This is part 2 of our Personal Narrative and Digital Storytelling quick guide series. Read part 1 in our series.
Now that you’ve finished writing your script, it is time to prepare the story elements. A personal digital narrative is driven by the voice of the storyteller so recording a clean and clear audio is key. You can use different mediums to do this, from microphones to iPhones. The quality of the gear is not as important as the sound you capture with them so use the following tricks to prepare your recording station.
Choose a noise-free space
Pick a space where you can isolate your microphones from any noise and unwanted sound. A closet is a great place to record. It is a small room so you eliminate the worry of having echo, like the one you get in a big space, plus the clothes will act as padding and will drown any unwanted noises.
Separate computer and mic
You may have not noticed that your camera or computer produces a small hum. Microphones pick that up, so try to put as much distance as possible between your computer and your microphone. Get your microphone as close to the narrator as possible to avoid unwanted noises.
Adjust audio recording level
The level at which you record your audio is very important. If the level is set too low, your audio will have background noise when you turn the volume up to hear it properly. If the level is too high, you will hear distortion. We used Audacity to record the audio and adjusted the recording levels.
Avoid plosives and sibilance
Popping “p” sounds or harsh “s” sounds are very distracting. Avoid them by positioning your microphone slightly away from your mouth. Don’t point it to your nose or you’ll catch your breathing in the recording. It’s best to point it slightly toward your chin. It’s tempting to move the microphone away to avoid them, but resist the urge, and keep the mic close. You can also purchase a pop filter.
Before or after you record your narration, record a few seconds of silence. This is called “room tone” and it helps to record it in case you need to fill a gap in your narration or erase a mistake. It sounds more natural to have room tone in gaps compared to no sound. Recording 30 seconds in the same environment, can save your recording.
With your recording station set, it’s time to hit the record button. But before you do that, here are some tips to make your narration stand out.
Create some drama in the narrative
Speak clearly and give emphasis to your words as they will be the thread holding the story together. Picture the images you’ll be using and provide emphasis to the words you think will have a powerful image attached to them.
Pace your narration
Speak slowly (even if it feels uncomfortable) to provide enough pacing to your words.
Take a breath
The audience is hearing the story for the first time as you carefully unveil each piece of it. Take your time and use small pauses to create some tension and build up the story.
Gather imagery and music
Images are one of the most important elements in a digital story. Images help your audience relate to the story. They can be used to explicitly illustrate what you are saying, but often it is more powerful to conceptually support the story with associative imagery.
Whenever possible try using your own imagery, but if you need to search for stock images, remember to look for royalty-free stock.
You can also use video to re-create the narration (as I did on my video). You can record this with a mobile device or a small camera. Keep your videos short (around 5-8 seconds) and try using different angles to make your story interesting.
Music is also helpful to illustrate the story, so look for a music track that can help support the images and narration. If your story is sentimental, try looking for a track that is slow and melancholic. If your story is fun, pick a track that is dynamic and fast-paced. You’d be amazed of how much a story changes depending on the music you pick.
Technical note: Around 20 images is a good number for a 2-3 minute video. You can also use videos, photographs, artwork, letters, etc.
Find audio resources here: freesound.org Jamendo.com and freemusicarchive.org
If you need additional help building your story check out these resources:
Digital storytelling cookbook
Digital storytelling tutorial
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our quick guide to personal narratives.