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Six years ago, Web sites, PowerPoint presentations and CD-ROMs were comprised of lots of text, little to no graphics and very little color. As the years passed and computing power and modem speeds increased, content creators began to add graphics, flash animations and powerful databases. Today, video is bridging the gap between static presentations and more dynamic ones. If done properly, adding the video dimension to your Web site or presentation can be a rewarding tactic with a small price tag.
Almost any type of media can be converted to the computer with relative ease: VHS, MiniDV, 8mm and DVD, to name a few. You must install a special card in your computer in order to connect the video players. A fire-wire capture card is about $100 and supports devices such as MiniDV or 8mm cameras that have a fire-wire output. To connect a VCR or analog camcorder to the computer, you need a Pinnacle capture card, which goes for about $299.
In addition to the capture card, special software is also required to capture the video into the computer, cut it up, move it around, modify the sound, add special effects such as fades and get it into a good-looking sequence. The card itself will most likely come with capturing software, but it will be extremely ineffective and amateur in quality. If budgeting allows, Adobe Premier ($549) is the most powerful and easy-to-use program for this first stage.
Once you've captured a tape such as your company promotional onto the computer, you can convert it to any number of digital media types. If you want to use your video on a Web site, you'd convert to Microsoft or Real streaming video. If you want to make CDs of your video for distribution at conferences, then Divx may be best. For a DVD, MPEG is the necessary video format.
Just as Microsoft Word can save a document into many different formats, you need a good video program to support saving into all the digital types aforementioned. After exporting the video from Premier to a location on your hard drive, you use a second program to import the file and "clean" it into the desired format (for example, a streaming video file for your Web site). Once again, your capture card may come with an ample cleaning program such as Cleaner 5 Lite, but Canopus ProCoder ($699) is much faster and more powerful, not to mention less expensive and buggy than much of its competition.
The final digital video will make an impressive addition to any Web site or presentation. Be warned, however, that streaming videos for the Web are extremely difficult to view without a high-speed Internet connection, so be sure to include a text and graphics-based supplement to any video you put on your site. Nothing could be worse than losing potential customers because they didn't have a fast enough Internet connection to view your videos, and no alternative way to get information.
Webmasters should also consult with their hosting providers to make sure they support streaming video. Some don't do this because video takes such great bandwidth. The streaming videos can also carry a large file-size (50MB for a 30-minute video) that may add cost by requiring more hosting space. Webmasters who run their own servers don't have to worry as much about space or bandwidth, but they must be sure to install Microsoft or Real Networks server software on their Web servers. This software is a simple download from Microsoft and Real Networks.
Video is rapidly being adopted into Web sites, presentations and CD-ROMs, and as more people continue to upgrade their Internet and computing speeds, video will become the standard. If converting video in-house is too expensive an option right now, there are many companies that will handle outsourced projects for reasonable prices. Look up video services in the phonebook or on the Internet.
One day video will be just as commonplace as graphics are currently, so start learning the ropes early and get your company ready for tomorrow's standard.
Joel Holland, age 17, has been starting and running businesses since he was 12 and is currently the chief marketing officer for Nortel Networks Kidz Online, a digital studio that creates educational content about technology for schools nationwide and in Canada. Holland is ranked in the top 10 nationwide for his marketing skills through DECA, a national organization with more than 300,000 teen members, and was named Business Student of the Year by the McLean, Virginia, Chamber of Commerce. To contact Holland, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.