Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 21:07
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A way to free yourself of Groundhog Day

The CiviCRM community has been working on a new website for As part of the redesign-launch Emphanos has been working on a producing a set of 3 to 4 medium length (5 to 10 min) screencasts to complement the launch of the re-branded website. We've worked out a lot of the technical and production issues surrounding the production of a clean, professional looking screencast. We've surveyed the field and researched the best practices in the subject matter and have learned some key lessons which we've incorporated in our learning video production pipeline.


Current state of CiviCRM screencasts for redesign-launch

We have created a total of 4 screencast scripts. One of those we have fully revised and edited to create an "overview-informational" screencast on "The Basic Contact Record" and produced a full screencast in draft video form. The scripts were conceived by Kevin Krupp, edited by Dave Greenberg and Young-Jin. Take a look at our first finished video here:

                  based on Script 1 available here

Let us know what you think. The current video is revision 3, we expect to have 1 more revision cycles based on feedback from the community for this screencast on "The Basic Contact Record".
We premiered this particular screencast at our January Chicago CiviCRM meetup to great effect for newcomers; they immediately understood the power of seeing all past interactions on a single unified summary screen and were impressed by the scope of CiviCRM's capabilities, all this within less than 10 minutes of watching the video. We might be able to use screencasts as intro materials for our meetups to quickly on-board and educate newcomers about CiviCRM, in the vein of "Hello Meetup-attendee, meet CiviCRM on the screen, then show up to our meetup to meet us in person"



Screencast Lessons Learned thus far...

  1. Screencast scripts need to be edited, reviewed and vetted ahead of recording [this is the most time consuming part of the process! But it is also the most readily crowd-sourced component!]

  2. Three distinct narrative styles exists and should be employed for different purposes: A) story-based approach, B) overview-informational, C) task-oriented how-to  [A) long --> B) medium length --> C) short]

  3. Consistent look and feel through the use of standardized call-out boxes, highlights, overlays, key-frames to create a coherent visual style maximizes comprehension

  4. Audio quality is very important and should be recorded separately from the on-screen interactions

  5. Video quality is close second, but the overall user experience mostly hinges on audio quality (i.e. suppressing noise, pops and hisses for the audio track)

We firmly believe that having professionally looking, informative screencast that showcase the flexibility and power of all of the built in functions within CiviCRM will go a long ways of promoting the product and making it speak for itself. The current distinct lack of compelling screencasts is hurting us as a community. Luckily we now have all the tools in our arsenal to change that and we think we've come up with a very streamlined production pipeline that will get us from nearly zero to a basic library by launch time.


Where we need community support moving forward

Here's what is currently missing and we'll need the community to help us with (in order of importance):
  • Review and edits on the other 2 remaining draft scripts for "Contacts: Search and Find" and "Events: Setup a free event" which are both story-based. We've setup a Google Doc to collect comments on the current scripts
  • Additional tailored "story-based" scripts for different target audiences (tire-kickers, marketing towards an untapped niche vertical, improving broader public user-base understanding of core functionality and features)
  • Intro & Outro matching the new brand identity of the relaunch (Rayogram is working on these)
  • Financially sustainable backing through a screencast MIH campaign that will enable us to produce up-to-date screencasts to highlight each new feature for a given new release of CiviCRM to stay current with fresh screencasts at all times (major features would be covered in a overview-informational screencast, improvements in UI and UX covered in task-oriented how-to screencasts)
  • Conceptual roadmap for future screencasts based on your implementer's point of view of the needs in our client community (prospects, existing clients, general public)
  • A set of story-based narrative frameworks [fictional recurring characters with distinct functional roles, e.g. Linda Hamilton, the development director at Large-Do-Good NPO] that correspond to a given target market vertical, e.g. membership based association, call-to-action advocacy group, small starting NPO, large established NPO
  • Potentially an intro soundtrack (strictly optional), we've identified some royalty and license free music (see here for a sample track:


Don't repeat yourself (DRY for marketing)

DRY at work

As a nice-to-have would be an animation or infographic based approach to the following questions that we all have to answer to potential clients, which would greatly help educate our client base ahead of choosing open source over the increasingly consolidated single-vendor (see recent Blackbaud acquisition of Convio) proprietary solutions:

