Multi-tasking, Mindfulness and Video Twitter

This morning I read a blurb on a study about mindfulness that intrigued me. Meanwhile, I found out that the new Twitter allows video to be embedded directly in the interface. This is a nice addition that will help people get their videos out to more people and allow videoblogs and other video content to become viral with greater ease.

How are these two issues related? Here’s a blurb from the article on the study:

Youth today are bombarded by information due to the technical advancements of our time…Research on multi-tasking has shown that the more we multi-task, the worse we are at it (Schmid, 2009), and that learning while multi-tasking is not as effective as learning one thing at a time (eSchool News staff and wire service reports, 2006).

One-mindfully attending to the moment helps us get the most out of that moment…While we can feel good about doing many things in a day, or striving to multi-task every moment of every day, it is truly those of us who can appreciate one thing fully that benefit the most.

Adding video to twitter is another opportunity to multi-task but it is also another opportunity to be mindful. Sometimes the reaction people have to twitter, social networking and rapid tech advance is to close it out of their lives, get back to nature, turn off the computer. I love nature and turning off technology and taking dedicated ‘tech breaks’ is a great way to decompress BUT it’s not always realistic. Taken to an extreme it disconnects us from the world. And the world is a good place to be. Until we colonize another planet it’s all we got.

As you go about your day, as you venture out into the social media landscape or the everyday world, stop, take a breath and become present every so often. It’s all we’ve got. Yes, there are distractions, but mindfulness can be an anchor in a sea of competing interests. Then, it no longer matters whether we are tweeting a videoblog or eating a pear because we are fully present, we are truly there. (note: I had a pear for breakfast-the fact that it rhymes and sounds like Dr. Seuss is coincidental).:)

Mindfulness buddha

Mindfulness can be an anchor

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.

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!

What is Video Blogging?

The first question might be ‘what is a blog’? According to wikipedia, “a blog is a personal journal published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (i.e. posts) typically displayed in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first.” Expanding on that definition, the broad, simple (and relatively safe) answer is that video blogs (or vlogs) are any form of user created video regularly posted online. Then again, many large media companies post video content specifically created for the online world.

So aren’t they video bloggers too?

Passionate early video bloggers such as Adrian Miles remind us that video blogging is more than just video in a blog. It is a new mode of communication, a new means of self-expression. Video blogging is perhaps best compared to the early days of film. It is a period where we’re still playing with what it can be, could be, will be.

Zooming through the hundreds of thousands of personal YouTube videos posted since YouTube began in 2006 conveys part of the story, but just a slice. The best case scenario may be that the rapid evolution of video technology keeps us in this state of flux. A state where just as we define video blogging it changes and becomes something unexpected.

That’s my definition of sorts. Well, at least for now, as I sit writing in this little Brooklyn Cafe on a crisp, sunny winter day. By the time I get home my definition will probably be different. I’m sure I left at least a few thousand things out.

What’s your definition?

If you can’t explain it in words, post a v blog of your own – it could be one you created or one that defines it for you – even if it’s just a definition for this one moment in time.

Why ‘Viral Video’ will NEVER die (and the reason most Viral Videos are Videoblogs)

The moment I watched my first viral video is indelibly etched into my memory. The year was 2005 and I was working for HBO. It was a cold winter day and I was sitting at my desk in a production office on 6th Avenue in NYC. An email arrived in my inbox with a large attachment. The email was from a friend, (though really more an acquaintance) with the subject “YOU GOTTA WATCH THIS”. My curiosity outweighed my fear of contracting a deadly computer virus, so I opened it. I found myself watching the infamous “Numa Numa” video. Ever heard of it?

After I finished laughing, my first thought was to feel bad for the guy, whose name I later learned was Gary Brolsma. What kind of friends did the guy have who would send out what was obviously a private video? But that didn’t stop me from forwarding it on…That summer, YouTube launched and Gary Brolsma was released from the shackles of unknown websites and dodgy emails. Views gained by the thousands and for a time, Brolsma was freaked out by the attention and went into hiding for a about a year.

