My video education

I’m trying to improve my video but I need to learn a lot more. So please teach me.

I bought a lighting kit for my house (obnoxious but true) and it greatly improved the image in the video I put up yesterday (versus this rushed job in Daylife‘s offices, in front of a very red wall). But if there’s more I should be doing, please tell me.

I also bought a new microphone for my MacBook Pro: the much-recommended Snowball. It improved the audio quality and reduced the background noise problems I’ve had before, but the levels were still low even though I pumped it up to the maximum. In yesterday’s video, I had to raise my levels and lower Brian Williams in the iMovie editing process, and it was still off. Suggestions? If you say I should buy something, what?

The video can still get choppy, with my voice getting out of sync with the image (even when I’m not talking a mile a minute). I recorded the video directly on my Mac in iMovie, which makes it very easy to cut the piece. Suggestions?

I tried various levels of quality for exporting and uploading the video in quicktime and MP4. Suggestions here, too? What standards should I use?

I then uploaded the video through a bunch of hosts. Still learning the pros and cons but here’s what I know so far, with links to each version of my video:

* is very good. Image quality appeared to beat YouTube’s. The player (embedded in the post below) couldn’t be cleaner: just a screen. I wish at the end of the video that it would give viewers some of the choices YouTube viewers get — especially to share or embed the video. I’ll also note that the traffic from Blip itself to the video is respectable — in the hundreds yesterday afternoon alone. I could see that on their very good stats report. And I was very happy to see that they even able podcasting feeds of the video (though I couldn’t get that to work for me).

* YouTube remains very easy but the quality was lower.

* Revver enables advertising and a revenue share. We like that.
So here’s the Revver player:

* Motionbox has a very nice new interface showing you a slider with thumbnails and the ability to select and link directly into any part of the video:

* I put it up on Veoh but don’t know much about it yet. Their player:

* I put the video up on Brightcove (where I serve on the advisory board) but I have to say it was a very complicated process: had to download a special encoding and uploading ap and go through many screens to figure out how to get a video attached to a player. There is a lot of power there — too much for most, I fear. Its player:

I didn’t even get around to putting it up on Google video or or putting it out as a torrent.

With all these options, it’s quite remarkable that any of us can broadcast to the world easily, instantly, with no cost and even with some revenue. This is what will fuel the revolution!

Oh, and if you have any suggestions on content — on substance over style — I’m happy to hear most of those, too.

: And after doing all this, I am sick of hearing and seeing myself. It finally happened.

  • You’re a much more effective speaker when you don’t seem to be trying to remember your ‘lines’ Jeff – the last bit seemed to me to be the most fluid and most persuasive.

    Wish I could recommend a lapel mic, but I can’t, though it is obviously needed – I agree with the comments above on that point.

    Still and all, an excellent effort. Jeff TV.

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  • Roy

    I think the choice of video service depends on your ultimate goal. If you’re wanting to create buzz. Than YouTube or Google is the way to go. If that’s not your goal than whatever is easier and the best quality. I’ve played with video online and found that the format you use can make a difference with online video service quality.

  • Jeff Cuscutis

    You may want to try the Levelator, it adjusts the sound levels from different sources in the same audio file. I don’t think it works with video directly, so you’d have to separate the audio track first.

  • Jeff, you are so dramatic! It’s evolution, no revolution.

    It’s just our species getting better and smarter!

  • Why a background of a wall of books? Looks like you are a think tank. How a background of an exploding television, a la Stern? Or a big wall with Buzzmachine logos?

  • I’m liking MetaCafe because it pays per view. I’m likely up to about a dollar’s worth of revenue. And heck, I’m using a Hi-8 cam and digitizing. Talk about crap. Books make for an excellent backdrop/studio though. And natural light will have to do for the time being.

  • Make sure the switch on the Snowball is set to ‘1’. The ‘2’ setting really reduces the levels.

  • Hey Jeff,
    One of the keys to great video or film is great audio. Hands down the wisest upgrade for you to consider now.
    A good condensor mic and a compressor will give you that hat ‘broadcaster voice.’ For podcasts in my own home studio I use the same gear I use to record my music albums. You don’t need all the gear I have – it boils down to this
    You need a great microphone a decent pre-amp and great signal processing. The signal processing can be software (I prefer the T-Racks Audio Unit plug-ins for OSX for broadcast quality VOX)

    For your home setup you can use a quality condensor lapel mic or a pro vocal mic positioned in front of you (off camera) A good condensor mic and a compressor is what will give you that that ‘broadcaster voice.’ You too could sound as good as Brian Williams!
    Improving your audio will give the biggest bang for you buck at this point – the lighting helps, too!

    I tried the SNOWBALL a couple years ago when I was producing mobile audio podcasts and it CAN sound better than what you are getting but I found I really had to chain a lot of gain and compression in the digital chain to get the VOX to an acceptable level.
    It is made by Blue Microphone – and they make some of the most beautiful-sounding hand-built condensor mics on the planet – but the Snowball ain’t one of them.

    Robb Montgomery -in Chicago

  • hmmm…funny how u beat up on my colleague Mr. Williams about not responding to comments. I recently commented about your aversion to lighting gear- you’d taken a picture of a grip truck recently and asked- “do they really need all this?” Now I see you’ve got your own. Anyhoo, despite the fact that you beat up on my colleauges, I find your work refreshing (i just don’t always agree with you).

    Now, despite how “good” the snowball mic is supposed to be, i suspect you’re supposed to work it close. You’re obviously not. You’re “studio” obviously has hard reflective surfaces (hardwood floors etc). You should think about lav mics. Trams seem to naturally reject those type of reflections and a Sennheiser cardiod lav would be ideal (get the little windscreen cuz these are susceptible to popping P’s)

    I’d also get a seperate DV camera for this (sony pd x-10 comes to mind). This will give you more flexibility in framing, compression, and iris control. I’d be happy to help with lighting suggestions, but I’ll need to know what’s in your kit. From what i saw of Amanda Congdon’s piece on you, there are more flattering background options in your house. I’m over the erudite book background thing. Overall, your lighting looks flat. In other words, there’s enough of it, but it’s neither flattering nor dimensional.

    Happy to chat more about this if you like.


  • Jeff, You are too far from the microphone. The sound quality of audio is in inverse proportion to the distance between the mic and the speaker. 12-15 inches is ideal. Any farther and you get mostly room echo, and less and less announcer. Not a good combination. Closer is better. Lapel mics are just about the perfect distance.

  • Jeff – regarding video fidelity. Apple’s quicktime H.264 codec (I know it sounds techy but it is the codec used for the video iPod) brings the best fidelity and smallest file size for web video that I have found found.

    PC users with old browsers (Which is like most of the editors know these days) gripe when you embed them in blogs so I have found I have to sacrifice quality and give them a flashified overcompressed video experience. Like what you have here- regardless of the vendor.

    I currently use Hipcast becuase It automatically posts vids or audio to my blogs after I upload. Pretty slick. Steve Garfield turned me onto it when we were presenting on web video a UMASS’s Media Girafffe project and I am a fan.

    Still wishing I had control over the compresion artifacts but that’s the tradeoff right now. It their server and they squash it mercilessly – which is unnecessary for the H.264 originals I upload which are smaller than the files these guys create. funny, huh?

  • Have you checked out yet? It’s got some nice tutorials on the ins and outs of vlogging, including compression. h264 definitely has really nice quality; I like 3ivx as well. As for audio sync, sometimes clips that are long begin to drift, and the sync goes off. The easiest thing to do is break up the clip with some edits to other stuff. Then if you need to drag the audio a frame or two in either direction, it’s more likely to get fixed. The only problem is that you need to do this for each segment, since they’ve been broken up due to the edits. is my current favorite, and they’re good people to boot. Veoh seems pretty cool too, though I have less experience with them. Meanwhile, I’m just getting into sites like and, which let you edit your videos online. I’m curious to see what happens when people begin using these tools collaboratively (eg, if human rights vloggers covering an election collaborated online to edit a video of voter intimidation in multiple locations).

