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The Rapid E-Learning Blog: record audio

Your rapid elearning software makes it easy to record your narration.  Most of the time that works for you.  However, there are times when recording your own narration doesn’t make sense.  Today we’re going to look at when it makes sense to consider professional narration for some of your elearning courses.

A Good Voice Doesn’t Equal Good Results

“Why pay for professional narration?  Joe and Samantha have good voices.  Let’s get them to do it.”  On the surface, this sounds like a good plan.  But that might not be the case.

  • Joe and Samantha have good voices but they aren’t professional narrators.  It takes more than just a good speaking voice to get the inflections and tone right.  Because of this, using Joe and Samantha requires a lot more time and retakes to get it right. 
  • Your recording equipment consists of a headset microphone and a less-than-state-of-the-art laptop.  And your “recording studio” is a spare conference room.  There’s a lot of ambient office noise and a really loud air conditioner. 
  • Since you’re probably not an audio expert, you are less efficient when you record.  You can’t monitor the audio while you’re recording, so you only record a portion at a time.  Stop.  Listen to it.  Re-record.  Stop.  Listen to it.  Re-record.  And so forth.
  • You publish your course and send it out for review.  Despite mentioning the limitations of using in-house talent, you find that your client is not pleased with the quality of the audio.  It turns out that Joe suffers from the “popping P’s” and Samantha the snake hisses with her S’s.  On top of that, the air conditioner added a distracting hum throughout the entire audio track.  Your choice is to re-record or spend a lot of time trying to “edit it out.”

These are typical issues when recording your own narration.  Using in-house talent will usually cost you more time and produce lower quality.  For some projects, that’s OK and you can live with the results.  However, it’s not always the best course of action.

Here’s How Much Your Narration Costs

Sometimes your hands are tied and you have to work with what you have.  While your client or manager might think they’re saving money, the fact is that they probably don’t know for sure.  Many places don’t do a good job tracking the real costs of projects.  If you don’t know what you’re spending, how do you know if you’re saving money?

Rapid elearning development has a 33:1 ratio in development time.  For every finished hour, you’re probably spending about 33 hours of work in labor.  I’m just going to keep it simple and say that it takes you a week to do a project.  That’s 40 hours.  At $100* per hour, the company is spending about $4000 per project.  That’s just for your labor.

Now let’s look at the recording session.  Let’s say you get all of the recording done in two hours (a very low estimate).  It’s just you and your voiceover talent.  While you have two hours of recording time, you also have to factor in the time to prepare and some incidental time.  It’s not like you just stop your work and teleport to the conference room and then teleport right back.

We’ll say that the two hours of recording also includes an extra hour of prep time.  So, two people at three hours equals six hours of labor.  At $100 per hour, you’re looking at $600 just to do the recording.  This doesn’t include the lost productivity of using in-house talent.

Because you’re doing the recording yourself, you’ll have increased edit and review time.  If you run some quick estimates, I’m sure that you’ll find that you’re easily spending over $1000 for your free narration.   And you’re still making compromises on the quality.

How Do These Numbers Compare to Hiring a Pro?

It used to cost a lot more to get professional narration.  That’s no longer the case.  Today you can use a number of online services to post projects, screen the talent, and hire just the person you need.  And you can do so at a great cost.

In fact, most of the projects I’ve done recently have come in well under $500.  I found that not only am I getting good narration, I’ve eliminated a lot of labor because I don’t have to edit a bunch of audio files.

Most of the sites have a very simple and straightforward process.  You submit a project, set a budget, and request an audition.  I’ve had a lot of luck finding good vocal talent at very reasonable costs.  And the turnaround is very quick.

You can set a budget limit to make sure you don’t spend more than you can afford.  You’d be surprised.  I’ve submitted some projects that had a very low budget, but it seems there’s always someone willing to do the work.  Not only do I control my costs, most of the time I get the audio back within a day or two.

Of course the cost of your narration depends on how long it is and what you want.  I have submitted large projects and small projects.  Most of the smaller ones have been well below $500.  However, some of them have been much more.  Submit a script, give them your budget, and then see what happens.

When Do You Go with a Pro?

The main consideration is your project scope.  If it’s a short course with a limited audience (and the narration quality is not an issue), then it makes sense to keep it in-house.  Why spend money you don’t need to?  However, if it’s a course intended for a larger audience, then it makes sense to consider using professional narration.

If it’s a course that is going to reach your customers or go outside of the organization, I recommend getting the best narration you can afford.  An exception is if the narrator is a personality or authority that the audience expects to be part of the course.

Another benefit to working with a professional service is that it forces you to be more disciplined with your script.  You won’t have the luxury of doing multiple retakes because it will cost more.  And speaking of retakes, if you find you want to do audio edits down the road, having the pro audio makes it easier to seamlessly blend different recording sessions because the audio levels and quality is controlled.

Once you do a few projects, you’ll develop relationships with some regulars.  Because we know each other (and they know I will pay), I find that I get the projects faster and a little less expensive.  I can shoot off a quick email and get a bid in no time at all.  I trust them and know that I’ll get a quality product.  That saves me a lot of time.

It’s true that professional narration isn’t an option for everyone. Plus, some of you are quite capable and able to handle the audio recording yourselves.  However, I think you’d be surprised when you look at your real costs and compare it to what you can get with some of today’s services.  You might find that professional narration isn’t as expensive as you originally thought.  On top of that, you end up with a much higher quality product which probably lends itself to a better learning experience.

What do you think?  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.


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71 responses to “When It Makes Sense to Pay for Professional Narration”

November 4th, 2008

Hi Tom,

I guess this is the first time I have disagreed with one of your articles. Like most things related to elearning it’s all about the tools and correct planning.

I think there is absolutely no need to invest in professional narration if a) you have someone with a personable sounding voice b) you have a well written script (and you should be disciplined with that to start with), broken down into reasonable chunks c) you have a good quality microphone and d) some method for ensuring good sound quality and finally e) a reasonable editing program.

It’s fast and easy to do inhouse when all of the above fall into line. Plus, costs far less than you are suggesting.

I wrote an article about this a short while ago http://retrogrrl.blogspot.com/2008/06/audio-recording-tips.html

retrogrrl

Thank you for this article! As a professional voice over and narrator, I appreciate the thorough and accurate explanation and justification of professional voice over rates and the expense of a project voiced by an amateur.

eLearning is effective when it “engages” its audience. No matter how well-written the content and how well-designed the visual component, if the voice is not trained then the student can get distracted and not learn effectively.

