Info Product Developer’s Wish List

Are you looking for last minute gifts for your favorite Info Product producer (or yourself?) There are some great deals this holiday season, on both hardware and software.

HARDWARE

canon_hv40CAMCORDERS and DIGITAL CAMERAS

These run the gamut from cheap to expensive – but you ought to find something for even the pickiest photographer or videographer.

Canon Camcorders

  1. Canon VIXIA HV40 HD HDV Camcorderhas been named Camcorder of the Year every year since the HV line was introduced. It hasn’t dropped in price this holiday season as much as it has in other years, but a camcorder of this quality is still a great deal at $699.00
  2. Canon VIXIA HF200 HD Flash Memory Camcorder is a great choice if you want to record to flash memory instead of tape. It costs under $600.00 at Amazon.
  3. Step up to the Canon VIXIA HF20 HD Dual Flash Memory with 32 GB Internal Memory for just $100 more right now at Amazon.

Flip Style Camcorders

The hottest pocket camcorder this season isn’t made by Flip.

It’s the Kodak Zi8 HD which not only shoots in 1080p High Definition but has an external microphone jack.  The improved video quality and the external mic jack – combined with the under $200.00 price tag – might make this the perfect web video camcorder. This is also the first pocket camcorder to offer expandable memory via SD/SDHC memory cards. Kodak has definitely raised the bar with this camcorder.

Digital SLRscanon_rebel_t1i_top

There’s only one choice under $1,000.00 for serious photographers – Canon EOS Rebel T1i 15.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR

This spectacular DSLR not only takes amazing still photos – it brings the 1920×1080 High Definition video pioneered on last year’s pro grade EOS to the consumer market. There is no consumer or prosumer camcorder with interchangeable lenses and variable focus. Except for the Canon DSLRs!

The picture quality – bot still and video – is amazing and the reviews have been rapturous. The only drawback is that there is no external microphone jack.

MICROPHONES and AUDIO

If you want good video, you first need good audio. No matter how good your camcorder, the onboard mic is going to produce, at best, mediocre sound.

The solution?

An external microphone (which is why, of course, you should never buy a camcorder that doesn’t have an external microphone jack)

 

rode

 

The Rode VideoMic should be your first (and probably last) choice for a shotgun microphone on a handheld video camera. I use one with my Canon HV20, and the microphone and shock mount dwarf the camcorder. But the Rode is lightweight and high quality, making it perfect for smaller camcorders. The included shockmount keeps the microphone well away from any camera noise. For the price, you won’t find anything better.

The RodeVideoMic also has a line of accessories, including a Mini Boompole and DeadCat Windshield.

For indoor shoots, a lavalier microphone is a must. You can pay hundreds for a pro quality mic with an XLR connection. But if you are shooting web video, the difference in quality will be imperceptible.

The Audio-Technica ATR-35S Lavalier Microphone offers great sound at a low price. It has a minjack that plugs directly into your camcorder’s microphone jack. The only downside to this microphone (and the Rode VideoMic) is that it is a mono microphone. If you are shooting voiceovers and narration, this isn’t really much of a drawback, however.

Want to go wireless instead? Try the AUDIO TECHNICA PRO88W-R35 Microphone. It’s an omnidirectional clip on, with 2 channels for interference free recording. This is a VHF wireless microphone, rated for between 100 to 300 feet. Don’t expect to get anywhere near 300 feet unless you are working under perfect conditions. Fortunately, info product videos rarely require that sort of range.

SOFTWARE (for WINDOWS PCs)

camtacia-xDScreencasting

If you want to do screencasts, there is only one choice: Camtasia Studio, from TechSmith.

Yes, there are cheaper (and even a few more expensive) options, but if you want to look like a pro – then use the tool the pros use. Camtasia is far and away the number one choice for screencasting.

Video Editing

Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum Pro will give you everything you need in a video editing package. It can handle high definition and standard definition videos, has an excellent collection of effects and transitions built in, and includes DVD Architect for burning DVDs.

