The ultimate FAQ about webRTC for voice talents and audio producers

Posted August 3, 2016 by

Everybody's talking webRTC and you have no clue what this fuzz is all about? Give it three minutes and you know everything you need.

What is this "webRTC"?

webRTC ("Web Real Time Communication") is a new web standard that lets you create high-quality audio and video sessions over the internet without any extra software or hardware. A modern browser is all you need.

Why is this a big thing?

Ever used Skype, a phone patch or ISDN so producers or clients can direct your recording session? webRTC allows for just the same. But without Skype, a phone patch or ISDN. The magic happens in your browser. Much easier. And the quality is better, too.

This is a big deal: First of all, all the super expensive hardware used to transfer audio via ISDN lines is de facto obsolete. At the same time, there is no need for booking ISDN capable recording studios when a client wants to listen live to the session of a talent who lives in a different city. And finally: Everybody can use this technology effortlessly as it basically does not need any setup at all.

What's more, recording costs are dramatically reduced, because all you need comes free with your browser.

(Skype is not really an option here because the audio quality is far inferior. And while the audio quality would maybe be okay for remote directing, it is completely unusable for remote recording.)

hereliesisdn

Goodbye, ISDN codecs!

Can I use it straight away?

Very likely. If you can use Skype in your booth, you are ready to go. If you can't Skype and always wondered why the solution is probably easy: Plug your microphone into input channel 1 in your audio interface and all will be good.

How does the browser pick up the sound of my studio microphone?

Just like your recording software does. Your microphone needs to be connected to the computer, of course. If you are using an audio interface, it is important that the microphone sits in input channel 1 or 2 for webRTC to "see" your mic.

I have several microphones: An internal one, a USB microphone, and my studio microphone. How do I tell webRTC which one to use?

Web sites using webRTC will ask for permission to use your computer's microphone before a connection starts. There you can decide which microphone to use. Also, most webRTC applications will let you choose the microphone, too.

What kind of internet connection is necessary?

1 MBit or more is fine for a stable, high-quality audio connection. It will even work on decent 3G and 4G networks.

Will the effect plugins in my (D.A.W.) be applied to the outgoing signal?

Most likely not, but it depends on your setup. Usually, the signals that get into your D.A.W. and into webRTC are identical.

Extra expert knowledge: If you want the processed audio to be used by webRTC, you would have to route the audio signal from the D.A.W.s output to another input of your audio interface making sure that this final input is 1 or 2, so that webRTC sees the signal. Alternatively, there are audio interfaces with built-in real-time processing (like the Universal Audio's apollo series). Any modifications through so-called UAD plug-ins will have an immediate affect on the signal just like hardware effects in the signal chain would have.

ApolloTwinD-large

Not a must but nice to have: Real-time plug-ins and virtual inputs make Universal Audio's apollo series audio interfaces a great choice – not only for webRTC.

Can the other party record the session?

Yes, but the setup needs to be right. Usually, studios are recording what's going into the computer. But in case somebody wants to record your voice over the internet, they need to be able to record what's coming out of their computer. It is fair to assume that the majority of studios are more than capable of doing exactly this.

There is software available that passes through audio signals internally so that a D.A.W. can record a computer's output easily. If you use a Mac, check out Loopback.

Extra expert knowledge: Again, Universal Audio's apollo series comes to help because its audio interfaces support virtual inputs that you can assign the computer's outputs to. Works like magic. No extra software needed.

Which browser should I use?

Most of the times you do not have the choice: Many webRTC apps only support Chrome. The only webRTC ISDN replacement that allows a broader range of browsers (including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari) is bodalgoCall. There are some limitations, though. The audio quality provided by Chrome seems best. And although all of the browsers listed will work just wonderfully in a remote directing setting, I recommend using Chrome when the client wants to record the session over the internet.

I want to try this! Have you got some additional tips?

The following tips assume you use bodalgoCall, but they are valid for any other service you might favour.

Use headphones: Although bodalgoCall turns on echo cancellation by default (so no headphones are necessary), it is a good idea to turn it off when the session involves remote recording. Echo cancellation might tamper with the audio adding unwanted artefacts. So make sure that all those options are turned off in the preferences pane (click on the cogs in the bodalgoCall dialog box).

Use the mute button: If the client does not have a push-to-talk talk-back microphone, they should use the mute button to silence their microphone while you are reading the script. Why? Because you would hear them talking in your headphones which would be disturbing.

Cable is stable: Although experience shows that WiFi connections seem to be just as reliable as cable connections, they add a bit of uncertainty. Whenever possible, use a wired internet connection.

Finally, what does it cost?

Prices vary from up to 500 USD yearly to nothing at all. Yes, you read that right. Nothing. At. All. Because: bodalgoCall comes entirely for free yet offering the highest audio quality to this day – 510 kbps. You can try it out right away – no signup necessary!

You have a question, too? Leave it in the comments! This FAQ will be updated as new, more helpful information becomes available. What's more: I will include answers your questions, too! Don't be shy and leave your thoughts and comments below!

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