Recently some have declared that the ‘viral video’ is dead. This is total B.S. I agree that the TERM ‘viral video’ is getting a bit tired, but online video that is spread by viewers is not dead – in fact the phenomenon continues to grow. The Internet and social media are by their nature ‘viral’ or let’s call it ‘interactive’ – nah, that’s way too 1990s – participatory? Let’s put it this way, today people are active viewers rather than passive consumers of media. Media isn’t pushed to us by conglomerates, more and more often it’s spread by us. There are three main types of viral video (I’m going to keep using that until someone comes up with something better) that show up:

  • Amateur videos
  • Professional or Prosumer produced content
  • Videoblogs

Amateur online video runs the whole gamut of whacky sh*t. Funny pet videos, fail videos, cute kids, double rainbows, stoned kids coming back from the dentist… They can rack up phenomenal view counts but they tend to be spontaneous and difficult to follow-up on.

Professional or prosumer content includes virals such as Blendtec’s ‘Will it blend’ commercial featuring their high-end blenders devouring everyday items ranging from iPhones to sneakers. A friend of mine recently mentioned that her ten year old son asked for a Blendtec blender for his Birthday – (now *that’s* powerful viral marketing). That said, Blendtec is probably the most successful viral ad campaign and it has received about 140 million views. Not too shabby.

But let’s consider the viewership of a videoblogger such as Ray William Johnson. Johnson has created a simple but eye catching set backdrop, has a strong presence (like or him or not) and blogs on his thoughts on the latest Youtube videos which tend to be edgy and humorous (mainly amateur content). Johnson is consistently at the top of YouTube charts, averaging about 1.5 million views per day for his videos…day after day. Add up his total viewership and you wind up in the hundreds of millions. Why?

First, humor plays a big part in the success of many viral videos and Johnson uses humor throughout. Second, Johnson is able to inexpensively produce videos day after day. He has no $ barrier and little time barrier. To build a viral video brand requires a consistent output of content and Ray provides. Third, he is authentic – his style comes naturally out of his personality so it doesn’t feel like a ‘schtick’ as it might if a hired host for a TV show tried to pull off the same thing. (Incidentally there was a TV show that tried to feature the best of YouTube, but the name escapes me. Anyone see it? The show was cancelled). Finally – Johnson involves his viewers – he includes their video questions and responses within his own videos – his videoblog is active, not passive.

And Johnson is not the only example (nor is he my favorite videoblogger – sorry Ray). For example there is also Michael Buckley (“What the Buck”), Community Channel (Natalie Tran – the most subscribed YouTube Channel in all of Australia), Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Wine Library TV”, Shaytards (so annoying I can’t stop watching) and many, many others.

Things have evolved considerably since the Numa Numa days. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that video blogs that are authentic and creative tend to find their own audience. Video blogs tend to become the most viral viral videos when looking at the phenomena as a whole. Johnson himself says that he proudly plays to the common denominator and he’s rewarded for that – but that just happens to be what he enjoys. Today Gary Brolsma’s “Numa Numa” video is at seven hundred million views and counting (not to mention an ad deal with Geico) and I’ve long since stopped feeling sorry for him. I should add that he owes his friends a few drinks.

Video Blogging: No Age Limits

The last time I went back to Canada to visit my parents I taught my mom how to video blog using the camcorder built into her laptop. She had read ‘Naked Lens’ and being the supportive parent she is, wanted to try out the exercises. I appreciated her support, but I half wondered if she wasn’t humoring me just a little bit. My mom and technology generally don’t mix (no offense mom).

Well guess what? I was completely wrong. My mom loves video blogging!

She has been keeping a video journal nearly every day and I am so proud of her. She is a born storyteller and I can tell that video really taps into her need to communicate. She has never consistently kept a written diary as far as I know. I haven’t seen one of her video blogs yet, but she tells me that she has been conveying stories from her life, stories about my grandfather and interesting things that happen during her day. Because I live in NYC and she lives up in Winnipeg we don’t see each other all that often – one or two times per year on average. Her video diaries connect us in an entirely new way. No matter what continues to happen or not happen with ‘Naked Lens’ *this* makes it all worthwhile to me.:)

So if you have a mother, uncle, or grandparent who is even slightly open to the concept – buy them a cheap camcorder and show them how to video blog! Who knows – they might love it! None of us will be here forever and it’s so valuable to have the opportunity to know and understand where we came from and learn from the perspectives of those we love. Check out the ‘Leave a Legacy’ section in ‘Naked Lens‘ for more on this.