Oftentimes missed, is the capability of a professional voice over to voice your interactive animations. Character voices can meka content more engaging and fun: especially with content that is either hard to grasp (physics, trig, programming), or content that is emotionally difficult (learning about your disease, sexual education, victim services).

If anyone has questions for a professional voice over, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thanks again for the article!

Kat

Tom, you’re exactly right when you say doing your own in-house narration can be as expensive as outsourcing it, with lower quality results. That said, you still have to cut the check. And for many of us, that means endless hours spent in a nightmarish acquisition process. That administrative cost balloons quickly when it’s not a simple matter of giving a professional service your credit card number (I only wish things were that easy in my organization). I could spend as much time just trying to get the funding for an outside vendor as I would just recording and editing the narration myself. No lie.

And “costs” can be misleading in the real world. I need to mow my lawn every week. I figure my time is worth $30 an hour to me. Why not pay some kid $10 every week to mow my lawn for me, saving me $20 an hour in the process? It makes good business sense, right? Well, because I don’t have an extra $10 a week to give away. So I mow my lawn myself. The business environment can be the same way. Yes, on paper you’re really spending $X to do the work yourself. But when you manage to fit it in with your other work, you’re not really spending anything more at all. I could make the business case that we’re saving money by going outside, but the Powers That Be are still going to balk at writing the check. Yes, actual practice sometimes flies in the face of theory.

And sometimes, when you choose the wrong voiceover professional, you get canned results that are neither natural nor appealing. YMMV.

http://www.equixotic.com/2008/04/03/on-narration-and-elearning/

Me, I wish I could use outside vendors in many cases, but I always end up doing my own narration work. Reality bites.

I work for a non-profit and we are always trying to save money so we record most things in-house, but get the amature “mom and pop” results or worse, a good program becomes boring.

I like the idea of requesting talent on the Internet for a specific budget but where do you start? What are the best websites for that?

November 4th, 2008

Right on target Tom.

One addition, however, would be the time it takes to edit the audio. Depending on the natural inability of some non-professional narrators, I have seen some projects where the audio recording time was a few hours, however, the editing ran another 5-8 hours. Especially when the script wasn’t as complete as we wanted it prior to recording.

Have had great success working with professional narrators that have home studios. Makes the whole process much simpler than dealing with high end studios and separate voice talent. My first stop for audio is always Tom O’Toole – http://www.tomotoole.com/

Also have had some success working with http://voice123.com/

Good article. I think Chris makes some good points, as well. I guess that it is important to know when the non professional narration starts to impact other projects or productivity. I always factor in the budget (when I can) to account for narration.

Does anyone have further suggestions for on-line voice talent?

I am working on a project as we speak that involves video and audio. It would be great to use professional actors, and in the case of voice overs, narrators. However, I often get added benefit from using our staff for this work. It may not appear as very professional, but it is made up for in the authenticity of the presentation/presenter.

Participants are getting information and training directly from my organization’s expert, and in most cases, from someone they actually know and have worked with (we have a mid-size company ~1600 people). This adds a lot of value to using internal people for this work. Plus, I do not have to justify hiring professionals when budgets are very limited. FYI: If I present any cost savings using the professional, then the people controlling the budget may just say “imagine how much we could save by just not using voice overs.”

All in all, if a course is for internal use as are mine, I think using staff and internal equipment is just fine and not only meets the needs of the participants, but allows more direct exposure to the subject matter experts.

Please note, I am speaking of courses created for internal use only. If it is a course being marketed externally, I would strongly consider using professionals for this work.

Jeff

Good comments. I like voice123, as well. I think both Wendy and Chris make good points. If you have the talent and capability, you can do a good job.

As far as costs, it depends. If you have more time than money, than writing a check is an actual cost in addition to what you’re already budgeted. However, lost productivity is also a real cost.

For example, I worked on some projects where we pulled a good voice from our call center. He did about 60 hours of audio for us. That’s a week and a half of lost productivity from his department.

As far as the $100/hr, I used a common figure I see in the industry. A good ballpark number is to double your hourly rate.

In either case, the point isn’t so much an “either or” as it is when does it make sense to use a pro versus in-house talent. I recall once having a very talented intern who was a multimedia superstar. However she was stuck editing audio most of her time with us. So we lost out on what that person could have brought to the organization because we had her doing audio edits on a couple hundred hours of bad audio.

Mike makes a very good point on the editing side of things. It’s easy cutting professional voice files into discrete clips to synchronize with what happens on-screen. On the other hand, non-pros often take 2-3 tries to get each clip right. Since you have to listen to each bad take, that part of the editing process takes 2-3 times as long.

A lot of this depends on how professional the output needs to be. For internal employee training on something that will be used by a few people, once, in-house VO is probably the way to go. For something that will be used for a long time or will be used by external audiences (e.g. customers or volunteers), professional VO is going to make a difference in how the organization is perceived. It’s not easy to calculate that value, but if anything about your in-house talent makes you cringe, chances are the external audience will cringe as well.

Just like most issues in developing learning; it really depends on the situation. There are times when a professional voice over would be the best choice.

I appreciate Mike providing a couple of links in finding professionals. I was wondering if there were others that are used?

I like Jeff’s comment about authenticity: I often find myself favoring authenticity over pure professionalism – so long as the authenticity isn’t *too* amateurish.

For example, I enjoy Articulate’s demos that are narrated by one of their VPs (his “favorite new features” I believe) more than I enjoy the Articulate demos that were obviously done by a professional voiceover person. Because I appreciate the authenticity – I’m able to “connect” to it, thus it’s more powerful and persuasive to me. Again, this is purely personal preference.

And thank you Tom for not even mentioning those “text to speech” programs some people may be tempted to use. Bah!

Tom,

Can you provide more context around the $500 price tag for a professional voice over? For how long of a script did that $500 buy? What do you consider a “small” project? The reason I ask is that I have heard figures in the thousands for professional audio, so seeing $500 really surprised me as being inexpensive.

Thanks for another relevant post!

Jaff

I agree with all of the points made thus far, but there is one very important issue that has not been brought up. When you use a professional talent, it is great quality for not as much as you might think. The problem though is when you need to make revisions. All of a sudden, the client changes a policy, the name of a form or any other small tweak. This is where the expenses begin to rise. Even if you are only requiring 30 minutes of recording time, there are many costs that are not based on actual time spent, but are one shot deals. For example, studio fees, union fees, equipment rental, etc…

One idea that has worked out really well for us is having an in-house employee take professional voice over lessons. This way, we have the best of both worlds!

