Thursday, March 10, 2011

Capacity Focus, 3: Going Video and Multimedia "on the cheap" -- how and why

NB: You may want to follow up here: 1, 2, 3, 4 , 5, 6,

This morning, I had occasion to look up some current low-cost SD Card using camcorders, in the ballpark US$ 130 - 200. 

I was shocked at the performance that so low a sum can bring.

For instance, one camcorder at the low end of the scale was touted as follows:
  • Full HD 1080, 60i Video (1920 x 1080)
  • 10 Megapixel Digital Photos
  • 10x Dual Range Zoom Video
  • Embedded Software for Sharing Videos/Photos
  • 5x Optical Zoom Photo
. . . . 10 Megapixel Still Image Quality
In addition to Full HD 1080 Video the . . . captures amazing 10 megapixel photos.

10X Dual Range Zoom (video)
5x Optical Zoom (photos)
In short, despite the obvious limitations of a low cost unit [and this one seems to have a battery life challenge], which will have a single CCD chip, and may lack an external mike port, we are looking at an astonishing level of capacity.

But then, I suppose the camcorders have to keep one step ahead of the camera phones and tablet PC's!

We are in a video-multimedia age, and churches, schools and other organisations now have to catch up.  Or we will simply not be able to communicate with or educate people from a video-rich, multimedia culture.

Not just by using video multimedia projectors in services or for occasional educational videos.  

We have to become effective and discerning producers, disseminators and users of useful content. 

Not least, if we are to keep one step ahead of the empty entertainment, trivia, junk, distractive misinformation and filth that are now streaming into our region like a tidal wave. 

So, how?

1 --> We can no longer rely on a few "techies" to provide expertise, the prices above tell us this is an age of video and multimedia for all. We all have to gain enough familiarity that we can work with the transition to the video-multimedia age.

2 --> Multimedia presentation software is a good place to begin. Whether we are discussing the ever so commonplace PowerPoint, or Open Office's Impress or something else, we now have intuitive software that allows us to produce presentations that embed text, voice, pictures, animations, and video. 

3 --> That means we need to master basics of effective multimedia presentations. As a start, I suggest this You Tube Flash video on the strategies used by perhaps the most effective corporate presenter in the world, Steve Jobs:

. . . this one on design techniques:

. . . and  this one on basics of PowerPoint:

4 --> But that is not all. As we just saw, thanks to YouTube and many other video sites, we may view, embed or download videos in presentations, blogs, web pages etc. Similarly, smart phones allow for exchanges of multimedia content. It is even possible to embed animations or short clips in PDF format documents. But more to the point, e-books will soon "have" to have such content, and textbooks will have to come with a DVD, or simply be electronically distributed.

5 --> Thanks to highly sophisticated but (relatively speaking) easy to use software, the steps to do this sort of thing are fairly simple, but we need to develop familiarity, confidence and motivation to use them effectively.

6 --> For instance, I think courses should now have web sites or blogs and/or wikis that participants can go to for enrichment, or even basic content and/or to keep in touch with the progress of the course in and out of the classroom or lab. 

7 --> Church services, educational ministries and general operations would similarly benefit from web-savvy multimedia integration.

8 --> But this brings up the business of producing, editing, uploading and using content. For, cameras, computers, software, and microphones etc are now plainly within affordable reach of most schools and churches, and even teachers and ministers of the gospel or Sunday school teachers. 

9 --> But, we need to know what to do with such, how [why . . . ], and then how to process and distribute content for effective use.

10 --> the pivotal technology for that is the now ever so commonplace fast, high storage capacity laptop PC. If you have a Mac -- which I do not now recommend because of the monopolistic behaviour and linked questionable moral stances taken by Apple -- iMovie is a capable editing and production tool, and comes with the machine. PC's come with or can get some version of Windows Movie Maker, but that is not as capable. 

NB, Aug 19 2013: On vid production. We are talking here of doing maybe 10 minute vid clips to use with presentations and in classes. I think a good notebook PC with 2 GHz and 4 GB of memory and a 250 GB hard drive will be quite adequate. Another item for consideration would be an All In One "super-tablet" PC, with that sort of capability, such as this IdeaCenter 23" B540 unit with 3.3 GHz processor, with 4 GB RAM and 1,000 GB hard drive from Lenovo:

. . . which I would use with a wireless keyboard and multi-touch track pad such as this US$ 25 B400 unit from Logitech -- currently Amazon's no 1 bestselling computer keyboard:


11 --> At the next tier, there are many Nonlinear Video Editor packages that can be had for US$40 - 150 that seem quite capable, and Sony's Vegas Movie Studio and Acrobat's Premiere Elements seem to be yardsticks to judge your choice by. (Beyond that, Blender is a free 3-d multimedia production platform with nonlinear video and audio editors, but the entry skill level is fairly steep.)

UPDATE, July 18, 2013a: Lightworks, now available free for Windows and projected to go full open source with Apple's OSX and Linux versions [cf. Wiki article here], is a full bore, professional Non-Linear Video Editing platform. It is well worth taking note of and developing as a possible platform for video production. Warning (unsurprisingly), system resources "hog," by contrast with say Blender.  Basic overview tutorial:

(Online manual here, roundup on tutorials here. Notice the US$60/GBP 40 upgrade to "pro.")

12 --> There are online tutorials, there are books and training manuals, and courses or workshops can be organised.

13 --> But such things are no better than the content fed into them, and that content is no better than the skill and planning that went into them.

14 --> For instance, to produce effective video, one should at least know the sort of tips in the following video from Willowcreek Community Church:

15 --> Likewise we should know how to go beyond the power of the sort of key lighting that made this unusual portrait of an Italian lady by Frederick Leighton so effective:

16 --> that starts with the classic three point lighting, where a key light is balanced by a fill light that brings out details in shadow areas, and a backlight that picks out the focal subject from the backdrop.

17 --> Likewise, we need to know enough about planning a shoot, to make an effective presentation. The storyboard -- in effect a multipanel comic strip (stick figures will often do) laying out the timeline and camera angles, and integrated with scripts if any, is a key technique for this.

18 --> Once such a set of video and audio clips are shot, they can be loaded into a PC [along with still pictures], accessed by the editing software, and transformed into a video.

19 --> Onward, such videos can be integrated into presentations, or they can be used as in effect short movies in their own right.

20 --> And so, once we are producing our own reasonable quality content, we are in a position to use it strategically in classes, services, functions, and on the web or through smart phones and other means of dissemination.

21 --> But it is clear that we now need to develop effective short courses to equip a critical mass of people in our schools, churches, businesses, etc to produce content at this first level, and to work with technical professionals for developing more sophisticated content.

In short, our educators and techies need to be getting together to develop effective short courses and online tutorials about now . . . 

Again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END

PS: I see signs (as at June 22, 2013) that a course or workshop probably in the USA is using this post as a resource. Fine by me, why not drop me a line through here.

You may find the following links in the RH col of the blog useful:


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