Monthly Archives: July 2008

Flip Video Sells 1,000,000 Camcorders

Pure Digital, the makers of the Flip, announced that they have sold 1,000,000 (one million) Flips in the USA. They also say they have consistently been the best selling camcorder in the US.

I haven’t run out of uses for my Flip yet. There are so many situations where it is a better choice than a traditional camcorder (as long as quality is not the over-riding concern). I take mine everywhere.

If you don’t have one – get one. This is going to be as important a tool for creating internet content as anything since the introduction of the WYSISYG editor.

Free Codecs

Do you need to upgrade or install new codecs to get the most out of your new Flash Converter? Try the K-Lite Codec pack.

There are three versions of the K-Lite Codec Pack: Basic, Standard and Full.

K-Lite Codec Pack Basic contains only the most essential things. It contains everything you need to be able to play the most popular and widespread formats. It is small enough to fit on a single floppy. Also great for including on your movie CDs.
K-Lite Codec Pack Standard contains everything you need to play all the commonly used formats. This package should be enough for the average user.
K-Lite Codec Pack Full contains even more codecs. It also has encoding support for the various formats. This package is for power users and people who do their own encodings.

They’re free, whichever version you choose.

If you aren’t familiar with codecs (or other video jargon and terms), download a copy of Ghost Leg Media’s free eBook, The Language of Video. It explains the confusing technical terms and jargon-laden terminology of video production. If you want to upload videos to You Tube, but have no idea what bit rate to choose, which codec is best, how many frames per second to shoot – this is the guide for you.

Today Only – Get A Free Copy of the Moyea Flash Encoder

No doubt about it – You Tube is a great way to drive traffic to your web site, increase visibility for your videos, and save on bandwidth. But, as a quick look at any You Tube video will confirm, when it comes to quality, You Tube is still several generations behind.

You Tube has many good reasons to stick with a lowest-common-denominator strategy – but you don’t have to let that hamstring your work on your own blog or web site. If you convert your videos to flash yourself, you can get a much higher quality. However, there’s a cost. Namely – a monetary cost. Good Flash converters tend to be expensive. The freewware converters usually have major restrictions.

Today, 7/30/08, those considerations are moot. Give Away of the Day is offering the Flash Video MX Std converter from Moyea Software. They say:

With it, you can convert videos to Flash (SWF), Flash video (FLV) for easier online sharing. This is a user-friendly program which provides other functions like video compression, audio replacement, Flash Player with various player skins and special effects, and so on. It also supports H.264 video encoding and Flash 8 encoding

Key Features:

  • Brand-new UI, cleaner, clearer and easier. Newly polished UI and clean interfaces with clear text layout are targeting to offer both veterans and novices the best using experience ever.
  • Convert almost all videos to Flash (SWF), Flash video (FLV). Popular videos in AVI, MP4, MOV, WMV, MPEG, MPG, ASF, 3GP, RM, RMVB, and the like can be converted to SWF/FLV.
  • H.264 and Flash 8 video encoding. H.264 video encoding is to gain a higher video quality with the same bit rate or a smaller file size with the same video quality. Flash 8 video encoding offers you a high video quality.
  • Flash Player with brilliant skins, full-screen playback and parameter controls. Various skins are for you to choose to match your web style. The parameter controls are for you to customize a Player that others may not have, while full-screen video playback is for your visitors to enjoy the video at ease.
  • Various amazing animated preloaders. Funny animated preloaders for video loading will grasp your visitors’ attention and makes it amusing to wait.

This is definitely worth a download. However, as with all Give Away of the Day offerings, it is a time limited download. The price goes back to $60.00 tomorrow. So download and install today and worry about how you’ll use it later.

Is the Traveling Lab Coat Coming Your Way?

This is from Cindy Shebley’s eBay Blog:

Janie Ruth

Janie Ruth

“This is a quickpost to let you know about a very special charity auction that is going on right now; The Traveling Lab Coat.

The traveling lab coat tradition started last year shortly after eBay Live. It’s a lab coat worn by an eBay employee during Live! The idea is to purchase it for the sellers charity, sign it and then turn around and sell it for your favorite charity. The first lab coat got lost somewhere in the Midwest. I think maybe a collector couldn’t let it go.

