Ian Wilkinson of Texas Tech University’s College of Media and Communication will share best practices for faculty and administrators in producing high-quality sound in learning videos in his session at UB Tech® 2020, called “The Importance of Audio in Educational Video.”
As director of technology support services, Wilkinson works with his team to manage all aspects of technology services, including faculty and staff computers, classroom and conference room AV, digital signage, and inventory monitoring.
UB: Why is audio an essential factor in producing educational videos?
Wilkinson: Audio is usually more important than visual content. People can look away if the video is not good quality, but they cannot close their ears if the audio is crummy. Better audio quality helps those with hearing difficulties or disabilities and assists in the creation of accurate captions.
UB: What are some of the common audio-related pitfalls?
Wilkinson: The most common mistake I see is people using the built-in mic to record video. Tiny microphones built into webcams or laptops are just not capable of capturing full spectrum sound. Sound is invisible, so it is often literally overlooked. In physical space, our brains are usually pretty good at tuning out background noise from air handlers and computer fans. Because we tune such noises out, we forget to account for them during the recording process, which can result in a lot of noise that cannot be easily removed after the fact.
UB: What tips do you have on creating high-quality content?
Wilkinson: One of the best things people can do to improve the quality of their content is to watch their own videos all the way through to assess quality. As uncomfortable as it is for some of us to watch ourselves on camera, we cannot know the quality level of our content if we do not assess it for ourselves. When you watch your content back, you will notice the noise of the computer fan and how much your chair squeaks, and then correct those issues for your next recording session.
UB: What types of expenditures should AV managers make to ensure that schools are able to produce high-quality video?
Wilkinson: Instead of having a set of equipment for every faculty member to use in his or her office, consider building a small shared-use studio space dedicated to recording desktop video. This arrangement saves money on equipment. It is easier for technical staff to support, and it helps faculty create high-quality video.
Having nice equipment is great, but good technical support staff is key to producing high-quality content. Spending a ton on equipment doesn’t make sense if you don’t have the people who can support its operation. If someone hands me a Stradivarius violin, I am not going to produce good music because I don’t have the training; Itzhak Perlman could get a standing ovation playing a cheap thrift-store violin because he knows how to use it. Knowledgeable technicians may not be cheap but their work and experience is always worth their salary.