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Recording: When Disaster Strikes,
Act Fast. Own Up And Make It Right 
By Bob Souer
Voice Actor
I had just finished a phone patch session for a television commercial (a hospital in Michigan), said thank you to everyone on the line (two guys with the production studio and three ladies from the hospital), hung up the phone, and clicked over to my audio software to get the file saved in the requested format.
Initially, everything seemed fine, just like always.
But then I noticed an odd bit of distortion that seemed to be part of one small bit of the file.
OH, OH ...
Only, it wasn’t one small bit of the file.
In fact, the piece that sounded normal when I first started listening was one of only three small sections that were clean. About three-quarters of the audio was unlistenable, filled with horrible, ugly digital distortion.
This kind of thing had only happened to me once before, many years ago, when my workstation had mysteriously dropped out of record a few minutes into a corporate narration session. That was a phone patch, too.
What did I do?
Well, first I called my agents in Pittsburgh through whom the commercial had been booked to let them know what happened.
They sent off a quick email to let the main producer know about the problem.
Then, a few minutes later, when no reply had come, I called back in to the studio to let them know what had happened.
Everyone was very glad I had called back right away, and thankfully they all had time to re-record, as soon as they finished their current session.
Ten minutes later, I’m back on the phone with them. We record a few more takes.
Everyone is happy, and this time before I hung up the phone, I double-checked to make absolutely sure everything is recorded cleanly.
It is!
The moral of this story?
One, don’t leave your workstation running for too many days in a row with giving it a chance to cool down for a bit.
Two, if the worst happens and you don’t have a clean recording of something, let everyone know right away. We all make mistakes now and then. People will understand. But any attempt to cover up or “fix” things is going to make for a bigger disaster than whatever the original problem was.
Three, tell the truth. Own up to the problem and make it right. It’s the only way to truly recover.
Bob Souer has been a voice actor for over 25 years, helping an array of faithful clients tell their “stories” through commercials, narrations, podcasts, e-learning, promos, imaging - you name it. He also posts a highly informative daily blog about voice acting, The VoiceOver Boblog.
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Comments (13)
Jim McNicholas
4/18/2011 at 9:16 PM

Your reaction is precisely what I would have expected of you, no one I know is more humbly ethical. Great advice! and ... Way To Go!
Robert Costales
4/18/2011 at 7:24 PM
Great story, Bob
An old biker friend of mine told me years ago, "Always tell the truth kid ... less to remember."
4/18/2011 at 6:23 PM
Hello Bob:
Great story!
While on the subject of "phone patch. How much of an investment is phone patch & is it quite worth it?
Thank you in advance,
Rosie in Denver
Dave Wallace
4/18/2011 at 5:13 PM
Funny you should say that, Bob, almost the exact same thing happened to me not too long ago with a major project.

I debated making an excuse, but then I remembered, these people hired me just as much for a business transaction as they did for my voice - honesty is always the best policy.

So, I emailed them and told them that a portion of what we recorded was unusable due to digital distortion, but told them that even if the audio was not useable for the final project, it could still be used as a personal reference - which is to say that I could listen to the distorted audio and mimic my delivery, but this time with the correct levels. They thanked me for my honesty and were happy that I offered an immediate solution on my own rather than frantically trying to think of an excuse or emailing them and asking, "So...what do I do?"
Dana Detrick-Clark
4/18/2011 at 5:03 PM
Clients will respect your honesty and willingness to fix far more than they would flaking on them. After all, who among them hasn't had a script file corrupt, or other project disaster on their end? Bravo, Bob!
Daviv Van Sise
4/18/2011 at 1:01 PM
Excellent advice!! It's good to hear that we all are not perfect as we think. Thanks Bob!
Diane Merritt
4/18/2011 at 12:50 PM
Great advice Bob! Thanks for sharing! I will always remember to check the audio before hanging up with the client :)
J. Christopher Dunn
4/18/2011 at 12:16 PM
Spot on! It's just the right thing to do.
Lisa Rice
4/18/2011 at 11:40 AM
Thanks for sharing your experience, Bob.

Not exactly the same, but the quote, "Measure twice, cut once," comes to mind. The temptation to skip steps happens when we're faced with back-to-back jobs with quick turnaround times.
Maxine Lennon
4/18/2011 at 9:37 AM
Thanks Bob - only way to move forward with yourself and others is the truth...
Linda Ristig
4/18/2011 at 8:45 AM
So very true, Bob, I completely agree with the moral of your story. It shows that honesty and integrity are appreciated by clients, and your quick assessment of the situation led to a successful voice over, after all. Nicely done, Bob!
Paul J. Warwick
4/18/2011 at 8:14 AM
Thanks Bob,
Wise words indeed!
Debbie Irwin
4/18/2011 at 12:47 AM
Good advice all the way around!
Both we and our machines work better when we've cooled down!
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