My friend and fellow Education Specialist CJ Jacinto user ID: XOXMAS purchased a second lab coat this year with the thought of continuing the tradition. The day she picked it up during eBay Live we all heard about eBay attendee Janieruth. She fell off a banister while visiting a local museum that morning. Janieruth fell on her head and was rushed to the hospital.

CJ decided then and there that her charity sale would be to help Janieruth and her family. Since eBay Live she has been working to find a way to make sure that the money goes to helping JR and the auction stays within the eBay Giving Works guidelines. As a result 50% of the proceeds are going to help Alabama Head Injury Foundation, Inc. The other 50% will go to Janieruths chipin fund to help the family directly. Janieruth has return to her home Alabama just recently and her life is slowly returning to normal

The auction is going on now – go check it out for more details.”

ww.thetravelinglabcoat.com

And this is a Get Well Message just for Janie Ruth from her friend Miz Virgo:

Flaming Peppershot

Raise a Flaming Peppershot to Your Good Health

Why Your Business Needs A Blog Part 2

Here are some interesting statistics, gathered from Technorati and Alexa, by BlogWorldExpo

  • Over 57 million Americans read blogs
  • 6% of the entire US adult population has created a blog
  • Technorati is currently tracking over 70 million blogs
  • Over 120 thousand blogs are created every day
  • There are over 1.4 million new blog posts every day
  • 22 of the 100 most popular websites in the world are blogs
  • 51% of blog readers shop online

If you run an online business, pay particular attention to the first and last statistic:

  1. Over 57,000,000 Americans read blogs
  2. 51% of blog readers shop online

That’s over 29 MILLION qualified buyers. Are you willing to just pass on that market?

Sound Effects

If you watch the credits at the end of a movie, you will see several mysterious job titles: Gaffer, Best Boy, Key Grip, Foley Artist… The names give no indication of the function, but you’d never bother watching more than 30 seconds of a film that didn’t employ these people. They are the lighting and sound technicians who bring film to life.

Most Hollywood films – whether they blast you with loud, sci-fi style special effects or stick to quiet dialog during long, peaceful walks on the beach – have almost all sound except dialog added after shooting. When someone opens the front door, walks up the stairs, flips a light switch, and flops onto the bed – the Foley Artist supplies the sound.

Your You Tube or DVD productions may lack a Hollywood budget, but they can still benefit from the addition of post-production sound effects. Perhaps a crucial interview suffers from a low level hiss in the background. You can use the Noise Filter in Audacity to roll off some sounds – but it is not always 100% successful. The addition of another background sound can mask the noise. A carefully chosen, quiet musical track, or even, if the interview was recorded outside, the sound of birds chirping can be effective without being annoying.

But the cost! Finding good quality, royalty-free audio tracks is expensive and time consuming. Digital Juice has three great Sound Effects collections that sell for $150.00 each, but it can be very had to justify that sort of expense for a one minute You Tube video. And many on line videographers and product developers simply do not need such large collections. Alternately, the internet offers dozens – hundreds – of sites with free, low quality WAV and MIDI sounds. Some are pirated, some have no license agreements (which could bite you later). Is bad better than nothing?

Where do you turn?

Sound Snap

Sound Snap was begun by professional sound technicians as a way to share high quality, royalty free sound effects. They are scrupulous about both the quality and the legality of the sounds on the site. Some of Sound Snap’s contributors have worked on films ranging from Batman Begins to Happy Feet. These are people who know how to record quality sound – and they want to share.

Sound Snap arranges sounds by category, for easy browsing. You can find everything from Animals to Exterior to Nature to Sci Fi to Music – and more. There are currently 16 different categories, each divided into sub-categories. You can also search by keyword. The downloads are available as either MP3 and WAV.

All you have to do is register, and this amazing library is available for immediate use.

Don’t let your video productions suffer from bad sound – become your own Foley artist and bring them to life. (And once you become obsessed with sounds, share your own recordings at Sound Snap.)