If you want to move up to Vegas Pro 9, don’t forget their upgrade deal, good until the end of the year. You can save hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of this offer.

Digital Juice’s 12 Days of Christmas Sale has more great offers than you’ll believe:

  • Compositor’s Toolkit (Vol 1 or 2) is $199.95
  • StackTraxx are 2 for $24.95
  • BackTraxx Vol 1 or 2 for $69.95
  • Any Pro Single from the Editor’s Toolkit for $9.95
  • Any Theme Kit for $9.95
  • Plus deals on DJ Fonts, reflectors, and stock footage.

If you want to give your videos a little something special, now’s the time to become familiar with Digital Juice.

Photo Editing

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 may not have all the bells and whistles of it’s big brother, but it has plenty for the average product producer.

There are precious few photos that require no editing. Great film photographers performed their magic in the darkroom. Today’s digital photography is tweaked on the computer. Sure, the true artist is still the person behind the camera, but why tie your hands when you can let your imagination fly?elements8

Get Elements and learn to use it. You’ll not only improve your photos but you will find that you can create great graphic elements for your web site or videos.

But what if the image you need isn’t found in nature – but online? Then you need SnagIt from TechSmith. SnagIt does so many things besides simple screen caps, it deserves its own post.

If you make PowerPoint presentations, do software tutoring, teach eBay or other internet related classes, you need SnagIt. In fact, if you’ve ever tried to explain anything to anyone in an email, and given up in despair after five pages of describing where to click next — you’ll immediately recognize the value of screen capture software. And in this category, SnagIt leaves all competitors in the dust.

Sound Editing

Audacity, the free, open source audio editor, may be all you ever need to record and produce your audio. It can output sound files as WAV or MP3. And it has a host of free plugins and filters available.

Packaging Box Shots

Any eBayer will tell you: If there is no picture, you won’t sell it. But what do you do when there is no physical product to take a picture of (like an ebook for instance)? You turn to Box Shot software.

Quick 3D Cover from NervePreserve must have the ugliest web site ever produced for a top notch graphics product. Don’t let the web site fool you – Quick 3D Cover is a top notch product. It has a series of pre-made templates for hardcover, paperbound, and spiral bound books; open and closed DVD cases; CD cases; CD and DVD disks; iPhone and SmartPhone screens; computer monitors; binders and more. If you need a simple to use, high quality, retail ready product shot for your info products, Quick 3D Cover will do the job.

True BoxShot also creates great looking books and DVDs. Like Quick 3D Cover, it has a set of pre-defined templates – but that’s where the similarity ends. True BoxShot lets you rotate the art in 3D. You can change perspective and angle by simply dragging your mouse.

LEARN TO USE IT

This is the gear we use at Ghost Leg and Web Sellers Circle use when creating books, DVDs, CDs and screencasts. If you want to learn more about using these products to create your own products, please join us at The Web Sellers Circle. There is a 21 Day trial membership for only $1.00. Or you can save even more by taking advantage of our Annual Membership Sale. Right now, a full year costs only $125.00 – less than 35¢ a day.

Affiliate Disclaimer: The links to products on Amazon are all affiliate links. I will earn a small commission if you buy the product after clicking on the link. Non-Amazon links are not affiliate links and will not generate commissions.

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)

WordPress 2.9 Released

WordPress 2.9 is now available. However, I’d suggest you hold off updating, at least for a few days, until you are sure your theme and any essentially plugins are compatible with the new version.

Beyond compatability, I’ve run across a few puzzling deletions in the final version.

First – on the Plugin Upgrader. The buzz has all been about Bulk Upgrades for Plugins – but several people have reported that it is missing from the final, released version of WordPress 2.9

It’s not missing. It’s just another victim of WordPress’s User-Hostile interface design.

You’d probably expect to find the Plugin Bulk Updater in the Plugins section. But it is not there. Instead, it’s tucked away under Tools | Upgrade | Plugins. Bad design – great feature. 

