Saturday, October 31, 2009

Preparation Tips for Recording Location Video

Going to a convention or a BBQ? It never hurts to be prepared. Your camcorder, no matter how small or large, needs support. This quick list might seem obvious. All will take for you to see the light is forgetting the camcorder, batteries or other stuff to make you vigilant in making sure that you take what you need.

So with that in mind:

Camcorder. Duh, right? I was going to an convention. I packed everything. Well, I thought I did. I had to go out and buy a new camcorder. In another city. At a price I could not negotiate because it was one of two camcorders in stock that I could afford.

I'm happy with my purchase but at the time, the pain, oh the pain. Don't be smug, be certain that you have the camcorder.

Tripod. Especially with high definition camcorders the hand-held shakes are wickedly obvious. Tripods stabilize the camcorder and reduce or eliminate the tremors and shakes that holding a camcorder by hand can produce.

Tripods come in all sizes so there is one that will fit your purse or pocket. If you have optical image stabilization in your camcorder by all means turn it on but tripods are really the way to go.

If you do have a tripod turn off the optical image stabilization. You don't need both at the same time.

Lens Cleaning Cloth. Do not use lens cleaning paper, that can scratch the lens of the camcorder. I can tell you from person experience there will be that one teeny tiny bit of dust that will just sit there in the middle of the recording and there is nothing you can do about it. Give a quick wipe before you record and reduce your frustration.

Extra Recording Media. It happens to all of us. You glance down and you are about to run out of recording space. If you have a hard drive or a solid state drive camcorder you want to make sure you have space to record the event. This means you should check the night before to transfer prior footage.

If you have a memory card camcorder this means taking extra memory cards and if you are tape based, stock up.

Batteries/Power Supply. If you have a proprietary battery and you see the warning sign of low power then there is not much you can do unless you have purchased a backup battery from the manufacture or a third party vendor.

If your camcorder uses standard commercially available batteries you might luck out if you have access to a drug or department store. I have to tell you this does not happen when you need it the most, say in the middle of a lecture or performance. Bring extra batteries with you just in case.

Being prepared ties in with knowing your camcorder. You want to spend time getting the video in the camera, not lamenting that fact that you can't.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What the Heck is A Spec Sheet?

The specification sheet (spec sheet) is a description of a product's parts. The spec sheet tells you exactly what you are buying. It can be a little geeky but once you understand the lingo you can save time and money buying a camcorder.

Spec sheets can sometimes be found on an online vendor's website. However, you might only see a portion of the specifications or just a feature list. Features are what the manufacturer wants you to know the camcorder can do with embellishment. The spec sheet tells you what the camcorder can actually do.

The best place to check out the spec sheet is by visiting the camcorder manufacturer's website. Find the camcorder you have an interest in, skip past the ad copy and look for the words "tech spec" or "specifications."

If you can't easily find the camcorder specifications, move on. They don't want your money.
The following is just a simple outline of a spec sheet. I'll go in to more detail in a future post:

Display - does it have a viewfinder, electronic viewfinder or and LCD?

Lens - what kind is it and does it have the ability to shoot in low light (determined by the f/stop) and the ability to focus the lens?

Video Resolution - Standard Definition (SD) is fine if you are only going to upload to the Internet, transfer to a CD or certain types of business/instructional use. You can save money and get a great camcorder.

High Definition (HD) is fine if you plan on watching your video on a high definitions television, you are creating DVDs, creating various distributions of video for different markets or you need a higher quality of video. What do you want to do with the video and how will it be displayed?

Standard definition camcorders are going to disappear. I wish that was not the case but it is hard to ignore the high definition promotion train. This would be a good time to snag one if it meets your needs.

Memory/Storage - does it have internal memory? How much? Does it have a memory card slot and what kind (SD, SDHC, Compact Flash, Sony Memory Stick,) or is it a hard drive, tape or DVD storage system?

Video Format - there are dozens of video formats, .avi, .mp4, .mjpeg, .mt2, .mov. .wmv so the question is what video format does the camcorder record? Do you want to edit? Does your video editing program support the video format? If not, are you willing to learn how to convert video formats?

Optical or Digital Zoom - Optical is always better but some inexpensive camcorders do not have optical zoom. Digital zoom is a software program that magnifies the pixels that make up the image or video. It can make your video look horrible, especially if you are recording in standard definition (SD). Don't use digital zoom and don't base buying a camcorder on the ability that it does have digital zoom.

Microphone - internal only or is there an external microphone jack? External jacks are necessary if you plan to do interviews.

Light/Flash - is there an on-board light on the camcorder? This might help when you are recording indoors but it will reduce the length of time you will be able to record (unless you are using a power cord).

