Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Splitscreen A Love Story Recorded on a Nokia N8

I'll keep on saying this; it is not the technology it is the skill of the person using the technology. Love must be in the air or something because that is the topic of this short video.

The name of the video is Splitscreen: A Love Story.

This video won the top prize of $10,000 at the 2011 Nokia Shorts Competition. JW Criffiths is a director of commercials and short films. He isn't a n00b. JW has demonstrated that you can tell a good story using video from a mobile phone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Love Affair of Sorts - Theatrical Flip Cam Movie

Over the next coming day or so you will see a lot of film critics write about how much they hate, dislike and totally trash the movie A Love Affair of Sorts. That is their job. You bring what you know to the table based on your education, experience and preferences.

If you put it up for public display then part of the risk you take is feedback, positive and negative. Much of that criticism is directed toward using The Flip camcorder to make a feature movie.

This is the trailer:

I love a good film. I have a long passionate relationship to many movies. Many movie critics have that same passion so I can understand why they do not like the aesthetics, performances or the video quality of the movie.

So yeah, this movie is like shark food to movie critics.

But there is a nasty undercurrent about how glad they are that The Flip is dead so that others will not be able to follow in the producer's footsteps. The snark level is high.

One day, a theatrical movie will be made with a consumer camcorder that will be fantastic. It will be made for under $2, 000. There is no question about it.

Now professional critics and to the bone movie lovers might not want those of us outside of the studio or independent studio system to make theatrical movies.

Yet there have always been "the outsiders." How many movies did Edward G. Woods make? We laugh and celebrate them now but he cranked them out didn't he?

Without the outsiders we couldn't have Mystery Science Theater 3000. I'm not picking the best examples of outsider movies, am I? Maybe that is the point.

We need new blood. The willingness to try. Some of the efforts might fail. We learn as we go. Some day a gem of a movie will come out of a PC or iPad. A new story will be told and there will be a cinematic shift.

I don't think I'd want to make a theatrical movie. I don't have the skill level or the desire. But I will absolutely support anyone who wants to do so via, smart phone, iPad or Creative Vado.

Because I've stop looking to Hollywood to make original movies. As much as I like comic books I don't really need to see them on the screen. How many sequels were produced this summer? What holds the current practitioners up as the gold standard? Explosions?

I'll take a chance on original content. I don't care on what device or technology it is being created on.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fujifilm Finepix Z90 or This Time It Cost Me

I stand before you a sadder but wiser woman. I was lead down the path by the Fujifilm Finepix Z90. It was black, slim and cool to the touch.

FujiFilm Z90
I spun it around and liked what I saw, a three photo panorama mode that helps line up shots. A clear touch screen; or so I thought. On-screen shutter buttons. My fingers began to play and I couldn't stop. I didn't want to.

I forgot the prime directives. Never shop while stressed. Never walk near a photo isle of a department store when stressed. Soon I was tapping my way in and out of various modes.

Next thing I knew I was at the counter with a receipt in my hand. I bring my purchase home.

This is my test of outdoors in full sunlight:

It is not horrible. Just not great. Here are the specs:

  • Sensor size: 1/2.3-inch CCD or less than 25mm in size. Small. Really small.
  • 5X optical zoom, in this little bitty thing that is surprising.
  • Wide Angle Lens f=5.0 - 25.0 mm, equivalent to 28-140 mm on a 35 mm camera.
  • Video: AVI using Motion JPEG for a camera this size I'm okay with it.
  • Audio: Wave format but the microphone is right next to the zoom mechanism. Now you shouldn't use the zoom when you are recording but there are times when you gotta go for it. If you do and the sound is not louder than the zoom you will know about it.
For $149 it sounds like a deal. Wide angle, 5X zoom and able to fit in my wallet.

In practicality the touch screen does work but if you use the auto functions and depend on the auto focus you might not get what you expect.

