I recently interviewed the talented AutoCAD instructor Jeff Bartels and asked him how he got involved with AutoCAD, with lynda.com, and what his recording process is like.
How did you get started with AutoCAD? Walk us through the story.
My big brother Jerry was the one who encouraged me to learn AutoCAD. He’s not really a “big brother” in the standard sense; Jerry is five minutes older than me. I am the middle child of triplets. It was around 1994 and at that time, Jerry was the CAD manager for a small civil engineering firm. He was also teaching AutoCAD courses in the evenings at Elgin Community College. I had always wanted to work in the field of Architecture or Engineering, so I attended his classes and after finishing, I began my career working alongside him as a member of his CAD staff. I absolutely loved my job. When I wasn’t using AutoCAD to produce construction drawings, I was reading AutoCAD reference manuals searching for tools that I could use for my projects. Over the years, I developed my skills and began teaching AutoCAD courses of my own, as well as providing on-site AutoCAD training for area businesses. At present time, I am the CAD manager at a civil engineering firm and I produce training videos for lynda.com.
What do you use AutoCAD for? How do you use it professionally?
I use AutoCAD to produce construction drawings for civil engineering projects. To be more specific, I use a program called Civil 3D, which is built on top of AutoCAD. I use the program to create plan sets ranging from roadway projects to subdivisions, commercial site plans, wetland delineations, drainage studies, and surveys. AutoCAD is used by a broad spectrum of disciplines. They include architects, civil/mechanical/structural engineers, surveyors, military, corporate sales, interior designers, and so on. Wherever you find things being designed, built, or assembled you will find AutoCAD.
How did you and lynda.com start working together? Were you familiar with Lynda and lynda.com?
I first learned of lynda.com when I found the free 30-day trial that was packaged with Adobe Dreamweaver. After visiting the site, I was amazed at the amount of training that was available AND the fact that you could purchase it on subscription. I wondered if lynda.com had considered offering AutoCAD courses, so I sat down and wrote a letter proposing the idea and offered to help. The next day I received a phone call from lynda.com, and things just worked out from there.
When you first started recording content for lynda.com, I think I remember hearing that you recorded the entire course at home, listened to it on your iPod, made corrections, re-recorded, and listened again, before coming out to record the “real” version with us in Ventura. Is that true?
I guess I’m kind of obsessive-compulsive when it comes to recording. When doing the first few titles, I wanted to make sure everything went smoothly in the sound booth, so I mapped out the entire course ahead of time. I created my table of contents first, and then I recorded each video at home using Camtasia. I edited the videos myself and created an outline for each one to document the order in which I would be covering the material. Finally, I extracted the audio from the files and put it on my iPod. This way I could review everything during my commute to and from work, and while I was on the plane ride to California. As crazy as that sounds, that preparation work made the studio recording easy. I had a printed outline for each video, and I had reviewed the material several times beforehand.
Is that still your process now that you record a lot of courses in your home studio?
Actually, my process hasn’t changed too much. Having the home studio allows me to eliminate some steps. I can upload my videos now, rather than filling up the iPod. And, I’m free to listen to whatever I want on the way to work.
What is your home studio like?
I’ve got a Whisper Room sound isolation enclosure. It’s really given me peace of mind when I’m recording because I don’t have to worry about ambient noise anymore. It also makes for a great conversation piece when people come over to visit because it looks like I have a bank vault sitting in the living room.
How is the recording process different at home? What kind of equipment do you use?
The recording process is actually harder to do at home. You have to stay focused, set goals, and remember your priorities. It definitely requires a very serious time commitment. And you are still working with producers, albeit remotely, so if you get lazy, they still step in to crack the whip.
Where can members find out more about your training, or more AutoCAD tips from you?
I will be teaching Advanced AutoCAD at Elgin Community College starting mid March through the end of the year, and people are always welcome to follow me on Twitter where I regularly post tips and shortcuts. Also, look out for some new video training, and articles coming soon.
Finally, I have to ask. What is up with Count Chocula on the desk in your recording booth?
Count Chocula acts as my “audience” when I’m in the booth recording. As odd as it sounds, it’s much easier speaking when there is someone in there listening.