Free Web Presentation Tools

Camtasia is a wonderful tool for creating screencasts, but for many product developers or internet retailers, it is overkill. With a hefty $300.00 price tag, you have to really need Camtasia before you buy it. So what do you do if you just need to make a slideshow and post it to your web site, blog, or Facebook page?

There are a surprising number of free tools available. They may lack the polish or flexibility of Camtasia – but they get the job done.

Jing

For short tutorials – especially if demonstrating software or answering user questions is part of your customer service package – it is hard to beat Jing. This small screencasting application is also made by TechSmith. There are versions for both Windows and the Mac, and – perhaps most surprisingly – it comes with 2 GB of free storage at Screencast.com. If you are just getting your feet wet with screencasting, this is a great place to start.

Photo Story 3

If you want to create a slideshow, with Ken Burns like pans and zooms, accompanied by royalty free music and your own narration – you’ll want Photo Story from Microsoft.  PhotoStory, which is free, can be downloaded from Microsoft’s web site. However, please note: Photo Story 3 is for Windows XP. It probably won’t work with Windows Vista. (Microsoft recommends that Vista users use Windows Movie Maker instead.)

Many top videos on You Tube were created with Photo Story. With a little effort, you can produce very professional results. (If you are looking for the missing Photo Story instruction manual – try Ghost Leg Media’s Everyone’s Guide to Photo Story.)

Flypaper

Perhaps the Ken Burns effect isn’t quite what you wanted. Maybe you want to add a little sizzle to your presentation. Then you need to check out Flypaper. Flypaper is finally out of beta, and the Standard version is free. (There is a paid, Pro version as well.) Flypaper uses a collection of templates to build online brochures, presentations, and movies. Although the templates may restrict your flexibility, Flypaper is optimized to work with eBay, You Tube, and Facebook and MySpace – so it is definitely worth checking out if you want to spice up your auctions.

Yodio

Yodio adds a twist to recording audio. You can use your phone to record the narration – removing another technical stumbling block for folks without a microphone. Finished Yodios can be emailed or embedded in blogs, Facebook pages, etc. If you want to see what a Yodio is, check out Cindy Shebley’s simple explanation of HDR Photography. Like the other services discussed so far, Yodio is free.

SlideShare

If you’ve struggled with sharing your PowerPoint presentation online, look no further than SlideShare. You don’t need to master Flash or Camtasia or any of the other programs that convert PowerPoint into a movie. With SlideShare, you can add audio, or just let viewers click through your slides. The presentations are also downloadable at the creator’s discretion, so make sure you watermark unique content. Slideshows can be shared publically or privately (only selected viewers, according to rules created by you). Just sign up for a free account, upload your PowerPoint presentation and you are ready to go!

SlideShare still lacks some of the polish of a PowerPoint slideshow run on your computer (no transitions, for instance). And there is a conversion process which, like You Tube’s, can make pictures fuzzier than the original. But as a simple way to get your slides on the web, it is hard to beat. The FAQ will answer most of your questions about the service.

How can you take advantage of these tools?

If you are an eBay Educational Specialist and you want people to sign up for your classes – maybe Flypaper is the way to announce the schedule and content. If you want to offer a preview of an upcoming seminar, SlideShare could be the answer. Photo Story can perfectly showcase any product you have to sell. Jing will allow you to answer customer service questions in half the time and with twice the effectiveness of an emailed reply. Yodio can bring pizazz to any announcement, regardless of your video or audio equipment (or lack of it). This is just a taste of the free photo/slide/screencast services available to product developers. More are added every day. What are you using?

Why Your Business Needs A Blog

You’ve probably heard that everyone needs a blog – even if you’ve never learned what a blog is, or why you’d want one. Blogs are the touchstone on Social Media in much the same way that web sites were the basic building blocks of the World Wide Web. In the early days of the Dot Com Boom, every business learned that they needed a web site, and soon everything from candy bars to car dealerships had a presence on the web. The trouble was, back then, few businesses took the time to discover why they needed a web site, or how a web site could help their customers. That pattern is now repeating itself with blogs.

Word Press

Everyone needs a blog and, hey presto! – everyone has a blog! Businesses that never made good use of their web sites are now making all the same mistakes with their blogs. Even worse, internet-saavy marketers are looking for ways to turn blogs into SPAM.

