Category Archives: Video

How To Add A Fan Page to Facebook

You’ve heard the statistics by now:

  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous country in the world, behind only China and India
  • Facebook had over 40 Million users in January, 2010
  • Facebook users are glued to the site and spending more and more hours there every month (up 10% just from Dec to Jan)

Facebook is the Number 1 social media site by a wide margin. Yet it can be baffling to navigate.

It has grown so quickly, that the usability of many features lags far behind the demand for them.

Cindy Shebley of  The Web Sellers’ Circle, put together a short video to answer a question she received about how to add a fan page to your Facebook profile.

Take a look:

Easy, Cheap, Reliable – Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront

Trust Your Content to the Cloud

If you do anything on the web, sooner or later you are going to need a place to store files.

You may want to host photos for your eBay auctions without having to worry that the service you use will suddenly go out of business or raise prices. Or you may want to add video to a blog or web site without paying the overhead for streaming. Maybe your photo blog was frontpaged on Digg, and you are suddenly over your bandwidth limit.

Or maybe you just want to know you can grow without paying now for bandwidth you’ll need in the future.

AMAZON WEB SERVICES

With Amazon S3, you not only get unlimited storage and bandwidth – you only pay for what you use.

And it gets better still …

Until June, 2010, S3 is offering free data transfers in (i.e., uploads) up to 50 Terabytes. If you are just getting started, it will cost you nothing to add all you files, no matter how many or how large, to your S3 bucket (until you cross the 50 TB line).

Actual data transfer is charged at $0.15 per GB for the first 50 TB (it goes down from there). That equals 100 GB of bandwidth for $15.00 – with no overage charges, no server throttling, no demands that you move from shared to dedicated hosting.

And of course, you only pay for what you use. If you use 10 GB, you pay $1.50.

I don’t think there’s a better deal.

Pair Amazon S3 with Amazon CloudFront, and you have incredibly fast, distributed content for pennies.

DISTRIBUTED CONTENT EQUALS FASTER DOWNLOADS

What’s Distributed Content?

Instead of downloading directly from your S3 Bucket (whatever the physical location of its server) Amazon CloudFront calls the original content in your Amazon S3 bucket. CloudFront is a global network of what Amazon calls “Edge Servers.” When someone clicks on the link for one of your videos or a web page with your photos is loaded by someone’s browser, the Edge Server closest to the end user serves the content.

The result? Faster performance.

That’s pretty cool (although maybe not worth the added cost for small users), but what is truly amazing is the new streaming servers that have been added to CloudFront. These servers work with the RTMP protocol, offering  streaming video at a fraction of the usual cost and with no need for complicated set ups.

STREAMING VIDEO vs. PROGRESSIVE DOWNLOAD

Most web video, especially on blogs and non-commercial web sites, is a type called “Progressive Download.” Before the video starts to play, a predetermined percentage of the video is downloaded to the user’s computer. As the video continues to play, more is downloaded.

If the download cannot keep up with the viewing, the user experiences “buffering.” The video pauses while it waits for more data to be transferred. The bottleneck can be on the viewer’s computer or on the web server, but the effect is the same: viewer frustration. In fact, one study suggests that 81% of viewers click away if a video stops to buffer.

By contrast, streaming video plays as it is downloaded.

Streaming has other advantages:

  1. Only the protion of the video that is actually viewed is downloaded. If a user clicks away 2 minutes into a 10 minute video, you won’t pay the transfer costs for the unwatched portion of that video.
  2. The video is never stored on the user’s computer for playback. This makes it harder to pirate the video.
  3. “Seek” is enabled by streaming. For instance, if I am watching a 25 minute video, and I know that the part I want starts at 22 minutes in, with streaming video I can pull the scrub bar to 22 minutes and immediately see the relevant portion of the video. With Progressive Download, I have to wait until 22 minutes of video have been downloaded. There is no “jumping ahead.”

S3 FOX and CLOUDBERRY

Amazon S3 has a somewhat opaque interface. It is, in fact, downright difficult to work with.

