Rance Greene, the author of Instructional Story Design and founder of the School of Story Design, has been coaching talent development professionals for years on how to incorporate storytelling techniques into their training that help employees better comprehend new concepts–and take action.
Before he was a full-time author and speaker, Rance was an L&D practitioner himself–and it was in his role as compliance training director at Blue Cross and Blue Shield that he became a big fan of Vyond’s animated video creation software. When we asked Rance to create and present a Vyond Masterclass earlier this year, he decided he wanted to take a fresh approach that would highlight all the great things Vyond Studio can do, especially when paired with Adobe Premiere Pro: “I prefer not to be a talking head, I like interacting with people, so I decided to create a movie instead.”
With the help of Taylor Morgan, one of our expert video producers, Rance created the 30-minute-long The Mysterious Disappearance of Stories – a video masterclass that incorporates live-action footage, all varieties of animation, music, and more—and showcases his most powerful ideas about incorporating story elements into eLearning.
Watch the Storytelling Masterclass
The response to The Mysterious Disappearance of Stories was incredible, garnering rave reviews from the 2,000+ people who attended. Since many attendees asked for a peek behind the curtain, we asked Rance and Taylor if they’d provide a breakdown of their collaboration, from start to finish. And being helpful guys, they said yes.
Brainstorming the Concept
For Rance, any story used for training needs two important elements: strong conflict and relatable characters. To illustrate this point he decided to ground the video in a fun, over-the-top story that imagined a future world in which bad eLearning content had caused stories everywhere to go missing…and the only person who could bring them back was you, the viewer.
As for relatable characters, he decided to feature three different Rance characters: Rance 1, his real, live-action self; Rance 2, a business-friendly guy with a stubbled jawline who added some light-hearted comic relief; and Rance 3, a serious news anchor type.
“I wanted to show the different styles Vyond was capable of and introduce a little comedy. Also, practically speaking,” Rance added, “there just wasn’t the time to involve anyone else with the voiceover work.”
Together, this intrepid trio would investigate the story-less world of eLearning and hunt down answers on how to solve the problem. And Taylor’s technical wizardry on Vyond and Adobe Premiere Pro would combine all three characters’ journeys to seamlessly interact with one another on screen.
Animating yourself is easy with Vyond
If you’d like to create an animated version of yourself–or other real people–for use in your training videos, Vyond now makes it easier than ever before. With our brand-new AI-powered Photo to Character feature, you can now upload a photo of yourself, and VyondAI will automatically generate a character which can then be edited or combined with different elements and outfits. And if you prefer to start from scratch, Vyond’s Character Creator feature also provides a huge range of options for customizing every aspect of your characters.
Shooting the Live-Action Video
After Rance had the big idea in place, he started writing the script and created a basic storyboard. To make sure viewers would stay invested in the story, he incorporated a lot of dialogue between the three Rance characters and ensured the action of the story took place in a variety of locations, both real and virtual.
When it came time to film live-action footage, Rance enlisted his family, friends, and students to serve as actors. Impressively, he was able to capture everything he needed with only an iPhone, a tripod, and the help of his wife, who stood behind the camera holding cue cards for him to read. For the footage of other live-action characters, Rance used his iPhone with a gimble and stitched the short video takes together using iMovie.
Throughout the recording process, Rance also took care to ensure the footage he shot and the audio he created for his animated selves would be easy to work with in post-production:
“I filmed the characters one at a time, so I didn’t need to worry about switching between Rance, the serious news anchor-type guy, and the funny business-friendly one. I said my lines for live-action Rance 1, then in my head, I said Rance 2’s lines and reacted. The challenging part was making sure there was no delay between the spoken lines.”
Use a high-quality lavalier mic
Unwanted background noise can ruin great takes. Rance avoided this problem by using a
TrackE wireless lavalier microphone from Tentacle. With the TrackE he was able to record high-fidelity audio directly into the device, which Taylor was easily able to sound engineer and sync with the video footage in post-production.
