What Can My Public or Government Agency Livestream About?

What Can My Public or Government Agency Livestream About?

Livestreaming represents an enormous opportunity for public agencies. Whether you’re a water district, an air district, a health department, a police or fire agency, or any other number of public entities, livestreaming lets you reach out and connect with the public in new and exciting ways.

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Please Cut Here: Programs To Help You Get Started With Video Editing!

I've noticed that more and more communicators, public information officers and organizations want to get started with basic video editing, yet the choices (and complexity) of video editing programs can be confusing. Here's some basic information and software options to consider as you start creating your own great video content.

Typical editing timeline (Adobe Premiere Pro CS6).

Typical editing timeline (Adobe Premiere Pro CS6).

Video Editing Workflow
Most video editing programs are based upon a similar workflow: You import all the video clips you've shot with your camera into an editing "bin." You then use your mouse to drag clips from the bin into a horizontal editing space called the "timeline" and arrange the clips in the order you want them. You can trim the beginning and end of the clips so each starts and ends exactly where you want. The timeline has multiple layers, so you can layer "cutaway" shots over top of your main video track. Then, apply "transitions" (such as dissolves, wipes, or zooms) between the segments wherever you want to add special effects. Drop in some titles using the program's text editor, perhaps a music track, and you're ready to output your production to a YouTube-friendly format for distribution via social media.

All programs do these basics, but the differences between a more expensive video editing program and a cheaper one come down to capabilities and professional features. A less-expensive program will be more limiting, but may in fact do what you need it to do to get started producing basic videos for your social media sites. Here are some free or relatively low-cost options for both Windows and Mac users.

For PC, the most basic and best-priced (free!) is Windows Movie Maker 2012, which can be downloaded free from the Microsoft site. It requires a PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8 (which may pose an issue if you work for a government agency that still views Windows XP as cutting edge! In that case, download Windows Live Movie Maker 2011).

Lightworks is an award-winning editing program that has a free version as well as a paid version with a $60/year licensing fee. Obviously, the free version has far fewer features, but may be a great way for you to get started. (Check it out here on the company's site, as well as in this review I found from ZD Net).

Adobe Premiere Elements 11

Adobe Premiere Elements 11

A step up to low-cost purchased software would be Adobe Premiere Elements 11, a less-capable version of the full-featured Adobe Premiere Pro. (View info here on the Adobe site). It can often be purchased for around $80, or bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements for around $125. I personally like this as an entry point, because once you realize how much you love editing, you'll want to go all Hollywood and advance to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6!

Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 Suite sells for less than $100. It uses the familiar timeline editing approach and has lots of effects and output options. (See it here). For about $125, Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 Suite adds in additional transitions and more professional tools, including Sound Forge Audio Studio software (great for producing podcasts!). (See it here). Sony does a great job with their software, and has a higher-end video editing product line called Sony Vegas.

Cyberlink Power Director 11 has Deluxe, Ultra, Ultimate and Ultimate Suite versions ranging from $70-$225 (depending on what level of adjectives you're comfortable with!). For example, the $115 Ultimate version includes 22 effects from the highly recognized effects company NewBlueFX, as well as Cyberlink's own Creative Design Packs. (Check it out here).

Other programs to check out, some of which sell for only around $50, include Corel VideoStudio Pro X5, MagixMovie Edit Pro, AVS Video Editor and Pinnacle Studio 16.

Apple iMovie 11

Apple iMovie 11

For Apple users, there's iMovie 11. It's part of iLife '11 and included with every new Mac computer. Among its capabilities are templates that allow you to produce movie trailers, a fun feature when you're trying to build buzz on Facebook or Twitter for your organization's program, product or service.

Unlike many other programs, the professional level of Apple editing is not super expensive. Final Cut Pro X is only $299, way below the normal $500-and-up price point for other pro-level programs. (See it here).

Adobe Premiere Elements is also available for Mac (view info here).

(I'll have more extensive information about Mac editing options in an upcoming post, but just wanted to mention a few of the top choices).

