YouTube and other online video sharing services are all the rage, getting plenty of attention along with some hefty lawsuits, such as Viacom's $1 billion complaint that YouTube has been allowing people to illegally post segments of the media company's copyrighted programs from MTV, Comedy Central and other channels.
While it's true that some users ignore YouTube's admonition — "Do not upload copyrighted material for which you don't own the rights or have permission from the owner" — there are plenty of people posting their own videos, which is exactly what these services are designed for.
If you've ever been tempted to create your own video, take heart. It's not that hard — and if you have a PC or a Mac chances are you have all the software you need. As far as a camera is concerned, all you need is a digital video (DV) camcorder, a webcam or even a cell phone or a digital still camera that takes video.
Recently, I've been using Movie Maker in Windows Vista to create videos for personal use and for CBSNews.com. Prior to that, I was using Movie Maker on Windows XP. My son Will uses iMovie, which is a highly acclaimed video editor for the Macintosh.
There are also a number of third-party programs available, including Studio from Pinnacle Systems and Video Wave, the video editing tool that comes with Roxio Easy Media Creator Suite, as well as some higher-end systems, including FinalCut Pro for the Macintosh.
If you're using a DV digital video recorder, your computer needs to be equipped with a "firewire" (technically, called a "1394" port) to connect your camcorder. All Macs have such a port, as do many Windows PCs. If you have a PC without a firewire port, you can add one via an internal slot on a desktop machine or a PC card for a laptop. There are also some video cameras, such as Pure Digital's Point-and-Shoot Camera, that connect via a USB port. If you're capturing video with your still camera (many have a camcorder mode), you can transfer it to the PC via the USB port or a PC card reader that can copy the video from the camera's memory card.
If you're using a camcorder, Windows or Mac will load the appropriate software to let you capture the video as soon as you connect your camera to the computer. And while different editing programs have slightly different methods, just about all will attempt to divide your video into clips that you can then drag into a timeline or storyboard where you can trim them, split them, or combine them. If you're using a still camera or USB video camera, your software will probably copy the video file to the computer, but your video editing program will have an import function that allows you to use that video.