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A1: At Fort Collins Video, we use standard DVD-5s. These are the most common blank DVDs that you can find for sale in any computer or office supply store. DVD-5s can hold 4.7Gb of information. Ok, fine. Now how much video can fit in 4.7Gb? The answer to that is . . . it depends. Video DVDs that can play in your standard DVD player store video in a compressed format called MPEG-2. The key term in the previous sentence is compressed. When video information is prepared for a DVD a decision is made on how much compression to use. The more compression that is applied, the more video will fit on the DVD. However, the more compression that is applied the lower the quality of the resulting video. Degradation due to compression is most noticeable in video that has a lot of motion (like a soccer game). Different people have different tolerances for the distortion that occurs from too much compression. It is somewhat subjective. Most people can see little or no compression caused problems with 90 minutes or less video on a disc. Most people will see compression caused problems with more than 2 hours on a disc. To get the best quality possible, keep the video to 70 minutes or less.
A2: In their day analog video tapes like VHS, VHS-C, and Hi-8 were state-of-the-art and served to preserve our memories well. But video tapes by their very nature have built-in issues that limit their lifetime. The VCRs that play those analog tapes have complex mechanisms (have you ever seen one taken apart, or tried to fix one? Sheesh, it's nearly impossible!). Every time you play a tape it rubs against the quickly spinning video head and part of the signal is lost when small particles detach from the tape. Worse than that, with age both the VCRs and tapes don't work as well and the ultimate disaster can strike - the VCR eats the tape! Did you know that your video tapes are degrading just by sitting on the shelf? That's right, the tape will slowly de-magnetize over time.
The DVD solves these problems! When the DVD is read, there is no physical contact with a "tape head". The DVD is read in a non-destructive way with a low-powered laser. The lifetime of the DVDs we use have been estimated to be as long as 100 years. The DVD has other benefits too:
A3: Unfortunately, there are two world-wide standards for Standard Definition video.
Typically video made for one standard will not play on the other. Although, there's a better chance of getting an NTSC source to play on a PAL device than vice-versa.
For High Definition footage the resolutions are the same between PAL and NTSC, but frames per second (fps) still differ. PAL HD frame rate is typically 50i/25p, and NTSC is 60i/30p (see Q9 below to learn more about the i's and p's in frame rates).
(see Q9 below to learn more about the i's and p's in the above table)
A5: Duplication of CDs and DVDs involves burning the discs with a laser. This is the process you use with your computer at home. Replication of CDs and DVDs involves a stamping process where a glass master is made from the data and all copies are stamped or pressed from that master. When you purchase a Hollywood movie, or buy a CD from a nationally known artist there's a 99% chance that those discs were replicated, not duplicated.
Because of the overhead in equipment costs and creation of the glass master, replication is usually reserved for runs of 1000 or more copies. Replicated discs are also, typically, more compatible across different players (although players have become much better at reading duplicated discs as time goes on). If you can justify 1000 or more copies then replication is the way to go. Replication will get you a highly compatible product at a lower per-unit cost. If there's no way you need 1000 copies, go with duplication.
At Fort Collins Video we do in-house duplication and printing of CDs and DVDs. We use professional media and burn at slower speeds to ensure state-of-the-art compatibility. We have several partners to call on if a client needs replication.
A6: This is a short list of things you can do to make short clips of yourself (usually for a business purpose) for YouTube more professional -
Don't use the camera's built-in microphone. Invest in a lavaliere clip-on microphone, or a small shotgun/directional microphone. This will help your voice overcome any room or background noise.
Put the camera at your eye level. Looking up or down at the camera is generally not a good idea.
Light the scene. Not having enough light will cause your video to be grainy/fuzzy. Also, if you have multiple lights, try and use the same type (this helps white balance, see below).
Adjust the white balance. Human eyes are very good at adjusting to light with different tints. Cameras are not as good at this. If your video looks blue, green, or orange - try and find your camera's white balance setting and adjust it until it looks right.
Don't be static. If you talk with your hands - do it! If you don't . . . . try.
A7: The simple answer is - yes. With today's software and hardware tools, video originally created for use on a disc can be easily reformatted to work on a website or a smart phone. In almost all cases the resolution will be reduced and some compression added to make the video more "device friendly".
