Audio Recording on a Budget: Going In-house

audio-talentAdding instructionally sound narration to an eLearning course can improve its quality. Audio is known to  provide another way for learners to gain information. When the audio is long and drawn-out, however, it can put learners to sleep.Theoretically, audio provides another channel for learners to store information. A narrative also helps a course or a presentation to flow.

Your Options

The recording of narration is something anyone can tackle. When you need audio, you basically have three options and personally, I’ve been satisfied with all three approaches. They are:

  1. Record a colleague in-house at your workplace
  2. Hire a professional narrator who can record from home and send you the files
  3. Use a professional narrator in a recording studio

This article will provide guidance on the first option, for those with very little budget.

Tips for A Great Audio Script

Even though the visual aspect to eLearning is its dominant feature, the audio portion is the timeline that carries it along. Writing for narration is quite different than writing for the reader. When writing an audio script, be sure to:

  • Write in shorter sentences
  • Use a conversational tone; scripts can be somewhat less formal
  • Avoid tongue twisters and word combinations that are difficult to pronounce
  • Re-read the script aloud several times and revise each time
  • Organize the script so that each slide of the course has its own audio file. If there are interactions that involve audio feedback, you’ll usually need to save each audio feedback as its own file too.
  • Give each sound byte a unique and logical file name (Example: The file name can be the module or lesson and slide number, such as m1s3.wav

Fore more on this, see The Art of Writing Great Voice Over Scripts.

Finding the Victim Voice Talent

One of the best ways to find a rich voice for in-house recording is to walk up and down the hallways of your workplace and listen to the conversations. Also, notice the quality of voices around you while in meetings and eating lunch with colleagues.

If you hear a voice that sounds full and smooth, try to convince the owner of this voice to become your narrator. You’d be surprised at how many people are flattered by the request. (You may not want to mention it is hard and tedious work.)

Alternatively, some courses are best narrated by a well-respected expert in your organization. If the person has decent elocution and tone, he or she may be your best choice. If all else fails, you may have to fulfill the role of talent yourself.

Equipment Required

To record your narration you will need a microphone and audio recording/editing software. You can find some decent microphone recommendations in this interview with an audio expert: Microphones for eLearning. He explains the advantages of different types of mics. If you want the short version, here are some of the mics he or I recommend:

Hand-held Mics (these might be best for interviews or you’d need a mic stand)

Studio Mics (on a stand)

You can also use a headset mic that plugs into a USB. I haven’t found one that sounds as good as a free-standing mic yet.

For free recording software, most people recommend Audacity for Mac and Windows. In addition, many authoring tools come with recording capabilities. For example, Articulate Presenter, Storyline and Adobe Captivate have a recording mode in which the narrator is recorded directly into the authoring tool. Amateur audio recording and editing does not have a particularly steep learning curve.

Recording Room

As for a place to record, find the most soundproof room in your building. Notice if there are subtle noises that we often don’t hear, such as sounds from the air vent or electronic equipment. At one low-budget recording I attended, someone taped a piece of copy paper over the air vent to stop the sound. Sometimes you have to come up with creative solutions.

Reality Check

You already know that an in-house recording of a colleague speaking into a cheap headset is not going to have the sound quality of a movie trailer voice. But in-house recordings will suffice when your budget is limited and when you have few resources. If you will need to make frequent revisions, in-house recording is quite convenient. It is also an excellent way to get started with audio, to experiment and to learn.

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  1. Margo R says

    I just happened by, and this topic struck an aural nerve! I have two new IDs who are new to scripting audio and video. Your tips on this site sound much like those I have been giving them. We deal with serious subject matter which is not exactly light. But that doesn’t mean we need to sound like a bunch of humorless stiffs. We can not only be dignified but also personable, at the same time. I once had an ID who insisted on using words like Moreover and Hitherto, etc., and let’s just say that just wasn’t it. I rehearse my narrators and always find I am editing the script as they read so that the word flow sounds more natural and conversational. Things just sound different when a script is read aloud to others. Sometimes I make edits, but often it’s the narrator who says, “this just sounds funny – it’s not me.” But we do that editing dance until we get it right and have a winner.

  2. Connie says

    Thanks for your interesting comment, Margo. I often develop courses on serious topics, too. I agree that a conversational tone adds a user-friendly appeal to some of those heavier subjects.


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