I'm new to this blogging game - I must confess there's been a temptation as a newbie to write to impress - to report high moments, successes and victories. Having read one of Michelle's recent posts, I've realised it takes more cojones to report failures, flaws and disappointment. And this is a thing which I firmly believe to be more useful, both to self and colleagues.
I have been promising Guido @europeaantje, who blogs here that I would crack the problem of how to dub students' voices onto existing video, so this is what I tried with a small adult group earlier this week.
First of all, how to do the dubbing? My ever-supportive boss Anthony came up with a great simple solution - play the video muted but with subtitles, and record it as a screencast. Why didn't I think of that?
So we tried. We rehearsed a couple of small extracts of an episode of the Simpsons on DVD. So far so good.
But during recording, the wheels came off.
Firstly, natural speech is just too fast. My people were able to read with adequately good linking and intonation during rehearsal, but just couldn't keep up with native speaker speed. It seemed like all their hard work on pronunciation disintegrated totally at L1 speed.
Secondly, a technical problem arose: During playback, we noticed a growing delay of audio with respect to video. It may have just been a combinations of my old laptop, heavy demands on the CPU, a bug in Ubuntu or whatever.
It clearly wasn't a total disaster - after all, we had done some perfectly good work on pronunciation and colloquial vocabulary. But I was hoping for a great finished product and something - I don't know - tighter.
I'm certainly not ruling out dubbing in class for ever, but I have learnt a couple of things:
1. As with all drama, to maintain interest, you have to be careful choosing scenes. The humour (or whatever the affective value is) has to come from the words. Cartoons rely more that live shows on visual and acoustic jokes, but those don't engage actor-students.
2. Choose something with a slow-to-moderate pace of dialogue.
3. Try out the video + screencast on a good long scene, say 3 minutes, beforehand, and check for delay.