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Perfecting the audio narration in instructional video


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This is a presentation I gave Oct 2014 at Information Development World in San Jose. For more information, see or more specifically, this post: That bitly link contains the audio recording and the slides with the media embedded.

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Perfecting the audio narration in instructional video

  1. 1. Perfecting the Audio Narration in Instructional Videos By Tom Johnson October 23, 2014
  2. 2. The Traditional Model Write a script or outline Review and approve the script Voiceover talent records audio AV specialist produces it Project manager wants changes
  3. 3. The Traditional Model Write a script or outline Review and approve the script Voiceover talent records audio AV specialist produces it Project manager wants changes
  4. 4. Problem: Writing skills don’t equal speaking skills
  5. 5. Presentation Outline 1. Equipment 2. Scripts 3. Delivery
  6. 6. 1. Equipment
  7. 7. Set up your environment • cloth walls • no fan • unschedulable • isolated • lockable • windowless
  8. 8. Avoid visible places
  9. 9. Get some good equipment Electro-Voice RE-20 with suspension mount
  10. 10. Mixer/Preamp
  11. 11. USB Mic Yeti Blue
  12. 12. Avoid plosives pop filter
  13. 13. Dampen echoes Harlan Hogan portable foam booth Reflexion filter
  14. 14. 2. Scripts
  15. 15. Try to sound natural Write like you would speak
  16. 16. Ways to sound natural • Use contractions • Avoid long introductory clauses • Read the conceptual paragraphs, but wing the action steps from an outline. • Keep sentences somewhat short • Imagine saying it to another person
  17. 17. Use dual monitors to adjust “When writers are able to talk their text into a computer, speech errors may suddenly appear in writing. But other things may also happen. Writing, as some linguists and computer experts suggest, may change form and become more speechlike, more like a talking text than we now know, but yet not “speech writ down.” There is also the possibility that what will emerge will be a “friendlier” text than could or would be produced by the pen or typewriter.” (Horowitz and Samuels, intro) – Peter Elbow, Vernacular Eloquence
  18. 18. and scripts “I do record my screen and narrate simultaneously, as do all of the authors at I personally rehearse each movie before recording, but even then, it's not always a perfectly smooth recording. All recordings, once completed, move onto our editors and testers before any customer ever sees them. So, while I try my best to get each movie captured in a single take, there's more happening behind the scenes long after I've completed my part.” — David Rivers, trainer on
  19. 19. Scripted Versus Unscripted Unscripted narration (David Rivers) Scripted narration (Peter Drew)
  20. 20. Keep the script short Percentage of video completed Length of video “ideal run-time for web video 2.5 – 4 minutes” — Video2zero
  21. 21. Audience attention span “Most [users] don’t have the tools or narrative capabilities to hold the attention of an audience for any real span of time.” — Brooks Andrus
  22. 22. 3. Delivery
  23. 23. How many ways can you read these two sentences? She stole the money. The door is open.
  24. 24. 1. Enunciate Enunciation: Open your mouth wider when you read words, making sure to pronounce the text crisply and clearly.
  25. 25. Voice Sample Natasha, Wicked Prince
  26. 26. Enunciation Practice Bite on a pen while reading your copy with as much enunciation as possible. Now remove the pen and read the copy again.
  27. 27. Practice copy to read
  28. 28. 2. Vary your pitch Vary the pitch of your voice from high to low to mid-tones as you read.
  29. 29. Voice sample Ryan Trimble, Les Mis Harlan Hogan, Demo Chip, Aesop’s Fables
  30. 30. Pitch Variation Practice Break out of a monotone pitch by moving your voice’s pitch higher and lower (in an intelligent way) as you read.
  31. 31. 3. Read ahead
  32. 32. Reading ahead practice Look about 6-7 words ahead as you read to better anticipate where the sentence is going.
  33. 33. 4. Breathe/pause
  34. 34. Voiceover Samples Bill Bryson, Short History
  35. 35. Breathing practice After a sentence ends, pause and take an inaudible breath.
  36. 36. 5. Smile “As Ekman and Friesen researched the different facial muscular movements, they began to realize that just making the facial gestures affected their emotional state. For example, making an angry facial expression caused their heart rate to start beating faster and their hands to get hot. When they made expressions of sadness or anguish, they started feeling bad inside.” — Malcolm Gladwell
  37. 37. Smile
  38. 38. Voiceover Samples Lisa Greenewahl, Demo
  39. 39. Practice with Smiling Think happy thoughts for a little bit, close your eyes, force a smile. Then read your copy.
  40. 40. Voiceover tips summary 1. Enunciate 2. Vary your pitch 3. Read ahead 4. Breathe 5. Smile
  41. 41. How do you read and drive the mouse simultaneously? Hey man, I don’t have lizard eyes. How can I focus on two things at once?
  42. 42. My Recording Process 1. Record demo and script simultaneously. 2. Separate out audio track and import it into Audacity. 3. Note timing on script. 4. Re-record the audio script keeping in mind the pauses. 5. Line up the original recording with re-recording.
  43. 43. Dub Over the Original
  44. 44. Contact Information Tom Johnson @tomjohnson (Twitter)
  45. 45. References • Ryan Trimble. Librivox. 4kb.mp3 • Michael Allen Such a Voice Video Clip. Youtube. • Harlan Hogan audio clip. E-Learning. • Video2zero time graph. • Chip from Tampa audio clip. Librivox. 64kb.mp3 • Lisa Greenawell audio clip. • Bill Bryson. Audible. A Short History of Nearly Everything. • Dan Levine on Smiling. Technique Tips. • Drew, Peter. Cadence quote. from peter drew -- • “Conversation.” Photo from Flickr. • Raise Your Voice! Acting • Pause/Play Button. Flickr. • Lizard eye. Andi Jetaime, Chameleon. Flickr. • Urban Bikers Tips and Tricks, 3rd edition. “Dogs.” • Chris McQueen. Tips for Voice Overs.