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Plugging in to Google Maps

26 Jan

To ensure that the Tech Talk on the Google Maps integration with SugarCRM was included in Epicom’s monthly newsletter, the video had to posted 3 business days after the scheduled interview date. Because the backdrop for the EchoSign Tech Talk was received so well, it made sense to repurpose the same framing in a press for time. Amanda and I agreed that the picture should differ, even if only slightly, than the one before, so some plants were moved around and Greg was positioned to take up more surface area. The lighting came out great this time, richening the browns in the wood and highlighting the tones in Greg’s skin. We placed a small LED light behind his head to give him separation from the background, but minutes before go time, it kept flashing on and off. The light works fine now. A rule of thumb in production – everything that can go wrong will. Given that, the light wasn’t absolutely crucial, so we decided to leave it off and move forward with the interview. Looking at the video now, it would have been nice to have that light, since the black in the background is the same shade of Greg’s hair color. But, we chose our battle and the composition came out fine.

Undoubtedly a cause of all the practice I have received here, I was able to transcribe this interview and make the 1st edit in record time. Most of the screencasts and images were taken from a blog post Amanda wrote on the same subject. I think maps make for great visuals in general, and fit nicely as references to the narrative spelled out by Greg.

He states that Epicom built upon the JJWDesign Google Maps plug-in available on Sugar Forge, which allows users to plot multiple points associated with different modules on a map. For instance, both leads and accounts can be plotted at the same time. It is included with a feature that allows users to specify a radius from this plotted center point and conduct a search for all other modules that contain addresses within this radius. Users can then plot their own custom points.

Epicom built upon this plug-in by creating a drop down field that gives users the option to assign custom markers. After the chosen points are plotted on the map, Epicom’s customized feature provides users with driving directions between the plotted points. The bubble that pops up when a center point is moused over includes information about the company type and its sales volume. So if the Sales Team is making a visit to it’s company’s clients, it can factor in opportunity size and business relevance when deciding on which leads to visit on the way back.

I think this Tech Talk gives SugarCRM a grounding quality, since people who watch, regardless of their CRM background, can most likely relate to Google’s mapping function. Unexposed eyes may open up to the world of CRM once they recognize that familiar features like this can be worked within it.

This was Greg’s last Tech Talk. I will always be thankful for the time he generously lent to teaching me about music composition. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him on projects like these and on other company outings. He will be missed!

When Certain Conditions Are Met

24 Jan

In the effort of expanding our customers’ resources and furthering their system education, we have added to the SugarCRM “Tips and Tricks” series. Danny was assigned to demo this video recording of SugarCRM Workflows, which he describes as, “actions that will happen automatically in the system when certain conditions are met.” In this particular example, Danny navigates to the Workflow Definitions tab through the admin panel to designate an email alert that fires to certain recipients after the status of the Cases module is changed to or from a specified value.

The set-up for a workflow in Sugar is intuitive, as there are a list of subpanels that are marked with the titles, “conditions,” “alerts,” “alert recipients,” and “actions,” all of which provide options that allow users to customize definitions to fit the circumstances of their business. Say for instance an engineer is working on a project closely with a client, and a constant communicative exchange of information occurs between them. Often times review, approval, or insight is needed from the other party before progress can continue. In predetermining this give and take relationship, where a certain procedure is expected to take place repeatedly (i.e., an update is made and requires review), a workflow rule can be defined so that actions and alerts pertaining to this condition are directly automated within the CRM.

This is the longest training video I have posted, totaling in at 9 minutes. But Danny’s wisdom of the system creates intrigue. He only delves into thorough detail when necessary, thus striking a perfect balance between usability education and user intuition. I think those accustomed to Sugar and apt to learn will find this a fun watch.

The EchoSign Plug-In

20 Jan

The second Tech Talk topic assigned to me covers the integration Epicom built between EchoSign, an electronic signature service, and SugarCRM. Having the ability to streamline the signing process is incredibly valuable, apparently because often times it is difficult to quickly attain the signatures that officially stamp deals as “closed.” Even with fax machines and emails, there are too many steps involved. In this technology induced quick paced society, people need convenience and immediacy. With EchoSign, the recipient of a sent document is able to electronically sign it with a wave of their mouse, then with one click it is sent back. Done deal.

EchoSign was referred to Epicom in its pursuit of building the e-signature plug-in for SugarCRM. Once it is installed and the API key in entered, Sugar users can immediately start sending out documents through their CRM system. Multiple documents can be attached and merged into single PDF’s and signature orders can be designated. The CRM sends the contract to all recipients included, and keeps track of the each event where it is signed by a party. Once the signing process it completed, the document is automatically stored in the CRM database.

 

I wanted to make sure that I paid particular attention to the framing for this Tech Talk, and allotting an amount of preparatory scouting time well in advance proved to be worthwhile. The framing turned out great. I learned a valuable lesson from the only thing I would change – be aware of all lighting sources, and remember that the sun moves.

