Meet-Up Idea: Have An On-line Video Review At A Local Cafe

People have shared stories and knowledge with each other for thousands of years. They gathered their friends, family and peers around the campfire and town commons to tell great stories and perform theatrical plays. We, as video producers, are following in this tradition. And our new online video technologies do not change this basic path.

Finding Online Video

Great videos can be found in many places on the internet. Online video-sharing websites offer massive selections of video, albeit with various video qualities. If you’re billing your event as “high quality,” then you want to find online videos that are at least 480p resolution. Projected video with lower resolution may result in garbled, or soft video. You’ll want to select an online video site you want to use to watch videos (YouTube, Vimeo, Miro, Motionbox, etc.) and conduct a search for your desired topics. Some video-sharing sites have playlists pre-made, as channels such as Bass Fishing or Arts & Crafts. But you’ll likely want to make your own custom playlist, using the tools supplied by the video-sharing site. Making a playlist allows you to view all your favorite videos in one video player, but you may have to register with the site to use this feature. Now, you have the “content” for your community screening all in one place, and you won’t have to go seeking around the ‘net during the show!

Finding Your Location

Many cafes, restaurants and community centers offer different forms of entertainment throughout the week. Why not a video screening? Be sure to approach an event space that can accommodate your expected number of video viewers. A cafe may hold twenty to thirty people, but, if you’re aiming for a hundred, you’ll want to investigate renting a larger space, such as a hall or auditorium. Also, it’s a good idea to consider the available space for your audio and video equipment. Is there room for a large projection? Will your PA system blast audio that might disturb the neighbors? Will uncovered windows be an issue? Make sure the house lights (lighting that controls the overhead room lights) aren’t wired to another light switch that can be accidentally turned on during your show. Obtain the contact information for a few local venues and select the one best suited for video.

Advertising Your Event

Your video screening can include a mix of friends, family and even random bystanders. For a public event, you’ll want to include general information (time, location, seating) in your ad, along with specific info like the genre of videos being shown. Paper posters and 3×5 cards work well for tacking to bulletin boards and handing out. Also, by advertising your event at businesses you regularly patronize, along with online forums you frequent, you’re assured a good mix of video enthusiasts. Post a new thread online at your favorite forums or blogs, explaining your event. A great online community for local information is Craigslist.org. There you can post your event next to others in your area. You may find a few more people wanting to show off their videos, too!


Video Screening, with a Twist

Now we’re ready to take online video into the real world. But what equipment will it take? There are three basics: a computer, projector and an internet connection. The computer you use can be a laptop or desktop model. Netbooks usually don’t have the specs to play online video smoothly and may not have the necessary connection for a video projector. So be forewarned! Your computer should have an Ethernet port or wi-fi antenna to connect to the internet, an audio-out port and a video-out port. There are several different types of video-out ports, so make sure you bring adaptors if necessary (for example, DVI to VGA). While the speakers in your laptop should be OK for the smallest of small events, you’ll want a speaker system with some kick. Bring a 1/8″ to RCA audio cable to connect your laptop’s audio out port to the PA system. Next, use a video projector that offers a resolution of at least 800×600. This is a standard on most office projectors that can be rented or bought. For higher quality, look for an HD projector that uses scaling. Even though your web video may not be HD, using a projector like this can increase the clarity of your video.

Your “movie screen” can be made by hanging a white sheet or using a smooth wall to project onto. Even a large dry-erase board will do. Though projectors will shine on almost any reflective surface, a real movie screen is best. Used movie screens can be bought at yard sales for as little as $20 and include tiny metal flakes which give your videos a vibrant feel.

Last, but not least, is your connection to the internet. Most cafes offer some kind of wireless internet these days, but it’s a good idea to test the connection before your event. If your chosen location doesn’t have Wi-Fi already, you can use a USB 3G wireless card to get access to the internet over the cell phone network. As a final tip, you may decide to open up each video in your trusty playlist before starting your event. This allows each video to fully load, which improves playback performance when all eyes are watching the show.

Closing

With online video, it’s easier than ever to bring the world to your community, and vice versa. Creating local events is one way to connect with people in a genuine way, where you meet new people in your community and see people you knew only at online communities. Now you have the tools to bring the online world to the real world. End story.

Contributing editor Andrew Burke has produced video on several continents.

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