Great article on writing clean code

Thursday, March 31, 2011 11:51

This is a really great article on writing clean code that can apply to any coding language.

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/html-css-techniques/top-15-best-practices-for-writing-super-readable-code/

Why Dreamhost? I get asked that pretty often.

Sunday, November 21, 2010 7:49
Posted in category General

In 2006 I made the switch to Dreamhost as my preferred web host. I don’t even remember the names of other hosting companies I have used but I’ve stayed with Dreamhost simply because what they offer as a hosting product 100% meets my needs and because I just like their attitude.

Initially I signed up with Dreamhost to take advantage of their 7 year anniversary special ($7.77 for a year’s hosting). At that point I honestly had no preference for them but just planned to enjoy the large storage and bandwidth offered for under $0.65 per month.

In those early days, most hosting accounts were not unlimited so the serious hosting search had to compare all the specs to find the best deal. Some would offer a certain amount of storage and/or bandwidth. Some would try to differentiate with a larger number of email addresses you could host and yet others would let you host more domains on the same account. When I signed up, Dreamhost was very competitive on all the going gimmicks with one exception. And, this illustrated one of the first reasons I’ve continued to stick with an recommend them. My storage and bandwidth limits, which were initially equal to or more generous than all the going gimmicky values grew each month I stayed with them. Before they went to unlimited everything like many other hosts do now my storage and bandwidth allotments were growing at a pace that I would never outgrow. What a great idea! I loved the concept and enjoyed watching the way they valued my ongoing commitment to them as a customer grow my storage and bandwidth allotment. This illustrates one of the reasons I have stuck with them. They are just different. While everyone else out there basically offers the same things in their hosting accounts I continue to find Dreamhost providing some, often small but valuable feature that sets them apart from all the other “cheaper” hosting programs out there. Usually it’s something that make me more proficient as a web developer/designer but sometimes it’s just something that makes me smile.

While many of the folks I’ve recommended to Dreamhost are happy with the services provided, I have recommended some friends to Dreamhost who were unhappy with the hosting… well, not really the hosting. Usually it was because something the person did in the setup or migration of a web site was not done properly and their sites were not working… and of course even a quick response by support is not quick enough in instances like this. And in actuality this is another area I’ve found the folks at Dreamhost to be very different in a good way. I love their customer support. When you are completing a support ticket they offer you the option of specifying both the urgency of your need and your familiarity with the technical issues surrounding it. When the matter is not urgent I can select an option like “This is not terribly time sensitive so answer when you have a minute please” but when it’s critical I can select the “OMG the world is falling apart and I can’t get anything done till you fix my problem” type status. Again, I love the ability to classify the severity of my need… even more I think I love that I can do it such a fun way. Also, I can specify something like “Overall I know my stuff, but speak slowly and carefully with small words when you reply” or something like “I probably know more about this than you do so just fix it quickly please and don’t worry about explaining”. Love the attitude.

I also love the support because I never get what are obviously copy/pasted responses and their system makes it super simple to respond to the email I get about my ticket while it takes care of updating the support ticket without me having to log into a stupid support ticket system. Oh, and I don’t have to wade my way through all their FAQ answers before I actually get to email my question and get a response from a real person.

Consistent improvement is another thing I like to see. The folks at Dreamhost must be constantly working on improving their service and adding features because they are regularly rolling out enhancements and features. Other hosts I have been with would roll out an occasional Cpanel update when that standard hideous application many hosts use is updated but Dreamhost has written and is constantly improving their own take on the web hosting panel… and I like it! When I log into the Dreamhost panel I’m not presented with a screen full of 1997esque (windows 1997 at that) icons that I have to scroll down through to figure out what they mean so I can get stuff done. There’s a simple left hand sidebar menu with all the stuff I need and as I jump from menu option to menu option the main section of the web page displays their custom built screens to manage the features of my hosting account. My early web hosting accounts used the standard Cpanel that most discount (and some premium) web hosting providers use and I’ve used Dreamhost. Both long enough to consider myself well versed in the usability of both. After an initial adjustment I have to say I prefer Dreamhosts… and I’m not dependent on a third party developer (the Cpanel company) to release an update and then on my host to implement it (if they upgrade at all…). Dreamhost is constantly improving and rolling out features to the superior (I know, my opinion but having used both extensively I’m entitled to it) panel they have developed and maintain.

