Budget Video Podcast Setup

LockerGnome reader John asks:

“I am going to start doing video podcasts and am in the process of picking out what gear [I want to use]. I don’t want to use my MacBook Pro iSight as the quality just isn’t there. As I am not up to speed with the current equipment available these days, I was wondering if you have any suggestions? My budget is around $400.”

Well John, you’re definitely entering the world of online video at the right time. The trick to finding a good video setup is determining exactly what you want from your vlog. Do you want it to be a pro-level rig with green screen and 1080p video? Would you want something a bit more along the lines of you sitting in front of a camera, giving your thoughts on various topics? If you’re looking for a good setup without a lot of investment, here are some ideas that might help you out:

  • Audio is Key – Even if your video looks fantastic, and your edits are absolutely perfect, your audio can make or break your ability to maintain an audience’s interest. Weak volume, echos, background noise, and overdriven audio are clear indications of a poorly planned production and can drive your audience away.
  • Check Your Lighting – You won’t find too many most watched videos on YouTube that have poor lighting. If your subject is lost in a shadow or covered in low lighting artifacts, you’ve got to add another lamp behind the camera. Chris Pirillo, Ray William Johnson, and Philip D. Franco are all fairly well lit in their relatively simple productions, and that small detail makes a huge difference in their overall quality.
  • Keep it Modular – As your video podcast grows, so should its budget. Investing in an all-in-one solution may be a great solution in the short-term, but that means reinvesting in every aspect of your show’s equipment when it comes time to upgrade.

Budget Video Podcast Setup

So, what kind of setup can you put together on a tight budget? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Using an iPhone
    • iPhone or iPod Touch ($200-250)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • With this solution, you’re going to want to record audio separately using GarageBand, Audacity, or any other quality audio recording software. The iPhone and iPod touch provide decent video, but their audio could use some improvement. Once you’re set to edit the video, simply sync up the two audio tracks, detach audio from the video, and mute it. This way you’ll have your best audio track in play. This may not work in situations where you’re out and about, but the audio at your primary filming location should be your best.
  • Pocket Camcorder
    • Bloggie Duo Camera ($165) (Alternatively: The Kodak Zi8 and PlaySport) ($130-150)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • This solution is a lot like the first, only using a dedicated camera which can give you slightly better results. If you decide to go with the Kodak PlaySport, you’ll have the ability to go underwater with your videos as well. One advantage to the Bloggie Duo is its self-facing monitor so you can position yourself as you’re recording for best results. Audio is a bit better on the Bloggie Duo though it’s always recommended to have the best possible audio when recording. Room echo can kill a good video.
  • Webcam Solution
    • Logitech C910 or Pro 9000 ($60-80)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Logitech Recording Software (PC) or Photo Booth (Mac)
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • This solution only works in front of your computer, but it does fall in line with your original setup. The C910 gives you 1080p recording capability with a quality camera while the 9000 pro is incredibly simple to use and delivers remarkable 720p video. In some cases, I’ve found the 9000 to be more reliable software-wise and have used it over the C910. This will hopefully change as Logitech tweaks the software. Because audio should be recorded live with the video and you can set the source, you may not need to do any difficult audio edits after the initial recording.

3 Tech Things You Shouldn’t Go Cheap On

It’s easy to “go cheap” when it comes to technology. The very idea of being a frugal geek involves saving money and/or getting more bang for your buck. There are, however, things you should avoid going cheap on for various reasons. One of the main ones being these things can end up costing you a lot more money in the long run than their more pricey counterparts. Here is a list of a few of them:

Power Supply
Your system’s power supply serves as its life source. It controls the flow of power from the outlet to vital components of your computer. I can tell you from personal experience, that buying the cheapest power supply you can find may hurt you in the long run in several ways.

The most obvious being the link between cost and wattage. If you buy the cheapest power supply you can find without making sure it has the wattage rating necessary to power all of your components, then you’ll quickly run in to problems as you start working with it.

Another problem with cheap power supplies can come in the form of shorts and more dangerous forms of failure. Power supplies don’t always fail by just not turning on. They can fail by popping and letting out sparks and smoke. A failed power supply can lead to failures in several system components that may ultimately lead to having to re-buy some more expensive system components. Some warranties don’t cover damage caused by other parts.

This has happened to me, twice. The first time was when I went cheap with a power supply that was included with a particularly cheap case. The second, with an included power supply on a CyberPower PC gaming system. They put high-end graphics and processor but went cheap on the power supply and motherboard. While a name brand power supply can still fail, it’s always best to keep in mind you get what you pay for with these.

