At the upcoming STC Summit, I'm presenting a session called "Developing a Personal Voice in Audio." In this presentation, I'll explain how to "deliver video tutorials with a friendly, personable voice by implementing several audio techniques common to professional voice talents and sound engineers.
One way I prepare for presentations is by writing a series of blog posts about the topic. So over the next two weeks, I'm going to write 10 posts about developing a personal voice in audio.
I admit that I feel like a novice with this topic. I'm not a voiceover professional, sound engineer, or e-learning guru. I do podcasting and screencasting. But voice is a topic I've been enthusiastic about for a long time.
For several months I've been looking for a quiet room to record screencasts at my work. Our building has four floors for more than 600 IT professionals. I investigated more than 20 conference rooms, poked my head in empty offices, walked around unfamiliar floors, inquired here and there.
When people see me looking, they don't understand what I mean by a "quiet" room. What does quiet mean? Stop and listen to the sounds around you. The fan, a ticking clock, a rumbling from a dishwasher or dryer, the hum of the lights, the sound of non-descript white noise, voices from a neighboring office, or cars passing by outside. The sounds are subtle, but when you start recording, these noises amplify onto your audio track.
That's why you need a quiet room. If you have your own private office, great. If you have to schedule time in a conference room, that can also work. You usually have to work with what you've been given.
But let's say you want something more -- your own private recording room, where you can set up your equipment, lock the door, record is perfect silence, and come and go whenever you please, without worrying about someone playing with your expensive microphone.
After weeks of searching, I finally found that room. On the ground floor of our building, I located an unused observation room that's part of a usability lab which, sadly, no one uses. The walls are lined with cloth panels. There is no fan. The room is isolated from other rooms. There's a wired connection for internet, and at my request, a locksmith added a lock on the door and gave me the key.
I set up two monitors (hauling them down from my regular cube), a docking station, mixing board, my microphone and other equipment. It's as close to recording in a studio as I will ever get. I've actually been holed up in that room ever since I found it. The solitude is both rejuvenating and helps me be productive. Most importantly, I can record without any ambient noise.
When you're looking for an acoustic environment at your work, look for a room that has these qualities:
One of the key advantages in finding (or creating) a good acoustic environment is being able to reproduce the exact same sound when you're editing your recordings. If you have to constantly change rooms with different acoustic environments, you can't easily splice in patches or fixes to your recordings. By maintaining the same environment and setup, you can fix little bits here and there if you make mistakes. As you're editing the audio, you can decide to re-record a sentence here and there, and it will sound seamless because you're in the same acoustic environment.
If you can't find the right acoustic environment, that's all right. Make do with what you have. In a later post, I'll talk about using a dynamic cardiod micrphone, which does a good job at capturing the immediate sound in front of it and blocking out peripheral sounds.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.