Category Archives: Video

Analog VGA Vs. Digital HDMI and DVI Video Connections

VGA has been an active video standard for personal computers for a very long time. DVI and HDMI (along with the newer display port standard) are making a tough case for the aging analog port, though you might be surprised to find out that VGA is still superior in some ways…

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How Do You Create a Good Vlog?

iFreakShow asked:

So I do videos, and I want to make better vlogs. I have a hard time “being myself” or feeling not awkward. Any tips on making better vlogs?

Why do you feel you have a hard time being you? That’s actually the biggest key to creating a great vlog: be who you really are. Act natural. Don’t try to stage things – especially funny moments. They always end up falling flat. Talk to the camera as though you’re talking to a friend… exactly the way you normally would. I do recommend, though, keeping your language family friendly!

Are you afraid that your normal YOU is boring? Think that you’re just not interesting? You’d be surprised, actually… I’ve seen many popular vloggers who let their nerdy/geeky/goofy/weird selves shine through and they’re wildly popular because they aren’t trying to be what someone else thinks they should be.

YOU are the reason people watch, right? Why would you think that’s not enough? Being in front of a camera can be daunting much of the time. It’s scary to know that people will see your every expression and hear every sound that comes out of your mouth (or body!). Let go of the anxiety over that. Take a deep breath, turn on the camera and forget it’s there. Just live your life and record as you go!

What about all of you? What tips do you have?

How Do You Create a Good Vlog?

How Do You Get YouTube Subscribers?

SolidSafety asked:

What is the best way to get over 1,000 people to subscribe to your YouTube channel?

There’s no sure-fire quick and easy way to grow your subscriber base. Trust me – I know. The key is to produce content that people will enjoy watching – and that you will enjoy creating. If you’re just doing something by rote because you think it’s the “right” thing to do, people will pick up on that. They will KNOW you aren’t passionate about your topic and they will not be likely to want to watch and subscribe. You have to believe in what you’re doing.

Find what you’re good at – what you’re passionate about – and THEN worry about finding your niche. What perspective can you bring to the table that no one else does? That’s where you need to focus.

Be sure to do things such as use tags and good catchy titles. Use funny thumbnails whenever possible (when you’re able to do them, of course).

NEVER use one of those “sub for sub!” scams. They’re just that – a scam. Do you REALLY want a bunch of fake followers who don’t actually FOLLOW what you’re doing?

Top Vlogging Software and Equipment

Jennifer Metts recently asked me:

If you are just beginning to vlog what do you think are the top 3 “must haves” as far as software and equipment go? I would guess a quality camera ( but what is the minimum quality you would want ) a video editing program ( which are best) and then what?? Tripod? Lenses?

There are a LOT of people getting started in the vlog world these days. Here’s my best advice:

Just tell your story – that’s job one. Audio quality is second, video quality is third. ;) The video editor is only going to help you tell your story, but keep video editing as simple as you possibly can – don’t make this a chore or you won’t want to do it for very long. For OS X, iMovie is sufficient but Final Cut Pro X (while pricey) can improve import/export workflow dramatically. If you’re not comfortable/familiar with Final Cut Pro X, there’s a lot of help available to get you going.

I’ve yet to find a “true” equivalent for simplicity on Windows, however.

How Do I Start Vlogging?

Aaron Linson writes:

Chris, I’m thinking about vlogging — how do I start vlogging? What kind of camera would I need to get? How do you even hold the camera to get everything in shot? How long do you spend on editing every day? Thanks!

How is vlogging done? You pick up a camera that records video and record. I’m not being flippant! This is really all you need to do.

It doesn’t matter what camera you have. I use one of these, though your favorite modern-day smartphone should do, as long as you’re aware that the battery will drain quicker — which is largely why I choose to use a designated vlogging camera. You could keep it close to a power source, but that might limit your mobility if you have plans to vlog on the move. If you have a static space from which to vlog with electrical outlet access, this isn’t such a concern.

I spend between one to two hours editing the vlog, and probably the same amount of time recording or staging to record throughout the day. It takes a massive amount of time to do it the way we’ve decided to do it. You might find shortcuts that work for you — or longcuts, depending on how elaborate you want to make your vlog.

Good luck, Aaron, and please keep us aware of your progress! Maybe we’ll see you at VloggerFair? As you can see below, we’ve all got to start somewhere.

Lenovo Brings Dual Displays to the Mobile Office with USB Powered ThinkVision Monitors

This is a sponsored post written by Matt Ryan on behalf of Lenovo for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Being on the road doesn’t mean you have to put up with doing your work on tiny laptop screens. Anyone who has spent any amount of time traveling for work understands the limitations working from a single laptop can bring to the table. The alternative thus far has been to bring a bulky monitor in a bag that could never be considered carry-on only to discover that you need extra power cables, another outlet or power strip, and video cables.

Let’s be real here: No one wants to bring their entire home office with them on trips — even if it means sacrificing productivity in order to stay mobile.

Enter the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 14″ USB monitor. This 14″ display has immediately become a key component in my home and mobile office during video editing, collaboration, and other tasks that are just too difficult to do on my MacBook Pro’s 13″ screen. Using a USB port alone, I’m able to extend my desktop to another monitor, giving me more than double the window space without adding a ton of bulk to my desk.

Here are some thoughts on the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 14″ USB monitor, and how it changed the way I get things done.


Lenovo Brings Dual Displays to the Mobile Office with USB Powered ThinkVision MonitorsThe LT1421 has a remarkably slim 13.2 x 8.6 x 0.85 inch design that provides its own built-in kickstand so it can sit on your desk and take up about as much space as a picture frame. The black bezel and matte screen don’t draw attention or reflect much light from the surrounding environment, making it blend almost perfectly into a professional workspace.

It comes with an included plastic cover that protects the screen when packed in a carry-on or laptop bag that doubles as extra support for slick or uneven surfaces. The kickstand can grip to most wooden desktops, though it’s good to know the lid can serve that purpose as well.

The entire screen is powered by a single 6′ USB cable that splits from a single microUSB port for the monitor to two full-sized USB ports for your laptop or desktop computer. Though two ports are provided, you really only need one to power it on most systems. The extra port is there in the case that your computer’s bus doesn’t provide enough power in a single port. Not that this display takes much power at all with just 4.2 watts of energy usage during operating and 0.1 watts during standby.

Image Quality

Lenovo has accomplished quite a bit with the LT1421. Not only are there 16 brightness levels you can adjust to using a single button on the back of the unit, but the image itself looks quite impressive. This 14″ 1366 x 768 display delivers excellent colors and a vibrant image that can be seen from across the room. I’ve used the LT1421 for a variety of things from video editing to article writing and found the screen remarkably easy to read and quick to respond.

With a contrast ratio of 400:1 and a response time of 8 ms, it outperforms the vast majority of USB-driven monitors in its class.


I’ve given the LT1421 a thorough test, adding it both as a third monitor to my primary Windows 7 system and as a secondary monitor to my MacBook Pro running OS X Lion. While Windows is the primary support environment for the Lenovo LT1421, a quick driver download from DisplayLink, the makers of the USB display technology backing the LT1421, allowed me to enjoy dual-screen productivity from either OS with ease. A driver CD ships with the LT1421 that works with virtually any version of Windows from XP to Windows 7.

Practical Applications

Having a second monitor is a great way to increase productivity while multitasking, allowing you to have more information in front of you at any given time, and eliminating the need for annoying back-and-forth application switching. I’ve actually found that using a second monitor while video editing allows for extended functionality including a better preview during editing, saving me some amount of hassle.

Working with spreadsheets can be a real problem with laptop screens. By extending your desktop, you’ll be able to see more without having to lug around a giant monitor that requires its own outlet, display port, and room for its stand.

I’ve also found a long-term use of the LT1421 as a chat and email monitor. By putting those applications on a smaller screen, I can dedicate more space on my larger displays to more productive things, like playing games or writing articles.

If you’re in a meeting and would like to demonstrate something without having a group of people huddled around your laptop, you can easily clone your desktop and face the screen to the group. This is excellent during face-to-face meetings where you would rather speak to someone eye-to-eye rather than from behind as they look over your shoulder at whatever it is you’re demonstrating.


Price is one area where the Lenovo LT1421 absolutely impresses. At just $200, it is priced extremely reasonably when compared to the various other USB-powered monitors out there. Portability is an extremely important consideration for anyone traveling on business, and being able to recreate that optimal office environment in a hotel room with a single outlet and minimal luggage space is a huge plus.

You can save 10% on the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 between now and March 31, 2012. All you need to do is purchase it online using the code LENOVOTECHIES (if your blog is tech-focused), or LENOVOMOMS (if you have a mom blog). Make sure you’re ordering part number 1452DS6.

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Final Thoughts

The Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 is a great addition to your mobile computing arsenal. It requires no more than a USB connection to operate, making it one of the most flexible external display solutions out there. Even if your laptop or desktop system doesn’t support an extra display through its own hardware, you might find the LT1421 an excellent solution.

I love this thing, truly. What at first seemed like just another monitor has quickly become that little extra something I needed to turn my desktop into a productivity center that would even impress Batman.

I’m actually looking forward to my next traveling adventure because I know that I have the ability to get things done without having to stare at a tiny laptop screen and constantly switch from one window to the next.

What is the Difference between LCD and LED Screens?

LED monitors and televisions are beginning to become cheaper and more budget-friendly. They typically promote much higher contrast ratios and lower power use than traditionally lit LCD screens, but they may not be the best option for video editors. Why is that? What is the difference between LCD and LED screens?

The difference between the two technologies actually lies in the way the screen is backlit. All LED screens are LCDs, but not all LCDs utilize LED technology. With an LED-based monitor, backlighting is spread across a grid of tiny lights (LEDs) that is spread from one side of the screen to the other. Unlike the fluorescent lighting behind a common LCD screen, LEDs cover the entire space in order to provide even lighting from end to end. The extra contrast comes from the ability the monitor has to detect areas that are intentionally darker and dim or turn off the tiny LED light directly behind the dark points. This creates what’s called a dynamic contrast which can create much darker blacks as the screen is essentially off in areas that are intentionally dark. This can become a problem in cases where you have a starry night sky and tiny white points of light need to be lit brightly while the surrounding mass is pitch black. Because of this, the stars may appear dimmer than they normally would as the tiny light is dimmed to compensate for the majority of the space being black.

Another advantage to owning an LED-based television or monitor is the ability for the screen to have wider viewing angles. With normal LCDs, you will notice a much sharper change in contrast and clarity as you look to each side. LEDs still drop off as you move to each side, but the change is noticeably different. This is due in part to the complete coverage of backlighting that isn’t present through fluorescent lighting schemes.

The typical lifespan of an LCD monitor or television before the lights start to dim and go out is 4-6 years. LED technologies last quite a bit longer, giving an expected 100,000 hours of light versus 60,000 hours provided by fluorescent lighting.

For the majority of users, an LED screen is a brilliant solution to that offers higher contrast ratios with a significantly lower energy usage. If you do movie editing or a lot of color-accurate detailed work, you may prefer to go with a more traditional LCD monitor.

What is the Difference Between Composite and Component Video?

Composite and component video cables are far too often confused with one-another due in part to their slightly similar name and purpose. LockerGnome’s Brandon Wirtz sat down with me recently too break through the confusion and explain exactly how different they really are.

Composite cables typically have a yellow RCA connector on either end that carries a video signal from source to destination with a single connection. Unlike component, the composite cable carries a single line-level signal that contains all of the video information in one go. You can often see composite cables paired with audio cables as they don’t carry an audio signal.

The signal composite cables carry is a combination of three source signals that are commonly referred to as YUV (or Y’UV). Y stands for luminance which carries the brightness settings as well as the information needed to synchronize the picture. For monochrome displays, this is all that’s really required. The U and V carry hue and saturation information which defines the color of the image displayed on the screen. The maximum resolution on a composite cable is 480i NTSC, which is commonly referred to as a standard definition image.

Component cables carry a significantly higher resolution image allowing for 1080p signals to run across them without issues. The types of signals they carry can vary depending on the scheme used by the equipment. For example, RGB connections refer to red, green, and blue signals being sent through the three associated wires that make up the component cable. In some cases, the green wire carries brightness information (Y) while the red and blue wires share the responsibilities of transferring the color information. This scheme is known as YPbPr and is commonly used in consumer electronics today.

To simplify things, one yellow connection is composite and three colored connections is component. Neither of them carry audio signals and you may see an audio cable attached in some cases for the purpose of saving you from having to run an extra cable from point A to point B. Component is capable of higher resolutions, and is used more widely today as most televisions sold are HD capable.

Sewell 2 Port 1×2 Powered HDMI Splitter Review

Taking one HDMI signal and bringing it to two screens sounds difficult, but it isn’t very hard if you have the right splitter. Sewell makes a self-powered 2 port HDMI splitter that allows you to successfully split a HDCP signal and send it to two destinations, simultaneously.

The difference between a splitter and a switch in relation to HDMI is based on whether you’re using it to split an output or double an input. A switch will allow you to go between two sources going in to a single destination, as mentioned in a previous blog post. A splitter, on the other hand, gives you the ability to take a single source and feed it to two destinations. The 2 port HDMI splitter made by Sewell is HDMI standard 1.3b compliant and capable of feeding both audio and video of up to 1440p resolution to two places.

Because the hub is powered by its own 5v power supply, the standard 16 meter HDMI cable barrier between source and destination is thrown out the window. Sewell’s site features a video boasting a 100-foot range from source to screen while feeding the same HD signal to another screen at 56 feet, without the aid of a separate booster. Whether or not this is a typical occurrence is yet to be seen.

The metal enclosure appears solid enough to withstand anything normal home usage would entail. In professional environments where use and abuse are part of everyday life, this may work in a fix, but a more professional-grade solution would be in order.

Because the splitter is HDCP compliant, both devices need to be HDCP compliant as well in order for it to work. Reviews at Amazon have indicated that standard definition signals require a little tweaking on the monitors to get right. This splitter can carry a 3D signal up to 24 FPS, so it doesn’t work with all 3D content.

Overall, the Sewell 2 Port 1×2 Powered HDMI Splitter is a standard HDMI splitter at a reasonable price. Available for under $25, it should be capable of filling the needs of any home user that would like to have two televisions carry the same audio and video. If you’re looking for something a bit bigger, you might want to look in to their 1×4 model.

Pelican HDMI Quick Switch Review

So, you’ve got two devices with HDMI out and only one HDMI in port on your projector or television. What do you do? You could go out and buy a new TV, but that isn’t very practical. It could also be a pain in the neck to have to unplug one device and connect another each time you switch between them. Fortunately, you don’t have to.

The Pelican HDMI Quick Switch allows you to plug both devices in to a single HDMI input at the same time by splitting the connection. The Quick Switch automatically detects which device is giving a signal and switches between them. A manual switch allows you to direct the signal to one device or the other should they both be on at the same time.

Unlike more expensive alternatives, the HDMI Quick Split is a simple 2-1 solution (compared to common 4-1 switches) targeted to gamers. You can find them at retail outlets including Best Buy and Game Stop.

Signal quality is clean, delivering great audio and video with little to no noticeable signal loss. Everything from 480p to 1080p can be fed to each input and the result should match appropriately.

One bonus included with purchase is an extra 3-foot HDMI cable that allows you to quickly connect your extra device without having to make another run to the electronics store should you forget to pick up that extra cable.

Overall, the Pelican HDMI Quick Switch gets the job done and doesn’t bother you with any hassle or complications. At $49.99, this cable can put a dent in your monthly entertainment budget, but it certainly wouldn’t make it one of the more overpriced solutions in its class. In any case, it certainly beats having to fiddle with various cables each time you want to play on your Xbox.

How to Record HD Video on OS X from a Webcam for Free

For quite some time, I’ve been spending time and money attempting to discover a way to record HD video with a webcam on the Mac. While it seems like a simple enough request, Logitech has repeatedly taken the stance that it can’t be done. Well, they were either incompetent or dishonest. I’ve long been a fan of Logitech webcams for their overall build and image quality. I currently use the C910 for its HD capability and image clarity. Their software, on the other hand, has been a dismal departure from anything that could be even remotely considered quality.

Thankfully, CamTwist has come to the rescue with a free solution that allows you to view your webcam in a preview window and set it at a desired size. Once the window is up, all you need to do is use screen capture software (Camtasia, Screenflow, etc.) to grab the video. If you’ve ever operated under the false assumption (portrayed by certain manufacturers) that you can’t capture HD video from a webcam, this is the workaround to make it happen for you.

What makes me most upset about the whole thing is the fact that I’m only one of many Logitech customers that have spent a considerable amount of time attempting to relay possible improvements in their software that would take their current product and make it outstanding. Unfortunately, each software update appears to do nothing more than further the point that their interest isn’t in providing software capable of filling basic requirements on the part of their customers.

Honestly Logitech, if you would just remove your software from the equation altogether and provide basic drivers to your customers, the user experience would improve ten-fold. Your hardware is good, and there isn’t a single reason why it shouldn’t be counted among the best in its class. The software has, unfortunately, been anything but.

Five Tips for Better Video

Video is a tricky subject that some spend their entire lives studying and never truly master. The technology behind compression and editing is constantly evolving and there are new things to learn every day. Fortunately for most budding video enthusiasts, there are plenty of easy-to-use video editing programs out there to make the job of mastering and publishing your work without a lot of knowledge in the technical aspects of video much easier. Here are five tips for better video:

White Balance
If there is one thing that any photographer or videographer can tell you, it’s that cameras aren’t nearly as good at adjusting to different lighting situations as the human eye is. Lighting is a constant hassle for photographers and a nightmare for anyone taking video in a constantly changing environment.

By white balancing your image either on the camera or in post (or both), you can create a more true representation of what it is you captured. This is especially important in cases where your image appears washed in a color such as yellow, blue, or green.

Use an Intermediate Codec when Editing
Without going into the technical aspects of codecs, the use of an intermediate codec your editing program works with natively can make a world of difference in the process. For example, Final Cut Pro requires you to render video each time you make an adjustment through editing if it doesn’t recognize the intermediate codec of the source. By encoding it in a lossless codec such as Apple Intermediate Codec, you can utilize all the features and functions of Final Cut Pro without having to wait for a render each time you make even the slightest change.

It’s recommended that the codec you use for editing be lossless rather than lossy so your final product does have two, or even three levels of encoding over it resulting in a degraded and potentially pixelated image.

Lighting is key to good video. Without the right lighting, your source material can appear dark and unwieldy to the editor. If an image is captured too dark, you may not always be able to lighten it in post as the darkest darks will crunch together and become one big black pixelated mass upon brightening. The same goes for video that’s too bright. The digital camera will see objects lit too brightly as being the same as the white light behind it and create a giant white mass that can’t always be corrected in post. Someone’s alabaster skin (like me) will easily blend in to a white wall if lit too brightly.

In some cases, good lighting can actually improve a system’s ability to maintain a desired frame rate. This is what I discovered with the MacBook Pro as it dropped my frame rate down to 15 when the room wasn’t properly lit.

Frame your subject properly. Having a space above your head that’s larger than your head is never really a good thing, unless what you’re talking about is above you. Ideally, you want the top of your head to end with only a small sliver of space between it and the top of the frame. Should your video become newsworthy, news programs will often put a lower-third over your video to give you credit and describe what their audience is seeing. Making sure the lower-third of the screen doesn’t have anything necessary to the shot can be a big help in this case.

Focus the camera on your subject and lock the focus in place unless you have a cameraman. If you’re using a camcorder without a focus adjustment option, make sure that you’re the object in the shot making the most movement and taking up the most space. Some cameras focus on the center point of the frame, so you may want to test out various different ways of positioning yourself to make sure the autofocus is on you as much as possible.

Blurry video, especially during unboxings or other macro-specific shots can ruin the viewer’s experience. Make sure the camcorder you’re using is capable of handling an extremely close shot before depending on it to. The same goes for subjects far in the distance. Filming a runner going around the field can make a great establishment or action shot, but make sure you have the ability to maintain the focus on them all the way around the track.

Video is a tough subject to master, though by keeping a few key points in mind, you can achieve stunning results without all the technical know-how or high-end software. Some of the most popular video on the web is shot with $140 pocket camcorders and edited on free video editing software (such as iMovie and Windows Movie Maker).

How to Embed YouTube Video Without Related Videos

There are times when you don’t want related videos playing in a YouTube video embed. I know, because a few minutes ago I had that very need!

It’s actually quite simple to embed a YouTube video by way of their on-site forms these days – and they’re bound to change the options by the time I post this how to article. The good news is: if you’re having problems trying to get your YouTube video to embed without displaying any related links, please leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond with updated directions (and update this description, too).

Don’t worry – if you’ve already embedded the video, you can very easily turn off the related videos from showing up. This might be important if you only want a page’s visitor to see that single video. Take a look at the HTML code you copied from YouTube originally.

So, in essence, you’ll want the end of the video to look like this screen shot – giving the viewer no other option other than to replay without seeing related videos (from you or any other YouTube viewers):

You’ll see a couple of “youtube” URLs in there – the links which tell the web page which video needs to be played. To the end of these URLs, we need to add a simple parameter:


So, for example, if you see a URL like this:

And turn it into this:

This way, when someone goes to view the video, no related videos will show up. You can see a living example of this code in action on our current business services site. You could also click on the YouTube links above to see the differences between viewing a video with or without the related video option.

Good luck with your embedding. If you have any questions about YouTube, don’t hesitate to ask!