For example, I recorded video thinking it was HD. It wasn't. The screen told me so but there was so many icons on the screen I missed it. I couldn't find the blankety blank video change mode until I went back to the manual and read the section.

That would be the manual on the CD. That manual is a work of minimalism technical writing. There is also a Quick Start Guide which will get you up and running but spends more time telling what not to do than what you can do.

You have to be extra careful not to have your hand in the recording. The lens is more toward the left side of the camera body where my hand is trying to find a place to hold onto the camera.

The f3.9 stop tended to blow out colors more than I thought it should. Shooting videos with this camera means that you will have to find the right mode for bright sun or any other lighting condition you do not want to leave to a pre-set mode.

Letting the camera decide that for you is not the way.

It should not be this much work. Even if you do know the right ISO setting there is only so much you can do with that teeny tiny sensor.

I'll keep it as my day to day camera. I need something I can carry. I shouldn't have bought it in the first place.

I'm thinking it is a diamond in the rough. I hope.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bing Chen on Growing YouTube Audience

I'm doing the insanity dance of juggling too many things at the same time. Wanted to make sure that folks checked out this video by Daisy Whitney's New Media Minute.

This is a clip where Bing Chen talks about what you as a video creator can do to attract and keep your audience. It is about engagement, tagging, being consistent and all of the stuff that you will not find in a get rich quick guide.

Too hip, gotta go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Using Gadwin PrintScreen for Video Stills

If you are doing a demonstration, tutorial or computer based video that requires detailed screen images you should take a look at Gadwin PrintScreen.

Gadwin Print Screen
I've seen a lot of tutorial videos that really could have benefited from using a large photo or screen shot to demonstrate a task or software feature. With a touch of pan/zoom you can make a tutorial video much easier to understand.

For computer based screen captures it works great. The free version will do everything you need but the Pro version will let you add annotations, shapes, call outs and other stuff.

There is a lot of malware web sites around so I'd suggest that you get it directly from the Gadwin web site. Sorry Mac Users, it is Windows only.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Get A Still Image from Your Video

It isn't hard to extract a still image from a video. There are good reasons why you want to do this.

One reason could be that you have a video of an event and you need to transition from one scene to another. A still images can be extracted and used as an transition point from shot to shot.

Another reason you want to do this is that some of the video web hosting services requires a sample image from the video to use as a poster or advertisement. If you don't provide a photo the service might electronically do that for it for you. You might not like the frame they have selected to represent your video.

Still images not only can be used to enhance your videos you might find that you have a great photo that you want to print. The quality of photo still image is going to be dependent on the quality of the video.

Copying an Image or Frame

Saturday Afternoon Adventure - Dancing
One place to look for this feature is your video editing program. For example, in Serif MoviePlus5 I can extract a frame from a video. For me, it is a simple as clicking the Save Frame button.

Saving using MoviePlus5
I have a choice of saving an image in the PNG, JPEG/JPG or BMP file format. Any photo editing software can open these photo formats but I would suggest that you stick with either PNG or JPEG.

Once saved to your hard drive you can then use it in a photo editing application to re-size or add effects.

You should have some type of photo editing software on your computer or device. It generally is included as a basic feature of any traditional desktop or notebook.

If you don't have a photo or image editing software you could try to use one of the many web application to edit software such as Avary's Phoenix Photo Editor or Picnik.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Resources for Video Editing and Music

I found another resource that folks might want to dip into for video/film education. There is a web site called FrameLines.tv which has articles, interviews with filmmakers and a tutorial or two.

This is a tutorial on how to transition from one scene to another.

If you have a media device you can also watch other videos on their Vimeo channel.

When I saw the name Peter John Ross in the video that tickled a memory. I use to hang out at his web site, Sonnyboo.com. He has a generous freebie page that has a shot list, call sheets and other film specific type documents.

There is also a music page that you can use for your videos under a Creative Commons Attribution license. There are a lot more things but you need to dive into the all the goodness for yourself.

