Taking a Breather – Editing Text to Speech

I am a huge advocate of using professional narrators for my courses. Because everyone thinks they can do narration, the field is swamped and very competitive, so you can get some very talented narrators at very reasonable rates. But despite my best efforts to convince them, some clients just don’t want to spend the money.

Tibet4

Now that Articulate has added computer-generated text-to-speech narration, a lot of clients have gone that route. The problem is, the speakers often come off as soulless. Part of the reason for this is that the text-to-speech narrators, unlike us human beings, don’t have to BREATHE! This can make listening to text-to-speech narrators stressful and exhausting. It’s very hard to keep up with the information you’re hearing when the speaker rarely pauses even for a second.

The Magical Comma
I figured out a great and simple way around this problem – add a few commas! When I add text-to-speech, I will import the text from the Notes section (or copy and paste from somewhere else) and inside the text-to-speech entry field, I will read the narration to myself, noticing anyplace where I’m naturally pausing, and add commas in all of those places.

I like to add the extra commas in the text-to-speech box instead of earlier on in the Notes section, because oftentimes I want the text-to-speech voice to pause even a little bit more often than normal punctuation would require. So in this version you can ignore the regular grammatical rules on when to use commas, and just apply them as you see fit to get the narrator’s pacing just the way you think it should be.

Check out this little before-and-after sample, where you can hear what a different a few extra commas can make towards making your lessons more listenable and enjoyable.

Fighting Wildfires in Alaska

You are a fire manager in Alaska and three wildfires have broken out across the state. You don’t have the resources to fight them all, so you have to prioritize. This interaction is a combination scenario/quiz question incorporating video, music and a sorting interaction.

FireManagementScenario

The Challenge
This week’s eLearning challenge was to create a quiz question with customized feedback. In this scenario, I used the existing feedback layers giving the learner the opportunity to try again if they get it wrong initially. When they do get it right, it takes them to the “correct” feedback layer with a Continue button which takes them to another slide with more detailed feedback in the voiceover and a video giving a bird’s eye view of the landscape and communities we were talking about.

Too Much Information!
There simply was not enough space to incorporate all the feedback the client wanted on the feedback layer itself, so I simply moved that feedback onto a separate slide accessible via the Continue button. For the video, I just took some high resolution still shots of the Alaskan landscape and using the Ken Burns technique, panned across and zoomed in and out of the different shots to add more interest. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Voices in my Head

When Queen released “A Night at the Opera” the album that exposed the world to the classic rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” the liner notes emphatically stated that “no synthesizers were used on this album.” So, I’m going to tell you the same thing about my voice-over portfolio, with the exception of the tympani roll, all the music was created with one simple tool, my voice.

Click to view my voice portfolio

Click to view my voice portfolio

E-Learning with Character(s)
Over the last few years, I have created or helped out with quite a few e-learning projects which have required me to tap into the voices in my head. I really don’t have the pipes for doing the narration part, but I have come up with quite a wide range of character voices in creating interactions & games for David Anderson’s e-learning design challenges.

E-Learning Feud Characters

E-Learning Feud Characters

In this portfolio, you’ll meet a couple game show hosts, a nerd, a jock, an old man, a goofball of a guy, some assorted animals, and …BERT.

The Gist
Rather than just clicking on the examples and jumping right into the interactions, I thought I better explain a little what each interaction was about, what my role was in their creation, and a little bit about my thought processes. Jackie Van Nice gave me the idea of creating a separate bit of theme music, sort of a slower more “contemplative” version of the theme song at the beginning to go behind my voice as I give the run down on these various interactions.

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

I designed this portfolio so you can just click right into the interactions if you want. You don’t have to sit and listen to the “director’s/actor’s comments” first. The bottom line is, just jump into it and enjoy.

Click to view my voice-over portfolio

Click to view my voice-over portfolio