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Creating an Online Course
Adding audio narration to your online courses can be a great way to make it much more compelling for your students.
That being said, recording, editing, and mixing audio for video(s) can be a fairly difficult task, especially if you’ve never done it before.
In this post, we’ll go over all the steps you need to take to set up your audio equipment, record your narration as well as clean it up to make it ready for your online course videos.
A huge component of producing high-quality audio is the gear you use to record it.
It can be confusing choosing between different microphones and recording equipment due to the sheer amount of brands and products available.
Luckily, there are some high-quality mainstays within the audio recording industry that are geared towards online course creators just like you.
So, without further ado, let’s get into the equipment you’ll need to record:
Of course, if you’re going to record audio, you’re going to need a mic.
Many amateur course creators make the mistake of recording their audio narration with their laptop’s or phone’s built-in microphone.
While this may be cheap and frugal, in our opinion, it’s definitely not worth it. Stock built-in mics are notorious for producing recordings that are harsh, noisy, and very difficult to work with.
Hence, if you’re going to record audio for your online course, you need to invest in at least a decent-quality mic.
Before we go over a list of our best options for microphones to record narration, let’s talk about the qualities you need to look for in a mic as a course creator:
As long as the microphone you buy has these three qualities, you’ll be ready to record sound for your course videos.
Some of our favorite microphones for recording sound for online courses are:
We’ve also made an extensive list of cheap microphones for recording with their detailed reviews that you can check out to find the best mic for yourself.
A pop filter is a fairly cheap piece of hardware that does wonders for your sound recordings.
It prevents your audio from clipping when you’re pronouncing certain consonants such as “P” and “B”. This allows you to record audio that isn’t distorted in the slightest and doesn’t sound harsh.
A shock mount is a type of cage for your microphone that holds it in place and prevents the microphone from recording any rumble or tapping on your desk that may occur.
It allows you to freely talk into your mic without worrying about it picking up noise from you placing your hands on your desk, etc.
Microphones typically come with their own mic stands which allow you to place them on your desk.
However, this results in it taking up a fair amount of space on your desk.
If your desk is getting cluttered, you can consider investing in a boom arm that connects to your desk and then suspends your mic in the air.
We’ve talked extensively about hardware, now let’s get into software.
Audio that is directly recorded from your mic is rarely ever ready to be inserted into an online course video right off the bat.
Your recording(s) need to be cleaned up and mixed properly to ensure that your voice is compelling and more importantly, clear.
The key to producing high-quality audio for your course videos is to invest in recording software that has all the tools necessary for audio cleanup.
Before we talk about some great options for sound recording software, let’s talk about the tools and features you should look for within such software:
If your sound recording software or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has these four tools, you’re pretty much good to go with recording narration for your course videos.
Now, let’s look at our top picks for the best audio recording software you can get for creating online courses:
Audacity is free and open-source software that you can download any time you want from their website.
Its UI may feel a little outdated to some users but it’s designed for efficiency and functionality.
We’ve gone over Audacity in a number of posts on our website as well as listed some great alternatives to it as well.
Adobe Audition is a paid software that supports both audio and video.
It has much more features and functionality than Audacity and gives you a lot more control over what you can do with your recordings.
That being said, it can be difficult to get into if you’ve never done audio editing before.
You can check out our comparison post between Audacity and Adobe Audition to see which one suits you more.
Reaper comes with a 60-day free trial which we feel might be enough for you to record and edit audio for your online videos.
For the number of features it has, it’s extremely lightweight and handles large audio files very well.
We made a comparison post between Reaper and Audacity that you can also check out to determine which one’s better for you.
Garageband is a fairly barebones audio recording tool for Mac OS users.
While it may not be rich in features, it still has all the tools you need to create compelling audio for online courses.
It’s also fairly straightforward to use as is pretty apparent in our tutorial post on how to remove background noise in Garageband.
While you can clean up your audio for your videos by a significant amount in post-production, you still need to have a decent audio recording in the first place.
To have the best possible audio recording for your course videos, you’ll need to set up your equipment properly.
So, let’s talk about it:
As with any hardware, you’ll start by connecting your microphone to your computer via a USB cable or a 3.5mm audio jack.
Once connected, ensure that the mic is the default input device designated by your operating system.
We’ve posted clear instructions on how you can do this for Windows, Mac OS and Linux within our Blue Yeti Setting for Voice-Over post. While the instructions in this post are for the Blue Yeti microphone, you can pretty much follow the same procedure for any microphone you have.
Once connected, ensure that the mic is in cardioid mode and start by performing a trial recording to listen to how your voice sounds.
Pay attention to the audio quality and ask yourself the following questions:
Depending on the answers to these questions, you will either have to turn the Gain of the microphone up or down.
You can consider the Gain to be the sensitivity of the mic.
If your narration is distorted and there’s a lot of background noise, lower the Gain. Keep lowering it until you hear minimal room noise and your voice is loud enough that it’s legible.
On the other hand, if your voice sounds too quiet or unclear, you can raise the Gain of your microphone.
There are a couple of things you need to know about the way you need to sit, how your microphone should be placed and where your mouth should be in relation to your microphone.
