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.

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.

Night Vision Camcorder = Late Night Video Blogging

The other night I was playing with an old Sony HDV camera that I own. I had completely forgotten that it is a so called ‘night vision camcorder’ – in other words it can see in the dark. The way this actually works is that the camcorder  has a small infrared light that is beamed at the subject – in this case me.

Because of the limits of this infrared flashlight as it were, you can’t get too far away from the light source. This is perfect if you are using it to video blog or video journal but something to keep in mind if you want to record something at night that occurs at a distance from the camera itself. These aren’t military grade passive infrared units! That is a whole different system. Military units (and high-end night vision goggles) use a photocathode tube that amplifies available light up to 50,000 times. They don’t need to beam infrared light, they magnify the light that is already there.

My night vision camera only works in monochrome mode so it’s kind of eerie looking (ever see the Blair Witch Project?). There is also a Super NightShot mode that adds a bit of color but slows the frame rate down to a ridiculous degree. Maybe it would be good for a special effect but it didn’t work for me.

But the night shot was cool. Here I was sitting in pitch darkness making a video entry and then when I played it back, I could see myself perfectly clearly (though with the above-mentioned Halloween factor). Hey, if you are at all camera shy I can’t think of a more comforting way to work!:)

Why would you want to shoot your video blog or video journal with night vision?

First, let me be clear. I’m not suggesting that you rush out and buy a night vision capable camera. Unless you already own one or plan some other use for a night vision camera it’s likely not worth it. For most people the novelty of making a video entry in the dark will remain that – a novelty. But if you are feeling a bit stuck in your video blogging process and are looking for something to dislodge creativity, making a Midnight entry under the covers might do the trick.

Did you ever stay up late with a flashlight and a book under the covers when you were a kid? It has that cool, secret fun feeling to it. Or if you are someone who gets nervous when you sit in front of a video camera (and you already have a night vision model) give this a try. It just might be the breakthrough that you seek.

Video soon! In the meantime have fun and feel free to post yours.

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.

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!

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.

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Video Blog Moments

A video blog doesn’t necessarily mean speaking directly to your camera or video blogging about an event. This site recently posted on the Yahoo! video blogging group has a number of really wonderful videos and a gorgeous site design. One of my favorites is the video of the clouds moving across the sky. Below are my thoughts. Check out the video and see if you agree.

It’s true, there isn’t much happening. Maybe this will test the limits of patience of those who watch some of the more frenetic video blogs on YouTube, but I love it. I love it because the simplicity of the video forces my mind to work and activates my imagination.

  • With the absence of the visual, sound becomes very prominent. (What kind of insects are there in the background? Who do the voices in the background belong to? What are the voices saying? What type of machine drives by?)
  • Because we don’t see the person holding the camera, this makes us curious. (Who is holding the video camera. Is the person alone?)
  • The clouds move, though the camera is stationary. Because the shot is held for a relatively long time (the duration of the video, about one minute) we realize that this moment was important to the person who shot it. What was the person thinking? Feeling?

We have all sunk down into the warm, green grass on a lazy summer day and gazed up at the clouds. Though the person behind the camera is visually absent, they ironically become very present as we are united through this universal, shared human moment.

This is an example of one person’s expression. Were there other blog videos you liked on this site?

Look to your own life with an eye to capturing a moment for the sake of the moment. This is a great way to weave video into the fabric of your life and perhaps see the moments that make up your day a little bit differently.

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.

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