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Tools For Your Video Career

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Very few would argue with the statement that video is hot right now. From the cultural phenomenon of YouTube, through to the rise of live streaming services, money is pouring into startups from content creators through to service providers. Getting into video isn’t as easy as setting up a blog, so here’s some advice of which direction to head in.

The basics

Obviously you’ll need a camera to get started in video; if you’re a Mac user you might have a cam built in, but if not web cam’s are fairly cheap. Alternatively people like Chris Pirillo stream from a professional video camera, but even a second hand older model can also work, for both live and recorded shows to computer. For camera effects, CamTwist for the Mac is free and fully featured with effects such as text, clocks, image overlays, Picture in Picture, and much more. Fix8 (our coverage here) offers cartoon style overlays if animation or funny faces are more your thing.

Recording

You’ll have two ways of recording a video: local or to the web. Local could directly on to a camcorder through to Quicktime or something in-between. Quicktime Pro (between $30-$45) does the recording and it’s a quick and easy solution. To the web means recording your video directly to a website; the advantages are that you don’t have to upload it and it’s available immediately, however depending on your internet connection the recording quality can be significantly poorer than recording a video locally and uploading it. YouTube offers the direct recording option and is an obvious candidate, but the Live streaming services also allow you to record to their services and even distribute your video out to sites like YouTube later. I’ve also found that the quality of the live stream services can often be higher in recording than YouTube.

Streaming Live

Live in the newest sector in online video with venture capital being spread around a range of services. Live offers some advantages over doing recorded video alone (although they are not mutually exclusive); streaming live means you can interact with and network with your audience while creating archive footage than can be distributed later. Companies in this space include Justin.tv, Ustream.tv, Mogulus, BlogTV, Stickam and others. All of the services have strengths and weaknesses and you should explore each one, but if you haven’t got time for that I’d recommend Justin.tv or Ustream.tv. Ustream.tv is attracting the professional, higher quality streaming shows so if you want to be in that space, you’ll be well positioned. Their tool set including full video conversion makes for a solid product. Justin.tv has a slant towards a younger, Gen Y audience, and if you’re pitching more to that audience it’s the better place to be. I also found when testing both that Justin.tv was more reliable for streaming quality from outside of the United States, and at times Ustream.tv was unusable for me, even on a 14mb down, 1mb up ADSL2 connection; you wouldn’t experience this in the US however. Of the others, Mogulus has a stronger emphasis on professional video and doesn’t have the strong community yet, BlogTV has a lot of potential, and Stickam seems to be dominated by soft porn, at least when I visited it.

Distribution

I asked Chris Pirillo for some tips for this post and one of his key points was simply: “you must understand that (a) It’s all about YouTube, and (b) It’s all about YouTube.” Like it or not YouTube dominates online video today more than Google dominates search in the tubemogul.jpgUnited States. Other video bloggers I’ve spoken to suggest distribution to many sites, but always making sure YouTube is top of the list. TubeMogul is one the oldest of the video distribution sites, and is simple to use and free. You upload your video to their servers, enter you user name and password for a list of sites (first time only) then press the button and off they go. TubeMogul also tracks traffic statistics from each site so you can see which videos are being watched there. An alternative service is Hey!Spread (our review here).

The other consideration in distribution is getting your video onto other devices, like iPods. The key is to provide the correct file type and feed for services such as iTunes. You can do it manually with a WordPress plugin and by making sure the file is available on your server in the correct format, or you can use Blip.tv.

bliptv-beta.jpgWe’ve covered the occasional content deal on Blip.tv but we’ve never seriously looked at their distribution platform, and it’s the reason shows like Rocketboom, Mahalo Daily and Moblogic are using Blip.tv. On top of the obvious video hosting everyone in this space provides, Blip.tv also offers distribution to external blogs (including an automatic option), the Internet Archive, de.licio.us (links), Flickr (pics from the video), Adobe Media Player, MySpace, Twitter (text alerts), Facebook, Yahoo Video, AOL Video, Akimbo, Lycos Mix, MeeVee, MeFeedia, Meebo, Blinkx, Splashcast, Pando and the most important one of all: iTunes. Blip.tv offers an iTunes subscription feed and file conversion service; users do have to manually go to the dashboard within Blip.tv and request the file conversion on a free account, but with a premium account ($8/ mth or $80/ yr) get the conversion done automatically. A premium account also has other benefits, such as priority file transcoding that in my testing made it the quickest service available (that is time from when the video was uploaded until it was ready to view).

There was an argument between Ze Frank and Rocketboom a year or two back where Ze Frank disputed Rocketboom’s viewer numbers as they were reporting 10x the traffic of Ze’s The Show. The key to Rocketboom’s success has always been distribution, and for a long time you couldn’t open a media player without seeing Rocketboom pre-loaded. Distribution is key, and combining services like TubeMogul and Blip.tv make it a lot easier.

Content

Chris Pirillo told me that the key is to make sure every video has something different, and that you should use supportive text with each video posted as Google loves text. Ultimately what you decide to create is up to you: it may be something simple like a web cam chat, or you may want to get more creative. We cant tell you what will work for you, but the easiest way to start is to get on YouTube and just see what different people are doing, you’re sure to find something to inspire you.

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