Happy video blogging!

Gary Vaynerchuk @ NY Video/NBC

I just got back from hearing Gary Vaynerchuk speak to the NY Video group at 30 Rock. Gary is famous for transforming his family’s small wine business into a global player through his down and dirty video blog called ‘Wine Library TV’. He also wrote the book ‘Crush It: Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passions‘ which is a great source book to jump start almost any entrepreneurial venture. I was impressed and inspired by him so made a quick video blog entry.

If you aren’t familiar with him you can learn more about his video blog here.

You can view the video from his talk here.

open source video, video platform, open source video editor

Vlogging through fears

Heights are not my favorite thing. I’d stop well short of describing it as a phobia in the clinical sense, but they certainly can get my knees a knockin’!

Recently I was in Quito and had the chance to visit a cathedral with a series of catwalks and (at least to my mind) precarious ladders leading to a bell tower hundreds of feet above the ground. Video camera in hand I vlogged the entire experience.

Camera in hand I eventually made it to the top. I was in Quito on my own and for some reason there were NO other tourists at this location. Without my video blog as motivation I’m not sure I would have made it to the top!

Yet in the act of vlogging I gained some insight into the irrational nature of my fears and once again learned that I CAN push through the feelings…and do it anyway. I’m going to consider other areas of life where a vlog or journal could be used as a witness and a motivator. Maybe if I video blogged about my pile of laundry it will actually be a fun activity? Nah.:)

Are there areas of life you might put your video blog or journal to work? Here are some initial thoughts – please add some of your own. Remember to use your camera as a grounding force that brings you into the moment – don’t allow it to become a distraction.

– making a phone call to someone you are nervous to speak with

– committing to an exercise routine (make a video blog showing other people how to do your workout/take us on a tour of your walk, etc.)

– overcoming a phobia (water, dogs, spiders, clowns – whatever!)

– learning a new skill (probably best with something visual but could be just about anything – maybe I’ll dust off those juggling balls I got for Xmas last year).

If you incorporate any of these ideas into your vlogs, please let me know!

Video Blogs and the Unexamined Life

I was explaining my book to a woman at a party the other night. Let’s call her Cindy. I explained to Cindy that my book is about using video blogging and journaling for creativity and self-expression. Cindy was a woman in her early thirties but wasn’t super familiar with YouTube, video blogs or the general vlogging phenomenon. I explained the difference between keeping a public video blog or a private video journal. “Video can be like therapy. It’s powerful to sit down in front of a camera and express yourself.” I told her.

“I have to be honest.” She said. The whole concept is really very disturbing.”

I must admit at first this gave me an inner chuckle that I suppressed out of politeness and because Cindy LOOKED upset. I’m not saying everyone “gets” my book, but I had never had that kind of reaction before. I was curious to know more.

“I mean I get creeped out when I see myself on a TV monitor in a store.” She told me. “It feels so intrusive.”  Wow.  I pressed her a little bit more, but I didn’t know her well enough to push it too far. I mean this seemed to be about something deeper than being camera shy. I also felt that maybe my book could really help her if she was willing to give it a chance.

Is video “intrusive”? Yes it can be intimidating to face a lens, and maybe this is part of it. But for someone who doesn’t like to be on camera, perhaps is almost a bit phobic about it, it MUST feel intrusive to walk past the myriad video cameras she passes in daily life.

In “Naked Lens” I talk about the imagined audience – who or what we imagine on the other side of the lens. I believe this is a large part of what creates our feeling of comfort or discomfort. Either what Cindy consciously or unconsciously imagines is hostile – or the fact that she unable to imagine anything and therefore can’t see “who” is watching her (I’m thinking of a void) throws her into a place of fearfulness and vulnerability.

