16th
Jun , 2016

SAM MITCHELL LAUNCHES DEMENTIA WEBSITE FOR KIDS

Hawthorn football star Sam Mitchell was on hand to launch the Alzheimer’s Australia Victoria website built by Volume to help...

Hawthorn football star Sam Mitchell was on hand to launch the Alzheimer’s Australia
Victoria website built by Volume to help support children.

Mitchell’s own family has been affected by dementia and as a result he has helped out by featuring in one of the videos in the site. The website also contains an audio book for pre-schoolers, interactive games as well as clear information for all age groups.

Volume is proud to be involved with such a great initiative.

Visit dementiainmyfamily.org.au

8th
Dec , 2015

Melbourne Victory Online Store launched and POS system integrated

We have delivered a full online and POS merchandise solution for Melbourne Victory Football Club, arguably the biggest A-League club...

We have delivered a full online and POS merchandise solution for Melbourne Victory Football Club, arguably the biggest A-League club in the country

18th
Mar , 2015

We have moved to a new location

Volume has a fantastic new and spacious home in East Melbourne. We have been delivering exceptional digital projects for some...

Volume has a fantastic new and spacious home in East Melbourne.

We have been delivering exceptional digital projects for some of Australia’s leading brands for the past 15 years, but now we are doing so with great views of the MCG!

So if you are thinking about what to do about your next digital project, give us a call on our new number 8415 8640, send us an email info@volume.net.au or feel free to drop by.

10th
Mar , 2015

New ARB 4X4 responsive website launched

We're very proud to announce the launch of the new ARB 4x4 responsive website.

Updated in every aspect, the new ARB responsive website is the culmination of over 18 months of research, design and execution. Over 1200 pages have been re-written and re-designed, including the entire customised section, providing a much more immersive experience for users.

Check it out at www.arb.com.au

28th
Nov , 2014

Ben [attempts to] grow the ‘Mo’ for Movember

It's been seven years since my last Movember campaign, but in 2014 my support is back.

In the busy lead up to the Christmas holiday period comes the plethora of email reminders that the annual Movember fundraising is coming and it’s usually a time when I personally look back with fond memories of a previous Movember campaign.
My Movember initiation goes back to 2006 during the final exam period while completing my Bachelor of Multimedia – Systems & Computing. It was so much fun back then, the university lifestyle, we were all such free little wildlings and trying to champion a meager mustache and attract donors wasn’t as easy with the young adults.
I remember particularly two presentations which I had suited up and had to pitch an online cloud based printing distribution business to investors, and to handover and deliver our online intranet built for Epworth Eastern Cardiology to their shareholders.

Ben Pitt with bad mustache - Movember 2006

Ben’s Movember 2006 campaign

Both presentations were professionally delivered and well received as my scores for both subjects would be of High Distinction – until the final questions. “What’s with the mo?”.
I remember informing the stakeholders and investors of the fundraising campaign to better inform males of regular doctors checkups and raise awareness for prostrate cancer. Thankfully I got more donations from those 2 presentations than my entire month of championing.

I was also working at Mazda Australia head office back in 2006. This was an incredible time and Mazda was an infectious workplace where everyone backed each other up and really combined to bring out the best in each other. The general manager at the time informed the team that Mazda would match the final donations dollar for dollar.
It was a steam train of activity and everyone seemed to be getting donations from everywhere possible. I’ve never been associated with support for fundraising on this level.
We all reached over $1000 of donations each, an impressive effort.

So after 8 years in Movember hiatus I’ve decided to roll up the sleeves and put the razors to rest for November.

Nowadays I’m at Volume New Media in Bennetts Lane, and it feels like those early beginnings as we have a small team and I’m the only one partaking in Movember. The fundraising has been good with some very generous donors (Thanks Volume) but my ability to spread the word on mens health has been a bit lazy. I have three kids now and happily married so I have less time to give. Oh and two Assassins Creed games came out in November as well as the latest installment of The Hunger Games at the cinemas.