This is probably the most significant differentiator to me. Having developed their own hosting panel they are able to plug some really neat features into it. The most notable to me at this point is the ability I have to be granted access to all or some of a client’s Dreamhost hosting account. With other web hosts I have to log out of one client’s Cpanel account (Even if they are using the same web host) and then remember their credentials to log into the next client’s Cpanel account. This costs me time and requires me to remember all sorts of URLs to get to their Cpanel log in as well as usernames and passwords for each account. With Dreamhost the client simply enters my email address in a text field, checks boxes for what hosting features I can have control of voila, I am an account manager on their Dreamhost account. The real beauty of this is that in the left sidebar of my panel account I have a list of accounts to which I have access. Swapping is as simple as clicking on the account’s name and now the whole panel interface is administering another client’s hosting account… no log out, no new URL, no new username, and no new password. One click and I’m on to the next client’s work saving me time and useless keystrokes.

Discount codes are another nice feature. Referring a web host you really like is one thing, but being able to do so by creating a discount coupon code for those you refer is a whole new ball game. I teach web design part time at a local community college. The college cannot provide web hosting accounts for each student. It’s important for the students to get the full experience of web hosting as part of their education. This discount feature became more important when I wanted to make it possible for students to have a reasonably priced hosting account while in classes. In addition to Dreamhost I contacted several of the “more popular” web hosts. None was willing to give the students a semester discount or other offer. However Dreamhost pointed me to the discount code path and I was able to create a special discount code for my students and require them to have a hosting account (which they get for a full year at a cost less than most textbooks they have to purchase for classes).

So there you go. A list of several reasons why Dreamhost is (currently) my preferred web host and has been since 2006.

Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S) vs iPhone 3gs

Thursday, August 12, 2010 17:18

*Easy… the first few paragraphs are about why I’m able to make this comparison… bear with me.

I find myself in a quandary. Apple says it’s AT&T’s fault and AT&T is pointing the finger at Apple. Either way, after Apple swapping out my iPhone a few months ago didn’t resolve my connectivity issues  (while I’ve continued to pay full monthly service fees) AT&T has been trying to prove the problem is not theirs but the iPhone I have. Frankly I don’t care whose fault it is. I want a phone that has quality audio while in a call and makes/receives calls without dropping signal and hence the call while I’m sitting at my home office desk talking to someone who is on a land line.

While my wireless experience on AT&T over the last three years (since switching from SPRINT after 10 years to get my iPhone) has been mediocre at best it really took a nose dive after my move to our current neighborhood. When we moved in a year ago the coverage map showed we were in an excellent coverage area. Since my persistent calls and reports of dropped calls or crappy signal the coverage map has been updated to only GOOD coverage all around my neighborhood. At least that changed.

I will give AT&T credit. There are some folks who have bent over backward trying to help, but I’m beginning to believe their employer has placed them in  kobayashi maru (yes! got a Star Trek reference in this one) situation. I’ve tried to emphasize to the customer service folks and the technical support folks I’ve talked with that, though I AM a very frustrated customer, I would do my best to not take out my frustration with AT&T on them personally. It’s always good for me to remind myself of that when I begin a call to complain to one of them.

The latest attempt to “solve” the problem was to provide me with a loaner Samsung Captivate to test drive and see if it experienced the same issues my iPhone 3gs experiences. This has given me a great opportunity to compare the two phones and below are my impressions and thoughts on both. (This is not meant to be a comprehensive and “scientific” review of the Captivate or exhaustive comparison of the iPhone 3gs vs the Captivate. Just my impressions having poked around on it for a couple of weeks.)

