How to insert audio in a Captivate lesson?

Posted by Greten on 07 Jan 2020 under Tools

Audio is one of the most important elements of an elearning module. Even though you can develop an online module with just text and images, audio provides another modality through which learners can learn, thus reinforcing the learning.

Adobe Captivate provides different ways of inserting audio in the learning module. You can add sound effects, audio narration, and universal background sound that runs across several slides. The audio functions that this entry will cover is based on how they work in Adobe Captivate 2019.

How to attach audio narration to slide?

You can attach any audio to a slide provided that it is in a format supported by Captivate. However, the most common use of attaching an audio file to a single slide is to add the audio recording of the narration. A standard work process that precedes this step is to record a voice reading a script continuously, and then split them into several files during the post-production based on what slide the audio record will go. Alternatively, you can record and save audio files one slide at a time.

Icon for Captivate audio, a yellow rectangle with CP in the middle, and audio waves below.To insert an audio narration or any audio file that you want to attach to the current slide, do either of the following:

  • Press F6
  • On the top menu, click Audio » Import to » Slide

Then, select the audio file for the current slide.

You will see a progress indicator as the audio is imported into the Captivate file. When the audio importation is complete, a dialog box will open and give you three options:

  • The first option, "Show the slide..." attaches the entire audio to the slide. It increases the duration of the slide if that of the audio file is longer.
  • The second option, "Distribute the audio..." opens another dialogue box that allows you to divide the audio file and distribute it across several slides.
  • The third option, "Retain current slide duration..." attaches the audio file to a slide without changing the duration of any of the slides. If the audio is longer than the slide duration, Captivate cuts off the audio. The removed segment of the audio goes to the next slide. If the duration of the removed segment is still longer than that of the next slide, Captivate also cuts it off, and the remaining unused segment goes to the third slide. The process repeats until the audio is distributed throughout the slides.

Select an option and click OK to attach the audio to a slide or slides.

The Captivate audio import options. It has radiobox for each of the three options discussed above. It also contains a checkbox Do not show me again. At the bottom right are buttons OK and Cancel.

When you select either the second or the third option, Captivate will split the audio into several audio files in the library, and then attach each separated audio file into a slide.

There is a checkbox at the bottom saying, "Do not show me again". If you check this before you click OK, the last option you selected will automatically apply in subsequent audio imports, and the Audio Import Options dialog box will no longer appear.

When an audio file is already attached to the slide, you will see it as a dark gray bar with a white wave pattern along the middle under the slide in the timeline.

An Adobe Captivate timeline for a slide. It has six smartshapes and an image on the slide. The dark gray bar with white waves is below the slide.

You can drag this timeline bar across the timeline so you can have a duration at the beginning or end of the slide when no audio is playing. However, you cannot drag it to a different vertical position; slide audio is always below the slide.

You also cannot change the duration of the audio. Its duration stays the same unless you edit the audio file itself, and that's for another topic.

How to attach sound effects to a slide object?

Sometimes, you want to make your elearning more interesting by adding not just narration but also sound effects: bells, flapping wings, explosion, etc. Depending on your lesson, adding sound effects can be reasonable; for example, adding a sound of an explosion or a collapsing pile of metals if the lesson is about safety in construction.

If the sound effect is the only sound in a slide, you can attach the audio file of the sound effect to the slide. However, if the sound effect plays alongside the narration or whatever is the audio attached to the slide, you can attach the audio file to a slide object instead: text captions, shapes, images, interactive elements, and other things you can put on the slide.

To attach an audio file to a slide object:

  1. Select the object to which you want to attach the audio.
      • If the duration of the audio is longer than that of the object in the timeline, a prompt will appear asking if you want to increase the duration of the object to match the audio.
      • If the duration of the slide object is shorter than the audio, the audio or the sound effect will be abruptly cut. You will rarely encounter this issue since sound effects usually have short durations.
  2. On the top menu, click Audio » Import to » Object.
  3. Select the audio file.
  4. Drag the position of the object in the timeline to where the sound effects should play. For example, if the sound effect is explosion, position it at the same time when the explosion animation or special effect appears.

A timeline bar with a speaker icon indicates that the object has an audio file attached to it.

A captivate timeline showing a blue bar for a shape. The bar has speaker icon at the start, indicating that an audio is attached to it.

In attaching audio files to objects, take note of the following:

  • The audio plays only if the object is visible on the slide. The start and the end of the audio depend on the timeline bar of the object, provided that the duration of the audio is the same or greater than that of the object.
  • The clarity of the object does not affect the sound. For example, a gradually fading object does not cause the sound attached to it to decrease in volume gradually until it is no longer audible.
  • To make your Captivate slide easy to organize and edit, it is a good practice to use slide objects that are only for the purpose of attaching audio sound effects. Separate them from objects that you use as visual or interactive elements.
  • If you will use an object only to attach a sound effect, change its colors or opacity to make it blend to the background or have another object cover it. DO NOT put the object outside the slide; if the object with attached sound effect is outside the slide, it will not be heard.

How to attach a background music to the learning module?

A background audio is an audio file that plays across the learning module. The background sound plays continuously as you transition from one slide to another, or even when an interactive element is waiting for your input. It is more commonly used to add a piece of background music to elearning.

Even though not often done, there are several reasons why an instructional designer would like to have background music. For example, the lesson is about hazards in the workplace, and you want to create an aura of danger, or you gamified your lesson as a fantasy adventure, and you want the learners to feel it more like to be a game.

To add background audio, on the top menu, click Audio » Import to » Background.

Select the audio file you want to use. When Captivate is finished importing, the Background Audio dialog box will open.

A dialogue box showing the options for the background audio. It has wave view, play and record buttons, and options that will be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.

In the Background Audio dialogue box, you have the following options:

  • Stop audio at the end of project: when the learning module ends, the background audio also stops even if you keep the learning module window open.
  • Loop: repeats the audio when it reaches the end of its duration while the learning module is open and the lesson is ongoing.
  • Adjust background audio volume on slides with audio: if a slide has slide audio attached to it, the background music will decrease in volume. A common way of using this option is that the background music is lowered whenever there is narration so the learners can hear the narration clearly. The slider on the right allows you to adjust the percentage to which the volume will decrease.
  • Fade In/Fade Out: enters the number of seconds or a fraction of a second by which the volume will gradually increase/decrease in volume as it encounters a slide with audio.

After making any changes you need, click Save to keep the setup for the background audio. Then, click Close to close the dialog box.

If you want to change the setup of the background audio later, on the top menu, click Audio » Edit » Background. Then, go to the Add/Replace tab of the Background Audio dialog box.

Note that you will not hear the background audio if you previewed only the slide. You need to use other preview options such as Project, From this Slide, Next 5 slides, or HTML5 in Browser.


This entry covers the different ways you can add audio to you Captivate elearning lessons. This entry includes the following:

  • Attaching an audio file to a slide: often used for narration
  • Attaching an audio file to a slide object: often used for sound effects
  • Attaching an audio file to background: often used as background music.

In my next entries about audio in Captivate, I will cover the following:

Last updated on 29 Aug 2020.

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