  • Buttafuco

    You’re using a Mac right? I think you just turn it on and everything works perfectly and easily. Should be a button on the front somewhere.

  • Jeff –

    Overall, nice job. A few pointers/recommendations:

    1. Use a lapel mic. I suggest the RadioShack 33-3013:–pi-2102927.html

    Twenty five bucks. Nothing fancy, but works great.

    2. Plug the mic directly into your camcorder, not your computer, and adjust the sound there. Your results will be better.

    3. You look a bit washed-out / over-exposed. Try “warm balancing” your camera for better results.

    4. You may have left your auto-focus on. The books in the background seemed to be going in and out of focus. Not sure, maybe it was just due to the FLV converter. If you left the AF on, turn it off before you shoot, and use manual focusing if available on your camera.

    5. As mentioned earlier, render to H.264 with QuickTime Pro. It converts very well when uploaded to these other video sites, and the small file size makes it very manageable.

    Joe Chapuis

  • may i suggest

    they’re a company that was recently acquired by Yahoo.

    the reason i like them is its very easy to merge a variety of video clips together through an intelligent drag-n-drop interface.

    they seem to have more codecs than YouTube meaning no matter what camera that you use it should work without YouTube’s audio synching problems.

    its free, its fast, its easy — just like good bloggers

  • It appears that MotionBox wants an upgrade to Flash Player 9, which I would think effectively rules it out if you want users on corporate networks (and likely to be restricted in when such upgrades reach them) to view your videos.

  • on my McVlog I was known for the snowball, definitely set it to 1.
    it does dound better if you hold it closer

    I switched to a lavalier attached to my video…when you are ready to upgrade you don’t need a grip truck, but a good look home studio does need certain things.
    Is Jeff Jarvis going Hollywood?

  • Just wanted to mention Podcast Spot as another option. We offer unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, and some realy neat features like automatic media conversion (for both audio and video, we do all the transcoding automagically) and automatic BitTorrent seeding. We’re focused on podcasting (as the name suggests) so we don’t have all the flashy embedded players just yet, but we’re working on it.

    If you do check us out, I’d love to hear what you think! Thanks :)


  • To reiterate what’s already been said, a lapel microphone attached to your jacket just below your existing frame will work wonders for your sound. You can do all sorts of things with video, but nothing cries amateur faster than poor or “off-mic” audio.

    From recollection you’re using a webcam to shoot your video. Definitely look into a small digital video camera with Firewire that allows for an external microphone and a small tripod. The options depend on how crazy you want to go with this.

    I also agree that the exposure could be a touch less to help bring out some of the contrast and chrominance.

    Export options depend on where the clip is going to wind up. Different companies seem to like different source files. That said, in my experience the best bet is to keep things as high resolution and low compression as possible until you’re ready to transcode to your delivery format.

    Then again, nothing I’ve said here has added anything new to the discussion, just reiterated other’s thoughts. Good luck.

  • Jeff,

    If you don’t mind my 2 cents as well…

    Many of the host your own video sites still don’t master quality, not by far… Your efforts to capture high quality DV and audio quality are trumped usually by very low bit rates on the back end transcoding systems of major hosts like YouTube, Google, and Veoh. This is for the practicality of economics – video is enormously expensive to host (45-95 cents per GB, depending on your volume). Even the most commercially supported video hosting sites (with commercials, and/or contextual advertising), have trouble making any money at all hosting video, they HAVE to chop the video quality down to abominable levels to have a chance at making their nut.

