I’ve been experimenting recently more and more recently with YouTube and other video platforms to build traffic, and my experiences have been largely positive. Video content has always had a slightly higher barrier to entry for it’s creation, as it normally requires some level of technical knowledge about editing clips, and an additional creative thinking process that for many is a lot of hard work. Over the years with the introduction of better software this has changed somewhat, and the good news is that there’s a whole realm of new visitors to reach just by by creating unique video content, and it’s never been easier to get started.
Choosing YouTube Video Software
A number of free and commercial software products exist out there which make video much more manageable, and enable the average Joe on the street to start creating videos, some of which I’ve highlighted below. I’ve also hunted out some of the sources of music, and free AVI clips that you can use to supplement motion video.
Microsoft Photo Story
I’m a big fan of this free Microsoft product for creating video content by merging together a collection of still images. It’s simple to use, and gives professional results for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty with any chopping / cutting or pasting of motion video content. Simply collection your images together, select them in Photostory, and the software creates a flowing, animated video from these. From all of the software suggestions here, this is probably the lowest end in terms of features; but that trade off is rewarded in its simplicity. With a bit of creativity with the images you put together, you’ll be off to a start.
Video Thang offers similar functionality to Photo Story, although now in version 2.1.0 has a bit more of web integration. The software now allows you to download new photos from Picasa, Photobucket and Flickr directly into the application as you work.
Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker comes pre installed on Windows XP and Vista. On a Windows 7 Box, it takes the form of Windows Live Movie Maker, and is part of the Windows Live pack. Again, this is a bare bones video editing tool, but would be a step up from Photo Story. It has support for creation of title sequences, music, credits and animations between video scenes, although the later version is crucially missing timeline support. An “auto movie” feature allows new users to create simple videos extremely quickly but above that, offers little in the way of raw editing of the video files. You can think of it more as a stitching tool, which allows you to cut, paste and crop parts of your video to make them easier to consume.
Corel VideoStudio Pro X3
Pricing: $69.99 USD (£43.90 )
Corel VideoStudio offers both new and intermediate videographers a variety of tools to both manipulate and existing video, and create web ready video files quickly. It has the defacto setup of both storyboard and timeline approach to the interface, allowing you to drag and drop motion clips onto the stage, and combine them in sequence. Some of the other additional useful features include ‘Painting creator’ which is a part of the program which allows freehand animation – which is useful should you wish to highlight a particular part of your video, and an extensive range of preset effects and animations which can be applied to both title sequences and regular movie clips. These freehand vector animations, akin to what you would find in Macromedia Flash, can be used as overlays for additional impact.
They have also included a number of sound and generic video clips which you can use freely within your final piece, and with the addition of web cam capture support, you can now record video directly from your camera all without leaving the program. Overall, its a great package to get started creating videos, and you can’t really argue for the price. In some ways, I found it easier to use than its closest rival Camtasia, who’s timeline is slightly more fussy (tends to snap a bit more, making it more difficult to adjust) – and has a larger selection of goodies available for you to play with out of the box. Another strong selling point, is the audio support, which now has filter effects built in, such as Pitch Shift, Reverb etc, that you will be more used to finding in professional music software.
Camtasia Studio 7
Pricing: £230.50 incl. VAT – but with education discount £153.50
In comparison with VideoStudio, Camtasia’s main USP, would definitely be the recording of the screen – which is an area of technology they have particular experience in. There are however open source screen recording tools readily available on the web, albeit with less control of zoom levels, and annotation. CamStudio, Microsoft Expression Encoder, or BB Flash Express all offer similar technology for free.
As for the interface, a traditional timeline approach, with additional layers for PIP (picture in picture) makes it easy for you to get going. Dragging and dropping multiple clips onto the time line and layering callouts, titles and audio was easy, and audio support and recording was also impressive. One particular feature concentrated on matching narration with the timeline clips, and many people creating video or walkthrough type tutorials will find that useful.
Adobe Premiere Elements
Pricing: £116.65 incl. VAT
Premiere Elements is a cut down version of Adobe Premiere, the high end video editing tool used professionally by millions in the TV and film industry. It has undoubtedly the widest selection of import and export formats than any of the other programs here. It is one of the few tools that has HD and Bluray support, which gives it a slight edge should you be distributing your video content for playback on tv.
Automated correction tools for audio, and video content make Premiere a great contender – if you are willing to put the time into learning it. The SmartSound® Quicktracks® plug-in for example, changed the length of the imported sample I was using to match the length of my video, and additional audio tools for removing background noise, and improving pitch of the spoken word make it a strong contender for presentation type video content.
Some of the more advanced sections of the software include green screen support, should you have the setup to shoot it, which can drastically impact on your creativity with your video content. For example, you could choose to pretend your subject was on the moon, or on a desert island, with a still background easily inserted. Motion Tracking allows you to attach images and effects to specific portions of a clip for the duration of your movie, which again adds some extra sparkle to the feature set. You could for example shoot someone holding a blank sheet of paper, and then embed a video in video using this technique. It really is a powerhouse of a program.
There are of course alternatives to the commercial options out there. The Linux community offers a number of dedicated distro’s for creating and editing multimedia content, and with many of them LiveCD ready, meaning you only have to pop a disk in the drive, and reboot your machine. Performance does suffer though, so if you find it useful, or enjoy using it, its always better to go for a full install.
AV Linux is an independant distro, from one developer. It includes a number of open source software tools, including Desktop Record, Cinelerra, Cheese, Bombono and Kino amongst others. The full list of software that comes with this distro is available here (PDF file).
64 Studio is based on debian, and is designed for 64 bit machines, allowing the underlying software to access more memory. That said, 32bit builds are also available for older machines. It is a stable release, although development has slowed somewhat. It offers s a custom-configured, multimedia kernel that will meet the needs of professional multimedia workstations.
KXStudio it’s a GNU/Linux distro based on Ubuntu. Aimed at artists, producers, musicians as well as regular users, it has very strong and secure core, is easy to use and of offers a plethora of multimedia software. It is slightly more geared towards music editing, but does offer Blender and Kdenlive as part of its video tools package.
ArtistX is a Ubuntu-based bootable DVD containing many free multimedia software packages for audio, 2D and 3D graphics, and video production. The goal of this project is to showcase the variety of multimedia software available on the GNU/Linux platform. You can see the full list of included software here.
iMovie offers a good all round collection of video tools for the entry level consumer. Notable features include stabilization of movies (if you have a particularly shaky piece of video, this tool can correct it) and the Precision Editor, which offers a granular level of control over each clip. Apple have also included support for a picture in picture layer (perfect for interview type videos), green screen support – as with Adobe Premiere and DVD chapter creation. Performance for me was second to none, although they have made clear sacrifices in quality to achieve this inside the editor. This didn’t really both me too much, as the final output video was crisp and clean. A good all rounder for the money that will allow beginners to get going quickly, yet support more intermediate users long after they have learnt the ropes.
Final Cut Express
Sorry guys, haven’t had a chance to play with this yet, but I’m reliable informed that it’s a decent piece of kit, and a step up again from iMovie.
One of the easier ways to create video content, is to completely skip the shooting of fresh material. Although this sounds counter productive, in the same way that bloggers ‘re-blog’ content, videographers can cut and edit existing content that exists out there much quicker than shooting their own, and still produce something that is new and interesting for their audience.
I’ve personally found that making short, easily consumable ‘infomercials’ using facts and figures – works extremely well for attracting eyeballs, (see my guide to creating infographics), and doesn’t need expensive video recording hardware or cameras to produce. The below is something I quickly bashed together for this post to give you an idea:
Like most content online, the better you have categorised, tagged, and described your content within the YouTube ecosystem – the better it will do. Many people try to game the system, by describing their videos with incorrect meta data, or titles, which is a complete waste of time considering visitors are only one click away from something more relevant. You should however consider how your video is distributed. TubeMogul for example can distribute your content far and wide online if that’s what you want; but be aware that this may have the effect of diluting the incoming links (and traffic) that your content brings. It’s not a bad idea to include a URL in the video content itself, or the description if this is the road you choose to go down.