A8: Video (not menus) can be extracted from an existing DVD, as long as the DVD is not copy protected (like store bought movie DVDs are). Once the video is in an editable file on a computer, it can be used in a new project. It can be difficult for some video editing software to work with the compressed DVD video, forcing you to find a way to convert it to another format (like .avi) first. If you plan to create another DVD, the re-compression going onto the new DVD will cause some quality loss.
A9: When reading video format specifications (720p, 1080i, etc.) the p stands for "progressive" and the i stands for "interlaced".
Interlaced video was created for the original broadcast television technology. It allowed smooth video playback with lower speed electronics. Most video you see today is 30 frames-per-second (fps). In interlaced video a complete frame is displayed in two sequential parts, or fields. In the case of 480i video (the NTSC standard) each field contains half of the 480 lines split by even and odd numbered lines. 30fps interlaced video is sometimes referred to as 60i because a field is displayed every 60th of a second, but it takes two fields (one with the even-numbered lines and one with the odd-numbered lines) to build a compete frame.
Progressive video displays each frame in its entirety one after another. It requires more electronic horsepower to display than interlaced video.
As a broad generalization today, interlaced video is used more for high speed action and progressive for everything else.
A10: Both of these processes are used to remove the small amounts of image shake that typically occur when you handhold a camcorder. In general, optical image stabilization (OIS) manipulates the physical optics (a lens or prism usually) to accomplish this and electronic image stabilization analyzes the video signal. Electronic image stabilization (EIS) creates a small buffer of pixels around the outside of the image and then moves the core image to compensate for shake. This will slightly degrade the image because pixels are being "stolen" from the video and used for stabilization. Optical stabilization gives a better result, but costs more and requires more physical space in the camcorder.
A11: There are three primary types of optical discs in use today:
These discs can be used for multiple purposes, typically to store data as well as either audio or video. For example, you can write your important data files to a CD as well as creating an audio CD that will play in a standard CD player. The difference is the specific format of the data written to the disc. The basic data capacities are independent of the disc's ability to be played in a CD player, DVD player, or BD player. These discs also come in two primary physical sizes (12cm and 8cm). Both DVDs and BDs can have multiple layers and DVDs can have multiple sides! Getting confused? Try these tables:
CD - primary uses are data and audio
DVD - primary uses are data, standard definition video, and audio
BD - primary uses are data, and high definition video
A12: There are three basic ways to get video to a viewer from a server.
When you download a file the entire file is saved on the viewer's computer. This has some advantages (such as quicker access to different parts of the video) but has the big disadvantage of having to wait for the whole file to download before any of it can be viewed. If the file is quite small this may not be too much of an inconvenience, but for large videos it can lead to a poor user experience. The easiest way to provide downloadable video files is to use a simple hyperlink to the file. The viewer's computer determines what program to launch to view the video.
With streaming video the end user can start watching almost as soon as it is clicked/activated. In effect, the file is sent to the user in a (more or less) constant stream, and the user watches as it arrives. The obvious advantage with this method is that little or no waiting is involved. Streaming video has additional advantages such as being able to broadcast live events. The most common format used today for streaming video is Flash. True streaming video requires special software on the server (for Flash it's the Adobe Media Server).
There is a hybrid method known as progressive download. In this method the video is downloaded but begins playing as soon as a portion of the file has been received. This simulates streaming, but doesn't have all the advantages. If you have a Windows Media video and are using Internet Explorer, the user gets the progressive download experience.
A13: You could write a book, or at least a long whitepaper, on this topic. I'll give a summary that should give you a better handle on how to keep the sizes of your video files low while keeping the quality at an acceptable level. If you aren't doing this yourself, this will help you communicate with the person that is doing it. The "it" is called compression.
