How to get yourself on YouTube, for business or pleasure

It's easier than you think

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The basic tips are simple and fairly obvious: Don't move the camera too much, don't zoom in and out a lot, and make sure you have appropriate lighting. One aspect often overlooked is audio. I've had good video ruined by poor audio, such as wind noise and crowd noise distracting from your subject's speaking. It's well worthwhile to invest in boom microphones that can be attached to your camcorder and remote microphones that can be attached to your subjects.

Break the rules

Also, it's OK to break the rules if you have a specific purpose in mind. For example, if you're looking for a more fun, active, "hip" video, it's OK to go handheld and try all kinds of crazy angles and zooms.

Another good idea for some live projects is to use two camcorders, taping the same thing from different angles, or taping different things that are happening at the same time. That allows you more creativity in putting the final video together in the editing stage and ensures that if something goes wrong with one taping, you will at least have the other one to fall back on.

After you're done taping, you simply need to get the video into your computer, and you can start having fun in the editing stage. Most digital camcorders come with FireWire cables and software to upload the video from the camcorder to your computer. Of course, if it records on DVD media, you simply pop the DVD into your computer.

If you have an older, analog camcorder, you can use specialized hardware, typically a box or card, to get the video digitized and stored on your computer. If you have a bunch of old analog tapes, like I do, you can buy or borrow a digital camcorder with "pass-through" capability that lets you pop in the analog tape and seamlessly digitize the footage and store it on your computer in one step. You can even do this with an old VCR player as the source.

Get creative

Now it's time for editing, where you can get as creative and sophisticated as you want. If you're just looking for the simple, easy and quick route to get your video posted, you can use the free MovieMaker software that comes on Windows PCs or the iMovie software that comes on Macs.

They both allow simple editing tasks such as cutting and ordering clips, and adding transitions, titles, music and some special effects.

If you're more ambitious, you can invest in a video editing package. There are basically three tiers of these, with the low end being around $100, the middle ground products costing about $300 to $500, and the high end going for more than $1,200.

These provide much more sophisticated features, such as multitrack editing, more title styles, transitions and special effects, and more advanced audio editing capabilities. You probably won't get too fancy for business projects, but for home use, you can go crazy.

Most video editing tip sites advise always using simple "jump cuts" and going easy on the fancy transitions, which can be distracting. But I do the opposite, using them to enhance the footage.

Instead of a simple jump cut from a birthday scene featuring kids hitting a piñata with a baseball bat to another activity, for example, I used a "shatter" transition that breaks the outgoing footage into hundreds of pieces at the exact moment the baseball bat hits the piñ ata, along with a "breaking glass" sound effect. You can usually find some transition that fits the footage: a disappearing bouncing ball for soccer, or a page turning in an album for wedding scenes, for example. Such effects are always good for a lot of "ooohhhs" and "aaahhhs" from the audience.

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