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I like to watch
Video blogging is ready for its close-up
BY MIKE MILIARD

MORE: The best of the rest - Six must-see video blogs. BY MIKE MILIARD

How to vlog: A step-by-step guide

Opening his sleek Powerbook G4, Steve Garfield shows just how easy video blogging really is. His favorite instrument is a simple Canon S-400 still-photo camera that also has video capabilities. (About the size of a pack of cigarettes, itís small enough that he can take it almost everywhere.) Holding it armís length away, he looks into the lens: "Hi, this is Steve Garfield, and Iím here with Mike Miliard in my living room. Iíve turned the tables on him. Heís here to interview me, and Iím interviewing him."

After filming for about 30 seconds, he pops out the cameraís Flash memory card and sticks it into a Flash card reader that he bought for about twenty bucks. (He could also hook a USB cable directly to the camera, of course, but this is faster.)

The clip appears on his computer as a 10 megabyte AVI file, which he then drags to his desktop. Garfield hosts many of his vlog posts on Vimeo.com, a free video hosting site that will hold up to 20 megabytes per week. (Sites like OurMedia.org and Blip.tv offer similar services.) To save space he often uses QuickTime Pro to compresses the file to a more manageable size, at the same time converting it from AVI to an MPEG-4 video. (Itís possible to post Windows Media, RealPlayer, or AVI files, too, but MPEG-4 is one of the most common: the high-quality format is QuickTime-friendly and it can be viewed on the video iPod.)

After logging into Vimeo.com, Garfield selects the clip from his desktop, gives it a title, and adds tags thatíll help Web searchers to find it. Then, with the click of a button, he uploads it to Vimeoís servers. "Add this clip to your blog?" asks Vimeo, above a window with several lines of HTML code. Yes, indeed. He then highlights the code, copies it, and, after logging into Blogger.com, pastes it into the template. On his blog homepage, rather than a text entry, thereís a QuickTime window, frozen in time. He hits play.

"The whole worldís seeing that now!"

_MM

» Video blogs
Ravi Jain Drive Time
Steve Garfield's Blog Soup
Amy Carpenter's Welcome to Amyville
Serra Shiflett and Mike MacHenry's Heads Off
Josh Kopin's What Is
Phil Hamilton Hits the Big Time
City Councilor John Tobin

» On the Web:
http://www.blogtelevision.net/
http://www.vidblogs.com/
http://www.vlogmap.org/
http://www.dtvmac.com/ (Mac only)
http://www.creativecommons.org/
http://music.podshow.com/
http://www.ourmedia.org/
http://www.feevlog.com/
http://www.freevlog.org/
http://www.vimeo.com/
http://www.blip.tv/

A pretty artist chats silently with a toy giraffe. A guy sifts through his garage-sale junk, reminiscing about his old new-wave buttons. A man driving in his car talks to his wife about their thrilling weekend jaunt to CVS. Band nerds kill time at a high-school football game while the gridiron jocks kill each other. These are the people in your neighborhood. And they want you to see what theyíre up to.

Once upon a time, blogging promised anonymity. One of its big selling points was that it allowed desktop philosophers to pound out their opinions and broadcast them to the world, all while wearing their pajamas. But the past year has seen a profusion of video blogging ("vlogging," if you prefer neologisms). People can now videotape themselves in their pajamas, and post it online with a few simple steps.

Itís the next stage in blog evolution. Cheap digital cameras, free editing software, and video-hosting services have made production and publishing easy as pie. RSS aggregation technology offers the means to distribute content to loyal viewers. Broadband connections make watching it a snap. And every new iPod comes equipped with video capabilities.

Even as the iTunes music store rushes to stock up on U2 videos and episodes of The Office, the increasing plenitude of video blogs points to a real democratization of media. No one owns the means of distribution anymore, so more and more people are making their own shows. Some offer scattershot glances at fleeting moments. Others are meticulously edited and set to music. There are video diaries. Self-produced sitcoms. Citizen journalism. Talk shows. These real-time glimpses into strangersí lives ó funny, serious, contemplative, provocative ó are almost always compelling. Sure, they vary wildly in quality. So do all blogs. Theyíre made by artists, news junkies, pop-culture addicts, high-school kids, even the politicians. And before long, they donít seem like strangers anymore.

