battery operated whacker works, but not for very long on a charge. That one I got on Craig’s List.

I had a couple of loppers to cut the branches off the fig tree every year in August when the figs have turned to mush and are dropping off the tree faster than they can be picked. Can’t find any of them at the moment. Did have some yard guys working on landscaping a couple months ago, so perhaps the loppers are off lopping somewhere else.

I don’t even want to admit how many hand pruners I had lying around the yard – rusting because I forget where I leave them. I can’t seem to find but one of them at the moment.  And my large slip-joint pliers have gone missing. But screwdrivers! I have a million of them. Of course, when you need the phillips head screwdriver, all you can find are flat head.

What does this have to do with the price of eggs? Or with voiceover work?

Wait – I’m thinking. I’m thinking.

Come to think of it, I also have a lot of mics – Two matching AKG 3000s, an AKG 1000, 2 matching ADK Hamburgs and an EV RE20. Not very expensive mics, but mics that I tried and liked. And then found something else I liked better that was still inside my $ threshold of pain. And just the other day, I was down at the audio store where I found most of my mics looking at yet another one because they are/were going out of business and had some good deals.

I guess it says something about how I approach my life and work. I’m curious to know how things work. I have a lot of interests. I make quick decisions – sometimes. (Sometimes I never make a decision.) I like to be in control. I’m a perfectionist, yet sometimes a random perfectionist. I am never nervous – when I am prepared. Scared silly – when I am not.

And I’m thrifty – sort of. When you end up with multiple “bargain” items that don’t necessarily function the way they were intended (or as they did at some point in time), thrifty turns into a waste of time and money. But when they do work, it means redundancy.

Back in 1996, I hand-coded my first website – before WYSIWYG interfaces were invented. I wanted to know how to do it. And the cost to have someone create a website was high because it was new, so I balked at forking over the cash and figured it out for myself. This was a good thing. I still retain basic html knowledge and can go in and fix balky WYSIWYG interfaces.

I am a frequent beta-tester of software and websites. The control and curiosity part of me surfaces here. This started back in the days of CP/MDOS and dot prompt computers that simply didn’t do what I wanted them to do. As a video scriptwriter at the time, I wanted to write two-column scripts and keep the left and right sides lined up. I sure knew what I wanted to do, but technology simply hadn’t caught up. And this desire hasn’t changed. We always want our toys to do more than they do. Actually, I think I have reached the limit on what I want my TV remote to do (and I’m getting close with the phone too!).

How does all this affect my work?

Performance
When it comes to the actual recording part of my job, my curiosity and perfectionism come into play. No matter the script, I can find something interesting to connect with. Even when reading endless lists of the names addresses and phone numbers of dentists, eye doctors and lawyers, I find a way to keep it fresh. Guessing how many more listings in AZ before it moves into CA. Trying to read the next prompt while I am finishing the current prompt without making a mistake.

And files don’t leave my computer without a thorough quality check – which results in minimum redos – but adds to the time I spend on each project. Depending on the project and how much of a perfectionist I am – could be a little, could be a lot. (Self-directing means second guessing. I make far fewer “mistakes” when I am in a directed session because I have an audience to “perform” to!)

Technology
Here is where my thrifty side shows its face. I spend a lot of time trying to find the least expensive solution. And because I am so connected on the internet, I have been able to find some truly great bargains over the years on technology that has improved my bottom line. Finding a used Musicam Prima through the precursor to the VO-BB for example. The upside to this is that I usually have backup when things get goofy.

Software
Because of my interest in all things software or Internet related, I have been on the first wave as a Beta Tester. This has been helpful in getting software that actually helps streamline and improve my workflow. It has been helpful in reducing subscription costs to several casting websites.

Marketing
My random perfectionism rears its head in this department. My marketing efforts in the past were much more organized and now – not so much. But it is always somewhere in the forefront of my mind. And far far away from sales – which is another subject entirely and not something I like to do.