Nowadays I strongly lean toward in-house/SME narration in almost any case, whether for internal or external/customer use. This is mostly for authenticity; “keeping it real”, as well as more personal and engaging. It also evokes more of a two-way feel as opposed to “Faceless Company has created this slick piece, in an anonymous voice, and ‘we’ are pushing it at you.”…and it also tells the audience that the ACTUAL person who knows about or works on the topic took the time to tell you about it.

As noted by others, it’s important that the narrator sound likeable and interested in the topic, but I haven’t found that to be too difficult with a bit of coaching.

It is probably a bit of a different case if you are producing “generic”/”off-the-shelf” eLearning content, such as an Ethics 101 course that many other organizations will purchase and deploy to their hapless hoards. (But I would question the value and effectiveness of that approach anyways…again due largely to authenticity.)

It almost goes without saying, and would be a bit of a cop-out, that it “depends on the audience” (which may include your funders; not just the actual end-audience), but in modern times authenticity and trust are more key than ever. It could also be said that (1) “most people” are more used to seeing the type of user-generated content one might see on YouTube or web-hosted recorded presentations by professionals/experts, (2) it is ever easier and less-expensive to produce near-professional quality media, and (3) the President of Russia is a vlogger (http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/sdocs/vappears.shtml: yes, clearly staged/prepped/scripted, but much less formal and more engaging than an official speech).

From a personal standpoint when I’m in the role of the audience, I would also point to Articulate’s materials as an example of both types…When I view/listen to their very “produced”/”professional” marketing pieces, such as the What’s New in 2009 Versions pieces featuring unnaturally smooth-voiced (and smooth-skinned, if that’s even the speaker’s photo) presenters, I cringe. I feel like I’m being spoon-fed and taken for a fool, and that type of marketing really turns me off to the company. I would have been more apt to actually try the product sooner if those types of pieces didn’t exist. On the other hand your pieces, Tom, feel reasonably authentic (with a grain of salt due to your position and financial interest) and offer useful value.

Hmm this may be taking on more of a cynical tinge than I’d intended, so…
GO AUTHENTIC AND PERSONAL! =)

Great Discussion – Trouble is nowadays, anything spent contracting-out is real money spent, whereas salaries are already payed for, so more people are trying ‘in-house’ to save external spending.

We’re not ‘professionals’ per-se but we do have a whisper room, decent mic. pop screens and editing software and the outputs I’d say, are mostly better than average.

One thing I’d suggest if you want people to ‘connect’ with the voice is to have the voice ‘reword’ the script to their style of speaking. You can often hear when a narrator is narrating instead of speaking.
I always read the script, speak it out loud a couple of times, re-write phrases that are not natural for me to say and then have the context writer review to ensure I’m not messing anything up. One writes differently to the way one speaks! I firmly believe this gives a much more natural presentation and is therefore easier to listen to. The end result is audience listens and therefore learns more.

November 4th, 2008

Hey Tom, great article and I agree with both sides – sometimes it makes sense to do it in house. One of my clients likes the Wal-Mart approach and they use internal talent and pictures of the person doing the voice to create the feeling of a more personal “relationship” with their clients. Other projects require a different approach – and sometimes, it’s just difficult to find a volunteer! I would be interested in having some of the links you reference as good sites for audio talent…just in case:)

“When I view/listen to their very “produced”/”professional” marketing pieces, such as the What’s New in 2009 Versions pieces featuring unnaturally smooth-voiced (and smooth-skinned, if that’s even the speaker’s photo) presenters, I cringe.” – Andy

Amen, brother. Glad to hear it’s not just me.

The “amateurishness” of in-house work can be mostly overcome with a little investment and forethought. Don’t record in the room where the A/C is blowing (or turn the A/C off for a bit). Build a cheap, portable sound booth & invest in a decent-quality USB microphone:

http://www.equixotic.com/2008/10/09/recording-your-narration/

And use a computer that doesn’t sound like a vacuum cleaner (like my old PC did). My iMac is whisper-quiet and makes a great narration recorder. Some computers are better suited for this type of work than others.

No, you still won’t hit the same level of quality you’ll get from an outside pro with “real” equipment and a bona fide recording booth (and actual experience), but in my opinion the authenticity usually compensates.

Suppose you have a good voice inhouse and do a great job recording so it sounds comparable to what you’d get from a pro, are you to dumb the narration down to sound more authentic?

I agree with most of the comments. I used a great company (the webvoice) who was reasonable and did a great job. The only problem is the dynamic nature of my comment requires constant changes so it is easier to do myself. Plus with the new articluate presenter it is even easier to record narration.

November 4th, 2008

Sharing a tip of what works for us. We always use our own voice overs for initial design and for most of the development phase.
You immediately get an intuitive feel for what works and what doesn’t. It’s not surprising how often the script is adjusted.

Three to four days before we are about to implement and once we have final sign-off, we then send our finalised script to a voice-over artist. We’ve established a long-term relationship so that we book weeks in advance and we know we’ll get the CD back professionally recorded within 24 hours of sending. Often artists have their own private studio and work at half the price of sound agencies (certainly in New Zealand). Shop around and check local websites.

If you’ve not used a professional voice-over artist before you’ll be surprised how much they can do in one hour of billable time. We’ve never had a single project that needed more than one hour to complete all the voice over required.

After a long (and painful) wait we finally started creating and using e-learning at my workplace this year.

We spent a lot of time disucssing whether we would do our audio in-house or not.

We currently have a lot of talet in our team and would have no problems with recording and editing the audio ourselves but decided to out-source.
The main reasons for doing this were:
1. While we currently have talent, a lot of instructionl designers don’t have audio recording/editing experience and if we had a lot of turn-over we’d be up-the-creek-without-a-paddle.
2. There is still a cost (time and money) associated with aquiring software and hardware and creating a suitable environment for recording in.
3. We already knew of two well priced studios that would deliver what we needed when we needed it.

My husband and I also ‘just happen’ to own one of the recording studios I mentioned above.

One of the great thing about this is my husband can come into work at any time and record our local talent when we are after a specific person. For voicing and producing the audio we charge by the script but for recording sessions we charge by the hour.

This means we can have top quality audio AND the voices our staff recognise.

Both studios are home based businesses too so the costs are lot lower than ‘big professional’ studios.

We use both recording studios because we get more variety in voices. We live in New Zealand and there aren’t a lot of places that offer these services.

Good discussion. I agree, authenticity is critical. We had the same discussions as I was writing the scripts for the tutorials and overviews. I opted to not do the narration because my voice couldn’t handle all of the recording. The first session would have sounded a lot better than the later ones. Then everione would be complaining about how we cheaped out and didn’t hire a pro. 🙂

Wendy (who wrote a good post on audio) does an outstanding job of recording narration and it sounds as good as a professional’s. What distinguishes her recording to make it more or less authentic?

