Aftersight Volunteer Guide and Expectations

This document is designed to guide both new and existing volunteers in embarking on and maintaining their assignments, ensuring continuous adherence to our high standards. Your role is critical in making print content accessible for individuals who are blind or have low vision.

The journey starts with your application and audition, leading to your role an Aftersight Reader. Once you’ve successfully passed the audition, a member of the Aftersight team will provide you with your program details and schedule.

Refer to this handbook for guidance on your first episode, troubleshooting, and a refresher on our required expectations. Your dedication and compliance with these standards are essential to our mission. Thank you for your commitment to excellence in service.

1x1 Voiceover and Recording Training

All volunteers can book virtual time with your Voiceover and Recording Coach, Jonathan Price.

Basic volunteer expectations

Failure to meet these expectations may result in retraining or dismissal.

  • Adhere to guidelines: Abide by the expectations outlined in the tabs on this page.
  • Contact information: Maintain current contact details with Aftersight staff.
  • Report your hours after each session. Meet your deadlines (Mountain Time Zone)

File Naming and Management

  • Correct Naming: Name your audio files as directed.
  • Proper Uploading: Upload files to the designated folder in your portal account.
  • Security: Do not share your portal login credentials or access others’ accounts.
  • File Integrity: Never alter or delete any folders in the portal.

Absences and Substitutions

  • Notify of Absences: Inform Aftersight staff promptly about any absences using the online form.
  • No Personal Substitutions: Do not find substitutes for your show or use synthetic voices.
  • Stay informed: Regularly check announcements on the volunteer portal and emails from Aftersight.

Perform tasks efficiently and independently.

Be open to constructive feedback to enhance your contributions.

Sample of the audio quality we expect:

Tech support

If you run into issues while volunteering remotely, we encourage you to first seek answers through this page and your onboarding documentation. If you still need help, Aftersight staff are available M-F from 9am-5pm to respond to a help ticket, which you can fill out at any time.

Notice: Limited support on weekends

  • First Steps: Check this page and your onboarding documentation for solutions.
  • Help Ticket: If unresolved, submit a help ticket. Aftersight staff are available Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm for assistance.
  • Weekend Notice: Limited support on weekends. Check announcements and your account for any scheduled downtime or known issues. Submit help tickets for weekend issues; responses will be on the following Monday. If issues prevent recording or submission, fill out an absence form.

Equipment assistance

Microphone Loan Program

  • Eligibility: For volunteers unable to afford a microphone, with 6+ months of active service in good standing.
  • Request Process: Email alex@aftersight.org to request a loaned microphone.
  • Return Policy: Return the microphone once no longer needed for Aftersight duties.

Recording Studios:

Active volunteers can use our professional studios in Boulder, CO, for free.

More information

More information For detailed audio requirements, FAQs, and more, visit other tabs on this dashboard or contact jennifer@aftersight.org.

Start here

Introduction video

Things you will need (If recording from home)

  • Decent <5 year old computer with latest software updates, adequate RAM and memory.
  • Quality USB or studio microphone.
  • Decent internet with a minimal upload speed of 10 mbps (Test internet by clicking here)
  • A quiet space to record.
  • Recording software.

Download Recording Software

1.Go to Audacity’s website to download the latest version.

2. It should begin installing right away. If it doesn’t, click the version you want to install. The download will save to your computer.

3. Run the installer, follow the prompts for setup.

Setting up your space

Quick tips for home recording

  • Record in a closet! (Or somewhere that has minimal hard surfaces to reduce echo).
  • Warm up your voice before recording.
  • Clear your workspace to minimize accidental bumping and rubbing of objects during recording. Ensure you do not touch the mic nor the mic stand while recording.
  • Listen closely – Avoid recording in an area with seemingly small noises such as a refrigerator or fan.
  • Listen to your audio files before uploading to ensure they sound good!

File Management

Understanding basic file management is one of the biggest areas that can make or break your success as an Aftersight volunteer or a voiceover professional in general.

There are a variety of ways to manage your files, so find something that is logical to you that makes it easiest for your to track and find your audio files when you export. We’d recommend saving to a designated folder on your computer with a clear name (Ex: My Aftersight Files) and archiving your files in a separate folder.

