New virtual studio sweetens audio picture worldwide

When a voiceover needs approval, the deadline is now and the studio isn’t available until later, who ya gonna call?

The folks at the Entertainment Digital Network (EDnet) hope time-stressed producers and directors dial up the pioneering Internet site Virtual Studio (www.ednet.net) for pro audio.

EDnet is no stranger to feature film, television, music and commercial production as major directors, producers and talent, always in demand and on the move, can go to a local studio anywhere in the world and be fiber-optically linked through EDnet back to a production in the works in Hollywood (or quite literally, anywhere in the world).

Dubbing dinosaurs

Steven Spielberg finished mixing “Jurassic Park” in France via EDnet while shooting “Schlindler’s List” in Poland. The audio was mixed at Skywalker studios and delivered in real time to a dubbing stage in Paris for approval. Likewise, for the Frank Sinatra “Duets” project, producer Phil Ramone linked stars like Gloria Estefan in Miami to the Sinatra session in L.A.

EDnet technically began in 1991 when EDnet founder Tom Kobayashi managed Skywalker Sound for George Lucas. “We linked Skywalker North to Skywalker South at the time so that director Ron Howard could finish the feature film ‘Backdraft’ in L.A.,” Kobayashi explains. “From there we formed Entertainment Digital Network in 1992 and now process live sessions over fiber-optic lines for all the major studios every day.”

EDnet set its sights on the Internet and acquired Internet Business Solutions to provide the technical know-how for the innovative section of EDnet’s Web site Virtual Studio.

“We are a Web development firm with a core competency of integrating large volumes of information on the web,” says Jeff Dobkins, VP of Sales for Internet Business Solutions. “EDnet’s Virtual Studio Web site will be able to take audio media of any kind, be it voiceover tracks, ADR, special-effect and music libraries and such, put it on a secure part of our site and quickly drive a user to that information.”

For example, an ad director traveling to Washington, D.C., can log in on the EDnet site, quickly find his material and listen to the latest version of a commercial on his lap-top computer in a hotel room.

Fast feedback

The audio can be downloaded to the computer’s hard drive for later reference or presentation and “most importantly, there is a provision for real time e-mail, allowing immediate feedback,” Dobkins notes. “This information can be posted instantaneously to all involved parties anywhere in the world.”

According to David Gustafson, executive VP of sales and marketing for EDnet, “This service replaces having to wait for a FedEx copy and setting up a conference call about a project a day later. We co-developed special software with Liquid Audio to offer professional-level audio playback and services over the Web. We see Virtual Studio as a necessary adjunct to our regular business, offering clients a needed service at a cost-effective price.”

To get real-time, CD-quality audio however, the Web connection needs to be through an ISDN line (not available universally at this time). A trusty 28,800 modem yields FM-radio quality audio for real-time playback. A full bandwidth download to a hard drive involving one minute of CD spec audio at 28.8 will take about one hour.

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