@Trish: I purposely didn’t link to any vendors or sites in the post because I didn’t want this to be seen as an ad. However, I’ll pull some of the recommendations from the comments and put that in a follow up post. Personally, I’ve had a lot of success with voices123. I am sure that there are other similar sites.

Good threads and there are times, as many mentioned, that the client simply will not want to pay for this third-party recording. I agree with what Andy wrote. I find that SME’s are willing to do this and they carry a huge tune of being authentic as the topic is their passion.

I am curious about a few things when it comes to audio:

1. When you script do you script word-for-word? (a)if recording will be done by SME (b) if recording is done by other than SME
2. When there is text on the screen and audio do you audio record only what is on the screen? I find it is hard to listen and read if differnt.
3. Do you consider the non-audo viewers? Those who are deaf or do not have audio. Should you always provide the transcript for download? When do you not provide transcript?
4. When is the right time to not script and simply record based on expereince? Right or Wrong approach?

Tom.

I agree to a certain degree (hmm, rhyme). The problem I see and we have experienced in the past is in higly technical e-learning with tons of acronyms. Writing the script and explaining the pronouncation could be very time consuming. And not only that, in a highly dynamic animated environment I doubt that professional narrators will be able to perfectly synchronize with the content for the first time – so they need to go through an entire e-learning at least once to familiarize themselves. What is your experience – do they speak using the Articulate or they just speak and provide you with hundreds of audio-clips you put into the tool then?

This is an interesting topic. It is what I call a “feel good” topic. It feels good to think that professional narration or a human voice leads to improvements in learning. However, there is no research to support this notion. In fact, the research supports that there is no difference between a human voice and a synthesized computer voice even when teaching children to read. What is more important is the style of speech. First and second person is better than third person.

Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning 2005

I guess it comes to whether you know what you are doing or not. I use AKG Preception 120 mic into a mAudio USB PreAmp to my Audigy 2 sound card into Cool Edit 2 (now Adobe Audible).

I write a script (longest step in the process) and record, using a 5 sec gap between slides. Do Dobly C noise reduction and clip and hiss removal as needed. Save out each slide’s narration to mp3 (192/44 stereo) and then attach to the slides.

I can generally narrate and have a finished automatic PPT within a day and converted to Flash (using Camtasia from Tech Smith).

On the other hand, my best narrations are in the afternoon as oppose to the mornings. LOL

@ Deneena:

I have personally tried “freestyling” with my narration recordings, i.e. not using a script. I failed miserably. Every time. Based on this experience, a written script is a *must* for me. The key is to write a script that *sounds* natural. And find someone who can read your script in a natural way.

Regarding some of the other comments: I don’t believe “authenticity” and “quality” are mutually exclusive. The narration by the Articulate VP pointing out his favorite new features appeals to me because I know it’s an Articulate VP speaking and not a paid narrator with no actual involvement with the product. That’s not to say the quality isn’t good – it is. In response to Ted, I don’t think authenticity = “dumbing down” at all. I think just knowing that the person speaking to you has a *real* interest in the topic at hand appeals to our human nature. If I could only choose one (authenticity or quality), I’d probably choose authenticity. You may prefer otherwise. But my ultimate goal is to achieve both.

In my own examination of the topic, Steve Anthony, a voiceover professional, offered some excellent advice on writing a natural-sounding script:

http://www.equixotic.com/2008/04/21/more-on-narration/

We’ve had in-house narrators that were great and in-house narrators that were terrible. There is definitely risk involved.

(Sorry Tom, not trying to dominate the talk here or plug my own writing – narration is just a topic that I’m quite passionate about and have spent a lot of time digging into.)

Oh, and while we’ve not used Steve Anthony for any of our own internal projects (see my previous comments about our infuriatingly complicated purchasing process), I love his natural style:

http://anthonymedia.com/

November 4th, 2008

I’m an e-learning developer, podcast producer, independent public radio producer and voiceover artist (www.danepsteinvo.com). Using in-house versus “pro” talent when it comes to audio and VO is a discussion that seems to come up quite often. I’d like to address a couple of points.

Many of the comments here focus on the “authenticity” you can get from in-house voices. And in a similar vein, many have commented on what I’ll call the classic announcer sound you often get from a pro. How your voiceover sounds is as much a function of direction as it is the talent. I don’t like that “announcery” sound either, but you shouldn’t assume that pro=announcer. I can do the announcer thing, and I can sound “authentic.” Someone has to make a decision on the sound and make then make sure you’ve told your VO talent.

I make no assumption on the sound when I see a script. Even when I’m self-directing, I talk things over with the client first. To me “authentic” is nothing more than sounding like you’re having a conversation with a single person. The reason the announcer thing sounds so out of place is that the VO person is YELLING at you or is just completely disconnected from the idea that actual people are listening. In the same way we as instructional designers keep the learner in the forefront of our minds, so does the VO talent need to remember that real people are listening.

Here’s a trick for sounding authentic: emphasize the modifier. This approach is particularly helpful in technical and medical pieces. For example, the phrase “transphasic Heisenberg compensator” sounds much better when we put the emphasis on “transphasic.” It’s a simple trick that makes you sound like you really are a member of the Large Hadron Collider research team instead of an e-learning developer in Chicago who doesn’t know the difference between a transphasic and non-transphasic Heisenberg compensator.

Another trick is downglides. An irritating development in speech these days is to end all sentences as if they were questions; that is, having the voice pitch up at the end. Many people might recognize this as Valley Girl speech. Try to end sentences pitching your voice down so it sounds like you’ve really come to the end of what you have to say, and that you mean it.

A professional VO person knows to do both of these things. If not, then at least the director can provide this direction to the talent as well as provide other guidance on pace and emphasis.

Having your SME do your VO may be authentic, but if they’re not engaging their expertise won’t matter. They’ll just sound boring. They, too, need to try to have a conversation with a single person. Someone will need to coach them.

And good VO is not only a function of the talent. It’s also a matter of the writing. Script writers need to write for the ear and not the eye. You need to strike a balance between adhering to proper usage and grammar and the need for the words to come out sounding as if someone is speaking them naturally. And even though you need to maintain proper usage, it’s OK to start sentences with “and” (as I just did) and “but” because that’s how people actually talk.

