We continue advancing broadly across our suite of modules, and in trying to determine a theme for this week’s release, I suppose it comes down to “parts”. If you’re an administrator of a project and a participant checks out a video, it can be useful to know what within that video were checked out. The impact of praise, or of condemnation, may vary based on how much of a video was watched and even what specific portions, so we’ve now put this auditing into the project’s activity feed (just for the view of people who are administrators of the project’s account). Another context in which granular specificity is useful is communications about a script — when calling someone’s attention, may want to hone in on specific portions of a script, so we now allow a scene range to be set in sharing functionality of the script. Check out both of these features in demo below.
As our base diversifies, including expanding use on bigger budget production projects that tend to involve longer footage, customers increasingly request that our player functionality be immediately and comprehensively available for any portion of small or large video files. Our initial player functionality has been based on progressive download, meaning that once a video is requested, it loads in timeline order, and later portions of the video aren’t immediately available until the download catches up. As part of our assessment, and after experiments with a few commercial streaming servers, we determined the best approach for us is to engineer and implement our own approach to dynamic streaming, which we’ve spent the past month or so developing, along with a few other cool annotative player features, demonstrated here:
To assure good customer experiences, and even though we’ve already extensively tested, we haven’t yet turned on the new dynamic streaming for everyone, and we’re asking for volunteers. If you would like us to turn on dynamic streaming for (a) particular project(s) of yours, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com letting us know which project(s) and we’ll do so. Once we confirm that video play and annotative interactivity works robustly across projects, video files and users, we’ll turn on dynamic streaming everywhere, which should occur during February 2010.
Dynamic streaming, like its name indicates, allows users to click anywhere within timeline of a video immediately upon load, and play of video from that requested point is immediately responsive. Also, in implementing the architecture we have also allowed for Flash (.flv) and H.264 (ex: .mp4, .m4v) videos to be in-the-clear in our player so they do not get transcoded, meaning that they are immediately available for play upon upload, and that they are played at full quality of the source content with no modification. Videos of other formats do still have to be transcoded to Flash for our player, although from the File Actions button in our player, the original states of those videos can be downloaded with full fidelity for file-transfer purposes including to see un-modified in a compatible player. One more change we made to our player is allowing j-k-l keyboard shortcut navigation back-play/pause-forward, and the same for left and right directional arrows and space-bar, with additional benefit of visual fast-forward and rewind by holding down the appropriate keys.
The player enhancements are demonstrated in the screen-capture video towards the top of this blog post. Other enhancements with this release include:
Continuing last couple of months’ theme, we’ve made still more speed improvements, especially this time for loads of project home pages
Improved layout and presentation on printouts of pages from Script, Task and Event modules
Easier flow for inviting new members to projects
Activity feed reflects the first time a new member logs into a project
And again, please do email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com letting us know projects of yours you’d like us to move to dynamic streaming immediately so that you can try it out (and please let us know how it works for you).
A month or so ago Andrew Angus of our customer Switch Marketing pointed out that often his firm starts multiple simultaneous projects with a single set of clients. The way our software was working, the participating clients would have to accept individual invitations to each project. He pointed out that this can be a nuisance to his clients, and that sometimes people don’t at first go through accepting each invitation resulting in their not gaining access to every project. So, his recommendation was to change our software such that when two people have been in a project together before, when one of them invites the other to a new project, the addition should be automatic with no need to accept an invitation. We agreed, and built it, and are grateful to Andrew.
Automatic addition of prior team-mates to project means no invitation acceptances which is of course mostly a benefit for video.Market7 users, but Michael Haley of our customer Bars + Tone pointed out to us that after we made that change this also can mean no notification of some new team members’ arrival in projects’ activity feeds. He finds it useful to know when first log-ins happen, which makes sense to us too. So, using our agile development practices, we wrote a story in Pivotal Tracker that when an experienced video.Market7 user first into a project a new project of theirs, that occurance should go to the project’s activity feed.
Next week all of our customers will benefit from both Andew’s and Michael’s good ideas after we release new code that includes the latest customer-driven development ideas which our engineers just completed programming.
While initially building video.Market7 we presumed that a typical production would involve sharing of a few cuts of footage towards the final product plus occasional collection of some integrated assets like graphics that appear within video. So we built our Files module to be a single, simple repository for everything assembled within a project, thinking that just sorting the list according to certain criteria would be sufficient to organize and find. In fact our customers are using projects in our service to collect much more content including storyboard elements, headshots of actors & scouting shots of locations, b-roll & other footage to be integrated into production, and various planning & organizational documents. Several have asked for better capabilities to work with larger amounts of documents and media typically assembled in a project so we are in the midst of enhancing our files capabilities, the latest aspect of which is folder-based organization:
Another point that’s come up more than once from our users is that awaiting review, feedback and approval about content is a frequent source of anxiety. So we’ve included viewing of video, files and published scripts as activity feed generating items, whether or not the viewer makes comments. And instead of having to constantly log into a project to check its activity feed, we now allow users to subscribe to projects’ feeds by email, including control over which modules they want to follow and how frequently emails should go out:
There are a couple other new features in this release, also responsive to customer requests. Uploading content now includes availability of an “alternative uploader”, based on HTML instead of Flash, that may prove more robust for large files (like 1-2 GB). We are working towards bringing such robustness to our Flash uploader too but there are a few current challenges for that in industry practice, acknowledged and under consideration by the relevant technical community. Also, video.Makret7 project-owners now have the ability to edit other team members’ comments in our Annotative Player which could be used to clean up clutter of comments after decisions have been made or to resynchronize comments if a file’s been replaced with a newer version that has timeline alterations.
Your entire production team will know more (about what is going on in your video production) as a result of our most current release. To start with, our Activity Feed was the recipient of a much needed makeover. Now, right from the project homepage, you can instantly see exactly what has been happening on your video projects.
Has the customer viewed the video? Find out!
Was the script updated? Find out!
Are they reading anything I am writing? It’s right there in the Project Activity Feed.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Event Management page now has an easy to read calendar view to ensure you don’t miss or double book over those important production meetings.
And finally, as a bonus, we added an rollover image viewer to allow you to preview images with their relevant data right within the list, accessible from the activity feed, main File Management page, or media column in the Collaborative Script (no more clicking and waiting to get a larger view).
Here we demonstrate the highlights of the new features: