Welcome to this workshop on Audio Made Easy!
Using audio in your teaching offers an engaging means to convey course content, adds variety to your instruction and – when teaching online – is a powerful way to bring sound and your voice into the course. The aim of Audio Made Easy is to demonstrate what good quality audio is, how to record it using accessible equipment and software, and how to record, edit and incorporate audio in to your PowerPoint presentations.
By the end of this workshop, you should be able to:
- Recognize what good quality audio sounds like
- Identify the basic parts of a DIY digital recording station
- Describe steps to record and edit voiceover audio using both PowerPoint and Camtasia
- Describe steps for adding audio and voiceover to your teaching presentations
When developing content for online learning, one of the crucial elements is having great audio. You can make a great video, but if the audio is poor, it can greatly detract from the learning experience. In this section, you’ll learn about creating great audio to capture learner attention.
Audio free from background noise:
- Audio that contains a lot of background noise makes it harder for students to concentrate on you and what you are saying. Subconsciously, the brain is trying to decipher all of the sounds and put them into context. This can quickly create fatigue and students will find it difficult to learn. Background noises include loud fans, A/C units, wind, other voices, and environmental noise.To understand what background noise is, try listening to the example of noisy audio below.
Now, listen to this example of clean audio, with no background noise. Can you hear the difference?
Audio free from distractions:
- If there are distracting noises in your audio it can immediately disrupt the learning experience. These include things like dogs barking, keyboard and mouse clicking, banging, ringing, etc.Here is an example of audio with distracting noises. Do you find it disruptive to learning?
Audio that is loud, but not too loud:
- When recording audio it is important to record at the proper volume to ensure students can hear you. It is also important the audio is not too loud to prevent distortion. Distortion refers to anything unexpected in the behaviour of a sound wave. This could mean you hear electonic interference, buzzing, or it just doesn’t sound correct, and therefore it is distorted in some way.When using the recording software, check that the recording volume levels are between -10dB to -6dB. It is also advised to keep your mouth 6 -12 inches away from the mic to prevent loud distortions in your recordings.Here is an example of voiceover audio in which a person recorded too closely to the mic, without checking the volume levels first. Can you hear the audio distortions?
Audio that captures the students attention:
- Once you have mastered some technical aspects of recording great audio, it is is equally important that you speak in an engaging way. Try to use inflection in your voice, and speak naturally with a quick, conversational pace (about 120-150 words per minute). You should communicate your passion for the subject matter using your voice. This, will keep learners engaged.
Audio that avoids errors:
- When you record your audio, it is important that you speak clearly and deliberately. You want learners to understand what you are talking about, and this will enable automatic captioning services to better distinguish what is being said.If you make a mistake – pause and start again. You can easily edit mistakes out using software to make it sound completely seamless.
Now, that you understand what great audio sounds like, this section will provide the knowledge to get you ready to record. To start, here are four simple principles you should consider:
- Listen carefully. As we mentioned above, distracting and noisy backgrounds can ruin a great audio recording. Before recording, listen carefully to the noise in the room and do whatever you can to eliminate those sounds while recording. This can mean turning off electrical appliances, shutting a window, changing rooms, or muffeling the noise with something that will absorb the unwanted sound. If you can’t relieve a constant noise in your recording environment, like a fan for instance, try recording the room tone for 30 seconds before speaking. This will capture just the noise in the background. Some audio software options can capture this noise and give you the option to remove it from the recording.
- Distance from the mic. The closer you are to the mic, the more it will capture your voice. The rule of thumb is 4 fingers away from the mic, or 6 -12 inches. Do a test recording to find the right distance and the right speaking volume.
- Get Cozy. It sounds silly, but one of the best places to record great audio is in a closet. Or, any room that will absorb noise with soft wall coverings. Rooms with hard walls, concrete, or empty space will cause sound to bounce around and sound thin, making it hard to hear your voice clearly.
- Use voice-over. When you start to do a recording, sometimes the room is too noisy, your voice just isn’t working, or it feels strange to hear yourself recorded for the first time. No problem. Use these circumstances to your advantage by perfecting your content, scripting and practicing the right pace and flow for your voiceover. It can take time and practice to find your “voice” for recording and presention. Once you are comfortable and you have control of the sound in your environment, try recording!
