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Picture This: Video for Everyone

Digital cameras and phones make it easier to shoot footage.

By Earl Nottingham

While photographs are still the preferred way of sharing images over the Internet, more people are exploring the video capabilities now included with many, if not most, of the newer digital cameras and phones.

And although it may be fun to shoot lengthy videos, video makers must take into account the potentially large file sizes generated by video and the problems resulting from trying to transfer those large files.

There are basically two methods of transferring and uploading video. One is to download the video from your camera or smartphone via a card reader or USB connection to a personal computer, where it can then be edited with applications such as Windows Movie Maker for PCs or iMovie for Macs. If your computer doesn’t have an editing application, several free online apps are available that allow you to trim your video or add music and other enhancements. Once edited, your video can be uploaded to video hosting sites such as YouTube, Vimeo or Photobucket or social networking sites such as Facebook. YouTube now offers a neat feature that allows you to do some basic editing of your video directly on the YouTube site.

The other, and much easier, method of transferring a file from a smartphone is to upload the file directly using the phone’s wireless connection. This is by far the most efficient way of getting your video posted. Recently, Wi-Fi connectivity has been added to several point-and-shoot and digital SLR cameras, allowing you to transfer files wirelessly, just as with a smartphone.

Regardless of the type of camera used, perhaps the most important consideration is the resolution setting at which you shoot the video. This camera setting, along with the length of your video, ultimately determines the total file size. The goal is to shoot at the minimum resolution needed for the type of device your video will be viewed on, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, computer monitor, HD television screen or even something as large as your local theater screen. Shooting at too high of a resolution may not only result in overkill for the final viewing needs, but will also produce excessively large file sizes that may be beyond the limitations of your device or Internet service provider. Uploading and editing may not go as quickly as you had hoped.

Point-and-shoot cameras generally allow you to choose from several video resolutions, whereas many smartphones are usually limited to a default high-resolution setting.

Luckily, you can download video camera apps such as Filmic Pro, which adds many professional features to a built-in smartphone camera. The apps allow you to select from several pixel resolution sizes, such as 360x480, 480x640, 720x1280 or high-definition 1080x1920.

The lowest setting of 360x480 is the standard size for viewing on YouTube and requires about 6 megabytes for each minute of video. At the other end, the 1080x1920 HD setting requires a whopping 160 megabytes per minute of video! I’ve found that for most viewing on a computer monitor, the 480x640 setting is a good compromise between resolution and file size, requiring about 30 mega-bytes per minute of video.

The final factor in keeping overall file size down is to keep your videos as short as possible. This not only results in smaller file sizes but also is more likely to keep the viewer engaged.

A well-edited video tells the story without becoming boring. As a rule, anything over three minutes tends to produce yawns. Shooting several clips at about six to 10 seconds each from various angles will be much more interesting than one long clip of the same scene.

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.state.tx.us.



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For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page


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