Tag Archives: viddler

My talk from CRIM Crystal Ball 2010 – video

Following my talk in Montreal a couple of weeks ago, my hosts from CRIM have been kind enough to provide me with the video and have also given me permission to share it online. They’ve also posted a short photo report on Flickr.

See the High Def / full quality version on Vimeo

Also available (lower quality) on Viddler

Useful tools for homebrew media – my OS X workflow

As I’m sure regular readers are aware, I’m producing a wider range of media than ever before, now that I’m a regular podcaster and creating a range of video content as well. I thought it would be useful to talk a little about the range of tools that I’m using – far from professional level Final Cut or anything!


The hardware is pretty varied. The core of the whole “system” is the MacBook Pro, which I use for pretty much all of my editing. That also has the iSight camera, which is adequate for videos which need to include my face, although I’d like something higher quality (any recommendations?). I’ve mentioned iGlasses before, which is useful for adjusting the iSight input. From an audio perspective I use a USB headset and also a Blue Snowflake USB microphone, which is absolutely great – compact, convenient, and it captures excellent quality sound.

If I need to capture video away from the computer, my current camcorder of choice is the Kodak Zi6 which can take HD 720p footage, albeit at a quality limited by the rest of the hardware (lens, sensor etc). I’ve yet to do a proper review of this, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a step up from either the Flip Mino or the older disgo Video Plus which I’d tried. I also sometimes grab snippets of video on my compact Canon camera.


For screencasts I use ScreenFlow. This is just a wonderful piece of software which is capable of recording both the screen, and from the iSight simultaneously. This allows the video to be overlaid into the screencast if required, so you can personally narrate what is going on. Even better than that, ScreenFlow lets you zoom in on windows and desktop features, and is really a general purpose compositing application… if you look at this video I made when I talked to a friend recently, you’ll see there are no desktop elements at all, just the video stream from the camera, a picture of him, and the audio, with some nice image tilt and reflection effects applied. ScreenFlow has also recently added text annotation features, which are really useful.

I’ve yet to use it for any practical purpose, but I also just downloaded OmniDazzle, which is now free. OmniDazzle lets you highlight areas of the screen with visual effects using a single keystroke – I can see this being useful in combination with ScreenFlow in the future.

Video editing

A few weeks ago I blogged about iMovie 09. I know a lot of people really dislike both iMovie 08 and 09, but I’m totally comfortable with both versions now, and I have to say that 09 is just beautiful. I’ve had no issues with it – it’s great for rapidly mixing and editing video, still images and audio. Watch my introductory series on YouTube or the whole thing as one movie on Viddler. I wrote a bit more about my use of iMovie back in December, too.

Here’s a tip: have you ever wanted to create some animated titles of your own? I have one word for you – Keynote! When I created the Home Camp TV title sequence it was a simple matter of creating a slide with some animated elements in Keynote, and exporting it as a Quicktime movie (which I did without sound, allowing me to overlay a choice of audio on the title sequence in iMovie). It’s great for quickly creating JPEG stills with text for titles, too.

In terms of finding audio to accompany videos… I’ve used both the pre-canned loops that come with iMovie, and also used some audio from Podsafe Audio. I do find that site a bit cumbersome to search though, so I’d be interested to know of any other useful, royalty-free resources.

Audio editing

I’ve not done a great deal on the audio-only side of things, but my essential tools here are Audacity for editing and cleanup; and Levelator for post-processing. That’s a really important point, by the way: only levelate your audio once everything is mixed together, the whole point is that it’s going to analyze everything and modulate the volume equally… if you have a bunch of snippets of audio and levelate them separately, then edit them together, you may well still end up with volume variations.

Another quick tip at this stage: to avoid issues with VBR MP3s showing up as weird (and incorrect) lengths in some tools, I bring the audio file into iTunes and do the MP3 export in there.


For “proper” RAW photo editing and management, regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Lightroom. I use Pixelmator for finer adjustments on exported images.

Beyond that, I find that iPhoto is useful for quickly grabbing snapshots from the digital compact camera for compositing into iMovie clips. Skitch and LittleSnapper are both very useful tools as well as they enable me to rapidly take, resize and annotate screenshots or clips of web pages. For diagrams and so forth, there’s nothing that can beat OmniGraffle.


Finally, a couple of other useful bits and pieces. Transcoding to different formats is through either VisualHub (now defunct) or ffmpegX. QuickTime Pro is an essential (and highly cost-effective) upgrade too, since it lets you make very quick edits to QuickTime movie files and control the output format more finely.

There. Now, I imagine this may attract a range of “have you heard of…?” “why aren’t you using…?” and other responses, but that’s how I’ve currently settled things. Hopefully some of the tips and thoughts here will be useful to other amateur content creators, too! 🙂

Video production – my way (and a bit about YouTube)

One of the stories I caught last week was the fact that YouTube is moving to providing a widescreen, HD player.

It’s an interesting move and the speculation is that this will enable YouTube to start to host more movie content. Aside from that, it has also affected the way I’m capturing, editing and uploading video on my own machine. If you have non-widescreen videos on YouTube now, the main player will show the video with black bars on either side. Here’s one I made earlier.

YouTube widescreen
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

First of all, it’s probably worth noting that for the simple video projects I’ve been playing around with – I’m far from a prolific or professional video blogger – I’ve been going for the basic options. On the hardware side I’ve used the iSight (with iGlasses), video capture on my digital compact, or a cheap handheld camcorder – so I’m not capturing HD quality content by any means. On the software front, iMovie 08 is fine for my purposes. There have been one or two limitations: not the best range of effects and titling, not a lot of audio editing support, and it’s hard to add title cards. However, I’ve found one or two handy hacks / workarounds in the past few weeks, and learning tips, and so far it has been fine for my purposes.

