20 Steps Video Exercise

Note: this challenge has passed! However this is still a fun exercise so I’m leaving it up in case it’s useful.

Check out this vimeo video challenge. It all starts with twenty steps… Limitations are a great way of stimulating creativity and this is a great example of that.

Here are the instructions. Follow the link at the very end to enter:

To begin, take a short video of the area you start your video adventure. Then, take 20 steps in one direction and stop and take another short video. Repeat this process after taking another 20 steps. After you’ve captured 20 little videos, every 20 steps, you’ll edit them together to create a film.

Here, the in-between moments were kept in (albeit, sped up), but feel free to use other transitions between clips! I’m a fan of the simple jump cut, myself, but things could get really interesting with whip pans or body wipes.

There is no limit to how long you capture a video after each set of 20 steps, but the whole video shouldn’t go over 3 minutes. You could divide that equally, or give weight to some pauses and only a few seconds to others.

Once you’ve walked all 400 steps, edit the videos together chronologically and see what you come up with! You won’t be going far, so the Challenge is to show an area in several different ways. Maybe you’d like to focus on perspective, or the angle of your shot. Maybe it’s all about people, or varying shot type between macro and extra-wide.

+ Shoot 20 clips every 20 steps.
+ If you add music, make sure you use a song you or a buddy created, or something from theVimeo Music Store! If you do choose to use a Music Store song, please throw a link in the description.
+ Add this at the end of your video’s description: “Created for the Weekend Challenge:Only videos made specifically for this Challenge will be considered.

Check out the sample below.

Dear Future Self – Video Time Capsule

One of the activities in my book Naked Lens show you how to make a time capsule (on video) for a family member to view in the future. Filmmaker and video blogger Jeremiah McDonald takes this a step further in the video blog below when he “interviews” his twelve year old self.

Clever edits and cutbacks make this video a shining example of great video blogging. It is also a reminder of the value of the material we gather over the years. What is everyday and perhaps mundane now, will look very different twenty years later. The next time you are too busy to turn on your video camera and shoot something, remember Jeremiah’s video and take a few minutes to share something. Your future self will thank you.

Best camera for vlogging

The best camera for vlogging may be the one that you already own. Before you run out and purchase a new piece of equipment, look in your own pocket. Do you own an iPhone 4 up through 6? An Android? Most of these phone have two cameras positioned in two directions. The selfie cam is perfect for video blogging especially when combined with a selfie stick. Ditto with the new iPad. Otherwise, maybe you have a still camera that has a video feature? A laptop with a camera? (an especially good option for a sit-down vlog).

The important thing with vlogging, is to begin shooting. The best vlogs are created through practice. Most of the best vloggers didn’t just wake up one day and upchuck greatness onto YouTube. So if you do already have a vlog camera, dive right in.

Just shoot. The act of shooting itself will help you define the features that are most important to you in a camera.

Still want a brand new camera? Okay, I hear you. Once you are ready to purchase a camera, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Buy a camera that allows you to view yourself while you shoot. Popular cameras such as the Kodak zi8, Playtouch, Playfull and most of the Sony Bloggie line – while being good cameras otherwise – do not allow you to see yourself while shooting. Depending on the style of vlog you are planning this can be a huge issue. But there are notable exceptions. The best cameras for vlogging are below:

  • Panasonic HC-V770 Full HD w. WiFi. This is a sweet camera, well designed and wifi enabled for great connectivity. The camera features a 5 axis image optical stabilization which is heads above the electronic stabilization on other cameras. The image is great with nice noise reduction even in low light. A great flip screen rounds it out. Recommended!
  • Samsung HMX F90. Better made than the (discontinued) RCA EZ-1000 above, this SD card camera features one-touch upload, performs well in low-light. It has a 2.7″ flip screen and uses electronic image stabilization. They are solidly built and can take a beating (within reason of course).
  • Bell+Howell T100HD-BL Take 1. Bell+Howell made their name in the motion picture industry back in 1907 and continues to produce a variety of consumer and pro electronics. They drop the ball a little bit on the T100 but for the price (less than $30 as of this writing) this is a good blogging crash cam for days when you want to leave the iPhone or high end camera at home but still want to get some good video blogging and selfie shots.
  • Panasonic HX-DC2 Full HD Camcorder. Want to video blog in the pool or underwater? Well you can with this model (don’t go any deeper than 3 metres though). Panasonic has been quietly discontinuing/rebranding the Xacti since their purchase of Sanyo in 2009. The HX-WA2 is similar to the venerable Xacti but at a slightly lower price point (although the frequent discounts on the Xactis bring them closer together). Unfortunately this camera does not have external microphone ports. Shame on you for ditching this hard-to-find feature Panasonic.
  • RCA EZ-1000 & RCA Small Wonder EZ205. These budget models were recently discontinued and the upgraded models no longer have flip-out screens!

