The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Answers to Sound Problems with the Flip Cam May 14, 2010

I love my Flip Cam. It’s no secret. I should have a t-shirt or a tattoo that says “I heart Flip Cam.” But my main beef with the camera is, and always has been, the sound. When I do one-on-one interviews, I can manage, I bump up the sound in IMovie, and usually it’s okay, but last weekend, I was trying to shoot video in an environment where there was a lot of ambient background noise, and the result made my videos basically unusable.

I put out a help tweet. and the answer came from Nikolas Allen. I asked him if I could share it with you, and he said yes, so here it is:

Regarding your recent tweet about minimizing ambient noise when shooting video, YES, Poor sound can kill an otherwise excellent video.

1) The main key is to shoot in a controlled environment.

Of course, the beauty of the new pocket video cams is that you can shoot anywhere, on the go. But, while these cams allow you to thumb your nose at controlled environments, ambient noise WILL be an issue.

A minor fix for that is to get close to the camera. Ditch the Wide shots and go for Med and C/U shots. Then, even if there is ambient noise – she who’s closest to the mic wins!

2) Your next best bet is to have a camera with an external mic jack (unfortunately Flips don’t have this feature, which is the main reason I’ve decided against this otherwise great choice).

An external mic such as a shotgun (uni-directional) mic with a windscreen, or better yet, a wireless lavalier,  will reduce ambient noise considerably.

In addition to an external mic jack, a headphones jack is also a great feature to look for in a camera. The tiny playback speakers on cameras don’t always indicate how much ambient noise you’ve picked up. A good pair of headphones (think DJ-style, not earbuds) will let you know if you’ve got the quality of sound that you need before moving on to the next shot or setup.

3) A third option is to purchase a small, digital audio recorder. Place that close to you when speaking and record audio with that while simultaneously shooting with your Flip cam. When editing, sync up the separate audio track and either ditch or minimize the audio track from the Flip.

TIP for Option 3: While filming and recording, do a handclap before you start talking on each take. This will make it easier, when editing, to align the audio and video tracks (essentially you’re mimicking the clapboard that Hollywood shooters use before each take).

I’m considering the Kodak Zi8 HD pocket cam. It’s under $200, plus it’s got ext. mic jack. Here’s an Amazon link if you wanna check it out.

So, the lesson here, is, if you know you are going to be using your camera to shoot in environments where there will be lots of ambient background noise, the Flip may not be for you. If you already have one (like me) and want to make the best of it, shoot as close as you can to your subject, or try the trick with the digital recorder (which a lot of folks have anyway, these days, for podcasting).

Happy shooting!

Nikolas Allen is a contemporary pop artist currently based in Mt. Shasta, California. His background is in advertising, music and video production. He is passionate about both art and business and is creating an educational program that teaches Branding and Marketing to Ambitious Creatives.
You can find him on Twitter: @nikolas_allen

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Video Ideas to Promote your Business October 28, 2009

Earlier this year, I wrote a post on how to use moving pictures to promote your show.

That was 10 months ago, and things are changing at a rapid pace. It is estimated that YouTube attracts one billion (billion!!) views per day. Their traffic is somewhere in range of 10 billion per month.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a billion.

I recently had a special occasion to go to, and thought I’d try a makeup technique called “the smoky eye.” I know nothing about the smoky eye, but a brief Google search lead me to several videos that showed me how to do it. I can pretty much guarantee you that anything you are interested in, or would like to learn how to do has had a YouTube video made of it.

We love video–it’s engaging, and, honestly, it doesn’t take as much work to watch something as it does to read. Plus, the medium is arguably more powerful than the written word. With the huge popularity of smart phones like the Blackberry and the Iphone, its easy to access without even a computer. I download Sesame Street podcasts onto my IPod to keep him happy during long car rides. Finally, I think its popular because it has given us the power back. Anyone with a cell phone camera and an internet connection can shoot a video and get it up on the web, where millions of potential viewers are just waiting to make it “go viral.” Who can forget Susan Boyle?

Here are some ideas to harness this powerful medium and put it to work for you and your business.

Slide Shows: You don’t even need to have a video camera to do these kinds of videos. You need photos, a voice-over or music, and a video-editing program. Drag-and-drop your photos onto your video editing program, and arrange them in the order you like. Make sure each photo is viewed for at least 4 seconds, and if you want, add transitions between, and titles with explanations. Put a rocking soundtrack beneath it all, and use that as your video. Click here to see an example of this.  You could use this technique similarly, to create a how-to video with screenshots and a voice-over.