Firstly, you need to be aware of the distance between your mouth and the microphone.
This is because if you’re too close, your audio will sound muffled and distorted. On the other hand, if you’re too far away, you’ll record audio that’s low in volume and unclear.
Naturally, you can find the perfect sweet spot to record your narration for videos through a little trial-and-error.
Record a bunch of audio with varying distances between your mouth and the microphone in order to find the best distance that works for you.
Secondly, you need to check whether your microphone is a side-address microphone or a top-address microphone.
A side-address microphone is used to record sound mainly from the side of its mic grills. Thus, the optimal position for it is to have its top facing towards the ceiling as you speak into its side.
On the other hand, a top-address microphone is used to record audio mainly from its top. Thus, you would have its top facing towards your mouth during recording.
Once you’ve successfully recorded your narration, you’ll be left with a bunch of audio tracks that you now have to clean up and make ready for your course videos.
If you listen to your recording(s) as is, you’ll find that they may sound quite harsh and off-putting (if they’re loud) or unclear and uncompelling (if they’re quiet).
Thus, you’ll have to use the features within whatever audio editing tool you have to make your recordings more crisp and ready for your videos.
So, let’s talk a bit about the steps you’ll have to take in order to achieve that:
This is the first and arguably the most important step within this entire process.
Eliminating unwanted noise from your room, the adjacent room or from outside is essential.
This is because not only does such unwanted noise make your narration sound unprofessional but it will also distract your students from what you’re saying in your videos.
Most noise reduction tools within DAWs and audio editing tools for removing background noise are fairly straightforward.
We’ve made an extensive tutorial on how to reduce room noise using Audacity that you can check out to create compelling narration for your videos.
The process of normalizing basically refers to bringing your audio either back up or back down depending on the Gain settings you had during recording.
If you lowered your Gain during recording to avoid audio clipping, your voice may sound a little quiet. To address this, you’ll normalize your audio to increase it by a few dB (Decibels).
On the other hand, if you had your Gain at a higher setting, you may have to normalize it downwards to ensure there’s no audio clipping or distortion.
Next comes compression.
Compression is really the stage where your recording starts to come to life.
As mentioned earlier, compression serves to make the louder parts quieter and the quieter parts louder.
This results in your recording sounding much more crisp, compelling and engaging.
Note: You may have to perform noise reduction again after this step due to the fact that it may bring out some unwanted room noise.
Equalization is perhaps the most complex part of this entire process.
Partially because there are a lot of concepts you need to learn about but also because there is no single set of instructions for EQ that apply to all recordings.
The way you perform EQ on your narration will depend on a number of factors such as the microphone you’re using, its settings during recording and the tone of your voice.
We’ve made a comprehensive tutorial on how to perform effective EQ on speech recordings to get the best results.
You can refer to it to get a fundamental understanding of how EQ works and how you can use it to edit your recordings so that they’re ready for your course videos.
The process of exporting refers to turning your audio tracks into actual, usable audio files that you can import into video editing tools to make your course videos.
There are a number of factors you need to consider when exporting audio such as compatibility with your video editing tool as well as the audio quality of your files.
We’ve made an extensive post on the best MP3 export settings for Audacity that you can check out to develop an understanding of how exporting works.
While that tutorial is for Audacity specifically, the concepts described within it apply to pretty much all audio and video editing tools.
While we’ve gone over all the fundamentals of exporting such as Bit Rate Mode, Bit Rate Speed, Quality and Channels within the Audacity post mentioned, one thing you must always keep in mind is that you should export your audio files at the highest quality possible.
It may take up a lot of space in your hard drive but trust us when we say that you’ll regret it if you choose to have low-quality audio files for your video(s) just to save up some space.
This is mainly because once you’ve exported your audio files, they are then going to be imported again into your video editing tool.
Of course, you’re going to be using these audio files to then make your course videos.
Thus, these audio files are going to get compressed and processed again. If you work with low-quality files initially, they are going to become even more low-quality once they go through the video editing process.
So you need to make up for that by exporting them in high quality to begin with.
As for the format of your audio files, you mainly have two options: WAV or MP3.
Many people in music production and professional audio spaces love using WAV files.
This is because they are lossless which results in the most high-quality audio possible.
The disadvantage with WAV files is that they may not be compatible with certain video editing tools.
We recommend that you check whether or not your video editing tool of choice supports WAV files or not.
If it does, go for it. If not, then go for MP3.
MP3 files don’t result in as high-quality audio as WAV files but they’re still good enough for online videos.
The great thing about MP3 files is that they are fairly universal and almost all video editing tools will be able to support them.
MP3 files do incur some data loss, unlike WAV files. This is undesirable if they are going to be used in a video editing tool.
It’s normally unacceptable if you’re doing music production but for voice-overs, it doesn’t really matter that much as long as you’re exporting them at a high bit rate.
If you’re unsure about whether your video editing tool supports WAV files or not, you can choose to go the MP3 route.
This brings us to the conclusion of recording, editing, cleaning, and mixing audio for videos for online courses.
While it may seem daunting, with the right research and tools, you can create professional audio for your course videos in no time.
What tools and software do you use to record narration for online videos? Let us know in the comments below.