Business
A popular saying within my particular voiceover community is that “there is no math in voiceovers.” Well, that turns out not to be true. There is a lot of math. Quoting rates for example. Every project is different. There is no one size fits all here. So a standard rate card is difficult to establish. I have it on my list of things to do – at least something that is close. But no, every time someone comes to me directly, it takes time to come up with a rate. And everyone wants the quote figured in a different way, so even with a “rate” card, it has the ultimately be converted from cost per finished minute to cost per word to cost per project.

Keeping track of hours. Creating invoices. Depositing checks and or balancing the accounts. Taxes. Collections. All of this involves math.

Bottom Line

I muddle through. I have managed to cobble together a successful business – at times highly organized – other times – not so much. In going through the papers of first my aunt, then my father and now my mother, I see that I am not nearly as organized as I should be. But it seems to be working.

One of the lawn mowers made it’s way out to the alley last week and was adopted by an alley elf…so now I only have two lawn mowers. The electric mower is slowing being disassembled using one of my many many screwdrivers and the remaining pair of pliers and will be discretely disposed of in the trash over the next couple of weeks – leaving me with one mower – that works – sort of.

Perhaps I need to do a quick check of Craig’s List…

 

March 28, 2013

Change is Inevitable

Filed under: Business, Musings, Technology — Tags: , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:33 am

The only constant is change. It used to be (for those of us who remember the days of black and white television) at a fairly slow pace. Adoption of new technologies was at a slower pace. You had time to adjust – albeit some were dragged along kicking and screaming about the old days.

But the speed of the changes started to pick up and today, you barely have time to buy a new technology before the newest and more advanced product is available. We face it daily, so why is it so hard to accept the inevitable.

I am still using Adobe Audition 1 on my editing computer. I like it. It still works – on my XP operating system. All my computers are XP. But, I know that will have to change the next time I have to upgrade the hardware. I will not like this change – at first. I’ll kick and scream and bitch and moan. But eventually, I’ll find the groove and ignore the steady stream of new changes until the inevitable happens again.

My Musicam Prima 120 ISDN codec is a dinosaur, but it still works. When that decides to die, I may not need to replace it, because the writing appears to be on the wall for the death of ISDN.

One major sports network that depends on ISDN for rock steady communication lines has been alerted by Verizon that they will be cutting off ISDN service in East Coast markets this coming May.

http://www.rwonline.com/article/alert-for-isdn-users/218605

This truly makes me sad. My best times, other than actually being in someone else’s studio face-to-face with a dedicated engineer and producer/director, is being in my booth using my ISDN lines with a dedicated engineer and producer/director.

It works. I’m happy. The producer is happy.

But, because of the early warning signs, I have already invested in Source-Connect and have used that effectively with a couple of regular clients. It isn’t quite the same. It is much more complicated to establish the connection. The connection isn’t as reliable. I have to do so much more “engineering.” All of these things detract (at least in my own mind) from my ability to just perform.

So, now, for the first time since the undercurrent of mutterings predicting the demise of ISDN began, it looks like it might actually be happening. It is ironic that my lines have been working more the past year or so. Some of those clients are on the East Coast, so perhaps the change will affect me sooner than later.

So, time to let my technology advancement radar system loose to be sure that I am ready for the inevitable.

September 9, 2012

We Want What We Cannot Have

Filed under: Musings, Technology — Tags: , , , — connieterwilliger @ 2:48 pm

Why is it that the faster technology advances the less it does what we want?

Oh, it does so much – and much much more – but the very fact that it does so much makes us want it to do more!

And some of stuff not doing what we want it to do is operator error. It does so much – how can anyone know the total scope of its capabilities…until you ask it to do something it simply can’t.

For example, my travel recording gear used to be a dbx mini-pre with my AKG 1000 mic and a Toshiba laptop. Worked great. Then I got a MicPortPro, which saved some weight and space.