I’m much better prepared this time around and although the ‘mo’ isn’t what you’d call a ‘real mans mo’, it’s nearly getting full enough for people to actually understand what I’m trying to do.

Please visit my Movember space and support awareness for mens health.

So what is Movember all about?

The Movember Foundation challenges men to grow mustaches during Movember (formerly known as November), to spark conversation and raise vital funds for its mens health programs. To date, 4 million mustaches have been grown worldwide, but we won’t stop growing as long as serious mens health issues exist.

The Movember community has raised $580 million to date and funded over 800 programs in 21 countries. This work is saving and improving the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems.
We need to take action as the current state of mens health is unacceptable:
  • Men die on average almost 5 years earlier than women – there’s no biological reason
  • Each year around 20,000 Aussie men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer, behind skin cancers, in men aged 18-39 years
  • Tragically suicide is the leading cause of death for Aussie men aged 15-44 years

The reason for the poor state of mens health are numerous and complex and include:

  • Lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face
  • Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
  • Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physical or mentally well
  • Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
  • Stigmas surrounding mental health
  • Men are less likely than women to seek help for health concerns, and also less likely to use health care services.

Money raised: $340.00

Movember has finished for 2014 and I raised $340 to the Movember Foundation. My daughter’s fourth birthday was held on December 2, of which I was quickly ordered to ‘get rid of that thing!’.
Below is a selfie of my last Movember moments.
IMG_1205

7th
Nov , 2014

2014 Australian Art Music Awards Performance of the Year

It was the night of nights for Australian Art Music, when Melbourne played host for the first time to the...

It was the night of nights for Australian Art Music, when Melbourne played host for the first time to the 2014 Art Music Awards, presented by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre held in the opulent interiors of the Plaza Ballroom on Collins Street.

The Art Music Awards are presented each year by the Australasian Performing Rights Association (APRA) and the Australian Music Centre to recognise achievement in the composition, performance, education and presentation of Australian music.

The Art Music Awards consist of eleven national awards and various State Awards across categories covering composition, performance, and outstanding contributions by individuals and organisations in Australian music, in music education, experimental music, jazz and regional music.

The Performance of the Year Award went to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Simone Young with soloist Peter Coleman-Wright, for the performance of Brett Dean’s Last Days of Socrates, with text by Graeme Ellis. MSO Chorus director Jonathan Grieves-Smith accepted the award, making a tearful speech that spoke of the hours of hard work put in by the chorus and orchestra to bring off the thrilling and monumental performance.

This was an Australian première of a major work of which you might be wondering why this is on our Volume blog? I can proudly say because I was a part of this winning performance as I sing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Our winning performance was a result of many challenging hours of rehearsals that resulted in more than 50 minutes of riveting music, which engaged the intellect and took the listener on an endlessly fascinating aural journey. Musically we were asked to take on this work with energy, passion and unfolding emotion with committed playing of a high order and that we did as it is now viewed as The Performance of the Year and a landmark piece that will find its way into the repertoire of many orchestras and chorus’s around the world.

My memory will be of a sold out performance at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall with many members of a duly appreciative audience giving us four standing ovations at the end of what was a memorable night of music

21st
Apr , 2014

The rise and rise of mcommerce

It’s not time yet, but clients will soon be briefing us to design their online presence for mobile first, with...

It’s not time yet, but clients will soon be briefing us to design their online presence for mobile first, with a secondary focus on how it looks and works on a desktop machine. It will take a little while, but looking at the exponential rise in the number of users accessing websites via mobile devices, the number of people ditching their trusty PC’s for a tablet or iPad at home, along with the alarmingly common practice that a smartphone is the last people look at before they go to bed and the first thing they look at when they get up in the morning, I can’t really see how this wont become reality.