Form Factor
I have to give this one to the Samsung Captivate. I absolutely love the design of this case. Well, except the charger jack and how it’s concealed. It seems a little clunky and is awkward to get plugged in most times. I love that the Samsung is thinner than my iPhone yet a little wider. The extra width, plus the curved edges on the underside of the body make me feel much more confident I won’t drop it when picking up the phone or removing it from my pocket.

Weight
This one simply goes to the Samsung Captivate (Galaxy S). It’s not only thin, it seems to be half the weight of the iPhone.

Screen
Hate to throw this one to Samsung also, but it is one gorgeous screen. (Of course the battery demands is high to power that gorgeous screen, but it is gorgeous). In fact, this screen blows away the iPhone 4g phones I’ve seen and handled as well.

Battery
I’d call this a draw as far as the phone keeping a charge. In both cases I wish a charge would last longer on both phones. I don’t care how long the phone will sit on stand by when I don’t use the phone features so stop telling me that for comparison. I’d like to know how long it typically takes to charge the phone. How about how long each battery will last on 3G network when running Facebook, checking email, and surfing the web regularly. What about the same on wifi the whole time? What about on the Edge or whatever the carrier’s less than 3G network is called? Give us some stats worth knowing and comparing. Oh, and how long does the battery last… how many charges will it take? Can I expect the battery to last for one year? Two? Three?

A second battery related comparison, and this one goes to the Captivate/Galaxy S, is the ability to swap out the battery. I don’t want to have to send my phone off to Apple to replace the battery. With the Samsung I can access the case without breaking my warranty and replace the battery if needed.

Camera
I’m going to give this one to the Samsung as well. A 5mp camera for stills and video plus a number of controls (wow… takes a while to figure out all the settings and how to manipulate them) make the Captivate great for someone who wants a point and shoot still/video camera but doesn’t want to carry around two devices. The video is 1920x1080HD which is amazing for a cell phone camera. Not necessarily the cleanest HD I’ve seen but for a camera phone… very amazing. I usually have a hard time moving back and forth between the camera and gallery when reviewing shots and taking more but that’s software related and I’ll get to that in a moment.

Contacts Application
This is one for Android/Samsung. Even though the overall application navigation is less friendly when you are looking at a list of people in your contacts, touching a person’s picture, or where a picture would be if you had one, reveals a window with icons that lets you select to interact with that person based on the contact info you have stored for them. Press the envelope with the @ symbol and you are composing an email, press the phone icon and a call is underway, press the little contact icon and you are viewing their contact record. A great feature.

There is an item called Activities in the main group of choice of contact options (Contacts, Groups, History, Activities) that has nothing in and and I have no idea what to do with it. Annoying.

Incoming Phone Call
While the screen swipe necessary to wake the phone up or accept an incoming call takes a vigorous swipe to register, the real beauty of the Samsung incoming call application is the option to ignore with a set of text messages. Nice.

Usability
This is where the love really starts to shift back to my iPhone. And here’s a very simple example. Samsung Captivate has six buttons for overall interaction with the device. iPhone has two. One of the key rules I learned early on for usability was to not require users to learn new navigation systems across an application. I’m sure the Samsung (and Android) folks think they are providing more consistency by locking in the four buttons (menu, home, back, and search) on the device, but I find it more disconcerting than helpful as not all the buttons  always do the same thing when pressed. Specifically the menu button can have different actions (or none at all) depending on the application you are in. For some reason I find it bothersome that I can’t know what to expect when I click a static button.

For iPhone users copy/paste was a huge requested feature noticeably absent from the OS for quite some time. They said they wanted to make sure they got it right when they did release it and I have to say… they did! This is one of the most annoying (lack of) features for the Samsung. I have a very difficult time guessing where to touch the screen in a sentence to get the cursor before or after the precise letter I need to being my edits with. I miss my press and hold to see the spotlight to know exactly where I am and selecting chunks of text… hopeless on the Samsung.