Interviews: Simon Ogden has perfected this medium with his Video Listings service. The reason why this kind of interview is so successful is because it is simple, and people are speaking from their passion. Simon simply interviews key players and asks them one simple question: “why should people come see your play?” He gives them about a minute to answer, and, in editing, adds all the contact info at the end. You can see Simon’s VanStage listings here. I have recently been playing with this format, doing a slightly longer version. You can see those videos here. You can also record Skype video conversations if you are doing a long-distance interview, and upload that.

Behind-the-scenes videos: People are fascinated about what is going on behind the scenes. What happens backstage? How did you achieve that special effect in your film? What was it like in the studio the day you recorded that song/painted that painting, sculpted that piece? Have someone film “the making of” any given piece of art, and offer that as added value. The last two Great Big Sea albums have come with two discs: the CD with the songs, and “making of” DVD with interviews with the cast and live performance footage. They also have lots of this kind of video on their website.

How-to videos: If you are a master bohdran-player, painter in a specific technique, or you make the world’s best Veal Scallopini (hey, cooking is an art!), then you could create a video that shows other people how to do it. Better  yet, if you have  a product you are trying to sell, create a video that shows people how to use it, and maybe even show them some unconventional ways of doing so. When my son was a baby, I was an avid user of The Baby Trekker, a baby carrier. It came with an instruction manual, but it was complicated. A video like this one would have helped me out a lot.

Reviews: Do people like your work? What do they have to say about it? Film people (ask for their permission, first!!) as they are coming out of your show/concert/exhibition/film, and ask them how they liked it, and what they liked about it. Edit several of these clips together, and upload them.

Performance footage: While performance footage may be the trickiest of all video to get right, it certainly can be powerful. Remember “Video Killed the Radio Star”? Well, they may have been on to something. MTV and MuchMusic are huge. The bulk of those videos, however, are shot in very controlled studio environments. Live footage is much trickier–and I find that it often doesn’t translate well onto film.

Video Blog: Like a written blog, but done by speaking directly to camera (this is super easy to do if you have a webcam). Your topic can be on anything! Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library TV is the finest example of this I can think of.

Commercial: If you are selling a product or service, you can create a commercial for it. I think the most successful commercials are those that have a sense of humour. Some of the commercials that get the most hits on YouTube are ones that are cheesy, have low production value, and are purposely over the top. I’m not certain that this is the best way to sell your business, but it appears to be successful.

Final tip:
The most important thing about using video to promote your business is to make sure that if people find and watch your video, they are able to find you. Have, at the very least,  your website’s URL at the end of every single video you create. As a marketing tool, it could go viral, but still be useless, unless people have a way of connecting to you.

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FLIP-ing out: Sharing October 26, 2009

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written a series of posts on how to use the Flip Video Camera. You don’t really need a Flip–any video camera that allows you to dump your files onto your computer so you can edit them will do fine. I just like the Flip for its convenience and affordability.

Now we come to what is arguably the most important part: sharing your videos.

You can have video that would make Speilberg jealous, but if he has no way to view it, what’s the point?

When it comes to sharing your video on the internet, you have three main options: YouTube, Blip.TV and Vimeo.

YouTube: It really doesn’t get any bigger than YouTube. Every day, 150,000-200,000 videos are uploaded to YouTube. If you lived to be 100 and did nothing but watch YouTube 24 hours a day, you would still not be able to watch every single one.

Google owns YouTube, so if you already have a Gmail account, you can get a YouTube account within seconds. Choose your username carefully, as this becomes your YouTube channel. Mine is Once you have your account activated, go to the pull-down menu underneath your name in the upper right-hand corner, and click on “Account.” This will allow you to customize your page with colour choices, upload your photo and bio, etc.

youtube screenshot

Once you have your page customized to how you like it, you can begin to upload your videos. You simply click on the yellow “Upload” button in the upper right-hand corner. When you are uploading your video, be sure to give it a name, a description (including a URL), and keywords so that people can find it.

You can also subscribe to other’s YouTube channels, and “Favorite” videos that you enjoy.

Once your video is uploaded and processed, you’ll notice two URLs to the right of it. The upper one is the video’s distinct URL. Use this to link the video through Twitter, Faecbook, email, or any other place you can share links. The second URL is for embedding your video. You can use this primarily for your blog. You can embed the video right into a blog post or your website so that people don’t have to leave your site to watch it.

Be sure, once you have uploaded your video, to share it around by putting it on Facebook (either in your own profile, or on your business’ Fan page), Twittering it, and putting it on your blog. The more ways you have of putting it out there so others can see it and share it, the better.

