Audio is a big part of your e-course content. Along with video, animation, and text, audio narration makes an online lesson more natural and helps your audience quickly grasp what you are teaching.
Have no experience in voice over production? No big deal. This guide will provide you all the essential information to create an engaging narration for your course. You’ll learn how to record a high-quality audio narration right at your workplace, and not waste time re-recording audio. What’s in this guide:
- How to record a quality narration when you’re on a tight budget;
- Which is better: finding a narrator or recording a narration by yourself;
- How to select a voice over microphone;
- How to record and edit audio in iSpring Suite.
Just a quick tip before we begin: audio narration should be recorded at the final stage of the project, when the course content is agreed upon with management, and there will be no future changes. Otherwise, you’re risking re-recording your narration several times.
Step 1. Write a script
A script is basically a detailed specification of what a future course will be. It describes which graphics and techniques should be used, what happens on each slide, etc. However, the key to a successful script is high-quality writing. Here are 5 tips to make the best out of your script:
- Making the complex simple. “In this metaphysical question, to find the meaning given to the word ‘principle’, we must ask the metaphysician for the conditions under which a sentence of the form ‘x is the principle of y’ is true and under which it is false.” Does it sound clear? Try to use simple phrases and avoid complicated definitions so it’s easier to grasp the key points.
- Do not beat around the bush. Define what is really important for your learners and stick to it. The surest way to make people listen is to say a lot in a few words.
- A “one thing at a time” approach will help your students to learn more efficiently. Break down the script into a series of parts. Each part should be devoted to one single idea.
- Avoid direct copying. Use your own words to explain ideas you took from books or manuals, as there is a great difference between written and spoken language.
- E-Learning should be fun. People relate more to information submitted with interesting facts and quotes or other appealing stuff.
When you’re done with scriptwriting, read the text aloud a few times. Simplify and clear up the parts that are not concise enough. Make a draft recording, and ensure the voice over sounds audible and comprehensible.
Note: Incorrectly pronounced words and names of products, and/or unfamiliar abbreviation spoils the overall impression of your e-course. Consult online dictionaries such as macmillandictionary.com.
Step 2. Find a narrator
Your students will be uber-focused on your voice, so you want it to sound as clear as possible to keep their attention. This goes for both video lessons and voice over slideshows. If you don’t feel confident in the role of narrator, think about hiring a professional.
Before you make a decision on who’s going to be your e-course voice, ask yourself questions like: Would a male or female voice work best? Which range is preferable: tenor, baritone, bass, or falsetto? Does your course involve animated cartoon characters? The answers will define the desirable voice actor’s profile.
Note: Send the potential narrator a piece of the script and ask him / her to make a test recording. It will save you a lot of time on voice approval.
Discuss all the details with your voice actor in advance. Remember to set the speech tempo, put pauses in the text where necessary, and include a pronunciation guide for professional slang. Here’s a script template:
|1.||Hi! My name’s Alex, and I’ll be your coach for the Master of Auditing training program.|
|2.||There are three requirements for efficient auditing: First of all, it’s essential to implement standards and policies for human resources management. Secondly, it’s important to collect data about staff performance and compare it to the existing standards. And finally, you should make an accurate estimate of the corrective measures to be applied.|
|3.||Each of the above requirements relates to your activities in the MT-4 [em-tee-four]. Check if the MML [em-em-el] client ID and type of retail unit are relevant.|
Step 3. Choose a microphone
Avoid using the microphone built into your laptop. Invest in an adequate device to achieve the best quality recording. There are two types of mics:
- Condenser microphones are most commonly found in studios. They require an external power supply and are highly sensitive to loud sounds. Transient noises, such as “P”, “B”, and “SH” sounds, will cause distortion. Using a condenser mic requires total silence while recording.
- Dynamic microphones are much more rugged compared to their condenser counterparts. They are resistant to moisture and other forms of abuse, which make them the perfect choice on stage. Dynamic mics don’t require power input; they can be plugged directly into an amplification source or a recording setup. However, their sound quality is not as accurate as condenser microphones.
Professional recording studios typically use condenser microphones. Another important feature in a microphone choice is the type of connector:
- XLR microphones are the industry standard for the great majority of professional microphones. They provide high-quality audio recording. However, XLR microphones are not compatible with the standard laptop audio input, so in addition to a microphone, you need to purchase an audio interface.
- USB microphones provide the same high quality sound signature. The primary difference between the two models is the interface to the receiving device. USB mics are compatible with both PC and Mac operating systems; they just plug and play so you can get started really quickly. Also, the analog-to-digital converters (ADC) in USB mics can slightly affect the quality of the recording.
Check out some of Amazon’s most popular inexpensive mics:
$149 USD on Amazon
$99 USD on Amazon
$99 USD on Amazon
Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Step 4. Choose software for audio recording and editing
The software is needed to record, save, and edit an audio narration. For example, you can choose one of the following:
Adobe Audition CC — multifunctional editing software most commonly used by professionals for video, podcasting, and sound effect design. It includes such useful tools as Automatic Speech Alignment and Automatic Volume Correction. Audition CC supports almost all audio formats.
