Ten top tips for audio-guide narration

Ever wanted to do a bit of narration? Looking for a career in radio, voice-overs or audio stories? Then this guide made by the narrators of the Breary Banks audio guide is for you.

Tip 1. Drink a lot of water
If you don’t drink water your voice gets dry and you end up coughing, which doesn’t sound good on the recording.

Tip 2. Do a lot of lip drills before starting
If you don’t, you stumble on your words and say things like shoulders instead of soldiers….

Tip 3. Read the script over once before recording
It lets you know where the traps  in the script are, such as ‘battle training trenches’….

Tip 4. Make sure you don’t sound like a robot
If it’s the fourth time you’ve recorded the same section, take a break, go for a walk, have a drink of water…

Tip 5. Turn off all other electronic devices that are in the room
A mobile phone ring tone on the audio recording doesn’t sound that authentic. And you don’t want your phone conversation to be recorded do you?

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Emmeline recording the narration for the audio guide. Photo by Ashley.

Tip 6. Try to avoid b and p….
xAfter a while Breary Banks becomes Preary Panks

Tip 7. Never read ahead
If you do, you’ll end up inventing new words, like Potatews…(any guess what that means?)

Tip 8. Don’t swear during the recording
It’s very hard to edit out

Tip 9. Don’t charge your laptop during recordings
The microphone will pick up the sound of your laptop charging and you’ll have fun editing the 90Hz  hum out of the recording (noise reduction and equalization are your friends if this ever happens to you)

Tip 10. Have fun
If you don’t, this job is not for you

 

 

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Testing day

We’d planned the stops, we’d drafted the scripts and we’d chosen the sound effects. Now we needed to test our finalised product.

Four members of our group went out to Breary Banks on a sunny Friday morning, armed with scripts, questionnaires, and dictaphones with the simple aim of making sure our audio guide worked. We wanted to ensure that our directions were clear, that the emotions could be felt for every stop, and if any improvements needed to be made. In order to test out our audio guide we wanted to take people who weren’t too familiar with the site itself. However, because this was just a pilot test we didn’t have the resources to take up members of the public. So we decided that the people who were working on the excavation at Breary Banks would form our pilot group.

 Our plan was simple. Two members of our group would take up a group of two testers and read out the script for each stop. In order to ensure that our directions were correct we would stagger the start of the tour to ensure that tour 1 was out of sight the moment tour 2 would be at stop 1. Once we had read the script we would then ask the questions that formed a part of our questionnaire and note down the answers. This would tell us whether each script was doing what we wanted to achieve for each stop. This format would be replicated for all eight stops, before we would take our group aside and record any other thoughts they had about the audio guide including anything they would like to improve or get rid of.

 By the end of the day we had given a tour to four groups, three of which were students and one where the excavation leader had decided to join us. For the student tours, the feedback was quite similar. They liked the emotion, which was present for many of the stops. They enjoyed interacting with the landscape, especially when the script explained the story behind certain features. We also had aspects we needed to improve on. Many students wanted Stop 7 to expand on the hospital story as they felt it needed to be fleshed out and some people were unsure about a direction in Stop 4. The excavation leader had a few comments on our archaeological facts and his comments were instrumental in helping us improve the directions in Stop 5 and 6. This feedback helped us make final changes to our scripts before we started recording the final product. None of this would have been possible without the participation of our test group.

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Adjustments to our script. Work done by the group

On the coach journey back to the University of York, we were now ready to make any necessary change before we embarked on the greatest journey of all, the recording of our audio guide. As you finish reading this post, spare a thought for the other half of our group who spent their Friday working on the brochure when a power cut hit King’s Manor…

Stop 7, a review

A seemingly uninteresting area of Breary Banks has been brought alive in this epic story of war, friendship and poetry.

Stop 7 makes the recently excavated hospital come to life in this heroic story centering on the main theme of friendship. We follow the fictional character of Matron Jones as she undertakes the hard task of helping her severely shell-shocked patient recover from the horrors of war. Her patience and care flourish into a deep friendship that ends with her charge making a good enough recovery that he is able to get on with day-to-day activities. The stories told in previous stops are also integrated here, allowing the directors to make an authentic and heart-warming tale which encompasses the full occupation of Breary Banks. The trailer is well made and we strongly encourage you to watch it and listen to this story.

Audio guide rating:4 star rating

(Credit to Peter Rudenko for the music in the trailer. License under Creative Commons share alike.)

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Word cloud captured from the script for Stop 7. Created by Emmeline using WordItOut

 

 

Pen, Pencil and an eraser

This Wednesday we had the incredible chance of pitching our audio-guide and visual material concept to the Leeds Museum and Galleries team of curators. They then proceeded to give us feedback on our concept and what they would do as curators to make our product better.

On Friday the 29th we then went back to the drawing board to alter our original concept idea. After many hours we can now reveal to the world our final edits.

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Pitching our concept to the Leeds City Museum and Galleries. Photo by Harald.

The curators loved our idea for the story-based audio guide as our main concept. They were intrigued by the associated mood trajectory, as it aims to convey the emotion of the period in a sophisticated manner. In terms of content, there were no suggested changes, which felt like a real accomplishment.

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Concept map mood trajectory. Work done by group.

Many curators also liked the fact that the audio-guide had been designed in order that each stop was an individual story. This pleased one member on the panel as it meant that our audio-guide could potentially be used off-site, in a warm cosy living room for example.

However, no initial idea is safe from edits. One curator pointed out the need to ensure that our listener is at the correct location at the start of the next track. This formed part of our first edit. We have now ensured that our scripts will have a brief sentence directing the listener to the correct location.

Example: Now that you are at the top of the hill, near the fork in the road…

There was also an issue raised with the amount of stops we wanted to include in the audio guide. However as a group, we felt that the rich history of the site warranted 8 in total.

The Brochure

When one curator asked us “Where exactly is Breary Banks”, there was a collective sigh of horror as we realised there was no space on our brochure for directions. On our day off, a member of our group did a rough design of a set of directions, shown below. We will set about to integrate a version of these in the final edit.

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Directions designed by Steve.

Following the location issue, the curatorial team mentioned the logistics of display space as a factor of consideration for our design. Many leaflets have a top banner in order to stand out when in a display stand, and our initial design had not factored this in. This was rectified in the session on Friday.

One final comment was on the format of the leaflet- our shape is not traditional. However due to practicality issues i.e. windy conditions on site, our design idea makes sense. We wouldn’t want all of our brochures fluttering around freely at Breary Banks.