Webcam Demo with Windows Live Movie Maker 2011

I thought before diving into step-by-step procedures, file formats, and the other how-tos we are going to be reviewing with Windows Movie Maker I would do something quick (5 minutes or less) and easy (just a couple of clicks) to accomplish one of the things a teacher might want to do with video.  That is, make a personal introduction or quickly review a key concept.  Let’s let the video do the talking.

Here’s how it was done.

First, you have to have a Windows 7 compatible webcam.  Mine is the Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision.  As you can see, not an HD webcam (the aspect ratio is 4:3, not the more common—these days—16:9), and a couple of years old.  You can pick it up for under $50 now at Amazon, but when I purchased it I think it ran around $120.  You can get a great web cam for $120.

If you are like me, you have multiple microphones attached to your computer.  I typically use a USB mic to record screen video, but my webcam also has a mic built in.  I wanted to record the picture and audio from the same device (so I wouldn’t have to wear a headset in the video), so I first had to make the webcam mic the default mic.  To do this,go to the Windows Control Panel,click on Hardware and Sound (if you have your control panel organized in Category view), click Sound, click the Recording tab, and enable the webcam mic and make tit the default microphone.

webcam setup

While you are at it, be sure to select it, click properties, and check the recording levels.  They should be set about to 75%, but your milage may vary.  Don’t forget to set the default mic back where it was when you are done.

Open Movie Maker (if you read yesterday’s post and followed my suggestion, you will have pinned it to your Start menu and know right where it is).  Click the webcam icon on the Home tab of Movie Maker’s ribbon.

webcam icon

If this is the first time you have done this, a configuration selection dialog box will appear.  This box will only appear subsequently when you make a hardware configuration change affecting audio or video devices, but you can access it any time by clicking on the Movie Maker tab (what in an Office program would be the File tab or “Backstage View” tab on the far left of the ribbon) and choosing Options.  After setting configuration, a video preview window will open with a set of controls above it—about as simple as anything can get: a big red, round Record button; a dimmed square Stop button (dimmed because you are not yet recording); and a red X cancel button.  The rest of the ribbon disappears during your recording session.  Click the record button to begin recording.

Webcam Controls

Now, almost every guide I have read says to work from a script, rehearse what you are going to say, and be prepared.  Most of us do not do this most of the time, however, and just wing it.  I think most of us think that, unless it is a very elaborate project, it is easier to do take 2, take 3… than it is to spend a lot of time rehearsing.  The one thing I would recommend doing in advance though is making sure that the room lighting is adequate: not a great deal too much or a great deal too little.  Your camera will come with some software to help control contrast, brightness, and camera mirroring.  Most of us will not have time or resources to create a well lit, audio neutral recording environment, nor is there a crying need to spend a lot of time in setup, but just try to keep it from being far too dark or too washed out.

After you make your recording, save it with a memorable title.  It will be in WMV (Windows Media Video) format, which is fine for YouTube.  It is a snap to trim your video—beginning, end, or pieces out of the middle, but we’ll work more on that in another post.  For now, just click the YouTube button on the Movie Maker Home tab to upload to YouTube.

YouTube Button

First, you will be prompted for a movie resolution size.  Since my camera records in 4:3 aspect ration, my choices are the same.

Movie Resolution

Unless you have specific reasons for saving it to a smaller resolution (e.g., emailing it to someone, playing it on a handheld device) choose the highest.  YouTube will re-compress and scale it in any event.

After setting resolution, you will be prompted to sign-in to Windows Live—it’s all part of getting it for free—and after that, login to YouTube with your YouTube account credentials to upload the video.

That’s it.  The video is uploaded and ready to share (once it finishes processing) with the link or embed code from your YouTube site.