The complete guide to YouTube

How to go about making a short movie

Rock-solid broadband connections and inexpensive digital camcorders make sharing your movie-making efforts an affordable pastime. At a pinch you can even use a digital camera that can record video clips, as well as stills.

Over the following pages we'll look at how to come up with ideas for your first attempts at film-making, showing you how to go about composing and storyboarding your short movie so it has impact and structure. We'll identify some of the clips -- on YouTube and elsewhere on the web -- that we think are worth a look because they contain great ideas, imagination or have been put together in a way you could do worse than emulate. We'll show you how easy it is to edit your embryonic movie using free or very low-cost software, designed to be easy and efficient to use. Finally, we'll show you how to share your handiwork on YouTube.

While you can get away with using a digital camera's video-capture option, or a webcam or mobile phone's video recording option, it's far more rewarding and straightforward to get yourself a proper camcorder. Having tried your hand at making and roughly editing your first clip, you're more likely to repeat the experience if your tools are up to the job.

Similarly, while you can buy analogue-based video cameras, the few pounds you save will prove a false economy when you spend many frustrating hours attempting to transfer your footage to your PC. Instead, buy a Mini DV camera. Prices start around the $400 mark.

While advanced camcorders such as ProDV and HD (high-definition) are becoming more readily available, the compression you will need to prepare your footage for online distribution makes the extra expense irrelevant. For transferring video, the easiest way to do this is via FireWire -- which is built-in to most camcorders, but not always on PCs. You may need to install a FireWire card.

The most common movie formats are Mpeg, WMV -- both play in Windows Media Player -- and QuickTime, for which you will need to install Apple's free software. Mpeg is the most widely used, Mpeg2 being the format for DVD, while Mpeg4 offers greater compression for online video. However, even these formats can cover a number of codecs -- a coder/decoder that compresses and then decompresses your video. Use the wrong one and few people will be able to see your work, so stick to commonly used formats such as Mpeg4.

Finally, to avoid future frustrations, ensure your PC is up to the task of editing video. Current CPUs can handle video editing fairly easily, but real-time Mpeg encoding benefits from the fastest single or dual-core AMD and Intel processors. You will need masses of RAM and as much hard disk space as you can muster.

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Rosemary Haworth

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