When you have an approved script in hand and a narrator (a coerced colleague or a professional) you are ready to prepare for recording.
There are several ways you can tweak a script to make sure the session goes smoothly. These tips apply to all types of recording—at work, home, and professional studios.
1. Scan for Errors
Double-check there are no errors in the script. Although real-time corrections are common, the less frequent this happens, the smoother your recording will go.
2. Indicate Emphasized Words
Devise a way to signal the narrator that certain words should be emphasized. Typically this is done through text formatting, such as using bold or italicized text. Check that one method is used for the entire script and communicate this convention to your narrator.
3. Provide Pronunciation
Find a way to communicate the pronunciation of specialized words and acronyms in the script. You will need to point these out to the narrator before recording begins. For example, you may decide to depict the phonetic spelling of a term in brackets, so the narrator can quickly see the pronunciation. If the script contains acronyms, find a way to communicate whether a term should be pronounced by its letters or as a word. For example, when the letters alone are used, I write it with dashes, as in U-S-A.
4. Add Pauses
Allow for pauses in the script to accommodate graphical changes on the screen, such as animations and progressive reveals. You can add an ellipsis (three dots) to the script or write the word “pause” in brackets when you need that extra half-second of silence. Then let the narrator know that at these points you would like a pause of “one beat.” That nearly perceptible moment of silence will help you synchronize the audio and visuals seamlessly during course production.
5. Add Page Numbers
Make sure all pages are numbered in an obvious location. You will probably need to refer to this if you are present during the recording.
6. Avoid Page Turns
If the narrator will be reading the script from a hard copy, be sure that he or she will not need to turn the page in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. The sound of paper turning usually gets picked up by the mic. This holds true even if the narrator is reading the script online. The time it takes to find and press the Page Down key can ruin the sound byte.
7. Name Your Audio Files
Prepare the script so that the audio segment for each screen is associated with a unique file name that makes sense in your production environment. For example, m2l1s3.wav indicates this is the audio file you be using in module 2, lesson 1, screen 3.
8. Make it Easy
In my experience, professional narrators seem to prefer reading from a paper script. Nonprofessionals don’t seem to care. Regardless of whether the script is read online or from a print-out, double-space the text and use an easy to read font so the script is highly legible. The physical attributes of the script should be transparent to the narrating process.
If recording in a studio, provide the script to your narrator a few days before the recording session. Professionals always ask for a script ahead of time, so it makes sense to give it to your colleagues too. Not only will the recording have fewer retakes, your narrator will feel more comfortable and prepared.
Do you have any tips for preparing a script for production? Comment below.
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