We’re up to part 4 in this series: Let’s Make an Explainer Video Using PowToon.
In the third post we started the process of creating the video, leading off by discussing narration. Recall the basic steps in creating an explainer video are:
- Pick a Topic
- Write the script
- Edit the script
- Create the video
- Edit the video
- Upload the video
Time spent so far: 7 hours.
I broke down “Create the video” step into two main sub-steps:
- Narrate the script
- Synchronize slide animations with the script.
Last post I focused on PowToon’s native narration feature for narrating the script. In this post I’ll take a look at using Audacity.
Audacity is a free, open-source digital audio editor. It’s been around since 2000 and has won several awards. No matter what operating system you are running — Mac, Windows, Linux, there’s a version for you. Audacity can be used to record, edit, save, and convert sound files of virtually all types. Although feature rich, it’s pretty easy to learn for most of the simpler tasks:
- Recording narration
- Basic edits such as silencing background noise or breathing sounds
- Saving and/or exporting your narration for import into PowToon (or whatever application you are using)
I can across Audacity early in my eLearning development days and its use is pretty-wide spread. It’s no surprise PowToon recommends it for more advanced narration creation (well, more advanced than PowToon’s native recording feature).
You can find and download Audacity from here, and there are a number of sources on the net that will show you the basics of how to use it.
Once Audacity has been downloaded, installed and launched, you see its interface. For basic narration, which is what we are interested in, you need only be concerned with the following controls:
- Standard Pause, Play, Stop, Rewind, Fast Forward, and Record
- Silence audio
- Cut audio
There are, of course, lots of other features, controls, and settings which can be used, but I’ll ignore those. You don’t need them for basic narration.
Each slide in PowToon will have its narration recorded, edited, and saved as a separate Audacity sound file. So if you have 14 slides in your PowToon video, each with narration, you will have 14 sound files.
After hooking up your microphone and getting your script handy, just click the Record button (the red dot). As you record you will see the sound wave in Audacity’s interface. Click the square Stop button (the light yellow-brown square) to end recording.
If you don’t like the recording you can scrub the whole thing by clicking Edit > Undo Record.
Edit the Narration
You want to do two things when editing the narration:
- Trim excess length — usually from the beginning or the end of the sound track
- Silence breathing or other background sounds in between words — usually most noticeable when you have have inhaled
To trim excess length, highlight the portion to be deleted using the mouse the same way you would highlight text in MS Word or similar programs. Then click the Cut button (the “scissors”).
You can remove excessive pauses from within the middle of the sound track using the same technique. Audacity will “close up” the pieces on either side of the removed portion so you are left with “one” track.
To silence breathing sounds (or other background noise when you are not speaking), play back the narration until you find an area that needs to be silenced.
Highlight that area with the mouse, then click the Silence Audio button.
The sound track will “flatten” in the area you have silenced.
Do this for as many areas as required in your recording.
Play the file from start to finish to see if you are happy with it. You can always use the Undo command to reverse your actions.
Saving the Audacity Project
Audacity saves your work as a “project”. Later, if desired, you can go back and edit the various actions you have taken on the sound track (silencing, trimming, etc). This is NOT the same as exporting the sound track, which is necessary to get a usable sound file for import into PowToon.
To save your project, click File > Save Project and provide a save location and project name. If you want to work on that project again in the future you would use the File > Open command.
Exporting the Sound Track
To export your sound track into a file that can be imported into PowToon,
- Click File > Export …
- Supply a save location, file name, and type (stick with MP3 for use in PowToon)
- Click Save
- When the Edit Metadata dialogue box appears, click OK again
Recording Another Narration
To record the next narration, click File > New. This opens a new Audacity window in which to work.
Audacity places each sound track into its own window, so if you do a lot of tracks at once, you can wind up with a lot of open windows. Just close the ones you are finished with.
Importing into PowToon
To import a sound file into PowToon:
Open your project in PowToon.
- Navigate to the desired slide.
- Click the Sound button on the right hand side of the interface
- Click Upload, then Upload again
- Navigate to the sound file you want associated with the slide, select it, and Click OK
PowToon will upload the file and associate it with the slide. To replace the narration associated with a particular slide, upload a new sound file or use PowToon’s native narration feature.
Repeat the process for each slide.
Pros and Cons
Audacity allows editing of narration files to make them “cleaner” and more professional sounding. I’ve only touched on two Audacity features, but if you have the inclination there is much more you can do with the application. Moreover, if you make a mistake in your narration, you may be able to edit out the error. In PowToon you currently must re-record the entire narration for the slide in question.
Finally, Audacity will cost you nothing (except time). It’s free.
However, it is yet another application to download, install, and learn. The steps for creating narration are more involved. It may not be worth the effort if you are only making one or two videos a year.
I chose to use Audacity because I like the greater editing control. I have sixteen slides in my video it took me roughly three hours to record, edit, save, and import all of the sound files into PowToon.
Total time spent on the explainer video so far: 10 hours.
Thanks for reading, and I will see you in the next installment.