A Word About Hardware
Before purchasing any video editing program, it is essential to check the System Requirements for the product, and see if the computer you're going to run it on meets those requirements. I work with a lot of government agencies and associations, and generally find that the standard-issue computer from the I.T. department is not properly configured to give you a satisfactory editing experience. Video files are big, so you need plenty of hard drive storage (including an external drive or network location for backup), plenty of ram, a speedy dual or quad-core processor and a decent-size screen. You will also want to have Administrator access to your computer, because you need to be able to download updates, plug-ins and add-ons periodically to keep everything up to date and give you additional features.

Adobe Premiere Elements 11 editing interface

Adobe Premiere Elements 11 editing interface

My Recommendation!
Here's the deal: Any software program you choose will have a learning curve, especially if you're starting from scratch and don't have experience editing. My preference is to stick with the major companies whose products range into the professional realm, such as Adobe, Sony and Apple. That way, as you (or a member of your staff) becomes more proficient at editing, there will be an upward path to a pro-level of the product without having to learn another entirely new interface. There is so much helpful free training on line that it is never hard to get a fast answer via Google search to a vexing question about how to accomplish a specific task with your editing program. I don't necessarily subscribe to the notion that low-cost, less-featured programs are easier to learn. Not every one is as intuitive as it could be or has the input of a vast user base of experienced users helping to make it better. It is very possible to install the full-featured Adobe Premiere Pro and just begin by using basic cuts, dissolves, and a YouTube export pre-set at first. Then, over time, you'll learn more features as you need them.

Video editing a great skill to have, and if you handle communications for your organization, it is a capability that is absolutely worth learning - not only for the benefit of your agency or company, but to your career advancement as a cutting-edge communicator!

Let me know how it goes for you, and be sure to sign up to receive my periodic free resources via my home page at www.KerryShearer.com .

Kerry Shearer is a broadcaster, communicator, social media/communications consultant, and Chair of the National Public Health Information Coalition's Web and Social Media Committee. He's a frequent emergency communications trainer and speaker at national conferences on social media and web audio/video techniques.

Social Media Savvy: Getting Started with Video to Effectively Communicate

YouTube Logo 256x256.jpg

Web video is exploding in popularity, with over 800 million unique visitors watching over 4-billion hours of video each month on YouTube alone! And with more agencies and organizations participating in social media spaces like Facebook and Twitter, it's important to realize that videos get more clicks and "shares" from users than plain old text-based content alone. So how do you get started creating your own content? It's easier than you might think! Here are some tips:

What To Share
Your agency does many everyday activities that can make great video content. Holding a conference or on-site forum? Do a brief recap video summarizing the key points. Holding a community event? Release a promotional video in advance, then post a quick "update" during the event itself for immediate sharing. Got a hot topic making news in your are of influence? Sit down with your subject matter expert and do a short interview concisely covering what people need to know. Getting unfairly bashed by the media? Shoot your own video telling the whole story.


You don't need to spend a lot to get a good video camera. The Kodak Zi10 (currently available for about $99 on Amazon.com) is the only small pocket camera of its kind with a removable SDHC memory card and a connector to plug in a microphone. Another option is the iPhone or iPad. The newest models have excellent built-in cameras that record in HD, and tripod mounts are available so you can shoot rock-steady shots. Canon Vixia video cameras are known for great quality and start at about $300. If you plan to shoot a lot and have the funds available, you may wish to invest in a more expensive camera with better image sensors and professional audio connectors. (Visit my web site at www.KerryShearer.com for recommendations on all these options).

Audio Technica ATR-3350 wired lavaliere microphone - less than $20

Audio Technica ATR-3350 wired lavaliere microphone - less than $20

Lesser-quality video is forgivable, but poor quality audio is not. That's why you never want to use a camera's built-in microphone to record interviews; it will sound hollow or echoey when the person speaking from several feet away. When buying, choose a camera that allows you to plug in an external microphone. Inexpensive cameras use a 3.5mm connector (the size of a mini headphone jack). Higher-cost cameras ($1,800+) use heavy-duty 3-pin XLR audio connectors, the professional standard. Clip-on lavaliere, hand-held, or wireless mics are available no matter what kind of connector you have.