 

That is the Question

19 Jan

In a discussion held over pint night, I was told that 2 opposing personalities persist. Some make certain that their deadlines are met no matter what, even if the quality of the product is compromised. Others make efforts in the interest of product perfection, and in the struggle to settle for nothing less, deadlines are consequently missed.

For the InnoTech video project, I began with a belief that having as much footage as possible creates more options, and ultimately, a better finished piece. In post, I found myself with 5 interviews, 900 still images and over 2 hours of b-roll. Inescapably, all dialogue has to be transcribed and all footage must be logged. It is important to keep a record and become familiar with the options available, especially when there are multiple at hand. Recognizing which takes are usable is easy, and fun. Deciding then, which ones to keep and which ones to kill, is a challenge.

Finding a correlation between the 5 interviews conducted was rewarding, because all of the subjects were involved in very different fields. Though all deal in the tech realm, they come from opposite ends of the spectrum. There is some awesome dialogue that was captured that I still wish would have been exposed in the video, but it just wasn’t relative to the narrative. Maybe it belongs in another video down the road, but until then, it will remain unused.

It’s difficult to measure whether or not the right choices are being made. Is this shot better than the other? Does it belong here? Is the right message being sent? Decisiveness is the responsibility of the videographer. At the end of the day, the best foot must be put forward, judgment must be trusted, and no matter how you slice it, a decision must be made.

If I was forced to identify to one of the 2 personality types, it would probably be the latter. Though I was working on other projects simultaneously, it took nearly 2 months for the InnoTech project to conclude. It would have been in better interest had I taken it upon myself to set a more reasonable deadline, but nonetheless, it was missed. I blame contemplation.

I am extremely happy with the final edit! And it is not perfect. The truth is, there is always room for improvement, for revision.  While the hunger for excellence provides a driving determinism, perfection seeking can produce a product of diminishing returns, if you are not careful.

I have decided to adopt a new, ideal ethic, wherein which my deadlines are met and my work is the best that it can be.

Less is More

12 Jan

Epicom has undergone a year of experimentation with different conference events, local and out-of-state, to see if the benefits prove to be worthwhile enough to outweigh travel costs, resource expenditure and time out of the office. From what I’ve learned here so far, these types of events provide solid networking opportunities and a real chance for companies to get their name recognized by other industry professionals, especially if they are presenting or exhibiting. For the DEMOgala event in Denver, Bill was invited to participate on a panel discussion alongside some of Epicom’s partners and competitors. The healthy debate was well received by attendees and ignited some traffic flow to the Epicom booth, where Amanda and Mike engaged them with Epicom insights and product demonstrations.

Although it was not outlined in the Project Plan, the idea of using video to cover conference events came up during a meeting. Unfortunately I could not fit in the pocket of Amanda’s carry-on, but the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 we had just ordered did. Doubling as a video recorder, this camera comes equipped with a smooth zoom function that Amanda used to capture a stylistic establishing shot of the DEMOgala sign. Tons of photos were taken of the attendees that gathered in front of the podiums and on the exhibition floor. My job was to glue the pieces together in post.

A couple weeks after DEMOgala, Epicom decided to exhibit at InnoTech Austin 2011. We knew that we wanted a video product covering this conference, and because it was local, I was able to plan multiple interviews before, during and after the event. Bill and Amanda were the subjects in the very last interview recorded. One question just so happened to spark a conversation about DEMOgala. The event left a good impression on them both, which might explain why the topic surfaced so naturally. They spoke highly about the manner in which the event was organized, its key speakers, and the focus it had on a particular tech track and theme. Because I did not have any dialogue to accompany the DEMOgala video, I was under the impression that I would have to backtrack and either record a script detailing the event or conduct another interview. Instead I was able to pull these key phrases from the InnoTech interview and compile them into a cohesive narrative for DEMOgala.

I myself did not capture any of the footage from Denver, and I merely stumbled upon the narrative unintentionally. I tried composing a music piece in Soundtrack Pro, but quickly found a music bed that resinates much better than the noise I was cooking up. By careful consideration of the resources available, this project was  successfully pieced together. In fact, I feel that it fell right into place. I am proud to have played a part in it and I am happy to say that it was well received by the folks at the Colorado Technology Association as well.

Open Invitation

29 Nov
What does it take to build a relationship? A desire to connect, a willingness to trust. People are only convinced that their time is worth investing  when they find reason to relate to another. In business, people are especially cautionary about investing in a relationship because it will effect their entire organization. So how do you stand out as an attractive option? How do you ignite curiosity? Employee bios are a great way to underscore the personable traits within a company’s community. It gives prospective customers a chance to relate on levels that don’t necessarily pertain to business matters. Dedicating an entire page to a description about an employee’s personal background shows that the company values it’s components, but the same message would truly resonate with an employee bio video. If people have access not only to a personal story, but the face and voice to which the story belongs, the door is already open, inviting them in to educate themselves further. If then, both parties find a common ground on which they can connect, a way in which they can leverage each other’s capabilities, and a reason to trust that actions will be taken in each other’s best interests, a leap of faith can be taken and a new relationship can begin.

Tips and Tricks go Live!

