Recording Audio Voiceovers for Teaching and Learning Materials
This paper introduces the concept of voiceover for media resources and provides information and links to technical resources to help in creating voiceover resources.
Voiceover recordings can be a very useful assistive tool when creating and adding to existing learning materials. Audio can be used to enhance text resources, for example, providing comments or context to an academic paper. It can engage students' attention when studying on their own or when learning difficult subject matter. Voiceovers can specifically enhance presentation slides, providing a deeper understanding and explanations and examples around traditional bullet point slideshows. Spoken word can also be applied to add commentary to other digital media, including still images and film without dialogue.
Voiceover recording is no different from straightforward spoken recording except for one thing, synchronising the voice over to whatever else is being presented. Fortunately there are a wealth of software tools to help achieve this depending on the type of voiceover you wish to undertake.
There is no particular method of creating voiceovers that is popular enough to be thought of as a ‘standard', but the following sections attempt to offer the most simple solutions for creating various types of voiceover recordings, by adding voiceovers to resources and creating a new digital file. If you have any methods that you use and think we should include here then please contact us via our helpdesk. You can also make your suggestions using the comments box at the end of this document. If you wish to find out about any of these techniques in a more in-depth manner, then we will be happy to explain them via our helpdesk, based on your individual needs.
Please be aware that by adding a voice over to resources, you may be infringing copyright and/or moral rights, which is against the law. If you have any questions relating to these issues please contact us for advice via our helpdesk at email@example.com.
|Type of Voiceover||Equipment Needed||Suggested Software||Extra Skills Needed|
|Powerpoint Presentations||Microphone for PC. Headphones/Speakers||Microsoft Powerpoint or Open Office (Neo Office for Mac)|
|Still images||Microphone for PC. Headphones/Speakers||Audacity and Windows Movie Maker (or iMovie for Mac)||Defining 'time of images before they change|
|Screencasts||Microphone for PC. Headphones/Speakers||Jing||Possible Audio/Video Editing (see other advice docs re: audio editing)|
|Film||Microphone for PC. Headphones/Speakers||Audacity and Windows Movie Maker (or iMovie for Mac)||Possible Audio/Video Editing (see other advice docs re: audio editing)|
Alongside a computer, recording voice over materials requires two pieces of equipment. A microphone that is compatible with your computer, and some headphones (essential for making sure the recording actually worked).
Microphones range in quality generally in relation to their price, but if high end professional quality isn't a requirement, you can buy a decent quality microphone on a budget.
There are two main types of microphones:
- Dynamic microphones are particularly good for recording in busy office environments as they pick up sound from a close distance to the microphone. They can be picked up cheaply and can e plugged in to the microphone socket on your computer's soundcard.
- Condenser microphones require power either from a battery or commonly via a USB cable to your computer (as in most USB microphones). They provide richer quality than dynamic microphones but they pick up sounds from a further distance (handy if recording more than one person talking but pick up more background noise).
- Samson Go Mic - A USB powered condenser microphone. Very good quality and compact. Mini stand included RRP. Approx £30
- Samson Q1U - Another USB mic but this one is dynamic. Good quality, and handheld, negating the need for a stand. RRP. Approx £37
- Logitech ClearChat Pro USB headset - A USB headphone AND microphone combo, good for rough and ready recordings as it is specifically designed for internet phone conversations. RRP approx £20
|Very quiet recording room & one Speaker||Background noise not an issue||Condenser Microphone|
|Noisy Office||Need to eliminate Background Noise||Handheld Dynamic Microphone|
|Two people talking (quiet environment)||
One microphone to capture two people.One microphone per person
Two lapel microphones
|More than two people talking (quiet environment)||One microphone to capture numerous people||Boundary Microphone (within reasonable distance of subjects)|
More often than not you may be in a situation where you have to make the best of the microphone available to you. In all cases you should make note of these considerations:
- Make use of materials that dampen sound. For example, if your recordings sound echo-y or ‘roomy', place some cushions around the microphone (but not touching it), and hang/position some cushions, or similar (a duvet works wonders but is hardly ever on hand in the office), behind the person speaking to stop reflections off the wall from behind being picked up in the mic.