If picture quality is what you’re after, don’t go cheap on a webcam. For some reason, off-brand webcams have an incredibly terrible batting average when it comes with picture quality. Low-cost webcams are too often riddled with hot pixels, dead pixels, poor audio, bad low-light imaging, among other issues. A ten dollar webcam will probably leave you with a bad taste in your mouth despite promising HD video and stereo audio on the packaging. If you see a webcam that costs less than a Logitech advertising more than the more pricey Logitech equivalent, look upon that device with suspicion. Some good brands are Logitech, Microsoft, and Creative which has put out some stinkers but lately is doing better in this market. There are more expensive and higher quality offerings from brands like Axis, but this is a frugal tech blog.

USB Headset
Every tech and audio company in the world seems to be in the headset market with at least one offering. Unfortunately, quality is often sacrificed for competitive pricing. Problems with many of the off-brand and budget headsets out there include poor microphone and speaker audio, fit, fragile design, and general lack of comfort. There are some great budget headsets out there, but in this market especially, stick with brands you know.

There are a lot of gimmick headsets out on the market that have interesting paint jobs and/or skulls on them. These may look better than the standard black or white options, but they also feel and sound terrible. What do you expect for $15?

There are many ways to save money in the world of tech, but sometimes the best deal isn’t really as good as it looks on the price tag.

Roku Is Becoming The Little Engine That Could

One would have thought that when Google and Apple entered into the streaming video market place, that the little Roku would be swallowed up by the big guys. Instead the Roku has doubled in sales and are approaching 1 million units. So what makes the little box so attractive?

The units are inexpensive. I have purchased two of the Roku XD 1080p units from Amazon for $80. The little box is simple to set up using your home wireless network and a HDMI cable to your TV. Once it is set up you can start to select channels from the channel store and begin streaming.

So how are sales?

Today, as last-minute Christmas shoppers flock to Amazon, Roku is placed high on its list of the best-selling electronic devices. (Amazon represents about 25% of Roku’s sales, according to Wood.)

The $80 Roku XD streaming player is #9 on Amazon’s best-selling gadgets list, while its $100 XDS player (more features) is #11. Roku’s low-end “HD” player is #42.

Meanwhile, the $100 Apple TV, which is backordered at Amazon, is #23. Logitech’s Google TV box is #110. And the other buzzy competitor, the $200 Boxee Box by D-Link, is #171.

For die-hard Apple fans, Apple TV might be the best product, Wood concedes. But for everyone else, you can get similar features from Roku for $60, and more features than Apple TV — including 1080p output — for $99.

If you have a Netflix account you can set up streaming movies via your computer and they will appear in your Netflix queue on your Roku. I found this the easiest way to set up movies for viewing later.

Comments as always are welcome.

You can order a Roku directly from Amazon here.

Source – Business Insider

Google TV – Consumers Not Willing To Pay High Price

The folks at Google may have to rethink their pricing policy for their Google TV. Sony has cut pricing by $100 on their Blu-ray player which features Google TV, dropping the price to $299.But even with Black Friday discounts on most consumer products, the major retailers have held firm on the $299 price for the Google TV. According to one article it states that:

Previously the Logitech Revue, the Sony Blu-ray player Google TV and the Sony LCD Google TV were all at different price points. Now, the set-top versions are $299 with the LCD embedded versions still commanding a premium over the standard sort. In my experience the Sony version seems to be more friendly with different sort of video codecs, but the Logitech Revue uses a somewhat better looking interface skin. Of course they both come with different remotes with the Sony shipping with a PS3-type controller where a full-size keyboard comes the Revue.

There’s still a chance that this lower price won’t stick around. Most of Sony’s Blu-ray line is on sale in the spirit of Black Friday but none share the 25% cut and the $299 price just seems like a natural position for Sony to place the unit if sales aren’t meeting expectations.

Price cuts never speak well to a product’s success and so Google TV may be in some serious trouble here. I already stated along with almost every other reviewer that the feature set is half-baked, the units are overpriced, and now this lower price seems to say that consumers aren’t biting even though there’s a commercial for the Sony units nearly every 20 minutes during prime time TV. Sigh. If Google can’t disrupt big media, who can?

But is a price cut going to be enough? I don’t believe so. I think that it is going to take more than just a price cut to attract consumers. Consumers need to see a real value to using Google TV. There are many other devices on the market that cost 1/3 the price that can fill most consumer needs. Think Roku which starts at only $59.95. You don’t have all the bells and whistles but it works. :-)

What do you think? Is there a Google TV in your future?

Comments welcome.

