Making a digital audio recording is easy once you know how. Store as a file on your computer, on your school/college intranet or VLE, or even transmit it with Bluetooth onto your students’ mobile phones.
The kit and caboodle
You can record audio material in a number of ways:
Some mobile phones have an audio recording function. For low-tech recordings these are fine, and as most students will already have one, it is quick and easy for them to record whatever they choose.
Minidisk audio recorders produce better quality recordings, but require a bit more technical know-how in order to transfer the data onto a computer.
Digital voice recorders are probably best in terms of quality and simplicity, and have a USB connection like a memory stick. Record, plug the gadget straight into a PC and away you go. It’s a very small and light device, with at least 1GB capacity.
always have spare batteries to hand (for minidisk and digital voice recorders)
familiarise yourself with the equipment in advance of your recording
eliminate as much background noise as you can
record in an ethical way.
Editing and saving the recording
You will probably want to edit your recording. For this you need some software and/or support from an IT or Media technician.
If you are using a recording from a mobile phone, there will be some software on the phone (or on a CD that came with the phone). If you are using a minidisk recorder, your school/college may have media editing equipment you can use.
If you have recorded your clip on a digital voice recorder, you will probably want to use a PC with Windows XP. See the guide below for a step-by-step approach using Windows Movie Maker:
In your All Programs menu you will find a piece of free software called Windows Movie Maker. Open this up and if you have the same version it will look like this:
In the Capture Video menu on the left hand side click on > Import audio or music. This will produce a pop-up Import file box. Find where the audio file is that you want to import. This may be the drive your DVR is plugged into, or you may already have saved the unedited clips from this to another location on your computer. Find the file, highlight it, and click on >Import.
Now drag and drop your audio file into the storyboard at the bottom of the screen. This will enable you to edit the clip. It will look something like this:
Now you can click on play to listen to the recording – make sure you have your speakers on and the volume up! As it plays a bar on the storyboard will move from left to right, showing you where you are, in minutes and seconds in the recording. A time counter also shows in the play screen.
Identify in minutes and seconds where you want your clip to start and finish, e.g. from 1:35 to 3:00. Now look carefully at the storyboard and you will find an arrow like this ► at the start and one like this ◄ at the end.
Drag and drop each of these arrows to your selected start/finish points. You will now have your clip. To check it, click on play again. If you want to make any changes, just adjust the arrows.
When you play the clip you may find there is a long pause before your clip starts. This will be because you trimmed some of the start off. To resolve this, drag and drop the trimmed audio clip back to 0:00 on the timeline. Now it should start playing immediately.
Now you are ready to finish your recording. On the >Finish movie menu on the left hand side of the screen click on >Save to my computer. Name your audio file and save it. Then click on >Next.
You will now have a pop-up asking you to select the setting for saving your file – it says ‘movie’ but it works for audio too.
What you choose here will affect the size of the file you create, and how much storage space it will take up. The default is ‘best quality for playback on my computer (recommended)’ and you may like to just go with that.
If you want to experiment a bit, look here and see the file size.
In this worked example, the file size is 531Kb. Now click on >Other settings and click on the blue drop down arrow that appears. You can see the different audio quality options. If you choose >High quality audio (160kbps), the file size jumps to 1.24 Mb. If you choose >Voice quality audio (8kbps) it shrinks to a tiny 59Kb. The audio quality will change too. You could try creating different versions and playing them to see what works best with your clip, but as a rough rule of thumb FM quality (32kbps) seems to work pretty well for keeping both file size and quality in balance.
Whatever you choose, click on >Next and your file will be saved. When it’s done you will get an option to play your file automatically on finishing. Tick that box, click on >Finish and sit back and admire your handiwork.