Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pixorial Online Video Service Review

A couple weeks ago I was offered a chance to try out a new online video service thanks again to Silicon Valley Moms blog. In the interest of full disclosure, Pixorial gave me a $50 credit so I would be able to upload content to play with, and a Pro membership (value $24.50). One of the most unique features of this new site is the ability to digitize any form of video. While so far I've only uploaded videos from my Canon digital camera and Flip, I know we've got our wedding video on cassette, and I can bet my dad's even got some old movies on reel to reel. We also have a continual problem with various tapes and DVDs that come with a couple different video cameras we own. The idea is to ensure all the movies are safe and can be seen, in the founder's words:

"Pixorial was created to make it easy for you view, safeguard, and share your most cherished memories with the ones you love.

The site was fairly straightforward to use. As I said I haven't sent in any video, but you can find a review of someone who has here. I chose the upload feature and have uploaded about 8 videos of various lengths. It take a while, and because of the unique digital conversion, you can only upload one at a time, but I'm hoping eventually you can do more than one. I did create a really long movie using the Flip video software and piecing together a bunch of videos, and I could not upload that, so I'll be asking them about whether it's the format or the length. They are very responsive to questions, wonderful customer service, I just haven't gotten around to asking.

Once you have your videos in your media section, you can edit your footage. This way you can pick certain "scenes" or sections of your video. In my case I grabbed just a few seconds of some Guitar Hero playing, split up two different songs from Donovan's graduation, and grabbed about 30 seconds worth of Keegan's entire first grade concert. It's very simple editing, easy to fast forward to the parts you want - doing it directly, or using these cool (virtual of course) magnets to pull the ends of your scenes. I know they are working on an upgrade to the user interface, as right now it's a bit confusing. View to create the scenes, and Edit to produce a show from those scenes. Or go directly to the Produce tab. Here are some screen shots to illustrate, hoewver there are very easy to follow tutorials on the site itself.

After you've created your scenes you can then Produce a Show using the scenes or adding the master, which would be the whole video. There are then options for transitions and titles. I think there could be a lot more too this, and I'm sure they are working on this aspect. On another online video service I've been able to add more color, text right on the video, fun effects (which are in process) and other features. It was quite fast, though, once I got the hang of it.

The third step is share, which might be a DVD or a whole set of them for a volume discount. You can create covers for your DVD as well. I'll be creating one of these for my mother-in-law, since her computer is usually a little too slow for video links. Those all cost something, but you can share on facebook, email a link or embed as I've done below for free, or download a Hi Res version for $1.99. The emailed links takes you to the video, with an option to copy the link or the code for embedding. You can even create a mosaic of a picture of your choosing with thumbprints of the videos, which sounds like a fun idea.

I also posted this on facebook, which took about 10 minutes to appear in my email and was really easy to throw right on my wall. The link worked really well.

There is a free membership offer right now, so you can head on over to sign up. I'll report back once I've located and sent in my "analog" videos. You can even send in a memory card and they will upload all the videos on there, so I may do that as well.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Super Why Camp Activities

As part of our SuperWhy event a few weeks ago we took home a package of activities, just a subset of what PBS brings to their great looking summer camps. There were a few worksheets for each day, corresponding to the superhero Super Why characters. I have to admit, the stars must be aligned, the bribes offered and the energy exhausted to get my boys to actually sit down with crayons. They love the idea of coloring and cutting and gluing, just would rather be outside playing soccer. So it took me a while to get this going, and we ended up doing the first activity in one day, the rest another (instead of one per day).
On the first day you ask a series of questions on day 1 then again on day 5, to see what they learned. Great idea, no tricks, just imparting a love of learning with familiar stories, super powers and solvable problems. For the activities the kids transform themselves into the characters, so they get the powers and do the work. I loved the idea, kids not so thrilled.

As you can see, here is Keegan who has transformed into Alpha Pig. Keegan was enthusiastic, bordering on whiny, wanting to do the worksheets, but they were way to easy for him. Donovan didn't want to be anyone but Super Why, so Keegan got this mask, with the payback of having to pose for a photo. I got a video of Donovan doing the activities for this day, but they were a bit easy, identifying letters and reading simple words. He also already knew the story of the three little pigs.

My kids have lost any remnants of their feminine sides, so Wonder Red and Princess Presto were a no-go on the masks, but Donovan had fun with the work sheets. It really brought a smile to his face when he could fill in the letters and identify the right words. Notice most letters are still backwards. He's not even in kindergarten so I'm happy I don't have to correct these yet.

Finally, the Super Why mask. Too bad mom was incompetent and unprepared when it came to actually figuring out how to get it to stay. In the second photo the mask is taped onto his nose.

Backwards as his letters might be, Donovan is very confident when he writes. In the last activity, they finished the sentences/story lines and drew a picture of the word they chose. Drawing he struggles a bit more, but gee, if someone told me to draw a wolf I would have panicked. His only question was whether it had to look like the picture. Of course not, so I present you with stick-figure big bad wolf.

And pink pigs, of course. Pink pigs are his favorite animal, although he's got emotional troubles with the color pink, what with bro and dad expressing their hate of that color at every opportunity. Phooey, pink is pretty.

Thanks again PBS. I am really impressed with their shows, activities, outreach programs and desire to get parents more involved. I would much rather sit down and read of color and write with the kids. I'm not against TV and computers, but I'd rather have them do that on their own. You can find these activities here and tons of activities on this page