Getting started with video

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If you’re interested in using video in your communication plans but don’t really know where to start – what equipment to get or what software you’ll need – three excellent articles published today on Journalism.co.uk will give you some clear pointers.

Written by Andy Dickinson, who teaches digital and online journalism and is course leader for the BA Digital Journalism Production at the University of Central Lancashire, the three articles discuss options to consider depending on the budget you have.

Although the articles were written with a focus on how mainstream media newsrooms could apply video to their websites, I think all the content is valid and wholly applicable from a broader organizational communication perspective.

Take a look and see what you think:

Really, some great advice.

Although I’ve been shooting video for some years with a mobile phone – from a Nokia N70 in 2005, then a Nokia N73 and, from a few months ago, a Nokia N95 8GB – I’m a relatively new starter with video beyond that.

Mobile phones are great devices for on-the-fly video recording, increasingly so with services like Qik that provide opportunities for live video streaming on the web from a mobile phone (I’m trying out Qik with my N95 8GB).

If you want to move into some of the capability areas such as Andy sets out in his second article, though, you’ll need a camcorder.

Last year, I bought a Sony DCR-SR52, a really excellent device that I use with some client projects as well as for general use.

So to add to Andy’s content, here’s my current video equipment list:

Hardware:

Software:

  • Sony HDD Handycam Utility and Sony Picture Motion Browser – these applications come with the Sony camcorder and are the bare essentials you need to manipulate video files to and from the camcorder. One important note – Sony camcorders like mine don’t officially support the Mac, something Sony don’t make very clear in the product information (nor on the product packaging other than in small print). Windows Vista support is ok.
  • Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition – I’m just getting to know this editing and creating tool which is a powerful yet easy-to-learn application for editing and manipulating video files and producing movies.
  • Camtasia Studio 4 – an indispensable application for creating screencasts (eg, narrated PowerPoints presentations or recording application demos) and for its simple and powerful features for producing movies in formats like FLV (perfect for use on the web). The latest version of Camtasia is 5 but I’ve seen no compelling reason to upgrade from version 4.
  • Xilisoft Video Converter – offering an amazing array of options to convert to and from over 20 different video file format types. The latest version 3.1 includes the capability to convert files to the new iPhone file format as well as formats for PSP and Blackberry.
  • FLV Player – in my view, the best free Flash video player for Windows.

As I said, this is just my list. There is plenty of choice out there which is explored by Andy in his three articles.

It’s never been easier – and never at such low cost – to get started with video.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Andy

    Thanks for the link Neville.

    You make a good point about the Sony/Mac issue. If you buy a solid state/Hard disk camcorder the way it records the video is going to be an issue.

    It’s the downside of getting in to video on a budget – you get to learn the jargon and engage with the technology at a speed and depth that can be scary.

  2. David P

    Neville – good article! As one who’s produced (and helped others to) YouTube videos for a UK Govt Dept I strongly sympathise with the problems. I’d add that (i) sound quality is the key factor – and VERY hard to deal with (as few cheapo camcorders or suchlike will take a standard external mic) and (ii) if a goal is making it quick, simple and foolproof for a press officer or Ministerial secretary in the field (say) then the time or skills to arrange editing really cannot be assumed. My target would be a simple, reliable, auto camcorder that records VGA quality to an SD card and which takes an external tie clip mic. I have yet to find such a beast! I’m very intrigued that Reuters arranged to route an external mic into an N95 – interesting…

  3. Mike O'Hara

    Great post Neville and some very useful tips there, thanks. I use Vegas myself and I’ll definitely check out the other software you recommend.

    On David P’s point regarding sound, I agree that sound quality can make a huge difference to the overall end product, but you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get good sound.

    For recording voice, I recommend using the Yoga EM-1 clip-on tie mics (RRP £19.99 from Maplin). These are excellent quality for the price and come equipped with a pre-amp built in to a mono jack plug.

    As most camcorders have some kind of external mic input (e.g. minijack) all you need is the necessary adaptor, which no doubt you could also get from Maplin. Quality on a budget!

    Cheers
    Mike

  4. neville

    Andy, the trouble with Sony not supporting the Mac is not so much that fact but the lack of clarity from Sony about that fact.

    But it does illustrate that you really need to carefully check systems specs yourself whatever equipment you buy.

    Re external microphones, great points, David and Mike. Another reason to carefully check things – the Sony camcorder I have doesn’t have a feature to plugin a mic (which I knew). Some more expensive models do.

    Steve, I’ve looked at vimeo. It’s not bad. So many such sites out there now.

  5. David P

    I’d challenge the suggestion (unfortunately) that “most camcorders have a mic input”. Yeah, top-end ones do, as you’d imagine. But virtually none of the cheapie ones. There’s a couple of Canon ones (we’ve got one at work, spookily almost the cheapest camcorder we could buy) and use a £20 Audio-Technica ATR35S mic. BUT that’s DV which implies capture, editing and so on. What I wanted to buy was an inexpensive camcorder that would record to SD card – effectively, record exactly what you want, then direct upload to YouTube. Kinda what FCO look like they do. But could I find any suitable kit that was simple, foolproof etc? No way. Oh well…

  6. Andy

    David P

    You take a look at the Sanyo xacti range. You need to pay a bit more for one that has a mic input but the range offers everything from mp4 up to HD.

  7. David P

    Andy – yeah, that’s what I came up with. As you say, spending more than I wanted. I couldn’t justify it for the specific project (which anyway didn’t go ahead…) One of the little MP4 camcorders (£70 Aiptek type stuff) would be great if they just had a mic input! I’ve seen it suggested that a bit of rewiring isn’t such a bad idea if you feel like soldering. I didn’t! Thanks anyway.

  8. Nikos

    Hey Neville, did you hav any issues with the N95 8GB front camera? Anytime I tried to qik live using the front camera, it always crashed. I submitted the log files to QIK but haven’t heard from them yet.

  9. neville

    No, I’ve had no issues with the front camera and Qik. No crashing, it works fine.

    Do you have latest firmware for the N95 8GB? And remember Qik is an alpha release!

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