THE VLOGFATHER

If anyone can be called the father of video blogging, Steve Garfield is him. And not just because his vlog was one of the first. The fortysomething Jamaica Plain resident, a freelance photographer and video producer, is one of vloggingís biggest proponents, a cornerstone in the burgeoning vlogging community. Just try doing a Google search on the subject without seeing his name or his wide-grinning mug pop up: "I want YOU to video blog!"

In late 2003, Garfield started thinking about how to integrate video with his text blog. "Iíd put video on the Web before, but combining the two, I donít know if anyone had really done it," he says. "I started experimenting with different ways to do it. There werenít the services we have now to help you." His first vlog post was on January 1, 2004, in which he anticipated, hopefully, "The Year of the Video Blog." Not long afterward, he found a guy on the Internet named Jay Dedman, a New Yorker who was doing similar things. The two started a Yahoo! video-blogging group with a couple other enthusiasts. "That group of three or four grew to 30 or 40," says Garfield. "And now itís 1600 worldwide. Itís amazing."

Garfield has two video blogs. The Carol and Steve Show is a charming episodic chronicle of his quotidian adventures with his wife ó biking around Nantucket, vacationing in California wine country, eating Thanksgiving leftovers ó complete with Seinfeld-esque theme music. Vlog Soup is his semi-regular round-up of the latest and greatest from across cyberspace. Heís also the Boston correspondent for Rocketboom, arguably the Webís most popular video blog.

Spend a few hours surfing his site and looking at clips, and itís easy to surmise that Garfield is addicted to vlogging. He wants to get others hooked, too. He proselytizes, offering tips on video-hosting sites, camera angles, lighting, and editing software.

Opening his sleek Powerbook G4, Garfield shows just how easy vlogging really is. He uses a simple Canon S-400 still camera that also has video capabilities. (He takes his "muse" almost everywhere he goes.) Holding it an armís length away, he looks into the lens. "Hi, this is Steve Garfield, and Iím here with Mike Miliard in my living room. Iíve turned the tables on him. Heís here to interview me, and Iím interviewing him."

Elapsed time from the moment Garfield picked up the camera to the moment the clip is online: about three and a half minutes. Of course, that was just a down-and-dirty demo (for a description of his process, see sidebar at right). Usually he spends a lot more time tweaking and editing his posts, using programs like QuickTime Pro or Final Cut to get them just right.

And why shouldnít he want his posts to look as perfect as possible? A lot of people are watching. Garfield says some of his posts get as many as 4000 views a day. "Since the video iPod came out, itís been more and more. There are people all around the world who are fans of The Carol and Steve Show."

Garfield isnít angling for stardom. Heís just got the itch to document his life. "I donít think itís a fame thing. Itís just a bloggerís mentality, that urge to create and share your thoughts," he says. "The video blog just enhances my posts. If there was no video, Iíd be like ĎMy wife and I went to wine country, and here are some pictures.í But this tells the story. And tells it in such a vibrant way."

Garfield sees himself as a collector of stories. He shares his own, and heís keenly interested in other peopleís. He keeps regular tabs on dozens of other vlogs, and after a while he starts to feel like their authors ó people heís never met ó are good friends.

There are so many uses for a video blog. The artist who wants to share his or her work with a worldwide audience. The emigrant who wants to show his or her family how life abroad is going. The citizen journalist who wants to provide a corrective to circumscribed corporate news. And itís so easy. And so cheap.

"At first, we were all worried, ĎWhat if we get popular? Itís gonna start costing us money,í" Garfield says. "Like, you want people to watch, but you donít because itís gonna cost you. But now, with sites like OurMedia and Blip.tv, you donít have to worry about it. Size and bandwidth issues are gone. There are no limits."

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Issue Date: December 16 - 22, 2005
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