Keep it chatty
According to Rance, “In eLearning, you need to gear it towards dialogue as much as possible. It puts you in the moment, it’s the most powerful form of storytelling.” So when you’re creating your script, avoid long stretches of single-person narration. Instead, communicate information using a back-and-forth between characters. Then, to ensure the dialogue sounds natural, read it out loud.
Putting All the Pieces Together
Once all the raw footage and audio for “The Mysterious Disappearance of Stories” was compiled, and Rance had finished creating the animations in Vyond, he handed the baton to Taylor, who added a few extra animation elements, edited the audio and attached it to match his characters, finessed the timing a bit, and added music and sound effects as needed.
“I marked on my script where I wanted two characters on the screen at once and Taylor worked to make a seamless back-and-forth,” Rance says.
First Taylor combined the audio from the animated sections with the recordings of live-action Rance, creating a single, easier-to-manage audio track. Taylor then exported this file into Vyond where he added the animations so they matched that audio.
“Almost all the Vyond videos I make, I’ll make the audio first, then start building the scenes. I’ll edit the audio in Premiere, and export it as one single-track file that has the timing I want. That way, when I bring it into Vyond, it’s just one file and I can build scenes and move them around and it doesn’t change the timing of the audio. It makes everything a lot tidier.” – Taylor Morgan
In only a few instances did Taylor have to slow down live-action Rance’s footage to leave enough time for his alter egos to say their lines in between his own. “Taylor stitched the videos together beautifully. He made the animation and the live-action videos seamless”, said Rance.
Be strategic about sound
Adding sound effects and a musical score to your video can help create a sense of continuity and create powerful emotional effects at key storytelling moments. Taylor used music found within Vyond Studio and from a subscription service called Artlist.io, which provides access to tens of thousands of songs along with the licensing rights, so you can use them however you want to.
The Finished Project
While it’s unlikely most L&D content producers will routinely find themselves making a video of this length and complexity, Rance and Taylor hope their video will inspire them (and video creators of all kinds) to try a few new techniques, and think outside the box in how they present information.
Rance estimates he spent 90 hours total perfecting the dialogue, shooting scenes, and editing clips–and Taylor estimates that he spent about 40 hours editing and producing the final product. But to put this effort in perspective, Taylor estimates that if he were doing editing for a 30-minute live-action video, the process would have taken almost 10 times as long. And Rance says he hasn’t found anything else that would have allowed him to make something this creative, in as short an amount of time as Vyond did.
“I’ve been a Vyond fan for a long time, and as far as I’m concerned, it just keeps getting better,” Rance said. “It’s efficient, it’s easy to use, and, most importantly, when I need to bring one of my stories to life, Vyond is the tool I reach for most often.”
Join the 2,000+ attendees who watched and loved Rance’s Masterclass, The Mysterious Disappearance of Stories by clicking on the link below.
Watch the Storytelling Masterclass
To see how using Vyond can help you meet your communications goals, sign up for our 14-day free trial.
Or for more inspiration and step-by-step video production guides, check out the Vyond Producers Hub.
Rance’s background is in theater, film, and choreography. But it was while working in New York City that his passion for storytelling flourished. “I’m from the North Carolina mountains, teaching inner-city kids from the Bronx and Spanish Harlem. I needed help establishing trust with them. Stories were our connecting point.” Years later, Rance first stumbled across Vyond when it was still called GoAnimate. He instantly became a fan–and has created L&D content with Vyond’s easy-to-use tools for years.
Rance’s training solutions have been recognized by ATD, The eLearning Guild, Training Magazine, and The Telly Awards. He is also the best-selling author of Instructional Story Design, an invaluable reference tool for learning how to craft effective, story-based corporate training courses, complete with downloadable templates and practice activities.
Taylor has nearly 12 years of experience in video and sound production. From a young age, he’s always loved stories: “I grew up during a time before the Internet. I was in the Boy Scouts camping a lot and the evening entertainment would always revolve around stories. For years I did live-action video production, so Vyond was my first introduction to storytelling using animated characters–which was a whole new ballgame and something I’ve loved doing ever since.”