Today there are a lot more VO people who also know how to produce and are equipped to do so. These are two different functions and they affect your cost and your time. Finding someone who can do both means you save on both. Someone who does both knows how to adjust the microphone to avoid p popping (plosives) and the hissing ssss sound known as sibilance. Producers also know how to edit, and by edit I mean not only operate the software, but also exactly which takes to use and where to make the cuts: when to overlap, which breath to keep (the one leading into your cut or the one after), and how to apply equalization and other processing to give you the kind of sound you want. So finding a VO/producer can help you out a lot.

Finally, in my opinion, equipment does matter because production values matter. Higher production values give your program more authenticity overall. They say you cared about the entire program. If you spend a lot of time on the content, the graphics and interactivity, why then suddenly decide it’s OK to skimp on the audio? So you should use real microphones, a decent digital audio interface if you’re recording directly to a computer, and you should make your recording in as dead a space as possible. I know many NPR reporters who file their stories from closets, but they also use a professional mic.

If you have good in-house talent you should use it. But also make sure they get direction, that the recording is made as well as it possibly can be, and that post-production is done by someone who knows the real ins and outs of the software as well as the aesthetics of editing. And writers, make sure you write for the ear.

Thanks for indulging me.

@Chris: if you used Steve Anthony (who does have a very good style) wouldn’t you be be going against what you just stated in the comment above since he’s a hired gun and has no real interest in the topic?

“I think just knowing that the person speaking to you has a *real* interest in the topic at hand appeals to our human nature.”

You busted me, Tom. Yes, using Steve Anthony (or any other voiceover pro) *would* go against my “keeping it real” mantra. But is my “keeping it real” mantra simply a natural byproduct of our actual inability to hire an outsider at all? Ah, who knows what effect environment ultimately has on perception and belief. 🙂

I guess what I’m opining is this: if you *must* use an outside narrator, choose someone with a natural style, like Steve Anthony. Or do as Dan suggests and instruct your voice talent that you want a natural, “authentic” style.

Heck, maybe make your voiceover pro an honorary employee of the company for the day for some real, genuine down home authenticity. Heh.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t use a headshot of a model to represent your voice talent. That’s just layering phoniness over phoniness. It’s a double phony. And that’s not good. Like Andy implied, it somehow feels insulting.

Me, I’ll keep popping the throat lozenges and rasping out my own narration recording. In between F-16 fly-overs from the Air Force base next door. 🙁

And I’ll use my own headshot, thank you very much. If I have to look at this ugly mug in the mirror every day, my learners deserve a little taste of it as well. Some things are too good not to be shared.

November 4th, 2008

Chris-
Telling your talent you want it to sound natural isn’t enough direction by itself, in my opinion. Saying that to a professional VO person means something, but for your in-house person they’ll need something more concrete. Give them examples like, “pretend you’re talking to me” or “pretend you’re talking to your new co-worker.” You can also reference popular TV shows or commercials that have the sound you want so people have something specific they can think about. They’ll need direction.

VO people will be able to deliver many different styles. Listen to their demos to see who can produce the sound you want.

November 4th, 2008

Obviously the ability of the producer, the equipment one has and the purpose of the project will determine which way to go.
My question is more practical:
Please can someone outline for me exactly how to lay out a script, for a professional quote, that has short audio explanations for each slide and interaction (say 100 short scripts).
In what format will the professional narrator save them and how do I then insert each into the correct place for articulate? ie if I just throw a lot of .wav files (or .mp3 files) into the narration folder it clearly won’t know what to do with them.
How do you allocate each short audio clip to the correct bit on the correct interaction?
Thanks, Gaynor

[…] over at The Rapid eLearning blog wrote an excellent piece on “When it makes sence to pay for professional narration” well worth the […]

Hi
I cant agree more with Tom. It still amazes me how some clients will spend thousands on a big project but won’t spend a few hundred dollars on professional narration. The difference in quality and overall professionalism of the end-product is worth the outlay.
Some of you mentioned costs of narration. We work out of Israel and have excellent born and bred American voice talents that are much cheaper than those in the US. It could be worth your while to check the option of working online with narrators outside of the US

November 5th, 2008

Some of you are missing a couple of major points: The question is not only about popped Ps and voice intonation. It’s also about the WAY a professional is taught to speak. Your audience is ready to give you a chance, but not if you sound like someone they don’t like. It’s the difference between a a Maaco paint job and a pro.

Like or don’t like, listen, for example, to Rush Limbaugh. Note how he over-pronounces certain sounds. When you listen carefully to the “n” and “t” sounds, and how he actually pushes out more breath at the end of a sentence, in context, it sounds– listenable, natural– even though he’s overdoing it to “normal” ears. He’s compensating for the fact that most “civilians” drop air pressure at the end of the sentence. That “normal” trait makes your recorded audio file devolve into a mumble, such as “Our new process is af…” or they go into a growl (called a ‘glottal fry’) which grates on nerves. You’d never notice this in conversations, but it’s all too much like a dagger in your brain when you’re captive to it in a 30 minute video or Powerpoint presentation. Most people under 30 have learned this glottal fry from their peers and it’s the kiss of death. Listen!

Another issue is the audio recording itself. Unlike the human ear and brain, which kindly compensates for fluctuations in poor audio, a recording cannot afford to be +12dB at one second and -30dB the next. It’s like listening to a bee buzzing around your head– …zzzzZZZZZZZ….zzzzz etc. Keeping the audio ‘meter’ in one zone all the way through a sentence WITH proper intonation, good character, excellent timing, proper diction, neutral regionalisms, AND eliminating popped Ps is, like any skill YOU’ve honed over the years, an art.

Don’t cheapen your production and forever relegate your work to the trashbin of history… the moment it leaves your lips.

Cheers
Lee (LeeRichan*yahoo.com)

November 5th, 2008

Narration is so critical; not an after-thought. Poor narration will ruin good content {the time it takes to develop good content is in itself a huge cost/quality issue). And, for the project I am engaged in now, narration has been the hurdle we have to overcome. I do not want to ruin good content…

The idea of outsourcing narration and having no studio space is is a bit disconcerting. But again, I do not think people are suggesting this here. Instead, outsourcing the narration simply provides a voice file – the tasks of synching voice to video or PowerPoint animations is the task of the course developer… Is this how people see this? Basically I am looking for suggestions and a simple process/task flow of how to incorporate professional narration into projects ongoing…

Thanks for your comments and help..

Thom

Great article and comments! My question is the same as one I see in someone else’s comments.

How do you balance your voice over with the text on screen? Do you audio record only what is on the screen? Or elaborate? Is there any research suggesting what works best?

November 5th, 2008

Professional Narration always add that extra snap to any presentation.