Power - Understanding the camcorder power needs can save you money and frustration. Is it battery power? Is it a proprietary battery or can you replace the batteries at your local drug store? Does it draw power only from a USB cable or do you have a power cord you can plug in to re-charge the camcorder?

Size and Weight - Do you want carry the camcorder everyday or only when you need it? It the video for recording spontaneous family memories or do you want to create video for other purposes that have nothing to do with portability?

Knowing what you want and expect out of a camcorder can help you focus on models that will best serve your needs.

Well, this will get you started. There are many other items that a spec sheet can have but this is just a starter that can help you to understand the back of the package or sales copy jargon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Consumer Reports.org Guide to Buying Camcorders

It never hurts to check out what the folks at ConsumerReports.org are saying about electronics, camcorders specifically.

I might not agree with everything they say in the video; for instance, I'm not a fan of DVD camcorders. For other people that have no plans to edit video but want to show friends and family recordings it is an option. An expensive option but it might be what you need to preserve memories.

The video for the most part had solid advice.



It does cycle back to evaluating your needs, your budget and which camcorder is going to be the best one for occasional or constant use.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

VideoThang - Free Video Editing Software

There are alternatives to Windows Movie Maker. This could be an entry level software that fits your needs. VideoThang is a application to help you edit videos quick and easy.



VideoThang can import files in the .wmv, .avi, .mov and .mpg formats. If your camcorder records in mp4 or in another video format you will have to convert the video into one of the accepted formats. VideoThang can accept mp3 sound files but not .wav audio.

Please note: many of the web camcorders record video in the .mp4 format. This may not be the software program for you if you don't want to spend time converting videos from one file format to another.

This software is designed for novice users. If you are looking for something just as easy but with more features you might want to look at Sony Movie StudioHD

Planning Workflow - Motion Sketches Video

I've been thinking about work flow for web video and videoblogging. I'm looking here, there and everywhere for ideas. Need to organize a few projects and it is tricky.



This video is more about film production but it has good ideas and concepts to consider when you are putting together an extensive production. I like it and it has a good beat. I give it an 8.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buying A Bubble Wrapped Camcorder

You are walking into a large retail store. There are televisions displaying in-store commercials. Video games are blooping and over in the corner, next to the one use only film cameras are the plastic bubble/blister wrapped camcorders.

You wander over to check it out. Like a siren they have colors and all kinds of doo-dads you don't completely understand. Before you open your wallet, let me give you some things to think about before you ask the clerk to unlock the item.

Bubble Wrapped Camcorders Can Be Inexpensive

Many times you can find these camcorders between $50 to $160 with the average range being $79 to $99 dollars. Often you will find the word "clearance" near the item.

You don't necessarily want to buy an inexpensive camcorder. The reality is that for many folks the camcorder might be the only one in your price range. But price should not be your main reason for making purchase unless you can afford to junk the purchase or are willing to take it back.

What Is In A Name?

Have you heard of Sony, Canon, Nikon or Panasonic? Well, with a few exceptions you might not recognize the name on the package. Often brands like Coby, Aiptek, Mustek and DXG are placed in bubble wrapped packaging. Others names like Polaroid and RCA are licensed from the original manufacture or made by another company and the name is "rented."

It doesn't necessarily indicate that it is a poor quality product. But these camcorders are not exactly the top of the class either. It is a risky purchase without further research. One way to do that is look up the camcorder on Amazon.com or other online vendors and check out the comments.

How Many Things Can It Do?

Many of these devices are multi-functional. There is a camcorder, mp3 player, ability to take still photos and can record voice. All this for $79? Such a deal, right?

Wrong. The video quality might be fine in daylight and horrible inside, no matter how many lights you have turned on. The still photo mode might have a bad case of shutter lag. This means that the photos are blurry because you moved before the shutter actually recorded the photo.

The MP3 player works fine but the more music you load the less space you have to record video. Be honest, how often do you actually do voice recording?

The truth is most of these devices don't more than two things well. You want video to be one of them. You never can be really sure unless you find out about the product.

Buying Tips

Trust me, these camcorder or others like them will always be around for the foreseeable future. There is no real urgency in buying bubble wrapped camcorders unless the price is $30 or less. Hey, especially if it $30 or less. Subdue the camera lust by taking a time out.
  • Write the name and model number down then visit places like CamcorderInfo.com, read reviews at CNet and Steve's Digcams. Read online vendor's user comments about the camcorder.
  • If you can, read the specs, know what the camcorder will do for you and not to you. You don't want surprises., For example, you are on a Mac and the software is only for Windows PCs. Do you have enough tech skills to figure out a work around?
  • Finally ask yourself the lyrical question, why is it on sale? Why is the store selling it so cheap? It might be because they need to clear out the remainder of the prior version or it might be that they had so many returns that they want it out of the store with a no return policy attached.
I've bought bubble wrapped camcorders and I'd say I had success with one out of three of them. They were all impulse purchases. Know before you blow that cash, time and temper.