Source – TechCrunch

Logitech Revue Companion Box With Google TV – Amazon Reviews Not Favorable

This morning I received a blurb from Amazon stating the the Logitech Revue Companion Box With Google TV was available for ordering. I haven’t paid much attention to this unit, since I personally think that $300 is expensive. I am getting the Roku HD unit for my birthday — which is this Sunday — and believe that $80 is enough to pay for streaming video. I did take a look at the Google TV box and I was surprised that the reviews for the device were less than stellar. In fact the unit was rated only 3 stars out of a possible 5 by 46 reviewers.

Here are some of the less favorable comments being made:

First things first I want to save time for those readers who have a dial-up or don’t have a cable box or if you have your PC connected to a TV and using it as a DVR or in a similar fashion, you can stop reading now; this thing is not for you.

First, you should know that I’m a gadget/tech hound. I’ve had everything there is out there, from Amiga to Zenith. Remember the WebTV? I had one some 15 years ago. I bring that up because, frankly, I don’t see much difference between that failed attempt at bringing the “web” (as it was called then) to TV and Google’s latest try.

The concept of Google TV is very neat and I’m excited to see where it goes, but the only place my Logitech Revue is going is back to Best Buy.

Interesting. But are these reviews fair? I went over to Best Buy to see what was being said:

First and foremost, before purchasing this product, I knew it was not ready for public consumption, but I had to try it out.

The software itself is really in beta. Lots of quirks, bugs, slowdowns… similar to how Android initially was, however it has the potential to be what Android is like today. In 6-12 months this could truly be a great platform.

Similar to another review I read, I am very tech savvy and have been installing home theaters for years. I’m sorry I have to write this negative review because I was so excited about this product. If you have an A/V receiver (I have a flagship Onkyo, not a piece of junk receiver) everything will go fine until the screen comes up that says you should see your tv picture showing. The picture appeared for a sec, then disappeared, and the sound would continue to flutter on and off. I then hooked the unit directly to my TV and it did work, but I no longer could get 5.1 audio out of my FiOS, no matter what I tried I was stuck with 2.0 stereo. I bought a $1000 receiver for the convenience of A/V switching for 5 HDMI inputs. I bought it Sat night and returned it Sun night.

Not going to go into the details covered by others, but I just want to point out that currently, Google TV does *not* fully integrate with DirecTV DVRs, only Dish Network. What this means is that, aside from controlling basic functions with the remote, you won’t get what this product is meant to do with an attached DVR — the ability to search for TV content from your DirecTV service and DVR and access it through the Google TV Interface.

On the Best Buy site the device was rated at 3.7 stars our of 5 stars by 20 reviewers.

To be fair there were also many positive reviews from both Amazon and Best Buy Web sites. Some people had no issues hooking up the device and were able to stream without flutters or stutters. I think this one statement says it all:

The software itself is really in beta. Lots of quirks, bugs, slowdowns… similar to how Android initially was, however it has the potential to be what Android is like today. In 6-12 months this could truly be a great platform.

This is not earth shattering news. It usually takes any company about a year to fix the bugs, add features and get any product fully functioning for mass consummation. I believe this is going to be a super device in about a year or so, PLUS, it will be cheaper. LOL

Next week I will let you know how the Roku works. I am still practicing my surprise look when I open the box.

Comments welcome.

Source – Logitech Revue Companion Box with Google TV and Keyboard Controller

Amazon Is Taking Pre-orders For Google TV

Amazon is now taking pre-orders for the Google TV device that will be shipping as soon as it is released. Google TV will offer a wide variety of home entertainment as well as allowing Internet surfing. The device which is being produced by Logitech comes with a what is called a Revue Companion Device that connects to your HDTV as well as a keyboard to with a built-in touch pad. Since a touch pad is included, no mouse or other device is required.

On their website Amazon describes the device and system requirements as

Logitech Revue with Google TV brings together all of your entertainment
in one place…your HDTV. Now you can enjoy:

  • Your cable or satellite programming
  • The full Web
  • Apps designed especially for your TV
  • Compatible DVR recordings
  • Your photos, music and videos
  • One simple-to-use interface, instead of switching devices or locations
  • No extra monthly fees
  • Before you order a Logitech Revue make sure you meet the minimum system requirements which are:

    HDTV with HDMI Port
    Cable, satellite or telephone company box with HDMI out
    High-speed Internet access either Wi-Fi or ethernet network connection.

    Cost of the unit is $299.99. The price seems high when others are offering similar units for under $100. However, it does appear that this device will do a lot more than what others are offering.

    Comments welcome.