New camcorders are released nearly every month.  If you don’t find one that fits your needs right now, buy the cheapest one that seems the closest and wait half a year. Something new and better is sure to come along soon. Also note that if you are specifically seeking the best camera for YouTube videos, all of the above will work. YouTube is the most flexible online video service to be found – it can handle anything.

Latest Video Cameras – Updated Monthly

The latest video cameras as of the end of May 2012 are two new camcorders now shipping from Samsung: the QF20 and W300.

The W300 is a durable pocket cam that can handle whatever you dish out from dust to drops to water. The Q20/QF20 is a handy-cam style camcorder with a twist – multiple camera shooting angles – both traditional horizontal format AND vertical. More below.

The Samsung Q20/QF20 retails for a suggested price of $350 and includes:

  • A Schneider Krauznach lens,
  • A generous 20X optical zoom,
  • 1080i60 video
  • Switch Grip 2 that allows for Vertical Recording. No matter which orientation the QF20 is held, the magnetic sensor reorients the display appropriately (like an iPhone).
  • The QF20 sports a built-in wifi that allows for content to be uploaded and backed up automatically to your PC of choice.

The Samsung W300 retails for suggested price of $160 and includes:

  • Full HD 1080p,
  • Waterproof (up to 15 feet deep), dust-proof, and shockproof (6 foot drop)
  • 2.3″ high rez screen
  • BSI  (Back Illuminated Sensor) CMOS and built-in image stabilizer. BSI sensors are better in low-light than regular CMOS sensors.
  • Smart Background Music feature. This function allows you to add a preloaded music beneath your video. When SBM senses someone is speaking the volume is automatically reduced. Neat.

Samsung W300

Best Camcorder for Low Light

Camcorders have become more sensitive in the past five years, but there is still a wide range of low light capability between the various models. Recently Canon released a camcorder series that they should have called the “Canon Owl” due to its stunning low light performance. There are other light sensitive cameras out there, but this is the best one I have seen. With Canon’s Vixia HF G10 (about $800)  they redesigned their sensor to include fewer pixels. However those pixels are sixty-one percent larger and gather more light. Here are the important facts:

  • The HF G10 gathers light at an incredible 1.5 lux shooting at 1/30th per second as per Canon’s specs. Real world tests I’ve seen come in closer to 5 lux for a full bodied video image, but this is still amazing. Lux (luminous flux) measures visible light in a given area. Direct sunlight ranges from 30,000 to 100,000 lux. The darkest comfortable indoor lighting is about 200 to 300 lux. A sunset is about 10 lux. Typical streetlights output about 5 lux. Twilight is about 1 lux. Are you getting the picture? At 1.5 lux you can practically see in the dark with this camcorder.
  • The camcorder has a better dynamic range than others in its class – which means accurate skin tones and better rendering of dark and light areas, shadows, etc.
  • The camera is designed to capture a 1920 x 1080 image – that is a full HD video frame – no loss of quality there.
  • Furthermore, because there is no resizing, fewer pixels actually improve video clarity. Camcorders that have a greater number of pixels discard the extra pixels to get down to 1920×1080 HD which results in lower image quality. You can learn more about this process by watching this video on the Canon site.
  • One downside is that digital photos are captured at just over 2 megapixels. However many people have separate digital still cameras so that may not be an issue for you. However it you want this to be a “one camera shoots all” and you plan to print a lot of photos you should keep this in mind. If you mainly email digital photos, post to Facebook, etc., this resolution will likely be fine.

Not only is this the best camcorder for low-light but it offers all the other features you need in a high quality, compact video camera with some great manual options. It records up to six hours of HD video onto its built in flash drive or you can pop in your own SD cards for extra storage (it will automatically switch over). The camcorder has Canon’s SuperRange OIS to correct camera shake and a generous 10x optical zoom lens.

The lens also has a great manual focus ring which is very helpful for low-light shooting. The telemacro function can shoot incredible close-up footage from distances of as little as 1.3 feet. If you must have the most light sensitive camcorder out there with the widest range of features, then this is my recommendation by far.


Vixia HF M40 – an excellent low-light camera

Camera Techniques for Low-Light

Shooting video in low-light conditions is now much easier thanks to larger and higher quality sensors, but it still presents several challenges.  Luckily there are several camera techniques that can improve your video even further. These techniques are arranged in order of preference. If camera technique one doesn’t fix your light issue, move to number two and so on.

1. Add more light or move closer to the source.

This may seem obvious, but it gets overlooked. Moving even a few paces closer to a light source can make a huge difference in the amount of light captured. Or have your interview subject hold a reflector board  in their lap (or in a pinch a white piece of cardboard). This can help even out skin tone and reduce shadows. If you shoot in low-light conditions frequently, an on-camera LED panel light is indispensable.

