When disaster strikes

A couple of days ago I had just finished a phone patch session for a television commercial (a hospital in Michigan), said thank you to everyone on the line (2 guys with the production studio and 3 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.

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 3 small sections that were clean. About three-quarters of the audio was unlistenable, filled with horrible, ugly digital distortion. Disaster. (This kind of thing had only happened to me once before about 8 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. 10 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.

6 Comments

  1. Glad it all worked out ok, Bob. I had a heart-pounding situation the other day when I noticed the wave forms on the screen were not as ‘full’ as they should be. In playback, it was very poor quality. When you’re home, there’s no one down the hall you can holler at to see what’s wrong.

    In a few moments of self-analysis, I discovered the microphone in my ‘better’ webcam had over-ridden my studio microphone. Unplugging it cured the problem, that is until the next time I do a webcam chat and expect to provide the vastly better audio. (Still working on that)

    Your situation was far more critical than mine, yet the concept is the same: ‘everything WAS working fine, now what?’

    Best wishes to you Bob. I look forward to your daily blog!

    Comment by Dan Nims — July 18, 2010 @ 11:11 am

  2. Dan,

    I had almost exactly the same thing happen to me in an ISDN session a couple of weeks ago. Somehow my web cam microphone got routed to the ISDN “out” instead of my studio microphone. Dropping the call and changing the patch in the computer fixed it. Just another reminder to check everything and then check again before a session.

    Be well,
    Bob

    Comment by Bob — July 18, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  3. Bob,
    Imagine if it had been a long narration that was ruined! I run a DAT (digital audio tape) backup during the session so that if I think I’m in “Record” when I’m not (operator error being more common in my studio than equipment failure), I can go back and retrieve the performance, rather than re-read it. This has saved me on a number of occasions. You could use a flash recorder or anything; the point is, if you’re recording in only one place, you’re eventually going to get “bit.”

    (That’s a digital pun, y’all).

    Comment by Dan Popp — July 19, 2010 @ 3:57 pm

  4. Dan,

    A supremely sensible suggestion and since I have a duplicate of my workstation for travel I can easily set up to record 2 places at the same time. Thank you!

    Be well,
    Bob

    Comment by Bob — July 19, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  5. Well said, and very good advice!

    Comment by Amy Snively — July 22, 2010 @ 2:18 am

  6. Great post, Bob! I’ve had similar sticky situations come up on occasion, though mostly in the programming environment of my day job. Thankfully I haven’t had major audio issues crop up yet (knock on some wood-like surface). Kudos for such cool-headed handling of the situation!

    Comment by Justin S Barrett — July 23, 2010 @ 2:09 pm

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