Audio projects are time-based recordings of sounds (voice, music, noises, etc.). These sounds mix together to make a soundscape (i.e., the audio version of a landscape). This page also talks about the audio components of videos (see the Video resources page for specifics about visuals).
There are many different kinds of audio projects that you can create. Below you can find some examples of the common video projects that we work with and a short description:
- Podcasts are digital audio recordings that are mostly spoken word (similar to a radio talk show or an interview), but may include some music clips, sound effects, and soundscapes. Professional podcasts are typically made available for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Most podcasts are a part of a series or a subscribable channel.
- Audio Essays explore topics using spoken text, audio interviews, archival recordings, music, environmental sounds, and/or sound effects. They can be structured using the conventions of written argument and evidence, narrative devices, as well as poetic and experimental structures. Unlike podcasts, audio essays are typically one-off or solo projects rather than a part of a series.
- Soundscapes (or “acoustic ecology”) are the recording of an acoustic environment. They can consist of ambient noises, speaking/talking, music, etc. Soundscapes create an immersive environment for the listener, so that they experience a place or event via listening rather than seeing. Soundscapes can be used in other forms of audio, such as audio essays, audio documentaries, audio blogs, and audio narratives. Soundscapes are commonly used in podcasts or other forms of audio essay to allow the listener to feel the environment in which the recording is being done.
- Audio Documentaries involve researching a non-fiction topic and focusing in on micro-stories, as opposed to broader issue pieces or news stories. They often rely on conventional narrative structures, adding recorded and site-specific sounds to enhance the listener’s experience. Audio documentaries can be a podcast series or one-off projects.
- Audio Blogs are a form of online journaling. They typically function similar to a radio talk show in that they primarily use spoken word. The goal of blogs is to illicit listener interaction via comments on an online platform, such as SoundCloud. Audio blogs are often placed in the genre of “podcasts.” However, audio blogs are less likely to use a lot of music or sound effects.
- MP3 Blogs are a subset of audio blogs that use a similar blog setting to publish music or remix recordings online.
- Audio Narratives, sometimes also called “radio plays,” tell a story using only sound. Narratives can be fiction or non-fiction and use spoken word, music, and sound effects to immerse the listener in a different world for a short time.
Audio Design Tip:
There are a lot of things that make up the audio planning, recording, and editing processes. It is easy to jump in and get started, but then make mistakes early on that make more work for you in the long run. Get some recommendations for your project by meeting with one of our DesignLab consultants early on in the process, before you record, so you can save yourself time later!
There are many different software programs that can be used to create and edit audio projects. Below is a list of the software that we recommend for recording, editing, and effects. We put the software in order from easiest to use near the top to most difficult near the bottom for each section. We recommend using a software you know well or learning the software well enough to establish an easy workflow, so you can spend less time troubleshooting and spend more time on your poster. Check out our Software Support page for links to tutorials for all of these programs.
Audacity: This is a free, open-source software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. It is installed on all the all computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. You can record directly into Audacity using a built-in or connected microphone and you can also import audio from other sources. Audacity projects are saved as an AUP file, but must be exported to another file form such as MP3, WAV, or WMA for external listening, however, exporting to MP3 requires an additional free plug-in.
GarageBand: This is a free proprietary software program that is available only for Apple products. It is installed on all the all Mac computer lab machines, both in the labs and for checkout. You can record directly into Garageband using a built-in or connected microphone and you can also import audio from other sources. You can also create music in Garageband using the built-in synthesized instruments. GarageBand projects are saved as .band files, but can easily be exported (Share > Export Song to Disc) as WAV and MP3 for external listening.
Adobe Audition: This software is a part of the Adobe Creative Cloud and is installed on select computer lab machines, only in the labs (including those in DesignLab and the Media Studio classrooms). This software is available for both Windows and Mac machines. Using a Creative Cloud account will allow for easy transitions between computers. Like other Adobe products, the learning curve is much more steep for Audition than the above free software programs, but there are more features available in this program. You can record directly into Audition using a built-in or connected microphone and you can also import audio from other sources. Additionally, Audition works seamlessly with Adobe Premiere Pro for editing audio from videos. Audition projects (called Sessions) are saved as .SESX files, which can also be exported to a variety of different file formats for external listening (including MP3 and WAV).
Design Tips and Tricks
There are numerous sound design choices that you should keep in mind to produce effective, and professional-sounding audio projects. Bear in mind that these design choices would greatly affect your project’s overall mood, tone, and atmosphere.
- Make sure your subject’s voice is clear and audible. In podcasts and audio essays, narration and dialogue typically contains your main message. You can ensure the audibleness of your subject by considering the position of the microphone or the recording device to your subject.
- Use the noise around you. In most audio projects, use ambient sound to establish your setting or location, convey your story’s overall mood and tone, and provide emphasis to your main point. Use realistic sound effects to convey information that can’t be seen.
- Use silence. Silence may also be used to redirect attention, create impact, or offer moments of reflection.
- Keep the sound balanced. When combining multiple elements in your soundscape, be sure to control the levels between these different sources. You want to create a sound hierarchy that supports your concept. Your main message—typically the vocal track— should be the clearest.
Percussion Sound Scape – Wind, Rain, Birds, & More
Industrial Soundscape (by bw064053)
Stock Audio Databases
Below are a few DesignLab recommended stock audio databases:
Bensound – A collection of royalty free music that is licensed for reuse under Creative Commons as long as it is cited properly.
CC Mixter – This is a community music remixing site featuring remixes and samples licensed under Creative Commons licenses. You are free to download and sample from music on this site and share the results with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Some songs might have certain restrictions, depending on their specific licenses.
Free Sound – Freesound has a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps, etc. released under Creative Commons licenses that allow for reuse. Be sure to cite files that need attribution under the CC license.
Free Sound Effects – This site contains both free and for purchase sound effects. Be sure to scroll down and select the Free Sound Effects categories (listed on the bottom left of the site).
Sound Bible – This site offers free sound clips for download in either wav or mp3 format. They offer free and royalty free sound effects and clips.
Sound Gator – This is a free sound effects library. Users can download sound effects for films, videos, multimedia projects, presentations, apps, games and just about any other project – but are not allowed to sell, license, distribute or post online the individual sound effects (i.e., must be a part of a larger project).
YouTube Audio Library – This page contains a large collection of free downloadable music and sound effects. This link will take you to the YouTube Creator Studio for the Audio Library. You must be logged into a Google account to access the audio library.
Instructional Video YouTube Playlist
Equipment Available at UW-Madison
Please note that DesignLab does not offer any equipment checkout. Below is a list of places on campus where you can checkout equipment
College Library provides UW-Madison students, faculty, and staff access to a variety of equipment for making audio projects. Equipment checkout is done at College Library’s Second Floor Service Desk (right next to DesignLab!) any time the library is open.
Types of Equipment Available: Microphones, Voice Recorders, Laptops
Checkout Length: 7 days
Checkout Process: You will need your Wiscard to checkout equipment.
Recording Spaces at UW-Madison
Please note that DesignLab does not offer any recording spaces. Below is a list of places on campus where you can record your audio projects.
On top of equipment, College Library has a new recording booth in College Library’s Second Computer Lab (right next to DesignLab!) any time the library is open.
Reservations: 1 hour at a time via the Study Room Reservation System