How to get the most from your video camera

Flip Video UltraSo you’ve just unwrapped that sexy new HD camcorder the other half bought you for Christmas. You’ve annoyed everyone by recording them getting drunk and embarrassing themselves over the festive dinner. So what next?

You could go out and spend loads of money on a decent editing suite, but you don’t have to – there are plenty of ways of editing, playing back and sharing your video that you don’t have to spend any money on at all.

1. Shoot short clips, five to ten seconds long
There’s nothing as boring as being forced to watch tedious home movies. To spice and speed your footage up try to keep clips short and snappy. You’re never going to turn little Charlie’s first steps into Hollywood blockbuster material, but at least it’ll be a little less painful for your relatives.

Image Stabilisation2. Use image stabilisation
For the smooth, shake-free results – especially handy after a few too many Christmas whiskies – use your camcorder’s image stabilisation settings. But beware: while high end camcorders use special optical mechanisms and no quality is lost, cheaper models use electronic stabilisation, which discards information at the edges of the frame in order to achieve its effect. If this is the case you may well be better off using the image stabilisation feature in your video editing software. Many editors, such as CyberLink PowerDirector, boast this feature and offer much more control over the balance between stabilisation and quality.

Picasa 33. Download Picasa 3
Picasa is a fantastic piece of software, but its talents aren’t just photographic. You can also use it to perform simple edits on videos, add titles, transitions and trim clips, then upload the results quickly and easily to a video sharing website such as YouTube or MySpace. It’s not particularly advanced, but for sheer simplicity it can’t be beaten.

4. Add titles and transitions
Adding titles not only looks good on home videos, but it can help to identify them when you’ve forgotten what’s what – and transitions can add some interest too. But don’t go mad – stick to simple fades and wipes and your clips will be easier on the eye and look much more professional too.

motionbox5. Edit your video online
You don’t have to edit video on your PC, however. Give the excellent motionbox website a whirl: it not only lets you to edit and cut your video online but also allows the upload and playback of HD video to subcribers for $29.99 per year. An added bonus is that the processing is all done by the website’s powerful servers, so editing high resolution video content won’t slow your computer to a crawl.

Windows Sound Recorder6. Record a voiceover commentary
With most home movies, you don’t actually need to hear the sound – adding a commentary track can really add another dimension to your home movies – even if it’s just an introductory note. Some editing software lets you record audio straight into your timeline, but not Windows Movie Maker or Picasa 3. The easiest way of doing this is to fire up the Windows sound recorder, connect a microphone and do your commentary live while playing back the video in the media player of your choice. Then you can simply import it into your video editor, trim and align as necessary.

Sound Snap7. Add audio effects and background music
As long as you’re not going to distribute your videos you can plagiarise musical content to your heart’s content. But you can’t use your favourite MP3s if you want others to view your video on YouTube. All is not lost, however: websites such as Sound Snap offer libraries of royalty-free effects and music so you don’t need to worry about the legals when preparing videos for public consumption.

Cleaning up audio with Audacity8. Clean up your audio
Noisy background hiss and tape wind can ruin a decent home video production, but it’s quite straightforward to remove it. You’ll need to extract the audio from your video file first (use AoA Audio Exctractor) and download Audacity to edit the sound wave. Then use the noise removal tool (in the Effects mene) to identify the portion of the track that exhibits just noise, create a noise profile and apply it to the track. All you need to do next is use a basic video editor such as Windows Movie Maker to add the audio back in to your video file.

fullscreen-capture-17122008-134454bmp-300x2449. Use VLC for playback
If you find that, for one reason or another, Windows Media Player won’t play video files shot with your new camcorder, you could spend hours fiddling around with installing new codecs – or you could simply go and download VLC. This free media player application is small and lightweight, yet will cope with almost any video file you care to throw at it. Have a play with it and you may well find you never go back to Windows Media Player ever again.

10. Play video back on your TV
It may seem obvious, but why spend hours editing and crafting your video creation if everyone’s going to be in bed by the time you finish? The quickest way of watching your home videos is to simply plug your camera into your TV. Many camcorders – even the cheap, pocket style cameras, such as the Flip Video Ultra come with cables that allow you to do this – so don’t let them gather dust or throw them out with the rest of the Christmas wrapping – plug them into a spare output on your telly and away you go.

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