This will make more sense to you as you begin doing voiceover work and working with many files over long periods of time.

Recording Audio

Our listeners deserve quality, timely and accurate audio information, so our expectations of volunteers are high. Failure to abide by the following requirements may result in mandatory retraining or dismissal from your volunteer position.

Audio Requirements

Whether recording from your home or from our studios, we expect you to meet all of our audio requirements. Recording in studio removes many challenges to meet these expectations, but is not required.

  • 192 kbps mp3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) and 44.1kHz (or 44100 Hz.)
    • Note: the “mp3” extension is case sensitive, meaning “MP3”, “Mp3”, “mP3” will not be processed properly by our systems.
  • Mono
  • Measure around -12dB peak
  • Consistent in sound and formatting
  • Audio must be clean and high quality – no popping, background sound, buzzing, shuffling etc. (ALWAYS do a test recording before beginning)
  • Proper running time (As specified to you upon assignment)
  • Turn in on time (As specified to you upon assignment)
  • Use your program code as the filename (As specified to you upon assignment)

Sample of the audio quality we expect:

Booking a studio

Our studios are open during our business hours, and require a reservation. All studios are located at 1700 55th Street, Suite A, Boulder, CO 80301. Please review the videos below for an orientation on studio booking and use.

How to use Audacity

Mic Placement

FAQs

Common audio issue tips

My audio sounds metallic, or hollow.

Artifacts are undesirable sounds around words, such as random, humming noises and metallic sounding breaths. Artifacts are usually created from excessive or incorrect noise reduction. To correct, ensure you have noise reduction turned off on your microphone and/or computer settings. In some cases, you may need higher quality recording equipment.

My audio is quiet

To ensure the highest quality audio recordings, volunteers must use the recording standard of -12dB peak. This guideline helps maintain consistency and clarity across all audio content produced.

To determine the dB levels of your audio recordings in Audacity, you can use the built-in metering tools. By default, the Meter Toolbar should be visible near the top of the Audacity window. If you can’t see it, go to “View” > “Toolbars” > “Meter Toolbar” to enable it. As the audio plays, you will see the meter levels on the Meter Toolbar moving up and down (The bouncing green bar).  Take note of the highest peak dB level displayed on the meter. This represents the maximum level reached by your audio.

Why -12dB peak?

  1. Optimal Audio Levels: Setting the peak at -12dB ensures a balanced audio level, avoiding any distortion or clipping that might occur at higher levels.
  2. Compatibility: Many audio processing systems and platforms are designed with -12dB peak as a standard reference point. By adhering to this level, your recordings will be compatible with a wide range of systems and devices.

Tips for Achieving -12dB Peak:

  1. Microphone Placement: Quiet audio may be caused because you are too far from your mic. Position your microphone correctly to capture clear and direct audio. Experiment with microphone distance and angles to find the sweet spot for optimal sound.
  2. Test Recording Levels: Before starting your official recording, conduct a quick test recording to gauge the audio levels. Adjust your microphone gain or input settings accordingly to achieve the desired -12dB peak. You can adjust your microphone volume in Audacity settings or device settings.
  3. Monitor Levels: Use headphones or monitor speakers while recording to ensure you can accurately monitor and adjust the audio levels in real-time.
  4. Avoid Distortion: Watch out for any distortion or clipping during your recording. If you notice distorted peaks, adjust the microphone gain or move further away from the microphone to prevent overload.

My audio has loud clipping or popping sounds.

Clipping is an undesirable, loud, distorted sound, and should always be avoided. To avoid clipping, you can try speaking further from the mic or decreasing your mic volume. Adjust your mic volume and place your mic so it is about 6″-10″ and slightly off camber (Slightly aimed to the right or left of the mic) and do a test recording to see if it’s resolved.

There is room ambience/reverb in my recording and my voice sounds thin.

Room ambience and reverb is often caused by your microphone being too far away from your mic or your mic being to “hot” (loud). This will aso cause your voice to sound thin, “tinny”, and cause sharp “ess” sounds. Lower your mic volume to 50% and place your mic so it is about 6″-10″ and slightly off camber (Slightly aimed to the right or left of the mic) and do a test recording to see if it’s resolved.