Fortunately, the free S3 Fox for Firefox or Cloudberry S3 Explorer for Internet Explorer offer a familiar FTP like interface that make working with S3 a snap. Both also offer CloudFront integration.

The set up for all these services is a tad complicated. But the payoff, for you and your users, is well worth the effort.

Get Sony Vegas Pro 9 for Only $149.00

Sony Vegas Pro 9

Sony Vegas Pro 9


Sony has an amazing upgrade deal on Vegas Pro 9 – you can upgrade any version of Vegas Pro or any version of Movie Studio to Vegas Pro 9 for only $149.00

You’ll get the full, boxed, retail version, including DVD Architect Pro. This is a must have upgrade if you shoot and edit in High Definition video or want to render to Blu-Ray.

The upgrade from Vegas 8 is a good deal – but the upgrade from a $40.00 version of Movie Studio to the $600.00 version of Vegas Pro is unbelievable!

Vegas Pro 9 retails for about $600.00.  If you don’t already have a copy of Vegas, go buy Movie Studio for $40.00 and you’ll end up saving $400.00

Here are the links (not affiliate links):

Upgrade any version of Vegas Pro:

http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/upgrade/vegaspro?keycode=64328

Upgrade any version of Movie Studio

http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/upgrade/moviestudiotopro?Keycode=64328

Happy Holidays!

(h/t to Perry Lawrence. I knew about the Vegas 8 to Vegas 9 upgrade, but didn’t realize Movie Studio was eligible until I read his newsletter)

How To Choose A Camcorder – Getting Started in Video Part 2

If your videos will be mostly software demonstrations and tutorials, you may need nothing more than a copy of Camtasia.

However, if you plan on making live action videos, even if only for You Tube, you will be adding complexity to your project. You will certainly need additional hardware, including camera, lights, and a microphone, and additional software, such as Sony Movie Studio.

The question isn’t so much, “What should you buy?” as “How Much Must You Spend?”

Let’s look at cameras first.

Again, it helps to know your audience. Will they expect online video similar to what you find on You Tube? These days, that means wide screen format (which can be different than high definition) video. Viewers tend to pass by standard 4:3 format videos as out of date. If your information is at all time sensitive, be sure your camera can shot in wide screen!

If you plan to shoot only the occaisional video, you might find that the best way to test the waters is with the equipment you already own.

Webcams, Digital Cameras and Flips

You don’t need an expensive camcorder for You Tube or web site videos. In fact, you’ll find plenty of videos that were shot with webcams and room lighting. Unfortunately, these videos are poorly lit, poorly framed, and sound tinny. If you want your video to represent your business, you’ll want better quality that that.

Most digital cameras have a video mode, and they can take suprisingly good short videos. Check you still camera and see if it fits your needs. One big draw back to be aware of: the microphone pick up on digital cameras is usually not very good. So don’t forget the audio when you are planning your video. If you want good sound, you may need to find another way to record voice-overs or add a musical backing track.

The next choice is a Flip camcorder. These small, inexpensive camcorders take excellent video for the web. Newer models shoot in hi-def or wide screen. Again – audio is a problem. Flips do not have external microphone jacks. The sound on a Flip video isn’t terrible – but it can be echo-y and full of background noises. So be careful where you record, paying special attention to the acoustics. (Drapes, rugs, and soft surfaces absorb and deaden sound. So a video shot in a livingroom will sound much better than the same video shot in a kitchen.)

The final choice is a “real” camcorder. The question of how you plan to use it now comes into serious play. For exclusively online use (and maybe family vacations), a decent, low end camcorder can be bought for less than $300.00. Look for brand names you recognize, and read reviews carefully. You are unlikely to find a camcorder with a microphone jack in this price range, so that will still be a limitation if you ever want to use your videos in any offline environment.

Tape or Flash memory? Hard Drive or DVD?

Should you choose a camcorder with a hard drive? One that records to memory cards? One that records to DVD? The answer may suprise you.