Raw Milk Cheese by Arthur K. Tripp

You can tell a story if you have a narrative. The narrative does not always have to be voiced. This is a good example by Arthur K. Tripp that I found on Vimeo.

The narrative is found in the quality of the photos that goes well with the music. If you do it right it works really well.

Other Post of Interest

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lloyd Kaufman on Why Copyright Sucks

I have to shamefully say I've never seen a Troma movie. I don't know why. I've always like the idea of independent movie making outside of the studio system.

The Troma movie ads always cracked me up.

Troma's Lloyd Kaufman

Anyway, this is a good except from Lloyd Kaufman's book at Indywire about how the original concept of copyright has been corrupted by the decedents of the first usurpers. I totally agree about the intent of copyright and how it has been distorted.

Making the DVD man/woman pay a higher criminal penalty than some other crimes is just plain nuts.

I can't quite go along with boosting other people's work and making a profit without compensation for the original creators. We are at a point where some folks are bootlegging movies before they even hit theatrical distribution.

That is actually straight up theft; which is not the same as the oppressive copyright issues of today. I might have make amends and buy the paperback book.

Troma Films does have a YouTube page. I think it is coming back to me why I haven't seen a Troma flick. This is a trailer from the classic Toxic Avenger 2.

Mini Ramble

In other news, my computer is having fits. I am attempting to soothe the poor baby. It has taken me almost an hour to post this tidbit because one of the CPUs is having a royal hissy fit.

It might be time to get a new computer but I'm hoping the cure is effective. Re-installing software and looking for software keys is not my idea of fun. Posting may be dicey for the next few days.

Related Posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mozilla's Web Made Movies - A Glance

I just discovered the web site for the Web Made Movies project. I'm still checking it out. It seems to be an application that will let you combine video and live web applications into one master movie.

Some of the potential applications are that you could have a video and then present the data in support of the contents of the video. This is an example from Nick Fong-Greg.

This could be valuable for education or resource videos, product demonstrations or news features.

Like I said, I just stumbled into it so I'll keep a look out for more information and resources.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Should You Buy A Tape DVD Camcorder in 2011?

The MiniDV tape versus memory card camcorder dust-up is getting as heated as the perpetual Mac/PC debates. My answer is "it depends." You have to think about your technical skill level, your computer and the cost associated with owning a digital MiniDV (tape) camcorder.

I've owned tape based, hard drive and memory card camcorders. There are advantages and disadvantages. Knowing why you want and need a camcorder should be your first thought.

Canon ZR960 MiniDV CamcorderKnowing how much time and effort you want to invest is the second.

The advantages are:
Optical zoom levels are going to be larger than standard point and share camcorders; for sports and event recordings you will be able to capture much more than a current dinky point and share camcorder zoom.

Uncompressed video files can be huge. You are going to have uncompressed video on the tape. To transfer uncompressed video to the computer some type of compression has to take place. You are going to need an external hard drive for storage.

You will have an hour's worth of recording time per cassette at the standard play setting. You will always record at standard play or regret it later. Really, don't touch the LP or ELP settings.

Most modern video editing programs will recognize the camcorder when attached to the computer and import the video. However, most does not mean all. If you have a problem you will have to dive into the manufacturer's site to fix it.
The disadvantages are:
The size of the image sensor. The inexpensive camcorder have smaller sensors, and that will affect the quality. On small screens it will look great. Upload to the Internet will be fine. On a modern high definition television? Well...?

Camera noise - the on-board microphone will pick up the sound of the gears that transport the tape onto the audio sound track. If you are recording a music concert no problem. A spoken word concert? In that case, a big problem.

The added expense of tape cassettes, cables and storage media.

The older MiniDV camcorders used the 4:3 aspect ratio. You'll have to look for models that have widescreen or be willing to create crop your videos to 640x360.

