Learn how to animate your lesson videos with eLearning video Creator Kim Merritt of the TheUrlDr.com. Kim is an expert in online marketing who works in the eLearning development space. Chris Badgett from LifterLMS has a great conversation with Kim in this episode about effective marketing for online course sites.
With course creation and marketing, there are a lot of technical aspects that can appear daunting when looking in from the outside. In this episode Kim breaks down her process of animation for educational content, and what areas are crucial to this process.
Kim first got started with animation about 5 years ago when she was working on creating courses for her clients to teach them how to handle their online marketing. Her clients loved her presentation style with how she animates videos, and they hired her to create the same things for them.
The talking head is a common video style many online course creators use. But if you don’t have a process to show on screen or a product to display, then students won’t want to watch the video. Kim talks about a strategy where you can use animation and the talking head strategy in tandem to create visually engaging content.
Even running through a PowerPoint can be disengaging to learners if you stay on the same slide for three to five minutes. When people are interested in what is happening on the screen, it is a lot easier for them to retain that information.
Kim shares insights on the merits that splicing video and animation together can have for branding. Mixing in live footage with animation and other visuals improves the entertainment aspect of your courses as well. This is a huge factor for internal training content, because the learners are not intrinsically motivated to learn about that.
If you’re interested in working with Kim, there are plenty of ways to stay connected with her and get in touch. Be sure to head to TheUrlDr.com to check out Kim’s work. You can find her on the LMS experts page at LifterLMS.com/Experts, and you can email her.
At LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. You can subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us.
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re a course creator looking to build more impact, income, and freedom, LMScast is the number one podcast for course creators just like you. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of the most powerful tool for building, selling, and protecting engaging online courses called LifterLMS. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special guest, Kim Merritt. She’s built websites, she’s an expert in online marketing, she has worked with E-learning development, and also makes incredible videos with animation. You can find her at theurldr, that’s T-H-E-U-R-L-D-R.com. Welcome to the show, Kim.
Kim Merritt: Thank you.
Chris Badgett: It’s awesome to have you. You have a broad array of experience that is really relevant of course creators. I wanna start by getting into creating effective animated videos. Like, how do you do that? Like, what’s the process to make a lesson concept, and turn it into an animated video? And, why should people even think about doing that?
Kim Merritt: Well, so I got started with the animation about four to five years ago, and I was creating my own series of online courses for my own clients to teach them how to do their own online marketing, and how to do certain things with WordPress, and with the particular a WordPress theme that I use, so I created a, I think my catalog is like 450 videos, but, unless you’re doing a recorded screen of actually walking somebody through it, or unless you have a product that you can pick up, and hold, and touch, you’ve gotta come up with visuals. Well, what do you do for that? Live face to face stuff is fine, but who wants to stare at somebody’s face for 15, 20 minutes? I mean, that gets really boring.
So, I started using, at that point it was GoAnimate, which is an online animation program that is very easy to use, and it’s kinda really made for anybody. You don’t have to have any special training in animation, started using that to come up with visuals for my own set of E-learning classes for my clients, and, of course, my client’s started seeing what I was doing, and said, “Hey, can you do that for us?” And, it kind of went, just kind of snowballed from there. I mean, I started doing commercials, and all different types of things for social media, and then, of course, the bulk of it is for E-learning, because the animation really lends itself that particular system which is now the Vyond, V-Y-O-N-D.com.
That system has thousands of props, and hundreds of characters, and you can create your own characters, and there’s hundreds of scenes that you can really visualize just about anything, and lends itself very well to whatever the client is. I mean, I’ve done stuff for the banking and finance industry, I’ve done it for healthcare, I’ve done it for retail, all different types of things, and it just really kind of gives a visual that your learner, whether it’s a client that you’re trying to pick up, whether it’s an employee that you’re trying to train in something, or even a customer, it holds their attention, and really has great ability to let somebody interact with what you’re trying to teach them very easily and inexpensively.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Yeah. I think it’s important to think beyond the talking head, or the screen share. Like, there’s this whole other world of animation.
Kim Merritt: Yeah. I mean, when I look at somebody who’s done just a recorded PowerPoint, I mean, yeah I love PowerPoint, but oh my God. The thing that people forget is, you cannot have the same static image be on the screen for three, and four, and five minutes. Not if you wanna hold the viewer’s attention, and you can’t use one screen that’s got, basically, you’re just reading it. Forget it, that doesn’t work, or all this text, and content that just is not gonna keep somebody’s attention, where animation, it moves, and you can change it frequently, and you can have … I mean, yes there’s certain animated points to PowerPoint, but animation itself is a completely different ball game, and it’s just so much more engaging, and entertaining to watch, and the people who are watching will retain it better when they’re interested in what’s going on, on the screen.
