Soundwhale is a remote collaboration solution for audio post and music production that allows users to create content and exchange ideas. It’s meant for clients and collaborators that cannot be in the same room. Users can connect over the network and listen to the same audio, communicate, and make changes ...
New software for remote audio collaboration with video sync launches October 10th, 2019
Remote collaboration on audio projects is not where it should be, especially when working with video. Asynchronous back-and-forth communication can kill creativity in the studio. Laggy, jittery feeds, over compressed streams, and unworkable delays distract users and ruin sessions. Soundwhale solves these issues, making synchronous collaboration, communication, and recording a reality in an...
I started my career in audio production doing sound for agencies and corporate clients, bouncing around different studios in Minneapolis. Over time, I started to get calls from friends in video production or at ad agencies asking me to mix this or that, and eventually started my own audio post studio. Things were changing a lot at that time. The budget for projects collapsed and I had to hustle and make things faster and cheaper. I also learned a lot about client management. Ad clients don’t want any bullshit. Spots are expensive, schedules are tight. You can’t head the wrong direction even once.
With a turbulent economy, studios were worried about being able to get enough work to survive and were at the mercy of local agencies and production companies to provide work. Around this time, I went looking for a stable gig and got lucky enough to work at a studio that had a constant flow of work, and a great atmosphere. That’s where I got into long-format TV, where you have to be a well-oiled machine to maintain speed for production schedules and consistency of programming.
There is a lot a work to be done before the final mix review. At that point, you essentially need a mix to be finished and just press play. However, should anything come up you have to be prepared to mix and edit on the spot. Showrunners and post supervisors are on tight schedules, so going to a local studio and making quick changes is usually the most efficient way to work. Waiting for files and decisions via email can take a whole day. And attempting remote setups usually failed because they were too complicated or didn’t provide the results that clients were used to.
Being in session is a special thing. When someone’s behind you in the studio, your actions have to feel like an extension of their mind. A client feels good when they can direct, when they are creating with you. During that moment, the client may not realize that it’s a collaboration, and that you’re making a lot of decisions.
These realizations got me thinking about what would become Soundwhale. I wanted engineers to be able to work the exact same way, while giving clients an effortless way to review a mix remotely. This would only happen with a bridge to an already existing workflow. A bridge that would merely transfer what you see and hear to your clients or collaborators. But it had to be simple, comfortable, and high quality. Most importantly, it had to capture that session vibe.
I wanted to reach to a wider audience and allow people that don’t have backgrounds in audio a simple and intuitive way to record and manage takes, but at the same time create more value for existing studios to reach more people through remote sessions. Mixes can be synchronized to picture in realtime, keeping feedback and changes instantaneous, unlike waiting a few seconds for files to populate in the cloud and missing the creative spark.
New software for remote audio collaboration with video sync launches October 10th, 2019
Remote collaboration on audio projects is not where it should be, especially when working with video. Asynchronous back-and-forth communication can kill creativity in the studio. Laggy, jittery feeds, over compressed streams, and unworkable delays distract users and ruin sessions. Soundwhale solves these issues, making synchronous collaboration, communication, and recording a reality in an easy-to-use suite for desktop (macOS) and mobile (iOS).
Ideal for sound for picture and music production, Soundwhale is geared toward all users, even those with little studio or audio experience. Users can turn their favorite device into a way to write songs, give mix feedback, record voice overs, give lessons, create podcasts, and manage complex production tasks from wherever they happen to be. More experienced audio engineers and producers can connect and stream from Pro Tools or their favorite DAW, as well as remotely control MIDI-powered instruments.
“Soundwhale grew out of a deep frustration with remote collaboration tools for audio,” explains Soundwhale founder and longtime audio engineer Ameen Abdulla. “I needed things to work with and for clients, and nothing did.” Abdulla decided to build the tools he needed himself.
Soundwhale promises a better experience for anyone trying to figure out a sound project when they can’t be in the same room together. Users can connect over the network and listen to the same audio, communicate, and make changes during the creative process in real time, through audio, video, or text chat. Post-production mix reviews can occur from a distance, as the client will receive a live audio mix that’s locked to picture. Any changes to the mix will happen in real time as the client gives direction to the mix engineer.
“It streamlines the process dramatically and keeps the creative excitement alive in remote work,” Abdulla says. “This can improve both the end results and the relationship between collaborators.”
Synchronous communication, when you can have real-time interaction and collaboration, is key to successful studio work. If you can’t be in the same room with your collaborator, you need technology to bridge the gap, something that makes the whole world your studio.
It sounds pretty simple. Sadly, it’s not.
Tech-obsessed musician and audio engineer Ameen Abdulla learned this the hard way, working with coastal clients on important post-production projects from his Twin Cities studio. “I lost a ton of clients,” he recalls. “I worked with a company in Minneapolis that had an LA office and does production in both places. They liked working with us. They suggested that we could take on LA shows, but do a remote scenario for post-production. Nothing worked. We tried so many things from expensive hardware boxes to existing software, but we couldn’t get around network and routing issues. Delays were just too big. Quality was too compressed.”
Abdulla decided to tackle the problem, creating Soundwhale, a new streaming studio platform designed to make remote audio for picture production and recording sessions seamless. Its intuitive interface, live chat right in the session window, streaming MIDI, and excellent sound quality mean it can be used for everything from writing a song with someone across the country to mixing for video post-production, from giving mix feedback to tracking voiceovers.
Soundwhale is currently in closed beta, but will launch publicly in October 2019 for macOS and iOS.
Abdulla grew up playing sweaty clubs in punk bands in Charleston, WV, where the scene was supportive and enthusiastic. Though smitten with music, Abdulla got a business degree, focusing on computer technology. The two paths intertwined as he moved into audio engineering and settled into a steady rhythm of post-production work. However, facing the endless technical snags of remote work, he got to combine his two callings into a new project.
Abdulla’s frustrations coincided with faster internet speeds, unlocking a range of new potential uses for streaming media. “I had this idea starting in 2010-11 as the internet was getting faster,” he recounts. “But it wasn’t until 2015 that I really saw I had to make this. It should be here by now, I thought to myself, but it’s been overlooked.”
One important tech detail Abdulla soon discovered, as he was developing Soundwhale with his team: It would not work in the cloud. “Cloud-based software can work well for a lot of the scenarios out there. You create a file and it pops into everyone’s session really fast,” he explains. “But if you’re working in high-profile sessions, or ones that require instant feedback, you can’t deal with even a couple second’s delay.”
The synching process was central to Soundwhale, as were other features Abdulla knew his fellow producers and engineers would need to work with showrunners, music supervisors, creative directors, and other clients remotely. Streaming had to have minimal latency, high quality, and had to work across devices. (Soundwhale offers a streamlined iOS version.) “We also wanted to be able to tap into mobile users who can’t be in front of their computers,” Abdulla says. “They can get the video streamed straight to their phone with about a second latency.”
Soundwhale’s structure and features were guided by what professionals in different roles in the recording and production process need to do their jobs. It had to reflect their workflows. To make sure it did, Soundwhale was put through a gauntlet of real-life tests to make sure everything synched up and led to creativity and productivity.
“Basically, it didn’t matter how technically cool it was or how nice it looked. I wanted it to work for my clients. It had to work really well,” Abdulla reflects. “This is different from the frankly half-baked attempts some outside the industry have put out there. We knew we’d be working with creative directors and post-production supervisors, who just don’t have the time to mess around. We had to make it solid, and test it thousands of times.” Those tests shaped a platform made for efficient, exciting remote collaboration, turning every device into a potential extension of the recording studio.