Blip.TV: Blip.TV is purported to have 48,000 “show creators”, 2.4 million episodes and 22 million viewers. What makes it different from YouTube is that it focuses more on episodic shows. What that means, is, if you have an idea for a television show, you no longer have to go through the major networks. You can create your own, and upload it to Blip.TV, and probably find an audience.

One of Blip’s strongest selling points is that it franchises your video out to multiple streams: you upload it to Blip, for example, and they make it available on YouTube, ITunes, Yahoo Video, NBC, etc…

Vimeo: Vimeo is a Video-sharing community. Built by filmmakers, it is more like Facebook in terms of its values than the others. Again, you can upload your videos and share them, but you are really encouraged to become part of the community. They also have much stricter guidelines than many of the others, in terms of being respectful, and not using it for commercial purposes. If you have a video that is a blatant “buy this!!” kind of commercial, it won’t be welcome here, nor will anything that could be percieved as an attack, hatred, or racism.

A couple of others:

Yahoo Video: if you have a Yahoo ID, this works much the same as YouTube. It’s pretty new, Yahoo is just jumping on this bandwagon, so it won’t be as populated.

ITunes: As of last month, Apple has sold a whopping 220,000,000 IPods. All of those people are using ITunes in some capacity. In addition, the IPhone is wildly successful, and all of those people are also using ITunes. Getting your videos on ITunes could be a great way for people to find you. You need to have an account, and you need to convert your video to M4V in order to upload it. You can also try to monetize your video by charging for it, but if you are using it for a marketing tool, you might want to give it away for free.

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FLIP-ing out: Editing: PC October 21, 2009

Fourth post in my series on using video (specifically, shot with a Flip video camera) to market your art practice. The last post dealt with how to edit your video on a Mac using IMovie. Today, I’ll focus on those of you who are PC users.

The Flip comes with built-in software called Flipshare. It’s pretty rudimentary, but if all you need to do is to trim the clip ends, add some titles and music, it will be good enough. You can even export it directly from Flipshare to YouTube or to email.

flipshare screen shot

If you want to do more finiky and advanced editing, you probably have Windows Movie Maker on your machine. If you don’t you can download it.

WMM screenshot

The disadvantage, for me, of using a PC is that you have to convert your Flip file (M4V) to a more Windows Movie Maker-friendly file (I don’t have to do this on my Mac). In order to do that, you need a file converter. Click here for the download information and how to use it. Thanks to Simon for sharing that information with me.

Step 1: Import

After you’ve converted your clip, open up Windows Movie Maker, and under the “Capture Video” menu, click on “Import Video.” Find your file on the computer, and import it.

Step 2: Timeline

Next, you can drag and drop clips into the timeline in the order which you want them. Similar to editing in IMovie, you can trim the clips to cut out the stuff you don’t want.

Step 3: Add titles and effects

Under the “Edit Movie” menu, you can drag and drop in titles, effects, and transitions between clips. Again, leave some time for this the first couple of times you make videos, as you’ll want to play around with different effects and transitions to see what you like best. You can also add music and voice over.

Step 4: Save and Export

Once you are happy with the finished product, save it. You have a variety of methods for exporting. You can export in a larger format, or smaller formats for YouTube or to send via email. These options are found under the “Finish Movie” menu.

Next up: what to do with  your finished videos, and how to share them with the world.

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FLIP-ing out: Editing: IMovie October 19, 2009

The third in my series of posts on using video to promote your art practice.

Editing can be optional. If your video is short, you may not need to edit it at all. But when I do interviews, I don’t like to have my voice on the piece asking questions, I like to cut that part out. Because I don’t have any footage of me asking the questions, I don’t like the idea of having a disembodied voice off camera, so I have been replacing me asking questions with title frames. You could also use voice over to do this.

This post is focused on using IMovie to edit, as I am currently on a Mac, but I will devote a future post to editing on a PC.

The Flip connected to my Mac for import to IMovie

The Flip connected to my Mac for import to IMovie

Step 1: Dump your raw footage from your camera into IMovie. Do this by plugging the camera in, and opening up IMovie. Once in IMovie, go to File–>Import from Camera. Slide the toggle switch to “Manual.” Now you can check which videos you want to import.

The import window in IMovie

The import window in IMovie

Step 2: Organize your clips. Go to File–>New Project. This will create a place for you to drag all the clips that you are going to use for that video into. You can copy the clips from the place that you imported them into, and then paste them into your new project. Don’t forget to give it a name!

Step 3: Edit. Watch all of the raw footage and make notes. If the subject is fumbling for words, not-so-compelling, swears, or gets lost in a story, make a note of that, as you may want to cut it out. When I get to a place where I think there needs to be a cut, I simply right-click on it and select “Split Clip.” You can also do this using Edit–>Split Clip. When I have the piece all carved up, I then drag-and-drop them into the order I want them to appear.