8 Nov

The “Tips and Tricks : Studio” videos have been uploaded to YouTube! After the finishing touches have been put on Epicom’s video library build, we will have 12 new videos to add to the training section. Anthony has a made-for-radio voice and Amanda polished the clips with cool intro and outro slides. I definitely know how to navigate my way around the studio function within Sugar at this point. In editing, I tried to keep the tutorials as succinct as possible. The longest one so far is just over 6 minutes because it combines an in-depth explanation of subpanels and their direct correlation to relationships. This is a longer time frame than I would normally set to a viral video, but since we’re talking training, people might dedicate more of their time if they are looking to learn something specifically and have the opportunity to receive free training. In videos where the only image is a screen shot, the voice is everything. Anthony is energetic and thorough in his speech, with a tonality that intrigues listeners to hear more, learn more. I hope Sugar users will find value in these and take advantage.

These videos are overdue on their deadlines. Final touches like exporting and audio sweetening are more time consuming than I predetermined them to be, or would like them to be. But boy does it feel good to finally check this to-do off of my list!

Moving Pictures

28 Oct

The InnoTech trailer is up! This is the first time-lapse I have ever had a hand in creating. It would not have been possible without Epicom’s investment in QuickTime Pro, Amanda’s idea of employing this technique for the set-up of Epicom’s booth, and Justin, who knows a thing or twenty about time-lapse and generously lent his expertise and intervalometer. For those new to the concept, the video consists of a series of pictures that, in this case, are taken every 3 seconds (the intervalometer is responsible for this setting). There is no actual moving picture, but when placed back-to-back, a motion effect is created. We plan on doing another time-lapse for the construction of Epicom’s new office space. This was kind of our test run. As you can see, we had a lot of fun with this experiment and I am very proud of the way it turned out!

 

The “Tips and Tricks: Studio” videos have yet to be posted due to logistical issues. The good news is that more time has been freed to look into video layout designs that will best suit Epicom’s site.

Yesterday I had the privilege of scouting locations for the upcoming Tech Talk on the integration between EchoSign and SugarCRM at Bill’s house. An amount of time was blocked off so that I could play around with the framing, lighting, and background until I got it just right. Bill is an experienced and knowledgeable photographer, and since photography is the backbone of cinematography, I found the advice he gave me to be very beneficial. Especially in interview settings where the camera is stationary on a tripod and the only thing moving is the subject’s talking head, the process of composing a shot is almost identical to that of a photo. In video (or any field for that matter), preparation is key. Time is money, so it is crucial to have your ducks in a row before you execute. The video, not the ducks. I feel good and ready this time and am very excited about this Tech Talk! We shoot (footage) next week.

Chasing Inno Tech

24 Oct

Last Thursday there was a strange and unusual occurrence – I was awake and at the office at 7 in the morning. Fortunately, the reasoning sufficed. Amanda and I were there to carpool to Inno Tech, an annual conference in Austin that brings industry professionals together to share trend insights, demonstrate recent innovations, and network. It is a place where members of the local tech community can exchange ideas about where the community currently stands and where they believe it is headed. My job was to capture the energy of the atmosphere, particularly from Epicom’s experience. The final video will aim to summarize Epicom’s role within the event as well as the event itself. We recorded a few select presentations followed with interviews from the speakers and I was able to snag additional interviews with willing attendees inbetween time. Our neighboring booth was sponsored by a non-profit organization that upholds online security. One presenter I had the privilege of speaking with is working with the state to find ways to make the internet accessible to people with disabilities. There’s nothing quite like listening to interesting ideas that come from sharp people, dedicated to securing the future for the better. The more I find out about the tech world, the more I like it and recognize it’s essentialism. It being my first conference and my first on-the-spot shooting challenge, the experience was very exciting for me personally. I had many opportunities to practice pulling focus and stabilizing handheld shots. I love shooting B roll at social events, because if you are skilled at it, the shots are candid, which in my opinion, makes for the best footage. The strangers I became acquainted with were so easy to engage and eager to help that I felt welcomed as a newbie and proud to be living in Austin.

The video will be posted within the next week or so. A teaser trailer will be submitted tomorrow that includes a time-lapse of Epicom’s set up of it’s designated space within the Inno Tech conference – Booth # 512!

Compensation for Having Fun

14 Oct

The equipment came in yesterday! A brand new Canon EOS 7D camera with a 28-135 mm lens, a 32 GB card and a handy specified user guide thick enough to put my college text books to shame. Bill advised me to familiarize myself with the oh-so sweet settings and functions of the camera (there are tons!) while he is away at DemoGala. I keep touching it as if it were a newborn baby, but according to Justin it is actually durable enough to survive a fall or a rainstorm. Neither situation will ever come to be. The tripod and lights will be here next week, just in time for Innotech! I am hoping to get some good interviews to capture the buzz of the conference. I also now have the means to storyboard after I take pictures while scouting locations to shoot. :)

The “Tips and Tricks” videos are coming right along. I have broken the sections up into different edits so that they can be organized into chapters on the website. Giving Amanda a chance to review them first, they won’t be posted until next week.

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