You'll Need the Following for MiniDV (Tape) Camcorder:

  • Camcorder - There are still models for sale but they are disappearing fast.
  • MiniDV Recording Cassettes, still available but there are wild price swings at the retail level. If I was still using MiniDV I'd buy tapes on-line and save.
  • DVD discs for backing up copies of the videos or an external hard drive storage system.
  • A Firewire/IEEE 1394/iLink cable that you will need to connect to the computer. Some models do have a USB port but that was used to upload photos only.
  • A Firewire/IEEE 1394/iLink port on your computer. If you do not have a port then you might have to install one, purchase an adapter or get a physical converter box to transfer the video from the camera to the camcorder.
  • A video editing program that will recognize your camcorder. Most do now days but if you are missing the software driver that communicates between the camcorder and computer then you have to find it at the vendor's web site or find another way to transfer video.
If you understand what you are getting into go forth and snag a deal. But don't pay more than $350 for a new device.

This type of camcorder will work best for film/video students, event and sports recordings, studio recordings, product demonstrations, location interviews and anything shot with a tripod.

Oh, yeah, add that to the list. Especially if you use that zoom.

Bottom Line:

There are many people that can benefit from a tape based camcorder. If you have a functional camcorder that works for you then no worries. Carry on with your head held high.

If you just want to point and upload with no muss or fuss then no, a tape based camcorder isn't for you.

If your computer does not have a Firewire/IEEE 1394/iLink port and you are not the kind of person that wants to learn how to install the port (it is not hard) then no, you shouldn't get one.

In conclusion, let us not hate the other. Respect choice and diversity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Music for Your Videos - CC Mixter Search

You cannot use commercial music without permission or compensation. This isn't about Fair Use, that is a very specific concept. There are places where you can find and use music for both commercial and non-commercial videos. Finding free commercial music for videos is hard to find but things have gotten a little easier.

CCMixter Search Engine

There is an updated music search engine for CCMixter. You can find music designed for commercial use. You can preview the music to see if it works for you. If so, you can download it and make merry.

The musicians in this section of CCMixter have assigned their music as either Sampling+ where you can re-mix and distributed for non-commercial use or a Attribution 3.0 commercial license.

The Attribution 3.0 license means the musician of the work gives permission to use, alter or place it in a commercial production provided there is an acknowledgement of the musician and, if known, where to find him or her. On the music download page you can click a link to get more information about the musician.

When I use this type of music I make a title card at the end of the video giving the name of the artist or the web site where I found the music.

Why Should I Use A Commercial License If I Have A Non-Commercial Video?

You don't have to. There is plenty of music that can be obtained via a non-commercial creative commons license. Here is an increasing problem. If you upload to YouTube or other video services there are often ads that are placed on the video.

If you promised to use the music in a non-commercial video you "might" be in violation with the license if an ad is placed on top of the video, even if you have no control of it.

At this time I do not know of a creative commons musician that went after somebody whose video was played on YouTube and asked for compensation. It could happen.

Reduce the stress in your life. For those things within your control do the right thing. If you have music in your video make sure it is either has a creative commons license, in the public domain or obtain the rights to use the music in your video.

Related Posts

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bad Books About Creating Video

There are all kinds of search tools now days. I am using the Amazon Kindle store to look for books on web video. For kicks, I entered the search term "create video." I stepped into a virtual Private Label Rights (PLR) slime pool.

A Explanation of Private Label Rights

There have always been companies or individuals that hire other people to write books, reports or information letters. These kinds of documents are produced by copywriters, journalists, authors with experience with the subject or a person who has worked hard to build a body of knowledge. These are professional writers. I don't have problems with these folks.  Nope, not a lick of problems.

PRL created documentation is much different. The emphasis is on the sale and volume of sales; not the content. The goal is to attract your attention. Let me give you an example that I found in my search:
To create video products - how to use the bombing of the customer's eyes video

Catchy, isn't it? This is a really extreme example. It really is close to what is going on in the marketplace. Get the person's attention, answer a need and then sell the answer. But beyond bad opportunistic translations of cliché advice lurks a worse problem.