2. Open up wide.

Wider apertures allow more light to enter the lens through the iris. Lower numbers mean a wider aperture. For example shooting at f1.6 will allow lots of light through your lens whereas f22 will allow very little. Remember though that depth-of-field increases with a wider aperture. That means that you will need to take greater care to focus and auto-focus is best left ‘off’ or the focus may be unreliable.

3. Lower the shutter speed.

The standard is to shoot 24p video at 50 frames per second and 30p video at 60 frames per second. However you can go lower as long as you avoid shooting a subject with a tremendous amount of motion. The lowest I go is 25 frames per second although this can cause somewhat of a strobing effect, so care is warranted.

4. Raise the gain/ISO.

Gain and ISO both describe the same function. They electronically increase the sensor’s receptivity to light. If the gain is raised too high you will notice digital noise enter the picture. Follow steps one through three above before raising the gain.

5. White Balance.

Dim indoor lighting conditions often have a dramatic shift toward the red end of the spectrum. If you don’t correct for this, the picture will be muddy and lack definition. White balancing won’t entirely solve a major low-light issue, but it can certainly help. Sometimes it’s difficult for the camera to ‘auto white balance’ in low light conditions. Either use a white card or surface and manually white balance or choose the preset that looks best to your eye under the conditions.

6. Shoot Wide.

With most zoom lenses, the more you zoom in, the less light will enter through the lens. That’s because the lens aperture will automatically get smaller as the lens grows longer. Stay as wide as possible to let in the most light.

7. Lower Your Frame Rate.

Most video is shot either at 24 frames per second or 30 frames per second. If you shoot at 12 frames per second you will let in twice the light you would at 24 frames per second. The trade-off is that the video will look very jerky and strobed. If there is no other way to get the shot however, this is one more way of correcting a serious light deficiency.

7. See Like an Insect

A few camcorders offer an infrared shooting mode. For example my Sony A1u has an infrared light (invisible to the human eye) which is picked up by the sensor in infrared mode. However the image looks like a night vision camera in a bad horror movie. This is good if you need to remain unobtrusive but for most other situations, just add a camera mounted LED panel light.

Best DSLR Lens for Video

Lens choice is subjective and certainly not a science, but below are some important considerations when considering the best DLSR lens for video purposes. One of the big advantages of shooting with a DSLR instead of a standard prosumer camcorder is the ability to swap out lenses. Learn to choose ’em well and use ’em even better and you will be well on your way to shooting stunning DSLR video footage.

If you do not yet own any DLSR lenses, I recommend starting with a 50mm prime lens. Here’s why:

  • A prime lens has a fixed focal length. In other words, it is what it is. Want to get closer to that ‘gator? Suck it up and take a few steps forward – there is no zoom to help you here. (Legal disclaimer: I advise against using a 50mm prime lens to shoot any critter with sharp teeth or horns that isn’t a family pet).
  • Why 50mm? 50mm lenses most closely mimic the way our eyes perceive our surroundings so they are an excellent focal length to start with.
  • Prime lenses are higher quality for the money and tend to be faster. Faster, meaning that they let in more light. The speed of the lens is even more important for video than it is for still photography. With still photography you can reduce the shutter speed down as much as you wish (even 1 frame per second or slower). As long as you have a steady tripod you will get a clean shot. With video you need to shoot at about 50 frames per second consistently. Any slower than this and you are likely to get unwanted strobing effects.
  • Lens sharpness is often touted as being highly important  and it is…for still photography. For video, a fast lens (see above) is more important than a sharp lens. In fact when choosing a lens for video, some softness is even desirable, giving more of a filmic look.
  • Fixed focal length lenses are also great to learn with. They will force you to learn your lens and DSLR well and make strong compositional choices while shooting.
  • Note that if you use a micro 4/3rds format camera such as the Panasonic GH2, lenses will have a focal length 2X of what the lens is marked as. For example a 25mm lens becomes a 50mm lens on the GH2. DSLRs such as the Canon 5D have “full frame” sensors so there is no crop factor to take into account – the lens will be as stated. Check your camera manual to be certain of this.

Below is a great Canon 50mm lens to consider that offers excellent value money.

Canon EF 50mm 1.8 – It’s a little bit plasticky, but this lens incorporates some great glass for the dollar spent. Very good for video.


Canon EF 50mm











Next I would purchase a good zoom lens. Something in the range of 50mm to 150mm. Zoom lenses are a bit pricier because they are more complex. They are also slower (need more light) than primes because the additional lens elements mean that there is more glass for light to travel through. With zoom lenses, unless you will exclusively be using your camera on a tripod, I recommend purchasing models that include built in image stabilization. This will be key when shooting on the go. The closer you zoom into a subject, the greater the lens shake.

Sigma APO 70-200mm Lens – This is an excellent zoom lens with built in stabilization. Fast. Great choice for video.











Finally I recommend a good wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses are very helpful for shooting in tight spaces and they also tend to be relatively fast lenses so they can be helpful in low light conditions.

