My boy just had his third birthday party.
And the best part was… he understood what it was all about!
- He shouted with glee, “I’m three!”
- He understood he received presents from all his friends
- He loved blowing out the candles
- He couldn’t wait to eat the cake
(that part was never difficult)
And as if experiencing all these wonderful moments at yesterday’s party wasn’t enough, I also wanted to capture some of them for posterity.
You know. A few pictures. A couple videos.
What could go wrong?
The Birthday Song
I don’t know why the ‘Happy Birthday’ song is such an iconic moment at birthday parties.
The sixteen words almost command the same attention as-
If you miss it, it’s like the whole shebang didn’t even happen.
So I was eager to ensure I got my preschooler’s birthday-song moment on video.
I had all three of my cameras on hand and fully charged:
- Two Canon pocket cameras (S100 and Elph 300) and my Canon DSLR (old T1i)
My wife and I had a couple ringers (other parents) in the crowd to help us capture the moment. I would be right next to my boy and technically part of the action.
(hard to pull double duty in that situation)
So I held onto the DSLR to take a couple quick candle-blowing close ups and relied on the two pocket cameras to do the heavy lifting for the video assignment.
If You Don’t Have the Video, Did the Birthday Party Happen?
I didn’t need two separate camera angles, but I wanted a back up plan if one of the cameras or volunteer camera operators ran into trouble.
You know… Murphy’s Law.
And guess what happened…?
One of the two pocket cams switched hands at the last minute.
Probably due to a moment requiring the juggling of children,
or some such understandable redirection of parental resources.
Then, apparently my video directive became diluted, and the substitute videographer shot a couple of photos instead of video.
And the fate of the other camera operator?
Fortunately, he came through with flying colors.
(not that I had any real doubts… I had hand-picked this parent.
He had previously demonstrated the innate flexibility of a documentary cinematographer at other Lester events.
I know talent when I see it!)
So as they say… “I got the shot!”
Let Your Smartphone Share Your Magic Moments
Again, I don’t understand why the birthday song is such a ‘must capture’ moment, or why I’ve become so focused on it.
Maybe, it so effectively summaries the entire event, like a newspaper headline.
Plus, the whole candle blowing ritual has turned into a kind of sport for children.
(Will all the candles get blown out at once?!)
So once you’ve gone through all the effort to capture your boy’s birthday video vérité, you probably want to share it…
No big deal, right?
Case in point:
Before we had even said goodbye to all our guests, the first video came in via a friend’s iPhone. That ease of sharing via smartphones almost defies linear time!
If you can practice your video sharing via smartphone voodoo, I highly recommend it, as long as your video snippets are short.
The Limits of Streaming Your Life
Another way to share your home videos is to simply upload them to a streaming-friendly website like YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook.
So what’s the problem?
Yes, you’ve shared your life’s precious moments via a streaming solution, but you haven’t truly ‘given’ them to anyone yet.
Remember, ‘streaming’ is not ‘downloading.’
(although you can sometimes download a file after you watch the stream)
- An Internet connection may not always be available for streaming access
- Your family and friends may eventually lose your link to access your file online
- Your file may not exist forever online
If this sounds like the beginnings of an argument against the Cloud,
…or is it?
Let’s not go there…
Let’s just say today’s task is to simply get the birthday-song video to Grandma.
Four Steps to Get Your Home Movie from Your Apple Ecosystem to Grandma’s House
If you want Grandma to always have access to the video, she’ll have to download your file to her computer’s hard drive.
First, download your two-minute HD movie from your digital camera to your Apple computer.
Immediately, you’ve got two problems:
- It’s a hulking 200 MB file.
(so it’s too large to email out)
- Grandma has a PC that can’t play QuickTime Movies
These days, most cameras natively create their video files in the QuickTime format.
(So you’ll need a way to convert it to a Windows Media file.
More on this later…)
If you want to retain the full HD quality of your video, you’ll have to use a file sharing service like Dropbox or YouSendIt.
Once you upload your video, you’ll receive a downloadable web link to share.
If Grandma can handle the several steps to the download and save process, that’s clearly the way to go.
But if it’s too complicated, and she needs a one-click solution,
you’ve got to go old school:
Email the file to her.
Your next challenge is to compress your video before emailing it out.
(Translation: Sacrifice its quality and crush it small enough to fit into an email.)
I recommend using Apple’s ‘Compressor’ or QuickTime to reduce the video frame’s size and the frame rate.
Now, it’s time to convert your movie to a Windows Media file.
Can you cook up a Windows Media file with the QuickTime player?
(remember, Apple doesn’t really like the Windows universe)
Has someone else figured out a fix?
The solution I use is Flip4Mac.
It’s a product from Telestream that easily converts your MOVs into WMVs.
But it’s going to cost you:
The free Flip4Mac Player version simply lets you play WMVs on a Mac.
If you want to convert WMVs to MOVs, you’ll need the $29 Player Pro version.
But you want to go the other way.
That trick will set you back $49.
It’s called the ‘Studio’ version.
$49 to convert your movie to a WMV for Grandma?
(What? Now, you want to nickel-and-dime Grandma?!)
Believe me, this software will not have a one-time use.
It’s worth it.
This Is Not a Drill!
So I took my boy’s 140.8 MB Happy Birthday moment, which runs 44 seconds, and decided to email it to my mother-in-law who does, in fact, require a WMV version.
For those in the know, video compression is a fine art.
There are countless ways to get the WMV file to the finish line…
But for those of you who want a quick and simple solution, here’s how you do it:
Compress Your Movie
- When your movie is open in QuickTime, under the File dropdown, choose ‘Export’
- Under the Format dropdown: choose ‘480p’
- Click on ‘Export’
This simple compression reduced the data rate and quickly dropped my frame size from 1280 x 720 pixels down to 640 x 360 pixels.
More importantly, it reduced my MOV file from 140.8 MB to a manageable 13.7MB.
Convert QuickTime to Windows Media with Flip4Mac
- Then I converted the MOV into a 320 x 180 pixel WMV via the Flip4Mac integration with QuickTime.
And the final product?
I created an easy-to-digest 4.6 MB file to email Grandma.
Yes, the frame size is really tiny, but otherwise it looked and sounded reasonably good!
Easy as Pie
So there you have it.
Four easy steps, and now you too can sing with glee,
“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house your video file will go!”