Parkinson's Law states that "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion" and a modern equivalent of that could be "data expands to fill the space available for storage." What this means is that with the advent of the multi-terabyte hard drive comes the need to fill it up and what better way to fill your hard drive than with videos of your family/favorite band/pets playing the piano or anything else that takes your fancy. Combine your huge hard drive with today's ever increasing internet speeds and the world is your oyster...although probably not an oyster playing the piano.
Where do we find all this stuff? Well, we find it almost everywhere on the internet these days. Sites like YouTube, PhotoBucket, and Vimeo have been around for quite a while and offer users the opportunity to share their videos with the general public, and more recently this content has become available in HD (High Definition) formats. There are also social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace which allow users to upload videos to their accounts and watch videos uploaded by other users.
How can I make a video?
Making videos to upload has never been easier. You can shoot your mini-movie with something as basic as a phone these days and there are even "apps" that let you upload it directly from phone to site almost seamlessly. Of course you're not going to produce the next box office blockbuster with a phone. The quality can sometimes be pretty poor although many do cater for the ubiquitous "HD" now. Ideally you would shoot on a dedicated camera or video camera for a much higher quality end product. Professional quality cameras are now within the budget of many amateurs and if you really want to show your talents off then this is the route you need to take.
I've shot my movie, what do I do next?
Are you happy with your movie as it stands? If you are then set it loose on the world and wait for the Oscars to roll in, or at least some nice comments from your pals. If, however, you want to take it a stage further then you'll want some way of editing the final product, to add some music perhaps, or some titles. For this you'll need video editing software, and the price range for this runs from free to the equivalent of the national debt for a small country. We'll ignore the incredibly high end stuff shall we? Yes, I thought so.
For free you can get any number of editing packages ranging from the most basic to some that are quite comprehensive in their feature sets. Many of us will already have this free software in the form of Microsoft Movie Maker, but if you're looking for something other than the built-in application that may have arrived with your operating system then Wax is quite a good place to start. Wax is high performance video compositing and special effects software that comes bundled with a whole load of presets that allow you to do things like adding text and 2D and 3D special effects. If on the other hand you're prepared to buy your software then Roxio Creator which retails at $79.99* is a good place to start. It comes with various effects and ready-made music tracks, and there is also a Pro version for $109.99* which has lots more of everything plus some pretty sophisticated music and speech cleaning software. Nero is another well known name in the video application market and their latest offering, Nero 11, also retails at $79.99* and has titling and transition effects plus lots more features bundled with it. However you edit your movie though it's always worth remembering that if its bound for the web then ideally what you're looking for in the finished article is the best trade-off possible between file size and quality.
I've completed my movie now what do I do with it?
You upload it of course. Most sites that will accept your video will also have an easy to understand help section detailing exactly how to get your video from your computer to their site. Please read these "how-tos" carefully as they will give you direction on things like the maximum size your movie file can be and any other restrictions or compliances they may require. In fact, read this stuff before you even start editing your movie as it could save a great deal of cussing and hair tearing when you realize that what you've created looks brilliant but due to the size or shape of it nobody will let you put it on their site. As an example YouTube give a very helpful "Encoding Do's and Don'ts" section as well as a list of all of the file formats that they will accept. As far as I know YouTube will accept videos of up to 2 gigabytes with a maximum running time of 15 minutes, but other sites may specify appreciably smaller file sizes etc. so check carefully to avoid disappointment later.
How can people download my video?
Before I go any further on this subject I think it's worth stating that it is of course illegal to download (or upload for that matter) any material which is copyrighted where you are not the copyright holder.
Those caveats aside, video can be downloaded in a number of ways. Some sites will have a download link associated with their videos and it will simply be a matter of clicking the link and away you go. Others, like YouTube, require you to have a piece of software resident on your computer to download their content. There are many varieties of this type of application ranging from simple programs to download from a specific site such as YouTube Downloader, and applications that will download from literally hundreds of sites like Visual Explorer Ultimate. Both of these applications also allow you to convert your downloaded videos to a variety of formats of your choice. I should probably make special mention of Visual Explorer Ultimate here as not only is it a downloading application but it's also a fully-fledged internet browser which means you don't even have to open up another piece of software, everything is done directly from the page you're viewing, including the converting of the video into another format or for a handheld device such as iPad, iPhone, Android etc if that's required. The majority of videos on websites are recoded to Flash's .flv format, so it's very useful to be able to convert them to more widely used formats such as .mp4, .mpg or .avi that your computer will look upon more approvingly.
I hope you find this (pretty basic) "how-to" useful and see that it's actually a lot easier than you may have thought to record, edit, and upload videos to the web. At its most basic level, using the phone you probably already have and some free software you can achieve pretty fair results for absolutely nothing, other than your time of course. Spend a little more cash and you can produce almost professional standards of movie making, but always remember that no matter how good your kit and no matter how much you spent on it the end result is always governed by your talent, and that's something money can't buy. So what are you waiting for? Get shooting and start uploading your movies now, and if you turn into the next Spielberg, or Scorsese remember me in your Oscar speech as the guy who got you started.
* Prices correct at time of going to press and include manufacturer's discount(s)
This article is reproduced courtesy of Paul Salmons writing for Digital Twist