Overall an annoying aspect of the Samsung (I acknowledge some of it can be the Android OS and apps running on the phone), which is supposed to utilize the fastest processor running Android, and a usability issue to me, is the lack of responsiveness of applications. While there are many hardware, network, and software factors engaged in each interaction the basic result is often lagging. On occasion I’ll click something and begin the long process of waiting on the screen to do something… anything. While it’s not frequent enough to say it’s easy to reproduce, it is frequent enough to make me long for my iPhone OS/device which occasionally leaves me waiting on the device to catch up.

Visual Voicemail
This is truly an annoyance. After 3 years with visual voicemail on my iPhone I have been totally frustrated with once again having to call my voicemail and cycle through each message and pressing a number (never can remember the numbers and have to listen to the instructions after each message) to save or delete the message. iPhone got this one totally right.

GPS
I would really like to be able to compare the capabilities of both phone’s using all the GPS features, but the Captivate’s GPS just doesn’t work reliably. I was excited to try the Google Maps with turn by turn directions but couldn’t. Whether I was in a rural area or metro area the Samsung phone simply lost GPS signal so often I gave up. Come to find out it’s a known issue with the Samsung. The phone comes with a nifty widget on one of the homescreens that will tell you if there’s gas, Starbucks, or other amenity nearby… problem is the widget doesn’t work and almost always says “Loading wait… Retry clicking on arrows”.

I could probably keep listing stuff on this, but then it would go on and on and on more than it already does. So I’m going to close it out for now and post. If I have any further monumental impressions I’ll update the post. If you are curious, despite some wins for the Samsung Captivate in the comparison, what I really want at this point is an iPhone that works on some network that gets reasonable coverage. Maybe the January rumors of the iPhone coming to Verizon will be a solution worth considering?

.

Hulu, Playon, Boxee oh joy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010 11:16
Posted in category General, Video, Web Video

So several years ago I began experimenting with alternatives for tv via computer. I’m old enough to remember when we actually paid for cable because there were no/less commercials. When did we start paying people to advertise to us?

Okay, enough of that rant. I don’t actually remember the names of some of the torrent clients I started playing with years ago, but for my tastes none of them were what I was after. Hulu was a fresh new approach and with my Xbox 360 and Media Mall’s Playon software I could stream their large but often limited library to my home theater projector. It was good. That was until the annoyance of the Playon software losing the connection and failing during the middle of shows outweighed the novelty of it.

Enter Boxee. I’m just beginning to experiment seriously with TV alternatives since I ditched cable for tv this month. Last night’s experiment was my MacBook Pro running Boxee software hooked up to my Sony XBR 32″ tv (amazing picture by the way Sony) and using my iPhone remote for controlling the MBP.

I have to say, it was very impressive. The only disappointments were the lack of subtitles being available (we have a deaf friend staying with us right now) and again, though a large library, big chunks of seasons of shows we wanted to watch missing.

I’ll keep poking around with Boxee and see how it performs. Wish it would hook up through my Xbox 360 to my home theater projector though. (hint hint hint folks at Boxee or some clever media software developer).

I’ll keep recording thoughts from my experiments here on the blog. Please feel free to share your experiences as well as we all work together to foster TV 2.0.

Facebook for Business: The Optical Centre, Inc in Longmont CO (an example)

Saturday, April 10, 2010 10:25

I recently collaborated through Colorado Video Cooperative to put together a video spot for The Optical Centre, Inc in Longmont Colorado. Jeff Lees, and the crew at The Optical Centre have made a commitment to exploring and implementing new mediums for advertising that’s pretty impressive.

While visiting with them putting together their video we learned that Jeff had been paying $430/month for Yellow Pages advertising and had determined it brought them little business, and definitely not $430/month of business, in the last year. So they bravely made the decision to dump the Yellow Book ads altogether in 2010 and apply more effort to taking advantage of the new advertising avenues that the Internet had birthed.

