I have had my black suit laid out for many years in preparation for the ISDN funeral that has been foretold since the early 2000s. I hate to question the wisdom of the sages,1 but the prophesy is bunk. ISDN is alive and very well and is not going anywhere any time soon. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Of course, support and availability from the phone companies is waning but that is hardly the final nail in the coffin.
ISDN is certainly no walk in the park for talent to set up. Depending on where you live you may have to wait for installation, make a million phone calls and generally get the runaround. A Zephyr (or similar) is not cheap and there are monthly fees on the lines, etc. No fun.
The thing is, if you do a lot of ISDN work, you don’t really have a choice. If you don’t do a lot then you are probably better off spending your money elsewhere. Get the numbers of as many local studios as you can and be prepared to book them (sometimes on your own dime) when a client insists. Otherwise, try to talk your client into a phone patch session instead. I have changed a million ISDN sessions to patches after minimal cajoling with the client.
Recently I have heard more than one talent allude to “just” bridging with Source-Connect. As in, “I can’t be bothered with the hassle and expense of ISDN so I am just going to get Source-Connect and then bridge when I need to because it is just as good.” The problem is that SC bridges totally, completely and utterly suck ass. After doing quite a few of them here we are experiencing about a 15 percent success rate on these sessions, and by “success” I mean “it actually kind of worked and didn’t drop”. This is with different talent from all over the world on different ISPs with different bridging services. I have heard of similar results in places with dedicated T1 lines so internet reliability is not the issue. The only common denominator in all of these sessions has been Source-Connect. After another catastrophe last week I have decided we will never offer a bridge session to our clients as an option again.
It ain’t exactly cheap either: Exhibit A.
Yeah, yeah. Somebody is going to disagree and say they have a fantastic history of bridging and it works just great. The problem is, you’re wrong. I am right and you are wrong.2 It WILL fail. Your connection WILL drop at some point and it WILL suck. It is confusing for the client, frustrating for talent, wrecks the flow of the session and is a general show-stopper. Not to mention being embarrassing to your agent who signed off on the damn thing. Then you have to scramble to reconnect or just scrap the idea altogether and switch to a phone patch session.
So what is the point of all this aside from the catharsis factor?3 I simply wanted to get a few things clear for those who think “just” bridging is a viable option. It’s not. It’s really, really not. Either bite the bullet and get ISDN, be prepared to travel to an outside studio, get good at talking clients into phone patch instead or be prepared to let someone else do the job.