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The making of our awareness courses

You remember E.T., right? I hope I'm not destroying your view of the world when I tell you that this alien being with the long thin neck is not, in fact, a real alien, but merely a puppet brought to life by (then) modern technology. At Increase Your Skills, we don't create Hollywood films, but we can at least have a say in the animation of our puppets. In fact, all of our courses are brought to life by these very puppets. In this blog post, we want to give you a little insight into our work and a look behind the scenes at the creation of our courses, with particular attention to our puppets.

Course Structure

Our animated puppets are probably the heart of our courses. But before they see the light of day, a certain amount of preparation is required. Firstly, we usually have a narrator whose voice the puppet's character is adapted from. Our puppets themselves represent diversity. We make sure that both genders and ethnicities are always equal. This is also reflected in the fact that people of all ages, with or without impairments and of all body types, are represented by our dolls. However, our main characters are not simply "thrown" into the course. Instead, they are given a detailed life story that allows them to become more human for our clients and us. In fact, we in the company also don't talk about characters as "puppets"; instead, we speak about them with their assigned name - which has a long process of creation behind it - as if they were a person in their own right. This also creates a closer bond for us as the creators of these dolls and thus a more realistic appearance.


Character Development IYS

Once the character has been created, it is time for the course. There are often two main characters in the course, with one usually explaining and asking questions and the other character answering. The main character then leads through the course using presentations and examples, quizzes, drag and drop elements and informative slides. The course is divided into an introduction, a middle and a final part. The courses are divided into headings such as "Password Security", "Social Engineering" and "Mobile Devices".

In storyboarding – that is, the drawing version of a script – we go through the text and consider in which rooms our character is standing, in which scenes you look over their shoulder (for example, when they look at the screen and read an email) or what other special features there might be in this course. We determine what is shown and how (text or graphics). In addition, when storyboarding, we record what background sounds are needed, for example, a telephone ringing or people murmuring. Our character then gives the presentations on whiteboards, a television or classically, on a PC. We make sure that there are at least three backgrounds for the puppets in each course. These are the lobby, the office and a conference room. Sometimes other locations are added, such as the outside of an entrance, computer rooms or public places like a café. We make sure that there is always a variety of backgrounds so that the characters are not standing in the same office twice in a row, for example. A little inside knowledge: since there are many plants in our offices at Increase Your Skills, we make sure that there are also many detailed, fresh plants in the offices of our courses. After all, a fresh learning environment is important – in real life as well as in digital life! Since learning is supposed to be fun, we aim to enhance this experience through many playful applications in our courses. We avoid the boredom caused by minute-long monologues, and the learning speed can also be individually determined through the variety of modules.

Course Development

Perhaps you are also interested in the technical part of our animations? Then we shall not disappoint you. Our puppets can move their arms, pupils, head and body, eyebrows and of course, their mouths. They have different hand poses, some can turn their heads, and they can even blink. Some dolls can also cry or even sweat at the touch of a button through a looped cycle. We also sometimes use so-called walk cycles, which means that the individual images of a sequence of a walking movement are reproduced in such a way that the end of this sequence corresponds to the beginning so that the impression of a continuous sequence of movements is created. The so-called dangle effect – i.e. defined physics – in turn, creates gravity, allowing hair to "dangle" or blow slightly in the wind. To make some of the animations even more realistic, some of them are animated via live motion capture, i.e. so-called face tracking by a webcam. Talking dolls, by the way, have lip synchronisation, created through an elaborate work process. There are twelve mouths that represent letters (some letters like D, T, N use the same mouth) and four mouths that represent "neutral", "smiling", "startled" and "pinched". A letter mouth is usually displayed for no longer than four frames. So you can see that it takes quite a bit of work and attention to detail to bring our puppets to life in the way they deserve.


Technical Character Development

We hope that this article has given you a little insight behind the scenes of our work with animations of our courses and especially our puppets. Remember not to be too disappointed the next time you see E.T. the alien; he won't have come directly from another galaxy but from the hands of some ingenious puppeteers. Instead, remember that this being – or at least its creator – also has feelings and emotions and that it is ultimately the result of an elaborate and detail-obsessed work process.