My audio sounds distorted.

Distortion is an audio garble, and should be avoided. It usually occurs when you are too close to the mic or the mix volume is too high.

My audio has a strange "phasing" or "sweeping" sound.

Phasing is a phenomenon that creates an undesirable in-and-out effect. This is most commonly heard when forcing a stereo audio file into mono. You should be recording and exporting in mono, instead of recording stereo and exporting mono.

There is background hum or echo in my audio.

Background hum, noises, or echo are often caused by the space you are recording in. Ensure your recording space is free from things that cause ambient noise, such as a fan or a road outside. If you are experiencing echo, try to cover any hard spaces in the room with blankets and close the curtains on the windows.

Recording FAQs

What microphone should I use?

You MUST use an external mic. You don’t need a fancy microphone unless you are setting up a permanent studio. A gaming mic or simple USB microphone will be adequate. Here are some microphones we have worked with or have been suggested. You can find these at your local Best Buy or on Amazon.

DO NOT USE a built-in laptop mic!

How do I export with a 192 bit rate?

It is critical you export at a bitrate of 192kbps or higher. Not doing so can result in your episode not airing at all.

This can be done in the export settings of Audacity when you save your file.

  1. Record as usual
  2. Click “File”
  3. Click “Export”
  4. Click “Export as mp3”
  5. Near the bottom of the pop-up window, where it says “quality”, set to 192 kbps. (It will remember these settings for your future recordings.)
    • Doesn’t give you the 192 option? Click “Constant” and then 192 will appear as a drop down option.
  6. Save and submit to portal as usual.

Can I record from a mobile device?

We can’t support mobile. For audio quality issues, we prefer volunteers to use a Mac or PC.

Can I record on a Mac?

Yes! Please use Audacity.

What recording software can I use?

We only support Audacity (PC/MAC). Audacity is free professional-level software, exceptional editing controls, great sound quality.  Click here to see a video to begin using Audacity. We have instructional videos available in the volunteer portal, along with helpful tips.

If you already are a professional voice-over artist, have your own professional studio, equipment, and software you prefer, you may use your own software as long as you meet our audio requirements, but we will not be able to provide technical support if you run into issues. 

Remember, recording is just 1 step of the process. It is critical you submit your completed file to us via the portal!

How do I record and read from the same screen?

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Use 2 screens, or record from your computer while reading from your mobile device or tablet.
  • Use split screen.
  • Minimize Audacity after hitting record (Because you won’t get a visual of your levels while you record, use caution to ensure you are in fact recording and at the proper levels)

Audacity is freezing and glitching regularly.

This could be due to a variety of culprits. Here are some common causes:

  • Restart your computer just before your next recording session.
  • Close unnecessary tabs and programs.
  • Update Audacity to the latest version (You can see what version you have in Audacity by clicking “help” and then “about Audacity”)
  • Check if your operating system has any updates available.

Can I add my own music?

Yes, but you must follow our strict guidelines.

  • 100% copyright free, royalty free, no accreditation required music and you send AINC a copy of the copyright code for the track before using it.
  • Edit it in professionally with proper levels (It’s gotta sound good!).
  • Has to be the same track for every episode.

If you don’t feel you can meet any of the above expectations, simply don’t add music. Don’t worry, you won’t be marked down or anything! Adding music can be a good bonus, but is most definitely not required by any means.

What is the Clear/Supertone Plugin for Audacity and how do I install it?

Supertone Clear is a paid plugin for Audacity, designed to eliminate background noise that can’t be resolved with traditional methods like soundproofing or using a higher quality microphone. It’s a valuable tool for ensuring high-quality audio in our productions. While it’s not a required tool for our volunteers, it’s available for those who wish to enhance their audio quality further. Purchasing the Clear plugin is entirely optional. Volunteers may choose to invest in this tool if they feel it will significantly improve their audio quality.

