When using images, text and animations, the choice to add or leave these elements out of a course should be directly related to the value they bring to the learning experience. Audio, the topic of discussion for this week’s post, should be held to the same standard.
In e-Learning courses, audio can be used for narration, music and/or sound effects. The type of audio you choose is entirely dependent upon the needs of the project, the overall budget, and the topic matter you build the course around.
In this week’s Articulate Challenge David Anderson states, “While recording audio is simple, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to improving audio quality. That means the most helpful audio tips are the tips that align with a user’s recording needs, experience, and environment.”
The goal for the challenge this week is to answer the following questions:
- What is your recording setup?
- Can you show us your audio setup?
- What are three favorite audio recording tips you can share with us?\
What type of microphone do I use?
I use three different microphones depending upon the environment I’m working in and the overall quality/budget required for the project. In most situations, I prefer to use voice-over talent for client-facing projects.
Samson Go Mic: This portable USB condenser microphone, which costs about $40.00 (U.S.), provides great quality. I really like the built-in headphone jack which reduces latency if I’m recording multiple tracks.
Sennheiser Headset Mic: If I need to capture a rough voice-over as part of a prototype project, I sometimes utilize my OfficeRunner Wireless Headset from Sennheiser. This doubles as a headset for my office phone as well as for use with Skype calls. Although the quality does not compare to the Samson Go Mic or my GT55 microphone, its noise-canceling microphone still produces a useful recording in a pinch.
Groove Tube GT55: Yes, it’s been discontinued but still it’s a great condenser microphone that I’ve used for podcasts as well as to record horn tracks in my home studio.
Do I record directly into the authoring tool or through a third-party application
The tool I record into varies from project to project. For most projects, I record either into Audacity or Camtasia Studio. These recordings are done within my home office but I also have a sound room built for situations that require a more professional-level sound quality.
I also use the MobilePre USB by M-Audio. This provides me with two high quality line or microphone/instrument inputs and stereo outputs. The MobilePre USB provides phantom power for my condenser microphone (GT55) and allows me to record tracks for background music if needed.
As I indicated earlier in this post, I prefer to subcontract out the majority of voice-over work when it comes to client-facing projects. With that being said, the setup shown in the image works well for the How To videos I create on our YouTube channel and for quick voice-overs that are designed to show the client e-Learning prototypes.
Three audio recording tips
- Pick a good location
Even with a great microphone, recording in an area that has a lot of background noise or humming will produce poor results. Find a room that is as far away from the main thoroughfare as possible. Before starting, put a sign on the door that lets others know a recording is in process. After setting up your microphone, do a test record without saying anything into the microphone and then listen to it using a pair of headphones. Do you hear humming from the computer’s fan? What about phones ringing in adjacent offices or people opening/closing doors? If so, you may need to find an alternate location or come in/stay late to get the best quality recordings. In the past, I’ve also built a device similar to the Porta-Booth to reduce ambient noise when recording in some environments.
- Maintain consistency in volume/tone between recording sessions
This is one of the hardest things to do especially if you need to move from one location to another. If at all possible, pick a single location and use that same location for all recordings associated with a specific training session. You should also use the same microphone and incorporate a pop filter. The pop filter will not only help with problem consonants (Ps and Ts) but if you position it about 6- 7 inches away from the microphone, you can speak with your mouth against the filter. This makes it much easier to maintain a consistent distance, volume, and tone between recording sessions.
- Sample ambient sound & monitor audio levels
Capture about 30 seconds of ambient sound or room noise at the beginning of each recording. By gathering noise, where no voice over or signal is present, sound editing software can learn what the noise sounds like in your recording environment and filter it out. This produces a much cleaner sound in your final recording.You should also monitor the audio levels throughout the recording if possible. In general, try to stay within the green to light orange range on the audio meter. If the audio level bar enters the red range every now and then, that’s okay. If you stay in the red too long, that’s not good! It will result in clipping which creates distortion in your final recording.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the equipment I use and found the tips I’ve provided useful for your next recording. Here are a few other links that you might find helpful when recording audio for your next e-Learning project:
- 4 Simple Tips for Recording High-Quality Audio
- 13 More Tips to Help you Record Narration Like the Pros