Tuesday 3 March 2009

Making videos

This blog post dates from several years ago before I discovered that FujiFilm's guarantees are completely worthless. Do not buy FujiFilm products because if it goes wrong, the company will not back up their guarantee.

A few people have asked me how I make my youtube videos. I hadn't really thought about this too much, as I just do what I do. However, there is interest so I've decided to document it here.

I use a Fujifilm A210 camera. This is a five year old 3.2 million pixel camera which you'll have problems finding these days. However, it's no loss, I dare say that almost anything else from the same manufacturer, or any other manufacturer, will perform at least as well these days.

The videos are at 320x240 resolution and just 10 frames per second. The camera will only take 1 minute of video at a time, though I can take a lot of videos like that on the 512Mb xD storage card that I use with the camera.

There is no microphone, so all videos are silent as taken. I always hold the camera in my hand as this gives a shock mounting effect and while I like the effect that others achieve with rigidly mounted cameras I prefer this effect for my videos. I don't wear a cycle helmet, so helmet mounting wouldn't work.

My computer is now quite an old machine with a 1GHz AMD Athlon processor. Almost anything you buy now will be quicker. I use only open source software, and my computer runs Ubuntu Linux.

Video files are copied from the camera and I join them together with a command line tool called avimerge. I then chop bits out again with a tool called avidemux. If I'm adding audio then that is edited with audacity and turned into an MP3 file which avidemux can combine with the video. The music that I use is either played by friends, is out of copyright or is licensed in such a way that it is legal to use without paying royalties (creative commons, for instance).

I then upload that to youtube and use the youtube annotations feature to add captions.

If my videos look a bit different to other peoples, it's probably because I make them in a different way to some other people. There is nothing particularly special going on, though.

The still photos are also made with the same camera. I edit the photos using GIMP - a very powerful image editor which is again open source and free of charge.

One of the things I especially like about this camera is that the photos seem to have pretty good colour accuracy and reasonably low noise. Many digital cameras that use CMOS instead of CCD imaging chips seem to suffer in this way as a result (most mobile phones have washed out colour for much the same reason), even some which are newer than this one.

I've also made some videos by using an old 8 mm analogue camcorder, analogue mixer to add sound and (VCR style) DVD recorder. However, this is very time consuming compared with using video directly off a digital camera, and the results are not overly impressive.

At the time of writing my camera has taken well over 10000 photos and videos. It has travelled with me for thousands of kilometres, often dangling from my arm in all weather. It looks rather beat up now (click on the photo above for a bigger version), complete with the end being slightly melted by a battery which caught fire in my camera bag, but I know how to use it, I am very happy with it and won't change unless I have no choice.

Update Jan 2009. So I changed my camera... A friend sold me his second hand Kodak Z712is, which I have to say does make much better photos and video than the little Fuji. You can compare similar material shot on both cameras: New vs Old. However, I still use both. The little one is easier to carry and (probably) more robust. Also, the batteries last much longer in the little Fuji. Don't take this comparison as being anything absolute against one company or the other. Both companies (and other companies) offer cameras with similar features at different price-points.

You can find all my youtube videos here.

Some of you have probably noticed that my camera didn't take its own photo. We also have a Fujifilm A205S. Exactly the same camera but just 2 M pixel resolution. Some of the photos on the blog are taken with that one, and a very few are taken with my mobile phone.

Later in the 21st century update
Of course, everything above is now outdated. Lots of people make youtube videos and they use many different types of camera to make them. HD video can be shot so inexpensively now that it's not very worthwhile to mess about with old cameras like those above. You do need something more powerful than a 1GHz Athlon to edit HD video, though.

My youtube videos have continued to grow in number and you can still find them all here.

We bought a later model of FujiFilm camera in August 2014 which went wrong in April 2014 and was returned to FujiFilm in May 2015. Though this suffered from a known manufacturing fault, the company would not back up their guarantee. Many people have had the same experience. I recommend avoiding FujiFilm products.