Thursday, February 28, 2013

An Interview with Dave Courvoisier

In Tuesday's interview with the great +Dave Courvoisier I mentioned a white-paper regarding VoiceZam.

Here's the interview: My Interview with Dave Courvoisier
The white-paper is as follows:

Why I created VoiceZam
2012-09-07 – Bob Merkel

It may not be readily apparent but there is a problem with voiceover demos. The problem has existed since the days of reel-to-reel tapes. The following treatment explains the problem, provides analysis of why it exists and clearly shows how the VoiceZam platform solves it. Let’s first start with laying out some of the voiceover industry’s fundamentals and terminology.

The Participants
Voiceover artists (talent) market themselves to voiceover employers (producers/listeners) using an audio file referred to as a demo reel (demo). A demo is comprised of a set of individual, consecutive audio segments (reads), mixed and encoded into a single audio file. Reads within a demo are selectively grouped and sequenced to target a specific market within the industry. These markets have been subsequently categorized, using names - such as: Commercial, Character, Narration, Audio Book, etc.

Note: It is currently recommended by industry experts that a voiceover demo’s running time be no longer than 60 seconds or less—referred to as “the sixty-second rule”.

The Process
A demo is the industry’s single most critical tool for conveying and assessing the talent’s complete, voicing skillset.

Demos are distributed to producers as either an email attachment, or previewed and downloaded from a website. Demo playback is traditionally performed using a single-track, audio player where play begins from the start, and if uninterrupted, continue through to the demo’s end.

Example player:
An online, single-track audio player

Note: Using single-track players for previewing demos introduces significant limitations to a demo’s overall effectiveness.

When searching for voices, producers listen through many demos from differing talent. Their overall goal is to find voices they feel coincide with their interpretation of a script. Many times they’ll also scan through demos in hopes of encountering an unexpected voice which likewise “works” for the project.

Although a typical demo’s length is around 60 seconds, it is common for producers to listen only through the demo’s 4th read, or for approximately 20-28 seconds into the demo. They then abort playback, usually moving on to another talent. The important reason why the producer suspends listening to the full demo is due to the player’s single-track nature and key to VoiceZam’s success. Let’s look at why this is.

The Player
As explained, although a demo is constructed as a multi-tracked presentation, current technology forces it to be played within a single-track player. The media-to-player relationship is mismatched, where the player offers no visibility or selection of the underlying media’s reads.

The expectation of a talent is that producers will survey all the reads within their demo. The single-track player however, prevents any interactivity with the demo. Instead producers are held hostage, as they wait for each read to “occur”. With no ability to step ahead, their logical behavior is to short-circuit full playback with the assumption that they’ve comprehended a talents complete skillset, mid-demo.

The Problem
Industry experts encourage talent to limit a demo’s length to 60 seconds of playback time - or less. The mindset is that a producer just won’t listen to demos greater than 60 seconds. And indeed, this is absolutely true in the current presentation platform.

However, this advice is driven by a misinterpretation of the problem—that shortening a demo’s playback length can somehow remedy the player’s induced “listener fatigue”. But as you’ll see, a demo’s length is not the issue at all. The problem actually rests with the player’s unsuitability.

The Player 2.0
VoiceZam introduces a new concept in demo presentation, where the player has been redesigned to enhance demo playback (VoiceZam player). Instead of presenting a single-track format, the listener is offered a playlist of reads—with each clearly visible, titled and selectable. At any time during playback, the listener may skip ahead, back, or select any read for further playback. This advanced level of interactivity, encourages continued “engagement with” the demo—and well beyond 60 seconds.

Example VoiceZam demo player:

The Panacea
As you can see, the effectiveness of reads within a talent’s demo have been perpetually diminished during playback within single-track players, whereas the VoiceZam player reveals and maximizes them.

Furthermore, because of the media to player incompatibility, voiceover professionals have been mistakenly encouraged to restrict their demo’s playback length. This recommendation however, has been driven by a flawed assessment of where the actual problem lies. Shortening a demo’s length is attacking the wrong side of the demo-to-player equation. The demo and its length are fine - it’s the unsuited player that’s interfering with the demo’s full effectiveness.

VoiceZam overcomes these problems forever and has returned the demo to its rightful, “first-class” status within the voiceover industry.