Great Audio

Quality audio is essential for Tuts+ courses. While recording audio that meets our standards does take effort, it is worth it. If you submit a course with audio that does not meet our standards, we will ask you to re-record. Here are two examples of audio that does not meet our standards:

  • Example #1: The recording sounds quite poor: lots of background disturbances, persistent white noise, speaker sounds distant.
  • Example #2: Vocals are heavily distorted, persistent white noise.

And here is an example of good audio:

  • Example #1: Clear, rich vocals, with no background noise, hiss, echo or distortion.

Choosing a Room

To create a great screencast you need to record clear, crisp audio, and choosing the right room to record in is crucial. You’re looking for a ‘dead’ room, which is any room that has very little or no echo/reverberation. A dead room is perfect for voice recordings as it allows the human voice to be captured very clearly, without any echoes or other acoustic distractions.

Choose a room that:

  • Is small; smaller is better.
    • One exception to this rule is that a small hard-surfaced room, such as a bathroom or empty closet, can be worse than a larger hard-surfaced room.
    • Clothes closets and cars, in quiet locations, can make great impromptu recording booths.
  • Has carpet; deeper is better.
  • Has curtains; thicker is better.
  • Improve the room by:

    • Hanging thick blankets or bedding on the walls and over any solid items of furniture, such as bookcases and desks.
    • Closing the windows and curtains while you’re recording.
    • Turning off all electronics including: hard drives, unused computers, air conditioners and appliances.

    For more on selecting and treating a recording space and do-it-yourself audio solutions, watch The Art of Voice Recording: Chapter 4, Controlling the Sound.

    The Right Equipment for the Job

    Once you’ve chosen and prepared a room, the next step in recording great audio is getting the right equipment for the job. If you’re creating a course we have an equipment budget you can use to help get you started. Make sure you discuss this with the Course Producer and your editor before buying any equipment.

    We have three recommended screencasting kits. Which one is right for you depends on the equipment you already have, your budget, and whether you’re considering recording on-camera video in the future. If you have equipment that you’re comfortable with or you already know you would like to buy, but are unsure whether it meets our standards, contact our Course Producer to discuss it.

    Use the list below to help you decide which kit is right for you:

    1. I’m new to screencasting; I’m just getting started with screencasts, don’t have any equipment, and I’m not thinking about recording audio for on-camera video any time soon. Choose the Basic Screencasting Kit:
      • Microphone: Audio-Technica ATR2100 Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone ($80.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • Microphone Stand: Proline MS112 Desk Boom Mic Stand ($30.00, Amazon)
      • Shock Mount: Audio-Technica ($50.00, Amazon)
      • Headphones: Senal SMH-500 ($50.00, Amazon)
      • Preamp: Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface ($99.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • Pop Filter ($20, B&H or Amazon)
    2. I’m interested in doing video as well; I’m serious about creating courses for Tuts+ and considering recording on-camera video in the future. Choose the Intermediate Screencasting Kit:
      • Microphone: MXL 990/991 Recording Microphone Package ($100.00, Amazon)
      • Shock Mount: MXL-90 Microphone Shock Mount ($30, Amazon)
      • Microphone Stand: Rode PSA1 Desk boom mic stand ($99.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • XLR Cable: 15 foot XLR cable ($15.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • Headphones: Senal SMH-1000 ($90.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • Preamp: Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB Audio Interface ($99.00, B&H or Amazon)
      • Pop Filter ($20, B&H or Amazon)

    If you've got some good audio gear but are interested in upgrading then check out our Advanced Audio Recommendations. For more on selecting the correct gear, watch The Art of Voice Recording: Chapter 3, A Deeper Look at Gear.

    Getting Set Up

    Now you have all the equipment you need, it’s time to set it up in your recording space:

    1. Set up your microphone stand next to your desk and attach the microphone mount.
    2. Place your microphone in its mount, angle it towards you, and position it so that in your recording position you are about 15cm away. Your exact position will depend on your style of microphone and your recording space. Take the time to learn about your specific microphone and find its sweet spot, the spot where you will sound the best.
    3. Attach the pop filter and position it about 5cm away from the microphone. We recommend that you angle your microphone so that it’s not directly in front of your mouth. If you hear the noises from inside your mouth, readjust the microphone.
    4. If you’re using a USB microphone, simply plug it directly into your computer.
    5. If you’re using a preamp, plug the microphone into it using an XLR cable and then connect the preamp to your computer. Make sure the microphone cable is out of the way and, if possible, clip it to the stand so that it’s secure.
    6. Plug in your quality headphones so that you can hear exactly what’s being recorded. It is important to always monitor your audio with headphones while recording and editing.

    For more on voice recording, watch The Art of Voice Recording: Chapter 5, Recording Your Voice-Over.

    Troubleshooting

    Should you encounter any problems or have any questions, simply let our Course Producer know and they can work with you to solve any issues. For quick reference, here is a list of common problems and possible fixes:

    I’m not recording any sound:
    1. Make sure your microphone is plugged into your audio interface (or the computer) and the audio interface is plugged into the computer.
    2. Make sure the audio interface is switched on, and try switching it off and then on again.
    3. Make sure your computer is receiving sound from the correct input source. Go to your computer’s sound/audio settings and make sure that the input source is set correctly. In your sound/audio settings, be sure your audio input level is set high enough so your audio is clear but not so high that you peak or clip.
    My audio levels are too high or too low:
    1. Take the time to properly set your audio input level. Your voice should be set to record at roughly -12 dB. If the audio meters show your voice reaching 0dB (sometimes shown as red or 100%) this is called clipping and you will have to re-record.
    2. It is essential that the audio level not clip during recording. Clipping means the audio input level is too high and the recording program cannot properly capture the audio. While we can improve audio recorded at a lower level, clipped audio cannot be fixed and should be avoided at all times.
    I’m getting lots of mouth noises, hissing (sibilance), and pops as I speak:
    1. Are you using a pop filter? If not, get one and start using it.
    2. Try angling the microphone so that it’s at a 45-degree angle to your mouth.
    3. Make sure you’re 15cm away from the microphone. If you already are, try moving the microphone further away a centimeter or two at a time.
    4. Try taking a sip from a glass of water before you record.
    There’s a low rumble or hum on the recording:
    1. Is the microphone on your desk? Try further isolating the microphone from your desk—place a blanket over the desk and the microphone on top of that.
    2. Make sure any windows and curtains are closed-a low rumble is often traffic noise.
    3. Does the room you’re in have double-glazing? If not, try moving to a room that does.
    4. If possible, try recording at a quieter time of day.
    5. Can you hear your computer? Move your microphone further away and add sound-damping material between the computer and microphone. You should not be able to hear your computer in your recording.
    6. If these solutions don’t work, this problem may be fixable at the editing stage by using noise reduction or a low-pass filter. Our goal is for you to record high-quality audio, so this will be a last resort. If needed, contact our Course Producer for more information on filters and noise reduction.