In a perfect world all video on the internet would be full resolution and full quality. Certainly someday this will be true. In the meantime, there are limitations that must be dealt with given the current state of technology. Today most people don't have unlimited storage space on their websites and most internet connections are not fast enough to move high quality video from a server to a viewer in real time. We've all seen the issues - we wait for video to start playing, when the video starts sometimes it stops in the middle and we wait again, and the video we get is small and often fuzzy. When video is posted on the web someone has made decisions on how to compress the video. Compression makes the final files smaller so the viewer has less (or no) wait time. The downside to compression is that it lowers the quality of the video and associated audio. Sometimes the lowered quality is obvious, sometimes not so much. Below is a list of typical attributes of a video file that can be adjusted to manipulate file sizes:
Most web designers that deal with video have their favorite codec and its associated parameters. If, after the video has been compressed, the quality is not acceptable or the download time is too long you are now educated enough to suggest some changes. It really comes down to experimentation and what you find acceptable for your video on your website. Many sites allow the viewer to select the quality they desire by posting multiple versions of a video compressed at different levels.
A14: White balance is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects which appear white in person are rendered white in your video. Proper camera white balance has to take into account the "color temperature" of a light source, which refers to the relative warmth (red) or coolness (blue) of white light. Our eyes are very good at judging what is white under different light sources, however digital optical devices often have difficulty with performing an automatic white balance (AWB). An incorrect WB can create unsightly blue, orange, or even green color casts, which are unrealistic. Performing WB in traditional film videography requires attaching a different cast-removing filter for each lighting condition, whereas with digital this is no longer required. Understanding digital white balance can help you avoid color casts created by your camera's AWB, thereby improving your videos under a wider range of lighting conditions. Most modern video cameras have options to set the WB and override the AWB. These options are typically: sun, incandescent , fluorescent, and manual. You may access these settings from a menu or buttons, depending on your particular device. The surest way to get the WB correct is to set it manually. This process involves placing a known white object filling the frame in the same area you'll be shooting. Then telling the camera (again, via a menu or button push) to analyze that frame for WB. If, after the shoot, you still see a color cast most video editing software can correct the color. But it's best to get it right in the camera.
A15: First, a more proper term for "Green Screen" is "Chroma Key". That's because the color of the "screen" does not have to be green. Blue is another color that is often used. Fact is, any color can work. Green and blue are the most common because human skin contains very little of these colors. The purpose of Chroma Keying is to combine two images together by removing or "Keying out" a color from one image that allows the second image to show through. When selecting the color of the screen the very important thing is to be sure no part of the image you want to keep contains that color. The classic use of Chroma Keying is TV weather reports. In this case the two images that are combined are a weather map and a meteorologist. The meteorologist stands in front of a screen (blue typically). Computers then remove the blue, leaving just the person, and combine that image with the weather map. Things that can make Chroma Key processing difficult are "poofy" hair, detailed see-through fabric (like lace), and shiny objects (because they reflect the key color from the screen).
A16: There are just a few guidelines when it comes to what kind of clothing works best in a video.
Tip #1: Use a tripod.
The quickest way to improve your videos is to use something to support your camcorder. The most common way to do this is by using a tripod. This isn't a large investment and it can make a world of difference. There are even special tripod heads (the head is what attaches to the camcorder) just for video that make it easier to create smooth motion. These are nice, but not required. There are options other than tripods. You can use a mono-pod or just brace your body against an object when shooting. Almost all camcorders today have some sort of image stabilization - use it.
Tip #2: Do not rotate the camera.
We see this more than you might think. Video cameras are not still cameras. Video is always oriented horizontally (landscape mode).
Tip #3: Be judicious.
Unless you plan to edit your video or create a lot of very boring footage, try to keep scenes short and sweet. Capture the basic moment and move on.
Tip #4: Don't use digital zoom.
Most camcorders today have a combination of optical and digital zoom. Optical zoom will maintain image quality and, if not used too much, adds value to your video. Digital zoom might seem enticing but you will always lose image quality when using it. If you can, disable the feature using a menu item or switch.
Tip #5: Get to the kid's level.
When shooting children, get the camera down to their level. Who wants video of the tops of the kid's heads?
Tip #6: Keep the light in front of the subject.
If you shoot footage with the primary lighting behind the subject you create a situation called "Backlighting". This will cause your subjects to be dark and under-exposed.
Tip #7: Make camera movements slow and easy.
Unless you really want that NYPD Blue look (and you probably don't) be sure you pan and zoom nice and slow. This will also help your viewers keep their lunches down.
Here are some additional resources you should check into that will help you create great video!