PlanetPress for life: Band setup

I’m a technical trainer at Objectif Lune. I’ve been teaching how to use PlanetPress for over 5 years and I’m still amazed by how many things you can do with it. Delivering trainings for customers helped me understand the many challenges businesses are facing nowadays, as well as how to approach them. For me, this blog is a wonderful opportunity to share all these cool workflows my colleagues and I have been thinking of over the last years, but that I couldn’t include in classroom trainings because… well they are not necessarily business-oriented. In this post, which I hope is the first of a series I would like to present one of these cool workflows. I would name this lucky first the “Band Setup” workflow.

The Problem

I play bass in a rock band, nothing professional. We have a setup of a dozen songs which we rehearse once a week. Before rehearsal, every band member is given a paper copy of the setup so that we do not waste any time during rehearsal. The setup, however, changes often, as we may reorder songs or select new ones during the week. Song versions also regularly change because we want the best version so far, which is often taken from the latest rehearsal (we may do the same song several times in a single practice). To keep track of these versions, we try to record every song we practice as an mp3, with the file name containing the song title plus some other information to distinguish it from other versions.

The bottom line is that we need a quick way to provide each member of the band with the latest rehearsal setup, and a convenient way to rate each song performance so that we can easily create the next setup based on this feedback. The problem is that none of this is happening, partly because it’s a boring task (well at least for amateur rockers!)…

The Opportunity

A setup is basically a sequence of songs. When you think about it, it’s just a playlist like one you can easily create in your favorite media player. So, you may think, if I want a quick and easy way to create a setup, I can simply create a playlist! Problem solved! But can you print a playlist? I’ll let you try… Let’s just say it’s not meant to be printed. Even if it could, it wouldn’t be exactly what our band need. For example, the setup has to be written in a large enough font so band members can read song titles in a relatively dark place. There should be some space left for comments or ratings of different song versions. Etc.

But the idea of using a playlist is pretty appealing. Here’s an example generated by Windows Media Player:

 

Basically, it’s an XML file.  Since PlanetPress Suite handles XML natively, we could start from this file and come up with a nice and efficient design that would fit our needs, like this:

 

The Workflow

Since we can be in front of anyone’s computer to create the playlist for our next rehearsal, we can’t just expect some hot folder to be available for us to drag and drop our playlist file and wait for PlanetPress to do its magic. A better way to start this workflow is be to send the playlist via email to the PlanetPress Workflow tool.

 

A PlanetPress Design document is used to transform this XML playlist into a PDF, which is then emailed to each band member and also printed to my local printer.

 

The design is pretty straightforward: display a list of song names with a few empty boxes next to each song title. PlanetPress Design’s Line repeat functionality makes it easy to display a variable list of all song names, found as ‘media’ nodes in the playlist’s xml structure. The only complexity is into removing the file path and extension from the file name in order to display only the song title. Fortunately, this can be achieved with standard PlanetPress Talk functions such as mid and pos.

The Fun

So, you may ask, does this actually work? Yes it does. And we’re pretty happy about the results! In the end, just like in a business context, PlanetPress Suite saved us time by doing the boring work and opening new, more efficient ways of doing things. And I only took about an hour to come up with this solution!

Taking a step back and looking at it, however, I can see a few improvements. For example, the song name can be decoded from within the mp3 file itself, provided it has ID3 metadata. Also, there is a wonderful opportunity for PlanetPress Capture: each band member uses a pen to rate song versions on his own setup sheet, then everybody’s sheets are taken into account to give an overall rating to each song versions and decide what version to use next. This kind of pen and paper workflow is a sweet spot for a PlanetPress Capture application.

So, what do you think of this example? Horrible? Wonderful? Feel free to comment! Also, if you too have wicked workflow ideas, share them with us. We are always hungry for new ways.

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