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Pushing the Presentation Envelope

December 10, 2012
at 7:49 am PST
The TechWiseTV Fundamentals series continues to enjoy a great run -- this concept of character animation and tight scripting we started with back in the early TrustSec and EnergyWise days, is still a complete joy to work on. We have learned a ton about getting the scripts tighter, writing to support visuals, how to stay technical and not try to say too much AND all the work that goes into storyboarding the visuals, working with artists and motion graphic experts.  There was an element, however, we had never considered before -- in my mind perhaps because I thought it was furthest from our capability.
Writing our own music.  Silly me, I was a musician in college but to be honest -- neither of us (Jimmy Ray or I) are musicians NOW.  But Jimmy Ray had an idea and frankly, nothing stops that man when we wants to learn or do something.

We had been invited to participate in this vendor competition at VMworld.  The idea was that we would be given a slot to make a pitch and so would Dell, HP, NetApp and EMC. This would be during Steve Herrod’s keynote and the audience would then vote on their favorite.  Our thought was that we should of course be as irreverent as we usually are and while still respecting Cisco, do something that nobody expected.
First -- the music
Nothing works better for tackling something new than just going for it..and having a tight deadline.  We had less than 4 weeks. We started with Jimmy Ray scripting out some lines using ‘Noun’ from Schoolhouse Rock as the basis. We then did our usual with all scripts and we fiddled back and forth until we thought it felt a little better…then I reached out to my music producer friend Ben Ryan with VisionTree.  He took our limited budget and began researching what I gave him about LISP (not an easy topic for a non-techie) and he did one of the most important things in my mind - he established the hook.  The hook is that repeatable chorus that when done in a commercial jingle kind of way gets inside your head.  I call these ‘earworms.’  He took his guitar and went back and forth with us on the lyrics, the music bed (very specific timing needed for both the contest and the animation goals) and then started giving us options on the musicians.  We wanted a simple sound and a good female voice.  He gave us all that and helped lock the track so we could then move quickly onto the artwork.

Then -- the Art
Fundamentals artwork has greatly improved over our now 25 or so episodes and THE big reason for this is our artist.  We started the series not really understanding the (now obvious) skill set differences in people who do art and people who make that art move on screen (motion graphics specialists).  We used to just skip the part and either draw it ourselves or buy simple images from stock houses. Once we split these two things up -- our Fundamentals TOOK OFF,  (we have now won 6 awards for Fundamentals).  The man behind the curtain making our art look so fantastic is Paul Bateman.   Paul is a conceptual film artist (new term to me at the time). He is hired very very early in the process of film design when directors are working to create new worlds or certain looks.  Paul is friends with several of our Producers and we met him when and his wife gave our whole team a fantastic guided tour of some great places in London including an unauthorized jaunt through Pine Wood Studios back in 2011.  After learning more about him, we proposed a few pilots and started sharing our storyboards.  Well, Paul is fantastic for bouncing ideas off of and as we continue to improve our workflow, we are now trying to engage his brain a little earlier in the process.  Paul was of course very familiar with the Schoolhouse Rock concept, the primary colors used and the way in which images would interact with each other.  He took Jimmy Ray’s crude drawings, our script and music and gave us what you see today in the final video.
The Motion
Our final step in the typical fundamentals process is the motion graphics work.  I will talk more about that part in the future, but in a nutshell, we have been using a team of people at Alchemy Creative in the San Francisco area and have never been more pleased at their ability to take our ideas even further than we originally thought.  They also handle sound design for us as well, which normally is the sound effects that make the graphics pop.  This was not part of ‘Gist of LISP’ this go-round since they were editing to music we had already produced.
We finished the project in time for VMware to approve it as you see it here.
Gist of LISP
VMworld San Francisco
This song and video made its debut at VMworld San Francisco in August -- this was one of the biggest crowds we had been in front of.  It was fun and it was different. I threw together a little ‘behind the scenes‘…the video was all shot with a cheap handheld camcorder…so don’t compare this to our normal stuff!

Comments included a range of opinions from blogs: 
My favorite was Cisco’s presentation on Location ID Separation Protocol (LISP). This allows VM mobility between datacenters by maintaining IP address space while choosing the most efficient path for a VM should it move from its primary datacenter. Cisco was playing for a charity that builds playgrounds for kids in neighborhoods where they might not otherwise exist.  (user video)

Cisco Tec.hwise TV guys are awesome. Nice tune about LISP. The point? To show that a machine can use the same IP anywhere. This is needed for the workload mobility of the future, that’s here today! Good explanation of lisp done in 4 minutes on the dotKaboom was Cisco’s choice, which builds playgrounds for kids.
To twitter: 
Nice channeling of Schoolhouse Rock on LISP demo video. Funny and well done. #VMworld #VMWare #Cisco
#VMworld Cisco not selling something :/ #LISP looks cool and is free.
@AndreKindness You new heroes: The Cisco LISP guys at #vmworld t.co/e2TvT1S2
I just got the “gist of LISP” with #Cisco at #vmworld. I am going to be singing that song all day. Ha! #ciscovmw
noise aside, techwise TV does have an interesting learning library. Get the gist here--> t.co/VWoS6U72 #vmworld no lisp #cisco
Yes, voted for #netapp CLI #woot but #Cisco #LISP + #VMWare deserves a tweet for #vmworld keynote demo good effort! <3 t.co/9XAlOSM1
VMworld Barcelona
We did feel like the lip sync of a music video was a good shock to the normal powerpoint induced slug-fest most often found at these events…but we thought we could do better for this particular audience.  So instead of using the music video, we worked with some of the LISP engineers at Cisco to capture a demo they had created using an Android device.  Two engineers volunteered their time in our studio - Srinivas Subramanian and Fabio Maino -- and we shot video only of a great demo that I then spoke over as we delivered it, Jimmy Ray then did his live whiteboard thing to make sure we included the more technical bits inside the tight timeframe we were given. VMware has this video of our performance available to watch if interested as well.
Time will tell if we get invited back.  As usual, we take every opportunity to try and break a mold or two…some of these attempts are more successful than others.  Hopefully we remain true to making technical material fun, interesting and accurate of course.  If you have thoughts you want to share -- please do!
Robb

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