Tokina 11-16mm Lens – This wide angle with a zoom is a bit pricier than the lenses above, but wide angle lenses are generally more expensive because of the complexity of the lens shape design (Google “retrofocal construction” if you are interested to learn more. It’s beyond this blog’s focus to cover.)










Finally, remember to spend some time (preferable a lot of time) with each lens before moving onto the next. There is no need to rush into purchasing new lenses until you know the ones you own well. There are many, many other aesthetic considerations that will take time to learn from  your lenses by experience. Each piece of glass has its own character of color, brightness, graininess and an intangible feel. Great photographers have been made by their wise choice of lenses. Follow your instincts and you too may develop your own unique style that will partly be connected to your particular choice of lenses.

How Many YouTube Videos Are There? Incredible YouTube Facts

Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that the first video uploaded to YouTube occurred not all that long ago in 2005. Since then, YouTube has enjoyed exponential and astounding growth. Every month the number of videos added continues to rise. Here are some amazing YouTube facts:

  • According to YouTube, more than THREE BILLION hours of video are watched every month.
  • More video is created on YouTube in one thirty day period than NBC, CBS and ABC produced in their past 60 years of existence.
  • 60 hours of video are added every sixty seconds – in other words – one hour per second.
  • Approximately ten years worth of content are uploaded each day.
  • There are tens of millions of YouTube channels and hundreds of millions of users around the world.

A very steady climb...

But how many YouTube videos are there?

I’ve searched high and low for a precise (and reputable) answer to this question. Either YouTube/Google does not know the exact number of videos on YouTube (they prefer to answer in hours – perhaps because it sounds more impressive?) or they do not want to give out this information. Given their official figures, we can make an educated guess.

  • The majority of users can only upload videos of 15 minutes or less (it is possible to get around this by fulfilling YouTube’s requirements). Most videos on YouTube are around six minutes based on my estimation.
  • By that assumption, ten videos are uploaded every second or 3600 videos per hour.
  • That means that in one twenty-four hour period around 86,400 videos are uploaded to YouTube.
  • In one year that would add up to over 31 MILLION videos uploaded. Keep in mind that this number is quite likely higher!

So how many YouTube videos are there? Lots.


Best Viral Videos of All Time

I was recently asked which videos I considered to be the best viral videos of all time. Six months later I had an answer. Below is a list, selected by number of views, number of days to reach 100 million views, and complete arbitrariness (Either because I love them, or because I despise them so much I’ve somehow watched them multiple times. Why do I do that?)

Best Change-making Video

The controversial Kony 2012 beat out Susan Boyle as the most rapidly spreading video ever. It reached 100 million views in just six days versus Boyle’s paltry eight. It is a thirty minute video which might as well be years when it comes to the length of the average viral video. But this video was an exception. Another exception is that this video deals with a serious social issue. A great example of the potential of viral videos to create change (and for fame to wreak havoc on their creators).

The Viral Video We Love to Hate

One of the few viral videos that consistently has more dislikes than likes. Why does it have hundreds of millions of views? If you haven’t seen it, check-it out. If you love to hate it, then watch it again. If you just hate it then…move on. It is kind of catchy though… Gotta make my mind up…

Seriously Catchy Autotune

Best Candid Moment

I love the kid’s accent. I don’t think it would have made it viral without that.

I Want What He’s Having

Combine Dad’s Flipcam with a seven-year-old kid high on novocaine and you have all the makings of this viral classic. Is it just me or is there something slightly sadistic about the way the father eggs the kid on? I wonder what David will think of this video when he grows up.

Best Video Blog

I will always love Chris Crocker for showing us his authentic self online before it was cool. In fact he was one of the original video bloggers who laid the ground for others to follow. Some people believe that Chris is just playing a character. Maybe. But that is the beautiful irony of YouTube.

Best Viral Ads

One of the best viral campaigns ever. When Blendtec came up with this idea they cannot possibly have realized how wildly successful their little video would turn out to be. Reportedly they knew they were onto something when kids began asking for Blendtec blenders for Christmas. Yeah and just throw in a spatula as a stocking stuffer…

Best Inspirational Video

The way this is edited is expertly edited to manipulate you into feeling inspired and it works. Boyle went on to sell millions.

Best Book Reading

Cover your ears for the scream.

Cutest (Wild) Animal

They are ridiculously sweet.

Best Cat

I have not found a top contender. Suggestions?

Best Dog

This doggie ended up receiving a commercial deal after this video made the viral rounds.

The Classic That Started Them All

How to Lose Friends and Piss Off People

Enough said.


Camera Phobia Is Not Camera Shyness

People who are camera phobic don’t have it easy these days. Nearly everyone has a camera on their phone. It may seem like every semi-memorable (and not so memorable) moment is uploaded to Facebook or Twitter as a photo or video. But there is a huge difference between disliking having one’s photo taken (being camera shy) and being truly phobic.