While digital is always better in 99.9% of electronics, camcorders are still the exception. The very best quality comes from shooting to DV tape. That is because video shot on tape is uncompressed. The only limitaion on quality is in the quality of the camcorder’s lens and sensors.

Video shot to memory cards, discs, and hard drives is compressed in the camera. This means quality is already compromised even before you begin editing. When you edit that compressed video, you’ll compress the already compressed video for a second (or third or fourth) time. Depending on the quality of the compressor and format used, you can begin to see “artifacts” almost immediately. They may appear as square drop outs or jagged edges or other visible imperfections on your video. The more it is enlarged (i.e., on a 42″ high definition TV screen instead of in a small 320×240 window on your PC monitor), the more obvious the problems will be.

So you can see, there is no simple, one size fits all answer to “Which camera is best.” Are you willing to sacrifice some quality for the convenience of recording to flash memory? Will poor quality discourage high end buyers who might otherwise have been interested in your products?

Better Qualty, Bigger Expense

Knowing your audience will help you choose the right camcorder. If a low end camcorder is not for you, you still face all the same questions: tape or flash memory; CCD or CMOS sensors; external mic jack, etc. Fortunately, at this end of the scale, the choice is pretty simple. There aren’t many camcorders that record in hi-def and have external microphone jacks. In fact, you are basically looking at Canon and Sony.

Here are my suggestions:

If you are willing to spend the money, get the Canon VIXIA HV40 HD HDV Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom. It has everything you need for first class video, including an external microphone jack and stunning hi definition video. If you can’t afford that price tag, take a look at the Canon VIXIA HF200 HD Flash Memory Camcorder with 15x Optical Zoom. Although it records to memory cards instead of tape, it still takes great footage for several hundred dollars less. It also has an external microphone jack and excellent Canon optics.

Next – Microphones

Throughout this article, I’ve emphasized the ability to use an external microphone with your camcorder. Microphones come in a variety of shapes, from tiny clip ons to overhead boom mics with big fuzzy covers. They can be wired or wireless. And they range from $25.00 to several thousand dollars in price.

We’ll look at mics more closely in the next article – but for the budget minded, rest easy. You can find an excellent microphone for less than $40.00.

Please look for Part 3 of this series to learn which mics work best with which camcorders and in which situations.

How To Get Started Making Videos

Overly Complex and Expensive?

Overly Complex and Expensive?

Making videos of any kind – whether Camtasia training screencasts, video for You Tube, flash videos for your own web site or blog, or How to DVDs for sale on Amazon – can be dauntingly difficult if you don’t know where to begin. But don’t despair.

Although video production is full of unfamiliar jargon and new (to you) software and equipment, learning the fundamentals of video is surprisingly easy once you dive in.

Here’s all you need to get started:

A clear vision of your project.

Notice, you don’t start off buying a camcorder or editing software or a new computer. You start of with a pencil and paper and you write down an outline of your project. This will be no different than planning any other project. You’ll want the answer to these questions:

  • Who is your customer?
  • How will the product be delivered?
  • How can you simplify your project?
  • What need are you filling?

When you can answer those questions, you’ll know exactly what sort of hardware and software the project requires. For instance, if you are planning to make a video demonstrating how to use the GoogleBase Connector with Bonanzle, you know a few things about your audience:

  • They like to buy and sell products on the internet
  • They need precise, easy to follow directions
  • They will watch the video online
  • They are unlikely to pay for this particular video

Knowing this – especially the last point – leads to the following decisions:

  • For online video, you want to keep run time to somewhere around 5 minutes.
  • For software demonstrations, you’ll want to use Camtasia or some other screencasting software
  • You can edit and produce the clip in Camtasia, so you won’t need other editing software
  • You can upload the finished video to You Tube, your own web site or blog
  • You can record, edit, produce, and distribute the entire project for free

So, from a huge world of choices, you’ve narrowed down your options to a simple 5 minute demonstration of a single task that you know a lot of people have questions about. You’ve kept the project focused, so that it can be accomplished in a day (which means you are much more likely to finish it, and not just talk about doing it). You’ve removed expensive camera and lighting equipment from the equation, lowering your costs. And you’ve (maybe) added screencasting to your skills.

