Monday, September 17, 2007

Digital Generation

Here's a descent USA Today article about how digital cameras and video cameras are making this the most documented generation in history.

Digital imaging really is cheap. When movie cameras were introduced to the public in the 1920's (photo) the cost was $180. That's over $2,000 in today's dollars.

You can get a great camera today for under $400. The tapes are much cheaper than film (not to mention the developing). It's also much easier to plug your camera into the TV than set up one of those insane movie screens.

So take advantage of the digital revolution. Go out there and take some great pictures and great video!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Software Review

One of the best products that I've ever used for video editing is Scenalyzer Live. Most people have never heard of Scenalyzer and that's unfortunate because it is the best video capturing software out there.

Scenalyzer is a specialized program that allows you to capture video from your analog or video tapes. I have hundreds of tapes and it used to take me hours to fast forward through tape after tape looking for a particular scene.

I use Scenalyzer to create a visible representation of the tape (called an index) so that I can see exactly what is on the tape from beginning to end. With digital video I can see the time and date of every clip as well.

Recently I made a video for my daughter that chronicled her progression with the violin from the age of 6 to 12 years old. It would have been ridiculously time consuming to look for all that footage over dozens of tapes. With Scenalyzer I was able to look over the "index" of each tape, select the scenes I wanted within the tape (I looked for my daughter holding her violin), and create a new "batch capture list".

Then all I had to do was put the tape into my camera and tell Scenalyzer to go through the tape and only capture the scenes that I had selected. The program controls the camera and I can leave and come back later with all my clips captured and stored on my hard drive.

Scenalyzer has several additional features, but the indexing and batch capturing features alone make it worth the price.

Scenalyzer is available for download (I haven't seen it any stores). You can download Scenalyzer and try it out before you buy it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What kind of video camera should you buy?

I've purchased over 20 video cameras since 1993 when I bought my first Sony 8mm camcorder. Things have improved tremendously since then. But they've also gotten much more complicated. There weren't many choices back in 1993. My camera had a black and white viewfinder, weighed a couple of pounds and recorded fuzzy video.

Today's cameras are broadcast TV quality wonders of size and quality. But with all the different choices out there, finding the perfect camera can be very confusing.

When looking for a new camera, here are the features that I find most important.

  1. SIZE--The bigger (or heavier) the camera, the less likely you are to use it. Get the smallest camera you can find that meets your other criteria.
  2. LCD panel--One of the best inventions to come along. The LCD allows you to make videos without having the camera plastered against your forehead.
  3. STABILITY--Most new cameras feature some sort of stabilization system. The smaller the camera, the more important it is. Make sure your camera has it.
  4. EXTERNAL MICROPHONE JACK--Many of the newer cameras are leaving this feature out. If you want to make creative videos that sound good, a microphone jack is essential.
  5. HEADPHONE JACK--Another feature that is beginning to disappear in newer cameras. Sound is extremely important and a headphone jack allows you to monitor the sound without external noise.
That's pretty much it when it comes to finding the right camera. All the other stuff is pretty much fluff unless you are getting paid for the videos you make.

Most people just want to make decent home movies for their friends and families. Most people never use most of the extra features on a camcorder (and honestly, most of the features shouldn't be used anyway).

Friday, August 24, 2007


Here is a work in progress for the opening to one of the Niftyvid videos due out on DVD in 2008. Everything (video, effects, music) was created on my laptop with cheap software you can easily find.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I make a lot of videos that incorporate the use of photos. Scanning the photos seems to be the most time-consuming part of making videos. Right now I use a Canon scanner that allows me to scan about 3 photos at a time with "Multi-Scan".

The Canon scanner has saved me a lot of time, but it seems like there should be a product out there that will allow stacks of photos to be scanned through while you do other things. HomeVideo 101 has an interesting article about converting an Epson scanner to scan 25 photos at a time.

I've heard rumors of some commercial scanners that can scan multiple photos. Has anyone out there heard of anything else for consumers? I'd certainly buy one if they offered it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Welcome to Niftyvid. The purpose of Niftyvid is to help everyday folks make better videos for their friends and families.

Making a good video doesn't come naturally. Our inclination is to use our video camera in ways that make our videos virtually unwatchable.

Changing just a few ways that we use our video camera can make a HUGE difference in how good our videos turn out.