I’ve met numerous people who don’t enjoy having photos or videos taken of them. However, if they need to have their photo taken or if they are offered the opportunity to advance their careers by appearing in a TV interview, they can learn the skills they need to perform well. Those with camera phobia are not able to get past their fears and it makes life difficult for them. “I hate cameras!” The person might say. Or “I have the perfect face…for radio.” Meanwhile, what they experience is far more than a mere preference. Their hearts are pounding in their chests and they would do nearly anything to escape the situation.

Phobias often run in families. If you are someone who is camera phobic it may be worth mentioning to your family if you haven’t already. You may find that a parent also has a phobia. It may not be camera phobia (the tendency for phobias are shared but the specifics are often different) but they may be able to offer some helpful advice. Informing your spouse or significant other is important so that they can support you (and stop pressuring you to be in every photo!) Remember that if you pretend to be camera shy when actually you are having a phobic, anxiety reaction, people will not understand your struggle. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 6 million people in the United States have specific phobias of various forms, so you aren’t alone and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Treatment for Camera Phobia vs Camera Shyness is Different

One technique that has been used successfully with phobias is called “flooding”. The treatment is challenging but it can be effective. The person is exposed to the fearful situation until the fear passes. In a classic example, a person with a fear of snakes first spends time in a room with a snake at far distance and ultimately touches and finally holds it. When they see that nothing bad happens to them even though they are immersed in their most feared situation, the fear response is short circuited.

A more gentle form of therapy with a similar goal is desensitization. In this technique the individual works with the therapist to develop a hiearchy of fearful situations and is introduced to them much more gradually. In this therapy the focus is on learning to relax the fear response and stair stepping up to each level.

Camera Shy No More

Camera Shy No More

Similar forms of therapy can be done with camera phobia. The “Befriend the Lens” technique that I teach for camera shyness in my book Naked Lens is based on desensitization. “Befriending the Lens” can be very effective for someone who is camera shy and wants to learn to enjoy being on camera. However if you are camera phobic, it may be too much to go it alone. Flooding and desensitization are best done with a trained therapist. The same goes for hypnosis which can also be an effective treatment for phobias.

Finally, remember that whether you are camera shy or camera phobic there are numerous ways you can overcome your fears. It might seem that the easiest solution is to avoid cameras. However, cameras will continue to become a bigger and bigger part of everyday life whether you enjoy them or not. From on-camera job interviews, to video conferences and chats to online videos that promote your company or your life’s work there are many reasons and opportunities to step forth and face the lens with comfort and ease. Millions of people have overcome their phobias and it is possible for you to do so as well.


Best hd camcorder under 200

There are plenty of cheap HD camcorders under $200. With most you get exactly what you pay for. Let’s get real, you won’t get $2K worth of quality for $200. But if you shop wisely, there are a select few camcorders where you can get *more* than what you pay for. In the end, the best camcorder for the money is the one that gives you all the options you need for the lowest cost.

Below are the top 5 best camcorders under 200 bucks. They are all 1080p HD cams. 720p HD models (1280 x 720) weren’t included (it is a lower quality, outmoded format).

(in $ order)

  1. Aiptek A-HD Pro 1080P High Definition Camcorder – Best choice for BUDGET users MSRP approx $100
    The A-HD Pro sports a 3x optical zoom (unusual for the price point), LED lights for illumination, removable SD card memory and a handy 2.4″ swivel LCD screen. It shoots at 1080p but offers the lowest resolution of the cameras reviewed here (1440 x 1080p instead of 1920 x 1080p). Purchase this camera if $ is your main factor. The video quality and feature set are quite decent for the low price but the camera body is flimsy. Be gentle with this one.
  2. Kodak PlaySport Zx3 Waterproof Pocket Video Camera Best choice for ACTIVE users MSRP approx $130
    The PlaySport is a pocketcam style camcorder that features a 4x digital zoom , 1080p (1920 x 1080) video and is extremely light weight. The camcorder is waterproof to ten feet, has good image stabilization and unlike the Aiptek, has a solid build. Purchase this camera if you are an active user who will be shooting outdoors or in unpredictable situations. A great camcorder if you have kids who like to share your toys!
  3. Sony MHS-PM5 bloggie HD Best choice for VIDEO BLOGGERS
    MSRP approx $130 depending on color –
    The MHS-PM5 is Sony’s version of the pocketcam with a twist. The camcorder lens swivels 270 degrees and an add-on is available that lets you capture panararamic 360 degree video. The camcorder is 1080p (1920 x 1080)  and includes a nice face detection function, Sony’s SteadyShot, a built-in USB arm and a 2.4″ LCD. Purchase this camera if you plan on doing a lot of video blogging and will speak directly to your camcorder. (Note: the camcorders in this list are excellent models for everyday use. If your primary focus is video blogging, read this review instead.)
  4. Sanyo VPC-CG20 HD Camcorder & 10 MP Camera Best choice for VIDEO/PHOTO users MRSP approx $155
    This is a pistol grip style camcorder with a generous 2.7″ flip screen LCD. The camcorder shoots 1080i (1920×1080) and features a 5x optical zoom with a wider angle lens (38mm) than most in its class. It also has a digital image stabilizer for video and still photography. For photography enthusiasts, the VPC-CG20 shoots 10mp still photos including high sensitivity photos at ISO 1600 for very low light conditions. This is the best camcorder under 200 if you want lens versatility and the ability to take gorgeous high rez still photos.
  5. JVC GZ-HM300 HD Camcorder Best choice for VIDEO BUFFS MSRP approx $199
    You get a lot of lens for your money with the HM300. The camcorder features a Minolta lens with super low-light sensitivity and a built-in 20X optical zoom (200x digital). The camcorder records full 1080p HD (1920×1080) with a bit rate of 24Mbps. It also includes some handy features not often included in its price range such as time-lapse recording, auto record motion detection and manual controls for focus and white balance.

