We've already taken a look at how important the scriptwriting process is to the creation of an engaging and entertaining handheld tour. The next step is to actually create the content and, as with scripting, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your final content will keep the visitor hooked throughout their visit.
Although this is something you will have already considered during the planning process, you need to think about the full media spectrum and not just using audio to deliver your stories. With a plethora of multimedia devices now available and video production being more affordable than ever before, many sites can now make use of powerful visual components to help visitors connect with their experience. Historic recreations, archive footage from newsreels, as well as talking heads and animation are just a few of the ways that video content can be used to enable a visitor to improve their understanding of a site. In fact, with careful consideration of the overall visitor experience, a mix of audio and visual content can truly enhance the experience in a way that a traditional audio guide would struggle to do. The audio element of your content should be used to push the visitors gaze out into the real world and interpret the sights that they can see with their own eyes, supported by video content that is able to show crucial parts of a story which a visitor is rarely able to see. This can be used to great affect in wildlife interpretation. The handheld device can direct a visitor's gaze to where the brown bears live, but unless they're extremely lucky they won't see the bear cubs playing. However, using video footage this is now possible and thus helps to deliver a complete interpretive visitor experience.
Once you know how your stories are going to be delivered it's time to get into the detail and begin selecting voiceovers and actors. Someone in your office may have a great voice but it's more than likely that it won't sound as good when chosen as the voice of your tour. A lot of people opt for using a colleague because they don't know where to look to find a professional voice, or perhaps they perceive the cost to be sky-high, but that's not the case. There is an element of 'you get what you pay for', but there are a lot of fantastic voices and actors out there waiting to work with you. Your chosen production studio can help you source the ones that are right for your project and will also help you negotiate a fair price. The difference a professional artist can make to the final piece is immeasurable.
When casting actors and voiceover artists think carefully about the characters and the voices they're being asked to represent. Consider the age, experience and background of each character and make sure the key elements are reflected within your chosen artist. Also, think carefully before casting your narrator and the handheld guide's instructional voice as they should be a clear reflection of your attraction's brand, as in essence they will be the personification of your site.
Sound effects also play a major role within the storytelling process. They help create and flesh out a scene, painting a picture that is instantly recognisable to the visitor. But try not to get too carried away with SFX as over-use can lead to a cluttered and incoherent audio track. Rather than trying to recreate each detail, carefully choose the effects which best support and help to drive the narrative forward. In our experience, when it comes to using SFX, less is more.
Aside from SFX, production drones and music are also key storytelling components. Music can conjure up a range of emotions (i.e. happiness, sadness, anxiety and fear) and thus add a depth of context to the words and images it supports. It's also great for setting a scene. Using a distinctive piece of music from a time period can instantly transport the visitor back to that period, capturing their imagination in a way that just isn't possible with words.
Careful scripting and well crafted production can create an incredible handheld guide experience. If you get your script right, and ensure it's delivered in the ideal means for the overall visitor experience, users will feel as if they have truly connected with your site and have got everything they wanted out of their visit, and hopefully, a whole lot more!