SoundStreak: The Next Generation of Remote Recording
A month or so back I came across a posting by a member in one of my online casting groups in Linkedin. The post was about a new Remote recording service called SoundStreak. This intrigued me and upon spending a few minutes on their website I was pretty excited about both the service and the idea of talking to the team behind this service directly.
Shortly after contacting the SoundStreak folks I was pleasantly surprised to hear directly from CEO Dan Caligor who was nice enough to get in touch and answer a few questions for me. I have yet to use the Sound Streak system since my recording setup is a windows one and the Sound Streak software currently only supports Macs. But Dan assured me that they will be releasing a windows beta for their software very soon.
Also once the stars align and I am able to test the system I will be posting a detailed description of how the session went and what my thoughts were on it.
So what is Sound Streak? and how is it the Next Generation of Remote Recording? How can voiceover folk like us benefit from it? and what’s the catch… if any?
Answers to these questions after the jump!
Mahmoud Taji: Please give us a little background on yourself and your team
Dan Caligor: I have been crossing back and forth between management consulting and the startup world for over 20 years, and have been an early employee or founding team member of several startups in different industries. I partnered with the founder of SoundStreak in 2007, and although that initial effort didn’t make it off the ground, I never stopped believing in the concept. So last year I revived the IP and re-launched the company, and this time it looks like we will reach air speed. The current engineering team and Matt Hensrud – the Chief Product Officer – were involved in the original SoundStreak.
MT : In your company bio it says that the idea for Sound Streak was originally David Coleman’s, but you are the CEO of this company. How is he involved with you guys now?
DC: Yes, David is the original inventor and founder – I joined him as co-founder on the original project. He is no longer actively involved in management, but remains an advisor and contributor to the company.
MT: As far as I understand it the Sound Streak system is a SaaS (software as a service) that allows producers and talent to connect (not through the website) through a client side application. Could you give me a little more detail about your product in your words?
It improves collaboration through Voice Patch, real-time editing of scripts and synchronized playback. Read-to-picture means actors can give better performances in fewer takes
DC: SoundStreak is a SaaS platform enabling collaborative recording sessions regardless of the location of participants. It is a client-server architecture, so all sessions connect participants to a central server rather than to each other. This has a number of advantages that we can get into later.
SoundStreak’s output is always full resolution and completely uncompressed. Takes are delivered automatically to the production end of the session, and links to cloud-based takes can be sent to anyone with an email address. SoundStreak supports read-to-picture, allowing voice actors to read to scripts, video assets and audio tracks controlled by the production end. Its highly collaborative, with automatically established Voice Patches and synchronization that ensures everyone in a session sees and hears the same things at the same time. And it’s dead easy to use, especially for the talent end.
SoundStreak has a number of value propositions, with different users seeing different benefits as most important. For most, it’s lower-cost than alternatives, and replaces capital expenses with pay-as-you-go. It enables better workflows, which in many cases saves time and effort. It improves collaboration through Voice Patch, real-time editing of scripts and synchronized playback. Read-to-picture means actors can give better performances in fewer takes. It works on any Mac or Windows PC with consumer-grade broadband access, so home studios are cheaper to set up and maintain. And of course it delivers very high quality recordings – up to 96 KHz, 24-bit – over very low bandwidth without any compression.
MT: And how is your service better than the Source Connect service? I guess with source connect you purchase the software once and that’s pretty much it right?
DC: A better question might be how we are different than Source Connect, and there are several answers to that question. First, we are a service, not a product; you don’t buy our software or even an account – you buy sessions, and the workflow and capabilities that come with them. For instance, your takes are archived and can be retrieved though a portal, as well as being automatically delivered to recipients anywhere on the planet.
Second, we are a client-server architecture rather than peer-to-peer. This not only enables the portal I just mentioned but offers other key benefits. For instance, we work well in very secure corporate environments, because the only connection traversing their firewall is a secure link to our server – no matter who the actor is or where they are located, production is connected only to our server over this single, secure connection. The client-server architecture also allows us to provide enterprise-grade tracking, reporting and controls.
Third, our service is a complete system. You don’t need a DAW, you don’t need plug-ins, there’s no dongle, and so on. All you need is consumer-grade personal computer (Windows or Mac) and a consumer-grade or better broadband connection. Its simple to install, its simple to use. You download it, sign up for an account, and you are ready to go (assuming you have a mic). Access is account-based, not machine-based, so you can use SoundStreak anywhere, from any connected computer.
MT: So your software doesn’t require a daw running in the background like Source connect? You provide your own software?
DC: You don’t need a DAW to use SoundStreak, although you can integrate the two into a pretty good workflow. For clarity, we offer only capture, and always deliver unmodified, uncompressed takes. We don’t view ourselves as an editing tool, and offer no capabilities in that direction.
MT: What infrastructure are you going to use to handle potential load that could come your way? Will you be using a cloud system like Amazon? Google Apps or Salesforce.com?
DC: All the elements of our system are cloud-based. Our servers are secure, redundant and highly scalable. Our system has been tested to hundreds of simultaneous sessions, and we have been unable to discover a practical limit on how many we can handle.
MT: Is your technology related to VoIP?
DC: The voice patch features in our application use a proprietary SIP stack, which is essentially VoIP. We are not using a telephony network though – our Voice Patch is isolated from the outside world and accessible only though SoundStreak sessions.