Recently, I’ve come across a few mcommerce articles that contain a number of interesting statistics and insights. Interesting to me as I have been boring many clients for a while now about how important a mobile strategy is and now I have some stats to back up what I have been shouting from the hill tops. They also validate our decision 12 months ago to only develop responsive websites.

The stats

More specifically, the brains trust at Cisco have predicted that by 2017, there will be 1.4 internet connected mobile devices per consumer globally. That means that for every person that has money in their pockets to spend, there will also be 1.4 mobile devices in their pockets in which they can use to spend that money. In the US, they predict that a shade under 78% of people whom have mobile devices, will use it at least once in 2013 to buy something online. Moreover, according to eMarketer by 2017, 25% of all online sales will be completed via mobile devices.

Think about that for a moment. This means that every consumer will have at least one mobile device in which they can use to buy something online. Around half will have two mobile devices in which they will use. If the US market is any indication, around three quarters of them will buy at least one thing online a year using a mobile device and 1 in every 4 sales made online, will be made using a mobile device.

But what does it mean!

So what does this mean for a business owner and/or online marketer. How will this affect your current customers spending behaviours? How will this effect paths to purchase? How will this effect what your business should offer customers ie. location based offers? How will this change customer expectations on what your website should look like across devices i.e. iphone v iPad?…. and how prepared is your businesses large and small to address this change? All questions that need to be addressed if you want to have a thorough mobile strategy in place. Put simply however, it will mean change. Change that has to be made quickly not just to keep up, but to survive. It will mean that your website needs to be not only be responsive (easy to use via all mobile devices), but that navigation, content and functionality all be created with the vast number mobile devices in mind.

A betting man

Seeing as every statistic I have mentioned above is just about doubling every year, I think that my tip that clients will be asking us to design for mobile first, is a lock in.

Post by Richard Branov MD of Volume – View his LinkedIn profile here

28th
Feb , 2014

Yarra Valley Water Social Media

Volume designs social media creative for YVW Valentine’s day competition.

Volume designs social media creative for YVW Valentine’s day competition.

2nd
Feb , 2014

Our GIT client of choice: Git-Tower

Understanding GIT can be very confusing for newcomers to get their heads around, and Git Tower completely solves that problem for us.

At Volume, we take version control very seriously, and in 2013 we undertook an analysis on the various version control frameworks available such as GIT, Subversion and Mercurial. We were looking for a system to use collaboratively throughout the team, which included an easy learning curve for the less technically minded.

It didn’t take long to decide on GIT as the framework of choice due to its community support and branching/workflow methodology. The branching in particular provides us with a high level of flexibility and scalability when dealing with testing and deploying multiple site revisions for our clients.

Although we don’t use the distributed architecture of GIT to its potential, we leverage a very lean central GIT cloud service such as Beanstalk, which we push and pull our committed data to. This allows us to focus on refining our product development, knowing that GIT will take care of itself with little maintenance.

With that in mind, we tried a many GIT clients whom we won’t name in this post, but we absolutely love working with Tower [Mac. OSX only at this stage].
Its main advantage is the ease of use and clean interface. Rather than only the web programming team using Git, we were able to train all levels of our team how to view branches, track projects and deployments.

The interface is split into 2 sections: A sidebar of all the datasets available and a tabbed navigation/content block to view commit status, previous GIT logs, and browse the folder structure. The sidebar consists of Branches [local branches], Tags [Release versioning], Remotes [origin/remote branches], Stashes [test code you can’t bear to lose] and Submodules [Add-on repositories within a repository]. By hiding most of the secondary GIT commands, the user interface doesn’t initially overwhelm users due to its slick look and feel. It gives them familiarity by actioning most commonly used commands, such as push, pull, commit and merge in big buttons.

Our team relish GIT’s easy to manage branching functionality. It allows us to develop and test new features and plugins/modules simultaneously on different branches which can be deployed and tested independently of one another in a staging environment.
This flexibility means we can integrate features into our production environment in a non sequential manner.

