At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: home videos

Why Nixplay Smart Photo Frames are Better as Screens for Video

Nixplay’s new smart digital photo frames can handle HD video files transmitted via your iPhone. Here’s why that’s a game changer.

I picked up one of the next-generation Nixplay Wi-Fi digital photo frames over the holidays to support my ongoing quest to provide more exposure for my recent family photos. I’ve generated thousands of family images over the years, and most never get any screen time, let alone make it to the physical print stage.

Yes, I know that many folks use their smartphones and shared cloud photo albums for this purpose. Or they just email pics around. But that design requires an action from both the sender and receiver. A Wi-Fi digital photo frame only needs the recipient to glance over and see what’s on the frame.

Plus digital photo frames have the huge advantage of being able to cycle through many photos.

My new frame is the Nixplay Smart Photo 10.1” Black.
$152.99 at Amazon Prime

HD Video Capability
But a funny thing happened while I set up my new Nixplay frame, which was a snap… and an entirely different experience than earlier generation Nixplay frames that I had to wrestle with.

I finally processed that these current Nixplay frames now have the capability to playback HD video files.
(Older Nixplay frames could only handle SD videos, which required you to first convert your native HD MOV video files to lower-resolution AVI files. Ugh.)

So, this improvement instantly sets up a simple distribution pipeline for all of my family video clips that have had an even harder time finding an audience than their photo cousins.

But before I was able to get too excited, I read the fine print:
The length of videos is limited to a mere 15 seconds.

Well, how Vine of them!
(I expect this is not so much a creative choice as a limitation of the hardware handling huge video file sizes.)

Still, you can do a lot with 15 seconds.

Straight Out of Hogwarts
And once you put together a playlist of short video clips using the Nixplay iOS app, it creates a whole new visual experience on the frame that a sequence of digital photos simply can’t compete with.

I immediately set up a series of video clips for my Nixplay highlighting our day’s fun sledding during a light snow storm.

I felt like I was transported to the middle of a Harry Potter movie where photos and paintings come to life. Watching the videos on the frame was really that cool!

For the record, I kept the frame’s audio functionality off. Sure, it would be great to hear the sound, but I think only when you’re actively showing off your videos. Otherwise, it would be too intrusive as an ongoing environmental background element.

15-Second Videos for your Photo Frame
To simply throw your clips into a playlist for easy viewing and not have to edit together a finished video… that’s so quick and easy!

Plus, video files fit perfectly in this HD 16×10 aspect-ratio frame.
(The screen resolution is 1280×800, which is essentially 720HD. That said, my 1080p video files have been playing back fine.)

Sure, there are still some drawbacks.

The 15-second video limit is depressing, but it also respects people’s limited attention spans. If you want to show off the ten-minute school chorus performance that your child was a part of, you’ll simply need to tether your viewer to another screen.
(If you’re interested, I be happy to set up my video for you.)

And the restriction to load videos only via the Nixplay iOS app means you’ve first got to get your video onto your iPhone. So that could mean another step or two if you’re not working with native iPhone videos.

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately shooting time lapse videos with my new DJI Osmo Pocket.
Snowy Day at Cranbury Park
Still, a digital photo frame that can easily play your HD video files is a big step forward in functionality.

Every day, we’re evolving further into a world dominated by video. Digital frames that show off photos are nice, but that trick is so yesterday.

Smart frames that can handle HD videos isn’t magic anymore. It’s the only way to go.

Thank you, Nixplay!

Eight Ways to Face Your Digital Mess

hitachi-hard-drive

Click on your computer’s hard drive and select ‘Get Info.’ If the percentage for remaining space shocks or worries you… (Other negative emotions also apply) Read on!

Is two terabytes enough space to house the digital contents of your family life? (That’s the size of my iMac’s hard drive.) Well, I certainly thought so. I mean… how much space do you really need to capture and archive the important moments?

The truth is your final archived files for posterity probably shouldn’t take up terabytes of space. (How much media do you really want to carry forward into future decades…?)

The real problem is housing all of your raw content that you’re regularly capturing… and then just letting it pile up, because other priorities tend to get in the way of your little personal archiving plan.

