Making The Most of Your Location: A Guide to Lowering Production Costs, Part II – Changing the Scene with the Click of a Mouse

In our previous post, Making The Most of Your Location: A Guide to Lowering Production Costs, Part I – Creative Location Selection, we described how we halved production costs on a large-scale National Safety Council (NSC) video training shoot by utilizing a hotel and a school rather than a studio or multiple sets,while still capturing everything we needed in a way that was interesting and engaging. When it came to videos that were strictly procedural videos, such as CPR and use of an automatic external defibrillator, we wanted to make sure that these sets were interesting and engaging as well.

We needed to portray various settings that NSC’s clients could relate to. We wanted their clients to see multiple backgrounds, including backgrounds familiar to the airline and construction industries, as well as daycare centers, schools, and warehouses. Although we could find various props to help enliven the various scenes, repeatedly changing the scene takes time and money. That’s when we realized that we could completely change the set with one simple solution.

Whether it is a schoolyard, an airport, a warehouse, or a construction site, we needed to come up with something creative, that wasn’t really seen before in training videos, and that was cost-effective. That’s when we decided to use rear projection to set the scene.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.20.48 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.10.52 PM Rear projection isn’t anything new; it has been used in film for years. Actors are placed in front of a semi-transparent screen and behind the screen you project whatever image it is you need to set the scene. This allows the image to shine through the screen, creating a background. You light the actors from the front, and when shooting it looks as if the actors are wherever you want them to be. For instance, when we were shooting the child CPR scenes, we projected an image of a playground, which any teacher could relate to. We projected a shot of a warehouse for adult CPR because many of the people who will watch this training series are warehouse workers. We ended up using over eight different backgrounds for these particular training scenes and all we had to do was change the picture that was being projected. If we had to change the set pieces for each of the different environments, it would have really kicked up production costs. This way, we were able to completely change the look of the set with one click of the mouse.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.21.09 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.14.26 PM Feedback on this project has been outstanding. Many people within the NSC complemented us on how the scenarios captured the real-life situations perfectly, and that the various set backgrounds we used in rear projection was something they had never seen before.

The NSC wanted to take their training material and make it exciting and fresh, and with some clever thinking and proper planning, we were proud to be able to help them achieve their goal.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.12.35 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.10.23 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.11.30 PM


Making The Most of Your Location: A Guide to Lowering Production Costs, Part I – Creative Location Selection

Envision Group Consulting has been privileged to work with the National Safety Council (NSC) on a large-scale training program to develop a wide-ranging series of training videos. These videos covered everything from the proper technique for CPR, to using an automatic external defibrillator, to how to respond to a series of emergencies. We had the challenge of coming up with various case scenarios in which our subjects were in need of emergency care: heart attacks, shock, broken bones, choking, and poisoning, as well as many other situations. We needed to shoot all these scenes in order to capture everything that the NSC wanted addressed, in a way that was interesting and engaging. This was no small feat!Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.10.32 AM How do you take an extensive training series, with hours of information that needs to be recorded, and make it fresh and compelling to the viewer? You want the videos to portray real-life situations that people can relate to, and you want them to stay focused on what they are watching. You have a certain budget, as well as a set timeline to record all of the necessary scenarios. We were up to the challenge! With some outside-the-box thinking, ingenuity from our video department, and a lot of hard work, we were able to plan a video shoot that would save on production costs and make sure that our final product was engaging and informative.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.59.00 AMOne key way we saved on production costs was by shooting at one location that could provide multiple sets all in one place. The alternative was shooting in multiple locations, which would have added many hours of setting up and tearing down lights, sound, and everything else that goes into it. Yes, there are studios throughout Chicago that would allow us to do that. But those studios are not cheap and they really only have a few different sets to choose from. Instead of shooting at a studio, we realized that if we rented a business suite at one of the leading hotels in Chicago, we could to shoot everything that we needed to shoot at one location. We had a living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and hallway, and we were even able to shoot outside of the hotel. By shooting everything at one location, we cut the setup time in half, getting double the active shooting time in a day. If we hadn’t done that, the price of the shoot would have doubled.

Since a big part of the NSC’s training program is dedicated to pediatric training, it was only common sense to shoot at a school. Again, this provided us a great opportunity to shoot different scenes without changing locations. We could shoot in a cafeteria (allergic reaction), a gymnasium (asthma), a science class (chemical reaction), a playground (broken bone), and a locker room (heat stroke), all without having to pack up all of our gear and move to a new location. Yes, we had to change rooms, but since everything was in the same building, the time it took to move equipment and set up the next shot was minimal.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.25.03 AM By shooting at the hotel and the school, we were able to capture everything we needed for the scene-based segments. But what about the videos that were strictly training sessions – the segments that were straight procedural videos, such as CPR and use of an automatic external defibrillator? The NSC wanted to make sure that these sets were interesting and engaging as well. This proved to be a bit more challenging, but we love a challenge, and once again were able to come up with something that was better than shooting on a stationary set.