    Logitech Revue Companion Box with Google TV and Keyboard Controller

    Twitter Helps Dell Make More Money

    Dell has announced that the bucks are flowing and cites their involvement with Twitter for making some $3 million in sales attributed to the social networking site. In fact Dell says on their blog that:

    We’ve surpassed $2 million in revenue in terms of Dell Outlet sales, but we’re also seeing that it’s driving interest in new product as well. We’re seeing people come from @DellOutlet on Twitter into the Dell.com/outlet site, and then ultimately decide to purchase a new system from elsewhere on Dell.com. If we factor those new system purchases that come from @DellOutlet, we’re actually eclipsed $3 million in overall sales.

    This is good for Twitter as well as the social networking attempts to find a way to generate income. Currently Twitter does not charge companies for advertising the companies presence, but that could change as Twitter traffic grows. Another article states that:

    “For now, monetization of this type of activity remains unknown,” Twitter spokeswoman Jenna Sampson said in a statement. “However, as the network grows, the company will be committing more resources toward profitability.”

    Gartner analyst Allen Weiner said such financial success could provide a model for Twitter, itself, to make money.

    “Certainly one of the ways Twitter can begin to think of itself as a money-making operation is to facilitate a lot of these things, build it as part of the infrastructure. So if you’re a company, you can pay Twitter a certain amount of money and they can directly distribute coupons on your behalf, or clear transactions,” Weiner said.

    If Twitter can turn a profit from those who Tweet, it could be a viable business model that some are seeking on the Internet. Let us face facts. It is now to have a large crowd flooding your network, but the name of the game is M O N E Y !

    Comments as always are welcome.



    Laptop Speaker Replacement Offers Big Sound For $30

    Most of us who own a laptop computer know the limitations that the built in speakers provide when playing music or DVD movies. The sound quality is OK, but not room filling. Well along comes Logitech with a USB add on that delivers on sound at a reasonable price.

    Not only does this set of speakers outshine the built in units, but also provide a space saving design. But how about this. How about a discounted price of only $29.99 from the original price of $99.99? Sound good? Well Circuit City has these speakers on sale.

    Product Description is:


    Premium 2.1 audio: Experience pure USB digital sound with a custom-tuned three-chamber design and integrated subwoofer.

    Integrated USB hub: Connect these speakers and other devices to your notebook with a single cable.

    Space-saving design: A one-piece design elegantly combines a premium speaker system, USB hub, and cable control.

    Adjustable body: Adapts to your workspace. Telescoping speakers accommodate setup of most notebooks and LCD monitors.

    System requirements:
    Windows® 98 SE, Windows® ME, Windows® 2000, Windows® XP, Windows Vista™
    USB port
    Mac OS® X or higher
    USB port

    Hurry. This sale won’t last long!

    Comments welcome.

    Circuit City site is here.

    The Computer Mouse Is Dead – Long Live The Mouse

    The BBC News is reporting that a Gartner analyst is predicting the death of the mouse as we know it. Over 40 years since its introduction, the mouse may be on the way out. The analyst bases this opinion on the fact that facial recognition software is being perfected that could replace the mouse. On the other side of the coin is Logitech, a world leader in mouse production, which feels the death of the mouse is not near at all. According to the article it states:

    A Gartner analyst predicts the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years.

    Taking over will be so called gestural computer mechanisms like touch screens and facial recognition devices.

    He told BBC News that his prediction is driven by the efforts of consumer electronics firm which are making products with new interactive interfaces inspired by the world of gaming .

    Naturally enough those in the business of making mice are not wholly in agreement that the end is nigh.

    “The death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated,” said Rory Dooley senior vice president and general manager of Logitech’s control devices unit.

    Logitech is the world’s biggest manufacturer of mice and keyboards and has sold more than 500 million mice over the last 20 years.

    “This just proves how important a device the mouse is,” said Mr Dooley.

    I tend to agree with Logitech that the mouse is not dead. I believe that the mouse has many years of life yet to go, before a suitable replacement will become common place. But what do you think?

    Comments as always are welcome. Share your thoughts.


    In Search Of A New Keyboard

    I’ve been using Microsoft’s Internet Keyboard Pro since they first released it (and since discontinued it). I don’t require too much from my keyboard, mind you – comfort trumps functionality every time. I never liked the split “natural” keyboards, and I don’t do all that much PC gaming.

    So, it’s impossible to shop for keyboards online – because you have to go by external experiences. What might be good for one set of hands may not be good for mine. Why doesn’t somebody open up a chain of brick-and-mortar “Input” stores? You know, it’d be filled with nothing more than accessories that help us interact with our machines. Keyboards, mice, styli, controllers, etc. The markup wouldn’t have to be all that much for something like that to be successful.

