August 24, 2006

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A series of tubes
Sharing video for the Internet incompetent
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

The latest unlikely Internet hero is one “geriatric1927,” a 79-year-old British widower who makes videos of himself complaining about news items and telling stories about his life.

He posts little snippets on YouTube, a Web site where anyone can upload video, watch and comment on videos and waste vast amounts of time.

Naturally, geriatric1927, real name Peter, delights the tweenyboppers on YouTube who ignore their own grandfathers coming to visit. He underscores his commentary with blues music, which kids might recognize as samples in their favorite hip-hop songs, and intersperses photos of motorcycles with self-portraits in his opening sequence. Motorcycles are cool no matter who you are.

If an old dude like this can figure out how to post video on the Web, surely you can, right? Both YouTube and Google Video have help sections, but here are few simple ways to get started.

A webcam and microphone
The equipment preferred by most vloggers — that’s “video loggers” to you folks who insist upon etymologies — the webcam and microphone are probably the simplest, cheapest way to go. Get a camera with an integrated microphone, like the Apple iSight or the Logitech QuickCam for Notebooks Pro, and the cheapness goes down, but simplicity goes up; only one USB cable to plug in, and the bundled software knows exactly what hardware it’s dealing with. Most other webcams come with a separate microphone.

Did I mention bundled software? Yes, virtually every webcam comes with software that lets you record a video and save it to your hard drive. Then you just have to click a button, say your piece and upload. YouTube and Google Video accept the most common video formats, including AVI, MOV, MP4, MPG and WMV. They’ll transform it into a Flash video that most every browser should be able to display.

For more advanced options, you can use video editing software ... but I’ll get back to that.

A digital camera
They make these for under a 100 bucks now, dude. Decent ones. Get with the program.

Your digital camera probably has a video function. It might be a different icon on your mode dial, it might be an extra button next to the shutter button — whatever, check your user manual. If you’re lucky, your camera only limits the length of your video by the amount of storage space you have on your memory card; otherwise, you might be stuck with the first 30 seconds of your rant against liberals in the upper echelon of pop music stars.

Videos transfer to your PC just like pictures do, whether you use synchronizing software or copy right from your memory card. Again, just upload it or use video editing software to spruce it up a bit.

Yeah, yeah. I’ll talk about it now.

Video editing software
Make sure you have the latest, most updated version. No video software is ready out of the box, for some reason. Whether it’s ArcSoft iMake VideoSquisher XP Lite that comes with your webcam or your respective operating system’s included software, either iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, update it through the Help menu or just download the latest version. Failing to do so will make your file format unreadable by anything short of the NSA with a decoder ring from a Vulcan cereal box.

With a video editor, you can chop out the boring parts of your video and intercut different clips, either of your own, stolen from other people or clip animations. Perhaps most importantly, you can compress your video so no one has to clear space on their hard drive to watch a five-second movie of your cat running into a wall. As always, there’s a tradeoff between quality and file size, but you can fiddle until you find the happy medium.

Got a video you want to share with Hippo readers? Let me know and maybe there’ll be a column of the best in the future. If I remember.


Comments? Thoughts? Discuss these articles and more at hippoflea.com

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