June 2009 - Posts

Buds appearing on long-imagined ETC Product Wiki

I've noticed that David Lincecum, Father of ETC's Online Community, hasn't been his just-on-the-sunny-side-of-giddy self this week. He's been even giddier. While it could be attributed to any number of things - say his recent business trip back to California, or his yoga class with this guy, or Fred's ice cream cart - I'm betting its the recent boom in content on the ETC Product Wiki that really has him smiling. Have you noticed our wiki? Check it out!

We haven't always known precisely where we're headed with the ETC Online Community - and you know, I don't think that's a negative with this kind of initiative. To prove my point, the wiki portion of the Community has been one of those should we/shouldn't we, how about this/how about that, you manage it/no you manage it, maybe today/maybe tomorrow ideas that we've wrestled with for some time. But now, somewhat organically and somewhat opportunistically, the ETC Product Wiki is beginning to find its legs.

Like the forums that have made our Online Community such a huge gathering place for ETC end users, customers, staff and more, I have a feeling we'll soon wonder how we ever got along without our wiki, too.

Posted by john.kuehl | with no comments

Good Humor Man

Is it the 95-degree heat, or did I just see Fred riding a bike down the hallway? And was the bike rigged with a freezer full of ice cream bars and a string of bells? And, was he dressed like the Good Humor Man?

 

Posted by john.kuehl | 1 comment(s)
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Another Periodic Table!

With our Periodic Table of Element still top of mind around here, a link to this periodic table of video game controllers just lept out at me today on Twitter (via @Rands).

Posted by john.kuehl | 1 comment(s)
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Congo v6 Previews at ABTT (London) and Showtech (Berlin) shows in June

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So, what have the Congo team been up to since the release of v5 you may ask? Simple – we’ve been busy designing a new version of Congo software we hope will please you. This version – v6 – contains some massive, but subtle (and some not so subtle), changes to the internal structure of Congo making it even more flexible. Here are some highlights:

1)      More Preset numbers – from 0.001 to 9999.999.

2)      Finer timing resolution under 10 seconds – 0.01 to 9.99 seconds now possible.

3)      Increased intensity resolution with the support of 16-bit intensity parameters.

Channel Views

We’ve changed up the channel views a bit by redesigning the way channels are displayed and have given you a lot more options for how much information is displayed within a channel box. We’ve also added a set of new symbols in the Channel Layouts supporting more TV/film fixtures and adding special purpose symbols as well. And you can now draw circles!

Blind Editing

We have also changed the way that blind editing is done, allowing for live moving light controls to be used within blind views. This means that instead of using table editing like one would in a spreadsheet, you can view blind data and move encoders, use direct selects and other keyboard commands to select channels and enter data directly, as you would in Live.

New Docks

We have added a number of new docks including the Designer Summary dock which collects important data about the main playback and/or selected channels and puts it in one compact location on-screen. We’ve added a Timecode dock displaying a large clock for internal or external time code, and have enhanced Congo’s functionality with support of the Net3 Show Control Gateway for interaction with MIDI and SMPTE on the network as well as adding an internal backup clock within Congo itself. There’s also the new Selected – Live dock that shows the channels and effect playbacks you’ve selected in the Live tab

Learn Profile

As for playback improvements, we have added the ability to learn a fade profile for crossfades in the Main Playback. Simply enable “Learn Profile” on a soft key and then move the faders in the manner you want the crossfade to happen. We’ve also added in an indication of the current playback location (what’s in A and B) within the Sequence List editor.

These changes are important for the day-to-day programming of Congo shows, but on the fun side, we have made a lot of improvements for those of you who like to “play” the console more like a musical instrument.

Masters, Masters, Masters...

First, we have increased the number of Master Playbacks to 80 and we’ve made a lot of changes to the Masters, allowing once-global settings to be applied per master – including rubberbanding and exclude-from-record. Also, we’ve added new settings including the ability to choose what look a rubberbanding master returns to – this can be the previous state (as it has been from the beginning of Congo), back to the main playback or to a designated preset. We have also improved the Masters display and dock so that you can see a lot more information about your masters, including more steps of a sequence on a master.

Jam Mode

We have done a lot of work on Jam mode, making it easier for you to determine what data gets generated and where that data ends up in your play. You can also regenerate data quickly using the new Jam Mode Wizard. For those who really like to play their console, we’ve added in Two Scene Masters where you can create a look “blind” using the top row of masters, then fade into that look in time using the Master Controls. The scene you created on the top row of masters becomes “live” on the bottom row of masters where you can make additional adjustments on the fly. This powerful feature of Congo v6 makes busking a breeze.

New Image Effects

Lastly, we’ve added another powerful effect to the Congo – Image Effects. Image Effects use the Effect Playback concept from v5 to associate a layout of channels (which create a graphical or positional relationship among included channels) with a source image or text. Parameters of the Effect Playback include positioning of the image on the layout, scale and aspect of that image/text, rotation, and effects like constant rotation, scaling or scrolling of that image or text.

Where can I see it???

Come and see Congo v6 in action at the ABTT show in London 10-11.June, or at the Showtech show in Berlin 16-18.June. Congo v6 software should be released later this summer.

Posted by sclausen | with no comments
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A new approach, design for Controls on etcconnect.com

We recently made several notable changes to the section of our website dedicated to presenting our Controls products (both Entertainment and Architectural). I wanted to share some of the thought process and strategic planning that went into this project to bring a little extra attention to it and to invite any comments on the changes.