- Background noise is almost impossible to remove after recording. Make a test recording and listen back (on headphones) to see if this will be a problem.
Please see our document Microphone Technique for more information about getting the most out of your microphones.
Any headphones that are of a reasonably decent quality will do. They will not affect the quality of your recordings as such, but they allow you to make sure the recordings sound good by listening back to them. ‘Closed back' headphones are recommend as they block out sound from outside.
- Soundlab PX712. RRP Approx £15
- Beyerdynamic DT231. RRP Approx £30
Please see our document Headphone Guide for further information on choosing the right headphones.
Voice over for Powerpoint presentations
There may be times when adding narration to a Powerpoint presentation can enrich the learning experience for your audience. Fortunately Microsoft Powerpoint has a simple and intuitive interface for recording audio directly into a presentation, which is saved into the .ppt file. Put simply, this means you can create a new presentation, or open an existing one, record sound directly over it, and save the audio and the presentation into one file. When a user opens the saved file they can view the presentation and listen to the audio at the same time. Microsoft's Office X for Mac has the further advantage of allowing you to export presentation as Quicktime Movie files, making them more accessible video resources which can be uploaded to a VLE or popular websites, such as Slideshare.
Voice over for still images
Providing a commentary to a single image or a series of images is a relatively simple task. The simplest and quickest approach is to record your narration in an audio recorder such as Audacity, and then synchronise with your images afterwards.
For advice on creating an audio voice over file please see our advice document Creating a Podcast on how to achieve this in Audacity.
By following this approach your narration is not bound by timings, and you can adjust the presentation of the images to suit your narration.
With your audio recording complete, Windows Movie Maker and iMovie (on the Mac), which come pre-installed on Windows and Mac computers, both have the functionality to create new files from digital still images and digital sound files. By importing your sound files into projects, it is possible to import images to the timeline, and resize the length of how long they are shown for (to be in sync with the narration) in a slideshow fashion. The result can then be exported to a movie file type for sharing.
Voice over for screencapture (Screencasts)
Screencasting is the video capture of on-screen activity and can be particularly useful for demonstrating computer software techniques, such as ‘how-to' guides. Most screen capture software has the ability to record audio at the same time, to allow you talk through the processes as you undertake them. However, you may it useful to record the audio narration separately to the screen capture as this allows to focus on what you are saying, and perhaps read from a script whilst not being distracted by whatever tasks you are demonstrating. In these instances, it is important to prepare your script carefully so that it synchronises with your on-screen actions. Fortunately most screen capture production software will allow you to pause the on-screen activity letting you speak for as long as needed before it stars again.
Our advice document Screencasting Workflow discusses screencasting in greater detail.
Voice over for film
Similar to creating a voiceover for still images, the simplest method for creating a voiceover to film, is by using free movie making software. As previously recommended, Windows Movie Maker and Apple's iMovie, can provide a simple platform for producing voiceover recordings. One issue to be aware of when providing narration for film files is that unless you are prepared to do some basic video editing, the amount of time you have to speak is defined by the amount of time the video file lasts for. One technique is to include narration over a still image at these points in the film, but be aware that freezing a frame of the film footage will on the whole produce a poor quality image.
Voice over for documents
Adding voice to text documents can help enrich resources by including additional information, such as context or tone. They can also provide students with audio feedback, a technique where spoken word audio files are given to students as well as, or instead of, traditional written feedback.
Digital audio files can be embedded within document files or ‘linked-to' from within document via a shortcut icon. Our advice document Audio feedback: A How-to Guide provides step by step instructions on embedding audio files into Microsoft Word documents, as well as information on including audio files in PDFs.