He explained that they had set up a Facebook fan page and in the first week it was live they had two customer purchases from the effort. We were obviously there shooting a video which has been posted to the COVIDCO channel on YouTube and was posted to their Facebook page, will eventually be on their web site and posted to their Google Local Business Ad.

This morning visiting their Facebook page I saw a great use of the fan page:
The Optical Centre, Inc, Longmont CO runs a weekly Friday promo sale
In this case they are sharing some interesting trivia and giving a great related-to-the-fact discount to anyone who brings in something specific to ask for the special pricing.

What are some of the reasons I think the efforts of The Optical Centre are so brilliant?

  1. Jeff and crew know their target client demographic is most likely going to be on Facebook over the Yellow Pages or other traditional print media
  2. They have not only embraced the new media, they are working regularly, although not spending all day plugged into it, to build their fan base and to stay in touch with them as more than just a static ad on a page
  3. They are not paying premium dollar to be compared side by side on the same page to all their local and national competitors (something you are doing if you are still pouring top dollar into the Yellow Pages btw)
  4. Their Friday Fun Facts are interesting AND totally trackable… they know exactly who came into the store because of their efforts
  5. In a traditional advertising model they would have spent some significant money to have a catchy ad designed which then got printed once or twice to a set circulation and maybe only offered one single special for the duration of the ads life – I could go on about details of this, but that might need to be another article altogether
  6. Jeff and crew are doing more than advertising, they are investing in developing relationships with their customers

I just have to give Jeff and crew props for bravely going where few even timidly are going before them. Now, Jeff and crew… where’s that OpticalCentreLongmont (or Great-Glasses) twitter account?

Fellow videographers/filmmakers — Don’t be fooled!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010 13:13
Posted in category Marketing, Video, Web Video

With the explosion of video online there is an equally growing number of companies seeking to take advantage of those of us who shoot and edit video.

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist because I don’t see this as a big conspiracy. Actually, I marvel at the prowess of these marketing moguls.

Initially there were two approaches to the rouse. In both of the approaches the national companies sought to enlist local videographers and filmmakers to shoot video for their companies to supposedly be profitable for both (did you ever notice you were never told what the cost to the company’s clients was… I’m just sayin’). One set of companies were seeking to sell clients on a specialized video for their business to be showcased on one of several national and local platforms. In most cases these clients payed an initial fee (as high as $1500 from what I’ve been told) to have their video created and then some recurring fee to what was often a middleman to keep the video on the web for their customers to see. The other set of companies was enlisting videographers/filmmakers to shoot generic videos, often how-to types of videos, which were placed online in some massive online searchable library. In this instance, there wasn’t a client so no initial or recurring fees were collected. However, the BIG payoff for these companies was the massive online traffic and subsequent advertising revenues.

In either case, the average payment to the videographers/filmmakers was around $200-$225 per video. Some would sweeten the temptation to the video/film folks by offering multiple segments in one assignment. On the surface the offer sounds really tantalizing. And for some video/film folks who are getting started it seems like a great deal to get paid for doing something you love to do.

Early on I recognized a major flaw in the system for these companies was their lack of a decent sales force in the field where the videos would be shot. The early business models were dependent upon either a detached middleman sales force, or a middleman with a local sales force but one who viewed and marketed the videos as an added value proposition rather than the product itself. They knew they had a problem. Recently one of those companies attempted to solve the problem (for themselves) by shifting to eliminate the middleman and further take advantage of the videogaphers/filmmakers under the rouse of offering a proposition where the video producers could make “as much money as they wanted to” by becoming the local sales force and offering a “free” video to any business (and if the business wanted to keep it online they could begin paying a monthly recurring fee after 6 free months or they could pay a hefty price up front -hefty enough to be a barrier to most of the businesses their sales force would be courting- to “own” the video outright). Sounds like a great deal for the video folks, right? Make as much money as you want doing what you love to do?! Everyone likes that proposition, right? Wrong and wrong.

