How to Get the Perfect Audio Recording for Captioning

Updated: July 9, 2019

If you are looking to reduce the red flags and [inaudibles] in your final captioned files, listen up.

With the following tips, you’ll be able to choose the perfect microphone, create the perfect recording space, and capture the perfect audio.

Mic Check, one…two…one…two

Let’s start with the microphone.

Depending on what you are recording, you may require a different type of microphone for different situations.

For example, if you are recording a podcast, webinar, or lecture, you’ll want a high-quality microphone that is either a headset microphone or a mounted directional microphone.

In general, you want to spend at least $50 on a microphone.

There are three main types of microphones: dynamic, condenser, and ribbon.

 Dynamic microphones can handle loud volumes, less sensitive to background noise, perfect for recording at home or in a noisier environment. Condenser sensitive to sounds, provide a high output level, perfect for studios or places where background noise is controlled. Ribbons delicate, very sensitive to sounds, give off a smooth, warm sound, perfect for capturing all sounds in the room

  • Dynamic: Dynamic microphones are made to handle loud volumes. They are perfect for recording podcasts or webinars because they are less sensitive to background noises. If you are recording at home, dynamic microphones are a perfect choice.
  • Condenser: Condenser microphones are very sensitive to sounds and provide a high output level. They are perfect if you are working in a studio where background noise is controlled.
  • Ribbon: Ribbon microphones are very delicate and more fragile than condenser microphones. They give off a smooth, warm sound. They are good for capturing sounds like those created by string instruments.

Other mic types to consider depending on the situation:

  • Shotgun: Mounted on top of a camera or on a stand, it hangs over the subject being recorded.
  • Lavalier: A small microphone that can be attached to someones shirt.
  • Wireless: A cable-less microphone typically used during live performances.
  • USB: USB microphones are incredibly convenient because you can plug them into your computer, and are relatively inexpensive.

When choosing a microphone, there are four questions to ask.

  • What am I using my microphone for?
    • Are you recording for a lecture? Are you recording multiple speakers? Or will it just be you? The use will determine which type of microphone is best.
  • Where will I be recording?
    • Are you recording in a studio, lecture hall or at home?
  • What direction will the audio be coming from (i.e the Polar Patterns)?Omnidirectional, around the mid. undirectional, one direction, bidirectional front and back not from sides, multipattern can changes the recording direction.
    • Omnidirectional: Records sound around the mic and is good for capturing ambient room sounds.
    • Undirectional: Records sound from one direction and excludes all other directions.
    • Cardioid: Records sound from the front of the mic and the sides. It rejects sounds opposite the mic.
    • Bi-directional/Figure 8: Records sound equally from the front and back, while rejecting sounds from the sides.
    • Multi Pattern mic: Can be adjusted to change the direction that the mic captures the sound.
  • What are the frequencies the mic will be picking up?
    • A large diaphragm will pick up low frequencies, such as deep voices.
    • A small diaphragm will pick up higher frequencies.

Why the built-in microphone is not your friend

Sure, they are convenient, but built-in microphones tend to capture unwanted background noises and will result in an echo-y and distant audio quality.

The placement

microphone placement examples with headset, microphone stand and regular microphone.

Where you place your microphone is as important as the type of microphone you choose.

Rule of thumb: You want to avoid placing a microphone right by your mouth.

Microphones should be placed in front of the speaker, either below or to the side of the speaker’s mouth. If you are using a headset microphone, you’ll want to place it 1’’ away from the face and slightly below the lower lip. Standing microphones should be placed 9’’ to 15’’ directly in front of the speaker.

If you really want to filter out unwanted noises, you can attach a “pop filter.” Pop filters eliminate “popping sounds” and control the moisture that lands on the microphone (gross, I know, but at least it protects your microphone so it can have a long life span!).

You can either buy a pop filter or make your own.

Creating a “recording studio”

The number one thing to keep in mind when recording audio is to make sure there is no ambient noise around. If you can hear it, it will probably be captured by the mic.

This includes airplanes overhead, computer fans, and even the tap of a pencil. Keep it quiet.

The perfect recording studio is a large room with high ceilings, soundproof walls, concrete floors, and irregular surfaces.

recording studio essentials include foam or a blanket, a microphone, a recording device and a noiseless room

But of course, not all of us have access to such a room, so we can create one.

First, you want to find a quiet room. If this happens to be your cubicle at work, or a closet at home, set camp there.

Keep in mind you want to avoid an echo-y room as they tend to produce hollow sounding speech.

Next, you want to dampen the sound of the room by creating walls that will absorb the sound. For example, you can hang blankets or place a sound booth around your mic. You can either buy one for $40 or get crafty and make one.

You can also buy bass traps to put in the corners of the room. The will help reduce the echo and absorb unwanted sounds.

Recording tip: Always record a 10-second silent audio sample. That way you can catch ambient noises and make the necessary adjustments to block them out.

Once you’ve soundproofed your room, get a chair and table, and place your microphone front and center.

Now, press record.

No one likes poor audio. It takes away from your otherwise flawless production.

So in order to record a beautiful audio piece, keep the following tips in mind.

  • Speakers:
    • If you have multiple speakers, it’s best to give them their own microphones.
    • Don’t over articulate, instead speak naturally.
    • Have one person speaking at a time.
    • Don’t mumble or speak too loudly.
  • Microphone:
    • Remember to place your microphone in front of you or the speaker, with a couple inches in between.
    • Avoid holding the microphone right next to your mouth.
    • Also, avoid holding or wearing a microphone, otherwise, you may catch unwanted sounds.
  • Things to customize:
    • If your microphone has the option to dictate the Digital Audio Sample Resolution choose 16 bits or higher.
    • If your microphone allows it, disable both the automatic gain control (AGC) and/or the voice activity detection (VAD).
    • Set your sampling rate to 16kHz.
    • Always record a sample to check the audio quality.

And as another rule of thumb: Always have a back up of your recording, i.e, save it in multiple places.

Software programs

With your beautiful recording in hand, you can use the following software programs to edit and finalize your recording.

Ready to Caption

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO CAPTIONING? Accessibility for the 48 million Americans living with hearing loss. Comprehension in the case of thick accents, esoteric content, background noise, and for ESL viewers. Flexibility when trying to view videos in sound-sensitive environments like the gym, office or library. SEO because it allows Google to understand the contents of your video, since Google cant watch your video. Translations since once you have English captions you can translate them to create multilingual subtitles and reach a global audience. Reusable because they help create study guides, infographics, video clips, or anything else your imagination can cook up.

Once you have your perfect recording, remember to submit it for captioning!

Not only do captions make your content accessible, they also help reach a wider audience.

In today’s digital age, the flexibility of content consumption is also an important benefit that viewers value. With captions, viewers can watch your content on the go, or download a transcript to read later.

Overall, captions improve focus and help viewers retain information.

Captions can also benefit your marketing team because they improve SEO by telling search engines what your video is about. Furthermore, transcripts can be used to create infographics, clips, blogs, you name it!

The importance of clear audio for captioning

Poor audio quality makes it harder for transcribers to capture all the words spoken, leading to transcripts with many [inaudible] or red flagged spots.

Often, captioning companies will charge more for difficult audio, so always make sure you do your best to capture a clear, loud audio.

For course instructors online and in higher education, learn best practices for instructional videos in our webinar with Texas Tech’s instructional design experts, Jackie and Ian.


If you’re looking for top quality and reasonably priced captions or transcripts, check out our pricing and get started with 3Play today!

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