Setting up your Multimedia work station
Often when you start out creating video for the web, one of the first things you’ll want to do is organise a decent multimedia library somewhere on your machine. Personally I created a folder on an external drive to house all the bits that I knew I was going to be downloading from the web. The following screen shot shows how I’ve organised this, you may want to follow suit. Just be aware that you are going to need additional storage space, both to physically house your new material, and to give your video editor of choice some breathing room. Most of the editors here use a swap file on the hard disk for temporary storage to achieve greater performance within the program.
The directory structure is split down into a working directory (Media Creations) and a library directory for all the clips (Media). Both sound and video are split apart as follows:
“Raw” files are anything I’ve created myself.
“Import” is used to house temporary files that need converted to another format.
“Export” is anything that is changed and ammended.
“Stock” holds anything that I’ve purchased, and “free footage” is obviously the free stuff that I’m about to share. Hopefully that gives a decent overview of how I’ve structured things.
You can obviously break these down further if you want, but the library tools and existing categorisation within many of the programs listed above organises alot of stuff for you.
Finding Free Clips
The web is chock full of really awesome video content, but sometimes knowing where to find stuff that is free from any licensing, and completely open source can be difficult. This collection of websites and resources are 100% good to go in that regard, and you can begin the downloading process for use in your own creations.
Creative Commons Search – Open Source Video Content
Yes, creative commons have an entire search engine dedicated to finding correctly licensed content from around the web. This is not only useful for folks creating video, but those looking for new photos for their blog articles. The partner in question for video is Blip.tv – one of the few video hosts that correctly categorise their content.
The Wikimedia Commons project a database of freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute. This sub directory of videos whilst not particular extensive offers a variety of video content that anyone can modify and use in their work.
Yahoo Creative Commons Search
Released prior to Google’s implementation (see below) Yahoo were one of the first commercial search engines to release a creative commons search for the files currently held in their index, giving Google the kick up the arse that they needed.
Following in the footsteps of their rivals over at Yahoo, you can of course find video content at Google, but more importantly, content that has the correct license. With a bit of creativity with your search operators, you’ll be finding creative commons content in no time. See the below advanced option that many people miss.
Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library with thousands of videos and audio recordings, many of which are in the public domain or available under Creative Commons licenses. The Audio archive is divided into sub-sections; the largest collections of podsafe music can be found under Open Source Audio Video material — including short films, documentaries, video clips and other footage — can be found in the Moving Images archive and the Prelinger Archives.
An offshoot of the Internet Archive, Our Media is a community of individuals dedicated to spreading grassroots creativity: videos, podcasts and other works of personal media. You can find both video, and links to projects such as SpinXpress, which also offers creative commons searching for content.
BBC Creative Archive
The BBC Creative Archive was a pilot project which used a single user license scheme for sharing and downloading moving images, audio and stills and it applies strict, non-commercial, rules for its use. Unfortunately the pilot closed in 2006, but not before they had released over 500 pieces of content under the draft scheme. You may still be able to salvage something from it, whilst they realign the scheme.
Torrents are often wrongly associated with the seedy underbelly of piracy that exists online. Isohunt however hopes to change all that with the introduction of creative commons licensed content that can be downloaded with BitTorrent or other P2P file sharing tool. At time of writing, there was over 8000 individual items on the service, which mostly consisted of audio content.
In the same vein as IsoHunt, Clearbits distribute high quality, open-licensed (Creative Commons) digital media, datasets, and artwork for Content Creators. Hosting creative content in its entirety, ensure fast, reliable downloads via peer to peer technology.
A Tokyo based open video archive initiative dedicated to the arts. Existing video content is provided to users under a Creative Commons License, for non profit and charity organisations.
Other Useful Links
BandCamp allow filtering on artists who offer their work via a sharealike license with attribution. So if you use their music, do link back to the artists as you would with other content.
A shameless plug of an old post that I’ve written, includes some additional sources for audio content that I haven’t mentioned here.
YouTube have a creators corner where you can hone your craft, receive critque of you video content, and learn from others. Some great tips to be collected in here.
The Internet Archive blog keeps you up to date with all the happenings, well worth subscribing to, as you will hear announcements about some of the content they have recently uploaded to the site.