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21 July 2007
Agitate and organise: video
People, let's forget about the community newsletter - video is what people watch, either on YouTube or via their mobile 'phone or I-pod. Your videos should run for between 30 seconds and about five minutes. Yes, that's right, because anything much over five minutes runs the risk that the viewer will lose interest. Sorry, folks, today's generation have been brought up on music videos and have the attention span of a lobotomised goldfish.

Assuming that you know very little about video making, let's start with the basics. If you don't have a video camera, you might like to buy one that uses the MiniDV system. They are the most popular cameras on the market so go with the flow has always been The Exile's way of thinking.

If you don't have a camera and are unemployed, then a second hand Digital 8 video camera is fine. The cassettes are bigger than the MiniDV's version - so is the camera come to that - but other than that the two systems are virtually the same.

Another option is to use a digital still camera because many of them will also shoot video. Just check that your camera isn't one that only shoots very short clips. Most Sony cameras allow you to shoot so long as there is space on the memory stick. For instance a one gig stick allows for about 45 minutes of recording time.

The disadvantage of using a still camera's video function is that you cannot usually connect an external microphone to the camera. That said, if your subject is close, you can pick up their voice with the camera's internal microphone. It is just not as good, that's all. However, if you are not videoing someone speaking on a noisy street, or if you decide to add a music soundtrack of your own later, using a still camera is very much an option.

All of the above types of camera will do. However, two types will cause problems and should be avoided. The first is the video camera that uses a DVD disk. Editing those videos is such a pain that they are to be avoided at all costs. The second type to give a body swerve to is the camera that has an internal memory and which records the files in MP4 format. Getting editing programmes for this format is expensive; finding a converter so that you can put your video out in the popular MPG or WMV is just as hard. Just don't use them, OK?

Having got your gear, there are two mistakes that people make when they start to shoot video. The first is they waft the camera about like a fart in a breeze. People, keep the fucker still! Your eyes may dart from place to place, but if you do that with the camera you will make your video unviewable. Shoot clear shots with the camera angle set before you press the record button. Once you have pressed it, don't move the camera and hold it very, very steady.

The second mistake the folk make is using the zoom - "Look, my camera has a zoom," they seem to be saying.

Yes, I know it has a fucking zoom, and I'm telling you not to use it. As with waving the camera around it makes the footage unwatchable.

If you must zoom and pan, then do it very, very slowly and not very often. Far better not to use these techniques at all until you become more expert at film making.

You have finished shooting. Now you need to get the raw footage into your computer for editing. If you used a still camera, then the MPG files will load in the same way that photographs do. If you have a video camera, it is a bit more complicated, but not much.

If your computer runs on Windows XP then you have a programme called Windows Movie Maker. Open it, connect your camera to the computer via the cable that came with it and then switch the camera on. WMM will pretty much do the rest. I advise you to switch off the create clips function - record the footage as one file.

Movie Maker will ask you what the settings are for your recording and will offer you a "best quality for playback on my computer" option. Ignore that and go to "other settings". There you should choose "Video for local playback (2.1 Mbps)" as this is the best quality.

Once the footage is on your computer, then you can use Windows Movie Maker to edit it, add titles, stick in a voice-over or add music. You can also add fades and dissolves to make scene changes easier on the eye. Just play around with the programme until you feel happy at using it.

Windows has a special page devoted to Movie Maker which is well worth studying. You can find it here.

Very well, now you have your finished video - how do you distribute it?

The first way is via YouTube and for that you should convert your WMV file into an MP4. This is easy, just download the Videora Converter, which is a free programme. I would suggest that for YouTube you should set the conversion rate at a high quality - it will make for a big file but once YouTube has it they will convert it to Flash Media and it will look better on the computer monitor if your file has been of a high quality to begin with.

What did you say? You can't download YouTube videos? Well, there are programmes out there that allow you to do that, but the quality is crap. Why not make a version for people to watch on their mobiles and I-Pod Videos? Most of these devices use MP4 as their standard, so just run the file through the Videora Converter again, but this time choose a lower rate that will make for a smaller file. Remember, if they are watching the video on a small screen, you don't need a very high quality video.

What about the people who want to watch your epic on a computer? Run the file through Windows Move Maker one more time and set the capture to about 512 KBS. At that rate the video is just about watchable at full screen, but looks much better at half-screen. Play around until you find the best quality for your needs.

Finally, upload your video files to a server - they are plenty of them about that offer free web space. Besides, how can you call yourselves a community group if you don't have your own web page? Geocities gives you 15 meg and Lycos gives you 20 megs.

Up next - some ideas to think about for videos. Meanwhile I have some videos of my own that you might like to see. In all cases, just click over to the page and follow the link at the bottom to get the video.

The first was shot using a digital still camera, and consists of views of a lake in my area. The second is the ruins of Teotihuacan, and was shot using a video camera. Both videos have music soundtracks that I added.

People, I do need money, so if you would click on that there button I would be most obliged.

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