Friday, July 18, 2008

Playing with Online Video Editing Sites - Video Series (Part 5)

I've pretty much come to the conclusion that the best way to have any fun with video online is for it to be as simple as possible and to not have high expectations for quality. One thing you have to know about working with video online, the end result will be Flash Video (.flv) files. It has become the default video format on the web and most online video sites use FLV to stream videos online. What I've discovered in the process is it's probably best to just leave your fancy expensive camcorder at home and grab something inexpensive and simple to use if you're planning on posting your video on the web. By simple I mean, no file conversion and no tapes. What you want is a camera that saves video files to either a hard drive or media card in a format that is highly compatible. Make sure the camera saves files in one of these video formats: wmv, avi, asf, mov, qt, mpg, mp4, vob, rm or dv. Most online editing sites will even take your cell phone video: 3gp, 3g2 and even Flash (flv) files.

Here's a short video I shot using both the Flip Mino and my digital camera, a Canon PowerShot SD10. I wanted to compare the quality and to give you an idea of what kinds of cameras are available for you to use.
Exploring Video Cameras from Coop on Vimeo.

I made this video in Windows Movie Maker, but I also uploaded the files to several online video editing sites:
These seem to be the top online editing sites, but there are many others. I just wanted to see how easy it would be to duplicate my editing and movie making experience with Windows Movie Maker. I want to first say that these sites do so much more than edit videos, and I'm not even going to come close to giving you a review of each. I just want to share my first impressions with each.

I tried Eyespot first. It's a pretty slick site, easy to use. I was able to easily upload my 3 short videos. To edit the video I had to go the Mixer area. That is what these sites call the editing area. In there I could trim the videos before placing them in a timeline for my movie. I could also add photos, music, transitions, effects and something called Mixables. It took me a minute or two to figure out how the trimming process worked, but it's simple enough. Put the green arrow where you want the video to start and the red where you want it to stop. Hit the Done button and it places the trimmed piece in your timeline. After adding all my trimmed pieces, I added some transitions and a song and made my movie. My Lady: Yamaha V-Star

The first thing you'll notice about my movie made in
Eyespot is the ads on the bottom of the movie. Yep, Ads by Google. I do like that you can allow visitors to download your video in various formats: PC|Mac|iPod|PSP|DivX. That's sweet, but I hope the downloads don't have ads.

I tried Motionbox next, and it was just as easy to upload my files to their site. They have a different focus at Motionbox it seems. There are no ads, which is good, but it didn't seem like the typical social networking site. Trimming the clips was easy, although I was stumped at first. I had one of those Doh! moments. Anyway, from what I could see, trimming was the only thing I could do with my video - nothing else. That's it. Trim and put clips together. Okay. Next.

JumpCut is a Yahoo! site, so I was able to log in using my Yahoo! ID. I really liked JumpCut. It was super easy and I even had a little fun playing around with all the options. I could do everything I was able to do at Eyespot. It's hard to explain, but it just had a friendlier feel to the site, and I found it easier to explore the option without fear of losing my work. I also made the best movie here. Oh, and guess what - no ads.

Overall, the video quality at all three sites was equal, and I feel confidant that if I ever needed to edit video online that I would have a good place to do so. And I wouldn't hesitate to have my students use any of the sites for a class project, although my current preference would be Jumpcut. Give it a try.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Windows Movie Maker vs VideoSpin: Which is Best? (Part 4)

I'm trying out several different video editing software programs for my summer project. After spending considerable time on the Mac using iMovie and Quicktime, I decided to switch over to the PC and try a couple of free programs before exploring online editing programs. For the PC there are two options: Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle's free VideoSpin. Let's start with Windows Movie Maker (WMM).

For a free program, Windows Movie Maker is not too bad. I was able to import different types of video, with the exception of HD video files, but most people who are going to be working with HD will probably spring for a more robust video editing software package. For standard video WMM is just fine. You can read more about my first impressions with the program here:
Editing Video with Windows Movie Maker - Video Series (Part 3) and the results of a movie created using Windows Movie Maker are below.

Trimming Bush from Coop on Vimeo.

Windows Movie Maker is probably the most widely used free video editor for Windows, but there is another out there that can give it a run for its money. It really just depends on what your needs are. And let's face it. If you're looking for free, you're probably not looking to be a master video editor. You just want to get your video from your camera and onto the web with a little bit of style as quickly as possible. Both WMM and VideoSpin can do that.

