FreshStart Telephone founder Richelle Shaw believes no one tells her company's story better than her customers. That's why she stashes a small video camera in her purse, both to capture testimonials and to document company promotions that might inspire prospects to sign up for her wireless phone service. She edits the footage into short segments that are distributed on DVDs with promotional materials and featured on FreshStart's website and on displays in its retail store.
"Proof is very important for customers, and it is better to just show them," says Shaw, 41, whose Las Vegas business earned about $2.3 million in sales last year. "We use the video on special blogs just for customers so they can see who is winning prizes--especially plasma TVs and airline tickets."
Her current video camera is the Flip Video from Pure Digital Technologies, which measures a mere 4.2 by 2.2 by 1.3 inches. There is one big reason she bought it: The camera comes with a USB connector that can be flipped out and used to download content directly to her computer. The starting model costs $120 and can handle up to 30 minutes of video. At $150, the higher-end edition lets you store up to 60 minutes of video.
It takes Shaw about 20 minutes to create a segment. "If you're not hands-on, assign one of your twentysomething employees to do it," she advises. If you decide to sit down in the director's chair, there are plenty of new cameras coming out this spring for capturing that close-up. The good news is that virtually all the major players in the digital video world have recently refreshed their offerings, focusing on more video storage options and higher-definition content.
Compact digital video recorders in a price range similar to Pure Digital's Flip Video include the Vivitar DVR560g, which costs about $90 and includes a voice recorder and an MP3 player, and the Sony NSC-GC1 MPEG4 Net Sharing Cam, a $150 model that is designed to get video up onto your website quickly.
One example on the high end is the new Vixia series from Canon USA. The Vixia HF10 Dual Flash Memory and Vixia HF100 Flash Memory camcorders, which just came out in April, allow videographers to save digital video directly to an internal flash drive or to a removable SDHC memory card. This makes it easier to transfer the content to your computer and has the added benefit of eating up less battery power. The feature comes at a price, though: The cameras cost $1,099 and $899, respectively.
The Panasonic HDC-SD9 also lets you record directly to an internal drive and is touted as the world's smallest and lightest camera for shooting high-definition digital video, supporting resolutions up to 1920 x 1080. It typically carries a price of about $800.
The hardest part of sharing your mobile video will likely be the editing process. Many digital video recorders come with some sort of software, and there are also system-level options. The Apple Macintosh equivalent to Windows Movie Maker is iMovie. Another popular title is Show Biz from ArcSoft.