For some presentations (in which the subject content does not change) professional narration is excellent,

For other presentations (which are more procedural and technical in nature) changes have to be made quickly. That is when in house people have the edge. Some software such as captivate contains editing features that takes care of those deep breaths.

Even for in house narration, there has to be an environment that recording–whether it is small room with a door that closes or an audio studio. Too many companies feel that recording can be done in a cube while telephones are ringing and people are talking.

I thought my audio was pretty good until I hired a professional voice over talent. Now I cringe whenever I hear my original presentation. It was definitely worth the cost. If you are going to sell you elearning I think you owe it you your customers to have it professionally recorded. I found mine through voice123. She was FANTASTIC, her website is: http://www.terrywhiteonline.com. I highly recommend her.

Thanks for the great post and all of the interesting discussion. It is good to see so many different opinions on the subject. I don’t think there is one answer that will fit everyone’s needs. Some groups have the equipment and talent available to successfully record their own audio and other groups don’t. At my last job, they had a professional quality studio and used in house (untrained) talent. The overall audio quality and levels were good, but the talent didn’t always follow the script. We were teaching foreign languages, so the script was often important in that it presented specific phrases from the current lesson.

At my current job, we don’t have a studio and our equipment is limited to a cheap microphone and a laptop we can take into an empty conference room. I have had two projects where the person doing the audio recording could not keep the same levels each day. One guy grew louder and louder each day until he sounded as if he was yelling. Another lady started off good and thought she should move the microphone further away and eventually sounded so faint. Both had to do several re-recording sessions because we couldn’t work with the widely different audio levels. Give them a few more chances and a little practice, they may make good narrators some day, but until then, outsourcing sounds like a good idea.

If you’re going to do your own narration, training is a very good idea.

I do all my own narration for videos and I think I’m a lot more comfortable with it – and better at it – than I would have been if I hadn’t had speech and drama lessons as a child (thanks to having a highly accomplished amateur actress for a mum).

And working from home in a nice quiet room does help. If I’d worked in the office I wouldn’t have had a hope – phones buzzing, people talking and shouting – you don’t want that in the background of a video, to say nothing of how distracting it is when you’re trying to concentrate on the script.

So yes, it is possible to do your own narration, but I would recommend training and a quiet background.

M

[…] When It Makes Sense to Pay for Professional Narration | The Rapid eLearning Blog | Tom Kuhlmann | 4 November 2008 […]

As a professional voice talent, this discussion is fascinating to me. Hearing the perspective of eLearning developers and why they do or do not hire professional voice talent is very valuable indeed.

As in any field you’re going to find a wide variety of skill and talent levels both among your in-house talent and among professional voice talent. It’s key to have communication up front about what your expectations are when you hire talent. The trend in voice-over now is toward a natural speaking style, but you’ll still hear a lot of formal or even stilted narration (telephone voice-overs tend to be the most unnatural of all!). So it’s important to find talent who get it that you need a natural, conversational speaking style. But natural and amateur are not the same thing. It takes skill to sound natural! To my ears, amateur talent rarely sound natural – especially if the content is pretty generic (“in the following module, you will learn [A, B, C]”). I’m glad to see in this discussion how important a natural delivery is to course developers. I would love to see more emphasis on a writing style that sounds like real speech – including the use of contractions. As a narrator I would rather not have to guess about whether it’s okay to change things slightly to have them sound more natural – I’ve done a lot of eLearning narration and have never received a script that sounded like a real person talking. And by the way, you underestimate us if you think we’re not interested in your script. That’s one of the things I love about this business – the opportunity to learn about topics that might not have come my way otherwise – I never know what the day is going to bring.

Thank-you for this enlightening discussion. I can certainly see both sides. Sometimes you have more time than money, and sometimes time really IS money.

And Chris made me laff.

Tom, the last few projects I completed at my previous employer made me a believer in the shortcomings of internal talent. My parting advice to the project sponsor: hire a professional voice. But internal talent is not completely unworkable if you consider some lessons learned.

Lesson the First: Conveying technical language with which you are not familiar is a gift that few have.
For one project, the sponsor was really high on someone in the customer service call center who had been tapped to record all of the prompts for the company’s voicemail system. I punched through the system, thought she sounded professional and genuine, and agreed she was the one. Once we sat down to record, the train wreck began. Once she left the realm of brief, straightforward voice prompts and entered the realm of verbose, highly technical HR terminology, she came up quite short. She would glance over a list of related, comma-delimited terms and because she was not familiar with the subject matter (it was HR policy – few mortal SMEs actually exist), she could not infer the relationships from the sentence structure, resulting in recordings that distracted from the content. Her warm tone was a dream, but the amount of coaching and re-recording required was a nightmare.

Lesson the Second: Internal talent available today can become unavailable tomorrow, leaving you with no narrator when version 2 edits of the project come along (and they always do).
For the next project, we found another internal talent who not only was Barry-White-smooth, but who possessed cognitive skills that nullified Lesson the First. The first version of the project was well received; however, by the time the project needed to be edited and amended, “Barry” had a different role in the company and his new manager was extremely protective of his time, making recording time difficult to schedule. About that time, the previous project needed editing, as well. Internal talent can easily become external talent, and sure enough the Voicemail Star had left the company. To avoid shabby sounding patches with another voice, we had to re-record the entire project with “Barry.”

Lesson the First can be easily mitigated by better screening. Hand the talent a technically absurd script that pushes punctuation and sentence structure to the limits of the language and see how he can handle it with minimal time to rehearse.

Lesson the Second can be mitigated with technology or technique.
Technology: If your audience can bear it, computer generated voices “sound” a whole lot better when edits come around. Edit the text. Click the button. You got updates. (Of course, this can bring you full circle to facing Lesson the First)
Technique: Consider a co-anchor approach suggested by Marc Gamble in an E-learning Guild publication titled “Using Radio Production Techniques to Improve Synchronous Communication.” (You can join the Guild as an Associate member for free, then search the Learning Solutions e-Magazine archives for “radio”) If you utilize two voices for one project and one leaves the company, you can more naturally patch the project utilizing the second talent.

I’ve been on the production side and on the voice over side of this debate.

The only time I want to use a professional narrator when I am producing is when I want the project to an effective, impactful learning tool.

Its akin to having professional builders build a wonderful new house (your elearning presentation) but using your unemployed, unskilled brother in law (a non-professional voice talent) to run the electric because he was able to change the batteries in the TV remote.

Do it right or don’t do it – that’s my opinion.