Prior to the full release, there was talk of a built in URL shortener. This has, apparently, been available on WordPress.com for some time. The report I read said the new Short URL button would appear in the Post Edit window, right beside the permalink. But – not on my blog it doesn’t.

Of course, these are quibbles. There are many behind the scenes bug fixes and improvements that will make this a worthwhile upgrade (eventually). But it will be interesting to hear where the much ballyhooed features disappeared to.

How To Fix Problems With WordPress Publish and Visibility Panel

Word Press Under The Hood

Word Press Under The Hood

Although I am not  programmer, I help a lot of people install and maintain their WordPress blogs and web sites. By and large, WordPress is troublefree – but eventually, no matter how good the software, something is bound to go wrong somewhere for someone.

This week, I ran across a puzzling WordPress 2.8x bug that I’d never seen before.

It seems to strike only under very particular conditions, so there isn’t much documentation about it. After much Googling, I found a tip from NellCooper on the WordPress support forums that helped.

Here’s the Problem:

If you use Firefox, when you click on any “Edit” link in the Publish panel of WordPress 2.8x – nothing happens. The slide open panel does not slide open.

These links will not work

These links will not work when clicked

So you can neither schedule a post for later publication nor password protect a post. Clicking on the link just jumps the cursor a few lines down the page.

Oddly, the links work fine in Internet Explorer 8. For some people, they also work in Chrome.

But whether you are using a Mac or a PC, the Edit links will not work with Firefox if – and this is a big if – you also cannot use WordPress’s built in Plugin and Theme upgrade option.

With most web hosts, when you click the “Add New” link for themes or plugins, the theme is downloaded and installed automatically. However, with some web hosts, you will have to either enter your FTP credentials before the plugin or theme can be accessed or you will have to manually download the item to your computer and then unzip it and then finally upload the plugin to your site as WordPress users did before WordPress 2.7.

If you find yourself in that boat and then find that your Publish panel links no longer work after an upgrade to WordPress 2.8x, try this:

  1. Update any out of date plugins
  2. Disable all plugins
  3. Close Firefox
  4. Reopen Firefox and try the Edit links (plugins are still all disabled)

If the links work, hooray!, you are half way home.

Now go back to your plugins and re-enable them one at a time. After each plug in is enabled, re-test your edit links.

If you find a plugin conflict, deactivate or delete the plugin.

The combination of Firefox, a plugin conflict, and a mis-configured web server may not be the only cause for this dilemma, but it is a common one and the easiest one to troubleshoot.

You may also find, if the plugins are not the problem, that your theme is causing the conflict. Sadly, that is harder to fix. You may have to choose between using the Edit links and keeping your theme. Or, perhaps, moving to a different web host.

WordPress logo by S. Diddy Released under Creative Commons license Wrench from Microsoft clip art. Composite image by Ghost Leg Media


The Amazon Kindle Reader for the PC

The Kindle Reader for The PC

The Kindle Reader for The PC


Amazon has just released the Kindle for PC

It’s free.

This isn’t hardware – it’s software that you run on your laptop or desktop computer (Windows only for now) that allows you to read Kindle encoded eBooks.

This is good news. I’ve finally been able to check  MobiPocket books that I created for a handheld Mobi Reader (like the Palm) on a Kindle to see if the formatting translates – and I am pleased to say it does.

If you make eBooks – you’ve probably heard you can just upload a text file or Word doc to Amazon and have the file automatically translated to Kindle format. While that is technically true, most of those books look bad. They certainly don’t look like professional ebooks.

Learning to make MobiPocket books is relatively easy – and Amazon, which owns MobiPocket, automatically adds any book in the Mobi catalog to the Kindle catalog.

There is money in making ebooks for the Kindle – so look to this as a new revenue stream.

The Masterminds of Web Presentation


masterminds

The League of Extraordinary Women


Do You Want to Learn How To Be A Better Educator  or Learn to Create Information Products?


