You don't have to spend much time surfing the Web to see just how popular online video has become nowadays. And a growing number of websites, whether general ones like You Tube or technology-only sites like Designnews.com, offer video that's relevant for engineers.
But there's another good video source for engineers: supplier websites. It's tempting to dismiss this video content out of hand. At their worst, supplier videos are nothing more than corporate commercials and just not worth the time it takes to mouse over to the “play” button. But some suppliers have taken the high-road and developed videos in which the useful content far outweighs the fluff.
One of the latest companies to embrace video in a big way is Opto 22, the maker of programmable automation controllers (PAC) and related control components. The company has long offered useful Flash-based engineering tools, like product selectors.
Recently, it added video to the mix, investing in a high-definition video camera and an in-house editing studio. It also developed its own wide-screen video player. Scroll down to watch an Opto 22 video on temperature monitoring solutions. “We didn't like the way our high-definition videos were displaying in the players that were available to us,” says Benson Houghland, an Opto 22 vice president.
The company has used its new capabilities to turn out dozens of short videos. Some are 5-minute case histories, in which a pair of Opto 22 application engineers tackle in-person interviews with users of the company's automation technology.
Opto blows its own horn a little bit in these, but that shouldn't be a show-stopper given that the videos do offer a useful look at a wide range of applications served by PAC-based automation. Current case histories, for example, range from a fish hatchery in Michigan to a machine builder that develops automated toll kiosks.
Some of Opto's customer training has also gone video. The website contains a growing library of 1- or 2-minute-long pieces dedicated to a specific products or technical topics. The product videos might be best appreciated by those in the midst of configuring that particular product, but they should also be required viewing for any engineer thinking of specifying an unfamiliar Opto product into their design.
Technical and educational videos that don't really focus on a specific product will round out the video library, according to Marketing Manager David Crump. First out is a 2-minute overview of different temperature sensing methods.
Engineers have already started responding to Opto's video push. According to Houghland, the videos are pulling just under 10,000 views per month. “They're by far the most popular part of our site after the home page,” he says.