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Wink of an Eye

Used to be, creating Web video was a laborious process requiring deep technical knowledge, great patience, a flair for tweaking, and hours—if not days—of production time. Consequently, many personal trainers shied away from adding video to their sites, concluding that while the medium represented a powerful communications and marketing tool, the learning curve was too steep.

No more. With the latest round of Web video authoring programs (under $500), anyone with a basic knowledge of the PC and a Web camera or digital camcorder can literally shoot and upload a professional-looking video to a website in about 10 minutes.

As you might imagine, the implications of this new ease-of-entry are substantial. For the first time, a personal trainer with everyday computer skills can shoot and post Web video marketing messages, facility news and updates, motivational speeches, employee orientation films, worker safety tutorials, new exercise moves, proper form—and any number of other audio/video presentations that until now have simply been too cumbersome to create.

Here is a sampling of the new tools, and what the technology can do for you.

Visual Communicator 2 Studio,
by Serious Magic™
(www.seriousmagic.com) ($489.95)

A few years back, Visual Communicator set the standard on quick-and-easy Web video, and the company has never looked back. Winner of multiple awards, this software truly can be used to shoot and upload a simple video to the Web in about 10 minutes—once you get the hang of it. One reason why the software is so fast is that once you’re done with a production, you can simply save it as a Windows Media or similar audio/video file, highlight that file and upload the finished version to your website.

Another feature that makes the software very easy is its onscreen teleprompter. Instead of fumbling in front of a PC camera with a paper script, you can load your script into the software and simply read what you have to say from an onscreen teleprompter in real time. Moreover, the software also comes with hundreds of customizable graphics, effects, titles, music and templates you can use to give your production a slick, finished look.

Yet another major perk is the software’s background replacement module. With this feature, as long as you shoot with the manufacturer-supplied green screen as a backdrop, Visual Communicator will let you drop a new, virtual background into the finished video. Some basic background graphics are included with the package.

Ultra 2, also by
Serious Magic ($495)

An add-on product to Visual Communicator, Ultra 2 is a collection of elegant virtual-background sets you can use in videos shot with the aforementioned green screen backdrop. You’ve probably seen this effect on TV before—science reporters appearing to be reporting a news story from the moon, for example, when they’re actually standing in a studio in New York.

With its virtual-background libraries, Ultra 2 enables you to achieve the same sleight-of-hand. For example, if your office furniture is looking a little dingy, you can simply use Ultra 2 to drop in the backdrop of a Fortune 500 corner office. All told, the package comes with three libraries of background sets, which include a horrendously well-appointed conference room, complete with city skyline; the set of a major network–like TV talk show; dramatic inside shots of a world-class museum; and the like.

Vlog It, by Serious Magic

This product is the perfect solution for personal trainers looking to add a little video to their blogs. Vlog It is essentially a stripped-down version of Visual Communicator 2. You won’t get as many frills and special effects, and for the purposes of your blog, you probably won’t need them. Vlog It specifically targets personal trainers and other small businesses that want to get information to the Web in minutes.

Dazzle Digital Video Creator 90,
by Pinnacle Systems
(www.pinnaclesys.com) ($79.99)

A high-speed video cable that connects any video camcorder to your PC, this
is another bare-bones, get-it-to-the-
Web-as-fast-as-possible product. Dazzle comes with its own software package, Pinnacle Studio™ QuickStart, which enables you to put together basic videos in minutes and upload those miniproductions to the Web.

You may want to use this product in concert with Blaze Media Pro (www.blaze
mp.com/blaze_media_pro.asp) ($50), a video format converter that lets you convert digital video into most of the formats currently used on the Web.

iLife ’06 Suite, by Apple
(www.apple.com/ilife) ($79)

For posting quick videos to the Web, you’ll be most interested in the iMovie HD component of this suite. Essentially, the module enables you to load in raw video and automatically adds transitions between your video clips. It can also lay down a music soundtrack, if you like. A selection of background music is available from the package’s iTunes library. And if you want to spend a little more time on your piece, you can include extra effects, modify transitions and add more music and/or other sound.

ShowAndTell Pro 3.2, by SofTV (www.softv.net) ($499)

ShowAndTell was designed with one purpose in mind: to enable nontechnical users to combine a PowerPoint slide presentation with audio voice narration and publish the whole thing to the Web in minutes. No postproduction is necessary, and the software can be programmed to keep PowerPoint slides moving in sync with your voice.

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Additional Resources

If you’d like to get a feel for the full spectrum of video currently on the Web, check out Podcast Alley (www.podcastalley.com). It’s a superdirectory of Web video representing virtually every interest area. The Podcast Alley directory will list any Web video—including your own.

Another great medium resource is a small directory of video-to-Web software that is maintained by RealNetworks (www.realnetworks.com/products
/valueadd.html). As one of the Web’s major audio/video formats, RealNetworks has a vested interest in showing nontechnical people how to put video on the Web as fast, and as effortlessly, as possible. Ergo this heads-up directory.

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