    On the other hand, our new technology at GridNetworks (check out our demo at, actually leverages a hybrid custom peer to peer solution and a traditional CDN for both high quality, high reliablity and also low cost instant streaming of video. No other peer based system can presently stream video in an instant on fashion that is appealing to the millions of users of YouTube and Google Video.

    And just in case your readers are Macintosh in nature, we are releasing our Macintosh client in the Q1 of 07 (in Alpha) and full release in Q2 of 07.

    Since our technology is not per se a BRAND, but instead a technology which we are making available to major hosting websites – do us a favor and *demand quality*, and *demand high fidelity*. If they complain about reliability or cost, recommend our solution. We can deliver the highest bit rates at the lowest cost.

    And lastly, feel free to call me if you want more information about GridNetworks, or our PowerGrid Application. Also, don’t forget our blog (!

    Newell Edmond
    Chief Architect
    GridNetworks, Inc

  • Asi


    Thanks for the mention! Some of the other great points about Revver:

    1. Ad supported Quicktime files for podcasting and sharing. We transcode all files into Flash and Quicktime. No matter where your files are – whether you put them on P2P network or creating a torrent as you mentioned, we’ll dynamically serve ads to that file and you’ll continue to make 50% of the ad revenue (after any sharer cut).

    2. Which brings me to the next point – we pay you for sharing files. If you’re logged in when grabbing a file, you’ve syndicated that content with your user id, earning you 20% of any revenue earned through traffic you generate. For popular clips, you can earn a good sum of money just by sticking it on a blog with a lot of traffic.

    3. Open API. Ahh, the geek factor. We have built our own site on our api. This means that just about anything we can do, you can do with our API. You can build a full video portal, even registering users and accepting their content, without ever touching a database – and of course, earning money while doing it.

    There’s quite a bit more that makes us unique (great video quality in Flash and Quicktime, Creative Commons licensing, open syndication network, distribution deals rewarding creators, a fierce dedication to open source software, and much more.

    Our company was founded on the belief that creators should be rewarded for their work and that media inherently wants to be shared. Instead of trying to fight it with the array of DRM solutions, we encourage the distribution of the file while maintaining some control, tracking, and monetization – earning you and those sharing it more money.

    Let me know if I can be of any service, just stop by our forums,blog, or contact us.

    Asi Behar
    Director, Web Services & Experience
    Revver Inc.

  • Hey Jeff,

    Drop us a line at and we’ll take a look at the podcasting feeds for you. I also wanted to mention that we have an opt-in (we think this is very important) advertising program which includes an open-air marketplace where leading video advertising companies compete for your video inventory. We’ve launched three partnerships for this marketplace so far, and have four more in various stages of launch. In addition to that marketplace (which is self-service) we have a high-end sponsorship program where we’ll go out and meet with media buyers to represent specific content creators.

    There’s also a lot more to blip beyond advertising… we support all Creative Commons licenses, can automatically cross-post your video to everything from WordPress to Blogger to to MySpace, have distribution deals to bring shows to the television through Akimbo, and, well, a lot more, including a very powerful open API (yes, the geek factor! :) that we originally developed for Turner Broadcasting, which uses to power projects like CNN iReport.

    I’d love to have a phone conversation about this at some point. You can give me a ring any time at 646-827-9773.


    Co-founder & CEO,

  • Dmitry Shapiro


    Veoh is about to launch our latest set of features that we believe will dramatically change the game! Stay tuned, and if you would like a preview, just let me know and I can make it happen.

    Also, if you haven’t been watching, we are far exceeding the rest of the crowd.

    Take a look at the PAGE VIEWS tab :

    This is just direct traffic to, our embedded traffic is even greater, and as you know, we have a P2P network behind the scenes that is transporting full screen, high resolution versions of all of the shows.

    Would love to chat and pick your brain sometime in the near future. Please feel free and reach out at your convenience.

    Dmitry Shapiro
    Veoh Networks, Inc.

