Experiement 3: Making & Broadcasting Movies

OK, it's time for my final experiment. So far I've created a flashy flash banner and a flash-based "product demo." My last experiment for the break is to try out some "live" video and post it to YouTube. The point of this exercise isn't to make an Oscar winning movie, but just to see what's involved. Here goes...

So, what was involved in making this major piece of cinema? It started off with trying out my Christmas present from my wife -- a new Cannon Elph SD600 digital camera. This isn't even designed as a movie camera, but most digital cameras these days have some basic video capability. I just shot a few seconds of video waving the camera around my family room.

Next, I created an account on YouTube (only took 5 minutes or so). I spent a little time looking at the instructions for uploading. They suggest an optimal format to upload is 320x240 @ 30 fps MPEG 4. My camera was initial set up to record at 640x480 @ 30 fps and it records in AVI. The first thing I noticed about this is that the resulting files are massive. AVI appears to be an uncompressed format -- I guess the little CPU in my Elph isn't up to doing on the fly MPEG compression. That meant I couldn't record more than a few seconds of video on the (incredibly small!) 16 MB SD card that came with my camera. I reset the resolution on my camera to capture video at 320x240. This helped some on size, but the files were still massive (something like 1 MB / second).

In reading some more tips on the web, it suggested good, cheap tools to edit your movies are iMovie (on the Mac) and Windows Movie Maker. I have Windows Media Center edition installed on my PC, and sure enough, there was Windows Movie Maker hiding in my start menu. I quickly imported my AVI file into the workspace for Movie Maker.

Next, I was able to drag the clip created from my AVI into the timeline view. From there I exported my clip. It allowed me to select some variables about quality and destination media. I wound up creating a .wmv file (some kind of Windows Media thing). The good news is that this was a tiny fraction the size of the AVI (like 1/6 the file size). I tried upload both the AVI and the WMV file to YouTube. It seemed to digest both fine (although uploading the AVI took much longer!).

Since, I'd gotten this far, I decided to check out some more options in the software. There was an option called "Make titles or credits." I used these to VERY quickly (like a couple minutes) create the opening title and closing credit clips. I then pulled these into the timeline and exported. Heres what it looked like:

I then uploaded this to YouTube. YouTube gave me a small piece of HTML code to embed in my page (in this case my Blog). Bang, all done. It was really quite amazing. I managed to create this stuff and get it ready to "broadcast" in less than two hours. That included learning to use my camera, the editing software, and YouTube. Now I just need to find an excuse to do something interesting. I'm also hoping some of the folks on my team here at Sun might pick up some of the tools and see what they can build with them.

Maybe I'll have to start Video Blogging. :-)


I have the ELPH700 (which is almost the same as the 600) and it does make fairly good video.

Here are some "gotchas"
  • It doesn't handle low light very well.
  • It focuses one time when you start, so things like zooming or a moving target can get out of focus.
My ELPH came with software that lets you "export" the AVI files to other formats. You can also edit in-camera to remove unwanted stuff at the beginning or ending of a clip.

You will need to get a new SD card. You can get cheap 2GB cards now that can hold lots of pictures and vids.

Posted by Kevin on December 27, 2006 at 12:14 PM PST #

Thanks for the tips, Kevin!

Posted by Steve Wilson on December 27, 2006 at 11:29 PM PST #

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