The Digital Math Doesn’t Lie
For me, that constant digital flow of incoming family-related media looks something like this:

  • Weekly family photos that document the day to day: 25 pics x 4MB each = 100MB
  • Three video clips a week averaging 90 seconds each: 3 x 400MB = 1.2GB
  • And let’s throw in one larger ‘event’ a month that generates 50 more pics (200MB)
  • Plus, four vacation zones each year that bring in 250 photos and 10 video clips each. (5GB)

Let’s tally that up…
Roughly, we’re talking about taking in 75GB of photos and videos each year… and that’s without even trying.

You can imagine if you add in a few more one-off events and other kinds of files that you’ll also acquire throughout a year, that number can easily jump to 100GB.

But even at that rate, it would take you twenty years to fill up a 2TB hard drive.

What Happened?
But last week, I realized my iMac was almost out of hard drive space.
(Yes, this disturbing moment shouldn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone ‘at home with tech,’ but that’s another story.)

So what was taking up all of that space?!

Before I allowed myself to descend into a ‘digi-tizzy,’ I realized that I am indeed working on my second decade of digital media collection.
(I’ve owned iMacs since 2004.)

Still, twelve years in should only have pushed me to about 60% of my current hard drive’s capacity.
(Also, photo and video file sizes weren’t nearly as large back then in our pre-HD days.)

But the truth is I’ve captured a whole lot more video than my above equation entirely accounts for.
(One example is a family history video project I’ve been doing with my dad over the past few years. He tells great stories, but he certainly takes his time.)

So now, I’ve got to finally deal with it!!!

Time to Help Out Your Computer’s Overstuffed Hard Drive
Sure, I can consider upgrading my computer and simply getting a bigger internal hard drive. But that’s not really the fix. That’s just ignoring the larger problem…

You can offload much of your media inventory to external drives.
(In fact, that’s a best practice anyway when editing video.)

But without an organized plan, that’s not going to be much help when you rediscover the drives a decade later, and you’re confronted with hundreds of unlabeled files.
(Assuming the drives even boots up)

Much like my philosophy when it comes to sharing your photos quickly, you should be regularly going through your video files to organize/edit/share.

But today it’s not about what you should be doing… it’s about what you must do! You may want to check… because much like me, your computer’s hard drive may already be just out of space…

It’s time to do some file organizing/deleting/moving…

Eight Ways to Reclaim Hard Drive Space

#1
Review Your Biggest Files First
You’ll move the needle fastest if you can move/delete some really huge files. So begin your file search there. Addressing those offenders first will have the greatest impact on freeing up hard drive space.
(Obvious, though always worth mentioning!)

#2
Don’t Ignore Your Videos. They Can Sink You!
Pay attention to all of those videos you’ve been capturing with your smartphone and camera. Video files are HUGE! You should label them and regularly move them to an external drive.
(Actually… two drives. Media always needs to live in at least two locations for back up.)

I’m especially partial to drives made by G-Technology.
I’m currently using the G-Drive Mobile USB 3.0 to house my raw family video files.

#3
Clean Up Your Email
Your email can be sucking up a whole lot of space.
(How many messages from long ago are you still hanging on to? I’m embarrassed to reveal my number.)
And lose all of those damn unread marketing messages from companies you willingly gave your email address to.
(And to some you didn’t)

#4
Find and Move Those Emailed Photos
Don’t forget your family and friends are sending you photos too. Don’t let those pics languish, lost in your hundreds of disorganized email messages.
(Thousands?)

#5
Delete the Photos that aren’t ‘Great’
Face it. Most of your photos stink.
(All right… mine do.)

But that’s my secret to success. I take lots of photos and hope that one in a collection is ‘the one.’

So especially if you have a ‘best version’ of a photo sequence… you need to delete the rest!

#6
Reorganize Your Folder Structure
Go back and review all of those folders you’ve created over the years. You’ll be surprised to discover what you left behind, forgotten and just don’t need anymore.

#7
Delete Old Software
Enough said.