MT: When are you scheduled to launch?
DC: That will be an incremental thing. We are seeing a lot of individual users signing up, and are in talks with a number of enterprise customers. We will be launching our windows client application, an updated Mac client and a web portal over the next two or three months, and plan to emerge from beta in early April. While we will announce pricing before then, we intend to offer promotions that make it free to try and affordable to use.
DC: We get asked that a lot, and may do something with casting or other service providers in the future. Right now we are focusing on the core product though.
MT: Do you guys see yourselves as the ISDN killer?
DC: We are not so much causing the death of ISDN as benefiting from it. That death is inevitable. It’s expensive to install and maintain, is in limited demand, and is increasingly hard to get (at least in the US). The telcos (again, at least in the US) hate it and wish it would go away – some have announced plans to phase out ISDN altogether. So the conversation we have with people is often more about “when ISDN goes away” than about being a better alternative (although of course we are).
MT: What payment systems will you guys accept? (paypal , credit card, etc)
DC: Details of that are not yet finalized, but users will be able to buy sessions online using commonly accepted credit cards.
MT: How would the customer service / support work? Will you guys be using something like teamviewer to access a user’s computer to help them correctly set themselves up?
DC: We’ve used remote access to solve some user problems. We’ll have a better sense of the technical support requirements once we are deeper into the public beta. Most of the technical problems we are encountering today seem to be when people are first setting up SoundStreak – once they get past that, issues seem to focus around connection problems (bad DSL connections, things like that).
MT: What platforms are you planning on supporting? You already support OSX… will you be releasing a mobile iPad client app for those who sometimes use their ipad to record or monitor (it happens I’ve heard)?
DC: Right now we are planning to support Mac OSX (Snow Leopard 10.6 and greater) and will soon be supporting Windows 7 and greater. We are watching hardware developments with interest, and may develop clients for other platforms in response to user interest.
MT: What is the minimum bandwidth that someone should have to use the soundstreak system successfully?
DC: SoundStreak is actually designed to work with minimal bandwidth, far less than what many users have at home. I quote from the FAQ on our website:
Any consumer broadband offering should be sufficient – we recommend at least 300 Kb/sec upload speed. SoundStreak only creates outbound connections so it works well with corporate LANs. Upload speed of the Talent connection will determine the time required to transfer buy takes. Very low bandwidth may impact audio quality of Voice Patch, but will have no effect on the audio quality of the actual takes.
MT: When do you expect to release the Windows client for Sound Streak?
DC: We are anticipating a public beta some time in the next two months. We also plan to release a “preview” version in February – this preview is intended to allow Windows users to experience working sessions, but will not be entirely feature complete.
MT: How much would, say an hour, session cost?
DC: We have not yet announced pricing. However, I can say that our pricing will be a flat rate per session pretty much without regard to length (we need to put some limits in for practical reasons).
There are lots of ways of defining alternatives to SoundStreak – either existing workflows with ISDN or rented studios or even Garage Band and FTP. We think we will be very cost competitive with most of these alternatives.
MT: Who do you see as your direct competitor in this business?
DC: We don’t think of ourselves as having direct competitors, and the indirect substitutes for our service are all over the map. We are seeing people use SoundStreak in all kinds of ways, and as a substitute for all kinds of workflows.
MT: Will you be offering a Web App through the browser, something that can allow people to record or monitor anywhere on the go?
DC: We do not anticipate a purely browser-based offering right now, as we don’t think the reliability, user experience and level of security of our client can yet be matched by a browser-based offering. Technology marches onwards, though, so that could change.
MT: Your system, you’ve told me, is already up for testing. How have people responded so far? How was the load on your systems?
DC: Pretty much everybody likes it – either a little or a lot. How excited they get depends in part on what problems they are having today, and what sort of solutions they find in our offering. We have seen interest in our platform from early adopters for some time, but now we are seeing increasing interest from mainstream users on both the talent and production sides. Check back with us as we emerge from beta and we can update you on reactions from a wider selection of users.
MT: In closing I would like to thank you for your time and for providing this potentially very helpful service to the voiceover industry… do you have anything you would like to add to my readers?
DC: Thanks for taking interest in our project, and for helping to spread the word.
This seems to be like an excellent medium for remote recording, and after experiencing a Skype session first hand and have a number of reservations and issues with the experience I think that the SoundStreak option is a far more convenient and affordable alternative for me. Having said that I’ll keep you guys posted once I actually get some first hand experience on the system.
For those of my readers who already use a Mac for recording and have used the SoundStreak system please let me know how your experience went and what your thoughts are on the matter. I’m sure Dan will also be keeping an eye on the comments section!
POST INTERVIEW ADDITION:
I have been informed by Dan that some countries block Voice over IP technologies. They do this in order to prevent bypassing local telecom taxes. The built-in Voice Patch connection feature of SoundStreak will NOT work in these countries (listed below). All other features of SoundStreak will still work—including recording and uploading takes—but in order to communicate with the other user you will have to use a standard telephone line.
If you, or the person you are running a session with, is in one of the countries marked “Partial”, VoIP may work depending on your location and/or connection.
- China (partial)
- Mexico (partial)
Dan has made a request that once the Windows preview application is released, it might be useful to us (SoundStreak) for users to test and report VoIP problems back to us (the SoundStreak Team).