 

Understanding GIT can be very confusing for newcomers to get their heads around, and GIT Tower completely solves that problem for us.

In under a couple of hours after initial installation and configuration, we had the whole team working collectively and committing project data.

GIT Tower is a paid application, but it delivers a great return on investment for those looking to streamline their version control strategy.

www.git-tower.com/

15th
Jan , 2014

Low cost android digital signage solutions reviewed

We’ve all seen them. You may not be consciously aware that you’ve seen them, but you have seen them nonetheless....

We’ve all seen them. You may not be consciously aware that you’ve seen them, but you have seen them nonetheless. They’re almost everywhere you look. I’m not talking about bogans or hipsters, I’m talking about digital signs.

One of our favourite clients, ARB, makers of fantastic gear for 4 wheel drive adventuring, currently have 46 retail stores around Australia. They want to advance their current digital signage setup – which comprises an LCD screen and and Apple TV at each store – showing a simple slideshow, to something a bit more feature rich and targeted. They didn’t want to over-capitalise on infrastructure as they had already purchased the screens not much more than 12 months ago, and they already had wireless network connectivity setup and running.

Now, if this was 5 years ago, maybe even a couple of years ago, their options would have been extremely limited. Back then there was such a limited number of signage options available that we had to custom build a system for another client using flash, xml and a number of external APIs just to display some simple information on a screen in their office foyer.  Hardware involved a plasma screen (which subsequently suffered from burn in quite badly), a fairly small form-factor pc and a 15 metre RGB cable. At the time we were quite proud of it, but by todays standards it was pretty embarrasing.

Now it’s different. With the emergence of thumb size computers, made possible by the pioneering efforts of SoC (system on a chip) manufacturers such as ARM, and the development of operating systems such as Android that support them, it is possible to set up a sophisticated, geo-distributed digital signage solution for very low cost.

This is where I wanted to focus my efforts. We had the screens, we had the network connectivity, we just needed low-cost, reliable player hardware and an intuitive, preferably cloud-based content management solution to manage the campaign creative. Finding the hardware turned out to be relatively easy. Finding the software was quite the opposite.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve researched nearly 50 different digital signage systems and/or content management software solutions. Very few stood up to their own hype.

In the end I honed my selection criteria to the following;

  • Must support non-proprietary Android player hardware
    Some of the companies out there are charging US$1000 for hardware that can literally be purchased on eBay for US$60 or less. I know this because i literally stepped through the specs one by one. Now obviously some of this is a player software licensing fee but I find that extremely hard to swallow. When we’re talking about 46 stores, almost US$50,000 for player hardware that is worth about US$2760 over the counter is just madness.
  • Player setup must be fool-proof
    No offence to the guys on the ground at the ARB stores, but we simply can’t afford to be walking through a complicated player setup 46 times over at different times of the day and with differing levels of technical know-how. The player hardware should be able to be plugged in, powered by the USB port on the TV, and the player software either pre-installed or easily installed via Google Play, and be able to be configured to run on device start-up.
  • Must have an intuitive, easy to use content management system.
    This one turned out to be the downfall of 99% of the systems out there. I could not believe the lack of quality that existed in most of the CMSs that I tried. Some had their own complicated methodologies that they didn’t explain via context sensitive help, some were built entirely on Adobe Flash runtime which while not a deal breaker does impact clients ability to manage content remotely given the lack of iOS support, and some simply didn’t work as promised.
  • Must support user encoded Video, YouTube and Images as an absolute minimum, with HTML5 and custom templates as a bonus.
    ARB didn’t need all the bells and whistles or need to support every single file format under the sun. In my experience, the systems that tried to be all things to everyone fell over in spectacular fashion because the system became so complicated that it was almost unusable.
  • Must have content scheduling and player grouping / targetting, with geo-targetting a bonus.
    Having 46 stores distributed all over the country, ARB needed to be able to push different content out to different regions or individual stores at any time hence player grouping, either manual or by user defined geographical regions was a must.
  • Must be well supported.
    Because there are so many providers out there, some having existed for a while and some being the new kids on the block, ongoing support was important. A bricks and mortar presence always makes me feel a little more confident.
  • Must be reasonably priced.
    This is the ‘how long is a piece of string’ element to the whole story. Obviously different solutions can hit different price points for many varying reasons, software complexity, proprietary hardware, staff numbers and SaaS running costs – just to name a few. I don’t want to have to pay, or have my clients pay, for functionality or services that they will simply never use.

