by Steve Meltzer

Courtesy of Handmade Business

Right now, YouTube, Google Video, Vimeo and other video websites are free--making them great marketing opportunities for craftspeople and gallery owners. And with the popularity of video-hosting sites, most new still-photography editing software also allows you to edit videos and upload them to the Web. However, video use goes beyond the Web, with technology that lets you share videos with clients on their smartphones or iPhones.

To help you create videos to market your work or shop, I've embarked on a three-part video class. Last month I wrote about the latest trend in still digital cameras (the ability to take high-quality video) and now we'll go even deeper into the subject, addressing a few basic techniques of shooting a video. Next month I'll move on to editing and uploading images to the Web.

Video qualities
Most video comes in one of two shapes: boxy 4:3 (the standard of old televisions sets) and wide 16:9 (HD format of computer monitors and HDTVs).

HD (high definition) is a little confusing here because it means two things: image shape and image resolution. It is similar to choosing a file size in still photography. If you go into your camera's video menu page, you'll see choices for the image resolution.

While most new digital still cameras can make HD videos at 1,280 by 720 PPI, this format eats memory space. A five-minute HD video can easily consume an entire gigabyte of memory. By comparison, aWGVA frame at 854 by 480 PPI is only half a megabyte--saving a lot of space. When starting out, WVGA is a decent compromise because smaller files are easier to work with. While the resolution is lower than that of HDTV, for online use it is quite good.

YouTube and similar sites can handle any of these resolutions; their software takes your images and converts them as needed by the site. The only restrictions on videos for most online services are regarding the length of the video and its file size. YouTube, for example, asks for videos to be less than ten minutes in length and have an image file size that is one gigabyte or smaller.

File types
Now that you have two important factors--image shape and resolution--down, the next issue is what sort of file type to use. By now, most of us are familiar with digital file extension terms like .DOC or .TXT for document files and .JPG or .TIF for photo files. The extension tells your computer or phone how to read a particular file, and also refers to the way the file is compressed (made smaller for easier use and transmission).

In video, there are several extension terms to be familiar with: .MOV,.WMV, .FLV and .RM. Check out the "Learning the lingo" sidebar for more information on these file types.

I know by now some of you are screaming TMI! TMI! Too much information! And while I realize that this is a lot of tech talk, just as in still photography you do need to know a little about the language of video.

Note: If you are using a Flip video camera, you don't have to know much of this because with the Flip, all of the decisions have been made for you. As I described last month, it is truly a point-and-shoot camera. Simply push the big red button and you are taking high-definition (16:9-shapedmovies at a screen resolution of 1,280 by 720 PPI) videos.

What is digital video?
Let me step back a moment and deconstruct digital video a little. What is digital video really? It is a lot of little photographs. Just as a film-based movie is made up of individual 35mm pictures rapidly viewed at 24 frames per second to create the illusion of motion, a video uses 24 or 30 JPG images instead. Your settings determine the shape of the pictures, their resolution and their file size. In fact, digital video capability in still cameras has become a reality with the advancements in camera processors. They are finally fast enough to rapidly process large numbers of images.

Video-capable digital cameras also record sound. Very small point-and-shoot cameras usually record in mono, while the bigger superzooms and dSLRs offer stereo recording. These built-in microphones are remarkably good, but when you are ready for major productions you'll need a dSLR with a jack for a separate external microphone.

Three important video segments
Shooting videos requires planning ahead. That was the most shocking thing I discovered while learning about digital videos--if you don't have a plan, just one minute becomes a really long time. You just can't point the camera and sit there waiting for something to happen. For a successful video, you need to think ahead about both sound and motion.

"Sound?" you say? In a video, sound is almost as important as the images. The microphones on digital cameras pick up sound indiscriminately, so you need to control the sound around you. The sound of your dog barking won't help to sell your work. (Next month, I'll explain how to add a soundtrack or music.)

As far as a script goes, you don't really need to make this a big deal, but it does pay to sit down and think through what you are going to do. I'd suggest practicing by putting together simple two-minute videos made up of three or four short segments or clips.

Think in terms of:
  1. A wide establishing shot (for instance, a shot panning across your studio)
  2. Followed by one or two medium shots of a few individual pieces
  3. Ending with a close-up shot showing the detail of one of the pieces
Moving the camera during filming
Let's talk motion. Movement is at the heart of videos. Whether it is the camera panning over a scene or action of the subjects in the frame, movement is essential to holding a viewer's interest.

Since most crafts don't move, you'll have to learn to move the camera. Warning! While camera shake in still photography produces blurred pictures, in video it produces nausea. Learn to hold the camera firmly, walk smoothly and move slowly. In video, normal walking produces results that look like you're running.

Don't zoom a lot or try fancy stuff. Take baby steps before you get to your Fellini moment.

Still digital cameras have menu pages where you can select the level of image quality. I've set the camera to Motion JPEG, which as the screen says, is the best for e-mail and playing on a PC.

Learning the lingo

.FLV: Adobe Flash video, playable by Adobe Flash player software.

Format/aspect ratio: The ratio of the frame's width to its height. Most video comes in one of two shapes: the older 4:3 (the standard for old television sets) and the new 16:9 (HD format of computer monitors and HDTVs).

HD: High definition, as in high-definition television (HDTV), where the screen resolution is 1,280 by 720 PPI (pixels per inch) or 1,920 by 1,080 PPI.

.MOV: This is a universal format, like the .JPG in still photography. It can be read by most computers using QuickTime software.

QVGA: Quarter VGA, referring to a 320 by 240 PPI resolution, which is a quarter of the normal VGA. This is the resolution for images used in handheld gaming devices and mobile phones.

.RM: RealMedia, created by RealNetworks and typically used for streaming content over the Internet.

VGA: Video graphics array, an even lower resolution image of 640 by 480 PPI.

.WMV: Windows media video, a Microsoft media format that is fairly universally readable.

WVGA: Wide video graphics array, meaning the image will have a lower resolution of 480 PPI tall by 800 or 854 PPI wide. Since you can mix resolution and shape, you can have a WGVA that is wide HD frame but not the sharpness for full HDTV.