Editing in IMovie--titles in the lover right

Editing in IMovie--titles in the lover right

Step 4: Titles. Make sure you put the person’s name at the beginning (and spell it right–not like me!). IMovie has some great title choices, from Star Wars to very simple ones, which are the ones I inevitably go for. There’s lots of room for creativity here, so play around and have fun. This is where I add in my questions (as text) as well. Make sure you include a URL so that people can find out more information on you.

Step 5: Voice over and sound. IMovie allows you to record voice over if you want to, or import sounds or songs (to play underneath) directly from ITunes.

Step 6: Export. When you are done and happy with the final product, you need to export your movie. If you go to the Share menu, you will see all your options. I tend to export mine as Quicktime, but you can do it as an M4V file, or directly to YouTube.

The first time you do this, just know that it’ll probably take you some time to learn the intricacies of the interface. Plus you might lose yourself in it for a while as you fool around with options. Have fun!

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FLIP-ing out: Shooting October 14, 2009

This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to my new Flip video camera and how to use video to promote your business.

I spent an hour or so yesterday shooting footage for a Hallowe’en show that I am doing publicity for. One of the biggest challenges of using video to promote theatre is that theatre shot on film looks terrible. It never translates properly, the sound doesn’t work, and because the camera tells your eye where to go, you always feel like you’re missing something. One of the things I love the most about live theatre is the “live” aspect of it–each show is unique, and you never really know what’s going to happen. You can’t capture it on film.

So, the challenge when shooting video for theatre is, what do you shoot? There are a bunch of options. You can create a commercial for your show, do interviews with key people, or shoot behind-the-scenes footage.

The shoot I did yesterday consisted of me interviewing actors and key production people (the director, the musical director) about the show.

We did it simple: a room with an unbusy background (we just had a poster tacked up) and a director’s chair. You really need a tripod for this kind of work. I’ve been very impressed by how steady the Flip shoots, but you really can’t get away without a tripod for this. Then I sat behind the camera, and brought people in one by one and did short (under 5 minute) videos with each of them. I framed it simply–from the waist up–I like to shoot things closer rather than having the person who is the focus lost in the frame.

I asked them questions like:

  • Who are you, and what character do you play?
  • What’s your background?
  • What’s your favorite moment in the play, or if you play more than one character, what’s your favorite character?
  • What’s the best part of doing this play/role?
  • Why should people come and see the show?

When I got home and imported the raw footage to my computer, I was a bit concerned about the sound. The Flip does not have a plug-in microphone jack, so you can’t use a lavaliere (if you happen to have one). I was about 4 feet away from the subject I was shooting, and the volume is a bit low, so I’d encourage you, when shooting, to try to get as close to your subject as possible.

Here is one of the finished videos (apologies to Erik–I spelled his name wrong–will fix that in the next couple of days):

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FLIP-ing out October 12, 2009

Filed under: Flip cam,Marketing with YouTube — Rebecca Coleman @ 10:30 am
Tags: ,

Here in Canada, we are celebrating thanksgiving today. It’s also my dad’s birthday, so as I write this post, I’m running back and forth to the kitchen, checking on my pies and frosting the cake.

On Friday, I finally invested in a Flip video camera. Yes, I know, I’m a bit behind the times: the Flip was originally introduced in May of 2007, but I had some other tech tools (like a new Mac) that I needed to invest in before I got to a video camera. My plan for the next series of posts is to talk about the Flip, how it works, and how you can use it to create videos to market your work.

First off, a little about the camera. The Flip is the darling of bloggers everywhere because it is so uncomplicated. It’s small: only a little larger than my BB, and has 4 MB of storage (enough for 2 hours of video). It shoots at 5.6 µm pixels, and saves the video as MV4.


Why is all this important? Because you want video quality that is high enough so that you get good colours and resolution (read: no pixelization), but is not so high that it takes hours to download to your computer or upload to the web.

The coolest thing by far about the Flip is the pop-out USB connection. No more searching for cables! Anywhere you have your computer and an internet connection, you can shoot and have it on the web within minutes.


The other wonderful thing about this camera is its pricetag: my Flip Ultra cost $168. The HD model will run you about $250. Here in Canada, they are available only at Wal-Mart.

Stay tuned for more FLIP-ing out. I’ll document my experiments as I learn to use the camera, shoot and edit video, and use it to market your work.

In the mean time, my son lost his first tooth on Saturday, so I thought it only fitting that my first Flip cam video be devoted to that (I know, it has nothing to do with arts marketing, but the timing was right!).

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