Note: The Flip cameras remain popular and people sometimes ask why they weren’t included. They are mid range cameras (1280 x 720p) that had cool designs but were somewhat overhyped. They were discontinued by Cisco in spring 2011.


Panoramic Video Blogging

Video blogging is 100% about perspective. That could mean your perspective as a human living on this crazy planet. It could also be your shooting perspective – where you point the camera, for how long, at what moment, etc. But there are limits to the frame. The frame being the amount of image your camera can capture. Whatever your viewer sees is just a small window into what was actually happening all around you at that time. Sometimes that’s a good thing.:) Other times it’s not.

An NYC start-up called Kogeto is taking pre-orders through kickstarter for a cool new add-on that will turn your iPhone camera into a panoramic camera device that captures life in 360 degress. They call it ‘Dot’. This hyper-lens attachment snaps onto the camera (note that it won’t fit if you have a case – you’ll need to remove that) then get ready for an entirely different way of filming. There is no ‘framing’ involved. Everything around you will be captured in panaramic video. As the founders put it – because we’re lazy this allows you to ‘put down the camera and enjoy the party’. They also give examples of showing grandma the neighborhood you live in, shooting concerts and parties but in my opinion that’s just the beginning of cool video blogging opportunities this cool little panoramic device represents. The video can be uploaded to Facebook or Twitter and Kogeto provides special software that unfolds the panorama into an easily vieable format.

Check out the photo on your iPhone and you can shift perspectives by dragging your finger around the screen. Founder Jeff Glasse believes this new shooting format will revolutionize video blogging and I would tend to agree. Visit Kickstarter to pre-order and help these guys in their various cool camera endeavors. $98 will get you the Dot when it releases this summer and an invitations to their launch party in June in NYC. There is no other product like this out there so this is a steal imho.

Video Blogging Tips

Video blogging is not difficult but keeping a few video tips in mind will help make you the best video blogger you can be! First, what type of video blog do you plan on keeping? A video blog might mean you speaking directly to your camera about a topic of you are passionate about. Or a video blog might just as easily be the ongoing saga of your whacky family life. There is no one single definition as to what a video blog is, so don’t get too caught up in that. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you want to communicate?
  • What do you want to help people discover?
  • Why is video the best way to do it?
  • Choose something that you feel passionate about.

If you don’t (yet) have a clear idea as to what you want to video blog about, don’t sweat it. Start with an introduction – who you are and what makes you tick – and see how that feels. It goes without saying that you’ll need a video camera to video blog but if you don’t have a fancy or expensive one don’t let that stop you. Use your pocket digital camera, your cellphone or your laptop.

  • Eye contact with your viewer is key. The only way to make eye contact is by looking directly into the camera lens. Experiment with this. You don’t have to *constantly* look in the lens. See what feels natural then play back the recording and see how it looks.
  • Don’t forget about audio. Bad audio can ruin any video. Pick a quiet location and sit as close to the camera mic as possible. For better quality, consider purchasing a camera that has an external mic input. Some of them are quite reasonable (and most laptops already include this).
  • Make sure you have adequate lighting and that the light is not coming from behind you. The lighting source could be a window or a lamp. Natural light tends to look the best with the least amount of effort.
  • Remember framing. Framing includes everything that is not you. Choose a background that looks pleasing to you and that expresses something of what you want to convey through your video. You can also make a green screen quite inexpensively.
  • If you are not going to edit your video afterward, try and keep your video relatively short – under five minutes. Editing is often helpful though to cut out awkward pauses and mistakes you might make here and there. Try imovie on the mac or windows media maker on the PC.

People sometimes get nervous about video blogging, but it’s easy once you start. The best way to learn is by doing so quit reading and researching and start doing!

