A number of former students have asked me for advise on student-produced video projects. Most of their questions are on the technical side–what format to use, what software, and what video camera. I have been interested in video production for some time now, and am very close to asking students to keep vlogs (video blogs) in an upcoming semester. I currently require students in my teacher assisting seminar to tape themselves, and I’ve written a couple of small university grants to fund this project.
All this to say that I’m becoming more acquainted with the intersection of digital video and the world wide web. Here’s what I am using these days:
My camera is a Canon HG10 with a 40 GB hard drive. It records high-definition, widescreen video directly onto a hard drive. The hard drive means that you needn’t worry about rewinding, erasing, or running out of tape. The best part, however, is the way you can transfer files from the camera to your computer: just drag and drop the files and you’re done. No need to “capture” from the tape in real time. Of course, this model records in AVCHD format, which means you’ll need to buy pretty expensive editing software or settle on the sub-par Ulead Studio that comes bundled with the camera. Moral of the story is to insist that your tech department gets hard drive cameras that are compatible with your software.
For editing purposes, I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS4, the latest release from Adobe. I initially purchased the earlier version, CS3, but was disappointed to discover that it didn’t support AVCHD format. Did I mention that your camera needs to be compatible with your software? In any case, I had to spend a little more for the upgrade to CS4, but now it works perfectly. CS4 comes with a number of additional pieces of software that make it easy to create professional-quality videos. I’ve used both Nero and Roxio software and found both to be buggy and limited. Adobe CS4 is, well, the premier video editing software on the market. It will cost you, though.
I use the free service Viddler to stream videos. Viddler is a social network for video auteurs. You may friend people you would like to share your videos with, or just make your videos available to the public. Viddler also has some pretty cool features, like allowing you to tag and comment on particular moments in the video you are watching. You are allowed 500 MB per upload, which isn’t unlimited like Google Video, but there is no restriction on length or number of videos. And as you can see, you can add your own logo to your video.
Formatting is a huge question (and problem) for anyone interested in publishing video to the web. Most video formats are proprietary–that is, they have been developed by companies like Microsoft (.wm), Real Player (.rv), Adobe (.flv), and Apple (.mov). Each has its own frame rate, resolution, bit rate, compression method, and associated player, which makes choosing the right format a nasty task. My recommendation is uploading videos in Flash, which most sites convert videos to anyway. Flash doesn’t take as much time to transcode (use your editing software to reformat) as other formats, and it produces a fairly crisp picture and resolution size.
Here, for example, is a video of Seth, recorded by the Canon, converted into Flash with Adobe Premiere, and hosted by Viddler. Maybe I should have edited that last crying bit out.