Audio Recording on a Budget: Going In-house
Adding 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.
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:
- Record a colleague in-house at your workplace
- Hire a professional narrator who can record from home and send you the files
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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