If so, please come to the Web Sellers’ Circle’s FREE Master Mind Round Table Teleseminar on Tuesday – 5:00 PM Pacific – 8:00 Eastern

Here’s the scoop:

The Web Sellers’ Circle is proud to host the new “Presenter Series.” Online education is a growing field. It is a new way to reach students, clients and promote your business. New technology makes it easy and inexpensive to reach more people. Webinars and Podcasts are becoming a common way to communicate and build a community.

However, most educators don’t know where to start, what tools work the best or a host of other details.

This new course will cover a host of topics to help get online presenters off to a good start.

Covered In The Series:

  • How to choose topics and guests
  • How to define your audience – your purpose and theirs
  • How to determine your budget
  • How to find the technology works best for your presentations
  • How to podcast, including distribution and syndication
  • How to do a teleconference, what software works for your needs
  • How to present a webinar, what service to use and how to record it
  • How to record the broadcast
  • How to turn your presentation into a product

To kick the series off The Web Sellers Circle is having an exciting Master Mind Round table conference call with industry experts: Janelle Elms, Marlene Gavens, Phaedra Stockstill, Sheryl Schuff , Cindy Shebley. I’ll be introducing the guests and asking questions.

This is a FREE call and I invite you to join us on the line.

When: November 3, 2009
Time: 5:00 PM Pacific /8:00 PM Eastern
How To Register: http://www.websellerscircle.com/public/331.cfm

This is going to be really exciting! Don’t miss it.

Learn to Publish Your Book With NO Up Front Investment

By Your Own Publisher

Be Your Own Publisher

Would you like to learn to design and publish your own book with no up front investment using tools you already own?

Ghost Leg Press and The Web Sellers’ Circle are sponsoring a class that will demonstrate how to do exactly that – and the class is free.

Amazon’s CreateSpace makes it possible to publish your book and get it listed on Amazon.

But only you can make your work look like a professionally typeset and printed book.

Most writers already have Microsoft Word installed on their computers. But they don’t know how to change Word’s defaults so that it becomes a layout and design tool instead of a word processor. In this free class, Dany Byrne of Ghost Leg Media will demonstrate the untapped power of Word. Once you understand the potential of styles and settings, you can build your books they way a pro would.

The design secrets you’ll learn in this class can be used for paper books, ebooks, and newsletters – in fact, for any written document..

Learn how to follow publishing industry standards without spending a fortune in time and money.

Time & Date: Friday, November 6, 2009 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM PST (5:00-7:00 PM Eastern Time)

To register go to https://student.gototraining.com/8b775/register/2788145560820234403

These free downloads will be available for all attendees:

A Dozen Ways to Promote Your Book
Publishing Resources
Suggested Serif Fonts For Microsoft Word
Suggested Settings For Microsoft Word
Suggested Vertical Line Spacing

If you are interested in creating good looking ebooks, printed books or newsletters – please join us next Friday afternoon.

Registration is free: https://student.gototraining.com/8b775/register/2788145560820234403

Photograph by takomabibelot Released under Creative Commons License.

WordPress Under Attack

Word Press 2.8.4 Available

Upgrade to Word Press 2.8.4

Any version of WordPress older than WordPress v2.8.4 is vulnerable to a new attack.

So first, before reading any further, take a minute and upgrade your blog. Remember to

    1. Back up
    2. Disable all plugins

After the upgrade, re-enable you plugins and you should be back in business.

Now that your blog is up to date and is patched against further attack, here’s what to look for to see if you were hacked:

  • A change in your permalink structure that adds a long string of gooble-de-gook to pretty permalinks. The words “eval” and “base64_decode” will appear somewhere in the new structure.
  • The addition of a new (and possibly hidden) administrator in your User panel. It may appear as Admin(2) or you may find that when you tote up the users and administrators the total doesn’t match the total figure shown on the User panel.

Lorelle has more details and suggestions on how to clean up your blog if it was hacked.

Don’t shrug this off as something that happens to “other people.”  These attacks are run by robot; they are not aimed at any particular target. If your blog is vulnerable, it will eventually be hacked.