Sub-Basement Level Writing

PRL can happen when a person, marketing company, spammer or so-called entrepreneur puts together a half-azz book, special article or report and it is then sold to affiliate marketers to re-sell for whatever price they can get.

It is a crapfest of SEO repetition phrases, vague rah-rah concepts of benefits or poached content from blogs and web sites from 2005 and earlier.

I'll be generous and state that 97% of the people who have their names on a PLR book haven't a clue as to the subject matter. They don't have to. Part of what they purchased was the ability not to have to write the book. They don't care. It is about the money, not the quality.

Their job is to sell, sell hard and re-coop the cost of the license or affiliate fee. The sucker part comes when the mook strolls along thinking they are buying a legit information source. Upon purchase the buyer finds out there are misspellings, missing paragraphs or references to outdated technology.

The Acid Test

Don’t take my word for it. Go to the Kindle Store . The books that I'm talking about have the same name, same cover and sometimes the same author. Search using the keywords create video and you will see:
  • Video Creation Secrets I found 21 books with the exact same name, same content and wildly different prices.
  • Creating the Perfect YouTube Marketing Video 12 books with that title and different prices, there are more with variations to that title.
  • Video Marketing with YouTube 30 books, same name, same blue cover and one precious copy does have the author listed as PLR.
There will be name variation to re-sell the same product but you get the idea. Now there are group of half-step up from bottom PLRs users that hook up with a copywriter to attempt to correct grammar, spelling or content in the books. Then they price accordingly. Meaning upwards.

Most PLR sales people aren't going to make that effort.

When I was researching this post I made the mistake of going to one of vendor's site. When I tried to leave the parasite almost would not let me go. It was window after window of "Are you sure you want to go?" and "Passing up a deal of a lifetime."

The Not So Helpful Video Secrets

I did some sampling. For example, a 99 cent book that talks about camcorders using digital tape and Firewire/IEEE 1394/iLink and makes no mention of the current USB camcorders? Suckered.

A $3.99 book to learn that video is the hot new thing and all you have to do is to get a camcorder. As you read on there are no specifics, just generalities as to how to make that happen. The reader has been deeply suckered.

A $6.99 book gets you all of the above in addition to being told that you can make money by creating a commercial about your PLR book that you can post online. You have been royally chumped.

There is no secret to making a video. I have no objections to paying for quality experienced based content. I don't mind free either. I do mind when opportunists take advantage of unsuspecting buyers.

Buyer, you gotta beware the PLR content.

Other Posts of Interest

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Alamo Drafthouse Theater Reminder

I have been known to go on a rant about how you should not have just slides and narration and call it a video. There are exceptions and this one video serves a higher purpose.

Using a voice, text and animation and sharing it with a few thousand friends have got people talking about just how pissed off we are when people talk or text in a public movie theater.

The Alamo Theater makes it very clear that you are not allowed to text inside of the theater. The voice you hear in the video was escorted out of the theater and not given a refund.

The young lady, being somewhat vexed, left a message on the theater's voice mail. Now they could have shook their heads. Or they can transcribe the call and share it with thousands of people who back the Alamo Drafthouse 99.999%

Plus or minus, you know to be statically accurate.

Viva la revolution!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Book Review of How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

I'm on a never ending quest to find good books about creating video. That isn't easy. There are technical books designed for professional videographers or for special interests like video activism. There there is that slimy, stinking, no-good badlands of content farming slop.

When it comes to books I am opinionated. Well, I am happy to say that there is a new book that talks about the craft of shooting video for those of us that are between casual users and pro-amateur level creators.

Stockman - Video That Doesn't Suck

Steve Stockman's new book How To Shoot Video that Doesn't Suck is a non-technical and useful guide on how to shoot and edit videos. It is more about the creative process of how to make it look better but not so much the nuts and bolts.