Related Posts

Monday, October 26, 2009

Celtx - Free Planning and Scripting Software

I've know about Celtx for a while. It is an application that helps you to organize your pre and post production activities.

Celtx Main Screen
According to the website you can do the following:
  • write scripts,
  • storyboard scenes and sequences,
  • develop characters,
  • breakdown & tag elements and more...
Oh yeah, it is free as in no cost. Zippo. Not a dime. This is an interview with Steve Pick from Celtx by Rocket's Tail.



There is a lot packed into the program. This might be over kill for many folks but if you are of the organizational bent or you need this kind of functionality with this particular price point check it out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Caleb's Video Kit - It Doesn't Have to Break the Bank

There is no one way to record web videos. Everyone has their opinions and reasons for doing what they do. Equipment discussions can and do get passionate.

The bottom line is what do you need to get the job done.



Caleb Clark recorded this video to share what is in his kit, options you have and tips to keep in mind when thinking about buying video stuff. One of the points that he made is that you don't want to be totally dependent on software that came with the camera/camcorder or a specific software to get the job done.

Plan for flexibility. Know that you have options if something doesn't work out the way that you expected. For example, if your software locks up on you and you are on deadline do you have alternatives you can use in a pinch?

You don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money. In fact, you might have what you need around the house. Look to see what you have before spending money on what you need.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mashable's Complete Guide to Videoblogging

Leah Betancourt has written a guide to videoblogging on Mashable.com


Leah writes about the opportunities, technology and talks with long time videobloggers like Ryanne Hodson of FreeVlog and Josh Leo.

A complete guide? Um no, but a good starting point.

There are some goodies on Mashable.com concerning video and videoblogging. Just be sure to check the date and if the resources is still available. You might want to snoop up Top 5 Ways To Share Video on Twitter and from 2007 there is a post on 400 Tools for Photographers, Videographers, Podcasters and Musicians.

Mr. Pixel and Mrs. Grain - Therapy is Not Enough

There I was checking out the videos on the Kodak channel and this is what I found. A bit of sales, a touch of humor and you have a commercial that doesn't make you entirely want to hurl.

I feel your pain, Mrs. Grain but me and Pixel boy have been stepping out for quite some time. I can't help it and don't want to; I tried, but ask me if I miss mixing chemicals or hoping I didn't crimp the film in the reel.

This is part one:



and this is part two:



Hey, technicolor was great and I don't regret a thing about it. My wants and needs have changed. Sure he is a little rough but I can work with him; he's come a long way since I first cast eyes on him.

Once you've gone pixel it is hard to turn back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

12Seconds.tv - WebCam and Mobile Phone Video Host

There are people who can communicate a specific thought in 12 seconds. I am not one of them. But if you are one of those people and have a WebCam or record video on your cell phone this may be of interest to you. 12Seconds.tv allows users to record and upload videos.

Video Host 12Seconds

12Seconds.tv is really short form video. Record 12 seconds of your life, pitch or on the scene observations and then upload it to site. You then can alert friends, tweeters and other folks that you have a quick video update you want them to see.

So It Is Video Twitter, Right?


Eh, yes, no and maybe. In terms of length yes you could say that it is the video equivalent of Twitter. But no, you can't watch video from your Twitter page at this time on the day I'm writing this post. What 12Seconds.tv does do is provide a link to your videos and send it as tweet to Twitter if you have a Twitter account.

It is not all about the Twitter. You can post video on FriendFeed, Facebook, TweetDeck and other places.

Great, Another Ego Festival...

Whoa, no. Stop the pre-judging. There are a lot of great reasons to encourage people to make 12 second videos. I can't seem to link to specific videos so I'll link directly to the creator's main page and let you explore.
What you can do with 12 seconds of video is totally up to you. If you have the time they got a spot for you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Animoto for Business Videos

Animoto is a service where you can upload photos and now show videos to create distinctive videos. There is a free and paid service. Animoto has expanded that service to help business users create videos that introduce, support or drive leads to your website.

Not PowerPoint type slide shows mind you, these are music based introduction videos that can be used to promote visual businesses like photography, real estate, goods and services. All you need to do is provide the content and Animoto will create a video that can be posted where ever you want.

You can learn more at the Animoto Business Learning Center. There is also the option of burning the videos to DVD or memory card readers to pass out to potential clients.

This is an option for those of you that want to create content but do not want to spend time learning to edit. You still have to know how to embed and upload videos.

Can't let the computers have all of the fun.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BBC Training Online - Good Shooting Video Guide

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) has an free online guide to help you shoot video better. And unlike my attempts to check out episodes of Dr. Who (which is restricted to UK viewers), this is open to all web visitors.