There is no doubt that video will keep growing in its presence in daily life. There are two issues here. One is that of privacy which is an important, but separate concern. The second that applies to Cindy is one of ease and comfort. I believe it will become increasingly important to be comfortable on camera. People who feel as Cindy does will be at a definite disadvantage and will be more and more often be placed in situations they perceive as unsafe.

My opinion is that anyone with a camera phobia could stand to gain a lot from beginning to keep a video journal. Journaling would open an opportunity to create a safe space to slowly and carefully explore their fears. If there fears were severe, they could even explore them with the help of a therapist. I firmly believe that these fears are not just about the camera itself, but deeper issues which I’m sure are different for each individual.

Whatever the case, as a famous Greek philosopher by the name of Socrates once said. “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

In other words: feel the fear and do it anyway.


Video introduction to the book

Below is my video intro to Naked Lens. I had fun setting up the green screen and it wasn’t difficult (I’ll post instructions at some point in the future in case anyone is interested). For now I’ve decided I’m not going to be using green screen that much.

I generally enjoy videos where I can get some sense of the person’s placement in space and time. With this green screen technique I miss that aspect – even though I know what was behind me. (then again it was kind of a mess. green screen=instant tidy apartment, that’s one good thing!):)

Life Change and New Year(s)

I love New Years. Amongst my friends I’m a bit of an anomaly. Most feel it’s overrated. For me, it’s not the parties, Champagne, confetti or noisemakers. If anything, I’ve found that the best parties *do not* happen under the expectation laden overhang of New Years Eve.

What I vibe with is the possibility for renewal, life change, and growth. My sister and I made a pact this year. She wrote out a list of fifty things she would like to do before she dies and I did the same on video. We’ll compare notes and see which ones we might be able to do together and which ones we can support the other in achieving.

This year I went to St. Bart’s Church with my partner for a New Year’s Eve concert. Neither of us are church goers, so it was definitely a new (and novel) way to start the year. While I was there waiting for the concert to start, I witnessed a cool video moment that I would have loved to record but it would have been inappropriate. I talk about it here: New Years Eve Moment

But of course New Years Eve and Day are pretty arbitrary. There’s also the Chinese New Year (February 14th – also coincidentally my book release!), Pagan New Year (October 31st), Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah – September 8th), and probably others I’m forgetting.

Who knows, maybe I’ll start celebrating all of ’em? After all, each day is a new start, and the more often we remind ourselves of that, the better this year will be.

My NaVloPomo Video

November has become the “just do it” month.  It’s a month when challenges are set and goals met. Here are a few reasons why:

  • There is NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. Both aspiring (and established) novelists begin writing on November 1 with the goal to have a 50,000 word novel by the stroke of midnight November 30. Phew. Maybe next year…
  • There is also NABloPoMo or National Blog Posting Month. This started as somewhat of a gag that poked fun at NaNoWriMo, but somewhere in the process people started to take it seriously. NoBloPoMo gains serious momentum in November (30 posts in 30 days), but is also ongoing throughout the year.
  • Last but not least, there is NaVloPoMo National Vlog Posting Month (thirty video blogs – aka vlogs – in thirty days).

The eleventh month of the year has become the month for setting near impossible challenges, forming groups of like-minded crazies, and getting out there and going for it.

But why November?

Perhaps it’s because November is neither a long month like January, nor a short “lazy” month like February (which would be an obvious cop-out not to mention confusing during leap years).

In 2009 the Yahoo videoblogging group did something different from the standard “let’s do X activity every day for the next 30 days.” For NaVloPoMo, thirty of us each chose one day and made a video inspired by the video prior to ours. This highlighted the community aspect of video blog creation. It became a one month, video chain, visual conversation.

My chosen day was Friday, November 13th (yes, tempting fate, but despite a slew of technical issues, I made it!) I’ve pasted my entry below if you’d like to check it out. Best of all you can view them all in sequence here.

It’s Time (NaVloPoMo Day 13 2009) from Michael Sean Kaminsky on Vimeo.

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