Want to Create a Great Instructional Video? Start with Great Audio

As an Instructional Designer, part of my job is to help our faculty learn how to construct various components of a Blended or Online course. Typically, this means they need to learn how to create their own instructional videos using a screen-recording program like Camtasia. We offer several bits of advice when starting this process for the first time, such as ‘the instructor should appear in the video’ and ‘limit your recording to 10-15 minutes’, but one of the most important pieces of advice that we give is to use equipment that will ensure a high-quality video. This includes high-quality audio, because there is nothing that will ruin a video faster than poor audio.

We’ve all come across these videos – there are probably tens of thousands of them on YouTube. They’re the ones where you hit the Play button and the video starts but you don’t hear anything. So you turn up the volume on the video, then the volume on your computer, then maybe on your speakers too (if you have external speakers), and now you can hear what the person is saying but there’s also a lot of white noise, which is distracting. Of course later on, after you’ve forgotten that you cranked your volume all the way up, you’ll scare the daylights out of everyone in a 20 foot radius when you go to play something else that was recorded properly and it comes blasting out of your speakers. It happens to the best of us.

What can you do to ensure that you’re recording high-quality audio?

Find a quiet area to make your recording

In a higher education setting, this is sometimes easier said than done. Your typical faculty office has a lot of background noise: loud air-handling systems, ringing telephones, conversations in the hall, students knocking on doors, computer chimes from incoming emails, etc. Find a place in your building or somewhere on campus where these noises and disruptions don’t exist. These sounds will distract your students when they watch your video just like they distract you.

Use a USB or Bluetooth headset

headset
Marc’s Logitech H540 USB headset

The microphones built into most computers record low-quality audio and pick up a lot of background noise. The microphones on headsets can help to reduce a lot of the background noise, plus the arm keeps the microphone at a constant distance from your mouth, which allows you to maintain a consistent volume level throughout the entire recording.

You can find a good headset for around $30-$40 from companies like Logitech, Sennheiser, and Koss.

Take advantage of a recording booth

Many universities have recording booths dedicated for tasks like these with all of the equipment you need. They’re usually found in a library, media center, or teaching and learning center, and were probably setup by staff with AV and technical expertise. WCU has a recording booth in the Office of Distance Education available for faculty use.

A Surprising Benefit of Creating Your Own Video Captions

Creating captions can be is a tedious process.  It seems like every time I create captions for a video, I find myself wondering, “is this really worth it?”  I know captioned videos provide many positive benefits to student learning which are more than worth the investment of time into the captioning process, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover another, more personal benefit to captioning my own videos.  Captioning can help you improve your public speaking.

Typing a word or phrase into your video caption track for the 7th time in the last 30 seconds makes it easy to identify those words and phrases that you say a little too often.    Trying to line up captions to the audio also increases your awareness of the use of filler sounds like “um” and “ah” between thoughts.  As the cartoon G.I. Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.”  I found that once I identified those repeating words and overused filler sounds, the next time I was speaking I could focus on eliminating them.  When you find yourself dreading the creation of video captions, remind yourself of all the great benefits your students will reap from having them as an instructional resource and then think about how the captioning process is going to help you improve your speaking abilities.

If you want to learn more about how to create your own captions in Camtasia, I recommend you watch the webinar my colleague, Marc Drumm recorded in the Fall of 2015 on Captioning Your Course Videos.