Video Shoot Guide
This will open a second browser window so you might have to temporarily allow pop-ups. It is interactive with the ability to download .pdfs on topics like choosing the right camera for the job and what you need to take on a recording session.

The equipment mentioned is for professional journalists so keep that in mind and adapt to your immediate needs and budget constraints. There is enough here to keep you busy and help you figure out what you need to consider in telling video stories.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Steve Garfield in Hollywood Video Workshop

For those of you looking for something to do on October 27th and you were thinking about purchasing a Kodak Zi8 you might want to hook up with Steve Garfield at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood for a video workshop.

Some of the topics that Steve will cover are (from the website):
  • how to tell a story,
  • think like an editor,
  • plan your shots,
  • create interviews and more...
This event is being held at the same time as Jeff Pulver's 140 Conference but it has a separate admission fee.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Camcorder Buying Decisions - Power Sources

I'm still waiting for that quality hand cranked/solar powered camcorder. In the meantime, there are considerations about the kind of power source you purchase when you buy a camcorder.

There is an additional cost that you might want to factor into your purchasing decision.

The choices currently are:
  • Batteries - AA/Lithium/NiHM/Rechargeable
  • Batteries - Proprietary
  • A/C or Mains Powered
Batteries - AA/Lithium/NiHM/Rechargeable

I lean toward camcorders that have replaceable batteries for a number of reasons. I can be anywhere in the world and I can buy AA batteries. This does not mean that I can use any AA battery.

Digital camcorders use a lot of power. The ones that sell at the 99 Cents Only Store or Dollar Store do not have the juice required. You would be lucky to get it to turn on, let alone record for any period of time. In an emergency, you can use Alkaline batteries but be forewarned, your camcorder may or may not operate.

On the back of many battery packages is a rating scale that will tell you what the intended use of the battery. If you see headphones, clocks or remote control symbols that means that the battery is designed for low power devices.

The type of AA batteries required by digital cameras and camcorders are going to be more expensive. Lithium and NiMH level batteries or batteries designed for high power usage are the way to go. Currently these cost about $6 to $10 a pack, depending on the number of batteries included.

Lithium and NiMH one time use batteries are a great option in a pinch but you don't want to keep spending that kind of money on a regular basis. That is when to start looking at rechargeable batteries. $20 to $40 will get you started with the recharger unit and two sets of AA batteries.

It can take from 10 to 18 hours to recharge a set of batteries so you want to rotate between having fresh batteries in the camcorder and a set charging. Cost wise this is going to save you the most money in the long term. These batteries don't last forever but should get you through the year.

Camcorders that accept rechargeable batteries include:
Proprietary Batteries

These are batteries provided by the manufacture for their products. They are made to the device specifications and who knows better than the manufacturer. The only problems is, once you run out of juice you are done.

Many manufacturers sell higher capacity batteries so that you can record for longer periods of time. These are not the ones you will receive when you purchase your camcorder, you can general get an idea of the cost of the higher capacity batteries from the vendor website. You want to know before purchase if your camcorder battery can be recharged by an independent battery charger, by a wall socket or a USB port.

Camcorders that have proprietary batteries include:
Before you rush out to make that purchase you might want to factor in the cost of running your gear. This really is a matter of preference and managing expenses.

I like having the option of stepping into a retail store that has batteries designed for photo level use. That said, I do have proprietary batteries on other camcorders. It is not a deal breaker for me. It is just don't like running out of power while recording.

I also don't like spending money on buying batteries if I can help it. I use rechargeable batteries when possible.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zoom Optically and You Can't Go Wrong

Before you buy a camcorder you need to look at the specifications. Ok, yes I've written that before. But it is true! You shouldn't buy a camcorder because it has a great color or it is encased in bubble wrap for $69.99.

You should know what you are buying. Part of the buying process is planning for future needs. You might need the ability to zoom in and out of an image or recording.

Here is a situation. You are in row 15. You can't physically move closer. You have the camcorder in your hand and two sets of grandparents breathing down your neck wanting to see the recital. Does your camcorder have the ability to magnify the image without a loss of video quality?

Zoom, or the ability to move an image visually closer is one of those things you have to consider before you are making a purchase. There are two kinds of zoom, optical and digital.

Optical zoom uses in-camera lens to bring a distant image closer. There is mechanical movement inside the lens to magnify the image. This is what you want.

There are two ways to get optical zoom. One is with your feet, i.e. moving you and the camcorder forward to get the shot. The other way is that the camcorder has the ability to perform optical zoom.

This is usually designated by X, for example a 3x optical zoom, 10x optical zoom and so on. The higher the number in front of the x the greater the magnification of the image.

This is a short video by James who is giving his take on the optical and digital zoom.



Digital zoom is a software program that looks at a segment of the image and magnifiers that one section. It doesn't maintain the original quality. In fact, the more you use it the worse the recording can get.

