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Summer officially ends next week. Bummer. But you've still got all those vacation videos to help you remember the good times, right?
In the YouTube era, you can inflict your home movies on the entire world, not just your friends and family. Here's a look at two products--the Flip camcorder and Casio's Exilim EX-277 digital camera--designed to make it easier to be a YouTuber.
Pure Digital's compact, affordable, easy-to-use camcorder comes with software for your PC or Mac that, among other things, lets you upload videos to YouTube or Grouper. I reviewed the camcorder back in June, so I'll just cut to the chase and say uploading to YouTube is relatively easy--the camcorder's PC software eliminates a few steps. But it's not as easy as the YouTube uploading software that Casio offers. (More on that in a moment.)
To upload video, connect the Flip camcorder via USB to your PC or Mac and run the Flip Video software on your computer (the software is preloaded on the camcorder). Choose Share Video, then Share Online, and select YouTube. The PC software formats the video for YouTube, places the formatted video clip file in a new folder called "Upload to YouTube" on the desktop, and launches YouTube in Microsoft Internet Explorer on your PC. From there, you log in or create an account and enter a title, description, and tags for your video. Finally, using YouTube in Internet Explorer, you locate the video file and click Upload.
Your uploaded video will appear on YouTube soon. How long you wait depends on the length of your clip, how busy YouTube's servers are, and so on. The Flip PC software inserts a brief, silent promo for the Flip camcorder at the end of your YouTube clip--and you can't delete it. You'd have to upload your video clip manually, without using the Flip PC software, to avoid the promo.
Casio Exilim EX-277
The Exilim EX-277 is one of four Casio digital cameras recently released or announced that feature a YouTube capture mode--meaning the cameras can capture video clips ideally formatted for YouTube. The cameras come with free software, which you install on your PC, for uploading video clips stored on the camera directly to YouTube from your PC.
Casio says it has an agreement with YouTube to be the sole supplier of the YouTube mode through the holiday 2007 shopping season. The other Exilim models with YouTube mode to date are the EX-S880 ($300), the EX-V8 ($330), and the EX-Z1080 ($280).
I took the EX-277 with me on a recent trip to Ogunquit, Maine. Back home, I uploaded two vacation video clips to YouTube using Casio's software on my Windows Vista PC. You can see both clips on Traveler 2.0. One clip was shot in bright sunlight, the other during a full moon.
The YouTube video capture mode is a bit cumbersome to turn on. You must click the BS button (it stands for "Best Shot"), then scroll through a menu of preset photo and video modes. You'll find the YouTube mode toward the end of the options. Select it by using the camera's Set button to activate the video mode, which captures in the MPEG-4 H.264 video format at 640 by 480 pixels, with up to 30 frames per second.
The YouTube upload software--which you install on your PC from an included CD--made uploading the clips a one-dialog-box affair. The software automatically locates all video clips on your camera when it's connected to your PC via the included USB cable. You can upload all the clips or just those you select. Using Casio's software, you can also enter a video title, description, and tags; select a YouTube category, such as Travel & Places; choose a language; designate our video as public or private; and tell the Casio software if you have a YouTube account or need to create one. When you're done, click Save, and the software takes care of everything else. The Casio camera and YouTube software make uploading video to the site as simple as it gets.
One complaint: Casio's software lets you enter only up to 25 characters total (including spaces) for your YouTube tags, which help other YouTubers find your video. You can enter many more characters on the YouTube site, however.
Which One's for You?
Neither the Flip camcorder nor the Casio digital camera give you top video quality. But if you just want to get your videos onto YouTube quickly, the Casio Exilim gets my vote. It's more expensive than the most expensive Flip camcorder, but because it's a 7.2-megapixel digital camera, the Exilim is far more versatile than the Flip.
For example, you can capture as many video clips on the Exilim as your Secure Digital card collection will hold, but with the Flip camcorder, you're limited to either 30 or 60 minutes of video, depending upon the model. You can delete your video clips on the Flip to make room or delete them all after transferring the clips to your PC.
Before you buy either device, however, keep in mind a few things: First, it's not all that difficult to format and upload video to YouTube in the first place--if it were, there wouldn't be a trillion video clips on the site. Second, neither product's software lets you do much, if anything, in terms of editing or adding effects, titles, or transitions. For those tasks, you need video editing software. And third, video editing programs can make it easier to upload finished video productions to YouTube. For example, the latest version of Apple iMovie includes a YouTube upload feature.
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