Research Center for Arts & Culture
The Actors Fund

Performing Arts Legacy Project

An online platform to document and represent the careers of older performing arts professionals

Creating and Publishing an Oral History

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During the fall of 2016, ten professional actors between the ages of 67 and 92 were interviewed by five younger actors in a series of oral history sessions. Hear excerpts from all ten interviews, in a composite recording narrated by participating actor Len Cariou:

Click the headings below for more on the topic.

Planning & Preparation

To conduct your own oral history, please begin by consulting the questions we developed for this project, and consider other topics you might like to explore.

Here are some notes to keep in mind as you prepare for an interview that we have prepared for your reference.

Place and Time

Budget plenty of time to conduct an oral history. We recommend 2 – 3 recording sessions, so you can touch on different topics, avoid fatigue, and capture different moods and outlooks on the material you cover.

Finding a space to record that is quiet and free of interruptions may be your biggest challenge. To capture high quality audio that is free of echoes, buzzing, and other issues, we recommend recording in a room that has carpeted floors, low ceilings, and sturdy, fixed furniture that will not move or creak if you shift in your seat while recording.

Recording On A Phone, Tablet, or Computer

You don’t need sophisticated equipment to record great audio.

iPhone

For iPhone the Voice Memos app is usually already installed, but can be downloaded on the iTunes store.

  1. Open the VOICE MEMOS app
  2. Tap the red RECORD button to begin, and when finished, tap again – for longer recordings, a small blue “DONE” button will show up in the bottom right corner.
  3. The voice recording should automatically save to your list of recordings; tap the file to RENAME or LISTEN
Android

For Android, the Voice Recorder app is a great option to download in the Android store.

  1. Go to the ANDROID store on your phone
  2. Type in VOICE RECORDER in the search bar
  3. Click INSTALL to install the voice recorder
  4. Click OPEN when you are ready to begin recording
  5. Hit the RECORD button with the red dot to start recording
  6. Click the red button again to stop recording

Helpful Tip: Before recording a long audio, do a short sound test to make sure your sound levels are acceptable and that you know how to save!

Zoom

You can also use Zoom to record your Oral History. When you click “Record” in your Zoom call,  the audio and video will save automatically to the host’s computer once the call is over. When it’s saved, there will be an .mp4 file (the video and audio together) and a .m4a file (the audio alone). You can then use and edit the .m4a file for your Oral History.

For a video tutorial on using Zoom to Oral Histories:

Additional Equipment

To get even better quality recordings than the built-in microphone on your device allows, use an external condenser or lavalier microphone that plugs into your phone or tablet. With the speaker’s mouth roughly 6″ – 12″ from the microphone, it will capture crisp, clear audio and eliminate background noise.

Recording

Be sure to do a sound check when you begin, and always include the following information at the beginning of each recording:

  • Name of Professional
  • Name of Interviewer
  • Date and place of interview

Once you have completed a recording session, be sure to back up your audio files to a cloud storage service or other device for safekeeping.

Phone or Tablet: Transferring to Your Computer

To easily edit audio on your computer as well as upload your audio to your PAL site, you’ll need to share, or transfer, your audio files from your phone or tablet (or to your online storage center, Google Drive) through messages or email.

iPhone
  1. In the VOICE MEMOS app, tap to select the voice recording you want to share (this will expand the file with a play button, etc)
  2. Tap the SHARE button – in the bottom left of the file, it will look like a box with an arrow at the top. When you select this, a series of options for sharing (message, email, Dropbox, etc) will appear. Choose the method you prefer, or share several ways for safety!
Android
  1. Tap and hold your finger on the audio file’s entry
  2. A new window will open, showing a list of actions for that audio
  3. Select SHARE and a new window will open, showing the available options for sending the desired file

All shared voice recordings should arrive as a .m4a file, which means it is compatible with nearly any audio player on a modern operating system.

We recommend emailing files to yourself to then download to a computer or flash drive for the easiest way to post a file on the website.

Editing

Depending on the degree to which you’d like to edit your audio recordings, you may need outside help. But there are several free, easy-to-learn software applications that can be used to reduce distortion in recordings and to do some straightforward cut/copy/trim actions to edit out mistakes or redundancies, for example.

  • Audacity is free, open source, cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing on a Mac or PC
  • Hokusai is an app that allows you to edit audio recordings on your iPhone or iPad.
Publishing Audio to Your Site: Front End
  1. On the Look/Listen Page, click the blue fountain pen on the bottom of the page. It’s the left most icon and says “Edit Post” when you hover on it.
  2. Click the yellow “+” icon.
  3. Click the headphone icon. It’s the right most icon in the first (top) row.
  4. Put your curser over the image that was added to your page and click the gear button. It’s the second icon to the left.
  5. Follow the prompts to add a title, upload your audio file (100MB max), disable looping and auto-play, and display the audio player.

Helpful Tip: You can upload a file to the Media Library that is maximum 98 MB. For an audio file, this should be about an hour of edited footage.

If you encounter technical difficulties, please submit a support request.

Publishing Audio to Your Site: Dashboard

From the Dashboard, simply click “Add Media” and upload your audio file, then click Insert to add an audio player to your page or post. For a video tutorial, see below.

If you encounter technical difficulties, please submit a support request.

Helpful Tip: You can upload a file to the Media Library that is maximum 98 MB. For an audio file, this should be about an hour of edited footage.


«Introduction to the Look/Listen Page
»Audio and Video

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