But it didn’t work on my laptop, because I was using Adobe Audition 2 and it didn’t support USB mic connections. An upgrade to Audition 3 was needed to get the MicPortPro to work with the laptop. Fine, software upgrades are inevitable.

I got a little tablet recently, not really intending to use it to record, but it wouldn’t if I wanted to because it is a droid and the mini-USB port doesn’t work that way – yet.

And I saw this cute little mic that plugs into the headphone jack on a smart phone and records pretty decent sound (audition quality), but only if you have an iPhone can you do anything with it. Again, droid isn’t supporting that stuff – yet.

Despite these droid failings, I am not ready to get an i-Anything. If I need to record while traveling, I have a system that works well. Can’t pack it in my purse, but if I could, I’d be tempted to never stop working.

An extended vacation is something I would also like to have. Taking two weeks off (in a row) is the extent of my time away from my “job” since – well. I’ve never taken more than two weeks off – ever.

But, that is something I imagine I could have – if I really wanted – or needed it. (Don’t say it…)

Now, if I could hook up a mic to that little Xoom and pack it away in my purse – then I could take a long “vacation” and – oh , wait, then it wouldn’t be a vacation.

Well, I just need to wait a couple of months and the next generation of hardware, firmware and software will be waiting for me to upgrade and without a doubt, within two days, I will want it to do something that it just can’t do – yet.

July 25, 2012

Does This Mic Make Me Sound Fat?

Filed under: Recording, Technology — Tags: , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 9:48 am

There is no one size fits all when it comes to microphones. No one price range that will guarantee that a mic will sound wonderful with your voice. It all “depends.” It depends on your own particular physical characteristics. It depends on the room that you are recording in.

But it is always SUCH a huge topic of discussion with passionate opinions on what mics are BEST. It gets as bad as the PC vs. MAC debate.

But it is still interesting to listen to the differences (or lack thereof) between the various mics and their price points – and that is why I am forwarding these links.

Poke around on the net and you can probably find more mic shootouts. I am pretty sure there was another comprehensive blind shootout, but I must not be using the right key words. If you know of others, please post a comment and the link.

http://www.vocalimpactmedia.com/SoundStorage.html

http://transom.org/?p=7517

http://recordinghacks.com/2011/02/26/vo-shootout-u87-l36b-cm87-at4047mp/

May 17, 2012

Are You Hopping Mad about Auto Hop?

Filed under: Business, Musings, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — connieterwilliger @ 4:05 pm

So the latest invention in the quest by people to skip the very thing that keeps their TV programs on the air is an ad eraser embedded in new digital video recorders sold by Dish Network. Just turn on Auto Hop and ads automatically vanish. TiVo on steroids.

Here’s an article in the New York Times that goes into more detail.

So, how do I feel about that – as a voice talent whose income includes payment for doing announcing for TV Commercials? In some ways, a lot like the chief executive of CBS who wonders how he will produce shows like “CSI” without the support of the advertisers running the commercials. Or maybe a bit like News Corporation who has decided not to run Dish’s DVR ads.

Everyone in the chain is trying to figure out how to snag the eyeballs (and dollars) of the consumers. Consumers who seem to be starting to turn away from paying for cable or satellite and are looking to the Internet. My niece watches TV shows on her laptop whenever and wherever she feels like it. When I do watch TV, it is still from my easy chair in the living room without a DVR, so I tend to see mostly reruns of Bones, Law & Order and NCIS.

I would miss commercials, not only because I get paid to record them, but also because for me they are a source of education and sometimes inspiration. Not that I am a TV junkie, but part of the whole TV watching experience is studying the spots. I realize that the vast majority of the TV watching public probably doesn’t really care for commercials (except during the Super Bowl), but maybe they haven’t really thought about how their TV shows are currently being funded.

The operative word in that last sentence? “Currently.” Everything changes. Eventually.

I wish I had a crystal ball. It would be nice to see what the new business model(s) might be. I’d like to be prepared for when the current one goes away, and with it part of my income.

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