ISDN for VO is fading. What’s next?

Over the last five or six years ISDN has become increasingly difficult to get, especially in newer residential areas. Telcom companies like Verizon and AT&T want to reduce their use of copper lines and dedicated switches in favor of IP based solutions (FiOS, U-Verse). Several years ago I built a new home which included a custom, purpose built studio. When I went to move my service I was informed my area was 100% fiber optic and that ISDN could not function and would not be installed. I fought with Verizon for over 10 months before it was apparent that it simply wasn’t going to happen.

This brings me to the point - what’s next? When will TV networks like FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc give up on ISDN and what are their options? I have been waiting on this change. What was my solution in the mean time? I have a friend across town who still has ISDN service so I built a bridge/server solution between our networks. I installed a Tieline BridgeIT in my studio and in his I installed another BridgeIT and a server which would give me access to the web interface of the Telos Zephyr for connecting/disconnecting, changing codecs, etc. My clients dial into an ISDN - it’s at his facility, routes to the Tieline which sends an uncompressed raw stream to my studio. The latency is negligible and the client is none-the-wiser, nor do they care as long as it works.

But what happens when ISDN is gone? They could connect directly to me via the Tieline but that would require them to buy new hardware and that won’t happen unless most of their voice talent are no longer able to be access via ISDN. Verizon, do us a favor and just turn ISDN off all together so we can move on already.

Telos makes a unit called the Zephyr IP which does a good job at traversing network firewalls and all that but there is the unknown area of networks between the client and the buyer. This is the whole reason IP hasn’t taken off yet for voice sessions. I’ll briefly explain the difference here…

ISDN works at a fixed data rate. Each SPID (line) has a constant rate of 64Kbps. Combine both lines and you have 128Kbps. That rate does not change and therefore the time it takes to get from studio to talent and back is a measurable constant. When you get into IP connections like the Tieline and the Zephyr IP you use the internet which, as you know, fluctuates in latency all the time. A site may load fast for someone at 3pm and slow at 6:15pm. Also, the distance between two points makes a difference. The latency between Tampa and Miami is less than it is between New York and Los Angeles. Also the latency between two locations on the same network (say two places both serviced by Verizon FiOS) versus two locations on different networks. This makes the delay very difficult to calculate and nearly impossible to keep constant. It also depends on the speed of the individual studio or talent. If you’re working from home in the summer, doing a session over IP and your wife or kids or room mate decides to start streaming a netflix movie, your piece of the bandwidth just got reduced and your latency (delay) just went up.
Why does this matter? Well many networks produce their promo first, leaving holes for the VO. Then they play that spot down the line and the talent reads along with it to fit their lines into the holes. When they do, the network is recording the talents VO into those holes on their end. When you have such a varying delay it’s hard to time that all out without some serious nudging and editing. I understand the headache but we are being forced to go this route so can we just get on with it?

More studios should adopt IP - at least have the option. I worked with studios who didn’t even have ethernet in their control room. They literally recorded the ISDN feed to DAT and then walked it down to the edit bay where it was recorded back in. I mean WHAT?? Talk about antiquated. It’s like me typing this blog, printing it out, faxing it to someone so they can re-type it and post it online.

Anyway… if you want to check out the technologies available in a post ISDN world, here are some links. And for the record, if you own a Telos Zephyr XStream you have IP capability built in, you just need to plug your box into your network. It’s not as intuitive at compensating for latency and firewalls as the Zephyr IP but it may work in a pinch.

Tieline BridgeIT
Tieline Bridge IT: http://tieline.com/products/G5/Bridge-IT
This is a very cost effective audio over IP solution.

Telos ZIP One
Telos Zephyr IP One: http://telos-systems.com/zip-one/
This will likely replace the Zephyr Xstream in most studios eventually.

Musicam Suprima
Musicam Suprima: http://musicamusa.com/index1.htm
This is another option for audio over IP and functions similarly to the Zephyr IP One. The difference is that Suprima also offers ISDN and POTS in the same unit.

AEQ Phoenix Venus
AEQ Phoenix Venus: http://www.aeq.eu/products/phoenix-venus
Again similar to units above. I’d say it’s most similar to the Bridge IT. Many of these were designed for STL (sending program material from the radio station to the transmitter location for broadcast) so they are well versed in maintaining a solid connection through rough network conditions.

If I missed anything let me know in the comments below. Also if you have found a solution that works great for you, share it below.


FIX (Short Film)

Recently I paired up with Stowaway films to do the audio track for a short film titled FIX. I can’t embed the video in this blog entry but here is a link. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Stowaway Films: FIX


Agenda 21 Video

Here’s a video for Glenn Beck’s book, Agenda 21. It was shot by Ben who is a fanastic film maker working with us on various projects. I did the sound design/foley.


Reasonably Priced SFX

screen-shot-2012-12-05-at-125005-pm

Until January 31st 2013, BlastWave is offering an enormous 50,000 track library on hard drive for independent producers for $1,500. If you’ve worked on your own you know that you can’t use licensed fx on projects that don’t have clearance. For example, radio station employees who have access to Sound Ideas or Pro Sound Effects libraries for their station can’t use those effects on a car commercial client out of state or on a station who doesn’t have the same library — legally at least. Do you really want your client coming back to you because they received a C&D or fines on the spot you produced?

Years ago when I went out on my own this became an issue… an expensive issue. So when I got an email from the guys at ProSoundEffects/Blastwave about this drive for $1,500 I took interest. As I’m sure you know, comparable libraries from Sound Ideas, and even from Blastwave themselves, would cost $5,000 to $12,000. I’m looking forward to getting the drive (which is embedded with metadata searchable by ProTools and Soundminer, by the way - a huge plus over SFX on CD).

If you’re interested, here’s the link: http://www.prosoundeffects.com/hybrid-library-for-freelance-sound-designers.html


Nick on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Working with Jimmy Kimmel is always fun. Here’s a bit I voiced that aired Wednesday, July 18 2012.

Video courtesy of and property of ABC Television

If the above video doesn’t work, try this:


Phlash Mob

Pharmacy Phlash Chapters,

The mix is done! So here it is - your Phlash Mob music mix. Click the link below to automatically download the MP3 file.

phlash mob mix


ProTools: Identify Beat Tutorial

Here’s a quick tutorial on using the ProTools Identify Beat command (also known as Tempo Mapping).

ProTools Identify Beat Tutorial from Nick Daley on Vimeo.


Studio Fun (video)

Just something short I threw together from footage gathered on a new camera. Music by 3Oh!3.

Studio Looks from Nick Daley on Vimeo.


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