In Part II, we’ll dive deeper into how we managed to portray multiple locations while shooting in the same room.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.21.50 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 12.27.20 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-29 at 1.19.18 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.23.24 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.59.36 AM

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More Than a Dozen Tips for Writing Awesome Audio Narration Scripts

More Than a Dozen Tips for Writing Awesome Audio Narration Scripts

As many e-learning developers can attest, there’s a lot of work that goes into writing audio narration. From organizing and refining the content to getting it proofed and formatted for easy recording, it seems that most of the time that goes into producing audio for e-learning is spent in writing the script and getting it ready for recording, rather than actually recording, editing, or syncing audio files.

So what are some ways you can make the process of writing an audio narration script a little more streamlined and a lot less time-consuming? Here are more than a dozen tips and pointers I’ve picked up that can help.

Before You Start Writing

Does your project really need audio narration? Sometimes Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and stakeholders expect us to add audio narration to courses because they see e-learning as a platform for delivering narrated slideshows or animated lectures. But audio narration is so much more effective when it’s used supportively—to explain or describe on-screen visuals—rather than read them, verbatim to learners.

How can you get to the bottom of what kind of audio (if any) your course reallyneeds? Here are some tips and resources that may help:

  • Debunk the auditory learner myth. One of the reasons that some folks give for narrating on-screen text is that it supports “auditory learners.” Unfortunately, the notion of “auditory learners” isn’t really backed-up by any science. Check out the research explored in this article by Mike Taylor, Redundancy Principle: Should You Duplicate Narrated Text On-screen?
  • Put SMEs into the learner’s shoes. Struggling to convince your org that reading on-screen text isn’t effective? Try putting folks into the learner’s shoes by asking them to compare and contrast a course the contains narrated on-screen text with a version of the same course that doesn’t use narration, like in this example from Tom Kuhlmann.
  • Propose other ways of using audio. Audio doesn’t always have to be used as narration. For instance, background audio can give your courses a great sense of atmosphere and mood. And using audio for scenario-based learning can really help learners emotionally engage with the material.For more creative ideas on other ways to use audio in your e-learning, check out this article from David Anderson, How to Use Audio to Enhance Your E-Learning Course.

Writing Your Script

Once you’ve sorted out your audio needs, identified that audio narration is necessary, and finished storyboarding or prototyping your project, you’ll eventually reach the stage where you can start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were). Now you’re ready to start the process of writing an audio narration script. Here are a few pointers for making this step of the process a piece of cake:

  • Start with a content outline. Have a long-winded SME on your project? Instead of trying to rewrite the SMEs content right away or asking her to cut out information she may feel is crucial, try asking her to outline the key talking points. You can suggest that the SME add some notes or comments about what absolutely must be covered under each key point or elaborate on how a talking point will drive performance. Not only is this a great way for helping SMEs to simplify and streamline information themselves, it can also be a helpful strategy for pulling SMEs out of the “learners need to know absolutely everything” mindset.
  • Nail down the tone you’ll be using and then stick with it. Nothing is more jarring than a course that looks fun and inviting, but feels and sounds deadly serious. If your course is on a serious, high-risk matter, make sure the tone of your writing is appropriate for that subject matter. And if your course is on a less critical topic or more light-hearted topic, give yourself a little more leeway for keeping the tone easy-breezy.
  • Decide if you’ll be writing from a first person, second person, or third person point of view. It can be hard to follow who’s on first when the point of view keeps changing. As you’re scrubbing your script keep both the tone AND the point of view in mind, and make sure both are consistent throughout. For an easy explanation of these writing perspectives and how they’re used effectively, check out these handy tips from Grammar Girl.
  • Keep your writing conversational. No one likes to feel like she’s reading a textbook or is being lectured by a robot. To keep things more conversational, use relatable words and phrasing. Use contractions to keep from sounding too formal or stilted. And for some more writing pointers along this line, be sure to check out this article by Trina Rimmer: 10 Tips for Becoming a Better Designer.
  • Get to the point—quickly. Speaking of struggles with streamlining content, one of the things everyone struggles with is the urge to explain everything. When it comes to scriptwriting, you’re better off cutting to the chase, since listening to someone speak can make you want to tune out. One good rule of thumb: write with only one key idea per sentence or one big idea per slide or page.
  • Avoid stating the obvious. One of the easiest ways to streamline a narration script is to avoid restating things that are obvious to learners. For instance, instead of telling learners to “Click the flashing Next button to continue” on every. single. screen…point it out to them once at the beginning and then rely on visual cues from there.
  • Don’t forget about transition statements. Transition statements help people see how all the dots are connected when moving from one thought, chapter, or topic to another. One example of a common transition statement for e-learning is something like, “Now that you have a better understanding of X, let’s shift gears to see how X applies to Y.”
  • Point out on-screen text that must be read. Some courses, like certain types of compliance training, may require a lot of on-screen text. Instead of adding all of that text to the script, just refer to the on-screen text in the script, inviting learners to read it for themselves. You can also give folks the option to download a transcript or listen to an audio version of the script to make sure the information is accessible.
  • Keep the 100 to 1 ratio in mind. When you’re writing and editing your script, keep in mind that 100 words is equivalent to approximately one minute of recorded audio narration.

There are so many more great tips for writing awesome audio narration scripts for eLearning if you just click HERE.