Chris Badgett: That’s an excellent point. At LifterLMS we have all different types of course creators. There’s people who are creating courses from their expertise to sell for money, there are like schools who are doing blended learning, university professors are using it, and corporations are using it to train their people, and when I see a lot of the internal training as it’s called LMS’s, I think they’re really prime candidate for animation. Like, I’ve seen some of yours where, like if you’re doing basic employee onboarding, or say kinda HR videos, or continuing education requirements, or beginning in this role, this is how you do this job, whatever it is. Animation’s great, so like set the scene, and like show all these good examples, and bad examples. Can you elaborate on that?
Kim Merritt: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I’ve got a client right now that I am … He is an expert in sexual harassment training for companies, and there’re certain states now that are requiring by law that their employees go through some kind of training for sexual harassment and bullying, so I’m doing a course for him, and what we’re doing in his course, and I’m starting to do more, and more of this is that, he’s giving me a whole series of video that’s been shot of him actually giving the course so I can see his face, and he’s talking to the learner, but we’re splicing in and out animation, so you’re not seeing just his face for 15, for eight minutes, or for 15 minutes, or however long, we’re cutting in and out, so he’s talking about something, and then, we cut to an animation scene, and it actually shows what he’s talking about, and then, we cut back to him, and then we cut back to the animation.
And, I’m finding that, that really works well particularly for a course creator who’s trying to brand themselves, they want their face in the videos, and their face should be in the video, because they want that connection to the audience, but we don’t … Whatever, whoever they are, whatever they look like, how great looking they are, we do not wanna look at their face for half an hour, or an hour, and they don’t move, and they just sit, and they speak to us. Forget it. You’re gonna lose people after about three minutes.
But, when you’re doing something like using animation with it, that opens up just a whole other opportunity to really make it engaging for somebody, and they wanna pay attention. I mean, he’s teaching kind of stuff that employees are like, “Oh man, do I have to really watch this, and come on. I don’t wanna …” We’ve tried to make it is entertaining as we can with, where some of these subjects are like, how do you make bank finance entertaining? Well, we do our best, but that’s just another way to kind of keep the attention of who’s watching it.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, edutainment. I love it, because some trainings are just-
Kim Merritt: They’re boring.
Chris Badgett: There’s a difference between intrinsic motivation. Like, I really wanna learn this new skill, and I’m excited versus extrinsic, I have to take this.
Kim Merritt: Exactly.
Chris Badgett: So, why not make it exciting?
Kim Merritt: Well, and the LMS systems, the bigger ones that are out there now, I did a research project for a Fortune 500 client actually at the end of the year that they wanted to say … They wanted to know what are the big things, and what are the, all these LMS systems are offering, and the bigger ones now have gamification that, there’s different things that they’re pulling into it that make it more entertaining and engaging. They’ve got all kinds of social aspects and forums where you can have a group of people be in a class virtually, and they can actually communicate back and forth with each other, and share their screens, and talk just like you were in a classroom, so there’s all kinds possibilities that the LMS systems themselves are offering.
And then, you add to that all the different things that are becoming possible with the video themselves, and there’s, oh my God, there’s virtual reality that you can get into, and there’s all those kinds of crazy stuff, but that just takes this whole industry to just a whole another place, and really makes it very exciting.
Chris Badgett: Yeah, and if you wanna see an example of Kim’s work go to theurldr.com, and there was a, I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, there’s like a bathroom video for the work place?
Kim Merritt: We did a … I did a series of videos for an LGBTQ program that ADP has, and it’s all learning the proper way to interact, things to say, things not to say, and that particular video is for bathrooms, and it’s, again, they can be touchy subjects, and you’re trying to teach somebody who may be uncomfortable with this subject kind of what it’s all about, and why it’s important, and I love that video. It turned out so cute, and they liked it very much as well, but we did a whole series of those, and that is, you can see it on our website, but it just kind of proves the point of how far you can go with animation as far as picturing just about anything.
Chris Badgett: So, go to theurldr, and check that out. I’ve got another question for you about a different kind of course creator. Some course creators start without much of a teaching background, or even a technology background, but they’re experts in a given field. I imagine in order to create an effective animation video, you kinda have to storyboard it out, and like think about characters to put in there. How do you do that? Like, how do you take knowledge, and turn it into a story, or interaction?
Kim Merritt: How I do it, and it really does start with storyboarding, so I usually have clients that will throw a script, or a book, or a PDF at me, and just say, “Figure it out.”
Chris Badgett: Make it happen.
