Monday, November 11, 2013

Video, Youtube for Writers: The World's Shortest Primer

comedy show The Chronic Single's Handbook

Video is a great way to attract an audience, drive traffic to your blog, and pitch yourself as a reader at libraries, literary events, and book stores. This short article offers simple advice for getting started with Youtube and covers: taking, editing, uploading, and sharing video clips. It is geared toward novices with some basic computer skills. If you already have a digital camera or phone that takes video -- you may not need to spend anything to create useable video.

I) Equipment: A Camera (External Mic and Tripod Optional)


1) Quick and Dirty Option: Use Your Digital Camera

Most inexpensive digital cameras can take 5 to 10 minutes of video and save it in a format you can edit with software already on your computer. I haven't posted any videos made with cell phone, but it might work for you)

Here is a short video made with a low-end, Nikon S210 pocket camera I bought several years ago. Cameras like this cost about $150. Note: the video quality isn't great -- and neither is my performance -- but it's been good enough for 270 views on Youtube. I had a friend sit in the front row, point, and shoot. (Note: all my Youtube videos start with a short ad -- sorry!)

2) A Step Up: Low-End Camcorder

For another $100, you can get a real video camera/camcorder that takes better, longer videos. Here is a clip -- shot by the same friend who is not a photographer -- with a low-end $250 Sony video camera similar to this one. The video quality is better, the audio quality is better, and we were able to shoot an hour of video. (note: the camera moves around, there is some distracting zooming in and out -- but it's been good enough to get me readings and 850 views on Youtube.)

3) Even Better: Camcorder with Mic and Tripod

This past weekend, I spent $440 on:
- a low-priced video camera ($270),
- a microphone that attaches to the camera for improved sound ($86), and
- a 16GB SD memory card ($27) that I can take from the camera and pop into my computer for editing.
- $30 on miscellaneous adapters to affix the microphone to the camera.
- One other thing you should buy if you're going this route: a tripod. I bought a cheap one for $30 last summer. (You might want to spend a little more for something sturdier.)
- Note: I am not a camera person: I went to a local camera store, asked for their video exeprt, told him what I wanted to do, and what I wanted to spend.

With this rig, I can shoot an hour of high-definition video, which you'd want to create a DVD. The price includes some adapters for attaching the microphone to the camera.

II) Video Shooting Tips

If you're shooting in a public venue, you may have limited control over lighting, etc. But here are some basic tips:

- Shoot from the side, a 45 degree angle works fine. (If you can help it, avoid shooting straight on, especially if the reader is at a microphone, which can block their face.)

- If you are reading off a page, don't obscure your face with the page. Print out the page in a large font and hold the paper away from your face or at least below it.

- Have the camera operator zoom in as close as possible to your face and upper body.

- If possible, shoot with good light coming from behind the camera.
(Unfortunately, in many situations, you will be reading with light behind or above you -- not the audience or camera operator.)

Tips on reading your work in public.

III) Editing


Transferring video from your camera to your computer can be time-consuming. If you camera stores video an SD card and your computer has an SD slot -- winner, you'll save time. Otherwise, you'll be transferring files with a USB cable, which is slower

For editing, consider the software that came with your computer. These programs let you easily cut extraneous junk off the beginning and end of your videos, and save the clips in a format, such as MP4, that's easy to upload to Youtube. You'll also be able to add a credits page to promote yourself, your book, and to thank the venue.

For Mac products, iMovie is highly-rated for ease of use.

For Windows users with Windows 7 or higher, Windows Movie Maker is great.

Youtube also includes tools for basic editing of your video after you upload.

For basic videos like mine, you'll only be trimming and saving the files.

IV) Uploading to Youtube


This can take a lot of time -- hours. For longer clips, I often set them to upload over night. (I have Verizon's basic DSL, which is cheap but sucks.)

Uploading is pretty simple:

- Set up a Youtube account.

- Enter info about your video (In the description, include links to your blog, Web site, book page on Amazon, etc.)

- Click the upload button

- Go about your day (or night)

More detail than you want on the process.

V) Sharing the Video


 Once your video is uploaded, Youtube provides two main sharing options:

- "Share this video," which produces a Web link (the Share this video button below)

- "Embed," which produces HTML code you can copy and paste into your blog. The code produces the nice video player show above. Ideally, you want to use this option to send people to your blog instead of sending them to Youtube. (For a blog created with Blogger, click the HTML button next to Compose on the Blogger menu bar, then paste the code, and click Compose to see the finished product. WordPress has a simpler option for adding video to a blog post.)


More Self-Promotion Tips for Writers

Photo credit for top image of me performing at a fringe theater festival in Washington, D.C.: Copyright 2013 by Paul Gillis Photography

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