#8
Make the Time
You may be asking yourself, “Who’s got time for all of this?”
Exactly.
(I certainly don’t.)

My response: “You don’t have a choice.”

I’m happy to report my computer is on its way to recovery. But it’s going to take some time to fully complete my hard drive review.

The trick is to keep going…every week.
A little at a time…

Clean Up Your Digital Sock Drawer
If these tips feel like I’m telling you to simply clean up your house… you’re right. It is, in fact… your digital house. And life is going to mess it up just like everywhere else.

You’ve got take some time to tidy up every so often.
(And it’s really much bigger than just organizing your sock drawer!)

People don’t move to a bigger house simply because they’ve got too much stuff.
(Do they?)

So you’re left with living in the boundaries of the digital space you’ve got…
…Or one day, you’ll discover that you won’t be able to open the front door.

You can avoid that day if you start right now…

It’s Time for your 15 Seconds of Fame with Video on Instagram

Now there’s a new way to watch a blade of grass grow.  If you can record it in 15 seconds using Instagram, you just might be on to something!

Now there’s a new way to watch a blade of grass grow. If you can record it within 15 seconds using Instagram, you just might be on to something!

Let me begin with a confession:
I have not been an avid Instagram user.

Any photo I choose to share is the result of a rigorous screening process.
It represents the very best of the many (mediocre) pictures I capture.

The idea of snapping a low-quality shot (640 x 640 pixels), further ruining it with a cookie-cutter filter, and then immediately sharing it with your public is not what I’m usually comfortable with.

But 130 million Instagram users must be on to something…
And I’ve got to admit, I’ve often wondered how such spontaneity can create such cool-looking photos…

As a status update, an artful Instagram photo can be so much more interesting than text…

Video on Instagram Comes to Town
Now there’s Video on Instagram to help you ‘capture and share the world’s moments.’

Following in the footsteps of Twitter’s Vine, Facebook’s Instagram created its own video functionality on June 20.

Once you download the app update to your phone, (the newest version, 4.0.2 was released on July 5) you can share 15 seconds of Instagram video almost as fast as it takes to snap a ‘selfie.’

Suddenly I’ve taken note…

Eliminate the Burden of Video Editing
Today, my home video production workflow is a labored one, inspired by what I’ve learned through my professional multimedia life.

Time consuming post-production dominates every piece of home video I share.

The workflow is complex:

  • Shoot video clip(s) using one of my Canon digital cameras
  • Download the QuickTime file(s) to my iMac
  • Import them into Final Cut Pro X
  • Choose the best clips and trim them as needed
  • Put them in the correct order
  • Add in a few dissolves and a fade to black
  • Export the final movie
  • Upload it to Vimeo to share
  • Compress the master movie file to email it
  • Transcode another version for my iPhone

Sure, I can simply shoot a quick video to share right on my iPhone.
But you can’t string multiple clips together this way.

Now, Video on Instagram says you can forget about the chore of editing…

You simply self-edit as you record each clip for your 15-second movie.
If you don’t like the last clip you shot, you can delete it and re-record it.
(And if you don’t want to use up all 15 seconds, that’s just fine.)

As an added bonus, Instagram even offers you image stabilization to smooth out all those shaky shots!

Documenting the Cup of Joe
One morning last week, I found myself in the kitchen staring at the digital clock on the stove. The time glowed 4:50am.
The fact I was up earlier than many of the birds outside was the cascading result of my three year old stirring at 4:30am.

He went back to sleep, but not before rousing the cat, who then began to meow for his breakfast at the foot of the stairs.
Ignoring my feline was not an option, because he doesn’t give up easily.

So there I was in the kitchen, trying to enjoy my predicament.
What could I do with all these found extra minutes?

I decided to take Instagram out for a spin.
And it was time to make some coffee.

Click – Shot the clock.
Click – Captured the drip, drip, drip.
Click – Poured some coffee into my favorite mug

Done!

It’s no masterpiece, but my test Instagram video was done in a snap.
I’ve got to admit, the speed and simplicity make this a pretty compelling tool.
And if you want to add in one of 13 new video filters, go to town!

