jueves, 7 de abril de 2011

Too much too soon

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.

6 comentarios:

  1. Am I right in thinking you've got quite a good digital audio recorder? Could you record on that, and then add that to the screen-recorder, or is that too complicated? I agree about choosing a scene with slow to moderate voice speed. What about getting the students to paraphrase if it's tight? Anyway, this is a new idea to me, and a good one, so thanks.

    P.S. Blogging about lesson failures - you should have lots of material to sift through. (Fellow readers, he's a friend of mine, you should hear what he says about me!)

  2. Hey Alan

    What a humble and honest post... I think if you're a teacher who doesn't "fail" from time to time you're probably not that great a teacher. We only learn by experimenting and trying things out.

    As you say the session certainly wasn't wasted. The learners got to practice loads of language even if the final product didn't quite work out, disappointing as that is.

    I'm considering an experiment at the moment that I keep putting off because of the spectre of failure. Perhaps we just need to rethink our vocabulary. You were experimenting and that's totally valid!

    Perhaps instead of "trying is the first step towards failure" a more appropriate phrase would be "trying is the first step towards success."

    The pit stops along the way are simply where we learn from our attempts and re-fit the wheels a little better for the next attempt.

    Anyway, a challenging perspective, certainly for me... and a bit of inspiration to try some things I've been putting off...

    ...and write about them even if they end up not working out! ;-p

  3. Thanks Dave and Anna.

    Anna, you're right of course about the line! It was just the only relevant line in the episode. Another Homer Simpson Inspirational Gem.

    Do try your experiment, by the way. I think if students are aware their teacher is making an effort, they are usually quite lenient in criticizing experiments. I certainly didn't get negative comments.

    Oh and blog it :)

    Dave, are you talking about recording a separate audio track and playing that back in sync?

    I'm sure there are other solutions out there. I just hope it's not necessary to teach oneself to be an audio engineer.

    Would any of your IT contacts know?

  4. Alan,

    thanks for posting this. Lots of others would have shied away from reporting a failure, although I don´t have the impression that your class was a failure at all. It´s just that you´re not happy with the end result, right?

    As you know I rediscovered Audacity after a recent blogpost of yours and got inspired. Only last week did I video my students while they were recording themselves at the same time. I thought it would be easy to put audio and video together with Windows Moviemaker or similar but was warned by our computer technician, who also had to help me out to recover the unsaved Audacity recording when a couple of bolts on our computer came undone, that they would most probably be out of sync - same as what happened to you. So our end result was a grainy video with bad audio and a seperate audio recording.

    I understand your frustration with your end product. You seem to be a man after my own heart: someone who looks for simple and elegant solutions. Very often they are one and the same, anyway. It´s just that in this case we haven´t succeeded in producing something simply beautiful that was also relevant and meaningful for our students. Just don´t let that stop a man with c*j*nes like yourself from taking the next step towards...well, success!

    Guido, a man with cajones

  5. I'm sure you have very impressive cajones, my friend ;)

    Re the tech stuff, I'll sound out the hive mind when I get time.

  6. Hiya Alan,

    Cool stuff and totally agree with others about blogging successes AND failures.

    Re the speed issue, have u tried VLC player - last year some of my students found out how you can slow the playback on digital videos http://www.mikejharrison.com/2010/02/techno-tool-tames-transcription-troubl/