The Circuit Voice – Voice Talent Before ISDN Studios
Nostalgia | The Voice Over Studio Before ISDN
by Carl Goss
Having just completed another ISDN link for one of our regular Norfolk based celebrity voices, I found myself reflecting on the days of the voice over studio prior to remote connectivity, before many of the regular band of radio voice artists became ‘glued’ to their home ISDN studios.
‘Circuit’ voices as they were affectionately known, owing to driving around the circuit of production companies and radio stations, would take to their long suffering motor cars, or in some instances, motorbikes, and drive from all over the UK to our studios at Norwich. Before they got here, they would have little idea of what their voice session was about to consist of, such was the last minute nature of the radio industry even then. Normally the drive had generated just the right level of blood pressure to accomplish any read no matter how difficult!
In a typical session a circuit voice would be expected to cover all the bases, hard and soft sell, character and dialect, even child voices and on one or two memorable occasions a male artist having to do a female voice (Dan Strauss and David Holt how we love you!). Of course, 45 scripts in a session made the journey pretty worthwhile, and who wouldn’t like an afternoon in the beautiful Norfolk countryside.. or what’s more, the Park Farm Hotel bar next door! In fact so much was the enjoyment of said hostelry that the odd voice would start there BEFORE the session! (No names here, but the sessions often turned either giggly or became jolly hard work!)
The introduction to home working via ISDN for the circuit voice artists was met with great enthusiasm for some, but equally with reluctance for others. The not insignificant cost of ISDN rental not to mention buying a codec, microphone, mixer etc and then having to cover the spare bedroom’s walls with egg boxes to improve the acoustics was a big step.. too much for some. Even for those who had so much work that the cost was no concern, some still delayed jumping on the ISDN band wagon, preferring to work face to face with the producer.
These days for most of those ‘circuit’ voices, working from home is the norm, and it provides obvious benefits to both voice and producer, including being able to cast on an individual script basis no matter how small the station. Of course men doing lady voices is pretty much a thing of the past as well! Alongside the advantages, I know many producers who miss ‘the old days’ when being able to ‘eyeball’ your voiceover artist added a certain something to the production. The late Industry voiceover legend Mike Hurley (‘get home early with one take Hurley’) used to drive hundreds of miles in his trusty Volvo covering several sessions in a day. He once commented to me “Carl, I’ll put off ISDN as long as I can, the idea of sitting alone at home doing this stuff does my head in.” Weeks later, even the lovely Mike was under his duvet at home with his microphone. Well at least I didn’t get another studio chair chucked at me… but then that’s a story for another day.