Download and Install:

  1. Open Audacity.
  2. Navigate to ‘Tools’ > ‘Add/Remove Plugins’.
  3. Click on ‘Install’ and select the downloaded Clear plugin file.
  4. Once the file is selected, click ‘OK’ to install the plugin.
  5. After installation, find ‘Clear’ in the plugin list and enable it.

Activation Steps:

  1. Initial Setup: Before activation, the plugin inserts static noise every 30 seconds. Activation is necessary for proper functionality.
  2. Record a Brief Audio Clip: Open Audacity and record a small audio clip. This step is required to access the plugin.
  3. Accessing Clear: Navigate to the ‘Effect’ tab in Audacity and locate ‘Clear’ in the dropdown list.
  4. Activating the Plugin:
    • In the Clear plugin interface, click the three lines at the top right corner.
    • Choose ‘Activation’ from the dropdown menu.
    • Click on ‘Activate’. A textbox will appear for the license key.
    • Enter the license key provided by Supertone.
    • Press the ‘Activate’ button next to the textbox. Activation takes about 30 seconds.

Additional Notes:

  • The Clear plugin replaces the previously used Goyo plugin. However, having both installed does not cause any conflicts.
  • If required, instructions for removing the old Goyo plugin can be provided upon request.

Support: For any questions or assistance with the installation and activation process, please reach out to Evan@aincolorado.org

Reading and Presentation requirements

Our goal is to ensure that our content is presented clearly and authentically, respecting the original material while making it accessible and user friendly to our blind and low vision audience. This page aims to empowering you to produce engaging and high-quality audio content that meets the needs of our community.

Basics:

  • Reading Order: Transform the newspaper into an accessible format by following the publication’s intended order, much like chapters of a book. Start with the main page articles, then proceed to other sections like editorials, obituaries, etc., as time permits.
  • Content Authenticity: Read exactly as written, do not add personal commentary or summarization.
  • Speech Clarity: Focus on clear speech, proper enunciation, and correct pronunciation in your readings.
  • Author Attribution: Credit the publications and the authors of articles.
  • Advertisements: Do not read the advertisements.
  • Intro/Closing Script: Use the script assigned to your program at the beginning and end of your recordings.

Scripts:

  • Dated content is content that is time-sensitive and tied to specific dates. This includes news, current events, announcements, and anything that loses relevance over time. Examples: Daily news broadcasts, event announcements, updates on specific happenings.
  • Non-dated content is content that remains informative, educational, or entertaining regardless of when it is accessed. This type of content is not tied to current events or specific dates, making it perpetually relevant. Examples: Literature readings, educational pieces, timeless stories, how-to guides, and informational content.

If you have any questions about the content type or the appropriate scripts to use, please reach out to the Aftersight staff for guidance.

Performance

  • Handling Mistakes: Correct mistakes verbally by saying “Let me try that again” or “correction”. No need to edit the audio; inexperienced editors should avoid editing.
  • Time Management: Stay within your programs time frame. If you run short on time in the middle of an article, conclude with “We are running out of time, so we’ll wrap up the article here” and proceed with the closing script.
  • Content Management: If you have insufficient content to fill the time, here are some tips:
    • Ensure you are reading all of the articles in the e-edition, including the obituaries, weather, event listings, calendars, opinion, etc.
    • See if the publication’s website has some newer articles or additional content that isn’t in the e-edition.
    • Ask Aftersight Staff about describing images – we’ll train you how! This can take up some time and add value to your reading. (Note: Please don’t attempt this without our specialized training)
    • Still not enough content? Email alex@Aftersight.org and we can look at some other options.
    • Note: Never supplement content from other sources without permission from Aftersight staff.
  • Quality Expectations: We aim for authenticity, not perfection. A typical 26-minute audio file should take about 45 minutes to create; a 56-minute file, about 1.5 hours.

Ethics

  • Handling Sensitive Language: As a volunteer reader, please read all content verbatim, including cuss words or sensitive language. This approach is crucial to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the news, ensuring those who are blind or low vision receive uncensored and accurate information. If you feel uncomfortable with specific language, there are a few approaches you can take:
    • Use “quote” and “end quote” around the phrase to clarify it’s part of the source material.
    • You may include a disclaimer such as “The content I am about to read is a direct excerpt from the source material and does not represent my personal views or those of Aftersight,” to distance yourself from the content.
    • Spell out the word instead of saying the word in full.
    • If you find the material too uncomfortable to read, please contact us for an alternative assignment.

