How to Answer Voice Over Narration Questions

What a Strange Title for a Blog Post

I know it is, but it best describes what you’re about to read. My e-learning colleague in Chicago, IL, Tricia Ransom, has asked me a few audio narration questions that many of you also ask. She gave me her permission to blog about her questions and my answers based on my experience. I also hope our e-learning community will share their experience with Tricia as well. We all can learn from each other, so please write us a comment in the Comments section.

Tricia and her team are going to hire professional voice over talent to record the audio narration for Tricia’s e-learning course.

Tricia wants to follow a proven project workflow for collaborating with this off-site voice actor. Let’s take a look at Tricia’s four questions and my answers based on what I’ve learned from my projects. Again, we both welcome your contributions!

Q1. What Is the Best Way to Provide a Script? Per slide, per module, per entire course?

A1. My answer is “that depends”. If you hire a voice over talent who has experience with e-learning narration, they may already have a workflow they prefer. Feel free to ask that talent for his/her preference.

Generally, I try and provide the voice talent with the entire “story”. (Effective e-learning tells the business story.) If you have a course curriculum made up of several modules, and if you’re going to work with the same voice talent throughout the curriculum, give the talent the entire course script. If the later modules’ scripts are still in draft mode or under revision, then give the voice talent an outline of the entire course. As a voice talent myself, I like to know where the content is starting and where it ends, meaning, I like knowing up front what’s in Module One through to the final module.

Why? Because audio narration involves voice acting. Voice talent seek to know, understand, and internalize the story, the business story your e-learning course will tell. They will then communicate your story through their tone of voice, phrasing, etc.

So, Tricia, ask the voice talent you hire what they prefer: module by module, or the entire course. Make sure your script template is easy to read, and that the narration script section has 1.5 line spaces between each line of text and font that’s 14 points at least. Provide the script in a Word file instead of as a PDF.

Q2. Should we have them record it and send us back files per slide? If so, have you found an easy naming convention?

A2. Again, my answer is “that depends” for this question as well. It’s important to first think through your project workflow. What’s my workflow? I record a module in one recording session. Then, if I’m the audio editor/producer as well, I go through the recorded narration and save each screen’s narration as a separate audio file. In past projects, I used to name the file the same number as the screen’s number. That system can work just fine. If you move or change a screen, remember to renumber all of the subsequent audio files. That can be a pain and a waste of time.

For one project, I named the individual audio files with the first three-to-four words of the screen’s first sentence. That way, if the screen or it’s narration is changed by the SMEs, I don’t have to go through and rename the rest of the audio files in the audio library. That was a small project.

On one project we named the files by Course, Module, and Page (Screen) number:

C2M3P1 = Course 2, Module 3, Page (or Screen) 1.

Q3. What are some of the pitfalls you’ve encountered? Does it help to have one of the IDs there while they are narrating?

A3. I haven’t had any designers with me while narrating. Either I was the ID and the voice talent, or our Project Manager was the one who did a quality check of the hired talent’s audio narration during production. Will it help to be present while the voice talent records the narration? I can’t answer that question from personal experience, but I know that marketing clients often are at recording sessions for radio or TV commercials.

Q4. HELP???

A4. The community is here for you, Tricia. Can you assist Tricia? Here’s her contact information:

Home Page: http://flavors.me/TriciaRansom

Her blog: patriciaransom.wordress.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/patriciaransom

Twitter: @TriciaRansom

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How to Direct Yourself in Your Home Recording Studio

Workshop: Voice-Over Self-Direction

(I am please to promote an upcoming voice-over workshop to be held in Orange County, California, and facilitated by my VO coach, Beverly Bremers. With her permission, I’m publishing her announcement word-for-word. I am not receiving any remuneration nor benefits for promoting her workshop.)

SELF-DIRECTION

HOW TO WEAR 3 HATS IN YOUR HOME STUDIO

The voice-over industry has changed in these past few years and voice casting on the Internet is one of the main ways to audition and get work. Now acting skills are not all that you’re expected to possess. You need to be able to engineer and direct yourself as well, in that secluded place known as your home recording studio. That means you must wear 3 hats and you must be able to wear all 3 equally well. But not at the same time!

Image of a woman wearing 3 hats.YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO ACT!

YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO DIRECT YOURSELF!

YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO ENGINEER, TOO!

So….Beverly Bremers is offering a workshop to help give the guidance you need to accomplish these tasks. This 2-hour workshop will show you, the voice-over “engineer”, how to get decent sound and edit your auditions and jobs so that they sound professional.

AND she will help you, the voice-over “director”, listen to your work objectively with your director’s “ears”, to produce a satisfying, professional result.

Image of Beverly Bremers coaching a voice over actor.

Beverly Bremers coaching a voice over actor.

Held at Bev’s home studio in Mission Viejo.

If you’ve set up your studio, then this is the next valuable step in your voice-over evolution.

Fee: $40.00.

SATURDAY, MARCH 13, 3 -5 PM

Email bev@beverlybremers.com or call 949.874.0616 to reserve your place. Hurry – class size is limited to 6 people. Hope to see you!

Bring a USB flash drive to class if you’d like to save your work and take it home.

Also available: Voice-over demos, singing, accent reduction and songwriting.

Visit my websites:
www.beverlybremers.com
www.voicercise.net

~Beverly

Photo Attribution

Maria’s Three Hats by Mendy Texas, used with her permission.

http://mendytexas.blogspot.com/

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Hardware for Voice Overs, Audio Narration

Voice Over Audio Narration for e-Learning

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Hardware for Voice-Overs, Audio Narration

Neytiri - Na'vi in AvatarVirtual communities and collaboration constantly amaze and engage me. Social media impacts the way we work and live every moment of each day. Information flows into our personal learning networks at Warp Speed. I feel almost like a Na’vi from “Avatar” due to the vast network of connections and information available to me at the click of my mouse!

