Voice actors use a phone patch to provide a means for an off-site client or director to monitor or direct the project. Although you can do that with a regular cell phone, a phone patch also lets you connect your computer audio to the phone line. It’s what radio stations do so they can broadcast phone interviews. Few interviewees are actually in the studio. By using a phone patch during the voiceover recording session, you’re able to record the client’s instructions as well as play back your voiceover for the client during the session (production). That’s the benefit of having a phone patch during production.
I haven’t yet had to use my phone patch during production. The few clients who wanted to direct the session did so by regular phone. What a rush. They didn’t need session playback. The benefit of having clients provide phone direction in whatever means is that they generally ask for the raw recording — which means they do all the clean-ups and post-production. This makes up for the longer recording session. The rest of my clients, by their own admission, don’t have a definite script interpretation in mind; and that’s okay. They’re still able to describe in general terms what they want, but leave the line by line interpretation to me.
I use my phone patch primarily for delivery of voicemail. Some clients don’t have systems they can simply feed recorded messages into. That’s likely to change as voicemail systems incorporate more computer software and end-user features. As you can see, the benefit of having a phone patch is minimal; but it can make the difference in your ability to accept voicemail projects. It’s a one-time expense and, in my opinion, worth the investment if you intend to provide voiceover services for automated telephone systems.
ISDN is a telephone networking system that uses a specific protocol resulting in very clear transmission quality, and allowing for real-time voice transmission. ISDN is used by voice actors to transmit their voices to recording studios miles away. Think of ISDN as a very long and efficient microphone cable and you’ll get the idea. The phone patch brings the director to your studio; the ISDN brings your voice to the director’s studio.
How often have I needed an ISDN connection? Never. When I did voiceovers in the 80′s, that technology wasn’t available. There was no digital recording at all. It was all analog recording onto reel to reel magnetic tape. I managed to skip over the two decades during which ISDN was a popular and necessary tool for voice actors. Given the current quality and affordability of home studio recording equipment, I haven’t had any problem providing voiceover services without ISDN capabilities. In addition, I’m in South Florida and a very short distance from any number of commercial record studios with ISDN equipment. Studio fees can always be charged to the client who feels compelled to record at his or her end.
One more thing: you can’t really double-up and use an ISDN service both for remote voiceover recording sessions and your Internet needs. Current ISDN technology isn’t robust enough at consumer pricing levels to handle today’s broadband needs and chunky audio file transfers. You would still need DSL or cable broadband IP services, which for now don’t transfer voice data as flawlessly as ISDN. In other words, you also can’t turn around and use DSL for your real-time remote audio recording needs. That may change. IP technology is advancing and voice over IP (VOIP) is becoming more flawless. Ultimately, VOIP may fill the ISDN gap in home studios, if the availability of quality digital audio equipment has left any gap to fill.