So does that mean everyone doesn’t need a blog? No! Blogs are essential today and they will be mandatory tomorrow. They will be just as common a way to communicate as email. What is missing from many business blogs – the crucial first step – is deciding not what your blog will do for your business but how a blog will improve your customer’s life.

Does that sound too grandiose? Are you in the business of selling widgets, not experiences and feelings? Then consider this: the internet has made it possible for your customers to find another business that does exactly what you do, that sells exactly what you sell – at a fraction of the price. All your customers need to do is type a few words into Google and click their mouse – and you’ve lost another sale. If you don’t build a relationship with your clientele that enhances their lives in some way beyond low price, you will lose, because someone, somewhere, will always under-price you. You will forever be subjected to downward pressure on prices while costs rise and margins shrink.

On the other hand, suppose customers come to you for your knowledge, your service, your willingness to help to them, to listen them, to fulfill their requests. Suppose what they appreciate about your business is not price but value? Will they trade the intangible benefits of a business that puts them first for the few pennies saved by patronizing a low-ball cost cutter?

The internet forced even small, local businesses to compete globally. Blogs, properly used, can give you a weapon that isn’t tied to your current size or sales volume, but rather is forged from your commitment to your customers.

Blogs are social media. That means that, unlike web sites, interaction is a two way street. The commenting and community side of blogging is as important as the content. It is imperative that you listen to your customers and build that community. Your blog should not say, “Here’s what I’m selling.” Your blog should say, “What do you want? How can I help you reach your dream?”

When your business is an answer to a dream – customer loyalty will follow. That is what your blog is for and that is why you need a blog.

The Correct Position for A Headset Microphone

Headset microphones are used by many screencasters. They produce acceptable sound at a reasonable price – particularly USB microphones like the Jabra GN2000 USB Headset – and they leave your hands free for keyboarding. Unfortunately, you can often tell when a screencaster is wearing a headset by the background sounds.

Most people’s first instinct is to speak directly into the mic by placing it in front of the mouth. This results in the mic picking up breathing sounds and popping on letters like “p” and “b”. The correct position for the microphone is counter-intuitive. It should be beside or below your mouth – where it will be less likely to pick up exhalations.

In their newsletter today, B&H Photo & Video compares many different headsets, both wired and wireless. You can find a PDF of their comparison of three lower end (i.e., less expensive) models here

They also offer this advice on microphone type and placement:

The proper positioning of the microphone arm and boom is important in order to ensure a clear, consistent vocal delivery. The optimal placement of the mic is usually 1-2″ from the corner of the mouth. Positioning the mic directly in front of the mouth is not advisable, as plosive distortion and exaggerated bass response (called the proximity effect) will undoubtedly occur. We recommend using omnidirectional polar pattern head-worns for most applications. They are easy to use and provide excellent quality audio We have found that omni mics offered a surprising amount of ambient isolation, probably because of the close proximity of the mic to its source and the small size of the capsule. Omni’s tend to be much more forgiving off-axis in terms of signal pickup and exhibit little or no proximity effect compared to cardioids. Directional polar patterns are sometimes better suited for situations where there are loud monitors, extreme feedback or environmental noise.

Position the microphone to the side of your mouth

Position the microphone to the side of your mouth

WordPress 2.6

The latest version of WordPress, v2.6, was released about a week ago. It has several useful new features. My favorites are the saved revisions, image captions (hooray!), the new Plugin interface, and the ability to make multiple selections (Shift-Click) when managing posts.

There are other very cool improvements that don’t fit with my current workflow. Some I’m thinking of incorporating (Press This looks useful), some might save you time and aggravation on your blog. Photo bloggers – check out the new ability to rearrange the Gallery using drag and drop. If you like to change themes, the new live preview will come in handy.

If you host your own WordPress blog on your web site – I’d recommend this upgrade. I always use the Automatic Upgrade plug in to upgrade this site – and I’d recommend that you use it to upgrade your site as well. If your blog is hosted on WordPress.com – no need to worry. They’ll take care of the upgrade for you.

Here’s a short video WordPress has released detailing the latest changes: