Category Archives: Video

How Would You Remix This Clip?

Last night, I came across a brilliant edit of an older video I did about the DreamGear Plug ‘n’ Play Controller which features 50 games on a single device for less than you might spend on one game cartridge for the more popular consoles. Though this product has been updated (it now features 101 games), the video has continued to do well on YouTube.

YouTube content creator ManateeCrab remixed a clip of the original video and posted it. In the three days it has been out, it has gained quite a bit of attention.

So, how would you remix this clip? Would you add a little country, techno, rock, or something else entirely? Here’s your chance. Make your own version of this clip, upload it to YouTube, and send it as a video response to ManateeCrab’s video. Be as creative as you want to be with it, and let’s have some fun.

The original video can be found here.

How to Reduce the Size of Video Files

Large video files can fill your hard drive in a big hurry, especially in today’s age of high-definition content. If you create and edit your own videos, you may have noticed hot large files can become when dealing with certain codecs and settings. With audio, reducing the file size can be a simple manor of selecting a lossy file format and setting a bitrate. Unfortunately, understanding how to reduce the size of video files can be quite a bit more complicated than with audio alone.

There is a large and understandable amount of confusion among amateur video content creators surrounding what the difference is between a codec and a container. Knowing how these work and what advantages different components give you can be a big help towards understanding how to shrink a video file without sacrificing a large amount of quality.

The most obvious part of a video file is the container (otherwise known as a wrapper) which holds the information of both the video and audio components in a single file. You can easily determine what wrapper you’re working with by checking the file type of your video. If the file has a .MOV at the end of it, you’re likely working with a QuickTime Movie wrapper.

Even though it is the most obvious indicator of the file type, it actually has very little bearing on overall video quality. You can have lossless video inside the same container type as an incredibly lossy one. Not all container formats are created equal. Some allow for features such as menus, captions, 3D, streaming, and more while others may not. When deciding which wrapper to use, first make sure it is compatible with everything you want to put in to it.

An audio or video codec, simply put, is a device or software that allows you to compress and/or decompress digital content. The codec you decide to use and the settings you pair it to will have a more direct result on the quality and size of the resulting video file than anything else. A good current video codec to use for compression is H.264, which works well with some of the most popular container formats out there.

Another major factor in video file size is the bitrate. Simply put, overall quality generally improves with higher bitrates. Unfortunately, so does file size. Imagine that each second of video represents a single folder, and contained inside that folder is 24, 30, or even 60 images. Setting a bitrate on your video essentially determines how much data that folder can contain. If you set the bitrate at 1000 kbits/sec, each image in that folder (second of video) gets a portion of that 1000. You may want to do a few experiments to determine which settings work best with your source video and encoding software.

A higher rate of frames per second means your video will require a larger file to maintain the same level of quality as a video with less. Even though 60 frames per second may look great on paper, it can become a nightmare if you have limited storage space for your video files. Typically, digital video is sent out at either 24 or 30 frames per second. One important thing to remember is that any alterations of the frame rates on your source footage can create unreliable results when rendered. This is one setting that is better off left alone, unless you have a very good understanding of how video encoding works.

Digital video is an incredibly complicated subject to master. Thankfully, there are plenty of programs out there that do the bulk of the calculations for you. iMovie on the Mac and Movie Maker on Windows are two steller video editing programs that have solid presets available for export to help save space without sacrificing a large amount of quality. There are also many video converters on the market including Handbrake, Virtual Dub, and Miro Video Converter which can take source video with many different formats and convert them in to smaller, more manageable files.

How to Choose a Live Streaming Video Encoding System

It is highly recommend that in any situation, your live stream should be encoded on a machine that is dedicated to that very purpose. While this isn’t a must, having dedicated processors handling encoding and streaming will minimize the chance for technical issues. For someone without a lot of disposable income, a second computer can be a challenge to acquire. This article is intended to offer advice on how to choose a live streaming video encoding system.

It’s important to note here this advice is specifically geared to individuals that intend on sending their encoded streams to a hosting platform such as Ustream.TV or Justin.TV that will take their feed and send it out to viewers. Hosting a true direct streaming video server yourself is very costly, and even large corporations tend to go through large distribution networks like Limelight or Brightcove.

One important note when choosing what system you are going to run the live stream off of is CPU usage. In general, you want to keep the average usage to no more than 80% during streaming. Once you see this barrier crossed beyond the occasional spike, you can expect your video to be choppy and blurry. A maxed out CPU can also lead to frequent crashes and downtime, which is devastating. This can also result in a shorter life expectancy and greater overall required investment in your streaming systems over a period of time.

If you have an older system laying around, even something a few years old, it might work just fine. In general, a better processor and more RAM will do you a lot of good here, but quality video can been served from seemingly underpowered systems. A simple dual-core machine with 2GB of RAM and weak integrated video should be able to handle most non-HD streams just fine.

Nettop systems such as the Lenovo IdeaCentre Q150 are another option that take up less space and still allow for single-use services to run somewhat decently. These machines work best when assigned a single primary task and can save you from having to run a louder and more energy-hungry desktop machine.

If a dedicated machine just isn’t possible, your primary computer may be able to work in a pinch. It’s best to run a test with as many programs open as you would typically use while streaming and capturing for a half hour. Do this on a private feed streaming to your preferred service so no one stumbles across the test and gets the wrong impression of your normal quality. If you can handle having all of your normal programs open and your CPU usage doesn’t surpass the 80% mark, you may be able to host from that machine. This is an especially good option if you intend to do screen-casts in addition to camera work using a program like WebCamMAX (PC) or Camtwist (Mac).

How to Make an Unboxing More Interesting

The trend of unboxing popular tech on camera has been around for years. While many would claim the origins of this form of gadget porn come from the much-anticipated PS3 release, videos and/or pictures of desirable tech products being taken out of the box for the first time may well be as old as the camera itself.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of these videos are frankly rather boring. A narrator points the camera at a box and opens it, saying pretty much the same thing everyone else that has unboxed the same thing says before them. Still, these videos are extremely popular, and that begs the question of how to make an unboxing more interesting.

Throw Out Practical Applications
Yes, we all know what the gadget is, and we don’t need a narrator to tell us what it looks like as we watch it being unboxed before our eyes. What users could find interesting are details about the practical applications of said gadget. If you’re unboxing a computer, explain what you intend to do with it and how this particular purchase would help you accomplish this. A look at the specs, instead of commenting on it being pretty, would be interesting as well.

Don’t Dwell on Packaging
It’s a box, made out of cardboard. Yes, it may have an interesting tab or padding, but people are tuning in to see the item itself and spending most of your time on the packaging and making the device an afterthought isn’t going to be interesting in the long run.

Personality
It would be foolish of me to say that I do the best unboxing videos, however, personality plays a big role in how your unboxing is received by the audience. If you are monotone, and generally unenthusiastic about what you’re doing, your audience will reflect that lack of passion when it comes time to hit the subscribe button or leave a comment. Offer more than just the typical gadget porn. Give them something to either laugh at or think about throughout the course of the video.

Extras
You might score extra points by unboxing more than just one thing in a single video. If you’re opening a phone or mp3 player, grab a case to go along with it and demonstrate how that particular case fits on the product. This will kill two birds with one stone, and instantly make your video more useful than one that just focuses on the same item every other tech vlog is fixated on.

What to Look For in a Webcam

Finding a good webcam for your podcast, video calls, or live stream can be difficult when you’re on a budget. Unfortunately, not all SD or HD webcams are created equal. Some of them are really very terrible, especially if they seem under-priced for the features advertised on the packaging. Just because it says it’s a 1080p webcam, it probably has the same size sensor and roughly the same overall quality as one that maxes out at 640×480.

If you’ve decided to stream using a standard webcam, Logitech may seem like the logical choice due to their solid options and decent prices. At the time of this writing, their software is far from perfect. In fact, it makes otherwise excellent hardware useless for some applications. The software and drivers for their webcams are difficult to set and work with. White balancing, at the time this is written, can’t be manually set with the C910 using Windows, which results in random shifts in color during streaming, especially in a backlit environment. Other well known external webcam brands include Cretive, HP, and Microsoft, among others.

One common issue with budget webcams that bite off more than they can chew resolution-wise are hot pixels which appear as tiny white, red, or blue spots on the image that don’t go away unless the subject and background is very brightly lit. One rule of thumb when it comes to webcams is if it isn’t a major brand and it’s cheaper than their brand name equivalent, you’re going to get what you pay for. If all else fails, checking user reviews prior to purchasing may be the best way to really get a feel for what you can expect.

A good built-in webcam on a notebook computer can spare you from having to purchase a second peripheral camera and give you more freedom to be mobile. Computer stores typically have their laptops open and available for customers to try out. If you can, take a look at how the webcam looks in the often brightly lit store. Do you notice anything wrong with the image at all? How does it compare to other brands and/or models in the store? While it may not be as important a detail to you as other system specs, a good built-in webcam can keep you from having the purchase an external solution later on.

Five Things to Avoid When Producing Web Video

There are a million guides out there that will tell you what frame rate, bit rate, codec, and editing software to use. These tips are excellent and should be followed to create as professional a broadcast or podcast as possible. Unfortunately, there are some common traits among amateur web video that find their way in to otherwise perfect productions. Here are five things to avoid when producing web video:

Clutter
If you’ve got a camera on you, it’s also on everything behind you. As a rule of thumb, everything the camera is or might be pointed at should be treated like a movie or television set. If you film out of your bedroom, take five minutes prior to hitting the record button to make the bed and arrange things around the room to look as open and uncluttered as possible. What may be a typical room to you will look like a terrible mess on camera. Viewers have a tendency to imagine the whole room based on the little section they see. If that little piece isn’t right, the whole space may as well be a cluttered mess.

Constant Movement
Video made for the web is compressed and compression does funny things to video. If you have a habit of holding the video camera with your hand and pointing it at yourself or your subject, break it. Invest in a tripod or mount that keeps the background as still as possible. This will not only improve the way your video looks after compression, but it will also improve your subject’s appearance. Each frame is given a certain allotment in terms of bits to generate the image. If little has changed from the frame before it, those bits can be used to make what is moving in the shot look smoother.

Bad Lighting
Lighting is essential to good web video. If you use a low-watt table lamp that looks alright in person, you can bet the video will prove otherwise. It’s better to have lighting that is a bit too bright than a bit too dark. Artifacts, which appear as colored specks or scattered snow, show up much more in a dark shooting environment. Give your subject some light, and if you want to make things look dark and dreary, you can do it in post using a video editing program.

Low or Inconsistent Audio
Most decent video editing programs out there will include audio controls. If you can’t actually affix a virtual audio processor and/or compressor to the audio track, take the time to normalize the audio to a reasonable volume. Audio normalization is one of the fastest and most effective ways to turn mediocre video in to something more professional. If you have the means, work out a system to mic your subject to get the best audio possible. Built-in microphones on smartphones and camcorders can work, but you are far more likely to get good results with an external mic. Because many viewers actually listen more than watch web programs, poor audio may be one of the most important things to avoid when producing web video.

Bad Camera Placement
The subject you are filming should be front and center on screen. If your web video has someone’s head at the bottom of the frame with a large space between the top of their head and the ceiling of the video, you should consider repositioning either the subject or the camera. As a rule of thumb, allow no more than 10% of the total height of the video to show space over the head of your host. If you film at a wide angle from across the room, make sure that it’s clear the person doing the majority of the speaking is the focus of the shot. No mater how cool your set is, your production will suffer if it doesn’t revolve around the subject.

Is Online Video Going to Kill Television?

Traditional TV isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it has shown some signs of decline recently. For the first time in 20 years, the amount of homes with televisions in the U.S. slid from 98.9% to 96.7%. With online services like Hulu and Netflix bringing content to the web and set top boxes making the connection with television sets easier, there’s no wonder people are moving away from the aging medium. As online video continues to rise in terms of both creation and consumption, the question remains – is online video going to kill television?

Large video sharing sites like YouTube have given amateur content creators a new medium for getting their videos out to a bigger audience. Where corporate media leaves you with little choice in entertainment and information sources, the web is filled with content from media sources ranging from commercial enterprises to single amateur personalities.

Over 24 hours of content is being uploaded to YouTube every minute, according to Google. This means that within 18 days, YouTube is sent enough video to fill every minute of a 70-year lifespan. This should mean that there is never a lack of choice for the viewer online. Even with over a hundred channels on cable television, the options are significantly more limited.

More recently, web series made with the same gloss of network television are beginning to emerge on various video services. Shows including The Guild and Mortal Kombat: Legacy have demonstrated that an audience can be every bit as responsive to a web series as it is to traditional TV. One can only expect the volume of professional video coupled with complex storylines will increase over time.

Traditional TV has adapted through expanding the availability of their shows through services including Hulu and Netflix. This has created an on-demand option for users that gives networks the ability to monetize through advertisements and subscription services. At first, online audiences were greatly ignored in terms of ratings. This may not be the case for very long, especially if their online audience continues to outgrow their traditional one.

Three Tips to Improve Your Video Podcast

Video podcasting is currently on the rise, and with so many set-top boxes coming out that take advantage of RSS, now is a great time to jump on board and start your own Internet TV show. In many cases, a few simple improvements can make all the difference in the world to a show. Here are five tips to improve your video podcast:

Lighting
Nothing says amateur video more than a poor lighting on the subject. This means more than turning on a lamp or making sure a bright window isn’t behind you. If you want to have a dramatic improvement on the way your subject looks, keep your light source soft. A hard light is any direct light source that causes sharp shadows to appear around creases in your face or neck and behind you. These shadows can be distracting and enhance flaws. A soft light, which is diffused gives less definition to shadows and should light a subject evenly. This can be achieved on the cheap using white tissue paper commonly used in gift bags placed between yourself and your light source. Be careful not to place them too close to each other as this can become a fire hazard.

Sound
As a general rule of thumb, the most important component of a successful show is the audio. No matter what someone sees, if they can’t hear you or if you sound terrible their immediate impression of your content will be negative. Pops, clicks, sounding like you’re in another room, loud echo, and generally poor audio can ruin a viewer’s experience. When planning your audio setup, consider that your entire audience is incapable of seeing any of your video. Many of them will have it on in the background and listen to it rather than watch.

On a budget level setup, you should consider investing as much on your microphone as you do your camera. For example, Chris Pirillo uses an AT2020 USB condenser mic for his live stream and videos which delivers an even, clean sound.

To Script, or Not to Script
there are essentially two types of on-air personalities in general. There’s the host that smoothly reads teleprompters and does a very good job of flowing with the words as they read them, and there’s the type that does very well ad-lib with little more than an outline. While there is certainly a percentage out there that can handle both tasks, most tend to do better one way or the other.

Many of the most popular video shows on the web today use teleprompters to keep the message clear and on time. It’s a complete myth that reading a teleprompter means you’re any less talented. There are ad-lib speakers out there that absolutely can’t read a teleprompter at all. They lose their natural body language, emotional queues, and even their sense of timing when reading.

Five Years on YouTube – Happy Anniversary

Five years ago, I uploaded my first video on YouTube. While I’ve been uploading video to the web for years before this, there’s no question that YouTube changed the way the world experienced video online. In many ways, it has created a new way for me to connect with viewers in terms of building conversation and hearing your opinions on various topics covered on the channel. I’ve also made many new friends through ongoing dialogue made possible by this incredible medium. Here are a few interesting bits of information:

Over the past five years, over 109 million video views have taken place on the LockerGnome channel alone. This is an incredible number, and one that only furthers my belief that the online multimedia is one of the best ways to share information.

After over 3,340 videos have been uploaded, the community is still going strong and I am extremely humbled and grateful for this fact.

There are over 176,000 subscribers to the channel, which is an amazing number by any standard.

Most of all, I am appreciative of each and every person who has taken time out of their day to watch one or many of these videos. When I first started creating content online in 1992, I would have been hard pressed to imagine exactly how far our ability to share media has come in such a relatively short period of time. In just the past five years alone, YouTube has grown from a site where you can upload low-quality video to a media powerhouse that revolutionized the way the world shared news and information.

Conversations we’ve had and the lasting connections that resulted thereof will continue for the next five years, and beyond. Thank you.

FlipLive: The Camera That Might Have Been

Cisco announced this week that they are shutting down several parts of its consumer business to refocus on four of their “key company priorities.” These include core routing, switching and services, collaboration, architectures and video. Their priorities do not include the Flip video camera we all know and love, though. Cisco has pulled the plug on the popular device and will no longer be working on their newest version, the FlipLive. The little camera that could will no longer, and that makes this geek very sad.

My Flip Ultra HD may not produce the highest-quality video in the world, but it certainly does a decent job. It’s light and small – perfect to throw in my pocket when I’m out and about. You cannot argue about how simple it is to use, which is what made this device so beautiful. Anyone could use it – including grandma shooting videos for the first time when the kids come to visit or a youngster just beginning their journey into the world of technology.

The FlipLive would have been pretty damn sweet, I think. The same little video camera you know and love would have allowed you to also stream live from any HotSpot you could find! Yes, yes – my iPhone can do that. Your device can do that. But can they do it well? Can they do it in a manner that’s simple enough for anyone to figure out right out of the box?

I honestly think Cisco has gone a tad bit loco with this move. Of course there are other devices and gadgets out there which can do the same thing. However, ease of use with any product is one of the key selling points, and the Flip camera had a lock on that arena. Am I the one who has lost his marbles? Do you think this was a bad move by the company, or do you feel that the market is saturated enough that no one will really notice?