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Silverlight Printing Video

Wednesday 22 September, 2010, 10:29 AM

One of the many things I do for a living is producing content for Pluralsight’s online .NET training product, Pluralsight On-Demand! I’ve always been keen to try out techniques that go beyond the basic format of slides and demos with a voiceover. I had a lot of fun putting together one video in particular: the printing module in our Silverlight material. So I’m excited that it’s temporarily available for free—up until 26th September 2010, you can watch the Silverlight Printing module here without needing a subscription.

Printing is often a frustrating topic to talk about in person, because more often than not, I’ll teach it in a classroom where there’s no printer. The moment that should be the denouement—getting to see the content emerge from the printer—ends up being a bit of an anti-climax. I have to tell the class “and at this point, something would emerge from the printer, if we actually had one.” Obviously, you can print to XPS or PDF, but it’s just not the same.

So I incorporated some video camera footage to avoid this problem in the online course. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference technically, but I think it makes it more satisfying to watch.

But the printing module also includes a sequence that goes a bit further, providing a clear technical benefit, rather than merely making it a bit more fun to watch. It uses a video technique I’ve not tried before to demonstrate an issue with the bitmap-based printing Silverlight uses. I could describe what I’ve done, but it’ll be easer just to watch it. (It’s in the “Print Quality” segment, if you want to go straight there without watching the whole thing. It’s approximately three and a half minutes in if you just want to see the bit I’m talking about, but it’ll probably make more sense if you watch that whole section.)

Interestingly, this particular topic was actually easier to demonstrate in a video than it is in person.

It’s always pleasing when the medium enhances something. If you try to use one medium as though it were really another—like how some early television was more or less just radio with a moving picture of a person speaking into the microphone—you often end up fighting the medium, which compromises the content. But if you adapt how you work to fit the medium, it can make things better. I hope I’ve achieved that with this particular demo, but it’s something that I think we’ve already been doing in other ways for a while.

If you’re a Pluralsight On-Demand! subscriber (yes, the italics and exclamation mark are officially part of the brand…) you’ll have noticed that we have brought a lot of new content online recently. You may also have noticed that it’s much less closely related to the classroom courses than some of the material that’s been around for longer. Rather than simply treating online content as an alternative delivery mechanism, we’ve been producing new material designed specifically for this system. For example, we wanted online content to be easy to search and browse, and we found that an important way to achieve this was to structure the content with a rather different granularity—we have more and smaller modules than a typical classroom class.

I’ve been enjoying learning how to do things differently for this medium. I’m looking forward to producing more online courses.

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