Create, share, and play video in Android

Here's how to get more fun from your phone's camcorder features and great video apps.

Whether you're a videophile or a casual videographer looking to capture life's precious moments, your Android phone can help you grab plenty of footage and share it with the world. And, with the help of a few choice apps, you can even carry and play movies right on your phone.

Capture Video

Android includes robust capture capabilities that are limited only by the power of your phone's built-in camera. Though that doesn't mean a complete HD experience on most devices, it does mean your phone can serve as a suitable stand-in when your camcorder is out of reach.

To start shooting video on your phone, launch the Camera app and toggle it to Video mode by tapping the small camcorder/camera switch on the right side of the screen. (This step should seem obvious to most readers, but it's important to hold the phone horizontally as you shoot, since there's no such thing as portrait mode in video.)

While the camera's default settings generally do a good job of automatically compensating for various lighting conditions, you can also fine-tune your capture settings by tapping the Menu button on your phone and choosing Settings. Here you'll find options for adjusting the capture quality, video duration, white balance, and color effects.

Most of the time you'll be shooting in high quality, which can take up a fair amount of space on your phone's SD Card. However, if you're planning to share your videos via MMS messaging, shoot them in low quality to make sure they'll be small enough to send. You can set video duration to 30 seconds (which is good for MMS), 10 minutes (the maximum length for YouTube), or 30 minutes (which is pretty darn long).

Auto white balance is enabled by default, and usually the results are decent. But if you plan to stay in one place while shooting, it's best to select your white balance manually, according to the lighting in your environment. Android's Camera app gives you options for incandescent lighting, daylight, fluorescent lighting, and cloudy days.

If you want to get fancy (some might say obnoxious), you can also opt for color effects, applying a sepia tone, a negative effect, or a colored tint to your footage. But honestly, if you really want to be creative with your video, just export it to a video-editing program on your PC and make changes there. The results will be better, and you won't mar your original footage in the process.

When you're happy with your settings, tap the red Record button on the screen to start capturing. And when you're done, tap the same button to save the recording to your SD Card.

Share Your Videos

To share videos from your phone, simply tap them in the Gallery to open them. You can get to the Gallery from your phone's app menu, or by tapping the Gallery icon in the upper-right corner of the Camera app. Tap and hold a video until the context menu pops up, and select Share to view a list of apps that can send your video to friends. You should see options such as Gmail, Messaging (for MMS), Twidroid (for Twitter), and YouTube.

Bear in mind that certain methods of sharing video will have limitations. As mentioned above, if you want to share your videos with friends via MMS, it's best to shoot in low quality and to keep the message shorter than 30 seconds. YouTube videos can be high quality, but must be less than 10 minutes in length.

You can also opt to start a video recording from within Android's Messaging app. To do this, tap Messaging in the app menu, select a recipient, and then tap the Menu button on your phone and choose Attach. Next, choose Capture video. By default, Messaging will set your recording quality to low and give you a 30-second countdown timer to help you keep your video to the appropriate length. If you're not happy with your video on the first take, tap the Retake button and try again. When you're satisfied, tap OK; Messaging will then convert your video into MMS format. Finally, tap Send to fire it off.

If you feel like doing a little live broadcasting, you can. A free app called Qik, available from Android Market, gives you the ability to record and stream video from your Android phone to a free account on Qik.com. There'll be a short delay of a few seconds as the video uploads to Qik's server, but to your viewers it's as good as a live TV feed.

Play Movies and More

For entertainment on the go, you can copy video files to your phone and play them back anytime. A free utility called Videora runs on your Windows PC or Mac to convert DVDs and other video content into a format that will play on various Android phones from HTC and Motorola. Though the legality of this process will depend on the type of content you're converting, the process itself is simple. Bear in mind, however, that a full-length movie can take more than an hour to convert.

Alternatively, the HandBrake utility can also convert movies to assorted formats. If you choose HandBrake as your video-conversion tool, try a free Android Market download called LukLuk to play videos in a wide variety of formats, including 3GP, MP4, and WMA. And if you register LukLuk, you can gain access to a selection of premium streaming movies and TV content.

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Robert Strohmeyer

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