Here are some extra security measures that require no special knowledge or expertise before you can use them. They can keep you safe:

  • Add the Antivirus plugin and use it.
  • Don’t use “Admin” as your Admin name. In fact, don’t use any Admin name that is connected to you or to the blog or that can be easily guessed. Save the friendly name for the “Nickname” under which your posts will appear. Make your log in secure.
  • Turn off automatic user registration
  • Keep all your plugins up to date. Turn off or delete unused plugins.

Are You Losing Money By Calculating Margins Wrong?

Are You Leaving Money On The Table?

Are You Leaving Money On The Table?

I spent time on Friday helping a client update spreadsheets and Excel reports that used an incorrect formula to calculate the margin on bids for construction jobs. While this particular client was looking for a margin of 25%, he was actually getting one closer to 20%. On a $100,000.00 bid, that can be the difference between profit and disaster.

I see sellers new to retailing make this same mistake over and over again.

The seller wants a “mark up” of 30%  

So they take their cost (the wholesale price), multiply that by 30% and add the result to the wholesale cost to find the retail, or selling price.

Wrong!

You can certainly find a retail price that way, but it won’t give you a 30% margin. The confusion stems from

  1. Confusion about calculating percentages
  2. The difference between margins and mark ups

YOUR MARK UP IS NOT YOUR MARGIN

Although it is less important, let’s talk about mark up vs margin first.  Many people use these terms interchangeably to mean the difference between what you pay for goods and what you sell them for – that is, gross profit. However, they are not the same thing. Misunderstanding the nature of mark ups and margins can make it easier to calculate them incorrectly – which cuts deeply into your bottom line.

A margin is, most simply put, the percentage of the selling price that is the profit.

  • If you pay $6.00 for an item and you sell it for $10.00, you made a gross profit of $4.00. 
  • $4.00 is 40% of $10.00 – so you have a margin of 40%
  • Notice this important distinction- the 40% margin is 40% of the final selling price, not of the wholesale cost.

A mark up is the percent of the cost you add to the wholesale price to get to the selling price.

  • If you pay the same $6.00 and sell the item with a 40% mark up, you make a gross profit of only $2.40
  • 40% of $6.00 is just $2.40
  • A mark up of x% will yield a smaller profit than a margin of x% because the mark up is a percentage of the lower wholesale cost.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU MIX UP THE TERMS AS LONG AS YOU DO THE MATH RIGHT

Many people say “mark up” when they mean “margin.” If you are fussy about language, this is annoying but it will not lead to financial disaster. It’s just words.

However, if you’ve confused the two concepts and are calculating your margins by mutliplying the wholesale cost by the margin percentage, you could be headed for trouble.

Just remember – you want to calculate your profit as a percentage of the final value, not as a percentage of the original cost. When a customer hands you $10.00, you need to know how much goes into your pocket and how much goes to your vendor.

Do you need a 40% profit margin to survive? Then you want to keep $4 out of every $10.

Also keep in mind that this is a gross profit margin. It does not take into account overhead, fees, etc. You may put $4 into your pocket, then have to turn around and give $1.00 to the landlord, 75¢ to the tax man, 15¢ to the bank for processing fees, etc.

You might end up keeping only $1.50 (net profit) of the original $4.00 (gross profit). Which is why calculating your margin by incorrectly using the wholesale price can be such a disaster. You can actually lose money with every sale!

WHAT’S THE FORMULA?

Now that you know you want your margin to be a percentage of the final cost, how do you actually figure it out?

Relax – as long as you have a calculator handy, it is easy.

Say you want a 40% margin. We know that 100% less 40% leaves 60%. So your wholesale cost represents 60% of the final value. To find the remaining 40%, divide the wholesale cost by .6

  • If  you want a 90% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .1
  • If  you want a 80% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .2
  • If  you want a 70% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .3
  • If  you want a 60% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .4
  • If  you want a 50% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .5
  • If  you want a 40% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .6
  • If you want a 30% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .7
  • If you want a 20% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .8
  • If  you want a 10% margin – divide the wholesale cost by .9

As long as you follow this formula for calculating retail price, you will get the margin you want.