    Anyway, I’m in the market for a new keyboard – and I’ve considered going wireless this time around. People are raving about the Logitech diNovo Edge – but anything over $150 is a bit much to spend on something that may not fit the bill (so to speak). I already have a USB BlueTooth controller for my wireless mouse, but will the Logitech peripheral require a completely different adapter? Eh, I don’t know.

    Where do keyboards go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly. They go to the lake of fire and fry. Won’t see ’em again until the fourth of July.

    [tags]Logitech, USB, diNovo Edge[/tags]

    Wireless Mouse Reviews And Recommendations

    Rien Jansens: I just like to say that I just love my Logitech cordless Trackball and wouldn’t trade it for anything. It never gives me any problems at all. Battery life is very good in my opinion, but hardly an issue if you use rechargeable batteries. I always have charged batteries ready for everything that uses batteries. For instance: remote controls, cordless trackball, keyboard, and joystick.

    Remi Sopczak: I’ve only had a (MS) wireless mouse at work for about six weeks, but other than the driver disk being incorrect (the mouse it came with wasn’t an available choice in the installation menu), the mouse has worked fine. The only lag I’ve noticed is the first time I use it after boot every day, about two seconds as the mouse comes alive the first time I move it. It really sounds like you’re losing your connection between the mouse and its base on a regular basis. Maybe because I have the base under a U shaped monitor stand, and the mouse itself is only about a foot away from the base is the reason for lack of problems.

    Ray Nendze: I have an MS wireless mouse and it drove me nuts – cursor all over. MS help desk advised many cures to no avail. It turned out the grain lines in my desk were the problem. Dug out the old mouse pad and all was well again.

    David T. Germak: I know what to do with it. Give it to your dogs as a play toy. Record them playing with it and post it at the Web site you created. (Forgot the name of it, damn it! Thought I put in my faves but I didn’t!) Anyway, I hear you about wireless ANYTHING – I hate it all. This is coming from somebody who at one point in their career repaired and designed numerous wireless devices! I’m a Computer Engineer now and have regained my f***ing sanity! Good god, just typing this damn e-mail is giving me flashbacks; I need to go take my medication now!

    Tim Larkin: Speaking of wireless utopia… The Xbox 360 wireless controller is great when the Play & Charge Kit isn’t connected. The USB end of the kit is always connected to the 360, so I always have an ugly wire. Also, when I am finished playing wirelessly, I must connect the controller end of the kit and then turn the 360 off. This keeps the controller charged for next time. So all those moms that wanted to put the controller away, can’t. Microsoft will release a dual battery pack charger that, I hope, makes my wireless controller truly wireless.

    Will Wagner: Chris, I didn’t like the mouse on my iMac, which was wireless Bluetooth. It was a tad slower in response too, but I really hated the single button clicks. I dropped it on eBay and got ~$23 for it. Better than using it for playing fetch with the family hound! ;-) I replaced it with a wired MS “Basic” Mouse, the laser mouse with the cool red light. It is a dream, and I have one on each of my computers (2 PCs and 1 iMac), so they all feel the same. Oh I also hate the no feedback scroll wheels too, I need the clicky resistance, just used to it I guess. My iMac keyboard is still wireless, and that is fine, but I think I may drop that too if I upgrade to another larger (Intel) iMac, and will include it with the old system when I sell that on eBay too.

    Mike Tatum: It may be time that you look at other brands of mice. I have struggled through dealing with several brands of mice both wired and wireless and have finally rested on Logitech. Logitech wireless technology I will dare say is flawless. Some of the older models granted had battery life issues as well as connection issues. Now since the company has branched to rechargeable batteries in the wireless mice things have never been better. I’m currently using the LX 700/MX 3000 wireless keyboard/mouse combo and have never had a single issue with either device. One USB cord from the receiver/cradle and you are ready to go. I suggest giving it a try before giving up on wireless peripheral technology altogether.

    Janis Petrich: Sorry to hear that your experience with your wireless mouse was such a negative one. I got my Microsoft wireless mouse a month ago, and…Dare I say it? I love it! I adjusted the speed to suit my temperament, and Miss Mousey and I have been slippin’ and slidin’ around happily every since. I love her smooth wheel moves, and her left-right possibilities with the wheel fascinate me – though I forget to use this feature most of the time (old HUP – Human User Programming).

    David Jordan: Well, all I can say is you have not tried the Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse. You cannot tell the difference between this and an ordinary Intellimouse. Mouse cursor has no lag that I can see you can wiz it around the screen to your hearts content and the keyboard is great.
    Continue reading “Wireless Mouse Reviews And Recommendations”