Problems

The project to redesign this section of our website was intended to address several problems. Mainly:

  • We had recognized the existence and importance of our product families as a company, and had started to advertise around the idea, but we had not actively promoted these product relationships online. 
  • On etcconnect.com, all consoles from all families were treated just about equally, diluting efforts to brand and position our products among one another and against the competition. 
  • Our established method of segmenting entertainment and architectural control products just wasn't working.

Approach

You could say that we sought out to address these problems with nothing more than some basic marketing principles - defining our target more precisely and addressing the needs of that target more directly - and you'd be right to an extent. Especially when it comes to our three lines of architectural control systems under the Unison brand, which are well-articulated in their purpose and ideal applications. However, since our two flagship lines of entertainment controls are each functionally appropriate for a wide variety of lighting situations - a fact that the product managers for our controls products are very proud of - it was going to take a broader, more integrated approach to communicate the philosophical differences that could help users decide if they're a better fit for an Eos or Ion or for a Congo or Congo jr. So from a web marketing perspective, we aimed to solve our problems with the following strategies:

  • Raise the visibility of our product families, and let their unique personalities shine through.
  • Make product pages a true hub of relevant and related content.
  • Offer more decision-making resources.

Results

New Entertainment Controls "Product Category" page

New version of this page uses a fast-loading interactive Flash module to allow buyers to explore a little bit about all our product families without having to click through to a new page. Graphics are meant to convey a sense of each families style and personality -  the Congo family as being dynamic, fun, and effects-driven, for instance. Brief positioning copy gives newbies a hint at the strengths of the different products, and subtle visual accents help to distinguish them further. What was the single laundry list of product links is now multiple, short lists grouped by family, making individual products easy to find for repeat visitors. The links have rollover descriptions to help buyers get a little bit of information on consoles before deciding which one to check out. Cross-promotional bits below the product links call out other important news and and product features. An Architectural Control Systems version of this page was launched, too, with a separate navigation item under "Products", which resolves nicely one of three main problems outlined at the start of this post.

New Entertainment Controls "Product Family" page

Improvements to this page included, from the top down, the addition of a breadcrumb navigation; a rotating series of images highlighting the consoles that make up the selected family; a slick new series of tabs that instantly reveal more new content - a useful pop-up intra-family comparison chart, testimonials from actual product owners and users, and links to installation stories that previously had no linked connection whatsoever to the products they featured. Family consoles are obviously featured in a vertical list, with focused, meaningful and easily-digestible descriptions. All content is geared toward helping a buyer figure out if a family feels right, and if so, which of the offerings feels most right for them. Architectural version of this page is currently available for our new Mosaic Show Control family of products.


 

New Entertainment Controls Product page

With this template, many of the same elements are carried over from the old design, with some usability improvements made along the way. From the top down, again, you see the breadcrumb navigation to allow for easy browsing back to the family - or all the way back to the category page should a user decide to explore a different family; the new product photo gallery auto-rotates, and also offers more obvious buttons to manually do the same thing; a repeat of the positioning headline is followed by small icons that detail some of the core operational concepts associated with each console (we have more in store for these); a row of new links below the hero image links a user for the first time from a product page to the forum for that product on our Online Community; new tab design makes the full extent of product-related content much more obvious - and includes a new "Tech Specs" tab to give buyers a quick look at key facts and figures from our downloadable datasheets; and the potential is now there for really enhancing the description of each console's features.


 

Reactions?

Of course we're already monitoring our web traffic reports to see how and how often the new pages are being used, and will be continuing to fill in and enhance content (web projects seem to rarely reach a point of being totally "complete", especially when our products are always evolving). For instance, the new Tech Specs and Testimonials pages have been utilized by hundreds of site visitors already, and we expect that we'll be helping more current and potential ETC console operators than ever find our user forums - which would be a huge benefit for everyone.

Quantitative results aside, what are your reactions to these changes?

Posted by john.kuehl | 5 comment(s)
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A rejection letter from Apple . . . more iPhone app fun

Actually it was just a simple red dot followed by the word Rejected. The image below is a screenshot from our account on the app store.

It seems that Apple does not allow any use of a charity as an enticement to buy an App. No references to charity website or logos may exist.We can still offer the two versions and we will tell you about the charities on our own website. The charities will not be named on the App store. Either way, they are both great causes to support.

On a secondary note Apple says we must prove that the app works with our product!  (The Irony is that is does not actually work with many of our products!! See previous post!) We must submit a video of the App working with the product.

First I am struck by the Apple organization. They are really organized around this App business. Walk in to the Apple store and see App logos everywhere. They are really controlling the content on the phones and the quality of the content. I guess I should say "Kudos to Apple!"  But I am somehow left feeling resentful. Like Apple is the front running lemming, leading us all off a cliff!

Ironically this rejection comes on June 4. This morning I noticed this on my Facebook newsfeed. David Neuser (the only person on Facebook still going by Hussein) posted this tribute to the Apple II.

Maybe your asking yourself how the iRFR app developer, Chris Mizerak, took the news?

In his email explaining the situation he pointed out that making a video to prove that the App works only presented the challenge of deciding which finger would be shown setting the levels.

:-)

Posted by dlincecum | 4 comment(s)
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