Audio Recording Basics

4 March 2017
This is a really long article – sorry!assorted recording devices

Recording Narration

Once you have a storyboard, it’s time to create the narration audio clips. The technical methods vary, and you may have to try a few to discover a process that is both comfortable to use, and produces recordings of acceptable quality.

Recording Tips
  • Record in a quiet place
  • Shut the windows
  • Turn off any fans, motors, etc.
  • Shut the door
  • Take care of children, pets (and spouses before starting
  • If you are going to use a portable devce such as a smartphone, consider making your recordings in your car. Drive to a park or secluded place, shut off the engine, and make your audio recordings.
  • If the finished digital story will be short (such as one photo, one voice) try to record it all in one file.
  • If the planned digital story will be longer, such as when you’ve planned several segments to the story in the storyboard, record in phrases, paragraphs, or sentences, making a separate audio file for each. However, try to do all of the recordings in one sitting so the ambient noise, volume level, etc. are all somewhat consistent from recording to recording. If you break up a longer story into several recordings, you don’t have to re-record the entire thing if you make a mistake with one word or sentence.

Recording using a smart phone or other portable device

You can create narration using a smart phone or similar personal electronic device (tablet, digital recorder, music player, etc.)

Depending on whether you are using an IOS or Android device, you have several choices for voice recording apps intypical smart phone recording app interface your device-associated App store.  Many phones already have good, basic voice recording built in. Some things to consider when looking over the apps in the “store”:

  • User ratings
  • Easy to use controls
  • Easy ways to get the recording off the device (sometimes the recordings are hard to access)
    • Can you “share” the recording and send it to a cloud service like Dropbox, or email it to yourself?
    • If you choose to import the audio to your computer using a USB connection, can you find the file on the device? Find out if the app allows you to specify the save location for the recordings.
  • Output format: Look for the ability to save the recording as either a .wav or an .mp3 file. The .wav format is uncompressed and since the audio might be subject to processing by a video editor, it’s good to start out with as much quality as possible. WAV is supported by both Windows and OSX. However, .wav files can get large. The file size of a long narration saved as a .wav file might be too big to send voa email, or save in a cloud storage such as Google Drive. You can solve that by either recording and saving as .mp3, which will be smaller, or you can transfer the recording to a computer using a USB cable.

Recording on a computer using a USB-connected microphone

microphone glyphWith some setup you can record directly into your computer. There are two phases to the setup: getting the computer to recognize the microphone, and then getting your audio recording software to also recognize the microphone.

Microphone setup

  1. Plug the microphone in to a USB port on your computerr. Drivers should intall automatically if they are needed.
  2. Right-click on the speaker icon in your taskbar and select Recording Devices. Note: If the speaker icon is not available in the task bar, try the following:
    1. Windows 10:
      1. Go to Settings and type “Sound” in the “Find a setting” search box.
      2. On the Sound dialog that appears, click the Recording tab.
    2. Windows 7:
      1. Click Start, Control Panel
      2. Click Sound, and then click the Recording tab
  3. The microphone should be listed.  If you have more than one recording device plugged into the computer, select the device you want to configure. Right-click on the microphone and make sure it’s selected as the default recording device.

Windows Sound dialog

Helpful Troubleshooting links:

How to tell if the microphone is configured properly

On the Recording tab, click the microphone on the list of devices, and then click the “Configure” button at lower left.

Click “Set up Microphone”

configure microphone

Choose your microphone type and click Next.

Micropone type dialog

Read the instructions about proper microphone placement and then click Next.

Microphone Placement

Read into the microphone and verify that the recording response bar reacts to the reading. Ideally, the response will stay “in the green.” If it goes into the red, the volume can be adjusted in the Properties for the microphone (on the Sound dialog, Recordings tab.)

volume adjustment

Click Next. If the preceding steps went well, the microphone is ready to use. Click Finish.

Verifying the microphone setup

  • (Windows 10): In the Windows 10 search bar, type “Voice Recorder” to access the built-in Windows recording application. (Windows 7): Go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, Sound Recorder.
  • Take a deep breath, but let a little of it out before you click the microphone icon. Click the icon and begin speaking.
  • Record some test audio and click the Stop button. If you are holding a microphone in your hand, to avoid unnecessary extra sounds, click Stop before you drop the mic.
  • Listen to the recording and verify the setup and quality. If you don’t like what you hear, keep in mind that many people don’t like the recorded sound of their own voice initially. It takes some time to get used to hearing yourself “from the other side of your ears” so to speak. If the audio is legible and free from background noise, it might be acceptable.

Using recording software

If you want to use an audio manipulation program like Audacity, verify the microphone is configured on the computer, and then open the recording program. Make a test recording and then listen to the playback. If nothing records, check that the microphone is the listed recording device. If you can’t hear the recording, check to see that the output settings are correct. If the above steps verified that the microphone is set up correctly on the computer, check the documentation that came with the recording software.

Saving the audio files

Now is a good time to set up a separate folder on your computer to hold all of the digital files associated with this specific digital story. This wll make for easier project setup in your video recording software. Transfer the audio recordings from your phone to the target folder on your computer, or save files to this folder as you record them with your computer and microphone.

project folder structure

Many times, the file name as generated by the recording software will consist of the date and time. If you can tell the recordings apart easily with this naming format, you might prefer to leave them this way, but my preference is to rename them:

  • Multiple recordings get named after the storyboard segment
  • Recordings for one photo one voice get named to match the photo I am narrating. I just copy the file name from the photo and paste it as the file name for the audio. That way the two files will be sorted together on the computer.