Both are easy to use. You just locate your video and audio files from your hard drive, arrange them on a timeline, and start clipping or rearranging. VideoSpin requires you purchase an upgrade if you want to use MPEG 2/4 codecs, and that will set you back $15, but it's probably worth it. You can add a variety of transitions, sound effects, and titles to your movie in both programs. Adding titles is one place where VideoSpin wins over WMM. It has some pretty fancy title options that I'd never seen before. I liked that. I also like that VideoSpin gives you the option to upload your finished videos directly to YouTube or Yahoo! Video. That's a time saving feature I like.

When it really comes down to it, both programs will work just fine for the average movie maker on the cheap. Just remember, you get what you pay for, and VideoSpin will give you more features for an inexpensive price when you're ready to move up in the world of video editing. VideoSpin is basically a slimmed down version of the commercial Pinnacle Studio, which normally sells for $50. Windows Movie Maker is free and when you've out grown it, you'll have to move on to something else.

For more information on my video project, visit Coop's Word Wiki, and read more articles below.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Editing Video with Windows Movie Maker - Video Series (Part 3)

Up until this point I've been playing with my video on my MacBook Pro, but the majority of people out there aren't lucky enough to have a Mac. So today I'm playing around with editing some video on a HP Pavilion machine running MS Windows XP Media Center (2005). It's an inexpensive machine costing only $400 after a $50 rebate. It has an AMD Athlon 64 processor 3800+ 2.41 GHz and 960MB of RAM. So not much firepower here. :-) I have Service Pac 2 installed, so the Windows Movie Maker program is automatically installed. I tried to download the program directly from the site, but had trouble doing so. Here are the instructions from the Microsoft site:

Movie Maker 2.1 is available for download with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). You can download SP2, Movie Maker 2.1, and all future critical updates automatically by turning on the Automatic Updates feature in Windows XP.

You can also download SP2 and Movie Maker 2.1 from Microsoft Update. If you cannot use Automatic Updates or download SP2 via Windows Update, order a CD.

I tried to see if the program could be downloaded alone without the Automatic Updates feature and was unable to. First, the site didn't like that I was using FireFox instead of IE, then I was forced to download an .exe file to validate that I indeed owned my copy of Windows XP. After that I couldn't find the program for XP, only Vista. What a hassle, but most people will already have the program installed if they run automatic updates, so it wasn't too much of a big deal. You can find information about the Windows Movie Maker program here.

I started out by importing some AVI video files from an external hard drive that I have attached to the PC. The video I was playing with last week on the Mac is stored there. Some of the files came over, but the ones I converted from the HD format didn't work. I kept getting an error message. Files from the Flip Mino worked fine, so I plugged in the Flip to see if I could capture directly from the camera. You can't actually capture live video from the Flip, so I had to import the clips from the camera into MM like I did the ones on the hard drive. When I tried to capture the video, however, my webcam came on and the program opened up a video capture wizard to walk me through the process of setting up my QuickCam with MM. MM captures the webcam video in 512kbps in WMV format at 320x240 display size and 15 frames per second. This is what was recommended if I planned to edit the files in the program.

The files I imported from the Mac via my hard drive didn't look great in MM, so I'm going to stick with files I imported directly from the Flip Mino for now. But I must say, I'm not sure what the program is doing to the files on import, but it is taking forever. I definitely need more RAM on this machine if I'm going to be editing video, so I'm going to buy some before I talking my editing in Windows Movie Maker. Instead I'll tell you a little about the features of this free program.

MM has most of the basic movie making features like transitions, special effects, titles, credits, narration and music. Your options are just limited, although Microsoft does have some "Creative Fun Packs" that you can download to add more features to MM. You can edit your video in both storyboard view and timeline view. The timeline views consist of one video with accompanying audio bar, one music/audio bar, and one titles bar.When in storyboard view, the video project appears as a film strip showing each scene in clips. Windows Movie Maker can only export video in Windows Media formats (WMV) or DV AVI. Both are fine for viewing on a PC. I do like how it has some predefined profiles and users can create custom profiles which utilize newer codecs.

So I'll give Windows Movie Maker a run through after I've install more memory in my PC, and I'll be back to share the experience with you in Part IV of this Summer Project Video Series. Visit Coop's Word Wiki for more information on my research.