Market7 wants to be your online collaboration service and video project planning solution and of course make money off of you while doing it. They have free trial accounts to check it out and offer a range of product packages to help you get all your creative from talent to post-production in the same place and on the same page (or in the same frame?). It allows you to assemble teams, define projects, develop content, securely share files, and communicate clearly. The environment's modules are organized by project stages: pre-production, production, and post-production.
Market7 is broken down into eight key areas:
- Production Brief - a highly customizable and openly accessible question & answer forum
- Collaborative Script - organizes script, storyboard and other key preparatory assets
- Annotative Player – integrates video access with messaging for clear, consensus-driven direction of editing and post-production (this is pretty cool)
- File Management
- Team Management
- Task Management
- Event Management
- Resource Management
Easily the coolest feature is the Annotative Player. Basically when you get the first footage or perhaps some primary photography in video form you can sit down and write your thoughts and notes on direction and production as annotations on the footage. But more on that later. Once you're signed up and logged in you're presented with the project home page where you can access all the various pieces of the project from Team straight through to post-production (the video player).
There's also an introduction video that outlines all the buttons you're seeing. It's a bit much as I, who has never been involved in a major video production, certainly have no problem navigating and understanding the system. Since I really wanted to play around with the Annotative player, I got down to uploading a random video from my trip to Sarajevo this summer.
While that was uploading I took a quick tour of the other features. In the team area you can invite people to join your project. The invite box gives you a quick look at previous team members and allows you to invite people by email address. Additionally you can write a specific invite message. Everything one might expect from such a service.
Moving on to Brief gives the user a look at the basics of the project in production brief form where you need to answer specific questions to get your project organized.
- What do you want created?
- Where will it be shown?
- Who is the audience, the cast and crew?
- Why do you want it created?
- What's the project time line?
- How to proceed?
The next area is the Script where you can collaboratively put together the direction and dialogs for your videos. I don't particularly like how they implemented it. It feels clunky and doesn't do things like, line wrap to fit your screen size in some instances (namely in the dialog section for who is speaking). So when you type a long line of text you have to scroll back and forth to see it all. Plus there's no help as if we should all automatically understand the interface provided. There is an introduction video, but sometimes a good old FAQ does wonders and is sorely lacking at Market7.
File management is exactly that. Upload, download, edit, delete and comment. Organization is also key here as you can create folders and put files into them. Exactly what one would expect from a file management system.
Team management allows you to assign roles, email team members,and check on what each is doing. Pretty basic and aside from roles doesn't look like you can create groups to put say, the cast into one group and post-production crew into another.
Moving forward brings up the Events manager which is, yes, a calendar where you can schedule particular events. You can also select events and delete or print. Again, a basic but integral piece of project planning.
Heading over to Tasks presented another similar interface where you can load up an existing template or create your own by adding multiple tasks. Each Task consists of a name, duration, scheduled time and of course team members included. It's not extremely user-friendly nor is it clear. There are some issues with medium gray text on a darker gray background as well.
Resources allows you to track things across the whole project including estimated time, cost, qualifying members and actual time and cost. It seems basic but should help you keep an eye on the budgetary concerns and the money spent.
Finally, the annotative player. Since my video was done uploading I jumped into this with anticipation, and was let down. The annotation system isn't all that user friendly. To schedule the times, instead of simply being able to input the times by hand you have to move the video to the specific point in time you want the annotation to take effect, click a button, then forward to where you want it to end, click a button. Now we're told that it can be done the other way but if so, it's not at all obvious how to do that and therefore I feel that the interface is cumbersome at times. Additionally, the annotations don't show on the video but next to it. You are able to highlight an area of the screen or draw on it. But you can't do both in the same annotation and so would have to overlap them to get the desired effect of two pieces of information on the actual video. Additionally, for drawing on the screen there are only two options – highlighting an area (with a box, not a circle or any other shape, just a box) or freehand. Since I'm terrible at drawing circles I had to use a box. Also you cannot highlight multiple sections of the video at once. You have to make multiple entries to do it. There's not even a duplicate entry or a save entry option. So if you do a lot of annotating you'll need to create your annotation every single time which could add up to a large amount of work depending on what the annotation is.
Sure the annotation system is sort of cool but it could definitely do with some extra work. In fact the more I look at it the more things I find could be done with it. The system does allow you to insert general comments without a time which could be handy for overall notes that don't pertain to a particular time or if you wanted to just write a long list of notes. It doesn't really seem like a feature but rather a work around as you just give the comment a time of 00:00 and no end. It will only be highlighted until the next annotation shows. You can also attach files to the annotations, but you cannot insert them into the video to demonstrate how to use them etc, I guess that's where the freehand drawing and the highlight box come in. Finally you can close the annotation window and just watch the video. Really, it serves little purpose because, you can't see the annotations, only the highlights on the screen. Another reason to have text show up on an overlay on the video.
Overall, I felt that Market7 had a pretty solid product on their hands. It could certainly do with some further work and more features and it seems as though they are still coding, so in some time I imagine it will be an extremely robust, full-featured online project management system. Right now it's cool and functional just not all it could be.
The pricing of packages depends on things like how much file storage you'll need and your position. Prices range from Free to $299.95 a month! File storage ranges from 100MB to 15GB but more can be purchased on all but the free account. Additionally all but the basic account offer unlimited projects and members and unaltered content uploads. For more information or to sign up for a free account head to http://www.market7.com/pricing/
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