Notice I said you can complete the project for free, but I also suggested using Camtasia. Since Camtasia is a pretty expensive program, isn’t this a contradiction?

Not exactly.

If you don’t already own Camtasia, you can download a free, fully functional, 30 day trial copy from TechSmith. You’ll be able to produce your first video for free. After the video has been online for a few weeks, you’ll be better able to judge whether this is an area worth pursuing for your business. Will Camtasia screencasts bring in enough new business to justify buying the software? If you are still undecided on the pruchase, will one of the less expensive (or even free) screen recorders do a good enough job for the occaisional, simple screencasts you plan to make?

After completing just one short project, you’ll have new data that will help move your business forward. The trick – the single, most important piece of the whole puzzle – is just to start.

This article is Part 1 of a series on video production that is being published on the Web Sellers’ Circle. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at live action video and the equipment it requires.

Photo by MK Media Productions Released under Creative Commons License

10 Ways To Customize You Tube

10 Ways To Improve You Tube Playback

Improve You Tube

You Tube has introduced a raft of changes in the last few months. Most have led to better looking videos.

Today, MakeUseOf.com posted a cheat sheet of URL tricks that will allow you to take advantage of this improved video resolution when when you embed videos on your own site or blog.

We’ve mentioned some of these before. Here’s a round up of the most useful from previous posts and from MakeUseOf’s list:

BETTER QUALITY

1 Switch to High Quality on You Tube by adding ‘&fmt=18? (stereo, 480 x 270 resolution) to the end of the URL. For High Definition, use ‘&fmt=22? (stereo, 1280 x 720 resolution).

2. Embed Higher Quality Videos To embed HQ videos on your own site,add  “&ap=%2526fmt%3D18? to the embed code. For HD, add “&ap=%2526fmt%3D22?

IMPROVE THE YOU TUBE PLAYER

3. Hide The Search Box. If the new Search Box makes you crazy, just add ‘&showsearch=0? to the embed code.

CUE UP THE RELEVANT SECTION

4. There is no need to suffer through an overly long video just to find the relevant 30 seconds. You can cue up the desired parts of any video by addding #t=XXmYYs ( Change XX mYYs to the correct minutes and seconds where you want the video to begin palying. ) to the end of the URL. For instance, if you want a video to begin 2 minutes and5 seconds in, add #02m05s to the URL.

5. Embed only the part of a video that you want. Just append ‘&start=30? to skip first 30s of the video. In general you can modify the value after start= to the number of seconds you want to skip the video for.

DUMP RELATED VIDEOS

Tired of You Tube luring viewers away from ur site? Get rid of the Related Videos bar that shows at the end.  Add ‘&rel=0? to the end of the url part of the embed code.

Visit MakeUseOf to read all 10 suggestions.

Free Fash Encoder – Today Only

sothink flash videoencoder from give away of the dayToday, March 31, Give Away of the Day has the SoThink Flash Video Encoder for free.

If you want to host your own videos on your blog or web site – rather than rely on YouTube – you need to be able to produce those videos as Flash. It is the most universally recognized web format. Over 90% of computers have Fash installed and enabled. The figures are lower – sometimes significantly lower – for Quicktime, Windows Media, and other formats.

So make it easy for your viewers and yourself – convert your videos to flash.

NOTE: This version of the SoThink converter uses the H.263 Codec and MP3 audio, rather than the newer High Definition  H.264 Codec with AAC audio. Don’t let that hold you back from trying it. While HD videos are tremendous looking, many, many people have trouble streaming and viewing them.

H.263 still produces excellent quality for web viewing.

And, of course, Standard Definition videos are a thousnd times preferable to no video – by definition.

Download and install today.