To the extent possible never, ever use digital zoom. Really. It will jack your image or video up. And if you see the word "interpolation" under no circumstances should you invoke the interpolation feature.

Interpolation is another software program that tries to increase the image or video detail. The image itself has a finite amount of detail that no current software program can add or enhance.

Think of it this way: you have eight ounces of juice. You pour in 16 ounces of water. How much juice do you have? Right, eight ounces but with the added dilution of water you may or may not want to drink what is before you. It has been distorted. Your recording will be the same way.

There are some people will defend the use of digital zoom stating it doesn't look bad at all. There are others that will claim if they didn't use the digital zoom they would have missed the shot.

Bless and be blessed. Or get your eyes checked. My point is for normal recording i.e. 99.99% of the stuff you do with a camcorder you should use optical zoom, if you have it on your camcorder.

If you are in that .1% situation where you feel that you must zoom in and you understand that the video quality might suffer or be potentially unusable, go for it and use digital zoom.

Technology has kicked me in the shins about this one so I have to revise my original manta which was: No optical zoom, no purchase.

I can't say that any more because of the web camcorders. Most do not have any optical zoom and many have digital zoom. I still implore you not to use the digital zoom but if you are buying a budget camcorder there might not be a choice of optical zoom.


What about using digital zoom with a high definition camcorder?

If you are recording in high definition I'd still say leave it alone. Yes, you are magnifying an area that has a lot more detail but you still can't add more detail than what existed at the time of recording.

Optical zoom camcorders have really come down in price. If you tend to record events at a distance, purchase an optical zoom camcorder.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bre Pettis on Camcorders

Bre Pettis is a do it yourself kinda guy. Among other places, he seems to be hanging out at Esty.com teaching other people how to get started make videos.



For newbies, this is a good starting place with a very capable teacher. Plus he is always around really cool people and really cool stuff.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Videomaker Magazine - Learning Resources

I could write four separate posts about Videomaker. I've been reading it on and off for years. It was originally created for the advanced amateur/prosumer video market. This was back in the VHS/U-Matic/BetaSP years.

This was way back in the day when cable television was required to provide Public Access television. There was also another form of access where folks could purchase a block of time and that was another way to get content to folks and potentially get income. Unfortunately, it didn't really work out that way in most markets.

Videomaker Magazine
Videomaker provided much needed help and understanding about products, hardware, contests and opportunities that were available. They also sold information products to those of us no where near Hollywood but needed to know how to set up lights correctly.

Well, time marched on. The cable industry did all it could to stab a knife in Public Access television. They have pretty much killed it off except in a few markets. Just about the time that alternative means of creating videos evolved independent of the studio system.

Videomaker has a YouTube channel where they have some of their tutorial content for viewing. This is an example of a video on Hand-held Camera Techniques.



The magazine is still providing content for amateur and prosumer users. Videomaker has learning workshops, there are instructional DVDs that can be purchase or you can dive into their learning section and soak up much goodness.

There is more information in the learning section of the website. For intermediate level video folks there is a tremendous amount of help. If you seeking prosumer level video education or want to understand the business aspects of video production this has proven to be a long term resource.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Social Media Group Reality Check - How Do You Use Video Meet-Up

I learned about this from Rox at Rox's Beach Walks. Real.com is sponsoring a series of meet-ups around the country to talk to users and creators of video.



On October 20th there is a Los Angeles session and there will be a few other in various parts of the country. You can get a sense of the meetings by reading about or viewing prior sessions.

The Social Media Club folks are having their meeting and then there will be an opportunity for a discussion and exchange with Real.com about what and how video is used by folks and the community.



This is video by Scott Stead at the Washington, DC event of a demonstration of Real Player SP.

I need to check this out; apparently this is a media conversion program. I thought initially it was another version of the Real Player.

If this is free conversion software that make it easier to go from one computer video format to another I'm all for it. It it just snags YouTube or online videos and helps users place that on devices, not so much. There is plenty of software that can do that.

If the quality is good and it can do both Standard and High definition videos this could be interesting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Quick Visit to Atom.com and 10 Seconds

Before before YouTube, long before videoblogging there was Atom Films. Creatives use to hang out there and produce short Flash animation movies and videos. Many were from the independent video circuit but there were some home made stuff.

On a 56k connection I'd struggle through watching a lot of content. Some videos were kind of rough as in "Officer, you need to have discussion that that fellow over there." Some were brilliant. It was a community but not social. It was still a sender/receiver kind of place. Still was better than TV.

I drifted away from Atom Films, partly because of the bandwidth issues but it was skewing to teenage boys and frat humor. I know what they like. There was a disconnect.

10 Seconds


When you don't know what to write about or when your head is still pounding like a jack hammer you check out old haunts. It is now Atom.com and they specialize in comedy videos and movies. Posters can see how man folks have viewed the videos.

Users can still vote if they liked the video or not. Not sure if folks comment any more or if the quality of the comments has gone down. Anyway, this is 10 Seconds.

P.S. yes I am on broadband now. Literally had to wait for the price to drop and a reason to up the speed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Windows Live Movie Maker - Redesigned for Basic Users

The first thing I need to tell you is that if you are a user of Windows Live Movie Maker2 (WMM2) on XP this version is not available for your operating system.

If you have had prior experience with Windows Movie Maker2 then I need to tell you this is a different product with a simplified approach to creating videos.

Way simplified. Okay, check out the video and then a few remarks.



I'm not going to lie, I had issues with WMM2. When I first started out that is the software program I used to edit my videos. The software worked fine if I kept the videos very simple with minimal cuts or transitions.

As I gained more experience and wanted to try new things WMM2 would often hang or crash. I became one with the Blue Screen of Death.

I cried, let me tell you, I cried a lot until it came a time when I had to walk away and find another video editing program. I still used it to make titles or other small tasks. I found other programs that were better.

I downloaded a beta version of Windows Live Movie Maker in the summer. It was not the complete program. I understood that. I didn't anticipate how stripped this version was compared to the prior version.

There were howls on that message board. The vocabulary used to express feelings about the new version would have scorched The Devil's ears. Folks were not happy. There was a confusion of expectations about the direction of the product. We thought they were going improve the existing version.

Microsoft Created a New Product for Entry Level Users.


So here is the deal. If you are a total video newbie on Vista or the new operating system and you just want to do very basic mixing and matching of photo/videos then Windows Live Movie Maker is your program. If you want to upload to YouTube in one step, this is your program.

If you want to add narration, overlays or do anything other than basic transitions, cuts or add photos this isn't your program.

I suggest sticking with your prior version of WMM2 or checking out Corel Video Studio X2 or Serif Movie PlusX3

There are other products but I know these work and have good features for the cost of the software.

I don't think this is a bad way to go for Microsoft; there is a market for simplified video editing. Most of us just were not prepared for how simple the program has become.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wendy Tremayne - Holy Scrap Hot Spings

How many of us walk our talk? I try to. I don't always succeed. That is ok because when that happens the smart thing to do is look for others that are making an effort to contribute and educating along the way.

Here is the question; What if you start where you are with what you have? Is that enough? The answer is yes.

Wendy Tremayne and her partner Mikey Sklar are building a sustainable home and Bread and Breakfast hotel in New Mexico.

The blog Holy Scrap Hot Springs is a work in progress on the construction of the site. There is a YouTube channel that contains videos about the project. This is a video that explains what they are doing in New Mexico.



Just as we put ink to paper to transmit ideas and concepts we can do the same thing with video. I'm not sure if I am ready for a hand cranked digital camcorder just yet but technologically it should be possible.

I know there are changes coming. Most of us are not prepared. I think we could all be spending more time paying attention to those that have functional solutions than paying attention to those that profit on spinning fear and disrespect.

That is what videoblogging can help to do.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Learning By Example - Real Simple Breathing Video

One of the ways to learn how to do something is to watch others that do similar tasks. I was searching for household information at RealSimple.com and I stumbled into the How-To video section.

I check out a few of the videos and it hit me - this is a learning opportunity. Well, that and learning how to clean grout and fold a t-shirt.

I looked at the structure of the videos to see what I could observe. The videos are not all the same. Some of the videos were taken from the television program. Others were specifically designed for web viewing.

The one that I'll use as an example is How To: Relax and Breathe. This was a short video and this is what I observed:
  • Five second introduction with music that contained the name of the creator and the topic of the video. Something to think about if you know your content is going to be distributed to other video portals or bloggers who like the video and may post it on their blogs.
  • Introduction to the topic and topic titles are used to transition from one instructional step to the next.
  • Alternates between close up of the speaker and an establishing shot of her in the scene.
  • Constant branding of the source of video and additional tips about the topic.
A quibble I have is that there is a little too much white space at the bottom of the screen. However when the tips or the instructional step transitions are presented then it is the right amount of space to display the text.

I'd have to think about how that could have been done differently.

Deconstructing a successful video, or a lousy one for that matter, is a good way to understand what could work in your video production.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Video WTF - Where Video Questions Seek Answers

You come here looking for answers but there is a bunch of narrative, videos and long winded ramblings. You just want to know if the camcorder you are looking at is the right one for the job.

I do have a long winded answers because I think you should put thought into buying the right camcorder. However, I can appreciate that some folks just want to know, WTF am I supposed to do?

Well, you could go visit Video WTF?

This is simple. You have a video equipment, production or concept question. You post the question. Anybody who wants to answer your question can. Anyone who disagrees with that answer can post a response.