  • What does it mean to adopt a community supported open source product or daily use? (explain difference in licensing model, hosting requirements, consultant ecosystem, flexibility to adapt and change code base etc.)
  • How is CiviCRM supported? What are the various levels of support? Where is it hosted?
  • How can we implement it at our organization? (describe the full spectrum of implementation styles ranging from self-install & self-instructed, assisted implementation with training to "soup-to-nuts" professional deployment by consultants)
We as consultants have to address the above questions reminiscent of scenes from the movie "Groundhog Day" nearly every time we meet with a prospect. Having prospects and decision makers come prepared to the table would help us speed up the conversion and get to the implementation phase faster. More implementations, more community, more stable future! A compelling example of an animation based videos is this marketing collateral explaining the advantages of software as a service in the cloud.

YouTube Direct a window to user stories and case studies:

We've recently done work with YouTube Direct ( that would lets us as a community solicit and curate CiviCRM related video content on a centralized Youtube channel dedicated to all things CiviCRM. In short Youtube Direct let's community members become the reviewers for video submissions that we can then collect into one giant river of videos for user stories, case studies and mini-how-to's. We now have considerable experience in getting YouTube Direct set up and have created a specification to fully integrate YouTube Direct with Drupal 7, i.e. solicit "user story" videos from within Drupal 7, enable upload to YouTube Direct, approval and syncing of video content back to Drupal 7 site for embedding using the media module. Here's an example youtube channel (likely utilizing YouTube Direct) by our friends over at Blackbaud:
We hope this email inspires you to help in our efforts to get videos explaining the power of CiviCRM to the rest of the community and gives you a sense of what is possible with the upcoming re-branding of and new ways using videos to effectively promote CiviCRM.
Feedback always welcome,
Young-Jin and Kevin from the Emphanos Team


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These screencasts will be an invaluable tool for new users of Civi, well done! I'll see if I can find time to look through the scripts.

You found good examples to be inspired by, thanks for sharing.


As for the soundtrack, seems to be a fair bit of musicians in the civi community. Please contact me, would be fun to play something together (well remote multi track recording together, but still ;)


Another groundhog one is the training and don't want to point fingers, but I know two really nice examples of interesting short and focussed series that are done. Would be great we all share it the same way (using the same channel?)

This is fantastic work - please also see the discussion over on It would be really good to coordinate efforts on this kind of thing and it looks like you guys are ahead on this one.



Great video, would really like to know what software you used to create all the annotations, highlighting and zooming on the screencast (so anything we do looks the same). Also I'm wondering if it's a good idea to show the browser in the screen and not just the Civi desktop. If we are going to show the browser we should set up a clone of the demo site on which to record the desktop captures, so that anyone wanting to make a video can use the same data/version etc.

We used Camtasia for the recording and post processing to add the highlights and zooms. We created a D7 with CiviCRM 4.0.x install specifically for the demos. We think it makes sense to preload both the live demo on as well as the screencasts with persistent data sets which allows us to demonstrate something on the screencast and viewers would be able to try out the same searches and actions on the live demo site (also extremely useful for trainings!). This is currently not possible since the demo data is randomly generated and shifts constantly. We could use some help on getting the data seeded to make this demo experience more uniform. We'd be happy to share the D7 + Civi4 install that we have for these purposes.

We should then look into using this library to generate a persistent sample data set: <a href=""></a>

There's a set of data that's in use for trainings based on a fictional food cooperative. Perhaps using that would be a more sensible option than the demo data as it would tie in with training sessions and their excercise books. The shorter how-to vids will be natural companions to training anyway. A few people have a copy of this data set but not sure where (if) it resides on the wiki. Let me know if you want the csv file. 

I think we should also agree on general styling for these. The Camtasia highlighting works well and it's under $100 for the Mac version. We were thinking to maybe crop out the browser so the view area is just civi. I was also thinking that in most of our installs we have a couple of the default blocks on in civicrm/* - recently items is a particularly useful one and I think shows a nice feature so might be good to have this turned on? Then should we agree to all use Drupal and Bartik for these so the surround is constant? 

hopefully we can do more screencast work at the london sprints.  i recently wrote this forum post:,25731.msg108799.html#msg108799

was wondering if we have made any more screencast headway?