Journaling Ideas

Have you ever become stuck in front of your video camera and had absolutely nothing to say? Just about everyone has sat in front of their camcorder at some point and not had a single journaling (or vlogging) idea occur to them. Guess what? There is always something to say! Sometimes these instances of putty mind may arise out of nervousness. Take a few deep breaths and see if that is why your mind has gone to mush. Oxygen is pretty important to our brain cells so this can sometimes be the only help that is needed.

But sometimes you may need a little bit more of a push.Here are some quick journaling topics to get your creative zest flowing:

  • I have always wanted to….. Start off with this phrase and fill in the blank. Keep stating “I’ve always wanted to…” and fill in the blank until you can’t possibly think of another unfulfilled want. If you’d like to expand this consider “I’ve always wanted to <BLANK> but I haven’t because <BLANK>.
  • Empty your pockets, purse or wallet. Tell the story behind each object. I bet there are objects with stories you had completely forgotten about.
  • Start by singing or humming your favorite song. When that starts to get old transition into singing about some of the reasons you love that song. Maybe it makes you feel a certain emotion, you love the group, a memory of the first time you heard it, or whatever else comes to mind.
  • If tomorrow you won the lottery, would you change your life? Give your interview to the local news.
  • In ten years I would like to have….and then state at least five major life goals.
  • The most bizarre experience I have had in my life was when…
  • My favorite place in the world is….
  • My very first childhood memory was….don’t forget to add the five senses – what did you smell, see, touch?
  • If I could change one thing in the world it would be…
  • Find a gadget or home appliance and explain it as if doing so to someone from another planet. What is it for and how does it work?
  • What was your worst dating experience ever? What was your best dating experience ever? Why?
  • Do you remember any of your dreams from the night prior?
  • What does the word ‘courage’ mean to you?
  • I believe/don’t believe in God (or a higher power) because…

Alright those should be enough to get you going. As you read through the list above you may find yourself thinking of others (there are millions if not billions)! Add them to your own list of journaling ideas and of course feel free to share them here.

Portable Green Screen

There are numerous ways you can make a portable green screen. Most of the methods I’ve seen involve using PVC pipe and green screen fabric. There is nothing wrong with this method (and it is probably the best for outdoor use) but I wanted to show you another option. Of course you could just buy a green screen from B&H, but would that be any fun? Nah. Plus it would be more expensive.

The green screen I made was originally intended to only be used in my home office. But I wanted to create something that could be stowed away when not in use. Because of this I ended up with something quite portable. My method was simple. Take two six foot long one inch by two inch lengths of wood with the green screen fabric staple gunned between it (I bought them ready cut at Home Depot). One two by four hangs the fabric, the other provides the weight to pull it taut. That’s it. I made another blog entry where I describe the method in greater detail. What I want to cover in this blog entry is the portability. I’ll also be adding a video that shows you the rig in person for those who find the text explanation confusing.

The greenscreen I made works well in my space because my ceilings are very low. However it can be modified for virtually any ceiling height. For a taller ceiling, the fabric needs to be extended (and you may need a ladder to install the hooks – careful up there!). Because it is relatively short though, it works well as a portable green screen. All you need is two small light stands (any variety, any cost level) and two strong clamps. I recommend C-Clamps so they don’t fall off unexpectedly but you can use almost any clamp to make this work.

Place the two light stands equidistant apart, clip the green screen between them. The two by four at the bottom will keep the fabric taut, but if it still has some wrinkles you can add some extra weight. If you have already wrinkled the fabric prior to the shoot I recommend ironing the fabric beforehand. If you roll it up subsequently it should become wrinkled through regular use. Video below:

Xilisoft Video Converter Review

If you keep a video blog it will happen eventually. You will need to convert video. (Insert SCARY MUSIC here.) The Xilisoft Video converter is software that converts video. Whether you want to move video to your Google Phone, iPhone or an iPad this software can probably do the job.

But is it worth it? Following is my review of the Xilisoft software.

The video converter software comes in three flavors: Standard, Premium, and Ultimate. Each version handles HD video.

  • The standard version is unable to convert picture to video or video to picture nor does it allow editing, cropping or watermarking video.
  • The Platinum Version can edit video and handle pictures but it can’t crop video, add video watermarks, edit video effects or add subtitles.
  • The Ultimate Version does all of the above as well as having the ability to compare source video and customized video.

Consider what functions you actually need. Video editing software such as Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro can also edit, crop, add effects and subtitles. If you have such software you may be wasting money on the Ultimate Version. Of course Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro can also convert video, BUT not always in every format and often with quirks in the way the conversion is managed. The Xylisoft Video Converter specializes in video conversion, and this is definitely a big plus.

However, before you rush out and buy this software, consider what you can get for free.

Handbrake is an open source freeware package for MacOSX, Linux and Windows that can convert between many variations of video files and output as MP4 and MKV. It also has a built in subtitle function. The support is lacking compared to paid software but it’s fairly simple to use and is a completely free option that works well.