There are no stupid questions and newbies are certainly welcomed. To get familiar with Video WTF you should read the FAQ to help you understand what the site is about.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ruud Elmendorp - Reporting From Africa

Ruud Elmendorp is a journalist who has been covering stories in Africa. He started out with a traditional crew and equipment. He now reports with his own camera and a laptop.

Ruud
Ruud provides content to news organizations but he is a freelance reporter. He can cover stories that a large news organization might pass on. Ruud certainly is documenting what is happening in places in Africa I've only heard of when there is a major conflict. Documenting the day to day stories of people has a great value.

Ruud reports in Dutch. The videos on the website have English subtitles. You can view a .pdf script in English or Dutch of the video report as well.

I watched the video on the popularity of solar cell phones in Kenya. It exposed me to the problems of electricity, providing customized goods and services to specific populations and where there is a need there is usually an opportunity for profit.

The main site is http://videojournalist.nl and if you want to leave Ruud comments he has a blog as well.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

10 Questions from Ken Burns - Time.com

Ken Burns is a filmmaker, historian and certainly a pathfinder for finding ways to tell stories that creatively blend video, voice and photography.



This is a 7 minute interview with Ken answering 10 Questions about his new project on the American National Park system.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pine Plains Views - Documenting A Changing Community

There is something to be said about knowing where you stand. In life, in your work and in the place where you live. If you stand long enough you see changes. Sometimes slow and sometimes dramatic.

Stan at Pine Plains Views is recording the change from being a small town farming community to one where former city people who are moving into the area are altering the nature of the town.

There is good work here. Hell, most of the stuff is great. I loved the videos on the how the mason started working with stone, how Verne the stone cutter does his job and carries on skills that were used in the past and the restoration of an old farm house.

Perhaps the city slickers should be made to watch a few episodes so that they know understand the community they have relocated into. For me it is enough that I get to appreciate the people and the land that are there; for the time being.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Video Documentation - YouTube Mobile Upload

There are times when you have the power to show a truth. You might also be surrounded by law enforcement. There have been situations where law enforcement have taken cameras/camcorders of a potentially explosive situation.

Now let me be clear, your life and safety come first. There is no discussion or debate about that issue. If necessary, leave the area discreetly and then handle your business.

There are times when that may not be possible. This is a video on an assault by a NYPD office on a bike rider. If you are recording to a cell phone or iPhone pay attention.



In the video, there is a information on how you can quickly upload the video to your YouTube account. Again, your safety comes first.
If you have recorded a situation that is serious or news worthy and you can do it without drawing attention to yourself this is a quick guide to how to upload the video accessing the mobile version of YouTube.

Other Posts of Interest

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Process on Creating The InTitle Search Engine Tutorial

It came to me that I was trying to build Mt. Rushmore when I had only climbed a steep hill. This is not a good approach. Not for me anyway. I'm tabling the Fuze videos until I've feel more grounded in creating solid tutorial videos.

I took a step back. I thought about what I liked and did not like in tutorial videos. I also thought about what is the shortest amount of time can I communicate a concept?

What did I want to see? Could I do it with what I have on my system? How much structure do I need? This is what I came up with that seems to work.



Creation Tools


  • Blue Snowflake USB Microphone
  • Drawing/3.5 cards
  • Help pages from Ask.com, Bing and Google
  • Memento Express (Photo animation program no longer being produced or distributed)
  • Serif Movie PlusX3
  • SUPER(c)Video Converter
  • TechSmith Snag-It
  • TechSmith Camtasia 6.0

Process


One of the things I learned from my nine hour catastrophe is that I do not need to record in one sitting. I also learned this from hanging out at the Screencasting Handbook group on Google.

So I thought in terms of recording in segments. That took a lot of pressure off and gave me the ability to control just what I needed to focus on at the time.

I used Snag-It for static shots of each search engine to use in the title. I used Camtasia 6.0 for the recording. Smooth, slick and loved the fact that I could pause the recording, move the area to a new location and then resume.

I recorded in the native Camtasia format because I wanted to use the Smart Focus feature. Still having problems with that but I was able to use the pan and zoom to get in closure to the Search box area. Once I got the hang of it that worked really well for the Bing and Google segments.

I did a rough edit in Camtasia and then exported out so that I could work in my normal video editor Serif MoviePlusX3 I can do L cuts, change volume, pan and zoom and it is a good program affordable program that does not get the respect that it should.

I exported it out as an .wmv and used SUPER(c) to convert it to an .mp4. SUPER(c) is a free video conversion program and it can convert almost any file format. It has it quirks but so do I. We have reached an operational truce.

I wanted the video in 640x480 format which in many programs will not let you do because they are customized to fit the iTunes/iPod format. I didn't want to do that just yet and some video web host will transcode for you anyway.