David Anderson, @elearning, a Community Manager at Articulate, forwarded this Forum thread to me where he had asked the user community to share information on the hardware (etc.) we use to record audio narration, or voice-overs, in our e-learning courses. When I saw the new thread, only Gerry Waz had responded at the time. I created a demo, posted it late at night (1:00 a.m.), and by sunrise, a third person had added his hardware details. I can’t wait to see how this thread will grow… but… that’s the thing. It will only grow if people share, connect, and collaborate.

So, if you’re reading this blog post and you record narrations, please visit the forum thread and share your hardware (and software) setup for recording audio narrations. Who knows! Your information may be just what someone else needs to successfully record narrations.

Hardware for Narration – Articulate Presenter

Click here to open my brief demo in a new window.

Hardware for Narration Demo

Hardware for Narration – SlideShare

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Voice-Over Audio Narration for e-Learning

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e-Learning and Background Audio

Audio that Enhances Learning

Tuesday, 1 December 2009, Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate (VP of Community) published a blog post on effective uses of audio in e-learning courses. His post is about using background audio, or ambient sounds, and he included this great example from the New York Times:

ambient_audio1

Click here to view the New York Times demo.

But, his post made me think of something beyond background audio, and I remembered a March 2009 client course where the client and I created a “scene” to model effective posture, words/phrases, and tone of voice. Take a look:

The setup is somewhat similar to the NYT demo, but we didn’t use background audio. Honestly, that never occurred to me, and after reading Tom’s post and seeing the NYT demo, I’d like to add targeted, effective background audio (ambient sounds) to scenes in e-learning courses.

One example I can think of is a course on business etiquette and customer service for back-office staff in a very busy environment.

Hmmm. I can hear the phones ringing off the hook even now!

You may also be interested in this blog post:

Voice-Over Audio Narration for e-Learning

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section of this post. If you’re not a spammer, I’ll approve you!

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Voice Over Audio Narration for e-Learning

Do-It-Yourself Narration?

Honestly, I hesitated over writing this post. Why? Because it will reveal a “Learning Experience” that I had in August, that promotes the benefit of hiring professional voice talent for online narration (e-learning, marketing presentations, etc.). In a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) e-learning world, a world that’s growing due to the current economy, most people cannot afford to hire a professional voice actor and they feel satisfied with the audio narration they produce for their online learning activities.

I’ve heard their results, and…. well…. (pause) Let me tell you a story.

One of the projects I worked on this summer was a short, online CBT for a local hospital, Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). Their OD group hired me to develop and package for publishing their designed and approved content. They had used Adobe Captivate in the past. For this project, I used Articulate Presenter ’09. I like how Presenter makes it so easy to import recorded WAV or MP3 files (WAV is the better format).

My Initial Approach

For this project, I decided to take the DIY voice actor narration route. Now, let me explain. I’m not a “total” amateur, but I’m also not a Union Talent. I’ve attended two voice over workshops and several “work outs” with my coach, Beverly Bremers.

As I was saying, I decided to DIY the audio narration for CHOC’s CBT project. The audio quality I produced in my home studio, edited by using Audacity, was fine. The (ehem) voice actor’s acting or narration was… lacking… something. I decided I just couldn’t import my lack-luster narration into a nicely developed CBT. For a moment, I sat in my home office in a bit of despair.

You see, spoken narration for online learning is much more than buying a microphone and learning how to use a sound editor. For e-learning to engage your learners, you want the audio to enhance the experience and not detract from the activities. And, in my opinion, you don’t want the audio to draw attention to itself because:

  1. It sounds like you recorded in an echo chamber.
  2. You don’t know how to edit out the “Popping Ps”.
  3. The narration sounds stilted; there’s no “life”, no vibrancy in the voice.

For my CHOC project, #3 above caused my moment of despair. I knew that hundreds, if not thousands, of learners would complete the CBT. The graphics and animations were quite nice! How could I put lack-luster narration into the package? I couldn’t.

So… what did I do? Have you guessed yet?

My Life-Saving Approach

I called Beverly, my coach. Bless her heart, she was driving back from a gig in San Diego, was almost at her studio, and YES!, she said to come on over. Two hours later, I left with Audacity files to edit, a smile on my face, and a huge sense of relief. Beverly took me last minute into her studio after working a gig, long hours driving on the freeway, and just before her scheduled work-out session with other voice talent. I’m forever grateful.

What’s the Difference?

Acting, ladies and gentlemen, acting. Although I read and recorded the exact same script, the words came alive under my coach’s direction. Her coaching also reminded me of the acting principles she teaches in her workshops and work-out sessions. As our coaching session progressed, I “got more into” the script and she coached me only on the finer points.

A Professional Is Worth It!

I decided to write this post after an Orange County ASTD colleague of mine, Janet DiVincenzo, wrote on her LinkedIn profile the following (two days ago):

imgjanetdvoicetalent

Janet and I have chatted about audio narration for online learning a few times, and I’m pleased that she understands the difference. Bravo, Janet!

What about the CHOC CBT project? Thanks to Beverly for helping me to find my acting voice for their script, I got rave reviews from the OD team for my audio narration as well as for the Articulate Presenter development. The “total package” produced client-pleasing results as well as an engaging experience for the learners.

Bottom Line…

If your budget for online learning is limited, please do what you can to save money to hire a professional voice over talent. Everyone will be much happier that you did!

(As for me, I learned that a talented VO coach is also worth every penny for studio/coaching time. I’ll hire Beverly for my next VO project, and the next one, and the….)

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