Kim Merritt: “Make it happen.” Yeah, “Just make it awesome, make it wonderful.” And, what I do is, I actually use a program called Notability, and I go through, and, actually, I mean, and you can print it out, and do this with highlighter, but Notability just has this great highlighting feature, and I will go through, and I will read the script, and I will break it up into scenes, and I’ve been doing it long enough now that I can pretty much gauge by the words on the page, and number of paragraphs about the timeframe that each of sections are, because I charge my animation by finished minutes, and then, the number of scene changes per minute, so obviously if there’s two scene changes per minute it’s much cheaper than if there are seven, or 10 scene changes per minute.
And, we usually don’t get into, to like eight, or nine, or 10 scene changes unless there’s a conversation back and forth between characters, but I’ve arranged with the client ahead of time, what’s your budget? And, are we, two or three scenes, or are we seven, or eight scenes? And, I keep that in mind as I’m going through the script. I break it up into what scenes, how many scenes I’ve got, break it up into the videos, and we try to keep them short. The thing now is we’re not looking to make half hour videos, hour videos, we’re looking to make five minute videos, or six minute videos, seven, eight minutes tops. You want it in short bite little chunks that somebody can easily watch, and consume as it fits in their lifestyle, and that they can watch on the go.
After I’ve divided it all up then I go into the system, and I start actually building the scenes. Then I’ll do the voiceover recording, because I have a studio in house to do that, and I pull the … After I’ve edited the audio, pull that into the system, and then, stretch the scenes to fit the video, and that Vyond system has the ability to have the character’s mouths match what it is that you’re saying which allows you to have conversations, or to have a character that actually is like an instructor, and talks to the screen, and talks to the learner as they go through it, and then, at that point they’re ready to download, and use in whatever system somebody wants them to.
Chris Badgett: Wow, that is quite a process, that’s awesome. What about that person who doesn’t come with a script? Like, how do you create an effective script, or does that not your…
Kim Merritt: No, no. I don’t have-
Chris Badgett: You have to have the script?
Kim Merritt: Yeah, I don’t have anybody that shows up without a script. Now, if they wanna pay me to write a script I’ll do that, but I would say 95% of the clients I get, they’ve got the script, or at least the beginning of the script. I might add, take away, or say, “Hey, I can’t show this, but I can show this instead.” But, everybody’s coming with some kind of a script.
Chris Badgett: Cool. We’ve got some technology geeks here. When you say sound … Like, what do you do to make a nice voice over? Like, what kind of gears involved, or like how do you record the voiceover?
Kim Merritt: How I do mine, I have a makeshift recording studio in the back, and I’ve got a Rode NT1-A mic, and I record with Camtasia, pull it into Camtasia, and then, I actually do the editing for it in Audible? Audacity.
Chris Badgett: Audacity.
Kim Merritt: Audacity, pull it out of Audacity as an MP3, and then, use it from there.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Very cool. I just gotta make sure I ask, because people in the course creation community, they’re always getting sidetracked by the gear, so I’m gonna make sure what you [crosstalk].
Kim Merritt: That’s my my gear. That’s all of it.
Chris Badgett: And, the animation suite is called Vyond?
Kim Merritt: Yes.
Chris Badgett: What do you like about it? How long have you been working with it?
Kim Merritt: Almost five years.
Chris Badgett: Wow.
Kim Merritt: And, again, it used to be GoAnimate, and they changed their name last year. I’m not sure why. I actually like GoAnimate better, but, whatever. It’s affordably priced. It’s about $85 a month I believe for the level that you need. It doesn’t have their watermarks, and their branding all over it. There’s no long term commitment. You can use it a month at a time. The only thing that I find to be, and I understand why they do it, because the whole point of their businesses is to sell subscriptions.
But, for example, when I take on a client that I’m doing Vyond work for, I get that client to get their own Vyond account, because if I make the videos in my account they charge a $90 plus fee, licensing transfer fee per video for me to change the licensing from me to the client, and if you’re making five, or 10, or in some cases a hundred, or 200 videos, you don’t wanna have to charge $90 a video to transfer the license, so I have the client get their own account for 85 bucks a month. That completely eliminates any licensing issues. They own it. It’s in their account, and I do the work in their account for them.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool, and so, if they’re just getting started, what are some tips? If somebody’s gonna to do it themselves, like as you were learning Vyond, what did you … What are some tips and tricks on getting [inaudible]?
Kim Merritt: Well, I mean, they’ve got, as any of the SAS based softwares do they’ve got the training videos, and you can get online, and I personally like, I like the Legacy Model better. There’s two different studios so to speak that you can make the videos in. I liked the old one. I’m just, [inaudible] a comfort thing, because I’m used to that and it’s got some features that I really like to use, but it’s just getting in there, and using it. Every piece of software has a learning curve to some degree, and what I find the trick with that particular piece of software is, is to, and where the benefit for me is in working with my customers is.