Shooting Video
If you have a high definition camera, always shoot in HD, which creates a widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) image at the highest quality. Even if you are going to output the final product in standard definition widescreen format for the web, it will look a lot better if the original footage is HD. Make sure you have adequate lighting, and never shoot interviewees in front of an office window, as the backlighting will fool an inexpensive camera's auto-exposure mechanism and darken the image. Use a tripod whenever possible. Most cheap tripods don't allow for smooth panning or tilting, so get a fluid-head tripod if the budget allows. Be sure to capture a variety of wide, medium and tight shots to allow yourself plenty of editing options. If you go hand-held, hold the camera securely with both hands and lock your elbows to the sides of your torso, When you pan left or right, move your entire upper body. This will allow much steadier shots. During interviews where an off-camera producer is asking questions of your subject matter expert, place the producer just to the side of the camera so the interviewee is not looking directly into the lens.

Transferring Your Video
Once you have recorded all the elements of your video, it is time to transfer the files to the computer. Because virtually all of today's cameras capture video directly to memory cards instead of old-school DV tape, the process is fast and easy: you can simply place the memory card into a card reader connected to your computer and drag the video files right onto your computer’s hard drive and start editing immediately. Many cameras also allow you to connect to your computer via a USB cable to transfer files.

Video Editing Programs
Whether you are PC or Mac-based, there are many editing program choices. For PC, the most basic (and perhaps least versatile) is Windows Movie Maker, which can be downloaded free from the Microsoft site. Next up is Adobe Premiere Elements, a less-capable version of the full-featured Adobe Premiere Pro. For Apple users, Adobe makes a Mac version of Premiere Pro. Or, you can use Apple’s iMovie, the less-expensive version of its pricier Final Cut Pro X. If you plan to invest some resources, consider Adobe's CS6 Production Premium suite. It's expensive, but offers a whole suite of integrated programs to aid you in your productions, and the overall cost is far less than buying the programs individually. These suites typically contain programs that allow you to manipulate and prepare still images, create compelling animated opens and closes for your videos, and burn DVDs with menus. If you're shooting on iPhone or iPad, download Apple's $4.99 iMovie app. You can edit and upload right from your i-device!

How To Edit
You’ll need to dedicate some time to learning the video editing program you select. But they all use the same concept: You drag your imported video clips down what is called the editing “timeline” and line them up in the order you want to use them. Selection tools let you trim the starting point and ending point for each clip. You can then apply video effects, such as a smooth “dissolve” between clips, or perhaps a “wipe” or “zoom” transition. Editing programs offer many options – the key is to keep it simple and not overuse effects, which can dilute the impact of your production if not used effectively. The timeline offers multiple “layers” of audio and video, so you can stack effects. For example, you might have a medium shot of the on-camera host on video layer one, then put an over-the-shoulder graphic on video layer two. The host's audio would be on audio layer one, and background music on audio layer two.

Outputting Your Completed Video
Once your production is done, it’s time to output it. The great thing is that video editing programs have export "presets" for specific services, such as YouTube or Vimeo. For example, when I export videos, I generally use the "YouTube HD" preset, which creates a high-def file in a web-friendly H.264 compression standard format. I also recommend saving a copy of your project in its full, original quality (usually .AVI or .MOV). You can also burn the project to DVD.

Producing your own web videos can be very beneficial for your agency and really ramps up your social media engagement. It allows you to create content quickly and update it as often as needed. Start simple, and expand as you develop more skills.

I'll be posting training on my web site to help communicators develop their video, audio and social media skills. Please visit www.KerryShearer.com to be notified about free training materials as they become available.

Have fun, and I'll look for you on YouTube!

Kerry Shearer is a broadcaster, communicator, social media/communications consultant, and Chair of the National Public Health Information Coalition's Web and Social Media Committee. He's a frequent emergency communications trainer and speaker at national conferences on social media and web audio/video techniques.