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The Smarter Faster Cheaper Guide To Online Video Tools

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by David Garland in David's Blog

So, you decide to jump into the wonderful and wacky world of online content creating for your business.

You are going to become your own media source and a trusted resource not just pushing your product at people, but instead educating, entertaining and inspiring.

Perhaps you are going to do a video interview series with thought leaders and your customers or weekly tips on your blog. Or animated cartoons. Or videos of you playing tennis with monkeys (hey, it could happen). Whatever floats your boat.

To get started, you have to have the right tools. Of course, your budget might vary, but I’ve always preferred the smarter, faster, cheaper approach to the dumber, slower, expensive approach (and trust me I’ve experimented with both and have learned from my mistakes). Why buy stuff you don’t need? You can always add on later if you want to (once you are bling blinging).

The key here is many people are overwhelmed by the technology to get started. Don’t be.

It isn’t that tough. I’m a person who enjoys technology, but probably like you, only if it is easy. None of us have hours to spend playing with wires and buttons (unless you do…).

Smarter in this case is defined by simple and intuitive. Nothing is worse than buying something and it takes a physicist to figure out how to use.

Faster is defined as minimizing the time it takes to get something from your big brain to the online world.

Cheaper is just that. Why spend $5,000 when $500 will do? You can always upgrade over time.

Let’s get started with a buffet for you to snack on:

Blogging Software & Setting Up Your Home:

Having a home base is key. Online real estate you actually own. I’m a big fan of WordPress. Many of the top blogs and content sites in the world have a WordPress engine behind them. Mashable is running off WordPress and so is Personal Branding Blog (along with many, many, more). It is great because it is customizable and has amazing plugins that make it easy for you to maximize your content (For example All in One SEO Pack helps you become friends with search engines. And you can add Tweetmeme for easy tweeting of your content plus many more options).

I’d recommend adding your own personality and style by hiring a front end designer to really make it pop and maybe a back end designer specializing in blogs and content sites (I have some recommendations so feel free to email me).

Sticking out from the crowd is always a good thing.

Cost: FREE (now that is cheaper!) and you can use to install it your site (recommended) + of course extra costs if you buy a custom theme or hire a designer which I highly recommend (it will run you well under $5,000).

Alternatives: Posterous, Tumblr, Blogger, Typepad, Squarespace

Video Camera:

First of all, what do you already have? Do you have a webcam to get going? Webcam quality is getting better by the day and might be an incredible option for you. If you need some portability, and don’t want to use your smart phone (although the iPhone 4 camera is amazing and so are others) to get started, I’d recommend the Kodak zi8 (Amazon Affiliate). It is portable, powerful and low cost. The best mode to shoot in is 720p and you can make some really great videos. Uploading is a snap as it has a built in USB cable to go directly to your computer. What separates the zi8 from the pack is the external audio jack (think about how fast you click off videos with terrible sound…). This creates a HUGE advantage over the also-popular Flip Camera.

In this Interview with the author of Get Seen Steve Garfield, Steve shows a really low-cost and highly effective setup with the zi8 (Sweet!).

Cost: Normally around $180 on Amazon (Amazon Affiliate). You will also want to get an SD card like this one (Amazon Affiliate) to maximize storage.

Alternatives: Flip Camera HD (Amazon Affiliate)

Video Accessories:

Here are some other video accessories worth checking out to make your life easier:

Gorillapod (Another Steve Garfield favorite). Pretty much a tripod on steroids. It bends and attaches to everything (maybe not a baby, but pretty much everything else)

Cost: Around $22 on Amazon (Amazon Affiliate)

Xshot Camera Extender: Problem: You are trying to hold your camera an arm’s length away to shoot yourself doing something amazing. Unfortunately, it looks really awkward, shaky and you become some kind of one-armed monster of weirdness. Solution: Xshot Camera Extender. You attach the camera and it extends away from you so you can shoot your handsome/gorgeous self with ease.

Cost: Around $25 on Amazon (Amazon Affiliate)


No sugarcoating it: Bad sound sucks. Whether you are doing video OR just audio. Here are a few options ranging in price and functionality.

Blue Snowball Mic: I use this with my Macbook pro to get some great sound. I use it for sound when I use Screenflow (see below) or with my webcam. Many podcasters use it as well. It is really simple. You just plug it into your USB port and you are off to the races. Plus it looks kind of cool when you have this huge ball on your desk (ummm…awkward).

Cost: Around $99 on Amazon (Amazon Affiliate)

Audio Technica ATR-3550: This is a cheapy (super cheap) and works great for the price. Plus, you can nab a few of them in case one doesn’t work well. I use these with my zi8. It has a really long chord and you can attach it to your shirt. So, for example, you could place the camera across the room, walk to the other end and shoot without sounding like you are 10 feet away.

Cost: Around $25 on Amazon (Amazon Affiliate)

BONUS: If you use this with a zi8, you can get even better (stereo sound) if you buy this $2.69 adapter from Radio Shack. Fun fact (thanks Steve Garfield once again for the tip).

Video Editing:

So, you shot your video and now you want to get it up online. Perhaps you don’t have any editing to do. Great. Of perhaps you want to cut off the first few seconds and last few seconds. Excellent. Or maybe you want to get fancy, schmancy with graphics, etc. Alrighty.