  • Hi, Jeff,

    – I like encoding video in hi-quality mp4/h.264 and uploading it to a service that will transcode it to Flash, so you can point to it in both formats. Blip, YouTube, Veoh, Yahoo Video will transcode to Flash.

    – I too was going to recommend the Levelator for evening out sound.

    – For hosting, I’m glad you’re not following the herd and thinking that YouTube is the only site that counts. Go with YouTube for wider distribution but a second and third site, like, for a higher-quality version (which is what a lot of us video nerds are gravitating toward).

    – For more how-to’s, check out Ourmedia’s Learning Center here:

    – Download SpinXpress at, a free uploading tool, to publish your video to and to Ourmedia (the internet archive’s servers).


  • i like how everyone jumped in to announce different solutions.
    I think JD(above) meant to link to ….which is a publishing, sharing, and collaboration tool.

    As a creator…I like the option to post my video in its original format. Sites like Youtube are great for “throw em up quick” videos. But if I’m going to really tell a story with quality, Ill use sites like that really respect what ive created.

    see an example here on veggie-oil cars (in widescreen!):
    I’d hate to have this in horribly compressed flash.

    I also understand the excitement of big sites like Youtube pushing traffic to videos.
    but is it guranteed?
    I hear more and more people think that just by putting a video on Youtube means youll get popular. As bloggers, we all know that you must do the work to create your own connections and promotion.

    I also like sites that let me link to the video file in my RSS feed. Videos that are locked into sites are kind of ridiculous…dont you think?

    I also like sites that respect my Creative Commons license. (Blip is the only one I know of) I encourage all creators to read the Terms-Of-Service before using any of these free video hosting sites.

  • I am just beginning to get into vblogging at where I write on the impact of future technology on medicine. Hey – if you write about future tech got to use it as well! I have done hard core video editing for years in addition to being a surgeon. Best advise for compression quality that most poeple miss is minimize the movement in the shots and vartiability. Every frame where there is a change minimizes the compression (remember it looks for what changes between frames- no change = little data ). Newbiew need to invest in good tripod and lighting. To get really fancy use a bluescreen (chromakey) and a virtual background and datarates go down as well as looking cool.

  • The sound has a slight echo but it is acceptable I reckon, if the volume could be higher.

    I know nothing about Macs and it depends what kind of microphone you have… If you are unable to increase the recording level on the Mac then you may have some kind of mismatch with the mic.

    You could get an inexpensive mic mixer (some are battery powered) which feeds into the mic level socket on the computer.

    Or, for home use, you could get a standard mixer which has mic inputs and goes into the line level socket. I have a Behringer Eurorack UBS02 which was inexpensive but works great.

    The lighting looks good. Grainless and I guess you bounced the light off a wall or used a diffuser of some kind?

    File is a good balance between size and quality.

  • Asi


    FYI, Revver also uses Creative Commons licenses to help creators make money from their work and allows for the open syndication platform we’ve created.

    Creative Commons and Revver launch Viral Video Fundraising Campaign

  • craig chaucer

    For additional revenue sharing – you could embed the video from any one of these hosts at – they allow you to put your own adsense advertisements up on your video display pages to get 50 percent of the revenue. If you’ve uploaded it to youtube – you don’t even need to go through the hassle of re-uploading it… just cut and paste the embed code!

  • I just did a comparison of YouTube and Blip.TV, and agree that Blip.TV has some nice advantages, particularly for someone who may want to do web video seriously instead of just recreationally.

  • hi,

    i would like to know how do you go FULL Screen with
    i can’t seem to get it to work with the flash player~

    any suggestions?

  • Jeff,

    Your latest video was a great improvement lighting wise over the youtube video with the red wall. Is your lighting kit fluorescent or halogen? If it’s a fluorescent lighting kit, you can add warmth to it if you feel it may be to bright by using photo umbrellas in place of softboxes. A silver photo umbrella would give you a neutral or more natural tone. Also the use of a muslin backdrop in green or blue would be much better suited for your broadcast than a red wall visually.