One of the biggest problems with screencasting is poor audio quality. It doesn’t matter how swish your graphics are or how carefully you’ve planned your script – if your audio is hissy, full of pops and breaths and background sounds (like traffic!) then the listener will be disappointed.
This topic is discussed in more detail in The Screencasting Handbook.
Don’t record noise in the first place!
Any audio engineer will tell you that a poor original recording is the hardest thing to try to improve. Always strive to record clean, clear audio:
- Isolate your recording environment – be in a room by yourself with the door shut and windows sealed
- Turn off all other equipment including mobile phones, fridges and fans
- Wait for quiet times of the day – traffic, aeroplanes and birds can be quite obvious in the recording
- Move the mic a long way from the PC’s fan
- For laptops use an external mic so you can get away from the laptop’s fan
- Don’t run any other programs if possible so the CPU isn’t under load – that way the fan is less likely to run fast which tends to make it louder
- Try not to cough or make ‘tsk’ noises
- Keep breaths shallow, quick breaths in or out cause a lot of air to rush over the mic which sounds very noisy
Record with better equipment
A better mic will tend to record your narration with greater depth and quality.
- Avoid cheap 3.5mm jack mics that sit on your head – these tend to be the lowest quality mics and their 3.5mm connectors induce electrical noise into the signal
- Use USB mics – the motherboard’s electrical noise won’t get into your audio
- We discuss mics like the CU01, SM58, Plantronics 550, sE2200A and ATM73a in the Handbook
- If possible buy an expensive low-noise fan for your computer like the Noctua NF-R8
Remove ambient background noise and clean the audio
- Camtasia Studio on Windows is one of the few screencasting programs that can automatically remove ambient noise (BBFlashBack on Windows and Camtasia Studio and ScreenFlow on Mac can’t)
- Audacity is a great open-source tool to remove ambient noise so you won’t get a background hiss
- See this Audacity screencast tutorial for instructions on de-noising, range compressing and editing your narration using Audacity
Add background noise into the recording
This one is controversial – personally I don’t do it, I always prefer to use Audacity to remove background hiss. What you can do is take a section of existing hiss and copy it over other sections of your audio to mask other noises (like birds or cars).
This can help if you’re cutting and pasting your audio and you ‘clicks’ or ‘pops’ appear, you can smooth over these edit points with a small piece of copied noise. Use this with caution.
To improve your screencasting knowledge you must read The Screencasting Handbook. The author (Ian Ozsvald) also blogs.
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