Remote vocal recording sessions using Chrome Remote Desktop, Listento, and video chat
Right before the quarantine, I was fortunate enough to get a bunch of my bad ass musician buddies into Carbonite Sound studio in Ojai, CA to record the “basic tracks” for my album. I worked with my forever brother Will Robertson (as producer) with the intention that I would fly to Atlanta, GA to record the vocals in April 2020. Well, April 2020 got zapped from history and traveling across the country was not an option.
How do an artist and a producer work remotely to record lead vocals to create the necessary energy connection, and avoid internet latency and the need to exchange lots of large files? Well, we figured out an elegantly simple solution that works like a charm. Here’s the setup:
First, Will and I both downloaded and installed Google Chrome Remote Desktop (a free plug-in to the Chrome browser) https://remotedesktop.google.com/ and the Listento plug-in from AudioMovers. Had to set up an account with AudioMovers to enable it. https://audiomovers.com/
Second, I loaded up the song session into Pro Tools and simplified the session by 1) bouncing down a stereo mix of the song, 2) importing it back into the session, 3) deleting all unneeded tracks and 4) removing all unused audio files (all to make the session smaller and easier for the computer to handle).
Third, in the Pro Tools session, I created a new vocal track and routed it to the effects sends as desired. I added the AudioMover’s Listento plug-in to the Master Fader track. In the Listento plug-in, I logged in, set the delay to 0.1 sec, and hit the Start Transmission button.
Fourth, I fired up Google Chrome Remote Access and generated an access code.
Fifth, I emailed Will both the Chrome Remote Desktop access code and the Listento link generated in the plug-in instance.
Sixth, Will received the code and entered it into his Chrome Remote Access extension. I had to then approve him to gain access to my computer. Now Will had access to run my computer remotely, and he went into Pro Tools.
Seventh, Will clicked on the Listento link and immediately heard what was coming out of Pro Tools… which was my record-enabled vocal track as I spoke into the microphone.
Eighth, Will and I started a Skype call. I was listening on my Apple AirPod Pros to the Skype call, AND I had my headphones on to hear playback from Pro Tools… both on at the same time. With Pro Tools in record-enable mode, Will could hear me talk into the mic through Pro Tools, so I muted my mic on the Skype call.
Ninth, after some trial and error, we were able to record sometimes at 256 samples, but more often we had to bump up the value to 512 samples in the Setup > Playback Engine window.
Our computers are both hard-wired via ethernet to the internet for the Pro Tools recording, and our phones were using WiFi for the Skype call. Separating the internet usage this way has proved to be beneficial.
To add more realism to the session, Will placed his phone (video of me via Skype) in the direction of his vocal booth so he could look over at me like I was there in his studio. And I did the same… placed my phone (with Will on video) where I’d be looking at him if I were in his studio.
With this setup, Will was able to talk to me via the Skype call and I heard him on my AirPod Pros, and he heard me via the microphone into a record-enabled track in Pro Tools. We both heard Pro Tools playback via our respective computers.
Will was able to control my computer, run Pro Tools, and give me real-time feedback on my vocal performance. Latency is not a factor. The visual connection via the separate Skype call is great so that we can interact like two humans in the same space… minus the celebratory beer after the session.
While it’s not the same as being in person, this setup is about as good as it gets in the time of a pandemic. And I’m sure I’ll be using this setup in the future, pandemic or not. Amazing what we can come up with when forced! Try it out for yourself.