Q Media: Audio Tour Experts

Delivering your goals, to your visitors, within your budget.

Orange County Regional History Center

Orange County Regional History Center

Orange County Regional History Center

In 2008 we had the opportunity to do something we rarely get to do — work locally! I don’t know why it is but the old adage regarding the “pro from Dover” generally seems to hold. Never-the-less, we were selected to work with the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando to provide audio guides and production support for the new audio tour of their permanent exhibits. This project has several lessons including some benefits and cautions to a la carte production as well as what to do when the financial rug gets pulled out from under you. Welcome to the wonderful and wacky world of public financing.

Located in downtown Orlando, the OCRHC showcases the history of Orange County from Native American beginnings to the settlers, from the citrus industry to the rise of NASA and Walt Disney World. OCRHC also has exhibits that tell the history of tourism in the region that traces its origins to the late 19th century and also how tourism has driven much of central Florida’s growth.

The client opted for traditional, museum quality audio guides (twenty Orpheo Classics) which we provided. There were a number of reasons that made the standard players the best choice but one of them was the control, durability and flexibility afforded to the staff. Since the Center is committed to serving a wide range of demographics including economically disadvantaged visitors, another important consideration was that the tour had to be accessible to everyone without limitation. In other words, it doesn’t rely on the visitor having to have a cell phone, iPod or any other device.

Lesson 1: Assess your resources wisely.The tour was written by the Director of Exhibits, Michael Perkins, with consulting and editing provided by Stasha. A key bit of information about Michael is that in addition to his museum experience, he has considerable background writing for television and radio. In other words, OCRHC didn’t need to “buy” the scriptwriting skills and experience, they already had it. But understand that this is not the same as having someone with NO production experience take on this task. Michael is not an amateur nor a newbie. His production chops were top notch.

Lesson 2: Assess your resources wisely then get lucky. The Center also uses actors as historical walk-around figures. These actors were the source pool for the auditions and we were able to cast the various character voices from this group. On an important note — not all of the actors gave good auditions nor would they have given good recordings. Some actors can easily transition from live theater to film to audio seamlessly. Some can’t. Don’t assume that your live performers can deliver the goods in the recording booth. It is a very specialized skill and when you’re relying on a voice alone to convey the emotional impact of a real persons life experience, “bad” acting can ruin you. And no, poor performances cannot be fixed in the editing suite!

Lesson 3: When your resources go haywire, know who you’re working with.The contract had been signed, the pre-production meetings had taken place, the hardware was ordered and delivered. Then the financial bottom fell out of the County’s financing and a “Halt!” was placed on everything. The good news was that we were ready, willing and able to work with our client. Sara Van Arsdale, Director, called me in to a meeting one day and spelled it out. “Here’s the situation….” From there we were able to re-structure, re-write, and re-evaluate the plan to accommodate hers and the Center’s needs. While contracts ARE important and should be honored by all parties, things DO come up. It’s important to work WITH people and organizations that are willing and able to professionally flex when real problems arise. It is also important to work FOR people who understand the value of commitment, even in tough times. Character counts folks, and the good people of OCRHC have it in spades.

In the end, the OCRHC’s audio tour is outstanding and is receiving rave reviews from visitors and staff alike. But it is also a great lesson in creative problem solving and maximizing your results while minimizing your budget.

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