There’s Never a Silver Bullet
But the Web is already a flutter with people complaining about Instagram videos.

Some Instagram users simply don’t want the purity of their photo feeds polluted by instrusive videos.

Others are warning that Instagram videos suck up huge amounts of memory in your smart phone’s cache.

But the biggest concern out there is that Instagram users won’t make compelling videos the way they’ve been creating cool photos.

Critics are concerned they’re going to be bored more often than not, even with just 15 seconds of content to watch.

Gizmodo points out the “clumsy banality of amateur video.”

Jenna Wortham in her New York Times Digital Diary wrote that she didn’t like the Instagram video moments she recently captured at a Brooklyn rooftop picnic.

I think everyone out there is coming to terms with the hard reality of video:
It’s difficult to capture the perfect moment on the fly and equally challenging to stage one.

There’s usually no shortcut to creating good videos.
Click, Click, Click might be fast and convenient, but it can’t guarantee perfection.

It’s important to understand you normally need to capture lots of moments to find a few good ones.
That’s why editing software exists.

Video on Instagram has its uses.
It’s just not a panacea for all your video needs.

Vine – Less is More?
There are other apps out there that offer similar tools.
Since January, Vine has been the poster child for this young art.

But Vine’s 6-second shooting limit is way too restrictive for me.
It may be an interesting artistic exercise to see what you can create in such a short length, but I don’t feel it’s as useful a video tool as Instagram to help document your life.

On the up side, I think the time limitation of Vine inherently forces more preparation, which can lead to better results.

How Many People Does It Take to Create a Video?
I’ve got to admit… I’m feeling a fair amount of schadenfreude.
Here’s the thing…

I’m truly excited about the ease of using Video on Instagram.

Simultaneously, I’m psyched about all the doubt recently expressed about the general population having the ability to create engaging 15-second videos.

Not so long ago, common wisdom suggested anyone could create a video…
The democratization of digital media over the past decade gave most everyone the tools to become their own filmmaker.

But it’s come at a cost.

The rules surrounding solid filmmaking…

  • Good lighting
  • Clean audio
  • Well-framed composition
  • Steady shots
  • Tight timing

Unfortunately, it’s all been compromised.

People don’t care so much anymore what something looks or sounds like, as long as the content is engaging.

And if it’s ‘real,’ that’s sometimes enough to hold your attention.
But not always…

A gussied-up square photo with extreme saturation gradation might hold your attention for a couple seconds…

But you can’t make that lipstick-on-a-pig trick last for 15 seconds, or even 6.

Unless, you happen to shoot a little video of Godzilla out for a morning stroll, you’ve actually got to do some work to create a video that anyone outside your closest circle would want to watch.

That’s why a 15-second commercial on TV can cost millions of dollars to create.

The 6 O’Clock News – Brought to You by the Fourth Grade?
I know that self-generated content is all the rage these days, and everyone’s doing it. (especially the younger generations)
But your precocious ten-year-old nephew can’t really replace the entire media production landscape with his iPhone and iMovie.

In the end, videos hubs like YouTube, Vine and now Instagram are constant reminders of the inherent limitations of user-generated video content on the Web.

Anyone can create a video for the entire world to watch, but it usually takes a small army of professionals to create, distribute, and market content to successfully reach a fraction of that.

Sure, you may have just recorded the next viral video sensation on your smartphone.
But that kind of lightning doesn’t strike too often.

This reality is revealing the buried truth that a video’s success often requires a little love from the ‘experts’ with a few years of experience generating visual content.

That’s a happy realization supporting job security for professionals who create digital content for a living…

And that’s also good news for my three-year-old budding photographer who may want to one day pursue a career as a digital journalist.

Give Video on Instagram a Chance
So where does all of this video analysis leave us…?

Is Video on Instagram a good development?
I say, “Yes!”

Does creating a compelling video take time and effort?
Yes, again!

Will the simplicity of Video on Instagram revolutionize the way people share their lives with video?

We’re all supposed to get our 15 minutes of fame, right?
15 seconds shouldn’t be that hard to find.

Stay tuned…

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