Video sites simplify sharing
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Call it video on demand for amateurs. Seemingly overnight, free video-sharing Web sites have been transformed from little-known players in the online world into popular destinations for people interested in wacky video clips
, cute home movies and just about anything else able to be captured on video.
Video-sharing sites seem to appear as quickly as entrepreneurs can raise a few bucks and come up with a catchy name. The sites include ClipShack, Google Video, Grouper, Metacafe, Revver
, Sharkle, Streamload, Stickam, TagWorld, Vimeo, vMix and YouTube, among others.
According to Nielsen//NetRatings, an Internet research firm, video-sharing sites are booming, spurred largely by increased numbers of consumers with fast Internet connections. The number of broadband users in U.S. homes jumped from 74.3 million in February 2005 to 95.5 million last month.
Among the top players in sharing amateur videos, YouTube and Google Video grew from relative obscurity a year earlier to garner 9 million and 6.2 million visitors, respectively.
Viewing the videos at these sites is easy enough, but how about getting your videos off your camera and onto the Web in order to share them with friends, family or maybe even people around the world?
That can be relatively easy, too, depending on your experience with video cameras and the video capabilities of digital cameras. The process is likely to get even easier as these sites mature and work out their kinks.
To get started in video sharing, you will need to transfer the clips to your computer -- sometimes called capturing the video. That is typically accomplished with the help of video-editing software, such as iMovie (for the Macintosh) and Movie Maker (for Windows).
Aside from helping you to transfer and store video on your computer, such software will let you add music, titles and effects -- a step often skipped by the amateurs sharing video online.
Once you have the video on your computer, you will need to sign up for an account at YouTube (www.youtube.com) or another site and make sure your video file isn't too big to upload to the service. YouTube, for instance, places a 100-megabyte (or 10-minute) limit on video files.
I tried YouTube, largely because it is popular, works with Macintosh and isn't quite as recent (and potentially buggy) as some of the newcomers.
One caution, if you try video sharing: Before you share videos, check to see whether the site works with a variety of computers and Web browsers. There's no sense going to the trouble to transfer a clip to a site, only to learn your mom or your nephew can't see the clips because they have a Macintosh or don't use a specific Web browser.
At YouTube, uploading a video is as simple as filling out a form to label the video, then navigating to the video file on your PC using your Web browser. (Some other video spots require that you download and install special software to upload your clips.) YouTube lets you mark the video as private or public. You have the option of sharing the video with friends, via an e-mail link, and placing your video on pages at MySpace, Friendster or eBay.
Like a number of other video-sharing spots, YouTube encourages you to share clips with everyone, rather than make them private. Think twice before you do this. If you have a clip that's very, very funny -- or, let's face it, downright embarrassing -- you may find it being traded online by amused strangers all around the world.
You might become an unintentional celebrity -- just one of the hazards (or perks, depending on your perspective) of the expanding world of video sharing.
For those more interested in viewing videos than sharing them, KeepVid (www.keepvid.com) helps you save the videos that you view on sites such as Google Video and YouTube. As you would expect, the site is in "beta" mode.