MPEG Streamclip is another free (and powerful) piece of software for MacOSX and Windows that converts a wide variety of formats including MPEG (DVDs). However the learning curve is a little bit higher.

To sum up my xilisoft review (or if your eyes glaze over when you read technical information) here’s what I recommend:

  • Download Handbrake, attempt the conversion. If it works – great! You saved yourself some cash. If it doesn’t work, move on.
  • Download MGEG Streamclip. Repeat the above.
  • Finally, get the trial version of the Xilisoft software. You’ve tried the free ones, you understand their capabilities. Now you are in a position to make a fully informed decision. (The Xilisoft hd video converter download is available at numerous sites and will allow you to try the software out for free for five minutes of conversion).

Is this software worth it? Try it. The rest is up to you.

The Xilisoft 3gp converter works with the following formats: AVI, MPEG, WMV, DivX, MP4, H.264/AVC, AVCHD, MKV, RM, MOV, XviD, 3GP, and audio MP3, WMA, WAV, RA, M4A, AAC, AC3, OGG.

MPEG Streamclip works in these formats: MPEG, VOB, PS, M2P, MOD, VRO, DAT, MOV, DV, AVI, MP4, TS, M2T, MMV, REC, VID, AVR, M2V, M1V, MPV, AIFF, M1A, MP2, MPA, AC3.

Handbrake imports a wide variety of formats and outputs in MP4(M4V) and MKV.

Make a Green Screen

There are several ways you can make a cheap green screen (or blue screen) for your video blogging studio. I chose to make a green screen. No, not because it’s my favorite color – I prefer blue. There has long been a rumor that with digital video it is easier to ‘key out’ green (i.e. remove the green background which is the whole point) compared to blue. I haven’t exhaustively researched this, but it does seem like green has become more popular.

Of course it could also be that blue is a more common clothing color, hence with blue there are more potentials for conflicts than with green.

Anyway, chroma-key green is the color I recommend!

Now onto the fun part – making your home green screen. If you have a wall behind you, then your life is made easy. You can take one of two approaches:

1. Paint that wall chroma key green. You can purchase pro grade Rosco Chroma Key green paint. But this is quite pricey. Another option is to go to Lowes (or Home Depot) and have them match it for you. Bring a color sample on your iPhone or what have you. Here is a link to a swatch.

I’ve also learned that at Lowes they can create the color if you give them this number: 103-4Y 113-1Y 1145Y32. Other people have used Sherwin Williams “flat primary green” and have had okay results after applying multiple coats.

2. If you don’t want to paint your wall you can use green screen fabric or green poster board (you can buy them at Walmart you’ll need a bunch to cover the whole space – measure beforehand). Myself, I bought fabric from a store in NYC about ten years ago for $100 and it is the real deal. Chroma key green.

But what if you don’t have a wall behind you or it’s too far away?

Here is how I solved that problem to create a quick, easy, portable green screen solution. You will need:

1. Green screen fabric (either the real deal or as close as you can get).

2. Two pieces of lumber that are 1″ x 2″ with the length being as long as your green screen fabric is wide. (buy it at Home Depot and they will cut it for you)

3. Four simple screw in hooks (the kind you might hang your keys or a small potted plant from). I chose white to match my ceilings.

4. A staple gun (ideally). You might be able to get away without this. I used duct tape and staples.

Measure the distance from the floor to the ceiling and add six inches. Cut your green screen fabric to this length.

Now roll the top two inches or so of the green screen fabric around the lumber and attach it with the staple gun.

Place your length of wood (that now has the green fabric hanging from it) up at the ceiling. Next, you will be hanging it from two hooks. With pencil, mark the place where you would like the two hooks to be located.

Screw these two hooks into the ceiling. Now, at the matching location on your lumber, screw two hooks into the wood. Hang it up!

Allow the fabric to hang down to the floor. Roll the excess fabric up in the second piece of lumber and attach it the same way as you did the first.

The bottom should be just brushing the floor, but not actually touching. The weight of the wood hanging down will help keep the wrinkles out.

Voila! You now have a portable green screen that can be either kept rolled up when you’re not using it or easily stowed away. If you find your green screen is quite wrinkled, break out the iron and press them out.

Next time: Lighting your new green screen…

What Do You Crave?

This is a great example of a simple video blog/diary that tells a story and engages us through an experience just about everyone can relate to: Food cravings. There are many different ways you could riff of this idea with your own video blog.

My Video blog Included on the WGBH PBS Lab!

Today I learned that a short, experimental videoblog I shot last year was included as a WGBH Nova Short ‘Editor’s Roundup’ as featured on the WGBH PBS lab website. The WGHB lab encourages experimentation with new ways of distributing video from any screen – computer, cellphone, PDA. WGBH videos were selected on the basis of “creativity, video quality and story”. Cool!

You can check it out on the Nova website here.

Or in original HD below:





Fearless Videoblogging Workshop in NYC Next Week!

Click to learn more and register here.

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