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Recording Voice-overs for Screencasts: Best Practices

Technical Blog Post


Recording Voice-overs for Screencasts: Best Practices


If your company customizes Maximo, screencasts are a good way of providing information  to employees about those customizations, especially when that information is not available in Information Centers or other IBM platforms.  If you want to include a voice-over in your demonstrations, here are some best practices to help you deliver polished and professional audio.

  • Choose a good microphone. USB microphones provide better sound, use fewer computer resources, and record far better audio than an analog microphone connected to your computer’s audio card.
  • Practice! The closer you are to a microphone, the louder you will sound and vice versa. Ideally, your mouth should be between four to six inches from the front of the microphone (touch your thumb to your chin, and then touch the microphone with your stretched-out pinky). Obviously, if you happen to speak more loudly than most, move farther away from the microphone to avoid the distorted sound caused by overloading the microphone. If you speak quietly, you should move closer to the microphone to avoid the pickup of excessive room reverberation, which can cause you to sound distant, and lowers the intelligibility of speech.
  • Record in a quiet location. Microphones can pick up nearby noises, so make sure that fans and air conditioning are turned off. Most office areas have a lot of background noise that you may not even notice. Take a second and listen. What do you hear? Make a test recording and review for ambient noise.
  • Block the computer’s humming sound. The main source of hum/noise is often the onboard mic of the laptop. Because you will be using an external SB microphone, you do not need to have the internal microphone on, so disable it. Also, remember to mute your computer while recording so you don’t get application sounds (‘You have new mail’), looped audio or noise.
  • Be natural. It is important to always speak slowly and clearly in a normal voice when using a microphone. There is no reason to whisper or shout, speak normally and let the microphone work for you. Microphones enable a person to speak to large audience with ease, but the sound quality of the speech is entirely up to the presenter.
  • Monitor the audio level as you record. The green to yellow range indicates normal. Orange to red warns you are close to over-modulated input. Best sound quality occurs when audio level bar is kept in the green to very light orange range.
  • Project, and enunciate, and be aware of your tone. This helps your voice recording sound clear and crisp on replay. Imagine that you are addressing a small audience in a large room.
  • Strive for a neutral, pleasant, and even voice recording. Try to avoid colloquialisms and slang. Be natural and calm and slightly upbeat. If you are bored or unsure of what you want to say, that will really show in a voice-only recording. Speak slowly and clearly. Some even recommend smiling as you speak, as this will help brighten the tone of your voice and make you sound crisper.
  • Vary your volume, pitch, and rhythm. This helps you to convey meaning and emotion. Without variation, your voice will sound boring, monotonous, and robotic. Even though you're using a microphone, your audience will still listen for the emotional and semantic cues contained in your voice, cues that a microphone doesn't supply. Use vocal diversity to make sure your audience understands and feels the tone of your message.
  • Try to avoid taking great gasping breaths. These can be edited out but be aware of their impact; the same with pops and clicks. Pops and clicks are low frequency explosive sounds created by the release of breath following the articulation of stop consonants, such as the letters P and B. Pops are both annoying and distracting to an audience. A well written speech given by a dynamic speaker is not as effective when marred by the addition of unwanted, unprofessional, and unnecessary pops. Pops are picked up by the microphone when the microphone is placed directly in front of the mouth. Pops are avoided by speaking across the front, rather than directly into the front of a microphone, easily accomplished by holding the microphone at an angle of forty-five degrees to the mouth.
  • Listen to your recordings with headphones, not just through the speakers. It will reveal sounds you might not hear otherwise. Keep in mind that a large percentage of your audience with will be listening that way.

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