In my previous post, I detailed my plan to start screencasting as a way of getting better at presenting. In this post I’ll talk about some of the questions and challenges I’m dealing with. These challenges revolve around setting up my recording equipment and environment.
Here is my original set-up.
Blue Yeti USB mic/headphones/pop screen
Mac Pro running Win 7 via VMware
I’ve recorded myself before with a portable Samson Go Mic and a cheap headset mic. This was my first foray with the Blue Yeti. I’m not an audio engineer, so I’m mainly going by what I think sounds good (or at least passable). I tried recording a Storyline 2 demo in Camtasia and ran into a few snags.
The video recording was lagging a bit. I figured maybe this was something to do with my memory/processor? Maybe having Storyline 2 open and recording with Camtasia was too much?
I increased the memory on my virtual machine.
The audio sounded great through the headphones while recording, but playback was a different story. It had random bits of static throughout as well as places where it sounded like I stopped recording for half a second. My voice went in and out.
I tried multiple recordings and got the same result. I then tried adjusting things with the Blue Yeti mic, including gain, proximity to computer, padding on desk, etc., all to no avail. Next, I tried recording using Articulate Replay. Same result. I tried recording with the inline recorder in Storyline 2. Same result. Still static. I tried the Samson Go Mic and the headset mic. Same results. Frustration started to set in. I jumped online and looked for similar problems with this microphone and recording in general. I can’t tell you how many rabbit holes that led me down. Here are some of the suggested causes: the mic is too close to the computer, the mic needs to be in a sound enclosure, the cord from my USB mouse is interfering with the microphone cord, various settings on my Mac are off, it’s a problem with Camtasia, the length of the microphone cord to the computer is too long, etc., etc., etc. Ugh.
I tried several of these things. I unplugged my USB mouse and used a wireless mouse. Same result. I did try holding the mic in my hand and backed away from the computer as far as the cord would reach. This did help, but how am I supposed to do a screen recording when I am 3 feet away from my desk? So, next I decided to build a DIY portable sound booth for my mic. Here is a pic of my fancy sound booth.
Then I realized after trying all of these options that I hadn’t tried recording directly into Audacity. Again, remember, I am not an audio engineer. I’ve used Audacity, but only used Normalize or Noise Removal. Well, I tried recording to Audacity and it was like night and day. It was flawless (well, okay, flawless compared to the previous 50 recordings laced with static). So what does that mean? I don’t think the mic is the problem. Is the static coming from using the audio recorders within Camtasia, Replay, or Storyline 2? Is the mic still too close to the computer. This Mac Pro is a beast and has a noticeable hum.
New plan. Since I can’t get the internal audio recorders in any of the programs to work without sounding full of static, I decide to record my voiceover audio in Audacity at the same time I record the video screencast in Replay. I’ll then export the audio as a .wav file and import it into Replay. Not ideal, but seems to be the only working presently.
First successful recording (see below). I’d love to hear your thoughts on how I did and the sound quality. Or any suggestions for any of the issues I ran into.
I should note that I made my first recording before I got the foam padding for my sound booth. I used a wadded up blanket and clothespins to attach it to the box. I’m still hearing some static in this recording, but nothing like the many, many test recordings that came before. I’m going to record my next screencast with the newly foamed sound booth. I’ll use the following setup:
Blue Yeti mic
Portable sound booth
Audacity for audio recording
Replay for video recording
I’m going to keep experimenting to try to get a cleaner end product. I’m also going to try to objectively critique myself on the points I mentioned in my first post. I’ll talk about that in another post.
I’m reading Working out Loud by John Stepper and it is enlightening to say the least. I’ve made my first pass through the book and am now returning to the exercises on how to start working out loud. I’ve done some of this in the past, but I want to be more deliberate about it and make it a habit. In chapter eight Stepper discusses developing a growth mindset. To do this you must “focus on getting better versus being good.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. For much of my life I’ve strived “to be good at something” which often paralyzed me from growing or “getting better.” The first step in the guided mastery part of the book is to determine your goal for the next twelve weeks. So to that end, my goal is to work on getting better in my presentation skills.
As a step in this direction, I’ve decided to start recording screencasts on how to use Articulate Storyline. This will serve several purposes.
It will help me become more comfortable presenting material (yes I realize I’m not really presenting to a group of people – baby steps).
It will serve as a means to narrate my work. I can share the process I go through, challenges, successes, insights, etc.
It will help me to learn Storyline better, because teaching someone else how to do something is the best way to learn it yourself.
After I record a screencast, I’ll check for the following things.
Delivery: Am I stiff as a board or lively? To borrow from A. A. Milne, am I a Tigger or an Eeyore? I readily admit I lean more toward Eeyore, so that is something to work on.
Cadence: Am I tripping over words or inserting a bunch of ums and uhs? Do I need a script? If so, how do I read it without sounding like I’m reading a script? Maybe just main points.
Mouse movement: Am I being deliberate in my actions or distracting by moving the cursor all over the screen?
Content: Did I get it right? Did I forget anything or show things in the wrong order? Did I present too much or too little material?
Opening and closing: Do I have a coherent introduction and conclusion vs. rambling into oblivion?
Sound quality: Too loud? Too soft? Humming? Echo chamber? Static?
Finally, after I do my initial check, I intend to share these screencasts and ask for feedback on the same topics from people who have more experience in recording screencasts. I’ll pick 3-5 people from my PLN and ask for honest assessments. In my next post I’ll detail some of the challenges I’m facing as I start this journey.