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Vital Signs : Analog VS Digital And The Implications Therein

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

September 23, 2008

Comments (7)

Audio cable

Newer and emerging technologies have changed the way audio is recorded, edited and archived.

From archaic wax cylinders to reels to MP3s, and from analog to digital, we've come a long way in a matter of decades.

With the simplification and notably more "hands off" production process, has the work of people behind the scenes (and behind the mic) been overlooked because of perceived ease when it comes to producing audio or visual content as propagated by the Digital Revolution?


Analog VS Digital

For those of you who have made transitions over the years regarding production elements such as audio recording gear and editing equipment, you've noticed a stark contrast in how your audio is recorded, cleaned up, delivered and stored.

I've heard more than a few veterans in the field, especially those who came from radio, say that there was a love affair associated with production and splicing tapes that has all but disappeared for today's voice over professionals with the dawn of digital audio recording technology.

The amount of painstaking work that it took to produce the finished work was immense. Audio engineering was by most standards an apprenticed craft, usually passed down through mentorship at radio stations and recording studios.

Have we lost that "loving feeling", or has it merely "changed" into something more "virtual"?


How Has Digital Audio Recording Changed Your Art?

In the thick of things, it's hard to get perspective, but by looking back we can learn more than a thing or two.

Here are some questions to ponder:

๏ Has digital recording / editing made performers and producers lazy?
๏ Has the digital way of doing things changed the mental process behind how sessions are run?
๏ Has the ease of use of tools and software made it easier to discredit the work of those in production?
๏ Are you more detached from your work on an emotional level because it's less laborious physically?
๏ What has technology done in this respect to elevate the craft of audio engineering?


Any Comments?

I want to thank you for your animated discussions in our previous article and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic as well :)

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Olivier Blondeau

Related Topics: analog, audio, audio recording, digital, equipment, gear, radio, recording, recording studios, software, technology, voice acting, voice overs


Comments


    Hi, Stephanie!

    In the 1970's all my sound work was done through analog sources on to open reel recording tape. One "sliced and diced" one's way to finished product, which in my world was for college dramatic productions. Yes, that was more "hands-on" and one's technical (and almost surgical) skill determined the quality of the finished product. The quality of your splices determined how the next performance went.

    Without getting into the "digital versus analog" sound quality food fight, I can say that the current technology enables me to achieve more work in less time. More importantly, I can divert more brain power (mouth power?) to the performance and interpretive part of this work. One still has to observe the basics of one's studio environment such as proper equipment, quality components and the like. Poorly produced digital sound is just as bad as poorly produced analog.

    Cutting and pasting instead of slicing and dicing is a different skill set. While I could probably re-train myself after 30 years it would be only for personal enjoyment, much in the same way that I am re-learning Morse code for one of my hobby's legacy activities.

    Great food for thought. Now back to work...

    Posted by:

      Well regardless, it's certainly here to stay, LOL...

      I've only had to cut tape once. I'll never do it again. One of the benefits of working at that studio though was a really solid foundation in microphone technique. This is something I feel is sorely lacking in a lot of places around town, and from talent recording themselves.

      Did working in "analog" help? No not really, but the apprentice-like environment certainly did.
      "Digital" is just a storage/work medium, everything leading up to the storage (the conversion of acoustic pressure into an electrical signal), and everything being converted back from 101010 to acoustic pressure, is still valuable information to learn.

      I don't think it's made people "lazy", but people can get a lot farther with very little practical knowledge about what they're actually doing. It does make it really frustrating to work with green techs that "parrot" back info at me though, and do things like mic up EVERYONE exactly the same (same mic, position, proximity, placement, etc) because they were shown once, "that's the best way to do it".

      I think digital has elevated the consumer game, but I find it telling that a seasoned studio pro will make better recordings on crappy gear than a total n00b will on expensive gear....

      Posted by:

        Hi,

        I've worked both ways, now, and am still happily learning the craft of audio production. For me, slice and dice was definitely time consuming and as imperfect as it was, I basically learned how to edit. Now, digital is efficient, and thanks to amazing technology, one can, with the right combination of knowledge, experience, hardware, software and plug-ins, replicate the sound and feel of those beloved tubes and ribbons.

        Thanks for listening,

        Bobbin Beam, ISDN Voice Actress

        Posted by:

          Bottom line, embrace the new technology, master the new technology, appreciate if for what if brings to the table, but, always remember the skills that got you here. It will help you in case there is a breakdown with this new technology. Time will always change, and, dinosaurs are gone, now, what will you do?

          McVoice

          Posted by:
          • McVoice
          • September 24, 2008 12:38 PM

            Hi!

            I've been a VO talent and studio owner since 1978 and experienced the changes from tape and razor blade to computer and mouse. We've gone from day long sessions to half hour sessions to produce a broadcast quality spot. The thing I dislike about the new process is the lack of satisfaction from a job well done. Digital makes it easy to take a line from "Take 2" and a line from "Take 6" or to use time compression/expansion if the take is too long or too short . As a talent, I'm left with the feeling I didn't really do my job! I miss hearing "Ya nailed it!". I'm glad I honed my VO skills in a more demanding time.

            Susan McCollom
            Talent/Coach San Francisco

            Posted by:
            • Susan McCollom
            • September 24, 2008 12:39 PM

              I think there's certainly more ability to futz now than ever before. It's less organic, true, yet I think adding the visual reference (editing waveforms) especially when multitracking, is very helpful.

              Posted by:
              • Robert Wood
              • September 24, 2008 3:35 PM

                Hi Stephanie

                I go back to the glory days of editing with a razorblade. I was taught by one of the best when I first bought an expensive open reel deck for home use. It cost $500, and that was a pretty good chunk of change in 1972.

                The ability to edit served me well when I began to work in radio. We wore many hats back then. The morning DJ might also be the Program or Music director, or was involved in sports or talk shows. The ability to do on-the-spot production was a real feather in one's cap. Dan Lenard and I even crossed paths at a pair of stations in Buffalo.

                But analog and digital editing each have their pros and cons. For example, if you cut a tape "wrong" or in an inappropriate spot, you could seriously damage the project, be it a commercial, talk show, or any form of audio to be aired. That meant you had to try to put it back the way it was. Not always easy. Obviously, being careful saved a lot of time!

                Digital has more effects available, stores better and in a smaller place, and doesn't degrade like the mylar audio tape is made from. Proper storage helps, but tape can break or stretch, the backing flakes off sometimes, and reels can suddenly jam up on a malfunctioning tape machine. Archiving analog sessions was very time consuming, and there was a generation degradation. Digital copies quickly and is a virtual mirror of the original.

                I believe digital is where it's at. Some say the sound is not as warm, but enhancement can mitigate that.

                Editing on a screen is fun! Editing on a digital board (I have an 8 track digital in my studio) can be fascinating. You can repeat and copy and paste, sample, transpose, you can even edit for time to make something fit! Then there's the advantage of sending it around the world in seconds. What could be cooler than that?

                So in conclusion, I am from the old school, but with a healthy interest in the new way things are done. And it's not always quicker, especially if you are a perfectionist and/or like to tinker. On the performance side, I am still so new to voiceover work that I really don't have a qualified comment regarding how sessions have changed. But it's nice to do virtual takes and they are less painstaking. And I can see how editing could make a performer lazy or more detached from their work.

                By the way, I still have that editing block and that old Sony here. It's just to make me feel good.

                Great subject!

                Thanks

                Chet Kelley

                Posted by:
                • Chet Kelley
                • September 25, 2008 8:33 AM

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