Tag Archives: YouTube

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!

Hardware

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.

Screencasting

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.

Imaging

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.

Extras

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! 🙂

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The blogging / online network diaspora

As my online presence thins out, I often wonder how best to tie it all together. Here’s a meta-post showing where my content has been lately.

eightbar
It has been a while, but I’ve been re-establishing a presence on the eightbar blog lately, talking about haptics, and also about social reality gaming.

Home Camp
The next Home Camp is coming up, planned for April, so the blog is coming back to life after a short hibernation. One of the big news items was yesterday’s unveiling of Google PowerMeter.

Dogear Nation
I’m not going to list every post and podcast episode over on the Dogear Nation blog, but I’ve noted before that I’m a regular host this year and have been posting entries and videos to the blog too.

Video Content
I should probably blog more of the video stuff I create, but tend to highlight the more interesting videos from time to time rather than posting everything here on the blog. My YouTube channel may be of interest. Eventually, I’ve got a grander plan for my video content, but that will have to wait.

(update) Convergence
I just thought of one other thing which I’ve not mentioned around here, but seems to fit into this post. In spite of producing content in a number of places, I’ve also been working on online identity. For a while I’ve been interested in getting the andypiper.com domain but it never seems to be available, and thus I have the .co.uk alternative, which redirects here. I also noted that I picked up pipr.me.uk as a bit of a joke recently, which currently points here as well. I have andypiper.tv too (an independent site currently hosting TwtrCtr). Finally, I have theandypiper.com and theandypiper.co.uk redirecting here too – inspired by the very awesome Geoff Smith, and also by one of the first customer engagements I went on after joining IBM, where I was asked “you’re not THE Andy Piper, are you?”.

So, in the style of Dogear Nation… my final thought for this post is, what is the collective noun for Internet domains? I’m wondering about ‘dominion’, ‘kingdom’ or ‘bailiwick’…

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.

Ireland’s RTE news on IBM’s social software efforts

A nice story from Ireland’s RTE network on how IBM uses social software internally – it’s a good reinforcement of the message I’ve been giving in my presentations on this topic over the past few years. Oh, and it features my friend Aidy 🙂

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.

flickr-twitter

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.