July 10, 2010

A quick guide to multimedia software

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An overview of software for multimedia editing, video hosting & podcasting

Target audience: Nonprofits, social change organizations, educators, NGOs, citizen journalists, media makers. This is part of Creating Media, our ongoing series designed to help nonprofits and other organizations learn how to use and make media.

By Kaitlin LaCasse and Laura S. Quinn
Idealware

Want to get started using audio or videos to engage your current supporters and pull in new ones? There are a number of tools that put multimedia within the reach of most nonprofits. In this excerpt from the Idealware Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits: Fundraising, Communications and Outreach, we explore three related multimedia topics. First, we take a look at multimedia editing software, which can help you whip your audio or video files into shape for public distribution. Then we explore how video sharing websites can help you put your video into the world. Finally, we talk about podcasts, a way to let people easily subscribe to audio or video shows.

Multimedia editing

Multimedia editing software gives you the capability to create videos or audio recordings with a level of a polish that used to require a lot of expensive hardware. Good editing takes time and some skill, but a number of low-cost, straightforward packages put the tools within reach of any nonprofit.

With audio packages, you can edit interviews for length, cut “um”s and pauses, and add music or voiceover introductions. Both GarageBand (for the Mac) and Audacity (for the PC or Mac) are free, solid tools that provide all the functionality you’re likely to need. If you’re eligible for the Adobe donation program through TechSoup, you may be able to get professional-grade Adobe Audition for a $35 admin fee.

Adobe Premier ElementsVideo tools let you cut out pieces you don’t want, splice different sections together, and overlay graphics and text onto your piece. You might join an interview with a constituent together with scenes of your program participants, and put a title screen at the beginning — and even upload it to YouTube with a single click.

For Mac users, iMovie (free with the Mac OS X operating system) is a great editing tool for simple movies. The free editing software available for PCs, on the other hand — like Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Systems’ VideoSpin — can be difficult to work with, and often imposes insistent front-and-center ads or confusing limitations on supported formats. For PC users, a good alternative is Adobe Premiere Elements (pictured at right, $15 for nonprofits on TechSoup, or the movie editor is about $79 retail), which provides friendly features very similar to iMovie.

[Editors note: There are also a few online video editing options, including Jaycut.com (free), Motionbox.com (free), Moviemasher.com (free & open source) and Kaltura (fee-based and open source, though these solutions have serious limitations.]

If you’ve outgrown the low-cost options, or want to create more robust animations or special effects, Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro provide logical stepping stones for Mac users, while Adobe Premiere Pro (a $70 admin fee for eligible nonprofits through TechSoup) is a popular option for both Macs and PCs. These products, all under $1,000 retail, provide all the power you’re likely to need. If you need more, consider hiring a professional video editor.

Video sharing websites

Videos can provide a compelling way to tell your story online. While they can be expensive to produce, both in staff time and actual money, video sharing websites let you upload videos to the web for free. Once they’re online, viewers can comment and share them with friends. In general, you maintain ownership of the videos you post, but you grant the site certain rights — before you post a video, read the site’s Policies and Terms carefully.

There are many free video sharing options, including YouTube , Blip.tv, Revver and Vimeo. DoGooderTV is geared specifically at nonprofits. Brightcove lets you show videos and video pages without any logo or branding for Brightcove itself, but starts at $2,000 per month. YouTube offers nonprofit-specific functionality, like the ability to create a branded YouTube channel, link calls to action directly in videos or accept donations directly through the video page.

Want to “go viral”? If enough people share a video, it can spread around the Web exponentially, eventually reaching an enormous audience — this rare, sought-after phenomenon is known as “going viral.” There’s no recipe for creating viral videos, but you can start by making sure it’s relevant and irresistible enough to compel people to share. And then cross your fingers.

Many of these video sharing websites also allow you to post the videos on your own Web page or blog. They provide HTML (the coding language of websites) code for you to copy and paste to embed the video. In most cases, the sites’ logos are displayed on these videos.

Podcasts: Hosting and directories

Podcasts are syndicated audio or video shows that allow people to subscribe. Once that’s done, whenever a new show is available, files are automatically downloaded onto subscribers’ computers. In fact, that’s the main difference between podcasts and other types of audio or video files — podcasts are subscription-based and downloaded via RSS so subscribers don’t have to seek them out.

Nonprofits can use them in a number of ways to create awareness or educate people about their causes. Podcasts can be useful to record and broadcast meetings, conference calls, speeches and more. Keep in mind, though, that creating polished multimedia content is time-consuming. If you have the audio or visual content or the experience to create podcasts, they can provide an interesting way to distribute information, but think carefully about the time involved before committing yourself to creating new multimedia content on a regular basis.

The first step is to record audio or video using a microphone or camera, and edit it using multimedia editing software like GarageBand or Audacity, mentioned above. Once you’ve polished the content and exported it into a standard file format, decide whether to post the podcast on your own site or on a site designed to store and share them, like Hipcast.com, LibSyn, Podbus, Ourmedia or others. These sites range from free to around $5 per month.

Once your podcast is hosted and published, people can subscribe via most RSS readers. You should also submit your podcast to a site like iTunes or Odeo that allows people to easily find it. On these sites, users search for podcasts or enter their Web addresses, and the site downloads the files directly onto their computers, iPods or other portable devices as soon as they are available.

More about the Field Guide to Software for Nonprofits: Want more information like this? These are only three of the 35 different types of software covered in the Field Guide – an 84-page paperback book. Through a friendly, easy-reference format, the Field Guide helps you pinpoint the types of software that can increase your organization’s effectiveness based on your needs and technical maturity. For more on the Field Guide, see www.idealware.org/field-guide.

This article is courtesy of Idealware, which provides candid information to help nonprofits choose effective software. For more articles and reviews, go to www.idealware.org. The article is republished from TechSoup and is licensed under a Creative Commons Noncommercial NoDerivatives license.

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