Ideas and Information from a Maui Perspective

Visual Communicator -- An all-time favorite for its utility and design

By Steve Rose
Friday, October 25, 2002

Creating Instant Video Content, Painlessly – My Favorite Application


Creating video with Visual Communicator is fun.  The net output typically looks like the evening news, but it can be used for more formal video editing as well. It makes it a snap to do reports, presentations, video newsletters, and commentaries.  If it takes you 30 minutes to prepare a for a one minute daily video report, Visual Communicator will have the report finished in 31 minutes. 


You can use any text editor, or VC itself, to prepare the script.  From an external editor, cut and paste it into the VC teleprompter (which appears at the top of your monitor, just below the camera).  Set the teleprompter speed to correspond to your delivery and the time alloted (this will probably take some experimenting), then put icons for scene transitions, titles, music, cuts, disolves, or moves to other clips, run through a rehersal, and go.  There is no penalty for doing a take the first time, as you can record anew as often as you like, but rehersal mode allows you to restart in the middle.  OK, 33 minutes, but still really fast.


Placing transitions and effects in your program could not be easier.  A little tray icon holds a symbol for the transition type, the next source of video, and optionally any additional audio.  Changing the transition, audio, or source is a simple drag and drop operation, as is changing the timing of the transition!  VC will even automatically allot the time for a video clip, if desired, so that in and out points are automatically and perfectly set.  VC also gives you the ability to pretrim the clip to the exact desired length.


Green screen effects are achieved by putting a sheet of green material behind the subject.  Where ever the camera sees green, it substitutes another image source.  The background image source may be a static image or video, including your own.  This means that you can shoot an interesting video at your desk, although you can also use a set (or include a green screen effect in a set).


The "green screen" chromakey is smart, in that it calibrates itself to background variations and doesn't require perfect lighting.  It can actually use any color.  However,careful attention to lighting is still called for (an excellent manual is included with tips for best results).


The quality of the output will be directly related to the quality of the camera.  It is possible to use a webcam with Visual Communicator, but far better quality is obtained with a DV Cam with a 1394 interface.  This is true regardless of the the output format chosen, since the best compression can be obtained with the cleanest input video (noise does not compress).  Output formats range from dialup data rates to DV output quality.


I'd love to continue, but you get the message: For $100, VC is an amazing bargain ($150 with a green screen and microphone).  Whether you are a beginner or an expert, it belongs in your arsenal of video tools.


Check it out:


Steve Rose


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