    Our goal is to respect both the integrity of the news and your comfort as a valued volunteer.

  • Ethical Standards: If you have concerns about the ethicality of a publication or its content, please bring it to our attention.
  • Voice Authenticity and Computer Generated Voices: Use only your own voice for recordings. We value the human connection and authenticity a real voice brings to our listeners.

Technical

  • Image Description: While not required, you can describe images if it adds value to the story; however, it’s a specialized skill that you must receive training on before including it in your readings. Reach out to Aftersight staff if you are interested.
  • Typos/poor grammar: For obvious errors, correct them on the fly if you can. If not, you can verbally put them in quotes by saying “quote” “end quote” before and after the section.  Let Aftersight staff know if it’s just too ridiculous to handle.
  • Pronunciation Accuracy: Use resources like YouTube or www.howtopronounce.com for pronunciation. If unsure, maintain consistency in your reading.
  • Links: If the link is relatively short and easy to say, go ahead and read it out as ” www.linkedsite.com/relevant page” — If it is a long or complex link, just say the name of the website.

FAQ’s and Resources

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Submitting your mp3 file

These are instructions for active volunteers submitting your regular program assignment. If you are submitting an audition, follow the instructions in the email.

  1. Log into to the Volunteer Portal Dashboard.
  2.  Upload your file by clicking the ” + New” at the top left.
    • Important: If you do more than 1 program, you must navigate to the program’s directory on the left side and upload the appropriate files in the appropriate spot.
  3. Click “New File”
  4. Navigate to where you saved your file on your device and open. It my take a few minutes to upload.
  5. Confirm it is there by looking in that directory. You can double click the file to listen to make sure it’s correct.
  6. Don’t forget to log your hours!

FAQ

It's taking forever to upload a file, or is timing out (Internet issues)

Our Volunteer Portal is optimized to make uploading your audio file as fast as possible, but depending on your home environment (Such as your internet speed, Wi-Fi, or device capabilities) the upload speed can sometimes be inconveniently slow or time-out before the upload completes. If it is a known issue on our end, you will find a notice about it on the volunteer portal dashboard. If there is no notice, check your internet speed. You should have an upload speed of 10mbps minimum (Test internet here). You should expect uploads to take anywhere between 1 and 20 minutes. If uploading takes longer than that, here are some tips to increasing your upload speed:

  • Unplug our internet router, wait 1 minute, and plug in again. Wait a few minutes and see if your internet is back up.
  • Close any extraneous tabs on your browser, or extraneous programs that are running on your computer.
  • Disconnect other devices from your internet. Your internet speed may be getting throttled by internet related activities on other devices such as mobile phones, other computers, and online gaming on a console.
  • Upload during “off hours” when less people in your household are using the internet.
  • If you use Wi-Fi, use a wired connection using an Ethernet cable to connect your upload device directly to your internet.
  • Clear your cache and cookies in your browser.
  • Contact your service provider to check for widespread outages.
  • Check if you have any antivirus software on your computer that may affect your internet connection.
  • Check your firewall restrictions for any web-content filtering that may be slowing down your internet.

Still not working?

  • Record in our studios in Boulder, CO! We have everything you will need to record and submit.
  • Use your phone as a personal hotspot.
  • Upgrade your internet plan to a faster service.
  • Consider changing your broadband provider. Different providers perform better in certain areas of the country, and it could be worth switching.
  • Try uploading your audio in a Starbucks or somewhere with a modern internet infrastructure (generally larger cities).
  • Try putting your audio on a flash drive and using a different computer. The source of the issue could be your computer itself.

Can I stack, or submit multiple episodes, at once?

If, for example, you are going out of town next week so you wish to submit 2 weeks worth of your program, you must name your files accordingly. The one you wish to play next will be your normal naming convention – that is, with no numbers.