Ok, so what didn’t make the grade?

Almost everything.

And what did?

Revel Digital and TargetR.  These two systems ticked most of our boxes.  Revel’s player software just works, you can buy their customised hardware which comes pre-loaded with the player and a 2 year warranty for not much more than you can buy the same raw hardware on eBay, and the cloud based CMS system is intuitive and powerful. Not only that but behind the initial simplicity of the interface, there is power to be harnessed. A full scripting engine, player audits and reports, the list goes on. The ability to manage multiple client accounts under one agency account is an added bonus.

TargetR’s player is also very robust and works very well.  There is also a lot of configuration behind the scenes if you need it, including rotation, video quality etc.  TargetR’s CMS system is quite a sideways shift from Revel’s, but once you get your head around the concept of parent and child channels and the targeting itself it’s quite good.  TargetR is more ‘techy’ than Revel so you will most likely need to read the documentation from top to bottom before diving in to add your players and content.

One of the biggest downfalls of TargetR’s system is that the zone layout is locked to the player installation, not the content.  In other words, if you want to have a sequence of content that includes a full screen video, followed by a period of time where the screen is split into two columns and running different sequences – for example, today’s event information in a column on the left and specials from the cafeteria on the right – you can’t do it.  I really should be able to change the zoning of a player in realtime during the sequence.  If most of your content is fullscreen then this isn’t an issue but it is something to be aware of.

Either of these systems are great for the money, but the decision might rest on how savvy your users are and whether you need content specific zoning.   We did find some caching issues on the Revel player during our testing which we didn’t find with the TargetR player and so this was what finally made our decision.

Final observations

There are a few systems out there that would work very well for a single store up to a SME, at very little cost. There is no point spending $1000 per player licence, or purchasing ridiculously priced custom hardware and bloated software with confusing licencing models if you just want to run a few screens and remotely manage content. OnSign.tv when it finally comes out of beta is a great little tool which is simple in principal and just works but it’s not a pinch on Revel yet.  Targetr is a great system but it’s CMS interface is not as easy to use.

During this R&D journey, at one point I got so frustrated with the offerings that I started working on initial specifications of our own system. I didn’t care that there was already hundreds of systems already in existence, there just seemed to be nothing out there that did what I needed it to do.

Revel is almost exactly what I would have built from a CMS point of view.  TargetR also has another nice little ‘sister’ system that they’re working on called DisplayStacks.  For small signage setups this is a fantastic option as you manage the signage direct on the device – and it’s free.

A not-entirely comprehensive list of the systems I looked at, and if possible, trialled:

11 Giraffes, Scala, 42media Oxygen, Stinova DMS, Dynamax digitalsignage.NET, SMIL-e, Rise Vision, CoolSign, signagelive, SignChannel, DisplayIt!, NEC Live, SignActive, OpenSign, iSignager (QNap), BrightSign, VizzGo, Oxygen, ComQi, SherVision, FireSign, OnSign.TV, Instillo, Capital Networks (Audience), AirTel, X20 Media, Adserve, DISE, TargetR, BroadSign, bitShuttle, ParkMedia.tv, Revel Digital, firmChannel, MyOpenSign.

 

There are others, but if i didn’t put them on the list it means they didn’t warrant the effort!