The SuperSport of Dubbing Remotely
Since March 2020 when California Governor Gavin Newsom called for a state-wide shutdown, audio post studios have embraced the limitations of the stay-at-home quarantine and established new routines and workflows to serve their clients and maintain high levels of professional excellence. Sometimes it doesn’t take a global pandemic to keep clients off the stage; sometimes, it’s just a drive across LA traffic that forces your hand to solve problems creatively.
Charles Fathy at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway ©Caliphotography
On first encounter, you could be forgiven for not recognizing the high-speed motorcycle racer as a French-American actor and reputable dubbing exponent from Los Angeles. We caught up with Charles Fathy CEO of Encore Voices, Creative Director at Roundabout Entertainment and motorsport enthusiast to get his insights on navigating COVID-19; the importance of team, technology, and what the sector can learn from super motorcycle racing.
What is formula racing and what can the localization sector learn from it?
“Formula racing is another category of motorcycle road racing that employs modified production motorcycles. To be eligible for Formula Twin racing, for example, a motorcycle must have a four-stroke two-cylinder engine up to 700cc in most championships. The ultimate goal is to provide motorcycle enthusiasts a safe, friendly, and controlled environment to push their skills and bikes to the limit. In order to achieve this, there is no better place than a race track. I’ve been involved as an enthusiast for more than 25 years.
I've been riding motorcycles since I was 16 years old, and racing, as an adult, is what gives me the opportunity to experiment full self-acceptance, by being completely focused, relaxed and absorbed, by taking care of myself and others, by making the right decision at the right moment in a split second, letting my survival instinct, passion and aggressivity fully express themselves in a safe way, yet taking a calculated risk. It is a reminder of what my life should be... on the edge!
The new age of English Dubbing has a lot of parallels to supersport racing in the sense that it requires teamwork to prepare the machinery and rider, in the same way, we prepare software, hardware, engineers, directors adaptors, and voice talent.
Racing requires skill at high speed with very little margin for error, just like when you are working on SVOD and OTT projects, the workflow requires very high levels of efficiency and accuracy to meet the deadlines and quality control standards. Competition on the track is intense and requires careful monitoring of the machinery and the driver to ensure they remain safe and finish. This is the same for technology and teams involved in tier one film or episodic projects. The difference now is that ‘our track’ has moved beyond the visible confines of studio-scape to less visible remote workscape.”
What are the new audio post-production challenges in a COVID-19 environment?
“Prior to COVID 19 were often running up to 6 sessions concurrently in large studios. The immediate challenge when lockdown occurred was to create a way for the entire team to work remotely. With team members geographically spread and isolated we had to create a new remote workflow that ‘mimicked the studio environment’ while delivering the same level of unparalleled quality.
We took a 3 step approach starting with support for our voice talent and implementing the correct home studio environments. The second step was to train the sound engineers as they took on more responsibilities and are the ultimate guardians of quality recording. The final step was to train our creative directors, which was relatively easy as their tasks and behaviours remained similar to the studio environment.”
What are the key workflow challenges to solve in a COVID-19 environment?
“The consistency between voice talent home studios is of utmost importance. We had to make sure they all sounded like they were in the same studio. Once we were able to achieve consistent studio sound we iterated our workflow specifically aimed at supporting remote work. Our focus on quality is heavily influenced by content owner quality assessment upon completion. As the streaming market has grown consumers have become ‘connoisseurs of content’ and less brand loyal. The knock-on effect means quality control has become more stringent as a competitive advantage and a requirement to ensure successful project bids.”
What were the key staff challenges to solve in a COVID-19 environment?
“One of the key challenges we faced initially was team communication and the negative effects of social distancing, for example, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Since we were no longer in the same physical location, we had to find the right tools to communicate in real-time. Another challenge that came up was the need for actors to be guided when it came to technical aspects of recording from home. All challenges were surmountable thanks to great teamwork, technology, and 24/7 support.”
What role does technology play in resolving these challenges?