Price: $19.99 per month for the standalone software, and $49.99 per month for the Creative Cloud package with Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. included. Available on Windows and Mac.
Audacity — a free audio recorder and editor. It offers all the requisite audio editing tools and supports a wide range of formats. With Audacity, you can also create your own sound effects. Available on Windows and Mac.
iSpring Suite — multifunctional software designed specially for creating online courses. The program is based in PowerPoint. You can create a course in PowerPoint, add a narration with iSpring Suite, and sync it easily with animations and transitions. Using the iSpring Suite audio editor, you can record a voice over, cut out unnecessary fragments, adjust the volume, reduce background noise, and save the file in MP3 or WAV format. Available on Windows.
Step 5. Recording pre-production checklist
The location is the number one thing you should prepare for a comfortable audio session. Here are some useful tips to do it right:
- Find a small, quiet room. In larger rooms, you may experience problems with echo;
- Ensure no one interrupts your audio session by rushing in. Hang a sign on the door: “Quiet Please, Recording in Progress”;
- Shut the windows firmly and turn off all unrelated devices, including mechanical watches;
- Sound absorbing panels, velvet curtains, blanketed walls, and soft furniture help to prevent noise during the recording process.
In addition, you may use extra gear like a pop filter and acoustic screen to improve audio recording quality. A pop filter is a noise protection filter for microphones. It serves to reduce or eliminate popping sounds like “B” and “P”. You need a pop filter if the mic is in a direct line in front of your mouth.
An acoustic screen is a fabric-covered, double-sided screen used to absorb noise. It is usually placed behind the microphone.
Note: To get high-quality audio narration, iSpring experts recommend using an MXL 770 condenser microphone combined with pop filter and acoustic screen. To hear this mic in action, watch iSpring video tutorials on YouTube.
How to configure a mic for recording
Don’t forget to test the microphone’s sensitivity. If you don’t, then afterwards it may turn out that the recorded sound is too loud or soft. iSpring Suite offers a Microphone Setup Wizard to configure optimal microphone sensitivity.
For an external microphone, select Other and click Next.
Step 5. Recording process
You have to warm up your voice before starting recording. Don’t skip this step! If you don’t warm it up, your voice can cramp due to sudden stress. There are many simple and effective warmups you can find on YouTube.
Record audio narration in a comfortable standing position. In this position, the diaphragm opens up to its maximum extent. Do some breathing exercises:
- Place your hands on your stomach;
- Inhale deeply through your nose, feel your belly and ribcage expand, hold for 5 seconds;
- Exhale slowly through slightly parted lips, empty your lungs completely, hold for 5 seconds;
- Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
For the next warmup, pick a tongue twister. Tongue twisters improve articulation and enunciation. Start off reading it carefully and say each phrase 3 times, gradually picking up the speed each time.
Note: A voice over should not repeat the information on the slide. Paraphrase the text if necessary. The narrator’s rate of speech for an e-course should be faster than for a live lecture.
Don’t record the whole script at once. Break your performance down into short sessions. That way, you’ll have time to restore your breathing. Wear headphones to pay full attention to the sound of your own voice and watch your pronunciation.
Name the parts of the text you’re currently reading to avoid further confusion, or pause after each part. This helps to identify the beginning and end of each part during the editing process.
While recording, the sound source should remain at a fixed distance from the microphone. This provides a consistent level throughout the recording.
Note: To help you read the script more smoothly, use a teleprompter. There are many free teleprompter solutions out there; for instance, Autocue.
Which audio format should I choose
We recommend using WAV and AIFF, which contain an exact copy of the original source audio. Both provide the same quality. The only difference is that AIFF is made by Apple and used primarily in Apple products, while WAV is pretty much universal. However, like any uncompressed format, the file sizes are large.
Uncompressed formats are good during the editing stage, because it’s best to perform all processing operations (noise reduction, EQ, etc.) before compressing, which actually destroys a large amount of the audio data. After editing, we suggest converting uncompressed audio into a lossy format to make file uploading less time and space consuming.
MP3 is the most common and well-supported lossy audio format. If it’s a high enough bitrate (e.g., 320 kbps), the audio will be virtually indistinguishable from the original source, especially for voice recordings. Remember, you can’t convert MP3 back to uncompressed format.
Note: If you’re using iSpring to record your narrations, you don’t have to worry at all about formats! Recordings are all uncompressed, and output is in MP3. You can also adjust the compression settings when publishing your course (100% is 320 kbps).
Step 6. Editing
After recording, it’s time to edit your audio narration. This step requires you to remove all mistakes and pauses, clean up background noise, and set the volume. All the work here takes place in an audio editor, and you can take advantage of the software we discussed in step 4. Learn more about voice over recording in this iSpring Suite tutorial.
- Write a script. It will serve as a guideline for your e-course project team: courseware developer, designer and narrator.
- Use a dynamic USB microphone. It’s compatible with laptops and significantly reduces background noise.
- Record sound in a small room to reduce echo.
- Before recording, do some warmup exercises to improve your diction and pronunciation.
- Split the script into parts. Remember, its much easier to edit the material in short fragments.
- Save your voice over in WAV or AIFF format to maintain high quality audio.