Photo by MrVJTod Released under Creative Commons License

A Bad Microphone Means A Bad Video – Getting Started in Video Part 3

A Good Lavalier Microphone

A Good Lavalier Microphone

New videographers often overlook one crucial piece of equipment – the microphone.

And no wonder they do. It’s almost impossible to find a decent camcorder for sale for less than $1,000.00 with an external mic jack. Newer camcorders have built-in stereo microphones instead, which promise great sound. But the microphone on your camcorder is probably omni-directional, which means it will pick up room noises to the side and back of what you are filming. It is subject to vibration and humming from other components and cables on your camcorder. And it can pick up the noise of the camcorder motor as it turns the tape.

For clean, bright sound, you cannot rely on a built-in microphone.

WHICH MIC IS THE RIGHT MIC?

Experienced videographers often have a bag full of microphones. One may be perfectly suited to a particular situation, but a poor choice in any other video.

Consumer camcorders usually have microphone mini-plugs – similar to the plug on your iPod’s headphones, for instance. More expensive camcorders will have XLR plugs. XLR cables can carry sound better, over longer distances, and high end mics will always use XLR jacks. If you want to use an XLR microphone and your camcorder is equipped with a mini-jack, you will need something like the Beachtek XLR Adapters

A lavalier, or clip on, microphone is perfect for how to videos and product demonstrations where there is just one person speaking. A reasonably good lavalier, like the Audio Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser Microphone costs about $30.00.

If you want a wireless microphone, your choices are more limited, unless you have a very large budget. An excellent wireless microphone is a serious investment.

But, if you can control the environment, the AZDEN WMS-PRO Lavaliere System with Hand-Held Microphone for under $165.00 comes with a transmitter, a handheld microphone, and a lavalier mic. It gives good results up to about 50 feet. This system is a good compromise between quality and cost. (However, note: you can use the lavalier or the handheld mic – you cannot use both at the same time.)

Many videographers looking for a wireless solution try Bluetooth microphones. They are almost always disappointed, despite the hefty price tag. I’d recommend that you steer clear of Bluetooth microphones for camcorders.

The handheld microphone is useful for “man in the street” interviews. Of course, if you truly are filming “in the street,” dangling cords can be hazardous unless you have a crew to keep track of them. The AZDEN WMS-PRO Lavaliere System with Hand-Held Microphone might be a good budget choice. But if you plan on doing a lot of outdoor filming, think about a boom mic instead.

A boom microphone is simply a shotgun microphone mounted on a long pole (known as a boom pole). Someone holds the microphone above the speaker, out of frame. If you are shooting outside, you’ll want to cover the mic with a wind shield. These are those big, fuzzy covers, sometimes called a “dead cat.”

The Rode VideoMic Directional Shotgun Mic w/Mount makes both an excellent boom microphone and a camera mounted shotgun mic. It comes with a shock mount that snaps into your camcorder’s hotshoe. The microphone should run about $165.00.

You can add the Rode DeadCat for anther $50.00.

A good boom pole needs to be light, well balanced, and expandable. If you want one for the Rode Videomic, take a look at the Rode Microphones Mini Boompole for about $115.00

If you are planning to use a boom mic, look for package deals. The microphone, dead cat, and pole can often be purchased together at a discounted price.

DO YOU NEED ALL THIS RIGHT AWAY?

As you can see, a collection of microphones for all occasions can become expensive. Luckily, you probably won’t need more than a wired, lavalier microphone to start making your own How To or product demonstration videos.

As usual, the key to finding the right mic is planning. Know your audience and know your project before you shop.

Keep your early videos simple. Shoot inside, where you can control ambient noise. Have only one narrator, whether in front of or behind the camera. The more complicated the shoot gets, the less likely it is to be done. If you can avoid adding an extra person to handle the sound, at least in the beginning, you will finish more projects.

In Part 4, we’ll look at microphones for use in screencasting.