a video installation story with Managana

Managana, the free software for digital publishing developed by the Ciclope Atelier, is the engine behind the Visit Minas Gerais video installation presented at the Brazil’s area of Expo Milan 2015. Its usage allowed the content to be available on several platforms besides the exhibition itself.

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But how did Managana made it possible? In order to learn some more about the possibilities of this digital tool set, available for free download at this site, we decided to show up a step-by-step walkthrough of this experience, from the content design, moving to the creation of mobile apps and ending up at the video installation itself.


DESIGNING THE CONTENT

One of the first choices made was related to the content itself. It should be made from several videos showing the state of Minas Gerais, in Brazil. Since most of the visitors doesn’t know about the state location, we decided to include many maps and transitions focusing on Brazil and the state geography (this part of the content was produced using the Google Earth Pro tool from an usage agreement with Google). There were many points of interest: waters, natural resources, gastronomy, industry, mining, agribusiness, creative economy…

With the script finished, we moved on to the video production from our own archives, third party ones and new productions. All this content were split into a large number or small videos (about 210 ones, 40 minutes in total). We now needed to organize these files into an interactive production. That’s when the first Managana tool became handy: the editor.

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The editor is a WYSIWYG visual tool the allowed us not only organize the videos in the way we wanted, but also manage the user interactions and automatic navigation. While the user interaction idea is usual, perhaps the automatic navigation one is not as well known. Visit Minas Gerais is mainly a public space installation. It stands without user interaction for long periods. During this time it must keep changing content in some way to keep it attractive. One example of an automatic navigation script would be about the Minas Gerais map shown at the picture above. It is the main menu for 10 different contents: the Royal Road, the spring water spas, mining, industry, agribusiness, gastronomy, the savannah, the Jequitinhonha Valley, Belo Horizonte city and tourism. If no one is interacting with the system, the installation enters on each of these contents, at the order shown above, randomly displays two to five videos of the theme, then returns to the map, moving to the next theme. This kind of setting is possible through the usage of the Progress Code, a kind of simplified programming language we developed for Managana.

If you’d like to learn more about the Managana editor, a great way to start is by checking out the Getting started with Managana: creating for web and mobile devices guide. This guide and Managana itself can be downloaded from http://www.managana.org/downloads/


MAKING THE CONTENT AVAILABLE

Content ready, now what?

The first thing to do was to make all content available online on a website and on apps for Android and iOS systems. The process is simple for the web: while you’re designing, the browser version is becoming ready as well (you can check it out here). The current Managana version uses the Flash Player plugin to display content, even if it also provides a HTML5 version, it is not quite suitable for displaying o content full of videos on mobile devices – we’re working on it for the next versions ;-). If you’d like to learn more about the current HTML5 Managana player, check out the Getting started with Managana: creating for HTML5 guide.

In order to solve this issue we decided to create mobile apps for Android and iOS systems. How to do that? Simple: we have the AppWizard, a tool capable of convert a Managana-generated content into apps without many technical issues. The Getting started with Managana: creating for web and mobile devices covers this app creation tool.

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After that is was quite simple to produce a qrcode image capable of redirecting mobile devices for app download. This qrcode was printed and placed on several spots of the installation site. This enabled people to take the installation content with them.

Making such a content available raises an important issue: how to improve the app usage on mobile connections? The simplest action to take is encoding the video to a format more suitable to Internet. We chose the well-known FLV format (onvp6) with a bitrate of 600kbps. Even with this encoding the app final size was “gigantic”, about 280MB. To solve this issue we created the app as a simple navigator that access the videos from a web server (one of the choices available from the AppWizard tool). The app was, then, small and people were able to see the content from video streaming.

Now it’s time to talk about a Managana feature not usual to such kind of software: if the user wants (and the developer allows), he/she can download all the server content for offline access. And with a bonus: every time the online content is updated, the Managana app warns the user about it and allows the download of the updates only.

Now that we’re finished with the mobile part of Visit Minas Gerais, let’s move to the installation itself!


VIDEO INSTALLATION STRUCTURE

The installation was set with two videowalls made of 3×3 46” screens, two touchscreen monitors and two Android tablets. Two identical sets of a wall+touchscreen+tablet. Ons of the sets was used to display only the waters and the natural resources part, and the other one for the rest of the content.

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The videowalls and the touchscreens got their video signals from Windows computers. At these computers, the Showtime Managana tool (Windows, OSX) was used to handle the public exhibition. It offers many options for public presentations, like:

  • screen size and multiple monitors/projectors set;
  • adding/removal of visual elements;
  • content setup;
  • remote control;
  • Microsoft Kinect interaction setting;
  • webcam setting;
  • keyboard actions;
  • TCP communications;
  • timed actions;
  • interaction with Leap Motion device;
  • video mapping.

For the Visit Minas Gerais installation, the videowall computer was connected to the touchscreen one through a network with fixed IP addresses. The Showtime configuration was something like this:

showtime1 showtime2 showtime3 showtime4 showtime5

The content shown at the touchscreens is almost the same one from the videowalls, but is has buttons for user navigation. The result we wanted was an automatic navigation handled by the videowall with the extra navigation provided by the touchscreen. Difficult? Not at all: we used the TCP connection configurations of the Showtime tool to connect the software running on both computers. After setting this up, we could use the MESSAGE->startPCodeSend and the MESSAGE->endPCodeSend Progress Code commands to remotely run code on different Showtime instances.

One last added feature was the usage of remote controls. They are mobile apps created using the AppWizard tool. These remote controls need a web connection to work and we didn’t have it on the installation. The solution was using the Managana “launcher” package that is, in fact, a version of the portable XAMPP server with Managana pre-installed on it.

The remote control gave the installation staff a great tool for handling the exhibition since it could be used to pause/play the display and jump instantly to any part of the content. Besides, we used an interesting feature: while designing any content on Managana, we can provide extra information about it that is hidden from the display.

This text is, however, displayed on the connected remote control when the related content is shown. This allowed us to provide extra information to the installation staff so the can answer questions from visitors. The usage of the remote control and all other Showtime features are covered at the Getting started with Managana: it’s showtime! guide.


CONCLUSION

The Visit Minas Gerais installation was a very interesting content to create. This text brings some information about how it could be done by using the Managana tool set, but there are many other applications for the software. If you are interested on it, check out the download page where yo can find the software itself and the “getting started” guides.

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