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The Challenges of Covid

By: Roger Hughes

Welp, here we are a year later. By we I mean me, my 3 cats and the skeleton of the Pro Tools system that used to live in the audio studio downstairs of PPK. By ‘here’ I’m referring to my cramped living room that has been housing that skeleton of the ProTools system that used to live downstairs at PPK for the last year.

If in February of 2020 you would have asked me what the biggest obstacle would be to full on producing broadcast quality audio from a home I just bought, I would have confidently answered “the acoustic environment”. Aaaaand, I would have been wrong. Though working on a infinitely temporary setup and listening in a room I hadn’t yet tuned to my liking does present its challenges and frustrations, 15 years in audio production has left me with enough spare acoustic foam and experience to still crank out mixes at a quality standard I can live with.

To my surprise, the toughest obstacle for audio POST production has been a lack of interaction with and access to our creative directors and writers. Turns out the number of decisions made and amount of creative collaboration that happens around a coffee pot or on the way to and from the bathroom is immeasurable. I used to be able to hop up the stairs, grab whomever wasn’t in a meeting and have them listen to their spot in a studio environment where they could make decisions objectively and confidently. Now nearly every decision requires a video chat with video chat quality audio or endless rendered revisions for them to listen to on their laptop.

I began to miss little things I had taken for granted in a pre COVID world VERY quickly. Being able to determine what takes to cue up first by only just peeking at the notes my trusted writer has been scribbling is now impossible. Even just seeing the body language of a creative director as we let the actor stretch their legs gets lost with just a fraction of a second of video chat lag. All those tiny nonverbal cues that can only happen when sitting in the room with someone add up to a HUGE advantage. Directing the talent just right to get the perfect take or my ability to deliver what our writers and clients want in the most efficient and transparent way possible seems to be just barely out of reach.

But never fear! I see (and hear) a light at the end of the tunnel.

As I get ready to get all this stuff out of my house and back into our studios, new opportunities present themselves. We have been able to renovate the space and reconfigure it without disturbing a busy office. We built a larger sound proof booth to expand our capabilities. Working remote has forced our editors, animators, writers and myself to develop new skills that will only help us be even better at creating the best product possible once we are back together.

So in hindsight, it looks like all this impossibility, inconvenience and isolation has really only helped us get better at what we do best: unite and take over.

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