Archive for the ‘user-gen content’ Category

Review – Sony HDR-SR7 AVCHD Hi-Def Camcorder

Recently my old trusty Canon MiniDV camcorder started breaking down, and I decided it was time to upgrade to a new camcorder. Anybody looking at buying a new camcorder has to first answer one big question: do I upgrade to HD or not?

The HiDef camcorders still cost a big premium over SD. But in the end I decided the “future proof” appeal of the HD camcorder was worth it. Online reviews seemed to indicate that the Sony was the best choice.

There are a lot of posts on the net about how poor support for the AVCHD format used by the new HD cameras hampers their utility. Well, I’m happy to report that the situation seems to have gotten much better. The Sony camera comes with software that allows easy playback of the AVCHD files on my PC, and includes simple transcoding of those files to MPEG2.

The Camcorder

The camcorder itself is great. Small, light, easy to hold. The touch screen interface is pretty awesome. It’s easy to use. I haven’t stressed battery life yet. The camcorder records to an internal hard drive, no tape needed! This really is a great advance. No more spinning through tapes to find stuff. The video you record ends up in clips that you can easily review/delete right there on the camera. It actually works just like a digital still camera.

Connecting to the Computer

Lots of people have complained that the camcorder doesn’t include a USB port on the unit itself. Instead you get a dock which connects to the computer, and you place the camcorder into the dock. I agree it’s kind of silly, but it’s not really a big issue.

Picture

The camorder picture quality is awesome. I’ve only really watched video on the computer, but the hi-def is super crisp. I’ve seen complaints about poor low-light performance. Performance in low-light isn’t great, but it’s not much different than my old Canon SD. So personally I can’t complain.

Workflow

Basically all of my video is of my kids. As any parent can tell you, that means new video every week! So my motivation is not to craft the next Citizen Kane, but rather to get as much video processed as quickly as possible. In my case “processed” just means off the camera and into 3-5 min clips I can share with people. Now this is where this hard-drive camcorder really shines. Getting the raw video onto my computer takes nothing more than plugging the camcorder in and downloading the raw mts files. No more “grabbing” from hour-long DV tapes. Whoo hoo!!! Getting video onto the computer now takes just seconds.

Once I’ve got the raw files, I’m using Sony Vegas for very simple editing. I just drag clips onto the timeline, then say “Render” and generate my video file. Rendering still takes a long time (like running time * 5), but at least that process is totally automatic.

Conclustion

Fantastic. I love the camcorder, and I love the workflow. The best part is actually the hard drive recording into a compressed format. This makes a huge difference in the time you spend editing the video, because you’re just dealing with much smaller files, and no tape. The HD part is cool, but I could probably live fine with SD.

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Online Reality – is that an oxymoron?

Looks like Gofish is looking to launch their new online reality show. I’d post a video here if WordPress would let me, but in lieu of that, here’s the link:

America’s Dream Date from gofish. My guess is the contest will either be a big hit or a complete train wreck… Just for fun, as of the first public sign of the contest, the Alexa 3 mon ranking is 8,
509
.

If YouTube is #1, then who’s #2?

Ok, let's get down to brass tacks. TONS of competitors in the online video sharing space, but who's actually winning? I wasted some perfectly good time today looking up people's Alexa rankings (yes I know, their value is dubious at best). I started with Techcrunch's original lineup, then added other sites I know about. Please let me know of anybody I missed.

Alexa Rank    Site
-----------    -----
58            youtube.com
1,652         zippyvideos.com
4,353         bolt.com
4,801         dailymotion.com
7,308         vsocial.com
9,871         vimeo.com
10,560        revver.com
11,112        ourmedia.org
12,222        gofish.com
17,077        grouper.com
19,531        castpost.com
24,779        veoh.com
36,324        clipshack.com
43,700        blinkx.tv

I left off Google since Alexa just ranks the base domain, and others like iFilm because user-gen video is only part of their model. Some interesting things here. The advantage of being #1 is pretty clear, as YT appears way ahead of everyone else. Interesting though that zippyvideos and bolt.com take #2 and #3, as I don't really hear about those guys at all. I'm happy to see my own outfit gofish.com at least hitting the middle of the pack. Obviously sheer page views is a crude measure, but it's also one that many people pay attention to.

Is YouTube just Napster online?

Think about it. In one sense, YouTube (and every other video sharing site) is just a p2p network online. It’s a place you go to share and collect lots of copyrighted content – in this case video. Music videos, TV shows, clips from movies, it’s all on there. In fact, a lot of the video content on video sharing sites is in fact the same video that people have been trading on p2p networks for years.

But wait, it’s supposed to be *user generated* right? Sure, just like we were all supposed to be trading home-made garage band tapes on Napster. It’s pretty clear that lots of people in Hollywood are going to view YouTube, Revver, et al as simply enabling illegal copying. The rumours are already flying about the C&D letters on their way to offices ofYouTube.

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What is VideoEgg?

VideoEgg logo
VideoEgg is a startup in a new category we could call the “picks and shovels business” for video on the web. Rather than trying to build a destination, like the other hundred sites out there, they are attacking a problem faced by every user of every user-generated video site. Namely, “how do I get my video off my camera and upload to site X?”

The basics are pretty well understood: 1)rip the video from your camera onto your computer, 2)encode the video from raw format into something usable, and 3)upload the video to your favorite site. However, lots can go wrong in this process. In many cases you’ll use two different desktop apps for steps 1 and 2, and then have to use whatever hacked up process your site uses for file upload.

VideoEgg starts by attacking each of these problems. Their product supports grabbing video off of a connected device (camcorder or web cam), encoding that video, and then uploading the video to a remote server. All of this is packaged in a browser control (supports FF, IE, Safari, Opera according to the FAQ) for web page integration. The control even supports basic editing like setting Mark In/Out.
I like the technical idea a lot, because I don’t see anyone else attacking this end of the problem. The browser plugin is cool once it’s installed, but I’m not sure how many people will be willing to install it locally. I think that’s a very big barrier.

For the business model, it looked like Video Egg was primarily B2B, meaning they were trying to license the plugin to destination sites. However, more recently it looks like they’ve started letting end users publish video to their blogs via VideoEgg directly, with VideoEgg hosting the video. They even will autoblog to your blogging site, which is cool, but right now they only support Blogger and Typepad – doh! I tried it out over at a blogger account, check out the results here.

I have to admit the experience was very smooth, and the results are very good. The ability to trim the start and end of the video without using a video editing package is itself very cool. My original video file was 5 times longer than what you see on the blog. If I wanted to start “video blogging” I could see this being invaluable.

I’m not sure whether VideoEgg intend to pursue that b2c blog utility direction over time, or whether it’s a way to prove the technology and user appeal to potential partners. Now if only they could get FF or IE to pre-install their plugin, then they’d be set.