Hack 60 Voiceovers for That Professional Touch

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A picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes, you need 1,020 words to communicate what's going on. That's when it's time to step up to the mic and create a voiceover track.

A voiceover is simply an additional audio track for your digital slideshow or movie, in which the narrator speaks directly to the audience. If you've ever watched a nature show on public television, you know what a voiceover is.

5.15.1 Creating the Voiceover

Voiceovers can add a professional touch to your presentations and, believe it or not, they're not that difficult to create. The first step is to find a way to record your monologue. One route is to use digital recording software for your computer. All you do is talk into your computer's microphone, and the software records your voice and saves it to the hard drive as an audio file.

You don't have to spend much money for this software. For Windows, take a look at Easy Recorder (http://www.sell-shareware.com/easyrecorder/). I like QuickVoice (http://www.quick-voice.com/quickvoice/) for Mac OS X users. Each application sells for US$20. Save the files in either QuickTime or MP3 format, which will enable you to assemble the presentation in QuickTime Pro [Hack #59] .

You can also use a standalone voice recorder, which I like a little better, actually. I have the best luck creating accurate voiceovers that synchronize with the presentation when I can play the slideshow or movie on the computer (with the audio turned off) and simultaneously talk into the microphone of the digital voice recorder to describe what's going on. Then, I simply upload the digital audio file to the computer, add it to the presentation, and everything is in sync.

If you have a powerful enough computer, you can use this same technique by having the presentation play in one window with the voice recorder software turned on in another. Or you can use two computers.

I've had good luck using an Apple iPod (not the mini version) with a Belkin iPod Voice Recorder. I just talk into the iPod while in the field or while watching the presentation on the computer, and then add the digital audio file to the pictures.

5.15.2 Adding the Voiceover to the Presentation

Once you've captured your monologue, adding it is easy. If you've read the other hacks on building slideshows [Hack #54], editing movies [Hack #56], and adding music tracks [Hack #59], you know that I'm using QuickTime Pro for these projects. QuickTime also makes quick work of adding voiceovers.

Open your slideshow or movie and drag the insertion pointer on the scrubber bar to the point in the presentation where you want the voiceover to begin. For this example, I want to describe a series of shots inside Grand Central Station in New York City. I drag the insertion point to the first slide in that series. I then open my voiceover track and move the two bottom triangles on the scrubber bar to select the portion that talks about Grand Central Station, as shown in Figure 5-23.

Figure 5-23. Adding voiceover to a digital slideshow

Then, I simply go to the Edit drop-down menu and choose Copy to put the voiceover track on the clipboard. I then click on the slideshow to bring it forward, go to Edit, and choose Add. QuickTime will add the additional audio track, beginning at the location of the insertion point.

If you already have a music track added to your slideshow, you might want to adjust the relative volumes between the music and the voiceover. Generally speaking, you want to lower the volume of the music and increase the presence of the voiceover. This is easily handled in QuickTime Pro.

Select Get Movie Properties from the Movie drop-down menu. In the top-left menu, select Soundtrack 1 or Soundtrack 2. In the top-right menu, choose Volume, as shown back in Figure 5-22. You can now increase or decrease volume, bass, and treble by simply dragging on the colored areas. Most likely, Soundtrack 1 will be your background music, because you added it first.

Lower the volume on the music and increase it for the voiceover, if necessary, until you get the balance you want. Then, use the Save As command to save your new presentation as a self-contained movie, which adds all of your various audio and video tracks to one self-contained QuickTime file that can be played on any Windows or Mac computer.

Your presentation might not turn out like an edition of Animal Kingdom, but I guarantee you that your audience will be impressed.