Remote Session FAQs: An Overview from our Technical Services Team

We often carry out ‘remote’ recording sessions at Abbey Road but for each instance there are things we need to clarify to ensure we suggest the optimum solution. If you’re considering having a remote session with us and have some questions here are some common points of discussion which will hopefully make things a little clearer.
 

Remote Session FAQs

What’s a remote session?

A remote session is when someone involved in the session is unable to attend in person though want to listen in and have the opportunity to talk back to the studio.

Can I record remotely?

Yes, that’s possible – and more on that below - however the inherent latency across the internet currently prohibits real time live recording collaborations where one of two or more musicians are remote and want to record in true sync, as a substitute for being in the same space. This FAQ largely covers the listening in and giving feedback situation.

OK, what do I need and what do I need to do so I can listen in to and comment back on my session?

Not normally one to answer a question with a question however here it is necessary to find out a couple of pre-requisites; will stereo audio suffice or is surround audio required? Also, if it’s a music to picture session will sync to picture be required?

I’m stereo audio only, what do I need?

We recommend using Source Elements Source Connect Now. This is currently free to use and accessed via the Chrome browser. You’ll ideally have a laptop with an internal microphone and a pair of headphones. We’ll generally email an invite to join the connection – you will need to allow the application to accept the use of the microphone and that comes up as a pop-up on the first connection but can also be accessed by clicking on the Chrome logo to the left of the URL.

The shift button on your laptop keyboard opens up your talkback mic. Using this and your headphones are key otherwise we get feedback at our end and that isn’t pleasant for anyone. Source Connect Now can have 5 participants on any connection – 4 guests plus the host, us – has sufficiently low latency and good quality audio (the bit-rate of which can be tweaked accordingly within the connection). Connections can drop out, it is over the internet after all, however the application is smart enough to automatically reconnect.
 

An example of using Source Connect Now

 
I need to sync to picture with the option of surround audio, what do I need?

For this we use another Source Elements piece of software called Source Connect Pro X This is a paid for piece of software which provides a point-to-point connection where both parties need to own the software. It is a stand-alone piece of software however it also operates as a plug-in within the DAW of your choice. Our DAW of choice is Pro Tools. Furthermore, there are some local firewall ports that you’ll need to configure for Source Connect Pro X to work and that information can be found on the Source Elements website.

For the sync to picture requirement Source Connect Pro X (when used as a plug-in alongside an instance of ReWire) has an RTS feature whereby it can sync two Pro Tools sessions across the internet or a VPN. This requires each end to have identical Pro Tools sessions – it syncs using the session start time and the ticks predetermined by the session’s tempos and time signatures – while the picture it syncs to will need to be local to each end.

That said, where possible, we prefer to run Source Connect Pro X in stand-alone mode on a separate computer in multi-channel mode where one of the channels (not channel 4 as this is generally used for 5.1 LFE and has a LPF) is used solely for LTC. As long as the recipient has the infrastructure to extract the LTC to sync their picture playback system then this approach works incredibly well. If that is the case then we’ll also feed our talkback down a separate channel alongside the stereo or up to 5.1 audio.
 

An example of using Source Connect Pro X

 
OK, I’ve visited the Source Elements’ website; what’s Source Nexus?

Source Nexus is free software that acts as a virtual 24 channel soundcard on your Mac allowing audio input and output routing and connectivity across multiple applications. It can be used creatively with standalone virtual instruments were there is no plugin version available; you can route the output of the standalone Instrument software or the computers system audio through nexus and into a record track in your DAW.

For Remote sessions it can be especially useful to connect listeners in who wish to use a variety of AV conferencing software. Simply assign the input and outputs of Skype/Facetime to a pair of inputs and outputs. i.e. Nexus 1-2 is Skype and Facetime is 3-4. Within your DAW open an instance of Source Nexus on an aux track, assign the plugin’s I/O and you can then discretely send to either Skype or Facetime or both by activating or deactivating the send to that aux. This can create a useful audio bridge across multiple platforms without the need for extra hardware converters or cables.

Source Nexus can also be used in surround formats. When using AVID Pro Tools and Avid HDIO interfaces the interfaces cannot be used for any other uses such as system audio or being the inputs and outputs of Source Connect Pro X. Using Source Nexus in conjunction with Source Connect Pro X allows you to send audio tracks out of Pro Tools and into Source Connect Pro X digitally in real-time and build a surround “Transmit” mix to Source Connect Pro X without the need of additional hardware.
 
 
I’m down with Source Connect Now – I know it’s stereo only but can I use it for surround audio?

Yes, but you will need to purchase some software. We have used Neyrinck’s SoundCode LtRt Tools whereby it folds down the surround audio we feed it to a stereo encoded Dolby Pro Logic IIx LtRt signal. This can then be sent across the stereo Source Connect Now connection and your version of SoundCode LtRt Tools can decode that back in to surround.

Is ISDN still a thing?

Yes, ISDN is still a thing but will be switched off in the next few years. Abbey Road has been using ISDN lines for years, we have our own ISDN lines but hire in the ISDN codec (encoder/decoder) as required. Furthermore we have recently acquired a Telos Z/IP One Codec which uses the same traditional ISDN software codecs but connects over IP. It works very well though a similar unit will be required at the other end.

I have a session being recorded at another studio, is it possible to listen in at Abbey Road?

Yes, and while we are more often than not hosting the session, we do have clients come in to listen and comment back on sessions happening elsewhere as long as the host studio has similar tools as those mentioned above.

Can I use Source Connect Now for a mastering session?

We haven’t but there’s no reason why we couldn’t if we give the mastering engineer a switched talkback mic.

So, can I record remotely or what?

Yes, if you want to record remotely you can use either Source Connect Now or Source Connect Pro X to listen to what’s happening at our end and play or sing along in time as you hear it. However that aforementioned latency over the internet will preclude us from hearing you back in time so you’ll need to record yourself locally then ship the files to us.