Getting the Most from Voice Actors: Finishing Up
By now you’ve produced a stellar script, found a great voice actor and coached them to deliver recordings tailored specifically to your target audience. Getting the audio files back can make you feel like a kid on Christmas morning, full of excitement and anticipation with just a twinge of uncertainty.
The recordings you “unwrap” and listen to may be like opening an amazing, high-quality, high-end VR game; just what you asked Santa for! Or you might listen to them and think that what you’ve received is the vocal equivalent of opening a three-pack gift of brown socks. But probably your experience is somewhere in between.
So, this raises the question: What do you do next? Here are three tips for handling less-than-optimum voice recordings.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for retakes
Poor narration can ruin the effectiveness of training for the learner; it’s as simple as that. Whether it's bad audio quality, a misspoken phrase, an omitted word, or a boring and lifeless reading of the script, poor narration can be distracting and sure to be noticed by learners. They might even "tune out" of the instruction, making the knowledge less effective.
So, if you catch something that sounds wrong to you, ask your voice actor to redo it. If you're working with a true professional, this is an expected part of the process for them and often comes at no extra charge to you. They are probably waiting for your comments after they send you the audio clips. Going through the re-recording process also gives you a chance to get a bigger picture of how your new voice actor operates, which can help you determine whether to rehire them in the future.
2. Get familiar with editing software
Most audio clips require post-production, from a little to a lot. So, you should get to know what sound editing programs are out there, both free and paid. If you use Adobe Creative Suite, the Audition app will be part of your subscription. Or, if you’re on a budget, there are many options, like Audacity and Ocenaudio.
If you don’t already have software, it’s worth the time to do some research, find the app that works for you and learn the basics of how to use it. If you’re stuck, YouTube is a great resource for beginner-level videos.
In any case, you’ll want to be comfortable editing the audio you receive. You may need to adjust or equalize the volume, cut and paste sentences or paragraphs within a clip, or even splice one or more clips together. Sometimes, an authoring tool (like Adobe Captivate, Camtasia or Articulate Storyline) can handle these and other simple editing tasks, but sometimes you need to go beyond. Being able to handle more advanced changes can save you the time and expense of going back and forth with the voice actor or hiring an audio engineer to save the day.
3. Pass the audio around
By this point in the process, you're probably so familiar with your script that your mind begins to wander as soon as you start listening to the audio. This can be especially true with longer training programs. So give yourself a break and enlist some help.
Ask someone else to listen to the audio and get their feedback. Did they notice anything about the narration that was awkward, unclear or distracting? Chances are good that a fresh set of ears may catch something that you've missed.