So how am I adapting to the new world of widescreen, higher-quality videos on YouTube?

When I start a project in iMovie now, I tend to go for the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Unfortunately, most of my video sources are not widescreen themselves (unless I’ve captured from the screen, for example), so when I import the footage it gets cropped, although this can be changed if not suitable – bearing in mind that if you don’t let it be cropped, you’re likely to end up with the bars.

When I want to upload a project, I tend to export in Medium or High quality from the Share menu, and don’t typically upload straight from iMovie to YouTube. This means that when I do upload it, YouTube gets the full quality version and will create a reduced quality one for standard viewing… the user can select the new “watch in high quality” option to get a better picture, although it still will not be HD.

If you’re interested in the results, I have two main online sites for video – a YouTube channel, and a Viddler channel. I don’t claim to be an expert, but you might find this sort of thing interesting.

On Flickr and Video

I just renewed my Flickr Pro subscription and spotted that Flickr has introduced the ability to upload video.

In some quarters there has been uproar.


I was thinking about this. It doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of video sharing (YouTube, Viddler etc.). I guess that was my first reaction, anyway. However, reading the FAQ and trying to understand what Flickr are going for here in the way that they have implemented it, I’m prepared to give it a try. The idea is described as “long photos” limited to 90 seconds, and it kind of works. I’ll have to watch and see how the site changes.

YouTube, Viddler or Seesmic?

As regular readers will know, in the last couple of months I’ve been experimenting with video both on my blog, and also with video sites like Seesmic (I’m lucky enough to be one of their pre-alpha testers).

At some stage I’ll write about the capture and editing aspects of this whole adventure, but not today. Today I want to take a brief look at the sites I’ve been using.

How well do video conversations work?

I’ll start off by saying that I still find video an awkward medium for blog or microblog-style conversations, for a number of reasons:

  1. There’s a clear need to get over your initial feeling of self-consciousness. There’s no way I’m videocasting if I look or feel really awful (OK, OK, that’s my default state, har har).
  2. There’s a need to have the time and quiet space to record video messages. I can’t imagine what it would be like if everyone in the office suddenly started using video services all at once. Firstly you’d all loop back to 1 (self-consciousness), then there would be mayhem with the noise. Lately I’ve been in open-plan offices and using these kinds of services is just not appropriate.
  3. Video can be time consuming to create… Seesmic gets away from this by just putting the record button straight in their flash app to enable the video to be captured directly with no post-editing. For other tools like YouTube you need to capture and edit the video before uploading it.
  4. Video and audio require so much more attention than text. I can scan a piece of text in moments… (a History degree will give you the ability to pick the salient points and precis a 500-page textbook in 20 minutes). With video I have to watch, listen, and I can’t easily backtrack to reconsider a point you’ve just made. And for a really conversational service like Seesmic, I have to keep coming back and watching every point made in a thread to get a true understanding of the conversation.

That said, video does work well for showing certain things, like screencasting software features or showing off real items, both of which can be hard to describe with words.

Which service works best?

I have accounts on Viddler, YouTube and Seesmic. They all have their pros and cons.

In terms of conversation, immediacy, and the ease of just posting a blurb, Seesmic rocks. I’ve talked about its significant deficiencies before, and they mostly relate to the lack of social features in the interface like the inability to find and connect with friends. It’s not great for supporting multiple formats, either – you can either upload directly, assuming your camera is accessible from your browser’s Flash plugin; or you can post a .FLV file, which you’re probably going to have fun creating by converting from .MOV, .AVI or some such. No stats or usage data appear to be visible. When I’m able to use it, I generally do like it… but it hits points 1, 2 and 4 in my list above, so I don’t use it much due to lack of time, space, and attention bandwidth.

For searchability and scale, YouTube wins. Everyone has heard of YouTube. It’s accessible directly from AppleTV and a whole range of devices. You can upload in a range of formats. It has a very slight “conversation” aspect as it is possible to post “video responses” to someone else’s videos, but it’s not an ongoing conversation like Seesmic. Handy for embedding into blogs, and there’s some ability to find out how many views your videos have had.

… or Vimeo, or Utterz, or…?

There are other similar services around. If you want to upload video to a tumblelog on Tumblr, they recommend something called Vimeo (although you can point to another online video on another service). There’s also Utterz, which I also haven’t used but which appears to be more like Seesmic in terms of the community features and immediate conversation. To be fair I’m in no position to comment on either of these, but it’s obvious that online video is hot just from the proliferation of services.

Viddler wins

So you may have guessed, based on the fact that I’ve left it until last – my personal favourite is Viddler.

Viddler is just so easy to use. It accepts a whole range of common video formats and will transcode them for you. You can tag your videos – and even better than that, you can add comments and tags at particular points in the video. I can embed the videos on my WP.com blog (which is not possible with Seesmic). It’s easy to find and connect with friends. There are groups. There are excellent stats which show where hits on your videos are coming from, including when a video is played through an embed on your site or another one… for example, I know that as I type this my Matter video has been played 2964 times and the viewed 4154 times, the majority of hits coming from a different site entirely (full URL lists are available, which is great).

Viddler does not offer a “video conversation” service like Seesmic… but for sharing, embedding and tracking online video, screencasts, or whatever, I just think it’s the best of the current crop.

Update: my friend Maria Langer has just started a series on using Viddler with WordPress on her blog – you’d almost think we were conspiring together 🙂