So, I’m saying it out in the open now, the emperor has no clothes! Well, not literally, but all videographers and filmmakers should consider carefully before jumping in on some of these assignments. Don’t be drawn in by the rhetoric and take the time to step back, rub your eyes, and recognize what’s really happening here. For instance, the most recent adjustment of one company to allow you to pitch and shoot as many videos as you can give away. How much more money per video are you getting? $0.00 Yes, you are still being offered the same astounding $225 (often for $500-$1000 worth of work at going rates in your area). Who’s doing the majority of the work on each project? The company enlisting you or you? There was a time when one of these companies was getting $1,000 – $1,500 per video and you were seeing $225. You were creating the video that was necessary for the company to exist and they were throwing you a bone or worse the scraps from the meal. Now, not only are you still only getting $225 but you are providing a local sales force solving one of their greatest problems and costing them $0.00 for your added work.

So, I’m begging you. Don’t do it. While the lure of seeing income pretty quickly for doing that which you love stares you in the face, instead of buying into the false pretense go talk to some local small businesses yourself and see if you can work directly with them to shoot and edit a video they’ll love and then help them get it on their website and on their Google Business Ad. Charge them something that makes sense for the amount of work you are putting into it and something you and they can feel good about. Rather than just being a video person… now you are a partner in the success of their business.

COVIDCO – Video for your website, an idea whose time has come

Saturday, February 6, 2010 11:58
Posted in category General, Video, Web Video
Colorado Video Cooperative Logo

Colorado Video Cooperative

I teach part time at a local community college here in Longmont CO. In the summer I taught a videography course and have also been teaching web design/development related courses. Right after the director of the department I teach in recruited me for the videography course I got a second email from her inquiring if I was okay with going down what she saw as two paths… video and web. My answer was pretty simple, “Have you seen YouTube lately?” Well, that may not be exactly what I said, but it was the simplified essence of my answer.

While many people have not made the connection between web design/development and video, there are a number of organizations and individuals who are waking up to this simple reality. In response to this exploding convergence of technologies, inspired (and convened) by Craig Kendall of Kendall Media Group, several videographers/filmmakers in the Northern Colorado area, put their heads together to form the Colorado Video Cooperative, or COVIDCO. “The initial primary purpose for the gathering of my peers,” says Kendall, “was really to just get folks together who ‘did what I did’.” At that first gathering the name COVIDCO emerged and some ideas for what the group could become.

For about two years Kendall had already been envisioning a group of independent video gurus who could leverage their expertise and equipment to assist small and local businesses achieve their business goals and take advantage of the explosion of video on the Internet. In October Kendall shared his thoughts, dreams, and ideas with Brian Brown, a fellow video professional and videographer in Longmont, and also one of the original COVIDCO participants. In December the two invited Todd Geer of Video Facets based in Loveland CO to sit down and get serious about the idea. Kendall had shared the idea with Geer in 2008 while the two were lamenting the weaknesses in a similar model of a national organization doing something similar to Kendall’s own idea, but missing the local connection and not valuing the work of the video professionals who produced, shot, and edited the actual videos.

It was at a December 2009 breakfast that the trio got serious about putting some resources behind the idea. In weeks, the trio were shooting video, creating a website, exploring partnership ideas, and building momentum toward an exciting new option for local businesses to get their word out to potential customers. By the end of January two videos were posted to the COVIDCO YouTube channel and available to appear on the client’s websites.

If you are a local Colorado business owner check out the COVIDCO website and read more about why you should be considering adding or diverting funds in your 2010 marketing budget to adding video to your website.

Michael Bay, Transformers director on importance of sound in video

Monday, January 18, 2010 10:39
Posted in category Editing, Video, Web Video

Watched this awesome video by Michael Coleman on Vimeo about the sound design in the new Transformers movie. It’s interesting on many fronts, but one of the most interesting is a statement made by at the very beginning made by Greg Russell, Re-recording Mixer:

Michael [Bay] has always said sound is 50% of the experience of his films so therefore he puts a lot of effort into it.

“Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” Sound for Film Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

This is a great lesson for anyone doing video work these days. I’ve seen lots of video by folks who call themselves professional, but they put very little attention on the audio portion of the work they do. Some even simply record the audio for their work using the on camera mic. This year, take your video to the next level and get at least one good mic to begin to use correctly when shooting your video. Then pay attention to it in post production… maybe 50% of your post production time?

RealSki – Resort Technology Partners

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 18:54
Posted in category Just cool stuff, Sci-tech, Video

I’ve been going to the Boulder Denver New Tech meetup for about a year now. It’s always interesting and fairly often we get to have an aha moment when some company unveils something they are working on to the group. Last night was one of those times.

Resort Technology Partners presented their RealSki iPhone app which, pending Apple App Store approval, will be available soon to those of us who enjoy the winter downhill sport. RealSki is a augmented reality app which allows a user to take advantage of their video capabilities to scan the landscape of a ski resort to locate runs and landmarks. As I watched a video of the app being demonstrated I just had to say… WOW!

The app will come in two versions. Free with five maps (including Copper Mountain for those of you in CO). Then you can add additional maps for only $0.99 per map. They will test the app for a short time, then plan to have 100% of North American ski destinations available by the end of 2010.

You may be familiar with augmented reality if you’ve seen Urban Spoon’s scope feature or the new Twitter 360‘s visualization capabilities.

It’s not just the coolness of video location, it’s the realization, like the first time I saw my son communicating with a friend during an Xbox 360 game, that you are watching something that is going to change the face of how we communicate forever. It was awesome! Can’t wait to download my copy of RealSki.

(More Than) Video Camera Required

Thursday, November 26, 2009 10:34
Posted in category General

As the online video world explodes and the cost of quality video hardware continues to become more and more reasonable, it seems I’m seeing more people entering the videographer pool… well, at least that’s what THEY say about themselves.

There’s an old song the Smothers brothers did on their show (I know, dating myself here) called The Cowboy’s Lament. The lyrics the Smothers Brothers sang are:

As I walked out on the streets of Laredo.
As I walked out on Laredo one day,
I spied a young cowboy all dressed in white linen,
Dressed in white linen as cold as the clay.
“I can see by your outfit that you are a cowboy.”
“I see by your outfit you are a cowboy too.”
“We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy too.”

The humor of course is that merely wearing a cowboy outfit does not make you a cowboy (seen City Slickers?) any more than having a killer video camera makes someone a videographer (worth entrusting your project to).

Producing a quality video product is more than a great camera is the point here. There are many more elements to telling a digital story well than just setting up a great camera and capturing the images and sound.

So here’s the conundrum. Most clients who enlist the services of a “videographer in uniform only” are often so enamored with anything created that they feel ownership, or creative ownership, of that they cannot truly view it with a critical eye. As videographers of course we view every moving image creation with a more critical eye than the consumer, but it’s not this one that I’m speaking of here… it’s the beautiful baby syndrome I’m speaking of here. I’ve seen some really ugly babies before that parents just can’t admit are, well, not the most beautiful kid in the nursery.

So the point of my rant is not so much about who you should hire to do your video project as much as a plea to all those who have cameras, promote themselves as videographers, but have not taken the time to truly learn the craft so your clients will get the best product for their money.

Teaching videography at local schools has helped me realize how many truly great resources are out there in printed form and online for those of you willing to step it up a notch. Here’s a couple of great online resources that can provide some of the most basic, or advanced tips to help anyone shoot and edit better video:

Metacafe’s Production School

The Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School

Izzy Video’s Facebook page

YouTube (just search on film making)

So, if you are going to get out there and make use of your camera to help other folks make great digital stories… PLEASE, learn some of the really simple basic techniques that will provide the value your clients should have.