Google Earth Is A Great Tool for Info Product Producrers

Google Earth 5 Is Now Available

Google Earth 5 Is Now Available


Google has just released Google Earth 5, which, like most Google products, is free. Most of the images created with Google Earth are also free to use in your projects (get permission before using them commercially –  a few are copyrighted).

This is a great tool for information product producers.

With Google Earth 5, you can document changes over time, tour underwater, and use satelitte imagery that is financially out of reach for all but the biggest corporations.

Think of the possibilities for your business.

Perhaps you are making a DVD documenting the Great Depression, using Public Domain archival photos and sound? With Google Earth, you can take your viewers back from the current look and feel of a location to its 1930s incarnation.

Watch the Great Plains go from farm land to dust bowl to farm land again. See cities rise in the midwest. Travel the endless highways with Woody Guthrie.

You can add a lot of oomph – and professional polish – to a video with a Google Earth fly over establishing shot. Let your imagination loose – this sort of footage is a goldmine!

How To Get Excellent Green Screen Results for Free

A chromakey green background

A chromakey green background


Do you wish you could create green screen effects?

You know the ones – everything from Superman flying over Metropolis to a weatherman standing in front of a local map as cold fronts swirl into view. It’s easy, if you have the right tools.

The secret to greenscreen (also known as chromakey) video is two fold:

  1. A smooth green or blue background that can be “keyed” so that it becomes invisible and is replaced by something else
  2. Software to do the keying

The green screen itself needn’t be very expensive. CloverCity sells The Chroma Twist, a collapsible, folding, double-sided green screen / blue screen that’s perfect for videographers.

(Video works better with a green screen, but film works better with blue.)

The talent stands in front of the evenly lit green background. In post production, the editor creates a key and the magic happens.

Of course, creating the key is easier said than done.

A smooth, wrinkle-free greenscreen, like the The Chroma Twist, can make keying easier. An evenly lit, shadow-free background is essential. And software that can intelligently match and remove the chromakey is a must.

There are several products on the market for creating chromakey effects. A simple chromakeyer is bundled with Sony Movie Studio and Sony Vegas. While it works on well lit, high contrast sets, it can be difficult to get a good key on poorly lit subjects. Serious Magic’s Ultra software was considered by many to be the best keying software around. Unfortunately, it was bought by Adobe and is no longer available as a standalone product.

Don’t give up yet. Just in time for the New Year, here comes CineGobs. Not only have they created excellent chromakey software, it is free.

If you want to learn about chromakey special effects, go to CineGobs and download the latest version of their software, the CineGobs Keyer. Be sure to check out the manual and the tutorials. And while you are there, grab one of the free special effects explosions they are giving away.

You’ll be creating your own movie magic in 2009.

Photo by ZapTheDingbat Released under Creative Commons License

Tell The Story of Your Product’s Benefits With Video

Did he learn to do this by watching Windex ads?

Did he learn his technique watching Windex commercials?


Why do even smart eBay sellers forget everything they know about selling when they turn to video?

Whenever I do a video workshop, I am struck by the number of sellers who say something like, “Video is OK for cars, but I’m selling used blue jeans. Why on earth would I use video? What is there to show?”

Riiiight.

Like there has never been a single commercial on TV for Levis.

Video – just like written copy – is all about the benefits of your product, not the features.

You do not need to demonstrate how the product works. You need to demonstrate why the buyer should buy it. You need to create an emotional bond with your viewer. Video is so powerful precisely because it is emotional, rather than literal.

Of course it can be very useful to demonstrate how something works. But the magic of video is its ability to tell a story, to create a mood with pictures and music that makes your viewers say, “Gimme!”

Think about the last five TV commercials you saw. Did they demonstrate how to use the product they were selling? Or did they show you the wonderful things that could happen, if only you owned XYZ?

Commercials are made by people who have mastered the art of telling a story in 30 seconds. Next time a commercial comes on, watch it closely. Ask yourself, what are the benefits? What is the story? Why does this work?

There is a free Master Class in Selling With Video happening in your livingroom every ten minutes. Don’t fast forward through it.

Photo by D’Arcy Norman Released under Creative Commons License