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Do you REALLY need Source Connect?

It's not news that Source Connect has replaced ISDN as the studio standard for connecting studios and remote actors. They were the first to market with an amazing product, and continue to be a valued part of the production chain for film, TV, animation, video games, and commercials. With lockdown being over and studios being back open, do you really still need it? The answer is... it depends.

While most voice actors know of Source Connect Standard as being a way to get their voice to recording studios and production companies, there is SO much more to Source Elements as a company. They make a variety of products that impact my daily workflow in amazing ways, which I will write about in a separate post. Among their offerings are Source Connect Pro X, Source Connect Pro, Source Connect Standard, Nexus, and my favorite tool- Source Talk Back.

Standard is all you need as a voice actor. In simple terms, it is a direct connection between your booth and the studio, allowing us to record very high quality audio in real time. And while it remains a critical part of the voice acting process, there are a number of contenders out there vying for the production community's attention. It seems that what you need really depends on the kind of work you're doing. People in the loop-group/ ADR world tend to deal more with web based options like Cleanfeed. Almost from the onset of Covid lockdown, people challenged the suggestion that actors needed Source Connect because they had great experiences with IPDTL. That field of contenders has grown rapidly!

"The engineer for the job will tell you what you need to have. While Source Connect Standard is still a "must have" tool- once engineers have Nexus, web based apps are viable options and should take the pressure off actors!"

So... why Source Connect?

The simplest answer is "because that's what every studio has". Source Elements has as directory that studios and actors are listed in. Connecting to each other is as simple as adding the actor or studio's username, seeing them in the list and clicking connect. On the studio side, we now have your voice directly connected to our recording system and we're ready to record. That connection is via a plugin called Source Connect Link (included with Source Connect). Every other competitor of Source Connect's is web based. Specifically- Chrome web browsers (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, etc). Why? Because they are all using software given to them by Google for free, dressing it up with their own interfaces and maybe adding in some bells and whistles, and then charging a comparable fee to Source Connect for something that (beyond their web design) costs them nothing. By contrast. Source Connect implements back-end support for the data/ sound quality and reliability for the engineer on the receiving end. There's more to that story, like remote picture sync, and how Source Connect ties into other products... but for now, we'll stick with the basics.

So... what's wrong with web based options?

To be honest? Nothing. They totally work for VO recording. But there's a catch for the engineers using them: they need a way to get the audio from your browser into their DAW. And it turns out that Source Elements actually makes an amazing solution. It's called Nexus, and it has been a game changer for me. I have actually grown to love and rely on Source Connect Now- the FREE version. You see, as more and more companies started popping up offering their own web based solution (and remember- they are all using the SAME FREE TECHNOLOGY), Source Elements decided to join in. They offer their own FREE option and call it Source Connect Now. Mathematically speaking, it's not as high quality as Source Connect Standard. Practically speaking, it's great. In fact I use it often (more on that in a sec).

By the way, if any of this seems confusing, fear not! I am running the latest version of my Source Connect class very on October 17th, 2022, and will show you how easy this all is! When I run casting sessions, I am often surprised by how few people truly have a grasp on how to use Source Connect. This is your chance to learn in a way that takes all the stress out of it. But I digress...

Source Connect Standard and Source Connect Now are not the same thing at all. You can't sign up for Source Connect Now and tell an engineer you have Source Connect because if that engineer doesn't have Nexus (or similar) on their system, you- the voice actor- are going to make their session miserable. So it's really important not to confuse the two. Early on in pandemic lockdown, this would happen. But an interesting thing happened as things wore on. Word got out that for Source Connect Standard to work properly, you needed an ethernet connection. It turns out that data speed is not nearly as critical as a stable connection. I cover all of this in more detail in my Source Connect class. Once more people leveled up to ethernet and a stable connection, Source Connect Now became a viable alternative. Speaking from personal experience, I will tell you that once I got Source Elements Nexus, I took the Source Connect Standard mandate off the table for my jobs. In fact, when I do jobs that require more than one actor reading together, I actually send them both Source Connect Now links. This is because what makes the quality of Standard great also introduces latency. At the studio, we would use Source Connect Pro, allowing us to have multiple feeds coming in. But the lag is just too much and would drive a truck through any comedic timing between actors. Source Connect Now has minimal latency, and let's the actors play off each other in a much more organic way.

My default Pro Tools grid allows everyone to talk to everyone. Don't worry- you don't need to know this as an actor!

For a recent radio commercial I produced, I had 3 remote actors. Two were on Source Connect Now and the AVO was on Source Connect Standard. We had about 10 clients on Zoom at the same time. While I DID use Source Connect Standard for the directed casting session (which allows me to hear sound quality and determine whether or not we need the actor to come to our studio), for the actual booking, Source Connect Now was what was used.

The bottom line is that the engineer for the job will tell you what you need to have. While Source Connect Standard is still an important "must have" tool for voice actors doing commercial work... once engineers have Nexus, web based apps are viable options and should take the pressure off actors!

What has your experience been? I'm curious to know what tools you're asked to use and what kind of work you do. Feel free to comment below.


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