Video Postcards: Comin’ at cha at a website near you!
By Kathy Chin Leong
In the Harry Potter movies, newspaper articles and trading cards with photos come alive with full-motion and sound, sometimes gripping the reader in terror. Today, that technology to make your images sing isn’t far from your fingertips, and it doesn’t have to be terrifying.
Enter video postcards - the newest and easiest way to say Aloha to friends and family members. Unlike traditional postcards that often arrive after you’ve returned home, video postcards are sent via email and can be viewed within minutes after sending.
Imagine communicating with loved ones and showing them your vacation while you are on your trip instead of summarizing it after you return, when the zeal and enthusiasm is sucked out of your sails?
We recently road tested video email technology and discovered that it is simple to learn, easy to use, and costs pennies per transaction. Vendors such as helloWorld.com offer monthly video email services to consumers. All you need is a monthly account listed at $9.95, your existing video camera or a Web cam.
HOW IT WORKS
On a recent trip to Yosemite, we took our laptop and digital camcorder. Traveling together with our team of five families for our annual hostelling trip, we spent three days together at the Yosemite "Bug" Youth Hostel which happened to be equipped with free WiFi Internet access.
We filmed our crews antics- playing games, hiking, eating, joking around- and performed some quick and simple editing through Microsoft Movie Maker (which came bundled with our Windows XP Home Edition laptop), and uploaded the video through helloWorld.com.
The video editing took only 20 minutes using Movie Maker’s AutoMovie tool and uploading another 3 minutes. Once uploaded, the service itself took another 2-3 minutes to process the video so it could be played with different speed connections. Even modem speed connections are supported, albeit at degraded sound and video quality.
For recipients with either dial-up or DSL, the video postcard appears as an email message with an image of a filmstrip and several frames from the video shown. When you click on the View Now button under the filmstrip, a separate window pops up and the video plays within a few seconds (depending on your connection speed). That’s it. No software to download, no file attachments. For you techies out there, helloWorld uses video streaming which means that the images are flowing through your computer, but saved on the vendor’s remote computer housed somewhere else. Your recipients do not have to worry about attached viruses because nothing is saved on their system.
Another way to send video email without a subscription service is through creating a video file attachment. Our Logitech webcam came bundled with software to create, review and send video files as an attachment.
The downside of this method is that the file attachments tend to be large and can take up lots of disk space on your PC. It also takes time for the recipient to receive these large emails. The upside is that there’s no additional charge beyond what you normally would pay for email and Internet service. If your videos are short (30 seconds or less) and you aren’t too concerned about quality, then this could be a nice alternative.
To see a sample, just click on this link below:
We used helloWorld’s Videoemail service, but note that there are a variety of service providers with offerings with differently based on price, around $5 to $12 per month, service levels based on storage capacity, maximum duration of each message, and number of viewing minutes or view count allowed. One nice feature of helloWorld is the included video IM function. You are basically getting a video phone with unlimited minutes bundled in. It’s included at all service levels.
Follow the different vendor’s links below for more information:
The advantages of video email are many. Even if you don’t travel that frequently, the service is useful for:
Christmas and holiday family greetings
Greetings to military personnel, even to Iraq
Sending clips of your kids’ sporting events, piano recitals, and plays to grandparents and special friends
Communicating with doctors about an ailment
Video thank you cards
Pleas to buy Girl Scout cookies
Requests for donations
The good news is that the technology works, it’s cheap, and low-risk. The benefits are endless, and even non-geeks can play. If you want to see a video postcard in action, click on www.bayareafamilytravel.com , and view the Consumer Lookout article on video email.
Kathy Chin Leong is the founder and executive editor of BayAreaFamilyTravel.com, a monthly online magazine for families on the go. If you have a travel story you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to see addressed, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org .
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