Believe it or not, I use iMovie for pretty much everything. I import there. I slice and dice a little bit and then I export. Pretty easy and quick. Plus now you can get iMovie on your iPhone 4 and edit on the fly. Flip Camera also comes with its own easy editing software.

But let’s pretend you want to put your Right Guard on and turn it up a degree, but you don’t want to learn all the fancy and complicated video editors out there. There is a really unique and intuitive solution called FORscene. The idea for FORscene came from England when the BBC wanted a simple way to edit videos…using non-video-editors.

FORscene is intuitive, easy and you can do pretty much anything you want (minus world domination) from one screen. You log in, upload your video, edit using easy icons, and export. They remind me of the Apple approach to things: Simple & intuitive.

How much does it cost? Free trial right here and then various pricing plans.

Note: I have their founder, aka the “The British Steven Spielberg” on the show in the next few weeks. Oh man does he love video.

Video Hosting:

Where are going to upload your delicious videos before posting them to your blog? There are a plethora (how about that word?) of options available. What is best for you? Well…it depends on your goals.

If You Are Creating A Web Show: If you are creating something episodic (meaning a replicable format like Wine Library TV or RISE for example) I’d recommend Blip.TV and Widget Realm. I use both and love ’em.

Why I like They make it easy to upload, add a thumbnail and embed it on my site. Plus it automatically sends our content to other important spots such as iTunes and event TV’s (through Roku, Tivo, etc.). Blip.TV is free, but the upgraded account (only $8 a month) is worth it for some bonus features such as the ability to upload multiple shows and then release them when you want. Blip.TV also has advertising options (where you share the revenue with them) and in many cases you can mention your own sponsors (if that is your model).

Why I like Widget Realm: They rock first of all. They can pretty much do everything to host and syndicate your show onto a variety of platforms (and are only getting better with iPhone apps and other options coming out shortly). You upload your content. They convert it to a bunch of different styles automatically. They give you a player to embed on your site (BONUS: they have HTML5 capability. In English this means your videos can be viewed on pretty much any device: iPods, iPads, whatever) and give you your own interactive TV application that is sent to Sony, Vizio, Samsung and LG TV’s (SERIOUSLY) via Yahoo! Connected TV. Plus there is great analytics and other goodies. Check it out Widget Realm.

You might also want to check out: Viddler.

If You Are Shooting Little Tips & Tricks, Behind-The-Scenes, And Other Less Than 10 Minute Videos: Youtube it up. With Youtube being the second largest search engine to Google, it just makes sense to go for those extra eyeballs who might stumble upon your video. Plus, it will be really easy to send to Facebook and other sites.

If You Want To Shoot In Super-High Quality (even a little artsy): Peter Shankman turned me on to Vimeo. Vimeo is a community of high quality, interesting content. You won’t find the cat on the skateboard here. Monthly accounts start at $9.95.

If Your Video Is A Sales Pitch Or Your Goal Is To Convert Someone To A Customer Or Take The Next Step In Your Sales Process: If you want people to sign up for something, I’d recommend Brightcove or Visible Gains. Video is great for conversion because it humanizes the sale process. It creates trust and you can’t fake it. Visible Gains (which you can learn about in this interview) offers a unique product with “Video Apps.” Video apps are interactive videos where people can sign up for something (for example a webinar or an event) right on the video (WOW). Plans for Visible Gains begin with a free 30-day trial and range from $295-$795/mo with coaching included.

A Great Way To Spread Your Content Like An Eagle: If your goal is to go wide and take your very best content and get it onto as many sites as possible, check out Tube Mogul. It is free and allows you to upload once and then spread. And it is free. Free rocks.

Other Video Tools:

Want to shoot amazing side-by-side Skype interviews? Ecamm Call Recorder is absolutely money for the money. Here is my tutorial on how simple it is. The best $20 you can spend (affiliate link)

You might also like: Vodburner if you are on a PC.

Screencasts: Screencasts are a really unique way to create video. You basically give the viewer a seat over your shoulder and they get to see your computer screen. This is great for tutorials, product demos, etc. The options are limitless (I do Screencasts for the intro and conclusion of RISE episodes) and only limited by your creativity.

For the mac, the best option is Screenflow. It is intuitive, simple and just works.

You might also want to check out Camtasia.

Of course, the rest is up to you. The tools are there. The possibilities are there. The question is, are you ready to create some amazing (not average) content?

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  1. JC Shakespeare says:

    You might want to warn your readers about how badly Animoto SUCKS! I paid $249 only to find out that I can only add my own video clips in <10 second lengths, and that you have no control over audio so that the soundtrack plays over the audio in your own clips.

    Wish I'd never signed up for it!

    1. David Siteman Garland says:

      I don’t believe I mentioned Animoto in this article…

  2. JC Shakespeare says:

    No, you didn’t David. I apologize, but I’m so fed up with Animoto I just wanted to warn your readers. I like the suggestions you have above, and I will be looking to you before I purchase anything else. I am also the owner of a Flip, and am looking to make the Kodak switch SOON! Sorry about taking a negative twist to your positive article!

  3. Boshra Wills says:

    Nice article , tools for online video camera . Great insight of quality tips and tricks of video widgets

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8 Steps to Turning What You Already Know into a Successful Online Course

The 8 step process to the successful with online courses + free gifts for attending!

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