“ Technology plays a key role in addressing issues like; workflow consistency, quality outputs, collaborative communication and direction, file sharing, version control, and security. Applying a COVID-19 lens made us appreciate and highlighted technology as an incredible enabler. For home studios, we used sound controlled booths, for hardware we used super-cardioid shotguns microphones and macOS devices. For software, we used a mixture of Session Link Pro far end recording software and Screens VNC client application. VoiceQ Pro and VoiceQ Writer audiovisual translation and prompting software played an integral part in our new workflow. With this suite of technology we were able to efficiently deliver dubbing projects 100% remotely while achieving studio level quality expected by our SVOD and OTT clients.“
What role has VoiceQ played resolving these challenges and which applications did you use?
“VoiceQ made it easy to replicate the studio environment set-up in multiple remote environments. In doing so we were able to leverage the range of features and keep the dubbing workflow easy and replicable. We used VoiceQ Pro for recording and VoiceQ Writer for translation and adaptation.”
Content owner quality control (QC) is a key litmus test measure of how well the remote workflow delivers a project compared with the normal studio workflow delivery. The QC process typically takes around 5 days to complete i.e. from the time you submit to the time it is loaded to the content owner platform. Our first 100% fully remote delivered project was QC approved in 2 days matching the best result we had previously experienced with projects produced in the studio environment.”
What benefits have you witnessed at the various workflow phases using VoiceQ tech?
“VoiceQ is a great tool to help voice talent relax and focus on their craft, ‘voice acting’. Implementing and adopting the recommended remote workflows we were able to mimic studio workflows and creative direction. This really accelerated the teams’ confidence to record from the home environment, deliver to client quality control standards, and meet tight deadlines.”
Benefits for Sound Engineers - “VoiceQ Pro helped the engineers compensate for the delay inherent with remote recording. They can move the “delayed” recorded line where it belongs visually with the help of the VoiceQ rythmoband.”
Benefits for Creative Directors - “Directors enjoyed the same benefits they would in the studio. The pick-up procedure is easier since everyone is set-up at home. Voice talent don’t need to be scheduled to come in for short pick-up sessions, they can quickly set a short 10-minute session in their home studio, with no commute! The workflow we created includes a 3-way communication line between director, voice talent, and engineer, at all times. This was a huge benefit for all parties.”
Benefits for Voice Talent - “Our voice talent collectively shared that they felt right at home with the new set-up! The familiarity, ease of use, and easy scheduling with more flexibility were all benefits echoed repeatedly. One voice actor even shared that he found himself turning his head to look at the director when feedback was shared, only to remember he was “alone” in his studio. The communication line and workflow were able to mimic the studio experience so much that it had made him forget he wasn’t in the studio!”
Overall what areas does VoiceQ offer the most value?
“We find the most value in the precision we can achieve in our final product. We also find great value in our pre-production work, such as the scheduling and adaptation process. Another undeniable value of VoiceQ is the ability to make changes on the go, which makes the work easier for everyone involved.”
Can you share anything on recent projects that required a transformational approach during COVID-19 to deliver to OTT and SVOD standards?
“Yes, the first big project we did 100% remotely was an Italian fantasy drama television series of 7 episodes which premiered in June 2020. Post-delivery of this project we have also worked on several feature films applying our remote workflow methodology with great success.”
About Encore Voices
Encore Voices (EV) is a premier one-stop audio post-production service delivering project translation to the final edit. Founded in 2010 it quickly rose to a leadership position in the French dubbing industry. Today, EV specializes in Live-Action English Dubbing, French, French-Canadian, Italian, German, and Castilian Spanish. EV has been acknowledged as a key influencer and thought leader in the global rise of English Dubbing.
EV now offers hybrid studio and remote solutions delivering unparalleled levels of quality dubbing in either environment. Any project can start, continue, or be completed remotely without any repercussions on the quality of the product. EV guarantees zero workflow disruption across all projects, regardless of worldly events. To put it simply, we are now pandemic proof!
About Roundabout Entertainment
Roundabout is an independent full-service post-production company located in Burbank and Santa Monica providing a wide range of creative and technical services to the film and television industry.
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