I’d like to share with you some of the technology I have been using to prepare innovative video English lessons which are watched by tens of thousands of people every day across the world. They have also helped me to build a successful online teaching practice through which I have taught almost 200 students in over 40 countries.
If you are an English teacher, you might find my story interesting. If you are a student of English, or anyone trying to improve their English language skills, you will also benefit from reading on.
I coined the word Britlish from the words British and English as I wanted an easy-to-remember name for my website, my books, and the video English lessons I make for YouTube. I also wanted the name to show that I was teaching British English rather than the English of, say, America.
While trying to make a living as a writer over the past 40 years, I also worked in the military, in medicine, and in law enforcement. In 2003 I discovered that a modest income could be had from teaching English. I decided to move to Spain, took a teaching course in Seville and began teaching English in schools.
I had found something that I not only loved doing but which I was actually good at.
In 2009 I began to see the possibilities the Internet offered for teaching and I launched my online teaching business. I knew that there were millions of people out there who wanted to learn English, and that I could give them easy access to a professional, experienced English teacher wherever they were in the world.
The only problem I had was how to get myself noticed.
I soon discovered a fledgling website called YouTube and saw a way to bring myself to the attention of students around the world. I created a channel and uploaded my first video. It used simple pictures with superimposed words to teach the vocabulary of teeth and dentists. As you can see, it’s simple and unimpressive.
If you would rather listen to me reading this article, watch this video instead:
I discovered a variety of software packages which could produce rudimentary animation. I experimented and produced videos with simple images and transitions for the next 4 years or so. I also used stock video, and my own videos and photography. For six months I created a video every day just talking to camera.
My growing catalogue of videos began to clock up tens of thousands of views and my YouTube subscribers gradually began to increase. I even got a few students around the world. Yet, something was missing in my videos. They were too static, even with the movement I was able to include. I needed something else but did not know what.
One of my early students was an Italian who was heavily into Machinima. What he told me about Machinima prompted me to see if such a thing could help me. Was there any way I could get involved in the impossibly complex world of animation?
Then, in May 2013, as if in answer to my prayers, I stumbled across the Reallusion website. Impressed, I bought iClone 5 Pro and got a free copy of CrazyTalk Animator 2.
Now I had tools that could bring my video English lessons to life. The content was limited only by my imagination. Being a writer, I had plenty of that. What I did not have were the skills in art, design, or animation. I had set out on a long and difficult road, or so I thought.
Much of the animation in iClone and CrazyTalk Animator has already been done for you by people who do know what they are doing. Because of this, I found that I could create professional-looking animation faster than I had ever thought possible.
Yes, there was, and still is, a lot to learn, but the software is intuitive and easy to handle. I have used iClone and Character Creator to great effect in my more recent videos.
I created an alter ego in the form of Captain Britlish, an archetypal Englishman who appears in many videos and is the face of Britlish. He’s both fun to animate and fun to watch.
I discovered that you can combine animation with video footage to create some interesting videos. Here’s Captain B in Paris. Here he is trying to hitch a lift in the US. He gets about, Captain B. He can fly a plane, too. I mean, how cool is that?
Another fun character I would never have been able to make without iClone is Schwa, a feisty little dragon.
If you check out my YouTube channel, and subscribe, of course, you will find that my videos are very eclectic. I basically make videos about anything that pops into my mind and which I feel would be fun to turn into reality.
I’ve made over 800 video English lessons, and intend to make many hundreds more, especially as Reallusion software makes the making of them easy and fun.
Some of the easiest software is CrazyTalk 8. It’s a wonderfully easy way of creating talking head video English lessons. Without CrazyTalk 8, I am sure that a pig could never have given an English lesson. I can make spoof Skype calls, too, such as this in-depth interview with Dr De’Ath.
Teaching English needs a lot of vocabulary, and vocabulary coupled with visual imagery is more memorable. Couple vocabulary with 3D animation, and it’s not only memorable but also entertaining, too.
Thanks to 3DXchange, I have access to a near infinite library of objects that I can use to teach any piece of vocabulary I need.
Not only vocabulary, but also idiomatic expressions can be brought to life by animation. Take this illustration of the idiom, pen pusher, for instance. Without the animation, it would have been far less interesting or memorable. And this video is the apple of my eye.
I even used iClone to create a comic book that is available as a printed book on Amazon. I also used it to make great promotional videos for my other books. I used iClone to design the book covers for the books I sell through Amazon. I could never have done this without iClone and would instead have had to pay a designer to do it for me, or settle for less catchy covers.
The characters for my interactive murder mysteries were designed using the powerful features of Character Creator. It would have cost a fortune to take live pictures of real people for the same purpose. I also used the same technology for my Sounds Rude course, which made the impossible possible.
I feel that I have no more than scratched the surface of what I can achieve with the latest versions of Reallusion software and I’m really looking forward to seeing what possibilities lie ahead.
The fact that whatever I create with Reallusion software is royalty-free is one of the least talked about, but most important recommendations for the software. I need royalty-free images for my books and comics, and royalty-free animation for my YouTube videos.
My biggest personal recommendation for the software is the sheer fun you get from using it and in seeing the professional videos you can produce.
I frequently get emails praising me and my “team” and I don’t have the heart to destroy illusions by pointing out that what I do I do alone – well, me and Captain B, of course.
But it’s easy to see why people should think that I have a team behind me. It really should not be possible for one man with no formal training to do what I’ve been able to do. But thanks to Reallusion software it is.
I highly recommend iClone, CrazyTalk Animator, and the other Reallusion software packages and wealth of add-ons and content to anyone who, like me, needs to get noticed and stand out from the crowd.
The fact that I have taught 188 students in 42 countries around the world, teach 20 to 30 private classes every week, and sell a steady stream of digital products and books, is in no small part down to the great videos I have been able to produce with Reallusion software.
My only regret is that I didn’t discover Reallusion sooner.