Only thing left to do was review, upload and post.

The Errors Along the Way


Oh, yes. it is not perfect. My goodness yes, I made mistakes. It is the little things that just kick you straight in the rump such as:
  • I may have reduced my Plosives but my Sibilant sss are rising to the challenge. Looking for old pantyhose and a loop.
  • Making sure the mouse pointer is out of the way each and every time is a new point of focus for me.
  • I had to cut parts of the video out when I kept saying inline instead of intitle. Not the same thing.
  • Had to do the whole thing over when I discovered that I misspelled title in the final reminder card.
Inspite of having said what went wrong I have to say I feel better about doing this. I'm going to make a few more that I'm donating to the PCC Library Technology blog. I can't do things in a vacuum.

The good news is that I'll get better. Once I learn the structure and can control the work flow then I'll have a better sense of the rules or concepts I'd like to see changed. I would like it not to be so dry. I want to incorporate the things I learned from the Presentation community.

This is the long way up the mountain side. Be prepared and take your time.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Process on The Fannie Lou Hamer PSA Project

In May 2009 I had an idea that there needs to be public service announcements speaking out on verbal violence against women. My original intent was to produce a few examples and hope that others would see how simple it was and carry forth.

I hit upon the idea of using historically powerful women replying to a negative statement about women. I decided on using Fannie Lou Hamer as an example of a woman you will not diminish with idiotic words and thoughts.





A Bit of History and The Process
 
It was fairly simple. I first had to find an insulting quote about women. Sadly that was incredibly easy to do. I had heard about Fannie Lou Hamer and knew she was a community powerhouse in the Civil Rights movement.

I began to research her history. Mrs. Hamer was catching hell not only from segregationists but she also experienced sexism and class discrimination from the men in the Civil Rights movement.

The men didn't mind that she's expended energy in motivating people to participate or telling her story. But Mrs. Hamer was a woman and perhaps a greater sin in their eyes, not "educated." The leaders of the movement wanted to present themselves as educated, profession and men worthy of inclusion.

This did not include Mrs. Hamer. One of those so called great men actually told her to go home; she had done her bit but she was no longer necessary or wanted as a public face of the civil rights movement.

I found audio of her testimony before Congress on her experience of telling her sharecropper boss of her decision to register to vote. I then found the photos and animated them in my video editing program to export out as a video.

There are a number of slide software programs like Microsoft Photo Story. I believe iMovie has the same ability. I really waned to keep it simple so that others could replicate the process.

The video was uploaded to Blip.tv and YouTube.com.

Problems and Concerns

Well yes, and two of them should be obvious. I did not have permission to use the audio or the photographs that appeared. Both Out On the Stoop and Create Video Notebook are non-commercial blogs. Non-commercial doesn't give anyone free license to do whatever they want. Fair use is not free game.

However the audio recording was produced during Mrs. Hamer's testimony before Congress.

I believe I can use the recording because if a work was produced by the U.S. Government it is created for the benefit of the citizens. As such, the work is in the public domain.

The photos are more troublesome. I don't know who took the photos. I do believe in attribution but there were so many copies plunks on websites that I don't know the originator of the image.

It is risky and it is not something to be done lightly. In the end, I decided to create the PSA with the understanding that this might be a problem down the road.

More Thoughts 

I do believe that this is time to take our stories and transfer some of them to the video format. I strongly believe in helping a future archeologist out. I don't think we should leave interpretation of what a woman is or is not to found copies of Girls Gone Wild or episodes of Gossip Girl.

There is a range of voices and ideas. This is a great time and opportunity to communicate who we are, what we believe and what we know. Video can also be used to educate.
Using the model of an traditional PSA  message I think we have the opportunity to do a lot of good.

Related Posts

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Video of Comparison Between Flip and Nano

I'm glad I suppressed my impulses and waited until I saw this video. Actually, I'm even more glad that I bought a Kodak Zi6. I'm not knocking the video on the iPod Nano. I think that the folks that are going to use this device are going to find ways of being creative with it. It will happen that an important event will be recorded on that device.




The video quality just doesn't do it for me. It is not a camcorder.

The iPhone Nano is a multi-function devices that can record video and audio. The primary function of the Nano is to play music and display videos. The fact that it can record video is a bonus. Yes, at $149 it is a good deal if you understand what you are buying.

Not a camcorder. Nope. It isn't and you can't make me call it one.

The Flip should have blown it out of the water and it did. It is a basic camcorder for videos that can be uploaded to the Internet. It can also be a good day to day camcorder. So comparing The Flip to the iPod Nano is not a fair comparison.

Hey, if I won an iPod Nano with video I'd be pleased. I'd record a bit of video to test it out but truthfully I'd probably load it up with episodes of the audio book, The Secret World Chronicle.

I'm really happy I saw this video.