The 15,000 Word eLearning Project and Allergic Rhinitis: A Comedy in Three Acts.

The timing of this gig was hilarious. Allergy season. My roommate and I were driving through Redhook a day or so before the job was going to start, and the air was filled with tufts of white blooms floating along in pleasant magic. The world had just let loose the largest amount of pollen it would all year. And I’ve got hayfever (allergic rhinitis) like nobody’s business. It’s bad. And once it hits, it lingers. Everything from the neck up pulses congested and the inside of my face itches. I like to say: “I’m not allergic to dogs, I’m just allergic to earth.”

So I’m a wreck the first day I head into my booth to do this. Sneezy, nasally, hitting m’s with my entire head. In order to do this project, I came up with a daily regimen of Benadryl, sudafed and neo-synephrine. I’m also no stranger to the put-your-face-in-front-of-a-steaming-kettle technique. Neo-synephrine is actually a tool I’m going to keep on hand all the time. It’s a nasal spray that instantly and effectively clears up congestion. It’s a perfect solution if you’re heading into the booth and are little stuffed up and sounding nasally. But use it sparingly. If you use it for more than a couple of days, your congestion will get worse: trust me on this.

Global eTraining LogoThis eLearning project was a course by Global eTraining for Microsoft Word 2013. (I’m under contract not to share any of the course, so there won’t be any samples on the site). It’s level 3 of a 3-level course. Like your senior year 300-level seminar on Kant. Only it’s about advanced functionality of Word instead of metaphysics.

Frankly, there’s a lot about Word that I didn’t know. And I didn’t know I didn’t know it. Macros, powerpoint integration, linking within a long document. The upside of doing voice over for an eLearning project? You get a $275 course for free. Well, in a way. Voicing an eLearning course is an interesting irony: I’m the instructor, and I have almost no idea what I’m talking about.

Many cups of tea and many late nights later, I have some thoughts and advice on projects like this.

 
ACT ONE:VOICE OVER  

FOCUS

You need equal parts – and in large quantities – focus and patience (and when I say “you,” imagine I’m also giving advice to myself). It takes time. And you have to give it enough time. There’s a flow that I found myself getting in after about a half hour of voicing. There’s a sweet spot, where the words are flowing at the rate I’m reading, the energy is resting right in the pocket, and the delivery is hitting a consistent clarity. The best combination of mental focus and execution. It’s not a zone I can drop into instantly. It takes a while to get there. So when I do, I want to stay there and surf the wave, rather than voicing a paragraph and then immediately editing it.

FLOW

I recommend splitting the time into large chunks of voicing, and large chunks of editing, rather than editing as you go. I’ve done it both ways, and what I find is that, the two different activities involve separate parts of the brain. It works much better for me to settle into a specific activity – get in the flow of talking or in the flow of editing – and ride it out for as long as I can hold focus. When I’m editing, my voice is running cold, and when I’m switching back and forth, I have to warm back up every time I get back to the ‘splainin.

CONSISTENCY

Doing large chunks of voicing at a time also has the advantage of maintaining consistency. This is huge, and this is the area most calling out for improvement for next time. It’s hard for me to hear when I’m starting to speed up the tempo or ramp up the energy – which I start doing during a long session – and, because there’s just so much to get through, fixing mistakes in consistency becomes a huge allocation of time. I ended up redoing an entire 1,200 word section, which tacked on an extra three hours. If I had more time, I would have redone more. This is definitely something you want to be nailing the first time, because when you’re spending a ton of time laying it down – working, reworking, massaging, finessing, stopping, starting – you’re spending a ton of time cutting it down.

 
ACT TWO: EDITING  

Editing takes far more time than voicing. I find that it’s about a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio (voicing:editing) of amount of time spent. It’s certainly different, probably shorter, for others. Editing quickly is muscle I’m still building.

I edit out all the breaths, but also edit out subtle mouth noise, subtle breathing and try to get rid of anything that’s not the pure sound of my voice. Which means I’m splicing in silence everywhere. (Silence: I record a good chunk of silent room tone during every session. Just hold my breath, wait for the world to be as silent as possible, and hit record.) I’ll also do a round of pick ups for a project like this, which means I’m revoicing any sentence that has a pop or click in it and then matching the takes.

As a result, when I’m the voice over me, I want to be nice to the editor me. “Editor me” wants the cleanest takes possible. So when I’m scrubbing everything, I can just flow through a paragraph, splicing in silence, without having to hunt around for where “voice over me” picks up the thread again.

The advice here is: slow down and relax in the booth. The cleaner your takes in the booth – the less you’re fumbling, stopping, starting, resetting, clearing my voice, redoing a sentence a billion times – the more efficient you can be when you’re editing. Truth be told though, editing is always going to take a lot longer than voicing.

 
ACT THREE: ENDURANCE  

EBOOST Varieties

I’ve been experimenting with an energy supplement called EBOOST. Frankly, it’s amazing. It’s super effective and super clean. And it’s all natural. It’s essentially a huge dose of vitamin B and caffeine (as green tea leaf extract). It lasts way longer than coffee, has less of a spike, and results more directly in focus, rather than buoyancy. It feels like a more pure form of alert rather than a scattered form of wired. So it is super useful for long sessions in terms of focus. The downside: it dries out my mouth. I get a ton of mouth noise when I’m being fueled by eboost. So the jury is still out on whether it’s a good fit for VO projects. But, in general, totally recommend it. You can get a sampler of the 5 different flavors for $1 + shipping, which is around $5 or $6 total.

That’s it for now. Next up: I’ll give you my thoughts on my NEW MICROPHONE. Super excited about this one. It’s a Blue Baby Bottle. Been taking it out for a few spins. Spoiler alert: it’s dope.

Alex HerslerThe 15,000 Word eLearning Project and Allergic Rhinitis: A Comedy in Three Acts.

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