Look before you leap into HD video

Video editing Old School (courtesy Yogma on Flickr CC)It’s been a painful few weeks for me as a relatively new online video enthusiast.

My trusty Flip Ultra pocket video camera made it pretty simple to learn how to create basic little movies for my family travel blog, the Perceptive Travel Blog and to shoot interviews for Tourism Currents.

(If you haven’t started shooting video for your organization, stop right now and read tourism marketing expert Todd Lucier’s first post in a 3-part series….How to Invest in Video: Shooting Video. Why? Because your visitors like to watch videos to learn more about your destination, and search engines return videos pretty high in results if they’re titled/tagged/described fully.)

When I began shooting for the Round Rock CVB recently, I used their FlipMino HD camera.  HD = High Definition.  It’s got to be better to go with higher quality stuff, right?

Yes, but….

First, HD video is very unforgiving of the shakes and jiggles, so I’m using my tripod a lot more and I’m very conscious of image stabilization.  HD files also take up a lot of storage room on your computer’s hard drive.  Those issues are no big deal, but I’ve run into challenges with editing.

My Dell Latitude is a few years old and runs Windows XP, thanks to my local PC Doctors service shop who advised against “upgrading” to Vista.  The Latitude has never had any difficulty handling editing using the included Windows Movie Maker software. HD, however, is a different story, as this excellent PC Magazine article will attest – Video Editing for the Masses.

If you’re thinking of shooting HD, be aware of the following issues:

  1. The file extension is different and may not be recognized by your video editing software.  My installed version of Movie Maker can’t “see” the new .MP4 files from the Flip HD, and the latest version of Movie Maker (that can work with MP4) won’t work with my XP. Technology awesomeness!
  2. Technology crises always happen at 9 pm on a Saturday night when you’re alone – at least, they do with me.  When I saw I had a mess, I put a call out to my video-savvy Twitter followers, who quickly gave me software suggestions.  Hurray for helpful networks.  No, I can’t “call the IT people” because that’s me.  Freelancer awesomeness!
  3. Adobe Premiere Elements was recommended by several (thanks, Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle‘s TechBlog) but I found it crash-prone (corroborated in several user forums.) I never could even launch the 30 day free trial and finally had to uninstall it.  The real problem became clearer when….
  4. ….I then bought (for about $100 at Best Buy) and installed Pinnacle Studio Ultimate HD (thanks for the tip, Omar Gallaga – he’s the Austin American-Statesman Digital Savant.)  Pinnacle didn’t crash and nicely corrected several problems in a few of my video files – harsh sunlight, funky audio – but playbacks kept stuttering and everything just seemed “gummy.” Turns out that when I actually read the Pinnacle system requirements (d’oh!) my laptop has insufficient RAM and the processor is too slow.
  5. To handle the two videos (plus lots of B-roll) that I’ve shot in HD, I’ve now installed the Pinnacle software on my family desktop PC, which has a more powerful processor (but the same amount of RAM as the laptop, so cross your fingers for me.)  I’m copying all the HD files on my laptop onto a 500G-capacity Seagate external hard drive, then dumping them from the Seagate onto the desktop so I can try to make everything work properly on a better platform. You can’t transfer such big files by email or sticking them on a thumb drive (without losing your mind) so I went with the big digital shovel.  Tech logistics awesomeness!

Bottom line? If you want to roll with HD, it’s not enough to shoot it. That part is deceptively easy. You need a high-powered, pretty recent computer with capable software to edit it unless you’re always going to be content to upload directly online (i.e., can shoot without error and never want to change it much.)

If you’re like most tourism organizations, your budget probably doesn’t allow you to run out and buy more powerful computers – including Macs, with the excellent iMovie editing software, unless you already have them. The answer, then, is to stick with lower-resolution video until you can get the editing horsepower you need.

The trusty lower-resolution Flip Ultra and I will hit the road tomorrow to shoot the next Round Rock video, and my laptop is breathing a sigh of relief.  Something tells me its days are numbered, though….

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17 Responses to Look before you leap into HD video

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  2. Greg says:

    Hi Sheila, great article! I’m flattered you used my image, but can you include a credit and link to “Yogma” on Flickr?


  3. Linda says:

    I ran into the same thing recently, but the file extension problem isn’t just with HD camcorders. I bought, and then returned, a JVC recorder (for once appreciative that I shopped at WalMart with its generous return policy) because its file format couldn’t be read in any of my existing software.

    As I researched my next move, I too learned that a good-quality HD camera would take more resources than I had, and I didn’t want to get caught in the upgrade loop.

