Software FX turned to Mediascend to produce 100 engaging videos and a video player that could integrate into SharePoint's web and desktop-based interfaces.
Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 is an expansive collaboration platform that has been widely adopted by companies eager to improve organizational effectiveness. SharePoint has a huge feature set and is useful for many situations, so the need for training has been great and has resulted in Help Desk flooding with standard SharePoint questions and issues. Many companies turned to corporate training firms to conduct long and boring seminars, often at a high cost and low knowledge retention rate. Seeing this opportunity, Software FX and SharePoint guru Devereaux Milburn of Portalogiks decided to develop a product that provides SharePoint training videos, covering a wide variety of topics from beginner basics to advanced developer capabilities. This product came to be known as VTC for SharePoint 2007.
Software FX turned to Mediascend to produce and integrate over 4 1/2 hours of footage. They wanted 100 short, engaging, and professionally produced videos that are easily integrated right into the SharePoint Portal. The videos are categorized in a way that make it easy for SharePoint users to browse and access a particular training module to answer a specific, immediate need. This product would ensure that SharePoint help content would be easy to find, permanent, and engaging within an installed video suite.
Mediascend was responsible for producing all 100 of the videos, within a limited budget and time frame to meet Software FX's aggressive product release deadline. Production quality was critical, as most software videos are so boring that people "zone out" after less than a minute. Considering SharePoint is generally a web site with lists of data, this was no easy task. In addition, Mediascend had to provide a video player that could integrate into SharePoint's web-based interface as well as a desktop application created by Software FX developers.
Rather than produce one video at a time, we took an assembly line approach. This needed done carefully and thoughtfully, as the raw assets included:
Automation in video production is a relatively new concept. We harnessed the power of automation by experimenting and integrating with XML text formats of our post-production suite, Final Cut Pro. Our software developers built a database with all the information needed for each video. Then they wrote code to perform an editing task, such as putting the VTC logo over the video, to all videos at once.
Dealing with so many videos in this project, traditional editing would have been very tedious and time consuming. For example, adding music to each of the 100 hundred videos would have involved dragging multiple music tracks into each video's timeline and mixing them a hundred times over! The bulk approach allowed us to achieve this task with the click of a button. We applied this same approach to even more complex issues such as animated title intros and bullet lists, which have to be connected to an external program to handle the animation. Simply put, we cut production time in half by meticulously organizing assets within a project database and assembling them through a program we wrote.
The output of all the videos was almost 10GB! Since VTC was deployed to each customer's server, the videos had to be compressed. More compression equals smaller files but lessened quality. We took a small test set of videos and used 96 different compression settings to see what worked best for VTC. Together with Software FX, we chose one "high quality" setting and one "web quality" setting for the customer to chose from.
As video production proceeded, Mediascend had to help with VTC's technical challenges. VTC can be deployed on the web server, which required a customized Flash-based video player. We have a proprietary video player that is easy for us to customize. Luckily, the look and feel wasn't difficult, due mainly to Software FX's talented designers. Soon, Software FX would make a technology choice that hit us like a truck.
They decided to offer a version of VTC called Personal VTC. From the VTC web site:
The Personal VTC for SharePoint is the solution for individuals who want to get access to SharePoint training without the need for multiple users in your organization to access the training modules directly through SharePoint. The Personal VTC installs locally on your computer, and is a stand-alone version of our training videos that does not require an active internet connection.
The Personal VTC is not web based. It's a regular Windows program, developed using .NET Windows Forms (WinForms). Software FX builds software for a living, so it wasn't difficult for them to make a program to view the videos locally (with encryption to avoid piracy). But our player was built in Flash and intended for web use. We were able to use some software wizardry to create a component for WinForms that integrated our player into their app. We used the exact same player as the web version!
The VTC project was a total success. Software FX jumped head first into the video world and we were happy to help. VTC launched as hoped and is doing great. To learn more about Software FX VTC, check out http://www.softwarefx.com/sharepoint/VTC/
Mediascend made it easy for us to build a cutting edge video product with little prior experience in video. They produced a large amount of video and integrated a nifty player with speed and style.
We were impressed by Mediascend's technology and we think it offers a valuable teaching and learning experience for programmers.
Your production department is great! We shot a promotional video and the turnaround time and quality was exceptional. You created exactly what we envisioned.
The video has done well as a selling tool. When you see multiple views in the same prospect organization, you know it’s doing the job.
It takes creativity and understanding to visualize benefits rather than just showing software feature screenshots. Mediascend did that for us.
Perfect audio track, brilliant editing in a very short time at a reasonable price...truly video artists. Mediascend exceeded our expectations and we look forward to working with them again.
Software FX turned to Mediascend to produce 100 engaging videos and a video player that could integrate into SharePoint's web and desktop-based interface. Read More