I’ve been in it for so long, I know the thousands of props that are in it. I know what I can do with how to make, like I could take your likeness, and make an, customed cartoon character that would look just like you, and dress you however you normally dress, or whatever you would wanna be, and I can make you a superhero. I can make you a zombie, whatever you want, and then, the backdrops. The backdrops are really the scenes themselves that you’re building are really the key, because you gotta know what the scenes are to know what you can do. You’ve gotta-
Chris Badgett: What are some of the scenes like just as some examples out there? I’m sure there’s a lot of them, like-
Kim Merritt: There’s crazy stuff. I mean, I can make pirate ships, I can make superheroes flying on the moon, I can make, I mean, I grew up in the funeral business, so it just kills me that there’s like, there’s funeral scenes, and there’s caskets, and, I mean, just like all this crazy stuff. I try to think of what [crosstalk].
Chris Badgett: I’m sure there’s like normal office?
Kim Merritt: Yeah. There’s way normal-
Chris Badgett: Houses?
Kim Merritt: There’s tons of, yeah, so your home, your office, hospitals …
Chris Badgett: Restaurants.
Kim Merritt: Industrial workplace. Yeah, restaurants, schools. I mean, all that stuff, but there’re some that are just really kind of out there, and kind of fun and crazy too, so there’s lots of different things that you can do with it.
Chris Badgett: That is awesome. Could you describe the ideal person that works with you? Like, what kind of client do you serve?
Kim Merritt: Wow, well, for animation, and for E-learning it’s somebody that has a developed script, or book. I mean, I’ve animated whole books.
Chris Badgett: What kinda, when you animated, like what kinda book? Like, a non-fiction? Like a manual, or something, or …?
Kim Merritt: I was hired to animate Noam Wasserman’s book of, Founder’s Dilemma. Noam is one of the leading MBA professors. I believe he teaches at Harvard, and I had been hired by a company to animate that book, and, I mean, the book is about teaching an entrepreneur who’s starting a business, do you wanna found your company solo, or do you wanna found it with partners? And, if you go down each of those paths, what are the pros and the cons? What do you have to look out for so that your business will withstand that startup phase as opposed to burnout like so many of them do?
When I grew up, a big thing was the pick your own ending books. You’d read the chapter, and at the end, okay, go this way or go this way, so I designed that course, that group of videos like a pick your own ending book, and if you found, if you were gonna found your company by yourself solo, you watch this set of videos, and if you were gonna found your company with that partners you watch this set, and then, they ended back up that you were watching the same videos at the end. That was a really fun project. That was actually one of the first animation, big animation things that I did, that was a couple of years ago.
But, here again, there’s so many different things that you can do with it, but the perfect client is somebody that has a good script, or at least has an idea kind of, of what they want, and just allows me to be creative, and doesn’t put too many barriers on me as far as just … And, usually, we’ll do a test video, we’ll do like one or two to start with, to make sure that I understand what they want, and that they agree with kind of the route that I’m going, and then, once they’re happy with that, I just kind of go at it, but I do need a fairly complete script from somebody. If they don’t have a complete script, and they’re really, I mean, I can give them ideas on what we could do, but it could-
Chris Badgett: So, you’re not the expert in there [crosstalk].
Kim Merritt: No, no. I’m not the expert. I mean, I’ve got a group of things that I am an expert in, but I’m not an expert in teaching somebody about sexual harassment, I’m not an expert about teaching somebody about nutrition, or the bank finance one was like no. No way was I an expert in that, but if given the good materials I can produce awesome E-learning on just any, on any subject, but it’s the client’s information that I’m using to make those awesome videos, so it’s gotta start with them.
Chris Badgett: Absolutely. Well, Kim, thank you so much for coming on the show. That’s Kim Merritt at theurldr.com, that’s T-H-E-U-R-L-D-R.com.
Kim Merritt: Absolutely.
Chris Badgett: Is there any way else people can get a hold of you?
Kim Merritt: You can contact me, and my email address is kimbutler, B-U-T-L-E-R @theurldr.com, and you can contact me through the site. There’s plenty of places in the website that you can fill out a form, and contact me. I’m more than happy to talk to anybody that’s got some questions, or want’s some work done, so that’s the best place to find me.
Chris Badgett: Awesome. Well, thanks so much Kim for coming on the show, and opening up our eyes to whole this world of animation, and, yeah, thanks so much.
Kim Merritt: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Chris Badgett: And, that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. I’m your guy Chris Badgett. I hope you enjoyed the show. This show was brought to you by LifterLMS, the number one tool for creating, selling, and protecting engaging online courses to help you get more revenue, freedom and impact in your life. Head on over to lifterlms.com and get the best gear for your course creator journey. Let’s build the most engaging results getting courses on the internet.