Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Making of our Instructional DVD

I think it is probably hard for most people to imagine how much effort went into making the instructional DVD included with the soon-to-be-introduced R2 Fish School Training Kit.

The first step was picking the fish to be the star of the video. We wanted to start with a new fish that had never been trained, so demonstrate every step in the teaching process. We decided with our partners at R2 Solutions that a common goldfish was the best choice for the species of fish, to show that even ordinary fish can learn to perform amazing tricks with the help of our training system.

After choosing Comet at the local aquarium shop, and letting him get aquainted with his new tank for a few days, it was time to training him. We had faith in Comet, and our ability to teach him, but when we asked him if he thought he could learn all those tricks, we weren't entirely convinced he shared our confidence. :-)

From start to proficiency in all nine tricks took about 1.5 months of training for about one hour per day. It could have been faster however, since I was learning how to use all the new accessories included with the R2 Fish School Kit, and since I was trying to record video of every step of the training for the instructional DVD.

Once Comet had learned all the tricks, the real work on the instructional DVD began. I spent several weeks collaborating with the folks at R2 Solutions to write the script. It turned out to be 26 pages of dialog, including voiceover narration for the tank footage, and on-camera introductions to each of the tricks starring Kyle and me.

Needless to say, I was a bit intimidated. How was I going to memorize all that dialog? Fortunately, I found very cool software that will turn your PC into a teleprompter. It is called Ultra-prompter, and it is available from (free to try, $89.95 to buy). Besides practicing our lines, Kyle and I spent several days lining up the props and costumes we used in the video, including the cool lab coat you I'm wearing.

The folks at R2 hired a very professional videographer named Keith from a Pittsburgh company called Parish Digital. When the day shoot arrived, Keith was extremely impressed with how prepared we where. Virtually all of the scenes took only one or two takes, and what we though would take several days to shoot ended up taking less than a single day.

The finished DVD is 45 minutes long, and it turned out even better than we were hoping it would - and we had high hopes to begin with! In fact, its so much fun to watch, that the videographer said his girlfriend is asking for a copy of the R2 Fish School Kit for her upcoming birthday. Here is a picture of the DVDs menu system, which allows the viewer to quickly jump to a specific trick, or watch the entire DVD beginning to end:

It was a heck of a lot of work to put together, but we're confident people will really love the DVD, along with the rest of the Fish School training kit when it hits stores and on-line retailers in early February.


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