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Recording Car-To-Car to Outwit the Pandemic

Working from home because of the pandemic, audio post engineer Frank Verderosa had to record a voiceover artist but didn't want to use his personal studio because of social distancing. Then he found an unlikely solution....

Engineer Frank Verderosa hit the road to get the voice-over he needed, using his SUV as a control room and the VO artist's car as a booth.
Engineer Frank Verderosa hit the road to get the voiceover he needed, using his SUV as a control room and the VO artist’s car as a booth.

When it seemed likely that being able to function inside the walls of Digital Arts ( during this pandemic wasn’t going to be an option, we held a staff meeting to discuss plans to work from home. In the midst of talking through our capabilities to function remotely, owner Axel Ericson asked how comfortable and ready we felt about our ability to handle this. The answer was a decisive 100 percent. I had been upgrading my home studio, all of the pieces were in place, and I was ready.

In the first week of working from home, calls started coming in from local actors who were slated to come to Digital Arts to record, but now needed an alternative. At first, I was able to accommodate them at my home studio, fitted with Source Connect and all the tools we needed. However, as the days wore on and the news grew more grim, I no longer felt comfortable hosting people. The scramble was on for actors who weren’t otherwise prepared to record from home to get ready, and I began hosting nightly webinars to help. However, not all actors had or needed that capability.

During the second week of the New York area lockdown, a call came in from a producer looking to record a local celebrity. She asked if I could host him at my home studio—I had to say no. She then asked if I had the ability to go to him to record. The answer was yes—I have all of the gear I need to record him at his home, but I was certain he didn’t want someone in his house any more than I wanted anyone in mine. We needed a solution … and I had one!

Last summer, I created a radio spot that featured an actor portraying a New York City cab driver. We recorded everything we needed in the booth at the studio, but I had this idea to get a more realistic sound. I grabbed a mic and a portable recorder, we jumped in a cab, and we rolled takes for 30 blocks. The writer directed through the partition from the front seat while I recorded in the back. It was great! When we got back to the studio and loaded it all into Pro Tools, the actor’s takes were so clean that the client couldn’t keep track of which reads were from the car and which were from the booth. Recalling that moment gave me the idea about how to tackle this new job.

Blog: Recording in a Rolls-Royce (and other great moments in engineering in cars)

My plan was to set up my SUV as a control room, and the actor would remain in his vehicle as his booth. I put the microphone and headphones in a bag next to his car, and once I was in my vehicle, he opened his door to retrieve the gear. In my car was a Rode NT1A mic to use as a talkback and a Røde Rødecaster Pro mixer (which I reviewed for Pro Sound News last year). Next, I joined a conference call with the clients, and thanks to the built-in Bluetooth connection on the Rødecaster, they could be patched in direct. To make things even easier, I had preloaded the scratch audio from the rough cuts into the Rødecaster’s built-in sound pads to reference playback as needed. We were ready to roll with a two-car, fully functioning recording solution!

In about an hour, we knocked out takes for several TV and radio spots, which I then brought home to load into Pro Tools. The agency was able to participate live from multiple locations while watching and listening to my editing and mixing to picture. Once everyone was satisfied, I delivered approval QuickTimes, and ultimately the final mixes and splits. The process was smooth, the clients were happy and the spots are on air. The kicker? The spots are for a medical center promoting social distancing!

Frank Verderosa •

Frank Verderosa is a 30-year veteran of the New York audio industry, fighting the good fight for film studios, ad agencies and production companies, but secretly loves mixing music most of all. These days, he plies his trade at Digital Arts in NYC, and is also a noted podcast engineer.