Best always,
– Peter

Hello All,

What a great article and really interesting discussion!
As a professional voiceover narrator I would have to agree with all the benefits listed of using a pro.
A couple of further thoughts:
1. If you’re unsure of which voice to choose, most pro voiceover artists ( and I include myself in this) are more than happy to record a short demo from your script to help with your casting decision. No charge of course. This can give you an idea how the tone, pace works with your script.

2. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune! I charge per finished minute/hour. So no matter how long it takes for me to record your script, you’re just paying for the length of the final audio files. So if you have a script that is approx 7500-8000 words, this will end up as approximately 1 hour of audio. I would charge 1 hour of audio ( $900) which includes, recording, editing into individual slides/screens where necessary, delivery to you in the format of your choice (wav, mp3 ,aiff) And you’d receive the files back within a few days all ready for you to slot them into the elearning course. Turnaround time can be shorter to fit with your requirements.

3. Also worth remembering that many Voiceover artist will offer a discount on high volume work. If you can develop a good working relationship they are usually more than happy to discuss a rate reduction.

I love recording eLearning & training narrations and have been fortunate to be asked to record a number of them for companies all over the world. If you’d like to listen to my voice and for further infor please visit my website at http://www.thephonevoice.com. Also, if you would like help finding a voiceover artist for your particular project I would be more than happy to help.

Best of luck with all your projects!!
Alison

Over the last year I’ve done alot video and sound production for eLearning.

My preference is not to use professional over voice’s. Using really people gives another layer of authentic the learning experience, which much it more engaging. Yes sometimes it takes longer.

What I do advise people to do is to so put more effort in the recording and editing of sounds.

Try and find a good room that doesn’t have a lot of background noise and use some of low-end professional microphones other people have talked about. Lapel microphone are great as wll.

When it comes editing, the two effects most of the sound track I do have on them are noise correction/gate and compression.

Tom, you wrote: “At $100* per hour, the company is spending about $4000 per project.”

But I don’t see where the “*” refers to? Did you forget to insert a footnote?

@Jim: I had a footnote. I think I must have accidentally deleted it. $100/hour is a common price for multimedia development. Most places I worked we’d guesstimate $100/hr for vendor work and $50/hr for internal work. I usually tell people to double their hourly wage for a good guess as to what their time costs. They’re just ball park figures to get some rough estimates.

Great article! You get what you pay for in voiceover. Sure, you can use an “in-house” person that may have a decent voice but a professional voice talent will take your project a lot further. I’ve had clients come to me, who went the cheap route and ended up paying even more because they realized that they needed to spend a little money to get a pro.

WOW……..this is an active topic and quite well discussed too. I agree that if you are creating a production for in-house or to a small group of colleagues then by all means you should gather your best talent at the office and get the job done. On the other hand if you are targeting the public at large or a large group within an organization or industry then you really should go the extra mile and hire professional talent.
I represent a group of VO talents who specialize in e-learning but the reason for my response is not to directly promote our gang but to tell you what we’ve done to cut costs for Instructional Designers. Firstly we hand picked all of our members and did our best not to have VO talents with “duplicate tones”. Secondly, they have all agreed to collaborate with us to supply all the voices required at a one voiceover price. This means if they are asked to record a simple line or two or a short paragraph there may or may not be payment in it for them. The reasons? A) To have a short blurb recorded by a pro VO talent will cost you approximately $100 if they will do it at all. B)We are after volume and we know course designers do not have unlimited budgets for production. C) What a great way to actually have an Instructional Designer hear your voice! It’s just like a demo right?
Anyway, I could fill the page with information. Lastly we have introduced PPPM (Price Per Produced Minute)for multiple, as in more than one vo talent required, projects. Here is the link should you like to take a peek http://e-learningvoices.com/pricing.php . I would personally welcome any comments on this whether it be positive or negative.

There have been many great points made here about the benefits of hiring professional voices.

One question was how to find talent. I’ll take this one step further – you need to find the “right” talent. Not every voice talent has experience in eLearning/Training. I’m one of the professionals at e-learningvoices.com – which, as Rick described in the previous response, is a group of voice talent who have a lot of experience in this area of voiceover.

Additionally, a full-time professional voice talent will have the right equipment, environment and software – and the experience to use them quickly and effectively – to provide you with high quality tracks in any format that are ready to drop into your project.

Hi, Tom! First, thanks for writing this article. The tremendous discussion that has ensued shows that the question of using professional voice talent is quite a hot topic for e-learning producers.

I noticed that several respondents commented that authenticity is important. I agree. However, you don’t have to sacrifice authenticity when you hire a professional voice talent. Many of us have significant experience in other fields that we bring to the microphone. For instance, I have a MS degree in computer information systems and worked over 20 years in the IT industry. Since I am a SME in IT, I can quickly and easily voice highly technical scripts with complete credibility.

Finding a professional talent is easier than ever with the proliferation of voice casting sites, including:

Voice123.com
Voices.com
eLearningVoices.com

As Tom indicated, you can post a script, timeframe and budget and receive dozens or even hundreds of auditions. As an alternative, several voice talent have responded to this thread, and thousands more have web sites on-line with demos.

When you decide to hire a professional voice talent, I hope you will look over my list of 25 reasons why it should be me! http://www.blog.avoiceabovethecrowd.com/2008/11/25-reasons-clients-hire-this-v.html

Thanks again for the article and this terrific discussion!

Karen Commins
http://www.KarenVoices.com
http://www.KarenBlogs.com

Tom, as a postscript to my comments yesterday, I want to point e-learning producers to my blog article titled 12 tips for more natural narrations. Several people commented that sounding natural is not as easy as it seems. My tips may be especially useful to those who utilize internal employees for their e-learning narrations.

I hope this info is helpful. Thanks again for a great discussion.

Karen Commins
http://www.KarenVoices.com
http://www.KarenBlogs.com

Hi Tom – great post. I work for a company that specializes in providing professional voiceovers for elearning and other applications (www.procommss.com), so I am a bit biased.

A lot of our new clients have a similar experience to Laurie’s. There’s often trepidation about the cost, but once the final product is received and they see the advantages both in quality of read and time savings, they wonder why they hadn’t gone with a pro voice before.

For those who worry that their script will end up sounding ‘too professional’ or ‘announcer-y’, the problem lies more in casting. Each voice talent has his or her own strengths. Some folks excel at movie trailers, others at cartoon characters. You want to find the talent who can bring a regular conversational style to your script. Also, make sure your script lends itself to being conversational.