The one you wish to play soonest will be went.mp3

The one you wish to play next week you will need to name went2.mp3

The one you wish to play the week after next week you will need to name went3.mp3.. etc.

I submitted my file late. What do I do?

If you submit or anticipate you will submit your file after the “first air” day and time, it is critical you contact alex@aftersight.org. Not doing so will likely result in your episode not airing at all.

How early can I submit files?

It depends. If you do a weekly, you can turn it in up to 6 days early. However, if you do a daily, you cannot turn it in more than a day early because it will overwrite your fellow volunteers file that is meant to air on that day. If you are unsure if you are reading a weekly or daily, ask alex@aftersight.org.

That being said, we encourage volunteers to submit audio several hours before the due day/time of your program, and absolutely not later than 30 minutes before airtime.

What is "ZZ Other Audio"?

Every volunteer has access to a shared folder called “ZZ Other Audio” – you will find it on the left side of your account when you log in to the volunteer portal. This folder is only to be used for things outside of your regular program assignment, such as special one-off assignments, test files, etc. Only use that folder if you have been instructed to do so by Aftersight staff (not common).

My program is airing last week's episode!

All of Aftersight’s publishing platforms  (podcast, broadcast, stream, and telephone access) run on very specific weekly schedules. Each program has a “first air” day and then will repeat the same episode for a 7 day cycle. When you submit your program does not affect when it is published as long as it is before the “first air” day and time. Contact aflynn@aftersight.org to inquire about what this time is for your program. If you are still concerned that it is publishing the wrong episode, please contact aflynn@aftersight.org

When I log into the Reader Portal, it says "Invalid Username"

Please double check the email sent from Aftersight to ensure you are entering your correct username. If you do this and it still doesn’t work, contact aflynn@aftersight.org.

When I log into the Reader Portal, it says "Invalid password"

Please double check the email sent from Aftersight to ensure you are entering your correct password. If you do this and it still doesn’t work, contact aflynn@aftersight.org.

Episode Checklist

Use this checklist to ensure you are meeting our basic expectations. Note that this list is not comprehensive and more detailed requirements are outlined in other areas of this guide.

✔Read the intro and outro scripts.

✔ Bit rate 192 kbps or higher.

✔ Audio in .mp3 format. Note: the “mp3” extension is case sensitive, meaning “MP3”, “Mp3”, “mP3” will not be processed properly by our systems.

✔ Audio is the correct duration.

✔ Submit your volunteer hours.

✔ Verbally credit the authors.

✔ Audio is high quality and free from disruptive noises.

✔ Name your file correctly.

✔ Audio is uploaded into the correct folder on your account.

✔ Submit your file by the deadline. Aim for earlier incase you run into any issues.

What happens after you submit your episode?

NOTE: Video data is from 2020 and may be outdated.

Step 1: Turn in episode

You upload your completed mp3 episode into the Volunteer Portal.

Step 2: Queued for airing

Our automated system grabs it 30 minutes before airtime and puts it in the queue.

Step 3: Aired and published

Your episode is aired on broadcast, and converted into a podcast.

Step 4: Distribution

Your episode is published on Apple podcasts, Aftersight website, and more.

Step 5: People listen

Episode is repeated on broadcast and available as podcast until the next episode.

Being an Aftersight readers comes with perks! We offer a few different free learning opportunities to help you improve your voice-over skills for your reading for Aftersight and your own personal endeavors. We believe in supporting you to be the best you can be, even outside of your work with us.

  • Volunteer Education Series includes regular sessions with experts over a variety of topics related to your volunteer work. See past presentations and sign up for future ones.
  • Need 1×1 help? Recording and Voiceover help with an audio  pro will be available every virtually. Make an appointment with Jonathan. 
  • Want to improve your voice-over skills? Aftersight is offering hands-on, in-depth classes throughout the year. Spots fill up fast, so sign up today
  • Studio orientation: Complete our short studio training to learn how to use professional audio equipment. Once you complete this orientation, you can book our studios for free for your Aftersight readings at your leisure!

Reach out to alex@aftersight.org for more details.

Need help troubleshooting?

After searching for your answer in this documentation, please submit a help ticket so we can best assist you.

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