    I do have the HD Flip Mino, however, and I can use that in the Muvee Reveal software that I already had. I learned that the “HD” from Flip-type cameras is different from the HD of a regular camcorders, and that if I wanted a real HD experience, I’d need to spend a lot more money than I had.

    Add in the fact that I’ve never been one to record every moment of our lives on video, and that I already have a phone, a camera, an iPod Touch, and the Flip in my handbag at all times, plus often a DSLR, so that I don’t need any more weight, and I decided to save my money and stick with what I have until that point in time when I’ve got a new, powerful computer and some really good video-editing software.

    Yeah, that will probably never happen.
    .-= Linda´s last [post] ..Splashers of the South Seas Waterpark in Grand Forks, North Dakota =-.

  4. Hi Greg,

    The photo itself is linked back to your original page, and if you mouse over it, I put in the title your Flickr name/credit.

    That’s how I always do attribution for Flickr CC photos; I can add something else if you’d like. It’s a perfect picture for talking about “old school” and tech upgrades, so thank you very much!

  5. Hi Linda,

    Thanks very much for your input. Yes, you’d think I’d have realized that this MIGHT cause problems (*eyeroll*) but as always, I forged ahead. 🙂

    I’ll check out Muvee. Part of the issue is that I want to do things like split the audio and video, be able to bump the lighting if I need to, make audio adjustments, etc. to get the stories just right, so I need software that can do all that. For now, though, backtracking for a bit seems the sanest option.

  6. Sheila,

    Fantastic post. I was running into similar issues when trying to tape a panel discussion in HD, so I’ve backed down and am shooting things just shy of full HD now.
    .-= Jeremy Williams´s last [post] ..What’s Best for Your Organization, a Facebook Group or Fan Page? =-.

    • Thanks Jeremy, I’m rapidly discovering I’m not alone in my frustrations.

      Hi Todd, I appreciate your push with video and mobile; your clients and the great tourism folks in Canada are lucky that you’re on their side! 🙂

  7. todd lucier says:

    Hey Sheila, thanks for the plug. We’re embarking on video in a big way. What most new producers of content need to remember is that quality sound, a tripod and good lighting are essential to producing video that inspires a traveler. Keep up the good work.
    .-= todd lucier´s last [post] ..Why build an app? +400% increase in mobile revenue each month – Hilton =-.

  8. Jay Noggle says:


    Nice article and I am a fan of the site!

    I will say as a media creator, I think a lot of people find through trial and error that HD video (let alone video production in general) is not as easy as it may seem.
    While youtube has made video online a daily thing, there is so much of it that just isn’t very valuable.
    The main thing I want to add here is my plug for the best HD camera on a budget, and that is the Kodak zi8. The reason for this is because it has a microphone jack. This alone can make the quality of the project so much more professional because the audio itself will be so much better.
    So, for around $200 total you can get the camera and a lapel mic and get some great results for web video.
    Also, if you stay with the bundled software that comes with this type of camera you should have less headache as it is designed to match.
    Once you outgrow this type of setup, the learning curve quickly becomes the type of experience that you have unfortunately encountered…

    FYI: the videos on my website link were all in standard definition going on two years year ago but still hold up today because of the Flash encoding which is a completely different matter. Because of this, if you don’t have the encoding knowledge and want your HD video to be as clean as possible, I would recommend using http://www.vimeo.com to host your videos as opposed to youtube. Vimeo is more used by professionals and people who are concerned about the quality and not just the number of eyeballs!


    • Hi Jay,

      Thanks very much for your helpful thoughts! I’ve heard great things about the Zi8 and my Tourism Currents business partner Becky likes hers a lot, for exactly the reasons mentioned.

      I didn’t get into other video services beside YouTube, but Vimeo, Viddler, Revver etc do offer other platforms for video publishing. As I’m sure you already know, a TubeMogul account can help take care of uploads to multiple sites. That way you can have a nice mix of quality and eyeballs….

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  13. Steve says:

    I struggled for a while with the whole shaky thing too, when I first bought my little HD camera. I had to laugh out loud when I finally found the little tiny tri-pods that you can use for these phones.

    For months I tried to keep the camera steady (which ends up making your hand even shakier) before I finally found one. They are cheap as can be, and my HD videos are finally looking decent.

    Oh yeah, just like your comments said, I did have to get a new laptop, my XP PC couldn’t handle the big movie files.

    I know I’m late to this thread, it just came up on an unrelated search and I had to comment since you mentioned the tripods.

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