Stockman is a director who can write and write clearly. He can also show and tell. This is a book trailer and tutorial examples of the Quick Start chapter:

At 248 pages it is a quick read but you can chapter jump if you need to zoom in on a concept. For me, the chapters on creating how-to videos, editing and shooting like a still photographer were helpful.

So Who Is the Book For?

Let me use a writer analogy. You know how to construct a sentence. You got the noun verb subject thing under your belt. You can write a paragraph but it has a lot of extra words and the intended meaning is in there someplace.

You know it needs tweeking but you don't know what to do and you are long out of school.

This book is for those of us that are designated family videographers, citizen journalists, vloggers, teachers, resource bloggers, or anybody that needs to tell a story using video.

Is it perfect? No. Stockman has to straddle the difference between people who have a different orientation to video than film students or professionals. He is drawing upon his background as a director.

Nothing wrong with that but sometimes you are at an unplanned event where you can't get into a mental planning space. You gotta hit record and do you best.

Also. I don't think ever video has to be cut at a frantic pace. If the action or dialog is good there is nothing wrong with a bit of lingering. This might be a generational shift on my part because I don't like the video equivalent of "Wham, bam, thank you mam."

I don't like the other kind either.

Really minor quibbles.

What I would suggest is that you visit his web site to check out some of the posts that are examples from the book or go to the Amazon page to read a excerpt to see if the book is right for you.

Related Posts

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Apprciation - Grand Rapids LipDub

The haters will come along later. From me, nothing but praise. When a major publication like Newsweek declares that your city is toast you do have the right to respond.

This is that response from the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I'm sitting here tearing up. I'm not from Grand Rapids. I do understand that there comes a point when you need to have your say. Open media production allowed for this to happen.

Now to be clear, this was an organized paid for response. There was cooperation from the city and a bunch of individuals, companies and foundations.

Yet the video speaks to me of being down but not allowing other people to count you out. This is the American way, not B.S. carping about who is a valid American.

This is about a community takes chance at self-expression.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Search of Header Graphics Tutorials

It is nice to be reminded that I can be a newbie. I haven't made an old school web page in 15 years. I viewed a few tutorial videos. I forgot that it isn't that hard to create a header or a banner.

Making a header that looks good on a Blip.tv show page is creatively difficult for me but the actual task isn't that bad. I've been rumbling through the header graphic tutorials on YouTube.

That is always an adventure. There is a group of people that just want to show you how to do a skill. Without sound. Moving at the speed of light. Eh, yeah. Not for me.

This video from Alphaejm is short and to the point:

Many of the tutorials use Photoshop but almost any photo imaging program has the same controls. For text and photo instructions visit Paul Stamatiou's tutorial How to Make A Header Graphic

If you don't have Photoshop that is ok. There are free alternatives like Paint.NET for PC users and Gimpshop for Mac, Linux and PC users. If you don't want to install software then also visit Aviary and select the free Phoenix image editor.

Update 10/11/2012: The company Aviary.com has decided to change business focus to mobile applications. They have closed their photo, music and illustration web sites.

Update 08/08/2014 A viable and free alternative is Canva which has Twitter, Facebook and other types of header graphics.

You don't have to buy a header graphics program or affiliate marketing tools. The task is simple enough that you don't need to pay for limited function software.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gone With A Handsomer Man Book Trailer

I like to reverse engineer videos to understand what works and what doesn't. It is one of the ways to create your own style by looking at the works of others in different disciplines. I'm also looking at this for header graphics ideas. Still looking at all kinds of idea sources.

I like books. I like video and movie trailers. Sometimes, well, most of the time it is a bad fit. Either the spirit of the book is lost or the whiz bang features of the video don't quite sell the book.

It is a balance of a proper introduction and a seduction.

This is a book trailer for the book Gone With A Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West

It is short, simple and allows the viewer to get a feel for the story. The visuals help you to become curious about the book. Thirty nine seconds is just right.

The music is contemporary so I'm not sure I'm the demographic market for the book. Then again, I was more focused on the the words and visuals.