[…] to Tom Kuhlman, author of the Rapid e-Learning Blog (one of my favorite blogs), it’s 40 hours. Here’s what he says in a recent post (on […]

[…] would assume the 33:1 for PowerPoint to e-learning conversion is what most closely correlates to Tom Kuhlman’s references to “rapid development” of e-learning since I know it’s not the 220:1 […]

I have worked with Graffitti Studio-Bulgaria. They have an excellent ISDN voice over studio which provides multilingual voice over services. Check http://www.graffittistudio.com/en/voiceover-studio.html

In my opinion as a video editor it always makes sense to hire a pro. Unless you want the client to speak to give the segment more credibility. We like to use clients to speak on video when we do web video advertising. This way the potential customer gets to know the person they may be doing business with. See samples at http://www.exposeseo.com
But when we are working on a general informative video or e-learning product a professional is the way to go. Our choice is Tom O’Toole he has a great studio and he works fast and professional.
http://www.tomotoole.com

Kind regards,

John
Chicago, IL

[…] an earlier post we looked at when it makes sense to consider paying for professional narration.  If you have the money, this is a viable option.  However, many of you are like Old […]

Hi there,

we do the whole day recording sessions in over 20 languages for elearning here in Berlin. It is funny, even if we have the finacial crises here in germany the companys do invest in professional narration and voice talents sometimes even more. They want to sound professional. I think you do not have to get the best voice professionals for that. But if you choose somebody very talented it could be the best way to get your messages through. If you have to record 20 hours you`ll need about 25 hours with a good talent and about 70 hours with a “no talent”. So in the end it should be good mix off all.

May 6th, 2010

Tom, as usual, you’ve ht the nail o the head. The bottom line is that besides the “hidden costs” of doing it yourself or in-house, the results are not professional sounding – and that can make a great training course suck. We have used Eliot Coe (www.eliotcoe.com) who is a seasoned professional with a home studio. He can usually turn it around in 24-48 hours, his price is fair and he almost always comes up with added-value objective comments that we in many cases incorporate into our project. Today there are many professional narrators who have set up home studios and can offer quality at a decent price.

Lots of great points in this thread. One thing that has been requested of me more than any other in the e-learning sector of my voice over business, has been a natural, friendly, conversational read, even when reading the business-related ramblings of various CFOs, CIOs, IT pros, etc.! This is something that non-skilled readers just will not attain, unless they have the *acting* skills to pull it off. The professional voice actor creates a persona through his or her voice that the listener/learner can engage with.

Certainly hiring the “wrong” professional can yield less than satisfactory results. This is why it is not necessarily a good idea to go to the online casting sites, because now with the Internet there has been such a huge influx of people with a USB microphone, no proper soundproofing or sound knowledge, the notion that someone told them they have a nice voice and should do voiceovers, and the $300 to open a virtual storefront on one of these sites, and pass themselves off as a “professional” voice actor, when in reality they lack the skills and/or seasoning to correctly interpret scripts. A huge percentage of the demos on the pay sites are worse than embarrassing and do not represent true skilled voice actors.

Perhaps searching via Google on the right keywords, and listening to samples from individual voice actors’ websites will more clearly show who is qualified and who is not. Certainly the VOs at http://www.SaVoa.org (the Society of Accredited Voice Artists) are qualified, as we have all undergone a double-blind peer review to ascertain the necessary skills, not only in reading a script, but also in technical skills and business acumen, and are certified as having top-quality skills. [Full disclosure, I am a member and director of SaVoa, but came into it the same way, having to pass the various tests, both technical and performance, and as our only goal is to set our members above the throngs out there and identify them as having excellent VO skills, I feel confident offering the various services of our members to anyone needing narration done right the first time.]

Also with pro actors you have a better chance at successfully doing character scenes and simulation exercises, as this goes beyond straight narration, even most SMEs would most likely not be able to perform these characters – having a good, plugged-in VO at your fingertips can bring in a lot of possibilities.

Even the perceived higher cost of pro VO talent will be well counter-balanced by the unseen benefits in completing projects quicker and better, and perhaps more importantly, the perception of your company by end users. An obviously amateur VO, no matter how pleasant, telegraphs “cheap” or “DIY”, a company using pro talent will be seen as one that understands the costs of doing business and is not afraid to go for quality.

I do a lot of e-learning for major clients and would be happy to provide anyone reading this thread with natural, engaging narration. Thanks for reading.

This is a well-written article and I do agree that professional training provides a high level of quality that the average person won’t have. However, I would not completely dismiss considering an average, untrained person who may still have a voice worth using. You’ve probably heard the story about the homeless man with the “golden voice” who landed some big voice over contracts even without having had training. I would definitely be careful in evaluating prospects before hiring though.

July 8th, 2012

Great article! It is rare that tasks as complex as narration are completed in-house unless one is willing to forgo quality with the hope of saving a few pennies.

While professional narration is definitely the way to go, I’ve found finding pricing to be a bit ambiguous, especially with price-per-minute or price-per-hour. For example;

The general guideline for voice narration is 2 minutes per page of double spaced, 12 point font text. So 10 minutes of narration = 5 pages. At the industry average rate of $25 per finished minute, your cost is $250. Pretty straightforward, right?

Think again! Other factors may increase your cost. If the talent reads more slowly than average or the script calls for pauses, such as between bullets. Before you know it, your script length, in terms of time, can easily increase by 50%. Unless your narrator is feeling very charitable, they are going to charge you for that extra time.

So we are left questioning what are our other options? There is price per hour, but there’s ALWAYS a minimum to be met (usually $100), and the final cost is rounded up to the next 15 minute interval. The most transparent method of establishing a rate, from a client perspective, is to remove the cost barriers of price-per-minute and offer professionally recorded voice talent at a set price-per-page.

Case in point, navigate to The Narrator Files, and you’ll find top quality narration available in any desired audio format with fast turnaround at a fixed cost of $20 per 12 point courier, 1.5 spaced page. Those five pages of narration that were going to cost you $250, are now only setting you back $100.

When selecting a professional narrator is simple, fast, and predictable, as it is within the price-per-page methodology, developers of eLearning can take full advantage of professional voice narration while still remaining cost-effective and time-efficient.

Just out of curiousity are there sites or forums on the interenet where you can upload a sample naration to have it rated? Perhaps you are comfortable using inhouse talent but would also like to know in comparison to a professional is that recording a 1 or an 8. How do you go about rating the effectiveness of a coworker or yourself if you choose the internal route.

@Tito: I don’t know of any sites where you can upload and rate it. I think effectiveness is based on meeting your objectives with the resources at hand. If you use audio in a course, it’s important that the audio quality be good, whether you use a pro or not. Some people prefer the unpolished narrator who really knows the subject. But that doesn’t mean they appreciate it if the audio quality is bad.

May 6th, 2013

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