• United States

All about testing

May 21, 20044 mins
Data Center

Literally. We’ve got two new presentations online that look at the ins and outs of testing various technologies. Joel Snyder discusses SSL VPN gear in this presentation, while David Newman looks at what goes into examining 10 Gigabit Ethernet options in this presentation. This exercise also gave me a chance to test out Microsoft Producer 2003, the free add-on for PowerPoint that synchronizes slides, audio, video and more and displays it all in a Web browser (not just IE either, though that’s recommended).

Last week at Networld+Interop I taped Snyder’s and Newman’s presentations using our DV camera with a telescopic microphone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tap directly into the room’s audio, but the clarity is good nonetheless. Also, the lighting, especially with Joel standing in front of a projector screen, is not ideal. Anyhow, I sucked the video into Pinnacle Studio for some very minor editing then output the final cut into a high-bitrate Windows Media file. Windows Media 9 Encoder compressed the video file down more to make it stream at around 100K bit/sec. (I used Windows Media Encoder for the streamed version because I like its flexibility.)

Both Joel and David were nice enough to send over their PowerPoint presentations, so I imported both the video and slides into Producer and set to work. During both video shoots, I managed to write down the times (based on the timecode) that each presenter advanced to the next slide (Producer has a PowerPoint plug-in that will do this automatically, but I didn’t really think about that in advance.) The only issue was my written down times were based on the beginning of the tape, but I chopped off a bit of the beginning for the final cut. For Newman’s presentation, I got lucky and removed 30 seconds, so adjusting the times was easy. I just went through and manually set the start times for each slide.

On Snyder’s presentation I wasn’t so lucky. For some reason, my jotted down times didn’t really sync well with the presentation I could see in the video’s background, so I use Producer’s synchronization tool. Basically, you watch the presentation and click the “next slide” button at the appropriate time. (Thankfully, as you can see in the video, it’s easy to tell when Joel advanced slides). What’s cool about the synchronization tool is that it also let’s you sync up the effects for each slide. What’s not so cool is you have to sit through the whole presentation – 40 minutes in this case.

Publishing was pretty easy, especially with this handy document. If you’re pushing out to a pre-defined SharePoint server then it’s basically a point-and-click operation. For me, my HTML files were going to one server (not IIS) and the video to another (our streaming service provider). In the old version of Producer, I don’t think this was possible. But with the new one, a simple change in the .ASX file and we were good to go.

One issue that I couldn’t find help for on the Microsoft site is the video file naming convention. Even though Producer didn’t have to re-encode my video since it was already game-ready, it did rename it to “0MM0.wmv”. It does that for every project. Since only one video file per project was going to our service provider storage farm, I was hoping to use only one directory to help keep the directory hierarchy somewhat sane. But obviously, you can’t have two files named the same thing in the same directory. Fortunately, the folks at Producer Pros answered by plea for help pretty quickly: You can just rename the video file and change the ASX file to reflect the new name. Problem solved.

Producer still creates a whole mess of files in order to pull off its magic and this can lead to some slow load times when you initially visit the presentation. Hopefully future versions will reduce the number of files Producer outputs.

Overall, I was pretty pleased with the results.