Pro Tip: Record a few seconds of audio then stop and listen to it. Do you like how it sounds? Is it loud enough? Are there any distracting noises? Make necessary adjustments before recording your full session.
Today, most computers have great mics that will allow you to create great audio. Following the tips in the previous section will improve the quality even more. The challenge with the internal mics on a computer or laptop, is they are designed to capture all sound – which increases the likelihood that it will pick up unwanted noises. Using a headset or the mic attached to your earbuds/headphones will greatly increase the quality of your recording by bringing the mic closer to your mouth.
If you want higher quality audio, you may need to invest in a home studio setup. Quality sound can be achieved without a huge investment. The most crucial part of the setup is the mic. A good option is to purchase a USB microphone. The following miss are affordable, easy to set up devices that should connect to most computers via the USB input. Make sure to do some research before you purchase a device to ensure you find something that fits your needs.
Audio Technica AT2020
In addition to a good mic, you may also want to invest in a quality set of headphones. While the ones that come with your phone are typically good, they can make it difficult to accurately hear the audio you have recorded. Headphones are a very personal choice so find some that work for you. We suggest an Over-the-Ear style which will help eliminate background noise. Avoid brands that modify the sound. Typically you want a monitor or studio type headphone.
If you live in a noisy environment and want to do an at home recording, you may want to invest in sound proofing tools such as foam pads to attach to the wall, or a sound absorbing booth.
If you are interested in trying out a professional recording studio, check out MacPherson Institute’s Audio Studio. Or, rent/borrow some professional recording equipment from Lyon’s New Media Centre at McMaster University!
Regardless of your setup you will need some software to record your audio. There are several options available and you should use what you are comfortable with. However, we do recommend that you use the institutionally supported tools in case you need support. And they are free! (while you are employed as an instructor at McMaster).
PowerPoint is a great tool that allows you to easily record audio and add it to your presentations or make a video. You may be familiar with the term ‘voice-over PowerPoint’. This is a typical approach in e-learning where the instructor creates content on a slide deck, and then adds voice-over to the slides. This can provide context and insight, or narrate an important learning opportunity that is visualized on the slide.
While PowerPoint can record audio, there are some challenges. The recordings are stored on each slide and can introduce technical difficulties. Also, it is difficult to record great audio when there is very little control over the recording experience. If you make a mistake it can be a challenge to correct. If you are recording a simple or short piece of audio for a slide, then Power Point might be the perfect option.
Review this step-by-step PowerPoint resource that illustrates the processes of adding audio (music, narration, or sound bites), to your PowerPoint presentation, and how to record and listen back to your recording. This resource provides specific steps for using PowerPoint on a Mac or PC computer, as well as different versions of the software. Please note, that to record audio or listen in PowerPoint, your computer must be equipped with a sound card, microphone, and speakers.
Camtasia is known as screen recording software, but it can also be a great tool for creating great audio. Camtasia gives the user a lot of control over the recording experience. This includes the option to see and adjust your audio levels/volume. Camtasia also provides many tools to fix recording mistakes or edit and share audio. You can also record your PowerPoint presentations into Camtasia to create a polished video. If you can think of a way to use audio in your course content (creating a podcast, recording a lecture, etc.) or to engage with students, Camtasia probably has all of the tools you will need.
If you are a McMaster instructor, you can download Camtasia from the UTS website for free. Follow the steps below:
- Click on the access tab and follow the link to the hub.
- Enter your MacID credentials to get access.
- If you have any issues, contact the UTS Service Desk for support.
Once you have Camtasia downloaded on to your computer, review these Camtasia video tutorials or watch the videos below to get you started with recording in Camtasia. Make sure you have your mic, headphones and quiet recording environment ready to go! After you have tried recording in Camtasia, watch the How To Improve Your Audio tutorials to instruct you on how to achieve the best results.
Review the following Camtasia tutorial videos to learn the software interface, how to record voice over and audio editing.
This workshop has shared principles for recording great audio, as well as some of the hardware and software tools to do so. If you want to find out more or to practice using great audio technique, visit us at the MacPherson Institute Audio Studio or email firstname.lastname@example.org.